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How to Look ABS-olutely Fabulous

abdominal female

Just four weeks ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and now it is time to start thinking about turning my ‘Mummy Tummy’ into a ‘Yummy Tummy’.

Whether you have recently had a baby, or just simply have a little more fat around the middle than you might like, I invite you to join me in the quest for a flatter tum.

So first thing is first – reality check! Sadly there is no quick fix solution and we cannot spot reduce that area. What do I mean by that? Well if I simply said to you, do 100 sit ups a day and you will have perfectly sculpted abs, I would be deluded, unprofessional and promising you something that wasn’t true!

There is simply no point in focusing solely on your abdominal muscles if they are covered with a layer of fat – you will never see them if your body fat is too high.

This gives us a clue of where to start, so here are my top tips to a flatter tummy to start us on the road to success.

1) Get moving. If you are fairly sedentary, then ensure that you start exercising. This does not necessarily mean that you need to join a gym, if that is not your scene. Start walking, or cycling, or running, join a class or instruct the services of a Personal Trainer.

2) Avoid the scales! Even though I am looking to lose weight, I am not going to get on the scales….. Sure, I know how much weight I put on during pregnancy and I know my ideal weight.

However, weight is just a number and although it is one way of quantifying your success, it is not the only way. Feeling your clothes fitting better and seeing your health improve, are positive factors to consider when on a weight loss journey.

Getting on the scales can sometimes be more demotivating than motivating, as your weight can escalate from one day to the next. As you increase your exercise, you may not see the figure on the scales change as much as you may like. This is because you are increasing your muscle mass, which is more dense than body fat, so can hinder changes to the figure on the scales. It is more positive therefore to observe the changes in your body shape and size.

3) Set Realistic Goals - Important goals for me are to fit back in to my favourite jeans and to decrease my body fat. My blood pressure also increased during pregnancy, so I aim to reduce this through exercise and a healthy diet. Think long and hard about what you want to achieve and write the goals down somewhere accessible, so if you lose your motivation at any time you can remind yourself of where you want to get to.

4) Compliment your aerobic workouts with resistance training. Many people still concentrate more on aerobic fitness than weight training. Whilst this is good for your cardiovascular fitness, it alone will not increase your muscle mass and therefore help to change your body composition from body fat to lean body tissue. Muscle is a far more active ingredient in your body’s make up and muscle helps to burn calories, even at rest. The more muscle you have, the leaner you will be.

5) Watch what you eat. There is ABSolutely no point in working out for hours if you do not start to watch what you eat. Your success will depend not only on what exercise you do and how often you do it but also on what you eat, or more importantly what you don’t eat. The top five tips I have for you are;

Avoid sugary food and drinks

Drink at least 1.5ltrs of water per day        

Eliminate alcohol                

Reduce fats in your diet such as butter and oils.

Control your portion size

6) Log it to lose it. Keep a food log and literally write down everything you eat and drink. It is a fantastic way of helping you assess where improvements could be made in your diet. It can also be a big eye opener as to just how much you do eat. We are quite good at forgetting all that we have eaten and kid ourselves that we are eating healthily, when in fact the truth is plain to see when written in black and white.

So to start on your fat attack, take measurements of your abdominal area and focus on how good you are going to feel when you start to see your waist line taking shape.

These tips will get you started but log in to blog in the New Year as I will be adding workout tips and nutrition ideas to help to lose that fat around the middle.

 

Top Five Secrets to Avoiding Snack Attacks

salty-snacks

Snack, graze, or eat smaller more frequent meals?

You may have heard that eating little and often is a good way of controlling weight. So it is no surprise that snacking between meals is on the increase. The trick is to know that we are snacking on the right foods.

Consider our busier lifestyles and the never ending introduction of new snack options and it makes even more sense to snack. However, if we are not getting it right, then we are at risk of adding more inches to our waistlines.

Snacking: For Better of For Worse?

There’s no doubt about it – snacking is a smart addition to a healthy eating plan but it can also launch us into calorie chaos. The key is to consume the correct number of calories for you and spread them out throughout the day. Eating three high calorie meals every day, plus snacks won’t help you lose weight.

The Benefits of Snacking

Maintain a healthy weight – regular eating controls your appetite as well as your blood sugar levels, which can help to keep your weight in check, as long as you don’t over indulge in foods that are high in fat and calories. In fact, most research shows that those who spread calories over the day are better able to control their weight than those who divide their calories over a couple of meals.

Aid Weight Loss – Eating smaller meals more frequently will help you to keep your metabolism working throughout the day. If you wait until mid morning or afternoon to eat, your metabolism will become more sluggish and you will conserve, rather than burn calories.

Satisfy the hunger pangs

The feeling of hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs nutrients. Skipping meals can make you more prone to food cravings and cause you to overeat, or make bad food choices at mealtimes.

Feel Less Irritable

Missing breakfast, overeating at lunch, eating an early dinner and munching late at night can leave energy levels all over the place. These fluctuations in your blood sugar can lead to mood swings, feelings of lethargy mid afternoon, perhaps bad temper and even sleepless nights. Spreading out your intake of nutrients will keep your energy levels steady as blood sugar release is more controlled.

Lower Cholesterol

Your cholesterol level does not depend solely on what you eat, how often is also important. Studies show that cholesterol levels have been lowered in those who eat more frequently. The highest levels are found in those who just eat two big meals a day.

Get Snacking Smart

1) Switch from three large meals a day to six smaller meals that contain carbohydrate and protein. The following have less than 200 calories and 5 grams of fat.

  • Low fat cottage cheese and crudités
  • ½ pitta bread and low fat hummus
  • Handful of tortilla chips and salsa dip
  • 4 wholewheat crackers and 1 teaspoon of peanut butter

2) Keep healthy snacks with you in the car, in the office or on the go to stem hunger pangs.

  • Rice cakes
  • Low fat cereal bars
  • Fruit
  • Low fat yoghurt

3) Snack consciously – try and take time out when you are eating, so that you can focus on your food. This way messages will be sent to the brain that you are eating and you will feel fuller quicker. We are all too guilty of eating when there are so many other distractions around,

4) If you are craving something sweet, do not deprive yourself, chances are you will eat everything else to avoid the sweet food and may end up eating more calories. The following treats are all lower in fat and sugar and have less than 150 calories;

  • Small bowl of frozen ice-cream
  • ½ bag of caramel flavour rice cakes
  • Milky Way
  • 3 Jaffa Cakes

8 reasons you aren’t losing weight

Weight loss

Are you starting to feel like you just can’t lose weight no matter what you do? Nobody ever said dropping those extra pounds was going to be easy but if your frustration is going up faster than the needle on the scale is going down, it may be time to get some help.

You are eating too much food…

When someone following a healthy meal plan isn’t losing weight, the most common reason is that they are eating more food than they realise. That’s why it is so important for people to become familiar with proper portion sizes.

Until you are able to trust your instincts, weigh and measure everything you eat.

You aren’t getting enough activity…

Though it is sometimes possible to lose weight with healthy eating alone, you will achieve greater success by adding regular exercise to your routine. Making the time for activity at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes can make a tremendous difference. Adding regular exercise to your life will help you speed up your metabolism and burn more calories.

You are being inconsistent with your workouts…

If you are being inconsistent with your workouts from week to week, you probably aren’t burning as many calories as you think.

Personally, I would rather my clients be less ambitious and stick to their goals. In other words, I would rather they work out three times every week and be consistent about it than to exercise four times one week and only once the next.

You have to be honest with yourself. Pick a goal that is realistic.

You aren’t increasing the intensity of your exercise sessions…

Even if you are disciplined about exercising, you won’t burn enough calories if you always follow the same workout routine. Our bodies are designed to adapt to everything we do.

If you keep doing the same workout, you may not be losing weight because your body has adapted to that exercise routine.

You aren’t drinking enough water…

When you are trying to lose weight you should drink at least 1.5 litres of water every day. Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work, and bring one to the gym as well. You may even want to invest in a water purifier or a filter jug that fits in the fridge. You won’t forget to drink your fill when you make sure there is “water, water… everywhere.”

Often thirst is mistaken for hunger. Drink a glass of water when you first wake up and every two hours throughout the day.

You aren’t getting enough calories…

Believe it or not, getting too few calories can be just as detrimental to your weight loss efforts as taking in too many. If you are exercising, it is especially important to balance your activity level with your calorie intake.

Some people think they can increase their activity and lower their calorie level at the same time. When you do this, your body can hold on to stored fat, as it feels it is in starvation mode.

Certain people actually think they will lose weight faster by skipping meals. Not only is this an unhealthy approach to eating, but it is one that nearly always backfires. Skipping meals usually leads to a combination of fasting and overeating that will prove unsuccessful.

If you don’t put enough fuel in your tank, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Your weight goal isn’t realistic…

Sometimes you may not be dropping the pounds because your body is already at a healthy weight. In these cases, you should reassess your goal towards health and fitness. Instead of trying to reach an unrealistic weight goal, you should put yourself on a lifetime maintenance programme.

Many times, people compare themselves to a picture of an airbrushed model and set unrealistic expectations. Do your clothes fit well? Do you have energy? How do you feel? If all other parameters are normal, you may need to rethink your goal.

You may have a medical problem…

In rare cases, you may not be able to lose weight because of an undiagnosed medical problem. If you think this might be the case, it is time to see your doctor. Make an appointment and talk to your doctor about your weight, being sure your thyroid function is evaluated.

 

Pilates – All You Need to Know

pilates 4

Have you experienced back pain at one time or another? Have you been told to strengthen your abdominal  muscles to fix a back problem? While traditional crunches strengthen the outer layers of the abdominal musculature, they bypass the deep support structures of your back.

This can place the lumbar spine in too much flexion and may even worsen your back pain, depending on what your original physical problem was. By training the deep stabilizers of the lumbar spine, pain can be alleviated and you’ll be able to return to everyday activities sooner.

Pilates can help; its major focus is to strengthen the deep stabilizers of the spine and is beneficial if you are recovering from low-back injuries or experiencing low-back pain.

How Pilates Can Help

Pilates, created by Joseph Pilates, is a gentle, restorative exercise regime that suits most people in the process of recovering from injury and rebuilding their bodies. The foundational approach focuses on core strength, precision and control of movement. Combined with current exercise

science, this approach is a recipe for success, for a number of reasons.

Pilates  Develops  Body Awareness.

You need this awareness in order to recruit and strengthen the deep stabilizing muscles.

You may be unaware of whether you are using your deep stabilizers or not, and this can leave you vulnerable to pain. A qualified Pilates instructor can help you learn how to effectively use your stabilizers.

Pilates Promotes Effective Breathing Patterns.

Effective breathing patterns alleviate stress,which can be a major source of back pain. Conscious breathing provides inner focus, allowing you to become more aware of your body and enable recruitment of deep stabilizing muscles.

Low-Back Pain

Following these basic Pilates stability exercises will help recruit the deep core muscles, stabilize the entire spine and help decrease or prevent back pain.

Note: These exercises should be performed only with prior permission from a healthcare professional.

Ab Prep: Targets Abs

Starting Position. Lie on back on mat, feet on mat, hip distance apart. Spine is in neutral position, neither arched nor flattened.

Exercise.

1. Inhale: nod head slightly.
2. Exhale: curl upper body off mat without pressing low
back into mat; raise arms slightly off mat during curl.
3. Inhale: hold position.
4. Exhale: return to starting position.

Complete 5–8 repetitions.

Cat Stretch: Lengthens Spinal Muscles

Starting Position. Kneel with equal weight on hands and knees, knees slightly apart. Hands are directly under shoulders, and knees are directly under hips. Spine is in neutral position, neither arched nor flattened.

Exercise. To prepare, inhale then exhale: starting from tailbone, round the spine, allowing head to bend toward mat.

2. Inhale: hold position and tighten abdominal muscles.

3. Exhale: starting from tailbone, return spine to starting position; bring head up last, but keep eyes looking down.

Complete 3–5 repetitions.

Hip Rolls: Targets Abs, Glutes & Backs of Thighs

Starting Position. Lie on back on mat, feet hip distance apart. Pelvis is in neutral position, neither arched nor flattened.

Exercise. To prepare, inhale.

1. Exhale: starting from tailbone, slowly peel spine off mat until hips are lifted and weight is resting between shoulder blades.
2. Inhale: hold position and tighten abdominal muscles.
3. Exhale: starting from top of spine, slowly return to mat,
lowering to starting position.

Complete 5–8 repetitions.

Pilates Builds Core Strength.

You learn to engage the deep pelvic floor, which in turn works with the transversus abdominis and affects the positioning of other structures in the lumbopelvic region, providing support for the lower back.

For assistance in learning Pilates, seek the guidance of a qualified Pilates instructor, or personal trainer.