Strength training is your friend

Fellow women, for your own sake, please add strength training to your workout routine. Really.

Since the beginning I’ve included light strength training with Body Balance, later on, when I felt I could handle it, I added CxWorx, and 4 months ago I’ve also added Body Pump to my workout routine. As I’ve done with everything else, slowly but surely I’ve increased intensity.

Why?

7 Reasons to Add Strength Training to Your Workout Routine

Other than the “official” reasons, there’s another one: I cannot describe how amazing it feels to be strong. If you want to leap, to pick things up, to pick yourself up, anything, your body simply responds. Quickly, effortlessly and efficiently your body does what you tell it to. It may sound silly, but it truly makes me feel empowered and independent, and I’m not even “strong-strong”, I’m just strong-ish.

The fear of becoming bulky never made any sense to me. Do people think muscles grow overnight or something? Are they not aware that it takes rigorous discipline when it comes to eating habits and workout routine? That it takes a ton of hard work and dedication? No, you will not become bulky, unless you really want that and strive for it.

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Yes, I eat fat

Following the principle that “a calorie is not a calorie”, I include healthy fats in my eating habits. Contrary to what the media, the food industry and even several doctors advocate, fat is good for you on so many levels. Just not the saturated/chemically processed kind. When I say “fat” I mean the real, the natural, kind: avocados, nuts, olive oil…

Since I started this process I have aimed for optimum nutrition. Unfortunately, aiming at something, doesn’t mean achieving it, but I strive for it and constantly look for new information with that in mind.

Of the several articles I have read this is probably my favourite one because it includes a lot of information (yes, it’s quite long, but worth reading):

Choosing Healthy Fats – Good Fats, Bad Fats, and the Power of Omega-3s

If you prefer something shorter, here’s this quick overview:

Five Reasons a Healthy Fat Diet is Good for You

And ever shorter, these 6 bullet points:

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I still strongly believe that information is key in changing anyone’s mindset. Information is power, use it.

Less sugar = better everything

I came across this article and even though I haven’t been able to completely give up added sugar yet (chocolate… my Achilles heel) I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced its intake. Even without entirely removing added sugar, I can tell you I have experienced all 5 things, and there are many, many, more which aren’t listed here. Click on the link to read the article.

5 Things That Happen When You Quit Eating Sugar

Ps: Number 4 has become powerfully true for me: “Fruits will taste plenty sweet, and if you do take a bite of a cake or pie, you’ll be shocked at how overpowering and overly sweet it seems.”

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Why I opted out of rice

First of all: allow me to restate that I’m on a journey towards health, not towards any weight loss goal. In this process, via baby-steps, I have introduced many – MANY – changes in my eating habits.

At about the same time I started withdrawing pasta from my eating habits (you can read about that in my Refined Flour Isn’t Cool post), I also began removing rice consumption. Why?
The more information I collect, the more sure I am that I want to eat food that has been as little tampered with as possible. And now you say “heelloooo? Rice is a cereal! It’s natural food.” And you are not entirely wrong. However, the rice that we get at the supermarket has been refined and, often, bleached.

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“It’s refined, so what?” Well, the bran is usually where most nutrients and fibre are located, and we are removing it. Also white rice has a higher glycemic index (if you haven’t yet, I suggest you do some research on glycemic index, blood glucose levels and how our bodies respond to it). Also, in 2010, Harvard researchers associated white rice with a higher risk of diabetes. Here’s that article:

White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women

I found a lot of contradicting stances about rice. A lot of people stand by white rice as perfectly healthy, others look at it as a health hazard. The exact same bipolarism applies to brown rice, as many people defend that the bran layer contains more phytic acid – which prevents nutrient absorption – , can contain arsenic, and can be harder to digest. To be fair, here’s also a post in favour of white rice:

Why I started to eat white rice

Personally, I am more prone to stand for brown rice. BUT it takes a lot longer to cook than white rice, so I have ended up pretty much removing rice from my eating habits. Obviously if I’m at a restaurant or at someone’s home, I’ll gladly eat rice, but on my daily routine I’m perfectly happy with my beans, collard, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc etc etc. as side dish.

Lastly, I want to say that I’m a firm believer that everyone should come to their own decisions about which nutritional habits are best for them.

Side effects of being overweight

I want to recover the article I shared on my second post.

Crushed lungs, strained joints and a swollen heart – the extraordinary scans that reveal what being fat does to you

As you can see on the scans, and read on that news piece, excess weight is no laughing matter. From my point of view the unaesthetic component is truly the least important side-effect. However, we as a society choose to focus on the “looking bad” side instead of “feeling bad” side.

Allow me to share some of the “feeling bad” elements of being overweight or, in my case, obese.
Chronic back pain. Everyday, all day. Some days worse than others, but ever present.
Swollen, painful, ankles. Especially in the summer, or if I stood up for too long.
Frequent migraines. No, not headaches, migraines.
Lack of balance. If I tripped, I fell, the end. I also had to sit down to put my shoes on, for example.
Joint grinding. When I got up in the morning you would think I was an old gate in serious need of some WD40.
Insomnia. Frequently staying up looking at the ceiling until the late hours.
Lethargy. Most of the times I didn’t feel like moving, at all. Didn’t have the energy to do anything other than couch surfing.
Excessive sweating. Simple everyday things, like changing the bed sheets, got me sweating.
Breathlessness. A single flight of stairs left me breathless and with my heart rate going through the roof.

I felt all these things, and many others, daily. Saying that being overweight is uncomfortable is an understatement.

Becoming healthy is a lengthy process, truthfully, and not an easy one.
Reaching 113kg, like I did, means you need to completely readjust your lifestyle: dietary habits & exercising. There were so many changes to introduce that I couldn’t do it in any other way than by baby-steps, and that takes plenty of time.

It’s also a rocky process.
Before new behaviours become habits, it’s human nature to drift back to the comfort zone, which means a lot of setbacks are to be expected. But setbacks are not defeats, they are opportunities to learn and restart.

But It’s SOOOO worth it.
I’m not eloquent enough to express how much better I feel, and I’m not even at the end of my journey.
I believe everyone needs to keep in mind that it’s a process, which takes time. One doesn’t gain excess fat overnight, so it also won’t go away overnight. My advice would be to: be patient, appreciate the road, don’t fuss too much about the destination, and enjoy the little changes you start to FEEL – not see – on your body and mind.

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Refined flour isn’t cool

As I’ve said on a previous post, before I started looking for information on my own, I only knew what the common sense says, and it only tells you to stay away from carbs because they “make you fat”. It doesn’t tell you 1-that not all carbs are the same (a calorie is not a calorie, remember?) and 2-that refined flour produces other – much more important – negative reactions in your body.

After my baby-steps approach, at this point I hardly ever eat food products which contain refined flour. And no, it’s not because they “make you fat”, I don’t care about that,it’s because of effects like the ones you can read about on the following article:

Seven Negative Effects of Refined Flour

After reading it you may think: Refined flour isn’t cool, at all. But now what? What do I eat??
Well, fortunately nature provides plenty of options that actually pack a lot more flavour than pasta, not to mention nutritional value. Such as: sweet potatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, spinach, black eyed peas, broccoli, black beans, carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, all other types of beans, all other vegetables, I could really go on, but you get the picture.
Just look for recipes online, I was amazed at how much awesome tasting variety I had been missing out on. For alternatives to white bread/cookies you can, for example, take a look at my Recipe x 3 post.

Final thought: I’m not a radical, and I’m not too strict, but this is currently one of my mantras when choosing what to eat:

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I don’t count calories

Before I started looking for information on my own I only knew what the mainstream media / common sense told me about weight loss and calories. I was really surprised to find out that at least since 2012 we have scientific studies debunking (not to use the word refute) said common sense.

I don’t know why this information is not completely out there, but I want to help spread the word that “a calorie is not a calorie” or “not all calories are created equal”.

In 2012 Dr. Robert Lustig (you’ve seen him on the Sugar = Drug of abuse (part 2) post ) published a study showing that not all calories are created equal and he quickly gives an example illustrating this premise on this clip from the 1h36m Fed Up documentary, which you should also watch:

I know, I know, this is too quick and lacking concrete information, but let’s call it an overture. It should make you want to know more, and you can start your research with the following articles:

6 Reasons Why a Calorie is NOT a Calorie

Still Believe ‘A Calorie Is a Calorie’?

Knowing this – along with the other information I’ve already shared on the 2 Nutritional Choices posts – was a major factor in choosing to slowly change my dietary habits towards healthy, natural food, and away from processed food-like products. Which means I’ll eat a banana or a potato without thinking twice, while staying away from things like Coca-Cola zero or low calories meal replacement bars. And yes, I still lose plenty of fat.

Nutritional Choices (Part 2)

I believe the Nutritional Choices post needs a follow-up. As you may remember, on that post I explained that I decided to, slowly but surely, give up processed food. I also shared 2 articles explaining how processed food affects your organism.

As you may already know, I opted to focus on health, not on weight loss. To acquire the tools which would allow me to eat as healthily as possible I looked up information on the topic. Besides the obvious no-no’s like fast food, soft drinks, frozen meals, etc, I quickly understood that I didn’t want to eat the “diet-ish” food products either.
As an example, he’s an article on 15 “Health Foods” That Are Really Junk Foods in Disguise

Also, I learned that there’s a huge difference between food and food-like products. You can look up Michael Pollan’s teachings both on google and on youtube, but for a quick and clear explanation on the difference, I would like to share another blogger’s post called: Food versus the Food-like Product

And just so I don’t leave you “imageless” today, here’s something to keep in mind:

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Exercise & Confidence

I want to start by sharing an article listing 10 ways in which
Exercise Boosts Confidence

And now you roll your eyes and cynically say “yeah… suuuurreeee…”. So I’ll try to show you it’s true by sharing part of my experience.

Like I mentioned on my Joining a gym post I didn’t feel judged at the Fitness Hut. However I did get the occasional side look or disgusted expression from some girls – never from guys –  and I am pretty sure they laughed with their friends about the fat girl struggling and failing to do simple exercises.
I am a true born introvert, who was in a new environment, and didn’t know anyone, so I was extra self-concious and extra-timid. However, I soon realized that the more I went to the gym, the more my natural reaction to haters was something like this (smug smile included):

And that’s what lead me to look up if there was any connection between exercise and confidence, and yup… there definitely is. But by all means, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

One healthy loop

I used to look at fit people and think “what the hell is in those protein shakes?! They’re always in a such good mood! It must be some sort of drug…”. We all know healthy people are usually cheerful, and happy, and positive, and all those things which tend to be seriously annoying to those of us couch surfing our days away. I used to question how they managed to stay perky all day, every day…and now I know the answer: it’s a combination of proper nutrition and exercising – no drugs! (lol) – One thing leads to the other and so on, in a beautifully aligned loop.

Everything works together. Exercise doesn’t do much on its own (you can exercise your heart out, but if you eat like crap you’re pretty much like a hamster on a wheel: not going anywhere) and if you just diet you are merely changing your weight, not your body. BUT If you put proper nourishment together with the endorphins and strength exercise provides, “magic” happens.

If, like me, you are on the road to health, I suggest you take a good look at the following picture:

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I have talked about how exercise makes you feel (on my Love those endorphins ♡ post), and how processed food truly harms your body (on my Nutritional Choices post) and now I suggest you read this article:

You Are What You Eat: How Your Diet Effects Your Emotions

and in a very shortened way, the moral of the article is:

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If you consistently exercise and work your way into optimum nutrition (I’m still baby-stepping my way into that, no drastic dietary changes for me, no, no, no!) everything falls into step, truly! I have experienced it first hand. When you feel good from exercising you don’t go for the junk food, and when you don’t go for the junk food you don’t feel as sluggish so you’re more likely to go to the gym, and so on. Obviously things take TIME, nothing happens overnight, nothing is easy at first, but it’s worth the effort.