New year, NEW YOU?


Sound familiar? Are you starting to plot and plan your New Years resolution right now? If so, and it isn't the first time in your life that you have done this, let me ask you a question...If you've tried many New Years' resolutions in the past and none have stuck, what makes this year's any more likely to be successful? I'm not saying you shouldn't improve your health, not at all. But before you commit to an overwhelming diet or fitness regime, make sure you are in a good place to do so. Make sure you are ready to get the most return for your investment of time and money. How? Read on. I really believe (based on my experience and understanding of literature on behaviour change) that changing your mindset is the only way you will improve your health for good. Now there isn't a magic 10 step plan for this, but I believe there are stages you should go through before you take action and embark on another health kick in January only for it to end in February.  

So if you really want to make some changes, grab a pen and paper and work through the exercises below. You might even need to give yourself a week or so to mull over each exercise before moving on to the next. 

Here goes...

1: Get Real: What does your CURRENT health actually look and feel like? Pay attention to your body, how does it feel? Move? How much energy have you got? What about your mind, what are your automatic thoughts like? Negative, self critical? 

2: Get Clear: Imagine yourself in 5 years time. What age will you be? What will you look like? If you change nothing about your health and lifestyle, as it is right now, then  how will you feel? Would any ailments you have now feel better or worse? If your diet is the same as it is now in 5 years time, would you be heavier or slimmer? Are you in better or worse health than you are now? Who would be required to look after you? How much care would you need?  

3: Get set: what does BEING HEALTHY actually mean to YOU? What do you want to feel, look and move like?  

 4: Get Honest: How important is it to you to be healthy? Why do you want to get healthy? What is in it for you and your family? 

 5: Get Aware:  

What are you eating? I mean, write it down, pay real attention. Most of the time we forget those extra biscuits. Why are you eating it? What mood are you in when you reach for the junk, sugar or carbs?  

 How are you spending your time? How much of it is moving or getting your heart rate up?  

 6: Get going: What small everyday changes can you make? Add just one thing a day. Maybe drink more water or have an early night. Try adding more walking or standing. If adding these is overwhelming and you can't sustain them, what makes you think you will uphold a diet or exercise regime? Start now with what you've got, it doesn't need to be a mammoth shift, small changes definitely lead to great gains because they're more sustainable in the long term.  
 

7: Get researching: what sort of trainer/health coach/ nutritionist do you want? Follow them on social media? How do they talk? Would they irritate or infuriate you? Or would the support and push you on? It doesn't actually matter which of these they do, what matters is what you want. How do you like to be spoken to? You are more likely to be successful if you stalk/follow/listen/read what your chosen trainer/professional has to say for a while. If you're a match, then craic on. Your money and goals are likely to be in very safe hands.  

 
8: NOW begin...the gym, the 'diet' the plan, the regime etc...  

Now that you have taken your time with the exercises above and hopefully been really honest with yourself, then you will be in a much better place to implement changes and invest money in your health. Why? Because the reasons why you want to do it will be more meaningful, motivating and whatever you choose to do will be more manageable. Your New YEAR, New YOU mantra is more likely to be, well, a year long, and not a month or two at best!  

Good luck and get in touch to let me know how you get on!  

Onwards!  

Bernie  

 

Are you a 'Serial Trier'?

If you want to get healthy then you need to change your behaviour – FACT.  But changing your behaviour is not easy. And simply trying doesn't work either. Maybe you go through phases of trying to eat better, or trying to exercise but actually very little is happening other than 'trying' which makes you feel a bit better about yourself. 

More often than not, when we feel unhealthy it's because we have invested some degree of time and money making ourselves unhealthy.  If you think about it, the effort may have been tremendous. Time wise we have probably spent hours, days, weeks and months sitting at a desk, table or tv. And we carefully invest our money in clothes, cars, technology, holidays, hobbies and food that give us instant gratification and pleasure BUT with little thought for how these things might be affecting our health. Mostly because the impact isn't instantaneous. It can take a while for us to feel 'off'. And when we start to feel off, then more often than not, we self-medicate this 'feeling' with more of the stuff that made us feel that way in the first place. We comfort eat, treat ourselves, binge watch a box set, have a night out with friends or a take away because 'we deserve it' or we're too tired to think!  

So our money and time carefully reinvested on things that make is feel momentarily 'better' and the cycle continues. So much of what we have done over time has gotten us to where we are. Therefore, changing and trying to get back to some degree of health will take time too. 

If you want to feel better and you want to change your habits but find it hard, my guess is that you're not starting with the right change. The RIGHT CHANGE will give you instant improvement in how you feel increase your motivation and springboard you into more action. My guess/experience tells me that if you're a serial 'trier' (someone always trying you get healthy or lose weight) then you're probably throwing the kitchen sink at it. You diet, exercise, get a gym membership, cut this out, add this in, turn down this, politely refuse that. And all the while it just makes you stop living and restrict yourself so much that it makes you want to give up. It's just so hard.  So can change be easier?

YES definitely! Here's what I recommend. 

Firstly, pay attention to how you currently feel. Your body is telling you what you need.  

For example, if you're tired, this is what you need to work on. Simply going to sleep isn't always the as easy as it sounds, but developing a better routine before bed might be, as would drinking more water and avoiding technology or screens just before bed. Simple changes that will help you fall asleep better and more deeply.  

So, don't do everything at once only to end up doing nothing, and burying your head in the sand in the hope you just might be healthy and everything will just work out.  

Choose the one thing that will give you the biggest payoff. Before you know it, you'll realise how small investments add up. Just as putting money in the bank does. If you had to save a lump sum for a mortgage or holiday, you wouldn't put 100% of your monthly salary into the bank each month. The sacrifice and trade off would be overwhelming. You'd save little by little and maybe in a year without great effort you'd have enough money – AND whilst saving you'd still have money to do the other fun things in life.  

Your health's the same. Little by little. Give it time and it will all add up.  

Onwards!  

Bernie  

 

EAT MORE to LOSE WEIGHT?

Say WHAT?!

Have you ever tried to lose weight in the past? Yes? Let me guess, you did it by eating less? I can see why you'd think this could work, but did it?? Initially it might have, but did it stay off? For a minority it does in the short term, but for the majority it doesn't. And more importantly most people who lose weight put it back on within a year of losing it.  

Let me explain why... 

Eating less food is more likely to make you HANGRY as hell, annoy everyone around you and have you reaching for junk food by day 3. Simply eating less food isn't the answer for long term weight loss because our body's physiology isn't compatible with under eating. Ok, initially you may lose some weight to start with but then your brain kicks in. It wants to protect you from your shrinking fat stores because it doesn't realise you have made a conscious decision that you're all good in the fat store front. It doesn't know you don't need so much fat anymore and actually it's starting to cause discomfort when you walk, or make you feel down.  It just recognises fat stores are down, and it prompts you to eat. Stoopid brain!  

Here comes the science bit; 

Understanding why this happens is a key part of you owning your weight loss journey. If you know what's happening in your body you will be less likely to panic when you hit a plateau.  So read on for a more informed approach to weight management.  

Essentially, when you lose weight, an uncontrollable physiological reaction occurs. Your brain will release hormones that make you feel hungry in an attempt to slow down weight loss. We try our best to ignore these rumbles in the tummy, determined to lose weight. After all, we know we have plenty of fat in the tank. I mean, for God's sake, why can't our body just burn that off and not eat for a while?! Well, because breaking down fat is hard work and actually needs some energy to do it. The body would much prefer if you just ate.  

Even if you're as stubborn as my 3 year old (!), with great will power that you manage not to eat despite feeling ravenous, your brain will take another approach to stop you losing weight. It will slow down the energy you burn at rest and make you want to sit about more by making you tired and sluggish. This is called Adaptive Thermogenesis. Normally we have a set amount of energy we burn at rest as we Netflix our eyeballs off, but if you're trying to lose weight, this will decrease. This essentially means you will have a slower metabolism and your weight loss journey will slooooooow dowwwwn and plateau! WHAAAAT?! I know! Your brain will make you burn off less energy. Again, thanks brain!   

So, if eating less isn't the answer, what's IS I hear you cry?  

The secret to long term sustained weight loss is to EAT MORE and MOVE A LOT.  

More food?! Really? 

Hang fire, don't whoop just yet in celebration of being able to eat 'ALL THE FOOD', or slam down your phone or laptop screen in disgust at what seems to be incorrect advice. I'm not suggesting you can eat just any old rubbish. And I'm not trying to trick you, I don't mean you need to eat 'more like' a bird, or 'more like' an infant. What I am telling you is that you need to be clever, to out think your physiology and eat in a way that means you burn fat. You ned to override your body's desire to sabotage weight loss, but how?

How to override your body's drive to stop you losing weight?  

  1. You need to eat more of the foods that fuel your body well, keeping you fuller for longer (such as slow releasing carbohydrate, protein and good fats) and you need to eat less of the foods that encourage you to crave more, eat more, have unstable blood sugars (processed foods, low fat foods, quick releasing energy foods).  

  2. You need to move and burn off energy as much as you can. This doesn't need to be in a structured exercise programme (although it would be great if it was). But it could just be making sure you are on your feet most of the day. Walking for the school run, doing housework, mowing the lawn, walking to the shops, taking a bike ride.  

This isn't new or novel information. Nor is it something that is going to send the internet into a tizz wazz as everyone starts a new 'eat more' diet. This information has been available for a very long time, it's just, it's not sexy information, it's not something that seems faddy enough or has celebs hashtaging on instagram so it doesn't get the press! BUT it is what works. It's also the 'secret formula' and underlying principle behind all weight loss fads/regimes. So save yourself some time and money, appreciate and understand what's happening in YOUR body, fuel it well, enjoy food and don't worry about eating less. If you manage this you will lose weight slowly and it will stay off. Why? Because you won't crave sugar or carbs, you'll feel less hungry, you can eat good food, and you will have energy to do all the exercise and activity that will keep you burning fat.  

 

Let me leave this with you... 

IF you find yourself saying "I need to lose weight, and I actually know where I'm going wrong, I eat too much crap". Do yourself a favour don't eat less crap and expect to lose weight. Eat MORE wholesome food, enjoy that food and watch the inches come off without feeling like you're on a diet.  

Give it a go, and get in touch to let me know how it goes or if you have any questions. I'd be happy to help.  

 

Onwards!   

Bernie x

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

Yeah, but I'll be alright (I think!) 

 

Let me tell you a story... 

A few years ago I carried out some research on London Bus Drivers investigating if they had high risk of heart disease based on the fact that their job meant they were inactive most of their working day. The drivers would come in to see me, some full of bravado confident that they were healthy just because they were slim, and others who were overweight assumed they knew what their results would say so there was no point testing themselves. They already 'knew' they would have high cholesterol. But if they knew, why weren't they doing anything about it? More often than not, we all know when we need to work on our health, but we still don't do it. Why? 

I remember one guy who came in to see me. He was a bit overweight, not significantly, but he was interested to know what his glucose (blood sugar) was like because his mother had type 2 diabetes. Before I tested him, I asked him about his current lifestyle. He told me that he worked very hard, long shifts with little time off. So when he did get his down time he made sure he treated himself and his family having take-aways a few times a week, drove a nice car, had a few drinks most evenings, because after (all in his words) he "f-ing deserved it". He was very clear and strong that his lifestyle was something he felt he deserved. I couldn't disagree, of course he deserved to have good things in life, eat what he wants and drive nice cars. But here's the thing. When I measured his blood glucose it was very high, especially as he told me he hadn't eaten yet that day. This was an alarming result to me, one which told me he was well on his way to developing type 2 diabetes. He was visibly disappointed and yet still told me he probably wouldn't change the way he lived, because, as we've established, he "f-ing deserved it!". But what was "it"? I asked if I could ask him some more questions, but promised I wouldn’t tell him what to do, or how he was being 'unhealthy' - he already knew this. So he agreed.  

I was interested to know what 'IT' was. It turned out that 'IT' was feeling treated and rewarded for all his hard work. Which is something we all need to feel in order to enjoy life. But it is counter intuitive that this should come at a price to our health, or worse still, shorten the quality or length of our lives! But rather than tell this man that he HAD to change his behaviour, it was more important to me that he understood what his current behaviour was doing to his body – OK it may have been making him feel 'rewarded, or treated', but in actual fact, his diet and lack of physical activity was damaging the glucose receptor cells in his muscles meaning his blood sugar was staying high. This in itself was also contributing to prolonged raised blood sugar. A sure-fire recipe for developing type 2 diabetes. After explaining this, we both sat for a few seconds in silence. The man paused and looked at me and said - "I'm a f'ing idiot! How could I be so self-destructive and stupid to think I was treating myself when I'm really not. I don't want to feel ill, to have problems with my feet, or have to inject insulin!! That's it, it's got to change. I'm getting a bike, no more takeaways, and the kids will start walking to school".  Now, this was a drastic and dramatic turnaround for someone so adamant that he didn't want to change. Not everyone can manage this or do so in such short amount of time. What was his secret?  

Basically he knew from watching his mother grow old with diabetes just how debilitating it can be, how severe diabetes is and how it affected her life. Ok, so the astute of you will say he knew this all along and it didn't make him want to change his behaviour. True, but what he hadn't done before we met was join the dots between HIS lifestyle and the same illness that HIS mother had. And this is often true for many people who have loved ones with illnesses. We see them, but we don't believe or want to believe that the same lifestyle could damage us too.  

Take a close look at your lifestyle, really be honest with yourself, despite feeling nice to eat what you want and sit a lot, is it damaging your health? Will you look back in a few years and wish you'd taken better care of yourself? If the answer is yes, then do something about it, don't bury your head in the sand.  

All sounds a bit morbid, doesn't it? But, here's the great news is, to a large degree, your health is in your hands, that's good and bad health. We all have the capacity to make changes, and even the simplest change can contribute to YOUR health and well being regardless of your family history. But, to make those changes, you have to join the dots, and understand how severe things can be. I think It's better to do this, then to wait until an illness takes hold. What do you think? 

Know this, you are N = 1!

In scientific papers there is a very nerdy way of explaining how many subjects or people there were in a research study. You could argue it’s not totally necessary, that actually the authors could just say “there were 10 people in this study” but instead they say “N = 10”. To the outsider this might not mean much, it’s a barrier to fully understanding what’s being said. In many ways I hate this. I hate that there is often a secret language or acronym for things that aren’t actually that complicated at all, but if you don’t have the lingo, you’re left out and immediately put off. Having said this, there is a reason why they write like this, it isn’t to exclude, it’s to actually to keep things consistent and simple so to use as few words as possible. Why? Because ‘experts’ like to hear themselves talk and give an ‘expert’ an audience or an unlimited word count then they will go on and on about how much they know and how much you need to learn. IT’S THE SAME IN THE WORLD OF HEALTH OR WEIGHT LOSS. This makes it a very overwhelming and confusing place to try to navigate. You basically have two options when you go it alone on a health kick;  

  1. You find and follow an expert or professional who will give you a detailed prescribed programme to follow BUT never asks you a thing about you, your health, your physiology your lifestyle. The programme works for a while, you see some success, but you also don’t follow it to the letter and so your achievement plateaus.  

  1. You dip in and out of things that look interesting or easy or ‘worth a try’. Maybe it’s a fasting diet, or maybe it’s low carb, or HIIT (high intensity interval training). This stuff instantly seems attractive because it’s packaged well, looks sexy and seems to be ‘easy’! But again, shock horror it works for a while, but tails off. It’s not your thing or its not fitting in, or it doesn’t feel good.  

The outcome to both of these scenarios is shame, regret, low confidence and frustration. You feel like a failure yet again. You may even consider yourself ‘lazy’. You’re not!  

So know this… YOU ARE N = 1.  

You are your own person, your own body, your own genetics, your own lifestyle and your own wants, desires, and goals. Because of this your health isn’t something that can be magically improved by following a set generic programme. More importantly, if you don’t understand yourself and your own health needs, then how can you choose a programme or lifestyle that will help you achieve your sense of ‘health’? Get curious, understand your own body AND mind. Know yourself inside out.  

What makes you feel good? Why do you eat how you do? If you’re not enjoying it, why do it? What do you do everyday? How do you live and spend your time? Do you really know how much time you spend sitting, walking, moving? What are you eating? I mean, people often say to me, “uh I want to get fit”. And I say, why? What is fitness to you? There are so many definitions of fitness. I ran parkrun 5k this weekend and I felt sooooo unfit. I’m not unfit at all. I run a lot and I love to run long distances but totally find running 5k horrible compared to running 20 miles. Why because there are different types of fitness. After all Usain Bolt might be the fastest man on the planet, but would definitely look unfit running a marathon. So be clear about what you want and mean by ‘fitness’. I mean, be REALLY honest and reflective with yourself about this. Once you know this, only then can you match a health intervention to you