The 7-Eleven guide to eating out when you are weight training (because temptation never closes)

NB. I actually wrote this post on 3 March 2014. It was sitting in my drafts folder, so now I am setting it free.

 

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

It’s seems incredibly ironic that the day I scheduled to write this post on making good food choices when you are eating out, (whilst adhering to a weight training\nutrition program) I’d just been to a yum cha lunch and high tea the day before. Hmmm. But, this is life right? We are going to be asked to attend events (especially when you are a food writer), have well meaning family and friends try to steer you off course at great restaurants or just be super tired and find it easier to pit stop at [insert fast food joint name here] on the way home.

It happens. All the time. Every day.

Temptation.

Like a 7-Eleven, it dazzles us with it’s shiny packaging, accessibility, wide variety and offerings of things we wouldn’t of even contemplated. It’s super easy to go in and then come out with a myriad of things you don’t need (or want to eat) because it is just there. The trick is, to have a purpose. You can outwit the bright lights and still indulge, while keeping elements of guilt and nutrition in order. And we all know what that annoying, aching guilt trip we put ourselves on feels like:

Urgh, why did I eat that bucketful of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream? I thought I could just have a small bowl, but now I’m staring at an empty container and feeling sick. Man, I’ve got no self-control.

Don't Quit

Don’t Quit

OR

I’ll just have a handful of crisps.

[5 mins later…]

Okay, maybe another handful – just gotta round this one out with some even numbers.

[2 mins later]

Maybe I will just eat half the large packet, because I went to the gym three times this week and I’ll go again tomorrow to make it up.

[1 min later]

Packet gone.

Crisps= 100 points

You = 0 points

And we all know this scenario:

Waiter: Would you like to see the dessert menu?

Us: No, that’s okay. Oh, actually… I’ll just have a look.

15 mins and one Creme Brûlée later, we are bloated – cursing ourselves and working out how to work it off.

I know some of these examples are home-centric, but I really want to highlight the ease of relenting to desire and eating high sugar\processed\low nutritional value food. It’s incredibly seamless how we can shift into mindless eating mode, once our tastebuds get that hit of sweetness or salty potato chips – it is all over. A lot of times these foods are not designed to satiate us and we just keep consuming, consuming and increasing our addictive quota to them.

So how the hell do we win the 7-Eleven game? I’ve got seven tips I use to always help me make a relatively good decision, alleviate the guilt monster and ensure I enjoy what I consume. Because you know what? As I mentioned in last weeks post, I do love good food and I am all for eating delectable treats. BUT, when your goal (like mine) is to gain muscle, increase your fitness and overall health a bit of fancy sidestepping never goes astray.

  1. Protein rules: If you are looking at a menu and the allure of a carbonara pasta dish or toasted sandwich with hot chips is making your mouth water, think about protein. Protein is the key element that will fill you up, ensure you are hitting your protein totals for the day and help with blood sugar stabilisation. Carbohydrate laden dishes like these, are  packed with excess calories and may make you feel more bloated than full. If you really want the pasta – go for one with chicken, meat, lots of vegetables or seafood. Choose an entree size and have a salad as well. With the toasted sandwich, I would do the same and perhaps hold off the chips or share with a friend.
  2. Choose – booze is a rouse: Yesterday, at both the yum cha lunch and high tea I went to – champagne was literally on tap. It requires no effort to say yes and those dang champagne glasses are so small, I always lost count of how many I had. Because I knew I was going to be eating great quality and rich food, I bypassed drinking and had sparkling water\plain water instead. For me it’s about the calories. Yes, I had been to the gym that morning and did a weights session, but I would’ve easily had four glasses at the lunch and at approx 90 calories a glass that is 360 calories already. So you can choose, if you booze – opt to eat less of the ‘good stuff’ as alcohol is a the little known fourth macronutrient.
  3. Small servings: When there is a lot to choose from and\or you are keen to try different foods, I would encourage choosing entree sizes and sharing with friends or splitting a couple of main meals. This way you can enjoy your dining out experience and not blow out your calorie totals for the day. As with point #1 always add vegetables, a salad, good protein sources and if having entrees opt out of dessert. If having dessert opt out of entrees.
  4. Green tea: Yum cha fans will know that jasmine\chinese\green tea is typically always served. This is to aid digestion and assist in breaking down the food you are eating. I adopt this same principle when I am eating dessert. I always order a green tea, even though I love black coffee – I save this for the mornings and think more about how to aid the process of breaking down the fats and sugars. Even though it has caffeine, the tea is a rich source of antioxidants as well. If you are sensitive to caffeine and are eating out at night – even a herbal tea like peppermint is a good substitute.
  5. Eat clean at other meals in the day: I practise IF [Intermittent Fasting] everyday, so tend not to eat until 1pm each day. For dinner yesterday, even thought I was tempted to eat some chilli con carne I’d made and put lots of mozzarella cheese on it – I opted for a less caloric dense meal. Instead, I’d roasted a chicken the night before – so I warmed that up, shredded it and added diced cucumber, fresh tomato, a small bit of goats fetta, lots of lemon juice, splash of balsamic and seasoning and some inca incha oil. Pretty simple dinner. With eating out, ensure the other meals in your day are protein rich and filled with good fresh produce.
  6. Say no if you are full, 80% is the new 100%: Yesterday at the high tea, little vanilla macaroons came around after we’d consumed: tempura vegetables with miso and soba noodles, fried calamari with crisp vegetables, vol au vents peanut butter, raspberry and hazelnut mousse cake, green tea cake and choux pastry with custard and passionfruit fondant (you get my drift right?). I am more of a savoury than sweet person and I did sample a few of the sweet desserts, but when the macaroons came around I politely declined. I’d hit saturation, my sweet quota was maxed out and I was good. Previously I would’ve demolished everything in sight, been on a crazy sugar high and then crashed and burned and felt bleurgh. It truly is about fighting FOMO (fear of missing out), sitting at 80% full is great. Once your stomach catches up with your brain, you’ll feel satiated – especially when the food we ate was made out of great produce. I understand for those sweet tooths this is HARD. I get it. I used to be the same when it came to cheese. This is where sharing is good. Split treats with your friends and then drink water, fill up on it!
  7. Quality versus quantity: Ensure you choose food that comes from a great source. Junk food on the run will be your worst option here. You’ll now if the produce isn’t great, as you’ll still be hungry. Great food like local cheeses, desserts made with quality produce, fresh fruits and cream and also seasonal vegetables and market seafood or protein from good farms are really good options. If you are not eating out and need to grab something on the run – a kebab sans the bread is a good choice (opt for fresh cut meat), burgers with chicken (real chicken breast if you can) and salad boxes with protein are good too. Bypass the chips, soft drinks and other sugar filled add ons. If you are hanging for a sweet hit – try dark chocolate, yoghurt with stewed fruit, lsa, coconut sugar, banana protein smoothie or good old peanut butter!

calamarisalad

Eating out doesn’t need to be an experience where you are trying to dodge traps or announce that you are on a ‘diet’, deprive yourself or modify the meal to the point the waiter has a quizzical eyebrow raised at you. Treat yourself. It’s great to enjoy the experience of great venues and food really unites people – I truly believe it is a great element of society.

But just remember the 7-Eleven guide, remember what you came to buy. If you do get tempted by the bright, shiny lights – modify your intake for the rest of your day and always know temptation never, never closes. It’s you who becomes a conscious consumer and taking back control is an incredibly rewarding feeling. Also, once you see the muscle gains from adherence to your nutrition program – man it does something to your overall mindset. For me, seeing clear changes in my physique and lifting strength propels me forward and keeps me from wanting to eat low nutrition food. I just want to keep fuelling it with great produce as the results are SO motivating. I feel focused, disciplined and like optimum health is achievable.

Sparkling water makes everything a bit fancy.

Sparkling water makes everything a bit fancy.

Also, as a side note on alcohol I recently did Febfast and didn’t drink for 28 days. It was an interesting experience to be surrounded by so much alcohol at both events (I used to LOVE being intoxicated), but after absorbing research that confirms alcohol inhibits muscle gain, I found my why. And that is what this journey is about, finding the one thing that is enough to keep you focused on your individual goal. Next week, I’m chatting to some peeps on the program and finding out how the last 8 weeks has impacted their lives on this program – both good and bad. Till then, lift strong!

5 Tips on how to beat getting down about weight training.

As an optimistic person, I live to find the relative best in situations. Being a part-realist means I’m also highly conscious some things are going to suck. Big time. It’s this suckage element that inspires me to share my downsides on weight training with you. Weight training isn’t all about going to the gym and praying a great, functional and aesthetically pleasing body is going to result. It’s part grit, determination, sacrifice and pain.

But…

The end results are totally, totally achievable. And you can do it. I’ve taken the five downsides and stepped them out into flipsides – how they are beneficial for you. We can swim around like Nemo being naively optimistic and hoping for good outcomes or, we can be conscious of pitfalls and create pathways to reduce us falling into them.

I saw Michelle Bridges speak at a Business Chicks event this week, on Valentine’s Day. What a great way to start the day. Loving yourself and your body first and foremost. She spoke about putting your desires into action plans. Otherwise it is just an idea right? An image in your head of how you may look… one day. The part that resonated with me the most was JFDI (Just freaking do it! Although I far prefer the uncensored version Just f**king do it!)

Quotes

JFDI

Michelle doesn’t bounce out of bed at 5am to go for a 10km run or train. Her entry into the world is more sedate and grumpy. At 5am she is a robot, crawls out of bed, puts clothes on (laid out the night before) and just… goes. JFDI. If you are clear on your end result, and want it bad – you do the steps to get there. Yes, there is suckage and if celebrities like Michelle aren’t enthused about it either (the getting up and doing it bit), that’s kinda good to know. It’s a common problem.

Michelle Bridges

Michelle Bridges source credit http://www.glamour.com

So, let’s JFDI. In my last post, I promised I would break down these five areas:

  1. Macronutrients. Counting them. All of them damn things.

  2. Logging your work outs (more admin really?).

  3. Keeping up to date with all the online group posts. Argh! It’s hard enough with social media.

  4. DOMS. Pain. Why am I doing this again?

  5. Intermittent Fasting.

Macronutrients. Counting them. All of them damn things.

When I found out I HAD to count them, I was so overwhelmed. ADMIN. I am not wired to love ADMIN. Numbers. Weighing food. It seemed like the biggest hassle in the world. I sat back and started researching. This is my default when I don’t want to do something. I find out how other people are doing it, what the great ‘shortcuts’ are (tools and resources) and how I can do the same thing.

For those wondering what the hell Macronutrients are, it is the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fat in a food. For example according to My Fitness Pal, 100g of raw coconut meat has 15g of carbs, 34g of fat and 3g of protein. As my program has a nutritional guide, I need to ensure I am hitting the right ratios each day to complement my strength training, ensure adequate protein consumption and main good nutrition.

This article by one of my trainers Mike Vacanti helps debunk the dystopian world of calorie counting. I started getting it and more importantly seeing the value in it. Signing up to My Fitness Pal was the next step. Since then, I’ve been advised there are some other great tools:

Fitocracy Macros

My Net Diary

My Fitness Pal

You log in each day (or every few days if you have a good memory) and record what you eat. It then converts the information into calories and macronutrients. On my weight training days I have 2140 calories (of protein, fat and carbs), on non-training days 1444 calories. Before this program I  was eating well, but with no idea of volumes. I had a predisposition for carbs and was not eating nearly enough protein. Now, I have clear exposure to how to fuel my body and the amounts I need to eat.

By no means do you HAVE to do this, it would be a good experiment even for one month – just to see if you are conscious of your caloric intake. For example I love peanut butter and a good tablespoon of that has 10g of fat in it! I could probably eat half a jar. Now I know the ratios, enjoying it in measured amounts is better.

Logging your work outs (more admin really?)

Fitocracy is a great gamified platform to record your training sessions. It’s free (you can pay to have extra features) and similar to logging your macros, you go in each time or, when you can and note down all the reps\sets\exercises you do. Your workout is awarded points and it is SUPER motivating (if you like getting recognition, I do!). As it is a global community, other people will give you ‘props’ and can comment or encourage you.

As your points accumulate you move up to different levels and receive ‘awards’. It’s simple to use and the bonus is it houses all your workout information and you can track your progress. This is crucial to having clear exposure on your strength outcomes. All the hard work has been done for you with this program. There is an extensive database of exercises you can search and, once you’ve created programs you can duplicate them and just change the numbers. ADMIN made fun. My kinda thang.

Dog

Not more admin

Keeping up to date with all the online group posts. Argh! It’s hard enough with social media.

At last count I am part of 20 closed Facebook groups and two Google+ closed groups. Not to mention other website communities I am involved in. WHEW. Social media is all pervasive. Now, I don’t spend a lot of time on the socials. Through extensive trial and errors (including deleting the socials off my mobile) I now dive into the groups at particular times, on my laptop. My point is, online communities are incredibly valuable – but pick your community and your purpose. What benefit are you deriving, what you are contributing and how much time do you want to spend there?

With Roman Fitness Systems, I am part of a group of around 65 community members (around the world) and it is super helpful. At times when I have lacked motivation to go to the gym, was in pain, had food questions, or just confused about how the hell to do a Pallof Press, I jumped into the group and hey presto – question answered. I typically dive in around 2-3 times a week and do get notifications on my mobile. This is the only group I get notifications for as my most important priority right now is my HEALTH. 

I don’t answer or comment on everything (I used to have this weird habit where I HAD to – anyone else had that?), now I just scan what is happening. When Q&A sessions are coming up I check what pertinent info I need to know and if others struggling with the same problems I have. The socials can be a massive TIME SUCK otherwise. Allocate a set time period and then back out. It’s like pokie machines. Don’t get caught staying put – cash out!

DOMS. Pain. Why am I doing this again?

This is a stark reality of any strength training program. Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness. In my post I touched on a good article that clarifies what this means. You start to become one with PAIN. It’s not always fun, but there is a big difference between pain and strain. Pain is muscle soreness from microtears to your muscle fibres and the resulting growth and repair from that. Strain can be from poor technique, not warming up or cooling down and or any aggravated injuries.

It’s not about lifting heavy, technique is the critical factor. Form will always surpass amount. 

Good ways to alleviate DOMS include:

Icebaths – or if you can stand in water. I head to the beach 2-3 times a week and the cool, salt water is fantastic.

Magnesium – will help you sleep and also help with muscle recovery.

Foam rollers – a friend of mine calls this “the poor man’s massage.” A good roll out can really help iron out tension. It does hurt at times! Breathe through it, take your time and do some stretching as well.

Stretching – I am a big fan of this and will stretch out after every session. Yoga stretches are also ideal.

Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to do a blog series on my experience with IF (Intermittent Fasting) as it is a world onto itself.

As opposed to full fasting, IF can range from 12-16 hours. For example, I fast for around 14-16 hours everyday. On my program we eat within an eight hour period (mine is typically midday – 10pm, it fluctuates between those hours) and then fast from 10pm to midday onwards the next day. Now, it can look like I am just ‘skipping breakfast’ – but the actuality is, consumption of all my calories is in a set period.

Why would I want to do that? This article by John Romaniello is a good overview and the benefits of this practice. IF is a common method followed by people in the strength training world. It can be hard though (at first). I started around nine months ago after watching a documentary by Dr Michael Moseley, so I had some experience before I started this program. For me, the benefits have outweighed the initial resistance, hunger and struggle I had with it. And… I am a breakfast person! I freaking LOVE breakfast. It has all my favourite foods and meals. But, I persevered and it is doable. For the first month of this program though, I relied a bit on black coffee to to help stave off hunger.

Brunch

For any questions you may have, John has outlined a great FAQ – it’s lighthearted, informative and even has videos.

One of the main benefits of IF has to do with blood sugar, which Dr Moseley talks extensively about. How IF from a fat-burning perspective works to regulate insulin as you are not in a ‘fed state’, when your body producing insulin constantly to shuttle glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream over to muscles, liver or fat cells for storage.

Now I will put a disclaimer on this last one, as I am not a medical professional and am very hesitant to dispense advice (which is why I am not diving in too deep). I’m more than happy to talk anecdotally about my experiences, but would strongly recommend you read the suggested articles and also speak to your own health professionals pending your own fitness and health status.

Next week we get onto the fun stuff – recipes. One of my absolute favourite pastimes – cooking. I will be sharing my fallback secrets with you.

Till then, train well, eat well and JFDI!

The 5 Pro’s and the 5 Cons of weight training

Yo, yo folks.

How’s the quest for fitness going? Swimming in an eternal sea of egg whites and soy-protein-isolate-hold-the-sugar protein powders? In my last post on getting started with this whole weight training caper I touched on what this post would be about. The benefits and downsides of weight training. Namely in direct correlation with this style of training I am doing: online group coaching.

In the interest of being economical with my words, this one will be somewhat short and sweet. Like a good hit of stevia. This is designed to give you a good solid overview [from my first-hand experience]. I’ll outline the reality and journey of taking on board a program like this. Why? To help provide you with key insights into:

a) Planning weight training and meals [including macronutrients]

b) The importance of tracking your work outs and logging your nutritional intake

c) Mindset. How we can be our own worst enemy or best friend.

Gold's Gym. One day.

So like a good hypertrophy set we want to smash out, let’s hit it:

Pro’s

  1. Feel good: Like the new Pharrell song ‘Happy‘ (my friend sent me one of the one hour versions – this is the 4.08 min one), you will feel good. Afterwards. I can not stress that enough. It’s almost like you need to bottle the ‘feeling’ after a good weights workout and measure it out in doses before you go. Why?  Y’know how your mind starts saying things like  “there’s a good show on tv”, “I don’t feel like it, I have so much to do…”, remembering the ‘feel good’ feeling and choosing to have more of it, has immense knock-on effects in your life. Namely: confidence, you start sleeping better, you become stronger (mentally, physically and emotionally) and the big one: you are putting yourself first. That is huge. You’re saying, I’m worth it. I deserve to be happy and this is how I can make that happen.

  2. Money, you can save it: Holler! Did someone say “save money?” Yup, this is true. Although, you need to be clever about this. It costs me $77USD a month for this 16 week challenge. With today’s exchange that’s $88AUD for my Aussie readers. That gets me a full nutritional and training program – specifically designed for my needs (muscle gain), access to John’s brain and his colleague Mike Vacanti on pretty much any question under the sun I have (24/7) and the one worth it’s weight in dumbbells, the online group itself. There are 70 people in my group that I have forged friendships with. Four weeks ago, I knew known of these people. Now, they are a community of fellow lifters who share their ups and downs, recipes, tips and training wins. I totally love it. The program breaks down to three sessions per week, split into four monthly phases. The next step would be to find a good gym based on what your income\needs allow you to spend.
  3. Gymtastic: Speaking of which, you may either have your own gym (that you go to or set up at home), be in the market to join one or I’m not sure what another or would be…maybe where you live there is one in the complex. At the moment I am b) in the market to join one. I have a base that I use on a casual basis (I buy passes), but currently I am trying out gyms. Most gyms will provide you with free one – seven day passes and this is a super way to use the equipment, find out if it works for you either location or purpose wise and if the prices are within your range. Now, why is the gym a pro? (Let’s just include home set ups in this too). Well, firstly it’s you time. It’s a devoted allocation of your resources to achieve an outcome in a set environment (sheesh that sounded very organisational psychology book-ish). Put in other words, this is the place that is going to get you where you need to go. It can be socially interactive, a great chance to check-out and check-in to your health, and meet like minded crew to share the journey.
  4. Planning queen: Man, last year I was one of the most impulsive people around. I had so many things crammed into my week, that my health and fitness was playing quietly in a corner. On someone’s else’s calendar. Now that the word ‘Strong’ is one of my core desired feelings (massive, massive kudos to Danielle La Porte’s ‘The Desire Map’ for this), I create my schedule around this. Big, big shift from last year. I tried every product under the sun to get organised, create schedules and plan – but I find Google calendar works best for me. Simple. I set appointments to go to the gym, make them recurring and even type the work out into the calendar as well. That way I have it on me always (on my phone). I’ve synced my calendars (home and work) so that I know exactly when I need to go or can prepare in advance. This saves you double booking yourself, as the aim is to make it non-negotiable. This does take time. As the ‘feel good’ feeling rises, so does the planning. I completely understand if this seems daunting, hard or ‘another thing’ you have to do. That was my feeling exactly. The reward (you feeling good) is really worth it though, once you set this up – it’s done!
  5. Positive mindset: It feels like a good segue into this. Trust me when I say, your mind will totally be your own worst enemy or best friend. 85% of the time, I am talking myself out of it. Really. I think of every reason not to go. Then, I sit quietly and work out why. Often it’s because I feel like I need to do SO many other things. But then I think about the ‘feel good’ thing and realise – the SO many other things will be done in a better way, because I honoured my health and I’m also strengthening my mental discipline. On the occasions (there have been two since my last post) I couldn’t go – this was genuinely due to travel and meeting commitments, I made the sessions up on another day (this weekend actually!) The interesting thing with this, was that I could’ve gone. If I woke up early and hit the gym. But I didn’t. And…I didn’t beat myself  up for it. I am not an overly morning person, I chose to schedule them in another time. Positive mindset works in a few parts. You’ll start becoming accountable to yourself (and others if you have an accountability buddy or training partner), you’ll also be kind to yourself, understanding your weaker moments and finding ways to improve them. When that dialogue kicks in (as in my case) – it’s pretty empowering to be able to just get up and go. Not feeding the negativity is key. Staying calm and focused is.

For six months of last year – I practised yoga and meditation through an awesome company called Yogaglo. It really helped me to find that inner resolve through all the debris of internal chatter, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and need to be ‘on’. As a sidenote for Yogaglo, they are California based company that provide online yoga and meditation classes for $18USD ($20AUD) per month. It’s unlimited and you can choose from 5 min meditations to 45 minute yoga classes and everything in between. There’s a 15-day free trial on at the moment if you’d like to check it out.

Well, in my quest to stay ‘economical’ with my words, I feel it’s best to leave the post at this point. It’s good to digest all these positive pro’s and work out what your next action steps may be. I’ll put together the 5 Cons in my next one. There I will divulge the a) and b) statements I made at the beginning and how they drove me bonkers at the start, but now I actually enjoy it (weird). They will be:

2013-11-07 09.32.41

  1. Macronutrients. Counting them. All of them damn things.
  2. Logging your work outs (more admin really?).
  3. Keeping up to date with all the online group posts. Argh! It’s hard enough with social media.
  4. DOMS. Pain. Why am I doing this again?
  5. Intermittent Fasting.
Quote

Do or do not. There is no try. Thanks Yoda.

Till then, stay strong and love to hear how you stay positive in your weight training journey.

The Beginner’s Guide to getting started on weight training

It seems only befitting that the week I decide to discuss how to get going with weight training, I have really bad DOMS in my upper back and shoulders, some weird bruise and an unrelenting desire to eat. Yes, welcome. Welcome to the way not to introduce people to a challenging task… with all the potential side effects!

cheesecake, healthy desserts

This is a ‘protein cheesecake’ – classic NY style and delicious.

But hey, I am not going to sugar coat things. As you’ll read in points nine, ten and sixteen of my former post ‘20 things you didn’t know about me’, getting that sweet reward at the end, will result in some minor fractions along the way.

You may still be wondering what the hell DOMs is. It’s ‘Delayed onset muscle soreness’ and typically likes to linger 24 – 72 hours post exercise. For me the apex is normally 48 hours after. After a weight training session or even resistance training you can cause what is known as ‘microtraumas’ to your muscles. This damage results in soreness to the areas you exercise, but it does go away.

Sports Medicine has a good little article for those who’d like a more in-depth overview. For me, I always think of it in this equation:

Lift Heavy x New or Different (intensity\duration) = Sore tomorrow (and maybe more)

Sore tomorrow + Rest Days + Good treatment = Feel better

Sore tomorrow\Feel better = New, fit body!

I seriously just made that up then. Please do not quote me on it or take it as medical advice. But you get my drift right? I could throw in all those ra-ra sayings like:

“Short-term pain = long term gain” or “Go hard or go home”…

But I won’t. I mean I already did, but I think it’s about breaking it down and really thinking about what it is you desire\want\need from your training. That in turn, will motivate you to do the required movements to get to your personal goal. For me it’s really one word. STRONG. That is how I want to feel. Not only in my body, but in my mind and emotionally as well.

As a freelance writer, I am eternally interested in human behaviour and how we approach, communicate and motivate ourselves to do things. With the Sixteen Weeks ‘til Sexiness program I am in (through Roman Fitness Systems), my online coaching group consists of 70 members. We comprise all different walks of life, ages, occupations and even countries. Most are in the USA because it originated in NY, but there’s a fair few Aussies (yay) some hilarious UK folk and a smattering of residents from EU.

dumbells, weights, usa flag

Lifting the USA flag

We all do have one thing in common though. A burning desire to hit our own personal outcome (we are on a mix of three different programs: fat loss, muscle gain and recomp – for those are super duper into building muscle). I’m on the muscle gain. But we also share one other trait: we are fallible. Having 70 people to chat to about everything about is really fun. Things like:

  • I think I am going to slip up and eat something bad – help!

  • All these New year’s resolution people are taking up all the equipment at the gym – what alternative exercises can I do?

  • Macronutrients? How the hell do I count those?(more on that in my next post)

  • I really want a drink! (alcohol)

  • How do I get rid of DOMs? I am so sore, yeouch!

Funny quotes

That they are

And my personal favourite: all the recipes, I mean of course all the positive encouragement when you do a great gym session, hit your targets or just need a friendly ‘good on you!’

My first week, I had a series of false starts. The program was due to start on Monday 6 Jan, and I got it Tuesday 7 Jan (care of the time difference). My inherent desire to only read the good bits, somehow resulted in me mis-reading the initial emails and thinking it started on Thursday 9 Jan. Good one me.

Of course I had ceremoniously gone out to dinner at Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar on Monday night and outdone myself on prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella and figs, spaghettini with Moreton bay bugs and goats curd panna cotta with glazed strawberries and all the trimmings. Plus I washed this down with a very good hit of red wine. Anyone else done this? I can see most of you nodding your head, or waving a chicken drumstick around medieval king style.

The next couple of days I was still feeling worse for wear. My workout days were scheduled as Mon, Wed and Fri. I decided to not beat myself up (even though I desperately wanted to, why??)  and just do the first one on Friday. Instead, I read all the comments in the group, read through the program (very comprehensive), read the nutrition guide I was sent and the amount of calories to consume, read all about John Romaniello and all about Mike Vacanti – our incredibly knowledgeable and motivating moderator of the group. You got it in one – I read, read, read.

Mike Vacanti

Mike Vacanti our muscular moderator.

As a sidenote – I have to say at this point: Are all guys from NY good looking? There must be something in the protein powder there.

2014-01-14 19.20.28 HDR-2

I fluxed between wanting to go to the gym and wanting to postpone it till the following week. I ended up going on Friday afternoon and then doing a little swim in the bay after, which was a great way to end the week and the session (muscles like cool water). I reflected on the week that was in the cool depths of Elwood beach.

2013-11-02 18.59.05

One stand out comment came from a guy in the group, after another member (there were a few of us) lamented about missing the first week. He said something along the lines of “You haven’t missed the first week, you’ve gained. You’ve gained more than any of us. You now know what to do and what not to do, so you can just start. That is a great position to be in.”

I really loved that. It helped shift my thinking and I admire when people can present situations back in an optimistic way. Total kudos to that guy.

From what  I observed of the others in my group and what I personally experienced as well here are my Top Five tips on getting started:

  1. Understand your why: It’s incredibly critical you know your intent for strength training. Even if it as simple as you want to fit those jeans you bought a year ago or you need to shed some body fat and build muscle tone – great! I say this, because your why is the elixir that will get you to the gym after a hard day at work, drive you out of bed at 6am if you train early, head off on your lunch break instead of eating at your desk and most importantly get you to your end goal. My why is STRONG. I’ve sustained a chronic shoulder injury, torn hamstring and long periods of sitting (ah, the by-product of writing) – so STRONG is a word I use to remind me why I doing this. I am determined to build a functionally fit body, strengthen my discipline and walk around in a crop top (just kidding, scrap that last bit).

  2. Get accountable: Whether you join an online group, form a pact with friends, engage your partner or kids – tell someone about your plan and get them involved. People that care about you will care about your health and dreams. Let them be part of your journey or better yet, maybe a buddy to train with. The only reason I was getting myself to the gym to start off with, was because I was accountable to so many people and I do not like letting people down. I’m a part of a team. Now in the third week, I’m actually excited about going to fling iron around. Well – not quite at that stage yet.

  3. Plan and schedule your time: It doesn’t have to be fancy or detailed or rigid. I make recurring appointments in Google Calendar (I use all the Google products) complete with a breakdown of the exercises I need to do. I do this because on that first day, I put what I thought was my program in my bag, turns out it was a blank piece of paper. I couldn’t get into Dropbox through my phone as the internet was down and I was finally able to retrieve my program through my email! I learnt a grave lesson – be prepared and have back ups. We typically always have our phone on us (I use it to listen to music at the gym), so products that sync with your phone are great. That way – you’ll be ready to train always.

  4. Wear your gym clothes: I know this sounds crazy, but some days if I plan to go at lunch, I will wear my gym clothes to work. Some of you may not be able to do this, but if you can, it is a great way to just go. It really frames your mindset and starts forming a positive habit of going.  If I come home still in my gear and didn’t go, I get a bit disappointed in myself. Trust me, there are plenty of times I think “oh, I have to do all this STUFF!” But it is at that moment I just get up and go. You will be far better for it. I also take a spare change of clothes, in case I get over hanging out in tights and a singlet in the afternoon.

  5. Remember you are you: Where you are at is where you are meant to be and that is great. Too often we get caught up in “oh, she is skinnier than me” “he’s got a better physique” “I can only lift 5kgs” STOP! Starting points are different for everyone and the sole fact you are standing in a gym, training at home, in a park or anywhere really is testament to the fact you are making positive change. I was told years ago by a naturopath to “be kind to yourself “ and to this day it is the best advice I’ve had. Sheesh, the amount of times I berated myself for not doing things, or not being good enough or not being at a point someone else is at is huge. Competitiveness is good, seeing others as competition is not. This is your journey and being present in each training moment is the best way to be. Resistance training and results comes over a period of time, so just chip away.

quotes, motivational quotes

Motivation

This was a long one… phew! But training is all mental (well, yeh it does make us go a bit mental at times too..) Next week will be a quick and easy one – love that. The Top five benefits of programs like these and the top five downsides…. or should that be Bottom five? Ah, someone can fill me in between now and next week. Till then, I’m here to chat if you wanna say hi about your training journey.

Announcing… The next social experiment challenge! Here’s the overview.

16 Weeks ‘til Sexiness. No doubt that title caught your eye as much as it did mine. When my foray into the social experiment I did last year Changing Habits, Changing Lives  ended, I was left with a leaner body, a pantry devoid of more-ish junk food and a good feeling. I managed to *stick* with something and produce an end result. For an incredibly impulsive, [former] emotional eater and ‘where’s the fun at?’ person, this was a significant milestone.

wine, leona devaz, party

Anytime is the wine time.

What does one do with all this new found liberation? Why, undo it all of course. In December I tripped the light alcoholtastic and revelled in this new *ahem* healthy me. Red wine, white wine, blue wine, any wine seemed to pervade most meals and as with most things I do, that had to come to a screaming halt [insert high pitched screeeeeeeechhhhhhh noise. Right. About. Here]

So I ask this question. Why? Why do we do that to ourselves? Achieve a challenging health goal and then bask in drunken glory like we are at a soccer match and our team just won. [minus the shirt over your head and running around on the field. How do they not bump into anyone? Sheer talent]

soccer, drunk, perth glory

YEHHHHHH!

This question was still doing an intoxicated dance in my mind one night pre-Christmas, when a Fitocracy email  landed in my inbox. Fitocracy is a website designed to provide an interactive experience by allowing you to track your workout sessions in a gamified fashion [great for ex-sales people like me who get giddy at the thought of being rewarded].

Fitocracy

Fitocracy: image sourced from http://www.pcmag.com

The email was ‘promoting’ different online group coaching programs that started in the New Year. At first, I thought “what the freak?” [well, I actually wasn’t as eloquent as that], “how the freak do you train in an online group? I mean, what.. you have to go to the gym by yourself? And then what?” So many questions, I was kind’ve in my own quiz show.

I looked at the programs and when I saw John Romaniello  the weight training side of me was reignited. Well, it was more than that really. I jolted up like someone had branded me with a pinging hot cattle prod in my butt. Yeouch! This was my train of thought:

WOW. He’s hot!

OMG. He’s based in NY. I’d love to go to NY.

He’s a writer. I’m a writer!

He’s a prolific writer for major publications and a NY best-selling author. Amazing. I’m in the writing industry too, this could be great research.

It’s only $77 USD a month. What? That is freaking cheap! I can do that.

You get a program, nutrition guide and be part of a group. Cool! I love making new friends.

John Romaniello

John Romaniello: image sourced from http://www.criticalbench.com

And so on, I’m sure you’re getting the gist of my excitement. The program 16 Weeks ’til Sexiness sounded like a pretty sweet deal. Access to an incredibly well-known celebrity trainer for a hugely reduced price. I’m sold.

Then, I got derailed. By these guys. Ryan and Eric – The Sons of Strength and their program Constructing the Champion. You can see why I got sidelined and put back on the bench. The thing that ruled me last year and for many years of my life [and most people I hear] came creeping up and roundhoused me. FOMO [y’know the one: Fear of Missing Out]. So, then my brain tried to be logical and weigh it up:

WOW. Not one, but two hot guys! Double the deal – sheesh that is a bigger incentive.

They are in NY too.

OMG they train actresses. I used to do theatre arts, maybe I’ll become a fit actress?

Oh, you get access to a group as well? Imagine all the cool people in that group.

Their program creates champions. I’d like to be a champion. Not sure what at though, but it sounds good.

$99 USD. So slightly more than the other one, but still super affordable.

etc…

Eric and Ryan Johnson, Fitocracy

Eric and Ryan Johnson: imaged sourced from http://www.fitocracy.com

And then in a very-unlike me fashion. I did nothing.

I figured, I’d let it incubate and decide later.

One week later, I registered. Which one do you think I went for?

Part of me wants to leave it hanging to the next post, but I’m not one for surprises.

Announcing the winner… Roman Fitness Systems! Why? Because he’s a writer. Yes, really. I was completely impressed with the quality of information he produces and his devotion to all things health and fitness [and of course, he gets results]. PLUS, he loves Arnie . Anyone who loves The Governor is good in my book. Also, he is incredibly funny and I think you need that kind of trainer when you are about to embark on a solo [but part of an interweb group – weird concept] training adventure.

Arnie, Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Inimitable Arnie: image sourced from http://www.twitter.com\banana_arnie

If you are on a weight-training, improve your fitness or just start moving more journey, I would love to hear about it. It’s bloody challenging that’s for sure. I mean you have to be motivated, get up [early], lift the weights [urgh, heavy] and coordinate gym outfits. Whoops, maybe that is just me.

As a former PT and dance instructor, I totally freaking get it. I really do. So, this is my current social experiment: weight training. And all that surrounds it. Next week, I’ll chat about getting started [it was not smooth sailing for me] and how if you are a beginner, coming back to resistance training or just wanna fling some iron around, how to get going.

And, as any ‘research fixated freelance writer’ like me knows, it pays to uncover as much as you can. Check out John’s wife. That’s motivation right there. I read on her Instagram page a guy challenged her to a pull-up comp. At a Irish pub. Using a door frame.

Girl can lift.

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – the day the scales stood still Day #44

Okay. Well. It’s been over two weeks since my last post and sheesh a lot has happened in that time.

For starters, just four days ago I lost more weight and got down to 59kg. It was quite something to see that on the scales. It was my primary goal through this challenge and really something to have that sense of achievement at following through.

I actually stood and stared for the longest time, then got off and on about four times. Just in case. Y’know. Like in case a ‘scale’ MacGyver had been in the neighbourhood. Nup. Turns out it was true. So, I did what all good iPhone owners would do and took a photo of it. I actually hit record and started recording it. Strange the things excitement can do to you. The next day I got on again and hello 58kg! This time round I started laughing. I was in total disbelief at the outcome. I never and I mean never, thought I would feel fit and have optimum health again.

As I mentioned two weeks into this challenge, it was always about the follow through for me, and the weight loss is a fantastic by-product. It means I’ve shed so much emotional baggage, toxicity, negative mindsets and fear. It reinforces that the course of action I took was by far the right thing to do and the reward is… I regained my clarity, calm, clear thinking and optimism back 10-fold. It makes me wholeheartedly believe that it is possible for people to take positive control of their health and wellbeing. And that, makes this journey totally worth it.

I’m staying true to my Top 10 shout outs and splitting them into two parts. This post will recognise the Top 5 friends that supported me along the way. I’ve realised you just can’t gain the best outcomes alone. A posse of the ‘right’ people will get you where you need to go. And that, needs commendation. The other Top 5 are my mentors + business support, who also become evident to me in this process.

Health + what you do = directly correlated.

So here goes (in no particular fashion, I mean playing favourites is what Cadbury’s does right?):

  1. My housemate the amazing Nicole.  I have to say living with an easygoing, insightful, kind and pretty freaking funny person, is going to pay dividends when you embark on crazy challenges to change your lifestyle. When you’re turning your world on its head, you need someone to keep the axis spinning at the same pace. I recommend everybody gets themselves a friend like this. It’ll be the difference between success and failure. The difference between relenting and eating bags of potato chips, or staying strong and thinking of the bigger picture. Only a superstar athlete like Nic, knows what that is about. Home is where the heart is, and you need to be happy there when you’re hungry and wanting to raid a bakery at midnight.nic and lee
  2. My food + new career + journey into the unknown friend Becki. Becki moonlights as foodiecure. If you haven’t checked her out, go on now and do it. Here’s the link again in case you don’t want to go back one sentence: foodiecure. Becks and I used to have many a chat in the kitchen (as all good food fanatics do) at our old ‘corporate’ job discussing how we had these grand plans, amazing visions and what we thought were pipe dreams 7 months ago. By fluke we ended up resigning on the same day and tracking a super similar course of prosperity. We both now wake up every day and do what we love, and that has been the best journey ever. I’m so grateful to have a pal that went on that unplanned drive to who knows where. Moral of the story: follow your gut people. Follow your GUT. If it’s hungry – feed it good food and if it is telling you something, listen to it. me and becks
  3. My best friend ever in the whole wide world Jessica. You totally need a person that is so exactly the same as you, but so immensely different, that they encourage (sometimes force or ‘make’ you) do things that you’re really fearful or anxious about. We’ve been best friends for over 16 years. Yup 16 years. That is like almost half my life (well a bit more) and she’s the most adventurous, driven, well-travelled, social, logical and quick witted person I have the utmost pleasure of calling my buddy. Life has only graced us with 1.5 years of ever living in the same city and we’re testament that true friendship runs stronger than seeing each other every other day. It’s about absolute loyalty. If you have a bestie like this, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t – you can share mine.me and jess
  4. Techno whizz-Terrifically Elegantly Intelligent- Mind Blowing-Best Question asking person ever. My uber cool compadre Terri-Ann has taught me the art of ‘actionable items.’ Espousing less rhetoric and doing more – making extraordinary things happen. She’s also a quintessential minimalist, so I am going to honour that by not banging on and just saying one impactful statement: “Tez takes creative thinking to a whole new utopia of making you feel like you’ve had three of the best espressos of your life and you are gonna be freaking awesome, because she makes you do and not say.” tez the amazing whizz kid
  5. There’s always one person who gets there first. Leah. So it seems poignant that I’m writing this today, as in less than 24 hours my most utterly driven sports-mad friend Leah will be summiting Island Peak. Oh, it’s just part of the Himalayas and you’ve only got to ice-pick  your way up it. Yah, really! So Leah is pretty much of the champion mindset.  This girl will put her mind to it and do it before you’ve even turned around to put your ice-cream wrapper in the bin. We’ve summited Mt Kilimanjaro, trekked part of the Great Wall of China and triathlon trained together – but she’s gone on to do The Ride to Conquer Cancer twice (over 250km), Kokoda, Island Peak and I believe Oxfam next year. Leah  took me to The Wellness Summit and pretty much got the ball rolling for me to turn my health around. Total respect for that. I’m such a grateful friend, that I picked the most flattering photo of her. I mean only some people can pull off a clown outfit? Fit people that’s who. And that rounds up my Top 5. Next post I’ll share my insights of the business savvy women you just can’t do without. If you thought you were productive now, wait till you meet these movers and shakers.me and leah and sammi-jo

Changing Habits, Changing Lives – the hard yards over #Day 28

lentil as anything eggs

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that this was one of my favourite meals (still love the venue, just not the amount of potatoes I was eating!). It seemingly looks harmless and does contain one of my favourite foods – eggs, but unbeknownst to me – the amount and type of food I was eating was not conducive to my overall health. I find it fascinating that we are drawn to food products that ultimately are not the most optimum choice for our wellbeing. On closer thought, you can apply this adage to a number of faculties in life. It’s harder to extricate yourself from that which appears great, to choose that which seems to be hard. But in the long run – becomes so incredibly energising that the misaligned choices (food, people, environments) are no longer in line with your personal health values and you can choose wisely. Great nutrition provides clarity and a clear head.

This is the cornerstone of what I have learned so far in my journey on Changing Habits, Changing Lives. I really got thinking about myself and others that ‘suffer’ from depression, lethargy and sluggish digestive systems. We harnessed the inability to lose weight and refuted the ability to lose it. I just couldn’t be that person anymore. I was tired of myself and of the societal adage’s around depression and nutrition. For me, there had to be an inroad into optimum health and as I much prefer the road less travelled (give me the longest, hardest way to get there and I’ll take it!) taking my health into my own hands appeared to be the most illogical, yet logical choice.

I cleared my 21 days in Phase 2 of this program on Tuesday. It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last post and I honestly felt fantastic. I still do. A few days after I thought, y’know what? I’m going to keep going! I will do longer than 21 days, perhaps I’ll shoot for 37 days, (the longest you do the Phase for is 40 days). I really wish I would’ve written at that point as I was seriously in jubilation mode. I’d gone from 66kg – frumpy, high body fat, bloated and erratic thought processes to a radical change. The picture below shows me in Santorini – tipping the holiday scales. Featured in the photo is my best friend Jess, she brings me great happiness, no matter what though (you need someone like that).

santorini red sea

Now at 60kg, I’m more joyful, clear thinking, focused and productive – totally kicking my own goals (that have been sitting on the back burner on low heat slowly disintegrating). I have to say a massive thanks to my awesome-foodiecure-friend for taking this snap. It was the first time I’d been out of the house (literally) to an event, worn make-up, a new dress and socialised in well over 4-5 months. From hibernation to celebration.

Me - happy at last.

This program of Cyndi’s really does create life-changing shifts in your habits and in turn your health. I had the great fortune of interviewing Cyndi this week for an article I am writing (due for release in December) in Latte Magazine. The topic is on healthy food movements like ‘Paleo’ ‘Raw Food’ ‘Gluten-Free’ and the like. I’ll be sure to post that up once it’s finished. The thing I was so sceptical about I now fully understand. When you are well – it is addictive. You want others to gain better health as the vitality and joy you experience is incredibly gratifying.

In saying that though, I hit Friday this week and decided the extra four days I did in Phase 2 would suffice. The other thing I learned, is not to push yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve. Incremental goals are imperative for future success and now my roadmap is about implementing my new learned behaviours into this healthier lifestyle I’ve created. I mentioned in my last post I wanted to do a shout out to a couple of friends of mine and that’s not the case anymore…

I’ve decided to disband that idea and instead do a massive HOLLER to my Top 10 friends and things that helped me along this journey. As I’m super grateful for their support and infinite wisdom. I’m also going to post some of my favourite ‘food creations’ that kept me sane and surprisingly satiated along the way. It’s incredible how inventive you can get when you need to! A fortuitous and somewhat serendipitous event occurred for me during this as well – I ended up freelance food writing! I’ve posted a number of reviews pre-this program (in case you’re wondering why I was eating strawberry eclairs and pork belly) But I will stand by one thing, I’ll continue to eat great food – now, my decisions are based on how is the produce sourced and made.

new fave salad - fennel

This little number shows one of my new faves…the humble fennel.

Till next time.

Stay well,

Leona xo