Sun + sand + sea = Summer… And it isn’t far off.


 sun glasses sun

This is the time for healthier shorts, sleeveless dresses and bikinis to emerge from their hibernation.

And your body? Are you ‘in shape’? How fit and healthy do you feel?

If your answers are ‘No’ and ‘Not very’, well, read on.

This is how to achieve a healthier, leaner, fitter YOU.

1 – TAKE CONTROL

Losing weight and toning up is going to take commitment and not just wishful thinking. Have you got it in you?

One way to kick-start a new regime is to list all the reasons you want to shape up. Realistic, responsible goals. And why you want to reach them.

Would like this small summer dress in your local boutique? Do you want to be dancing at 2am to Zumba rather than dropping through exhaustion?

Want to look and feel sexier, more attractive and amazing ?

eat less

If you are exercising a lot, progress could seem slow – muscle is heavier than fat.

Instead of worrying about weight, look at your shape, and ask yourself whether your clothes feel looser.

2 – KEEP A FOOD / FEELING DIARY

It can educate, guide and inspire you while revealing unaware eating habits / patterns.

Keep a log of everything you eat for at least seven days: note the time, the food consumed, the quantity and any symptoms (tired, energised, bloated,) you experience around eating the food.

It is also useful to write down how you felt before eating. Were you stressed, had a craving, were you tired or bored or lonely?

This could reveal patterns surrounding the choices you are making about what you eat.

Be honest: don’t lie. There is just no point.

Ask yourself, before you eat, “Is it hunger – or habit?”

If it is a habit, you can train yourself to say, “No.”

3 – PORTION CONTROL – YOU NEED IT

The amounts we put on our plates have, on average, grown by 30 per cent over the past 10 years, both in restaurants and at home. Stylistically, plates have got bigger – and we are filling them.

It makes sense, therefore, to start off your portion control by using smaller plates, then fill them up with green vegetables or salad. In a restaurant, have a starter as a main course.

And no matter how you were brought up , don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate. If you have eaten enough, stop.

4 – THINK LITTLE AND OFTEN

A small commitment to exercise on a regular basis is better than no commitment at all.

Research has proven that people are more likely to stick with their exercise programme if they do it for shorter periods but more often.

Instead of pushing yourself for an hour once or twice a week, it is far better to make time for 30 minutes of cumulative exercise every day – even taken in 10-minute bursts it has been proven to improve overall health.

women exercising

Tailor your physical activity to your personality. If you are competitive, choose a competitive sport such as tennis or golf; if you are extrovert, try a team sport such as football, cricket or rugby; if you are introverted think about Pilates, yoga or swimming; and if you like the great outdoors, get on your bike, or take to the hills and hike.

Whatever you choose, make every step you take achievable, Giving up is Not an option.

5 – MOVE MORE

Fact: We are getting heavier because we are moving less.

Our bodies were designed to move. We have been walking for two and a half million years, and now, all of sudden (evolutionarily speaking), we are sitting down – at desks, in cars, in front of televisions.

Did you know that by walking a mere 30-60 minutes a day we could lose weight, and that’s without changing any other part of our daily routine?

Including hills in your walk can increase your calorie-burn much more. So, too, can walking on softer surfaces such as sand or grass.

move yr body

6 – LAUGH IT OFF

Laughing boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion.

It therefore pays to laugh as much as you like every day.

Yes, laughing can burn up 2.31 calories a minute….

Mr. Bean, anyone?

laughter

7 – HAVE A BALL

How have so many of us lived without a “Swiss” ball for so long? Just sitting on a ball – developed in the 1970s – will benefit your core strength.

The body automatically responds to the ball’s instability, and acts naturally to stop you falling off, working mostly your back and abdominal muscles. The more you work with the ball, the stronger these muscles become.

Start simply: a great beginner’s exercise involves sitting on the ball with your feet hip-width apart.

Establish your balance, and once you are comfortable, raise one foot off the ground and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

If you feel confident enough, raise your arms out to the sides and hold them at shoulder height while you do the exercise. Repeat three times.

After this, there are plenty of ways to progress: from stomach stretches to ball press-ups, from bridges to obliques.

8 – FIND A DIET THAT SUITS YOU

As a nation, we have lost the ability to keep control of our weight.

Statistics show 63 % of women are overweight or obese, for men: 71 %.

To have any lasting effect, a diet has to suit the dieter – their lifestyle, their likes and dislikes, their budget – so that they can keep up the good work.

9 – DON’T DIET, JUST EAT MORE…

AVOCADOS, with plenty of vitamin E that keeps skin moist and supple;

BLACKCURRANTS AND BLUEBERRIES – for vitamin C, which will improve the health of the immune system and keep the skin looking healthy and antioxidants to fight off the free radicals in our bodies;

GARLIC, to protect from indigestion, stomach ulcers and bowel cancers;

GREENS such as spring greens and Savoy cabbage: a great source of calcium and potassium;

healthy heart

NUTS for magnesium;

OILY FISH, for Omega 3 essential fats;

ONIONS, which are great detoxifiers;

TOMATOES, a good source of lipoic acid, which helps to increase energy levels and even improve brain power.

10 – EAT AND DRINK LESS…

ALCOHOL. Recommend no more than 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 units for women. Cutting this out will make the calorie-counting of dieting far more achievable;

SOFT DRINKS, because of the caffeine in cola, the artificial sweeteners in the “diet” variety, and the artificial flavourings in squash. Water is by far the simplest option;

SAUSAGES – just think of all that faaaaat;

CHIPS – what did we say about sausages?

WHITE BREAD, which does have its plus points, such as calcium, but with relatively little fibre there are better sources of calcium;

BUNS – what’s so good about sugar, sugar and more sugar?

CHEESE – this is where you should get your calcium, but don’t overdo it, think about eating small amounts of strong-tasting cheese.

11 – EAT BREAKFAST

Remember the old saying, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”?

We may remember it, but how many of us actually act on it?

There are some compelling reasons, why we should break our nightly fast every morning.

When you wake, it is likely you haven’t eaten anything for about 12 hours and your blood sugar levels are seriously low.

Launching yourself into the day without getting those levels back up can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood fluctuations and a lack of concentration.

Physically, you might feel acutely tired as well as unco-ordinated.

The chances are you will also experience hunger pangs mid-morning, driving you to sugar: a doughnut, a chocolate bar, a muffin…… plenty of fat and few nutrients.

Then comes a burst of insulin (secreted as a response to the increase in sugar), which leads to your blood sugar levels crashing.

Dieters especially can yo-yo through the day as blood sugar levels rise and plummet.

To diet successfully and keep your body performing efficiently these levels need to stabilise.

And, no surprise: Porridge – a great way to start the day.

Other foods that can help keep your sugar levels stable and which will carry you through the morning are muesli, wholegrain toast, and a boiled or poached egg.

Many of us think that by skimping at this time of day we save some calories for later, but by not eating when we first get up, we are more likely to want to fill up (and overfill) later.

12 – SING

If it is good enough for Beyoncé, it is good enough for you. Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, insisted that the young singer run a mile every morning, and while running, she had to sing.

Not only did her lung capacity grow, but because of the efficiency with which she sent the oxygen around her body, her stamina increased hugely.

Oxygen is one of two essential ingredients our cells need to survive. The oxygen reacts with sugar to create the energy that powers vital processes, from the construction and transport of molecules to causing our muscles to contract, allowing the heart to beat and limbs to move.

Obviously, increasing our intake of this vital gas allows us to burn more sugar and create more energy.

With too little oxygen we are left feeling lethargic, without motivation. It is why we yawn, to get more oxygen inside our lungs.

By breathing deeply, we can increase the amount of oxygen getting into our body and make exercising much easier.

singing

13 – TAP INTO WATER POWER

Our body is made up of 70 % water. Without it, life cannot survive, and water is essential for most bodily processes…     so please, not scrimping on the H2O.

We lose two litres of water from our bodies per day through perspiration / breathing alone, and that needs to be replaced.

Doctors recommend drinking at least six or seven glasses of water a day (1·8 litres), and with good reason.

The human body needs to lose just two per cent of its normal water volume for the effects of dehydration to become noticeable.

Without enough water, the kidneys cannot function properly and are unable to clean out the toxins and impurities from the blood.

more water

It is also essential to maintain the healthy operation of almost all internal organs.

Without the water-based mucus that lubricates the throat, airways and lungs, they would cease to function correctly.

Water also helps regulate body temperature through sweat.

Dehydration increases your heart rate as there is less fluid in your blood vessels to pump round your body.

Water is also essential for digestion, helping to move food through the intestines and activating many of the enzymes that break down food as it passes through our digestive tract.

The nutrients from food require water to help them pass through the gut wall into the blood vessels.

Sipping a glass of water with a meal can also reduce the appetite.

14 – WORK AT EXERCISE, EXERCISE AT WORK

Offices have changed radically in recent years and it is now unusual to find jobs that don’t involve some element of deskwork, usually hunched over a computer, which can leave us feeling stiff, immobile and tired.

Simple, short movements such as shoulders rolls, head / neck, circle wrists and ankles, pulling in stomach muscles, raising / holding legs up and down, breathing deeply and others can help circulation and feeling of well-being.

By taking responsibility for your fitness in the workplace you can offset the worst effects of being deskbound.

are u sitting too much

 

15 – BOOK A MASSAGE

Instead of embarking on a radical detox diet to rid your body of toxins, give your lymphatic system a helping hand with a massage.

A lymphatic massage should stimulate the lymph system to carry metabolic waste products and toxins away from the body. Or … don’t put toxins in your body in the first place.

16 – CUT THE SUGAR HABIT

Is there anything good about sugars? “Intrinsic” sugars are found in fruit and vegetables; “extrinsic” sugars are found in cakes, refined sugar, squash drinks and biscuits.

The “Intrinsic” counts towards our carbohydrate needs, keeping us healthy and fit. They contribute to a balanced diet.

The “extrinsic”, because they are associated with refined foods and a lack of nutrients, should be kept to a minimum.

The World Health Organisation has set an upper limit for the daily consumption of extrinsic sugars at 10 per cent of overall food intake.

17 – BUT DON’T BAN FOODS

Banned foods equal forbidden fruits. It just makes them even more desirable.

To exclude some of your favourite foods from your diet can be demoralising and counterproductive. And if you are unhappy, your cravings are likely to be more pronounced.

A little of what you fancy, does you good. But only if you can stick to “a little”.

vegetableGrid

18 – HAVE MORE SEX

Ten minutes of energetic sex can burn 45 calories (beneficial if you stick with it for half an hour, say, rather than the average four minutes).

Ah-Ah….

19 – EAT FIRST, DRINK LATER – BUT MOST OF ALL, THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK

Alcohol before a meal can induce you to overeat: it will make you feel hungry, and then, adding insult to injury, it can impair your judgment so that your better self has no power to say “No”.

If you can’t resist a glass before dinner, ensure that there are some nuts or other nibbles to hand to protect your stomach.

But it is far better to have your meal on the table before getting close to a whiff of the wine.

Thus, drunk in moderation, red wine can increase “good” (or HDL – high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and lower the “bad” (LDL – low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

It is high in natural antioxidants and anti-coagulants, and, again in moderation, can help digestion.

20 – THE POWER OF HALF AN HOUR

Not everyone is a low-calorie-loving, jog-to-the-gym, walk-to-work kind of person.

Listen, you can significantly raise your fitness levels with just 30 minutes of intensive strength training every seven days.

You don’t have to lift heavy weights or perform complicated exercises every day to achieve strength, health and vitality. Quite the opposite. You just need to make sure you are doing it right

I recommend keeping to two main principles: The first is a set of exercises called Compound Exercises.

These work the big and small muscles of the body together, which is harder, safer and – as all your muscles are worked through fewer exercises – it takes less time.

The second is Adequate Rest. Once you have worked a muscle, it needs time to recover and get stronger.

Strength training can boost the metabolism for up to 15 hours after.

Although women might be put off by the description “strength training”, its benefits include not only a higher metabolic rate but an increase in calories burned, a reduction of body fat, improved stamina, improved balance and co-ordination, and an increase in bone mass and strength.

Strong muscles can also dramatically improve your posture, making you look and feel great.

wake up and work out

21 – GET BACK TO NATURE

The benefits of exercising outdoors are many: contact with natural- world is essential to our well-being, helping to lower stress, relax muscles and reduce blood pressure. Fresh air, sky, grass, all encourage health, creativity, clarity and focus of thinking.

If the weather’s kind, you might even get some sunshine, which is our primary source of immunity-boosting vitamin D.

swans in lake

22 – TOP UP YOUR SEROTONIN

Serotonin is what is known as a neurotransmitter, an important signal used by nerve cells in the central nervous system to produce effects elsewhere in the body.

It plays an important role in regulating anger, aggression, body temperature, sleep, appetite and mood.

Boosting your levels of serotonin can leave you feeling happier and lower your appetite.

Production of serotonin fluctuates with the amount of natural sunlight that you receive and is at its lowest during the winter months.

Most of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract from the amino acid tryptophan.

Unlike many of the amino acids that are used by the human body, we cannot make tryptophan ourselves, which means we have to obtain it from our diet instead.

It is particularly plentiful in dark chocolate, bananas, dairy products, red meat, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds, taken in moderation of course.

High serotonin levels help to reduce cravings for foods high in carbohydrates.

People with low levels of serotonin feel compelled to eat more, often opting for high-sugar foods that can lead to the sugar rushes and crashes that fuel comfort eating.

Eating “good carbs” such as whole grain starches in oat meal, brown rice and whole wheat, triggers a slow and more controlled release of insulin, which in turn aids the transport of tryptophan to the brain and so reduces the cravings.

Depression is thought to be caused in part by a deficiency of serotonin, so increasing your production of serotonin can help regulate your mood and keep you feeling happier.

Serotonin also plays a key role in liver regeneration, so topping up your intake of tryptophan could be a good way to undo all that damage done by a heavy night of drinking.

23 – SLOW DOWN

It can take the brain as long as 20 minutes to register that the stomach is full, so eat slowly, and, if you think you want second helpings, wait at least 20 minutes before you return to fill your plate.

Eat mindfully. The more attention you pay to what is in your mouth, the more you will realise how many calories you are consuming.

A simple trick to help slow your eating is to put your fork down between each mouthful.

24 – DON’T OVERTRAIN

If you overdo it, you can easily pick up injuries, and if that happens, you can’t exercise, and if you can’t exercise, you can’t burn up the calories.

Exercising too much can also leave you overtired. Ensure that your exercise regime is not counterproductive; build up slowly to allow your body to cope and adjust.

If you so choose, hook up with a personal trainer. It is usually money well spent.

They will assess your physical needs, look at your lifestyle, note your goals and marry them up and devise a suitable exercise programme.

They can monitor your progress and ensure that you don’t move to the next level until your body is really ready.

Equally, they can push you that little bit harder, if you are slacking, to maximise your progress.

25 – DRINK COFFEE

When someone says you can lose weight by religiously drinking three cups of coffee a day, you are allowed to wonder how far fad dieting can go.

Whether you approve of such faddishness or not, there are other benefits to coffee that you should note when trying to improve your health and fitness.

All coffees contain plenty of antioxidants and tannins that are good for the heart and arteries.

Drunk in moderation (say, two or three cups a day), coffee can help protect against liver and colon cancers, type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Coffee can also improve concentration and alertness, which in turn can help fat-burning. The caffeine in coffee can induce a “healthy” rise in blood pressure.

Everything in moderation, however.

Coffee is a diuretic, and too much of it can rob your body of vital vitamins and minerals.

It is also addictive, and so it is easy to acquire the habit of drinking it rather than making a positive choice to consume it for pure enjoyment’s sake, thus risking losing vital nutrients, leaving you de-energized.

It is recommended that caffeine intake should be kept below 450mg a day (one shot of espresso contains 77mg of caffeine).

26 – DON’T DRINK COFFEE…

… because you can always drink tea. Recent research has found that drinking tea is better for you, whereas once upon a time, it was thought coffee and tea were equally bad.

Although tea contains caffeine and is a stimulant, it possesses far fewer of the negative effects of coffee.

Three or more cups of tea a day can cut the risk of heart attacks and certain cancers.

Both black and green teas contain antioxidants, and it has recently been claimed that tea is even better than water because of those antioxidants.

However, tea shouldn’t be drunk while you are eating as it can prevent some absorption of minerals.

The rules of coffee-drinking should read: skimmed milk not whole, skip on the cream, forget sugar and syrups, and don’t top your capp with chocolate or caramel. Happy drinking.

why fitness.

27 – REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU WANT TO GET IN SHAPE

There comes a point in most diets and exercise plans when you ask yourself why you are still doing it.

At such low moments, get out the pen and paper and write down why you are trying to shape up. This is where the goals you wrote down at the start prove their worth.

Praise yourself for the progress you have made so far. And if necessary, buy yourself something as a reward: it might even be some new sports kit.

It’s amazing what a lift a new pair of trainers can give you.

Write out the health benefits (both short-term and long-term) you will get from your increased fitness, and the practical benefits, such as being able to get into some much-loved clothes again, or knowing that you will feel confident on the beach and beside the pool in the skimpiest attire.

Hitting a brick wall doesn’t mean that you have to despair.

Cut back more on the calories for a few days, take your exercise up a level, and the energy equation of less in, more out should give you the fillip you need to get you back on the “fit” path.

Remind yourself that you are not going to become one of the 66 % of dieters who pile on all the kg. they have lost within five years of stopping a diet plan.

Body and body

 

28 – DANCE…

… and horse-ride, and ski, and belly-dance, and row, and trapeze, and trampoline, and cycle.

Exercise doesn’t all have to be about routine gym work, the exercise mat and the treadmill. It doesn’t have to be a chore.

While 65 % of members usually fall away from gyms through January and February, you can be someone who keeps exercising by taking up a hobby you really enjoy.

It will help improve your fitness and keep you interested in staying fit.

Hobbies also lower stress levels. High stress levels can contribute to weight gain through the release of the hormone cortisol which, through a series of bodily processes, increases the appetite. They will improve your mood and immune system.

The activity itself will tone up muscles that you may not know you even had, and you probably won’t even notice that you are, in effect, doing a workout.

29 – COOK WITHOUT SALT FOR A WEEK

Home cooking is the best way to avoid an excess of sugar, salt, refined and over-processed starches and fats.

So maybe the rule should be not so much “cook without salt” as “do the cooking yourself”. But cook simply. Choose good, tasty ingredients and cook them unadulterated. Grill and bake – and for vegetables, steam or char-grill.

30 – STAND UP STRAIGHT

Attitude is everything – for men and women. Improving your posture will go a long way to helping you radiate confidence, and people will believe you have lost several Kg.

Poor posture will make you look tired. It will also put extra strain on your shoulders, back and hips, which will mean that you won’t just look tired, you’ll be tired and aching.

Now is the time to love yourself just the way you are.

Having a poor body image will put weight on you, if only in your own mind.

Pilates and Yoga can help with posture.

31 – FIND A HILL

Interval training is a very time-efficient strategy to improve your performance.

Short bursts of intense exercise, followed by short periods of recovery, can be as effective as hours of moderate-intensity work.

This is where the hill comes in: run up with as much energy and speed you are capable of, then slowly descend for your recovery period – repeat (up to five times).

Interval training can also be incorporated into your cardiac gym work.

Rest assured that short bursts of very intense workout, equivalent to only a few minutes a day, could produce the same results as traditional endurance training.

The downside of interval training is that it can be extremely demanding if done properly, and therefore requires a huge amount of commitment and willpower.

32– GET A HEALTH CHECK

It won’t, directly, effect your body weight but it will improve your self-knowledge and give you the confidence to go for it.

As with many life changes you should consult your doctor if you are embarking on a radical new exercise regime, especially if you are over 40 or have suffered from a serious illness in the past year.

You need to know that your body will be able to cope with the changes.

You might want to ask your doctor whether the exercise you have planned will actually be of benefit to you.

Is your new regime safe for you to embark on? What type of exercise will help you lose weight? Do you have high blood pressure, and will this affect your exercise routine?

Can you safely participate in high-impact sports? What can you do if you can’t tolerate impact aerobics?

An experienced Personal trainer will go through the basics with you.

They will usually check out your body-fat percentage (acceptable range is between 23 and 28 %) and body mass index, or BMI, which if normal should sit between 20 and 24.

They are also likely to pop you on the treadmill or exercise bike, hook you up to a heart-rate monitor and run through a stress test.

People who are fit tend to have a lower resting heart rate (average is 70-84 beats per minute; good would be 56-69 bpm; endurance athletes tend to have a resting heart rate below 50 bpm).

With all these calculations they can easily assess your level of fitness for your age, weight and height, and devise a programme to suit your specific needs and ambitions –

  • do you want to lose weight, be more toned, have more stamina, improve mobility?

They can then, of course, go on to monitor your progress.

The body you want

33 – TAKE UP PILATES

The Pilates Method is an exercise regime that encourages the mind to control the muscles, building body strength and flexibility through fewer, more precise, controlled movements than those involved with more vigorous forms of exercise, that are all about building muscle.

Pilates exercises focus on the “core muscles” of the abdomen – the muscles that help to keep the body balanced and to prevent and alleviate back pain.

Controlled deep breathing is an important part of Pilates to ensure blood is fully oxygenated and so able, effectively, to revitalise the body’s cells and remove waste products to reduce fatigue.

The net effect is a stronger, more flexible and toned body.

Stretch ..

34 – STICK TO THE MAGIC NUMBERS

Does the ratio 55-20-25 mean anything to you?

These are the numbers nutritionists tend to advise for a balanced diet.

It translates as 55 per cent carbohydrate, 20 per cent protein, and 25 per cent fat.

Keep roughly within these parameters and you will be maintaining a healthy diet.

35 – PHONE A FRIEND

Forget the loneliness of the long-distance runner.

Exercise in any form is far more enjoyable when you are doing it alongside someone else. So, too, is dieting.

Call on friends and family to applaud your efforts. We all need our behaviour reinforced at times. If your nearest and dearest are reluctant to help out, join a running club, or dieting club, or both, to get a weekly boost to morale.

If you like it less formal, coax a group of friends to put an evening aside, weekly, not to visit the local wine bar but to get together for a gentle jog or walk or run.

Not only is it a sociable event but you can celebrate progress together.

Once you are into a routine with your exercise and know what you are capable of, plan to do a fun run with friends: the results are that you get fitter, can raise money for charity, and afterwards you are guaranteed a great sense of achievement.

36 – SLEEP

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can reduce muscle mass, as well as trigger diabetes.

Missed sleep can equate to lower levels of leptin, a “peptide hormone neurotransmitter” involved in the regulation of appetite. A good night’s kip, then, is essential for better fitness, health and wellbeing.

Try some light stretching about an hour before you head for bed. It will de-stress and relax the body in preparation for sleep. Or have a warm bath sprinkled with relaxing essential oils such as Lavender.

Do not overeat late at night. Eat a medium-sized meal about three hours before bed-time. And, don’t go to bed hungry.

Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and too much alcohol in the evening – though some advocate a small glass of red wine..

37 – ASK YOURSELF: ‘AM I REALLY HUNGRY?’

Whichever way you look at it, well-being and fitness will always come down to eating less and moving more.

It sounds so easy, but why is it so difficult for many of us to achieve? Unfortunately, our relationship with food is not always about hunger.

But it should be. Learn to recognise what it is you really want to eat and how much you actually need.

Break the cycle of thoughtless consumption and stop before you eat. Ask yourself whether you are really hungry Or are you suffering from “emotional hunger”? Is something else driving you to the fridge and the food cupboard? Are you just bored? Or a little depressed?

Are you actually thirsty, and would a glass of water take away your craving? Take time to listen carefully to what your body is really saying.

38 – START NOW and… Just do it !!

love yourself

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