You know sometimes you sign up for things with certain expectations but you end up with unexpected results? Yeah, happens right?
Well, last month I attended a life coaching and neurolinguistic programming course and boy was it intense!
We learned about the power of the mind, how we perceive reality, the importance of how we use language both in our thinking and in conversing with others and so much more!
I’ve always had an interest in the science of the human mind. Why do we do what we do? A question that always popped in my mind when observing others.
There are many avenues to study human behavior, but it all starts with our minds! So, learning ‘the language of the mind’ as I like to call it, seemed like a valuable investment.
Yet, as you know, knowledge is power and that can sometimes be scary. Yes, with such knowldedge comes the responsibility for change. Here’s a metaphor to help get my point across:
“Many people have described life as being like a cake. Many ingredients can go into a cake, but the finished cake is down to what we do with those ingredients. We all have different life situations, but we can choose what we do with those ingredients. Some people have many fantastic ingredients, but the cake is a flop. Others have few ingredients, or less desirable ingredients, but are great cooks and make wonderful cakes.”
When we look at our lives and the results we got so far, do we see ourselves as the cause – “I made it happen” – or did life just happen to us? Are we powerless? Do we not have the choice to cause results?
The philosophy of NLP is based precisely around that. Our conditioned mind drives our behavior which in turn produces certain results in our lives. Therefore every conscious and unconscious decision has affected our lives in some way.
Then, it seems logical to focus our thoughts and decisions towards the things that we want no?
We are powerful, we are the cause!
If you would like to learn more about NLP and Life coaching, please feel free to send me your questions on firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Cooper, Personal Trainer and Business Manager at Pinnacle Performance has been running in the fitness industry “marathon” since 2001. “Lots has been learned and more to be achieved” is his comment when asked to describe himself.
I am very excited that Kevin will share his vast insights. Intense, focused, humorous and above all knowledgeable. Kevin will say it as it is. Welcome aboard Kevin.
So much to say such little time or space, undoubtedly the most controversial topic out there when it comes to the industry….
What to eat ? What time? And why? Well to put it as basically as possible and for those of us that have some sort of idea about this black hole we call nutrition, the rules are trial and error based. Take ownership of it and learn to take basic guidelines and perfect them, the most intensive content out there might be unbelievable to me but not work at all for the next person.
Trial and error, ladies and gents, that’s the beauty of this game and all variables that you can imagine get broken down to a term we love to use – “it depends”.
Depends on the following:
Meal one time:
Is meal one carbohydrate dominant?
Is meal one more fat than protein?
Is meal one a stimulant like coffee?
Is meal one a mix of all forms?
An absolute no-fail choice that works for most, yes not for everyone, is to start your day off with a protein and fat meal. A simple choice will be scrambled eggs drizzled with olive oil. Easy yet effective. Don’t be scared of the yellow yolks that contain 9 essential amino acids! Get it in and enjoy risk-free taste and texture.
Once meal one is behind you keep meal timing down to max 4 hour intervals to ensure you send a consistent signal to your body of maintenance in energy and consumption through food. This will in turn ensure that your body does not create a storage pattern of energy. Instead it sends signals of absorbing and processing of food.
Keep up the protein+fat mix and consume a serving of a carbohydrate-based meal, like sweet potato for post workout only. This in turn creates an insulin sensitivity signal so that the carb can be utilized more effectively. And a greater percentage of it can be utilized in the body in that post workout phase.
So, many variables and one can successfully say that breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. It’s the first signal to your body of the day.
So the question is will protein and a fat be more beneficial than a carb start ?
Here we go …. it depends … How do you feel post meal? How does the meal effect your energy levels? What’s the effect of the meal on your digestion? Etc etc etc.
One sure conclusion that can be drawn is the simple fact of when you consume a certain food first thing in the morning it sends a signal that depicts the rest of your day – guaranteed.
Stay away from carbs till post workout. Be sure to consume them when they are going to be utilized fully. We will certainly delve deeper into this subject as your understanding of your own body commences.
This is where taking control of your meals comes in. It is never easy but I can vouch for the fact that it is well worth it.
This is certainly an easier read on this topic, however get the ABC right the first time and it will make the outcome much more simple yet effective.
Your time is now, go get it and own your results from start to finish!
Last week I was lucky to attend a stress management workshop by Heidi Jones, a Dubai-based integrative health & nutrition coach. Read below to find out what I have learned.
Most of us are living a busy, fast-paced life where 24 hours never seem enough. All sorts of pressures & deadlines loom over our heads, making us feel stressed out. It is important to be self-aware and to know how stress affects the body and our emotional wellbeing.
We have all heard about the fight or flight response when we are in a stressful situation – but did you know that it can cause a host of physical as well as mental symptoms? Stomach ache, indigestion, heart palpitations, jitters – these are just a few of the physical signs showing that we are stressed.
Normally, a bit of stress is good for us. Why? It helps us be more focused and do what needs to be done. Once the stressful task is complete we go back to our ‘rest & digest’ zone, where the body and mind are relaxed.
However, in today’s day & age we are more likely to be almost constantly in the ‘fight or flight’ zone as we claw through a long list of deadlines or urgent and important matters. This is certainly not good for our long-term health.
So what can you do to help yourself spend more time in the ‘rest & digest’ zone? The questionnaire below, developed by Heidi Jones, will help you assess your work-life balance by looking into which stress management strategies you use often and which ones you need to start using:
Now that you have a list of 20 very practical and easy to apply stress management strategies, you may want to think about what is stopping you from using them in your day-to-day life.
One thing we all have in common is that we all have 24 hours in the day. People are achieving amazing things in those hours – and so can you!
“You have to be very, very clear on what it is that you want. If you know what you want, then you know you need to work towards that and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore. It feels like it is part of the journey, it’s part of the process, it’s part of you growing as a person to get to where you want to be.” – Heidi Jones
We believe that we can’t do it, we don’t have time… but these are just beliefs – they are not facts.
So here you are: start by implementing practical strategies to relieve yourself of stress, but don’t forget to take the time out and ask yourself what you really want to achieve in life. Sometimes not knowing what we want to achieve is the biggest stress!
When it comes to dieting, most people feel frustrated with their fat loss results. This is because typically we tend to jump from one dieting approach to another which can result in either metabolic damage due to yo-yo dieting or a host of hormonal imbalances such as thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue, and diabetes..
With the urge to look great we put ourselves through tremendous strains and go to extremes (dieting, over exercising) forgetting about our health.
Going on a diet can create an obsession with food, increase cravings, develop binging habits and other disorders. As a bikini competitor I’m constantly on a “diet “ which I wouldn’t mind as it doesn’t make me hungry but I need to limit or cut out many foods or even food groups. That then makes me want those foods more.
If I restrict myself for too long, I end up binging when the opportunity arises. This is extremely unhealthy and I do realize that, that’s why I’d like you to learn from my mistakes.
Instead of going on another “diet”, try to change everyday habits that sabotage your efforts. Not many of us realize how quickly calories can add up. Eating while cooking, starting each day with a high-calorie coffee drink, finishing off the kids’ plates at dinner, or having glass of wine are just a few of the habits that can sabotage your health and fitness goals.
This is the act of unknowingly putting hand to mouth. This happens when you are watching television or even just checking your phone (which in this era is the biggest problem).
If you are a mum you need to learn to resist the temptation to clean your child’s or anyone else’s plate (a common mistake) or even lick the melting ice cream on the side of your child’s ice cream cone. Our crazy lives or in some cases parenthood (mums usually hurry their kids up) is the reason for the unhealthy habit of rapid eating. Slow down! It’s NOT a race!
We should try to adopt more relaxed and mindful style of eating so that we can savour our food, taste every bite, chew properly and let our brains acknowledge the signal of fullness before overeating.
Skipping meals, especially breakfast is tremendous mistake. There is a misconception that skipping breakfast saves calories. The truth is that most people who eat fewer than three meals usually end up eating more throughout the day. I would recommend starting your day with a healthy breakfast as you are more likely to make the right choice for the rest of your meals. Ideally your breakfast should contain both protein and fibre.
Not paying attention to liquid calories
Alcohol, smoothies, tea and coffee with milk and/or sugar, sweetened juices, teas, and carbonated drinks can contribute to weight gain. Stick to water, learn to drink black coffee and tea or swap to herbal teas. Avoid alcohol as much as possible limiting it to occasional drinking. Portions are a major issue this days especially when eating less than 3 meals a day.
Leave a few bites on your plate.
Use smaller plates and bowls.
Check your portions using your hand.(I talked about it in this article)
These are just few things to consider. I hope one day we can all be in tune with our bodies and deliver them what they need. That I wish for You and myself.
We all know that stress is bad for us. There are countless articles regarding the damaging effects of stress on physical and mental health. It is clear that stress affects our longevity and quality of life, but what can we do to combat this public enemy #1?
First, it is important to recognise that there are many sources of stress on the body – our environment (weather, noise, pollution, chemicals and toxins, etc.), our physical activity (exercise, strain & injury), our mental and health state (emotions, thoughts, nutrition and sleep).
Therefore it can be seen that stress enters the body through multiple sources – directly through our skin, our ears and our mouth, but also indirectly through what we see, hear and think about.
At first, it may seem overwhelming to deal with this constant invasion of stress, however there are little steps we can take every day to reduce the pressure we put on ourselves.
You don’t have to quit your job, sell your house and go live in a forest to offer yourself stress relief (and anyway the financial implications of such a move will probable cause more stress than anything else!). Instead, focus on creating little routines in your day to help relieve stress.
As sleep is crucial to our mental and physical health, I would recommend starting with a bedtime ritual to help you get a good night’s sleep. Once you are used to that, you can look into your daily schedule and finding time to fit in some more relaxing activities.
So, how can we use the five senses (and gateways to stress) to create a relaxing bedtime ritual? Here are my tips:
If you are like most people and work in an office, chances are that by the end of the day your eyes are tired from looking at a screen all day. So it is important to give them a break from screen glaring and squinting (due to inappropriate lighting contrasts). Make sure your bedside lamp emits and orange-yellow light as white light suppresses the production of melatonin – your body’s sleep-inducing hormone.
Of course, you should put away all screen devices and try reading something in print instead. If reading is not your thing why not try the new trending of colouring. It has been proven that colouring has similar relaxation effects to meditation by allowing us to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and focus on the moment. Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also happens to be the author of his own line of adult colouring books, conducted a study which found that colouring affects our heart rate and brainwave activity.
If you’re really not a fan of reading or colouring, another option would be to listen rather than watch.
Now, although you may have heard about meditation a lot of times, if you’re like me, mediation seems like some mystical power which only the shamans from some Nepalese mountain can master. And although meditation can take years of practice, there is an easy way to get started. There are countless YouTube videos and other audio sources which can help ease your mind through guided meditation. An alternative are podcasts – from inspirational Ted talks to educational episodes on health & fitness, there is something for everyone. I find listening to a health podcast and doing a bit of colouring simultaneously to be of great help before going to bed.
Another thing I really like to do during my bedtime routine is sprinkle my pillow with lavender oil. There are so many benefits of lavender oil, but it is most well-known for its relaxing properties. This calming scent has been proven to relax the nervous system, reduce restlessness and to protect against neurological damage. On days I have headaches I use a lavender oil mix to massage my temples and forehead which helps to ease the pain (*never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin, always use a mixing/base oil to dilute these powerful oils).
Massaging your temples, whether with lavender oil mix or not is also a great relaxation technique. Both physical and mental stress often result in tight muscles (e.g. teeth clenching can hurt your neck & jaws). Therefore, massaging your face and even ears can be of great help to release tension. Did you know that the edges of the ears have have tiny reflex points that can relax specific areas of your body?
Of course, we are not able to give ourselves full massages, however we can relax any muscle in the body by first tensing that specific muscle and then releasing it. A good way to do this is to start from your toes, focusing your mind just on this body part, squeezing it for a few minutes before completely relaxing the muscle and letting it ‘sink into the bed’. You then move upwards to your shins & calves, all the way up to your face.
Finally the last sense through which a lot of stress comes in, but can also serve as a de-stressor is our mouth. The foods we eat can cause physical stress to the body – unhealthy foods often cause inflammation in the digestive system which is perceived by our bodies as stress. But it is not only the type of foods we eat, meal timings and portions are also important.
If you are the type of person who can’t fall asleep when hungry or wakes up in the middle of the night starving, and you do not have any digestive problems, then you should consider having a bedtime meal. There are certain foods (and drinks)which help your body relax if eaten 30-60 minutes before you go to sleep. These include yogurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts and tuna as they all contain good amounts of tryptophan.
“Tryptophan is used by the body to make niacin, a B vitamin that is important for digestion, skin and nerves, and serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a large role in mood) and can help to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.” – WebMD
Also if you enjoy tea, there are plenty of herbal infusions that can be very soothing. Chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm teas are just a few you can choose from.
So here you are: 5 senses – 5 steps to your bedtime relaxation ritual. Dedicate at least 30 minutes before going to bed to have a snack, read, relax your muscles and take some deep breaths inhaling the lavender oil on your pillow. Trust me, your body will thank you!
In my last post I spoke about how a healthy lifestyle starts from changing your mindset. In a nutshell what I was trying to say was that sometimes we need to re-calibrate our relationship with food in order to truly change our lifestyles for good.
This reminded me of a very interesting podcast I heard a while back about the psychology of eating by Emily Rosen, Director of the the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and Expert in Nutritional Psychology and Marc David, MA Bestselling Author and Founder of the same institute.Unfortunately the podcast is no longer available, however here are four key points from the interview:
Mindful eating is all about being focused on the present moment of eating. It is eating with intention and attention. Nature is teaching us through biology that we are designed to be present with the meal. For example, if we eat mindlessly or under stress our digestion is impaired and nutrient absorption is decreased almost to zero.
Surprisingly, animals’ eating behaviour is a good example of mindful eating. Animals would typically drag their food to a place where they could eat in peace without others jumping in. And just like them, we, humans, are designed to eat in a state of relaxation.
Of course, animals don’t have as many imagined threats as humans. Our problem is that we get locked in psychological stories and worries. Animals let go of their stress easily, but we are not able to let go of our anxieties so well. Yet, how we eat our food and in what state we are when we eat affects how much we get out of that food.
Our perception of food
Food today is considered a nuisance and eating is seen as just an automated process. Thinking food is the enemy is creates stress and the body responds by releasing more cortisol and insulin. This in turn usually results in food being stored as fat.
Our thoughts and anxieties can become disruptive stressors to the digestive system. Hence, you can see that such toxic nutrition beliefs are dangerous. Our thoughts not only affect our food choices (like those sugar cravings we get when under stress) but also the physiological processes involved in eating and digestion.
Understanding our emotions
Emotions need to be digested just like food. Yet we should use food as a symbolic substitute for emotional release. There has been much written about emotional eating, but the basic principle is that if you don’t get what you want or need in one area of your life, you will seek it in other areas.
Therefore it is important to understand yourself and your emotions in order to be able control impulses. We often underestimate the impact that holding on to emotion, as well as self-attack and self-judgement, can have and how that manifest as physical symptoms, such as poor digestion.
How to be more mindful
We need to remember that our minds need to be exercised just like our bodies. The mind is a tool which we need to learn to use and we can train it to spot negative thoughts. Start noticing when you are being too self-critical and think of something positive about yourself instead.
Did you know that 95% of the thoughts you had yesterday you will have today?
Learn to enjoy your food and be mindful of the effects it has on your body. Take 6-8 long breaths before eating to re-calibrate and relax before starting your meal. And don’t just focus on which foods are bad but also on the way foods are produced and treated.
The key message
If you’re focused on the present moment, aware of the relationship between food and your body and are inspired to take care of yourself then mindfulness shouldn’t take much effort.
The way we eat can be an indicator of our attitude and the way you do other things in life. It can also bring people together and take us back to our natural state of relaxation, gratitude, celebration and presence.
I heard this a while back and it just stuck. Although I have been “into” nutrition and fitness for a few years now, it is this quote that was one of the game changers for me.
But before I let you in on how to start changing your game (read tips at the end), I would like to share with you my personal journey of discovery.
A moment of struggle and revelation
See, it wasn’t just this quote that light up a bulb in my head. It was also the fact that I was fed up of seeing doctors because my tummy had gone rogue. After years of fighting digestive issues and the nutritional deficiencies and weight gain that came with them I decided it was time to take matters in my own hands.
No more unnecessary medications. No more food diaries. Just one big detox and a tune-in to my body.
Although my last doctor’s appointment went something along the lines of “it’s probably IBS or gastritis, just take those pills”, the young doc sent me home with a final word of advice: your mind and tummy are more intricately connected than you think.
Be at one with your body and find the connection with your mind.
And that was it. Eureka! I had to change my mindset to fix my tummy. But how? I love food so much. I didn’t want to follow a ‘diet’. Neither did I want to count calories.
Yet I was at my heaviest, felt sluggish and bloated. And if there was nothing seriously wrong with me, like the doctors say, then surely it is all my fault.
So I decided to actually start putting in practice all the information I had read over the years about superfoods, detoxification and healthy eating. But I wanted to go a step further – I became vegan.
Going to the extreme
Can you image such a big cheese (and bread!) lover completely overhauling their food choices! I was already on, what I thought at the time, a healthy diet – plenty of veg, very few gluten/simple carb foods and no milk.
So the switch wasn’t too bad. In fact, I realised I didn’t miss cheese or the other dairy products that much. I also reduced gluten to a minimum, opting for potatoes, buckwheat, quinoa and other healthy grains instead.
And the protein? That came from beans, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, tempeh, pea and hemp protein and other soy products.
The reward? My body started feeling lighter, my energy levels started rising and workout performance improved.
But the most important thing was the mindset – my body is a temple and I shall not pollute it with toxic foods.
With gluten and dairy out of the way, the next focus was sugar (public enemy no.1). My only source of sweetness was fruits, dark chocolate and dates. Well, and the occasional mini treat (did you know Oreos are vegan by the way?!).
However with my body starting to get back in shape and my training intensifying I started scouring the web for more nutritional info on how to get the extra edge in the gym.
The second revelation
Shock and horror! I come across multiple scientific studies which show that a defficiency in vitamin B12 (only found in animal products) can cause irreversible damage to the body’s nerves. You can read one research article here.
What was the point of trying to be so healthy, to eat only natural and wholesome foods if I was to stuff my face with artificial vitamins? Made no sense to me at all and by that point my energy levels weren’t that great either.
So I re-introduced some chicken and fish, keeping dairy to a minimum (yogurt only!). So far my body is handling things well, apart from minor symptoms, which are more likely to be due to stress.
By this point you may be wondering, what is the point of this story? The point is, dear reader, that there isn’t one diet which fits all. Heck, there is no diet that works! In fact, let us not use the word diet as most people tend to associate it with dramatic, time-limited changes to their eating habits.
Such “diets” will never work. It is not about a short-term change. It is about a lifestyle change. A mindset change.
Once you have set your mind on keeping your temple (i.e. your body) clean and in good working order food choices become so easy. Would you rather enjoy the five minutes it will take to eat a red velvet cake or spending the rest of the day feeling healthy and in control and a step closer to your health goal?
Yes, I know, red velvet cakes can be heavenly delicious and having them once in a while (read: weekly/monthly treats) is ok but the harsh truth is that the sugar, fat, dairy and other artificial ingredients will cause plenty of damage to your body which may take a long time to fix.
From messing up your hormones and digestion to decreasing your energy levels, junk and sweet foods are a dangerous weapon with which we punish our bodies (just imagine the tremendous stress under which we put our liver is constantly trying to flush out the nasty stuff!).
So be kind to yourself. Work hard to preserve the temple that your body is and you will yield great rewards.
Oh and before I sign off, here’s my top 3 tips on getting started with a new healthy lifestyle:
Know your friends and foes: fat is not always bad (in fact your brain feeds on healthy fats, more on that in another post), sugar is the real danger.
Choose local and organic: It has been scientifically proven that organic products, especially fruits and vegetables, contain more nutrients than conventionally farmed produce. And we all know that local is fresher than anything that has had to be flown in.
Read your labels: Sugar-free but still sweet? Fat-free but still creamy? Obviously there is something wrong here. Be mindful of products selling themselves as healthy – most are full of artificial ingredients which can cause cancer (e.g. aspartame) and other health problems. If the label has anything that you can’t pronounce, it probably isn’t good for you.
That’s it from me! What about you? Have you struggled with digestive issues and finding the right foods for you? Have you found a solution or, even better, a panacea? Don’t keep it to yourself! Share in the comments below please 🙂