Status Update

Following up on my first post “Hello World“, I would like to share that I’ve measured myself recently.

In March 2014, I weighed 113kg with 51% body fat. In July 2015, I weighed 77,5kg with 27,8% body fat. Today, I weigh 64,8kg with 21,3% body fat.
This means I have lost 30% body fat and 48kg in 2 years.

As you can see, stepping on a scale is not something I regularly do. From my point of view the changes I introduce in my lifestyle and how I feel are the most important things. Nevertheless, I find it good to check from time to time how my body is reacting to those changes (if you follow this blog, you already know that: No, I did not “diet”. No, I did not starve. No, I did not take any supplements. Instead, I introduced informed long-term lifestyle changes).

I’m glad to see expressed in numbers what I already knew in so many other ways: I’m on the right track 🙂

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Planning Fitness NY’s Resolutions?

Are you planning on making a fitness New Year’s Resolution? Then I have some advice for you.

Personally I’m anti sudden resolutions. But if that’s your thing, and you are looking forward to changing your life into a fitness lifestyle, here’s what my experience has taught me. I hope it helps you!

Knowledge is power. Look for reliable information online and always cross-check references. Don’t take any article/news piece at face value, research its contents.  Learn how your body deals with different foods. Learn what exercise does to your body and mind. In my experience, for example, knowing in greater detail what a cookie does to your body and brain will take you half way away from it.

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Take baby steps. Some people go for that “all or nothing approach”, but that doesn’t work for most of us. Humans are creatures of habit, and trying to change everything in one go can easily be overwhelming. For me it worked to focus on one small change at a time. Many tiny victories instead of one gigantic defeat.

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Be patient. Changes don’t happen quickly, they just don’t. Successfully introducing alterations to your behaviour takes time, and consequently so do changes to your body. If you are overweight, I’m sure you didn’t put the weight on overnight, so don’t expect it come off overnight either. It’s a process, and processes take time. Focus on the changes themselves, rather than on the results.

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Focus on health and progress. If you choose to focus on being healthy and on achieving a little bit more on each workout, the weight will kinda take care of itself. Spend your energy trying to achieve optimum nutrition to properly fuel your body, and on getting out of your comfort zone during your exercise routine, rather that on losing X pounds.Your body and mind will reward you: you will feel amazing. Trust me.

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Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. As you may have heard: “you can’t outrun your fork”. If you are looking for a sustainable, long term lifestyle change take into account that nutrition and exercise are BFFs not to be separated. You can work your heart out, but if you go home and don’t mind what you put on your plate you won’t make much progress, fat loss wise. I started exercising first, but I noticed a great boom in my body volume loss once I started eating better, baby-step by baby-step.

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Be prepared for setbacks. The road from obese to healthy is a hard one. You can clearly see some obstacles coming, others not so much. You will make mistakes, believe me you will! Accept them as a part of the path, and most importantly learn from them so you won’t do them again, or at least you will see them coming next time.

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Look for a support group. I was fortunate enough to not have to look for it. The right people sort of gathered around me. I firmly believe I would never have come this far without them. Positive, encouraging, challenging, empathetic voices were, and still are, crucial to me. I feel like I owe them a great part of my progress for they believed in me even when I, myself, didn’t. They were understanding without being condescending, so they kept (and keep) challenging me to do more, to be more. So my advice would be to look for people like this in your life, they will help you a great deal.

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Do the work. It’s your body and yours alone. No one can do the work for you. Even the best personal trainer in the world won’t be able to help you if you don’t do the work. Correcting your eating habits, giving your all during your workouts, that’s your work to do. Others can only guide and motivate you. It will be hard, very hard, but brace yourself for it.

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And that’s about it for this post. If you browse through this blog you will find several posts in which I talk about the several pieces of advice I have shared above.

One final thought:

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Now, why should you listen to me?
Well, I started changing my life in April 2014 and the last time I weighed myself – in October 2015- I had lost 46kg. Most importantly, the last time I measured – in July 2015 – I had lost 24% body fat ( I will measure everything again in February or March).
So I consider myself successful in my – forever ongoing- journey towards health. That’s why 😉

Supplements & Me – It’s complicated

Just a little over a month ago I took up a new class, Les Mills Body Pump, and with it came a new level of fatigue. I noticed – when I actually should have seen it coming –  that my recovery time after Pump is much longer than after all the other classes I take (Combat, Balance, CxWorx, RPM), and that weariness began to stand in the way of my performance on the following day(s).

I seriously dislike taking any kind of supplements and I haven’t taken absolutely anything since I changed my life (and even b4 that, tbh). However, having come to terms with the idea that my body needs a helping hand to timely recover from strength training, I talked to one of my instructors. I trust her completely, so whatever she says, goes. And she said ZMAs (just a quick overview here).

Ok, Ok… I can handle that. I guess. Kinda. I’m uncomfortable, but for a different reason than the one I foresaw: I feel horribly pretentious.

I’m no athlete, I’m no crossfitter, I’m no bodybuilder… I’m just someone who takes a few fitness classes, and look at me, taking a supplement like some big shot. I am aware this feeling is fuelled by pre-conceived ideas, but nevertheless it’s here.
On the other hand, most people look at me in awkwardness inducing awe when I tell them I workout 6 days a week. So I guess I do exercise more than average, and it is to be expected that my body needs some kind of supplementation to remain balanced.

So, like I said in the title: Supplements & Me – It’s complicated. Moreover, I’m naturally resistant to change, and this is something new I’m introducing in my life, so I’m sure to struggle with the idea at first. Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps other people have experienced the same mixed feelings, I don’t know.

And just so I don’t leave you imageless:
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Rest. It’s part of the program

I acknowledge I should respect rest more than I do. I take 1 rest day per week, but sometimes – alright… often – I end up not taking any.

There was this one time when I ended up doing something quite stupid: I went about a month and a half without a single rest day. There were several reasons, including special events and friends asking me to tag along in classes. It wasn’t a “let’s see how far I can go” moment, time just passed. My body became so tired that I got to a point when I was feeling truly frustrated in class because I had a really hard time executing exercises which I usually handle with ease and I had to lower my weights on CxWorx because I felt really unstable with my usual weights.
I had to force myself to stop. Trust me, I didn’t want to. I felt super annoyed that I could be taking this or that class, but instead there I was just sitting on the couch. I recognized it wasn’t a “want” moment, it was a “need” moment. And one must do what is needed, even it we don’t feel like it.

I can say I learned to esteem rest as part of the cycle. At this point I’ll skip 1 rest day at the most and on the week up until the next rest day I’ll pay close attention to what my body “tells” me.

Below you’ll find an article – of so many available online – about the importance of rest after exercise, please do read it!

The Benefits of Rest and Recovery After Exercise

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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.

Best drink EVAH

Several studies have shown that most of us simply do not drink enough water to stay hydrated. Water is the best drink you can have and when our body doesn’t get enough of it, it has to manage what is available and impair certain functions to make the supply go round. This means chronic dehydration affects us in a multitude of ways.

After looking for information on the subject, I realized I clearly (used to) fit the symptoms of chronic dehydration, but before I read about it I had no idea that what I felt were consequences of the lack of water in my body. As I’ve already shared, giving up soft drinks was a real struggle, but a successful one, and I’m not a fan of alcohol either so (for a couple of months now) the only thing I drink is water, plenty of it, and sometimes freshly brewed herbal tea. I am happy to share that this was quite possibly the change which had the strongest impact on my overall well-being.

I won’t say much more because there’s plenty to read on the article below about the body’s many cries for water. Trust me: you’ll be surprised. And no, your body doesn’t deed fluids, it needs water.

12 Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

And you should also check out the complete version of the infographic below.

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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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