Don’t have a health and fitness entourage to help you every step of the way? Lygia Barnett checks in with the best in the business to show you how to achieve better health through diet, lifestyle and exercise.

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PHOTOLIBRARY
 

FITNESS

Task 1: Be prepared to train hard.

“If you want to see results, aim to train six days a week,” says celebrity PT Michelle Bridges from The Biggest Loser. Sounds tough, right? Well, if you’re already training three times a week but not seeing much of a difference, this is your opportunity to amp things up. “I like to train six days a week, and I don’t know anybody who is really on top of their weight and fitness that doesn’t make that kind of commitment,” Bridges says. “When you’re in the regular exercise groove that a six-day routine gives you, you’re always in control!” A six-day-a-week commitment may be hard to keep at first, so don’t let the occasional day off dishearten you – keep at it and you will see results in good time.

Task 2: Strike a balance

How many times have you seen friends or colleagues train for a specific event only to give it all up once they’ve crossed the finish line? Unlike many PTs, Bridges doesn’t advocate training for a particular goal, believing this can set you up for failure. “New exercisers tend to be goal-motivated and either chomping at the bit to go as hard as they can, or scared stiff of overdoing it and spending every workout balancing on fit balls and stretching,” she says. It’s all about striking an achievable balance – think of exercise as an essential aspect of every day, rather than a painful way of achieving a single goal.

 

Task 3: Start with a 12-week program

The experts agree that 12 weeks of solid exercise and healthy eating can deliver amazing results – not to mention the need for a new wardrobe! “I reckon 12 weeks of consistent exercise and clean eating is enough time to get the ‘What have you been doing? You look faaabulous!’ reaction at your next barbecue,” Bridges says. Twelve weeks is also ample time to develop habits that you can keep for life. You can check out Bridges’ 12-week program at www.michellebridges.com.au Alternatively, visit www.bodybliz.net.au and sign up to take the Women’s Health & Fitness BodyBlitz challenge.

 

Task 4: Think consistency, not motivation

Motivation may be what comes between you and your perfect body, but Bridges believes that it’s less about motivation and more about being consistent. “Motivation is your enemy, not your friend, because ultimately it will let you down,” she says. “None of us can stay constantly motivated. Consistency is like a good habit. You just do it, you don’t question it, you don’t even particularly think about it. You just get on with it.” Nobody likes hanging up the washing or ironing shirts for the week ahead, but we get on with it anyway. Try to use the same philosophy when getting psyched to exercise and you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

Task 5: Fuel your body for exercise

There’s no point in sweating it out at the gym if you’re not watching your diet. The biggest mistake you can make is reducing your calories drastically – good food is an essential part of the toning and fat-burning process.
“The stress that exercise puts on your body will have it screaming for nutrients, so plenty of high-quality, low-calorie whole foods are essential to keep the immune system topped up,” Bridges says. Don’t rush out and spend a fortune on expensive protein bars and gimmicky meal plans – stock up on lean protein such as chicken breast, tuna and turkey breast, fresh fruit and vegetables, and plenty of low-GI carbohydrates.

 

YOUR DIET

Task 1: Draw up a weekly menu plan

When it comes to maintaining a healthy you, planning and preparation are essential. “Before you go shopping, sit down and make a weekly menu plan and shopping list,” says nutritionist and author of Gorgeous Skin in 30 Days Erica Angyal. “That way, you’ll be certain to have all the healthy essentials on hand to prepare your meals.” Before you hit the shops, take the time to evaluate what eating well means to you. If your driving force is to fit into your pre-baby jeans by the end of the week, this is not the plan for you!  “So many women eat with weight reduction in mind, not their health, skin or beauty, so they cut kilojoules drastically.” If long-term and sustainable results are what you’re after, the 80/20 rule is your ultimate weight loss weapon. Eat well 80 per cent of the time, and consider the remaining 20 as your reserve for champagne dinners, coffee and cake and occasional cheese platters. This way, you won’t beat yourself up over a weekly indulgence and will still be able to enjoy the taste of all those not-so-healthy treats!

 

Task 2: Change the way you eat

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper!” is Angyal’s dieting mantra. Our bodies are designed to eat smaller meals as the day progresses; however, in reality this can be hard to achieve.
Limit weeknight catch-ups with friends and try to include 80 per cent of your total calories during the day instead of at dinner.

 

Task 3: Have a snack plan

There’s no denying that women can be emotional eaters – and in-between-meal snacks are the ultimate bandaid for stress, PMT and the mid-afternoon blues. Stock up on a variety of healthy but satisfying snacks and have them handy throughout the day. You stock your handbag with back-up lipsticks, hand cream and tampons, so why not add some food to all the clutter? “Basic things like keeping a bag of dry-roasted almonds or homemade trail mix in your bag make it so much easier to resist an afternoon bag of Twisties or potato chips, or a chocolate bar!” Angyal says. The same applies to your desk drawer and glove box – stock them with food supplies such as tinned chickpeas, tinned corn and dried apricots.

 

Task 4: Clear out your cupboards

From half-eaten biscuit packets to multi-packs of chips, you can tell a lot about someone’s waistline by the state of their pantry. “When you don’t have your cupboards stocked with healthy bits and pieces, it’s so easy to be tempted by high-carb treats like biscuits and chocolate,” Angyal says. Ditch potato crisps for low-fat rice crackers, replace mixed lollies with Dutch liquorice and trade in your milk chocolate for dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa percentage the better). The same applies to your fridge and freezer. Try ricotta instead of full-fat cheese, steer clear of oily dips (try homemade salsa instead) and opt for fruit and low-fat yoghurt instead of full-fat ice-cream.

 

Task 5: Know what’s on your plate

If you’re not sure how to break up food groups, getting your portions right comes down to a basic formula.
“Each snack or meal should have approximately the following ratios: about 40 per cent carbohydrates (low-glycaemic), 30 per cent protein and 30 per cent fat,” Angyal says. “Visualise that about one-third of your plate should be protein (about the size and thickness of your palm) and the remaining two-thirds should be carbs. Add a few nuts or a little olive oil for the fat content.” If you have the time, mapping out each meal as an illustration can help you achieve the right portions to provide you with the perfect balance of food for the day. Arduous, yes, but soon it’ll become second nature.

 

Task 6: Eat more whole foods

Take care to read the ingredient list on any processed product you buy. “Try to steer clear of packaged foods, which tend to contain all sorts of chemical preservatives, artificial flavours and colours as well as bad fats and stacks of sugar, which do nothing to contribute to good health,”  Angyal says. By limiting your consumption of processed foods, you can drastically reduce the amount of sugar and trans fats in your diet. Trans fats are the dietary bad guys, yet they manage to sneak themselves into many foods that you wouldn’t expect them to. 
“Trans fats are also listed as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils, so try to avoid anything that contains these oils,” Angyal says.


Here are some of the main offenders:
Margarine
Snack foods – chips, crackers, some biscuits and commercial popcorn
Baked goods – doughnuts, pastries, pies, sausage rolls
Junk food – burgers, fries, nuggets etc
Fried foods – Chicko rolls, hot chips etc


The more whole foods you eat, the less likely you are to load up on sugar. “There are stacks of different ways manufacturers list sugar (sucrose, dextrin, dextrose, mannitose, fruit juice concentrate etc), so you’ll need to act as a food detective,” Angyal says. Aside from boosting your daily calorie load, sugar can actually fast-track wrinkles and deplete collagen.

 

YOUR MIND

Task 1: Plant happy, optimistic thoughts

According to Dr Timothy Sharp from The Happiness Institute (www.thehappinessinstitute.com), developing helpful, optimistic thinking strategies is a two-step process. “The first is to weed out unhelpful negative thoughts and the second is to plant more positive, optimistic ones. This is essentially a skill, and like any other skill becomes easier and more effective with practice,” he says.

 

Task 2: Break the cycle

If you lack confidence doing simple tasks, Dr Sharp offers a fresh perspective. “Just do a few minutes of something constructive and positive every day. Build on it as you gain confidence and start to feel better,” he says.

 

Task 3: Manage your time and priorities

Take control of your time, and only commit to things if you really want to do them. “Happy people tend to believe they’re more in control of their lives. In doing so, they’re more likely to take an active approach to solving problems. If something’s not quite right in your life, do something. And, importantly, make sure what you’re doing is important. Put first things first.”