When it comes to the subjects of health, wellbeing , nutrition and fitness… you would be forgiven for thinking the world has been overtaken by alien experts who change their mind faster than you can cook their new raw dinner, or find your nearest must visit, new-age, concept studio that Lululemon already seem to have delivered a ‘must-have’ fitness line for!!!!
One day you feel utterly virtuous (😇) eating wholegrain cereals, brown rice and oats and finally joining that running club you’ve been meaning to for 5 years – only to be told that carbohydrates and gluten are worse than nuclear warfare and running will actually make you fatter . So – you join a hot yoga studio and become totally psyched at the mountains of sweat you and your steam room of friends are expending, with shedding pounds as your ultimate goal. You just know you will look like a supermodel/Adonis in a month so go 4x a week and grab a super healthy smoothie bowl (I mean its ALL over instagram!) with your buddies after every session making you feel nothing short of Saint-like …. only to discover you have gained 5kg in a month and have no idea why!!!! Now what?!!!! Ok – lets try a gym and PT…. now I am only allowed to eat Protein and good fats (you’re still confused which ones these are, cos each week you read a different article making them the panacea for all fatness one week – and then the mother of all evils the next!!! Coconut-oil currently seems to hold as many column inches as Donald Trump!) and your trainer tells you to do NO cardio and instead build a strong, lean body with weights. You are now banned from even looking at a carb (which could apparently cause you to become the size of a hot air balloon on sight!) and sip on protein shakes and 8 (yes they must be counted) almonds post workout and happily lunch away on make believe pasta that is actually ‘spiralised zucchini ‘ , but you would SOOOOOO not know the difference !!!!!
We are utterly bombarded with information and the internet, instagram and Facebook means its all at our instant little fingertips – so who should we believe ??
Firstly – access to information has never been easier or more readily available so I believe – use it, but use it wisely. Go back to your student days – do your research and challenge your teachers and lecturers … don’t just believe what that journo, or supposed expert says the first time you read it – see who else backs it up and where possible, the scientific research. Ensure that ‘research’ was conducted on enough people and for long enough too. Read the reviews.
And be very cautious about ‘experts’. Check their background, history, story and journey. What are their foundations for believing in this diet or fitness programme? How long have they been doing it and what led them to it? Are they actually living by it – or just using it as ‘sensationalism’ to sell books or gain followers. Can they deliver on a promise of longevity – that’s a really , really important one for me. Have they been doing this or living like this for at least 5 years plus, with good health, positive impact and low injury as a result? And please, please , please remember – a team of great hair, makeup and spray tan stylists surrounding any health and wellbeing blogger/social media influencer does not constitute a result of their fitness or diet programme!!!
I always wondered what my under grad days brought to the table (aside from the obvious social skills acquired )… having a critical illness and taking some control of my treatment and recovery made me a research junkie.
As I had always been a healthy eater and physically fit, I did all the research I could on preparing myself for surgery, recovery and long term prevention. I wanted to do what I believed was the best for my body, mind and and in my specific case, brain. When it comes to critical illness or chronic disease, there is a lot of room for contention and argument – but this is where a healthy mind comes into play. Know what you believe in, from the research you have done, and if you believe in something strongly, it is bound to have some kind of positive effect on your mind, body and soul. This could be treatment through nutrition, treatment through exercise or treatment through emotional wellbeing – all of these are critical for well rounded treatment plans. The importance of a positive mindset is utterly critical in fighting any kind of illness or disease. This is why any ‘programme’ you undertake needs to take both the physical and mental into play. The physical alone is not enough.
It is no different if you are following a health plan for any other reason.
I have been training physically since I was 5 years old (at a high achieving level) and been conscious of my diet since I was about 10 years old, so (sadly!😳) for 40 odd years!!! I’ve also helped a lot of people professionally and personally with achieving their health and fitness goals, so I’m calling this anecdotal based evidence !! But I think ‘lived experience’ is a pretty dam good research approach and lets face it, my own life has been … eventful!!
I am adamant that first and foremost, you chose a lifestyle plan you can stick with. This very much depends on you personally – no one else – just you. Pitch above your base line though if you want results and if you are trying to adjust your lifestyle for serious health reasons – illness, addiction, trauma – know you are going to need to dig deep, be focused and set yourself short term, achievable goals as you strive for your long term goal,
Find someone you trust and believe in. My very beautiful friend Kim, who works in the health and fitness industry, advises her clients by telling them to find one person to trust and sticking with them. Block out the other noise, (especially social media) as it will just inhibit you from reaching your goals. I think this is seriously sound advice.
We are ALL different. I cannot stress this enough. I do not train someone in the gym exactly the way I train – that would never work and it would be counterproductive. I train and eat for what suits my body and allows me to achieve my own personal goals. I have friends who are training to be body builders or reduce body fat significantly, and they are seriously focused and driven to achieve this. I love to see people focus their life in this way – if that is what they want, as this adds great value to their lives. I understand this focus. I also have friends who have gone from doing next to nothing and eating poorly, who have really struggled with their health and wellbeing – physically and mentally and have changed their lives by walking 3x a week and focusing on eating a wider range of whole foods and cutting back on alcohol. This change is just as radical for them and has improved the quality of their life immensely. It’s your life, your journey, so chose a path you can stay on. Bite it off in chunks, depending on your starting point too.
Also vital to remember, when it comes to fitness and nutrition, that no two bodies operate or function the same way. A low carb, high protein /fat diet may really work for some people -for others, it might cause them to have chronic digestive issues . Some people process carbs better, some people don’t process fats well. We are ALL different with genetics playing a huge factor in this. Before you try a nutrition plan, you need to look at how your body reacts to certain foods and take this into account. I have mentioned this before – but a good nutritionist will spend a great deal of time at the beginning of your treatment going through this. And again – chose a plan you can stick with. BTW – that doesn’t mean chocolate and cake every day is something you can stick with, so the best plan for you!!!! Sad – but true!!
With fitness, we are all wired different genetically and physiologically too. Although, I will say, on this subject, we don’t give our bodies enough credit for what they can achieve. I do see people give up quickly with a mountain of excuses and unless they are truly physiological (or medical), its usually a mental block, rather than a physical one. I’ve talked about this previously with my own personal journey – but if I can come out of 8 hours of brain surgery , barely able to walk more than 20 metres and be jogging 6km a day 3 weeks later – I think the human body (and mind) is capable of way more than we give it credit for!
If I leave you with one profound nugget of advice though – it is this. Whoever and whatever you chose to follow – make sure that some of their programme involves your mental and emotional wellbeing as well. It is not enough to only focus on the physical. If they don’t mention this at all in their approach – I would look elsewhere. Our bodies do not function positively without positive minds.
Surround yourself with the right people that are going to help you achieve your goals and feel dam proud of the positive lifestyle choices you’ve made.