Perspective

food

It’s very tempting to only blog when good things happen.  To edit out the bad days, low moods, rough times and pretend that everything is all hearts and flowers and rainbows and sunshine.  I’ve talked before about how life is not a show reel and in the interests of honesty I don’t want to pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not.  I have been really, really struggling over the last week and finding life hard to deal with.  A week of extremely long days with work (students from my school performed at the finale of the Brighton Festival and I could not be more proud) coupled with a horrible bout of PMT have knocked me for six and I have been struggling to make the right choices for my health.  Sometimes I have failed to do that and I have beaten myself up about it and felt guilt and shame for eating things I shouldn’t.  Aside from work and hormones I have also been really missing my husband.  I am extremely blessed to be married to someone who has seemingly never ending patience and understanding with me and without his support, sometimes it is really tough.  In these times of instant communication it has been hard to deal with the fact that I have been unable to even speak to him for a week and it is amazing how long a week can feel.

The best laid plans of mice and men

The best laid plans of mice and men

I tried really hard to be well prepared and take healthy food with me on set (see above), but I think it was the lack of exercise that broke me.  For almost a week I didn’t go to the box and I can see now that had huge effect on my mental state.  For some of that time I wasn’t physically able to go (if you are working 15 or 16 hour days and you can find the motivation to go to the gym before or after work you are a better person than I).  This week I have been three times and it has been hard.  I feel as though my body is made of rock, that I am running through treacle, that I am weak.  But even though it is hard, it is better than sitting at home weeping into a box of chocolates whilst my cats look at me indignantly for not stroking them.  Even if when I am there I am so hormonal that I can’t stop sweating just from the warm up, or I’m so grumpy I can’t even bring myself to talk to the lovely people I am surrounded by, it’s the right place to be (for me, maybe not for everyone else!).

This month I was Member of the Month at Reebok CrossFit Connect and when I read the newsletter I felt like a fraud because I know there are so many other people who are fitter, stronger and more committed than me.  Today a fellow box goer and truly lovely lady got frustrated with herself for finishing the WOD last.  She was using the same weight as the male coaches.  When people were looking at her as she finished those last few reps they were thinking’what an absolute bad ass.’  I know because that was what I was thinking and she has been a constant source of inspiration to me since I joined.  CrossFit encourages us to strive to be better, work harder, achieve more and we do, but sometimes we just need to get a little perspective.  We set enormously high standards for ourselves but we have to remember that we are only human.  Today I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I am on the right path and I am closer than I have ever been.

My 30th Birthday.  Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.  Standard.

My 30th Birthday. Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Standard.

* Fellow CrossFitter Kay has written a lovely blog about how important CrossFit has been to her and her husband recently, whilst they have been dealing with some difficult health related issues.

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In the (paleo) zone

zone plate

I have flirted with the concept of zoning before and I’m not going to lie, its not easy.  Schools of thought about diets have varied dramatically over the years and as science has progressed we have been given contradictory advice on what is healthy for us to eat.  Should I restrict my calories?  Restrict my fat?  Eat lots of red meat?  Cut out red meat?  Are grains good for me?  Is veganism the right choice?  There is so much information available that it is not surprising that we can all feel a little overwhelmed and confused.  As I have talked about before, my personal choice, and the one that fits in best with my personal stomach issues, is the paleo diet.  So what happens when you find that you feel great, you are happy and healthy but you are just not losing weight on the paleo diet?  Old school science taught us that a calorie is a calorie and they were all created equal.  Now, of course, we know that is not true.  There are 112 calories in an individual Weight Watchers Carrot Cake, whilst there are 156 calories in just 1 ounce of cashew nuts.  So does that mean that I should opt for the lower calorie snack?  Personally, no I don’t think so, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to do so either.

Here is the ingredients list for the Weight Watchers Carrot Cake:  Sugar,Wheat Flour ,Carrot (9%) ,Pasteurised Whole Egg ,Water ,Vegetable Oil ,Pineapple ,Humectant: Vegetable Glycerine ,Pasteurised Egg White ,Citrus Fibre ,Raising Agents: Diphosphates, Potassium Bicarbonate ,Coconut ,Glucose Syrup ,Skimmed Milk Powder ,Caramelised Sugar Syrup ,Ground Cinnamon ,Tapioca Starch ,Preservative: Potassium Sorbate ,Gelling Agent: Pectin ,Dextrose ,Fructose ,Ground Nutmeg ,Emulsifier: Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids

carrot cake                              cashew nuts

Cashews may contain more calories but they also contain these nutrients:  Copper, Phosphorous, Manganese, Magnesium and Zinc and they do not contain a plethora of additives, preservatives and chemicals.

Whilst in the short term if you follow a calorie restricting diet such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World you will undoubtedly lose weight, in the long term, it is not sustainable AND if you buy the products that they make you are also giving your body a smorgasbord of chemical crap, entirely devoid of any real nutritional value.  If you decide to do exercise whilst you are dieting, (which I hope you will) these foods will not provide your body with enough energy to sustain even moderate levels of movement.

However, one aspect of the paleo diet that cannot be ignored is the fact that if you eat excessive amounts of calories (albeit of healthy, nutritious, wholesome foods) you will not be able to consistently lose weight.  At this point in my life, having lost and gained weight to varying degrees over the last twenty years, I would still like to be leaner.  That’s not because I think I’m fat.  Gone are the days when I look in the mirror and hate what I see, where I talk about myself in terms of being less than others because I weigh more.  What I do want, though, is to be a more efficient athlete.  I am carrying excess weight and that makes certain aspects of my training more difficult.  I find it hard to run, I am unable to complete an unassisted pull up, I struggle with box jumps.  All of these things would be improved if I lost weight.

So what is the answer?  One diet that is very popular with athletes is The Zone.  The Zone separates food into blocks, the amount of blocks you are advised to eat is dependent upon your size and gender.  According to the chart below I am a small female and should need 10 blocks.  When I had a brief soiree with The Zone Diet I found that with my training that was simply not sufficient food and I had to up it to 11, which was sustainable.  So 11 blocks of food per day, I’m not going to lie, that is not a lot of food and it does take some getting used to.

zone-chart

Many athletes bulk cook zone meals on a Sunday so that during the week they don’t have to worry about their preparing and cooking food.  This is particularly helpful if you are trying to juggle work, training and possibly a family all at the same time.  This kind of practical approach means that your food goes from being something that is regulated by your emotions, to something that is very much a tool to fuel your body.  If you are training for a sport or are trying to mend a broken relationship with food, this could be a good solution for you.  I am going to give it a whirl and see what effect it has on me.  I will let you know how I get on!

5 weeks

Weight: 67.3 kilos/ 10 stone 6 pounds (- 3 pounds)

Body fat percentage: 34.9%  (+ .4%)

BMI: 27.6 (- 1.5)

Dress size: 12/14 (same)

Bust Size: 34 DD (same)

Waist measurement: 82.55 centimeters/ 32 inches (-.5)

Height: 154.94 centimeters/ 5 foot 1 inch (same!)

The way I look at it is this: over the last 5 weeks, which have been incredibly emotional for me, I could have binged on all sorts of foods and gained a lot of weight.  That is what I would have done in the past but this time I took control, to some degree, about the kind of foods that I was eating.  Now to get serious about actually losing some weight because lets face it, who doesn’t want to look good in a bikini!

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Freaking out about fertility

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Like many people, my life looks very different now that it did ten years ago.  At 35 years old I like nothing more than a quiet night in snuggled up with my cats and a nice cup of tea.  Ten years ago I was a drinking, smoking, festival frequenting mess, fluctuating between bingeing and half starving myself.  I was also miserable.   Now here I am and, other than the people I love, I would say my number one priority is my health.  I eat (mostly) paleo, I CrossFit, I sleep well.  I try and do everything right.  So what was my motivation for this dramatic change in lifestyle?   Am I trying to look hot to find a man?  No!  I got married last summer and bless his heart, he loved me when I was at my heaviest, most unhealthy self so I think he is pretty happy with how I’m doing right now.  Am I hoping to squeeze in to size 0 jeans?  Definitely not, and if I was it wouldn’t be CrossFit I was doing.  These thighs!

No, my one true motivation is that I want a family.  I love children and I want a family of my own but the timing has just never been right.  I know what you’re thinking…the timing is never right.  Whilst that may be true to an extent there are varying degrees to everything and trust me when I tell you that emotionally, spiritually, financially and geographically, the timing has never been right.  It is a sad fact that as a woman, regardless of what else is going on in your life, you only have a certain amount of time to reproduce and as soon as you hit your 30s you become only too aware of that.   This is a direct quote from the NHS about age and fertility:  ‘When it comes to fertility, age matters.’  Right, no beating about the bush there then!  That is not all.  It goes on to state ‘In women, fertility declines more quickly with age. This decline becomes rapid after the age of 35.’

I am a natural worrier and I have shed many, many tears questioning ‘what if I have left it too late?’  I know I’m not the only one.   One of my best friends wanted nothing more than to have a family of her own but she never met the right guy and when 35 came and went she began to give up hope.  But she did meet someone rather wonderful and when they started ‘trying’ she was pregnant in the first month.  They now have a beautiful, healthy son who they adore.  This may have been luck, she may just be a very fertile person and she never knew it, I don’t know.  What I do know is that she is one of the healthiest people I know.  She runs marathons, she rides a bike, she climbs, she gardens, and she eats well.

rach and trev  preggers rach  Otto

Here’s the thing.  Whether you are single or in a relationship, gay or straight, rich or poor, you can’t predict how age is going to affect your fertility, so there is no point worrying over what may or may not be.  The best thing you can possibly do is concentrate on what you can control and ensure that you are your healthiest, happiest self so that if and when the time comes you are mentally and physically ready to be the best mum you can be.

Main photo courtesy of Rx’d Photography

Baby Otto courtesy of Rachel Hatcher and Trevor McDermott, two of my favourite people in the world.

The author trains at Reebok CrossFit Connect

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First World Pains

brighton beach

Does anyone else crave total independence whilst at the same time longing to be looked after?  Do you too want a highly successful, well paid career but also want to be a mum (or dad) and stay at home all day every day just staring at the tiny little creation you made out of love with another human being?  Do you want to feel the sun on your back and be warm, but not too warm and to live in the countryside but also by the sea?  Do you want a dog and a cat?  Do you want to be surrounded by friends and yet also to be alone to think, and create?  Do you want a tiny house but also loads of space and a big garden?  Do you want a car but not want the hassle and expense of owning one?

Do you want to have fun but also want to be healthy?   Do you want to do a WOD but also an oly lifting programme and gymnastics and Barbell Club?  To eat paleo but also have cups of tea with milk in and eat chocolate because it is frickin’ awesome?    Do you want to share your thoughts and feelings with everyone whilst at the same time being petrified of judgment and cruelty?  Do you want to care less about everything, but also care more?  Do you hope and dream and wish for more whilst at the same time feeling so totally lucky and blessed that these are the things that you have to worry about and not where the next meal is coming from or whether there is clean water to give your children?

Do you want it all, or is it just me?

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Health Challenge Update

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 Day 8 statistics update

Week One of my health challenge has been a success.  Some of you will be disappointed to find out that I am still the same height and have not shrunk or grown at all, as of yet, but I am okay with that!  Over the course of the week there have been a few tears (none of them over food I must emphasise) but overall I am happy with how it has gone.  I managed to eat out at a Thai restaurant called The Giggling Squid (highly recommended if you are in my neck of the woods) and at a friend’s house and I have eaten colourful, delicious food all week; at no point have I felt deprived or overly hungry.  The thing is I have always been great at starting diets or healthy eating plans (my record was the first week of Slimming World when I lost 5 kilos, which is almost a stone).  It is the sticking to it that I struggle with and why I decided to give myself this public challenge.

I have been blessed with the Easter holidays (one of the many joys of working in education.  I love those kids but I also love having a break from them!) so I have been dog walking, cycling and exercising in the sunshine.  It is times like this that I love living by the sea.  I have also been trying to do WODs (Workout of the Day) lately and yesterday I thought check me out I’m going to do this WOD (featured in the photo above) Rx’d.  That means at the prescribed weight, which in this case was 25 kilos.  Maths is not my strong suit and when I couldn’t find a spare 15 kilo bar to use I grabbed a 12 kilo training bar and shoved some weight on before dashing off to the loo, holding the whole class up while I did so (standard).  Three rounds in and I thought I was going to die; sick and dizzy, I had to swallow my pride and ask if I could lower my weight.  It was then that I realised that rather than using the prescribed weight of 25 kilos, I had 28 on my bar!  Sometimes I stagger myself.  I suppose what I learnt from this is that a) maths is important and that b) sometimes you have to listen to your body.  So I didn’t complete my first Rx’d WOD, but I did live to fight another day.

Also my blog has now had over 20,000 views from all around the world.  Thanks for reading and thank you for your kind, supportive comments!

Weight: 65.9 kilograms/ 10 stone 4 pounds

Body fat percentage: 34.4%

BMI: 27.2

Dress size: 12/14

Bust Size: 34 DD

Waist measurement: 82.55 centimeters/ 32.5 inches

Height: 154.94 centimeters/ 5 foot 1 inch

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To PT or not PT

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 Marta Prokop: Personal Trainer Extraordinaire!  (Photo courtesy of Rx’d Photography)

One of the great things about our box is that they give internships to people who are looking to become a CrossFit trainer.  When I saw a post on facebook from one of our interns asking for a volunteer to act as a guinea pig to follow a specially devised training plan for 8 weeks, I was in there like swimwear!  It felt like Christmas when I realised that I was the first person to ‘bagsy’ the spot, and I know there were plenty of people who wished they had got in there first.  Personal training (purchasing, not delivering) was something I considered back in my globo gym days but I was always too intimidated and, quite frankly, too poor, to sign up.

I love CrossFit and I think the communal element of the classes makes exercise so much more fun but, having been the human guinea pig of the rather lovely woman featured above for a few weeks now, I can see the genuine benefit of having a personal trainer.  As excellent as the programming may be at your box, having a specific exercise programme tailored especially to your needs is incredibly helpful.  Here are a few tips if you have been considering investing in some PT sessions but aren’t sure what to expect:

  • If you are honest with them about your strengths and weaknesses then any personal trainer worth their salt will push you outside of your comfort zone and make you do things you don’t like doing (but why can’t we just do squats all day every day?!)  This is a good thing.  Embrace it!
  • A personal trainer is no replacement for motivation, that has to come from you, but they should push you to do more than you would do if you were working out alone.  BUT – be warned.  They lie!  When they say one more rep they don’t mean one more rep!  Again, just go with it.  If you want results you’ve got to work hard.
  • They will make you take better care of your body.  (Who hasn’t rushed off after a workout without rolling out properly or stretching as much as they should?)  A PT will encourage you to give your body the time and attention it deserves.
  • When choosing a PT you should really think about what you are looking to get out of the programme and the style that suits you.  It is also very common for coaches at your gym or box to have specific skills that they excel at; some might be fantastic gymnasts, others excellent oly lifters, whilst someone else may be more experienced at strength and conditioning coaching.  Before making the choice talk to them about what you want.
  • Personality matters.  This is a situation in which you will inevitably be very intimate with someone.  If, like me, you are not in perfect shape and hugely body confident, you have to be comfortable with this person laying their hands on you and getting up close and personal.  Also, you have to like and respect them to want to keep going back.
  • On the other side of the coin, you can’t get on with them too well!  I think Marta is great and I consider her a friend but as much as we enjoy a good giggle, she would not allow me to stand around gossiping the whole time.  That’s not what I’m there for.

Today we went to a local fitness centre so Marta could be assessed.  I am delighted that she passed and is now a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer, as well as having her Level 1 CrossFit qualification.  Going to the gym and using the machines really made me appreciate our box even more than I did before.  When people say that CrossFit is a community it may seem like a cliche but when you are struggling with health and fitness, weight loss, or just life in general, it is really powerful to go somewhere where everybody knows your name.  The knowledge that you are part of something and that no matter how crappy your day was or how rubbish you may be feeling, when you leave the box you will always feel better, is a wonderful thing.

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Day 1

health-challenge

Here are my stats on Day 1 (yesterday) of my 365 Day Health Challenge:

Weight: 67.5 kilograms/ 10 stone 9 pounds

Body fat percentage: 34.4%

BMI: 28.1

Dress size: 12/14

Bust Size: 34 DD

Waist measurement: 83.9 centimeters/ 33 inches

Height: 154.94 centimeters/ 5 foot 1 inch

I know that as I will be doing a fair amount of exercise (particularly weight training) my weight and BMI are not totally reliable indicators but it will be interesting to see what changes occur.  I am also not predicting that my height is going to change dramatically but you never know!

I successfully completed day 1 of the challenge by managing to eat paleo despite going out for a meal (when you go out with three personal trainers it kind of helps with the motivation!) and I also did an awesome WOD at the box.   So far so good.

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Pickles the Spaniel puppy is a very welcome distraction from sugar.

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365 day health challenge

I had a dream last night that I was supposed to be running as part of a WOD and whilst everyone else got on with it, I put on roller skates (brightly coloured Rio Rollers that I love), skated in the wrong direction and started talking to a really cute little girl.  I’m not saying that this has any profound meaning but anyone that has ever met me will not be at all surprised at this.  Anything brightly coloured, cute or sweet has always been a welcome distraction for me.

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The last couple of weeks have been incredibly tough.  My husband has moved to South America and I found out that someone I love very much has the other c word and is soon to begin chemotherapy.   What’s interesting is that however far you think you’ve come, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns of behaviour when life kicks you in the coochy.  The lure of sugar laden cakes and chocolate has proved too much.  There was a time when I would have self medicated with more dangerous substances and, though it may seem as though eating cake is a fairly innocuous vice; for me this is a problem and I’m not interested in problems, I’m interested in solutions.  I know that I enjoy challenges and work well when I have strict guidelines to live by, so I have been considering what I can do to curb my emotional eating and get back on track to where I want to be:  the fittest, happiest, healthiest version of myself.  So this is the challenge I am publicly setting myself:

365 days of paleo eating and CrossFit.  That is a whole year of consistently making the right choices.  Can I do it?  I’m going to give it a bloody good go!  Watch this space!

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