Surviving Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly. For the vast majority of people, this tends not to be the case and it turns into the season to be stressed out, put on un-wanted weight and become depressed.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of people who have been working very hard on their training and nutrition with the intention of being in good shape for Christmas.

The majority of them are very happy with the results of their hard work and yet they seem resigned to the fact that it’s all going to go down the drain before the start of January. They speak as if Cruel Fate is going to take complete control of their decision-making ability, handcuff them to the armchair in front of the tv, and force endless amounts of cake, sweets, chocolate and alcohol down their throat.

I’m not saying for one minute that there is anything wrong with having some down-time from regular training or enjoying some sugar-filled or intoxicating treats. It’s traditional at times of celebration that alcohol and high-calorie food take centre stage and there will always be a certain amount of over-indulgence. As the saying goes, Seldom is Wonderful. However 2 or 3 solid weeks of this can be very hard work.

Today’s article is not aimed at those who are determined to test the limits of their capacity for sugar and booze. Hopefully it will be give some ideas to those of you who want to enjoy Christmas with minimal damage to your waistline.

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Pleasure and Pain – The Ultimate Motivators

Many of us are probably unaware that two of our main motivations in life are the avoidance of discomfort or pain and the pursuit of happiness, pleasure or comfort. If you think about it for just a moment you will realize that almost every action you take is either pleasure-seeking or pain-avoiding

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, I find that many people focus on the perceived “pain” that they’ll have to endure to get meaningful results: torturous training sessions followed by starvation diets where they are force-fed endless amounts of broccoli and spinach. With this perception, it’s no wonder that many people would choose to stay in the comfort zone of junk food and low-intensity exercise.

If these thoughts have crossed your mind when considering a healthy exercise and nutrition regime, it would probably make more sense for you to focus on the increased pleasure you will receive from having a healthier lifestyle: you will look and feel better, have more mental and physical energy, and will feel much more self-confident.

However, the pain principle can also be used as positive motivation. You could remind yourself of the fact that obesity has been linked to all major diseases including cancer, heart disease, joint pain and diabetes.

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How to Put On Weight (Guilt-free)

Over the years I’ve met many people who claimed that they were looking to lose weight, or more specifically, lose body fat.

Unfortunately, for some of these people, they have had very little success and this has caused them to be quite unhappy.

Now, there are a lot of people who are genuinely confused about the best methods to lose body fat and hopefully some of the previous articles here will have helped to clear up that confusion.

However, there are quite a number of people – some of my own clients included- who know exactly what to do and yet they are not seeing any real change in their body shape.

I’m a great believer in the saying that actions speak louder than words. I also recognize the fact that in many cases weight-gain is due to emotional and/or psychological issues. This article is not aimed at those individuals, who may in fact be better served by some form of appropriate therapy or counselling.

I’m just talking about people who complain about weight-gain but can’t really be arsed doing anything about it. If you fall into that category, maybe you‘re actually happier carrying some excess baggage and so, here are some tips to help you keep the weight on. You may even find that you’ve mastered some of the techniques already!

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Get Results

When it comes to weight loss, health and fitness, there are so many conflicting theories, diets and training methods, that it would be very understandable for the average person to get totally confused and give up altogether.

A recent report claiming that a high protein diet was “as bad as smoking” is just the latest obvious example that will have some people diving into their biscuits, chocolates and sweets in an attempt to save their lives.

Unfortunately, this study along with many more before it, made it’s conclusions based on an association between a number of deaths from cancer, and protein consumption among a certain number of people. However this is not the same thing as saying that the higher intake of protein caused the deaths from cancer, because no other relevant factors were taken into account (exercise, processed food consumption, cigarette smoking, pre-existing health conditions, family medical history, etc)

Let’s see why that may not be sound scientific research: It’s been shown that murder rates in American cities like New York and Chicago tend to rise during the summer months and especially during heat waves.

The sales of ice-cream also increase during summer and heat waves. Therefore there’s an association between increased ice-cream sales and an increased number of murders. Based on the logic of our protein study, we can now safely say that eating ice-cream leads to murder!

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Your Life, Your Responsibility

“You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now.”- Fred Smith (Founder of FedEx)

At this point, it should be common knowledge that obesity, poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise and high stress levels are the main lifestyle factors that increase the chances of developing heart disease or cancer.

And while some people will blame “genetics” and say there’s nothing they can do about it, the truth is a lot different. There’s a saying that “genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” There’s no doubt that some people are at a greater risk of developing cancer or heart disease because of their family medical history. It is for this reason that they need to give themselves every chance by pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

On the other hand, the fact that you’re fortunate enough to be born to a family with no history of these diseases does not mean that you are immune from them.

People are generally motivated towards pleasure or away from pain – the carrot and stick approach. So if you can’t motivate yourself by thinking of how good you’ll look and feel, maybe you’ll want to get started or stay on a fitness regime simply to avoid being 1 of the 17,500 people who die every year from serious, lifestyle-related disease.

But which programme works best? One of the more frustrating things for people who wish to lose weight, get fit or have a healthy lifestyle is the tons of seemingly contradictory advice out there: One minute you’re told to avoid alcohol and sweets, and then suddenly, research shows that a glass of wine and dark chocolate can have positive health benefits!

Some people advocate lots of aerobic work while many trainers will tell you to avoid it like the plague. And that’s why there are thousands of diet books, supplements and training programmes out there. Because at some point each and every one of them has worked for somebody.

So here are some tips to help you stay on track on your journey to health and fitness:

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5 Things I (Re-) Learned This Week

I’m still recovering mentally and physically from 3 days of training and learning at the Hypertrophy Weekend run by Irish Strength Institute.

The following 5 items, in no particular order, are what I learned and/or re-discovered over the very challenging Friday-Sunday sessions. Hopefully, these lessons can be applied to your own training or even career.

  1. You have to Train Hard to Get Results: Seems obvious enough and this is one area that I always emphasize to my own clients. I pride myself on being able to push myself hard but this weekend was an eye-opener. I discovered how nice I was being to myself during my own training sessions – I had begun backing off on a rep or 2 every set and convincing myself that I needed the longer rest periods, although I wasn’t earning them. Part of the reason for this was, that there was nobody to push me harder. This leads us onto lesson number 2.
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Sharpening The Axe

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe” – Abraham Lincoln.

I like wise quotes in general and I like this one in particular, because it reminds me of the importance of planning and preparation. Successful people in all areas of life tend to be very clear on the following items: what they want to achieve, when they’re going to achieve it, and what they need to do to make it happen. Then they take action and make it happen.

Now the problem with this for many people is that it requires a bit of thought, and to throw in just one last quote (for this week!) :“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think” (Thomas Edison),

What I’d like you to do over the next day or two, is to think about how you would look, feel and behave if you had the best health, energy levels and body shape that you can possibly imagine. And while you’re at it, let’s skip the mediocrity of settling for “losing a few pounds”, “toning up” or “being able to keep up with the kids.”

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It’s Your Choice

Life by it’s very nature can be very unpredictable. But there are certain things in life that you can almost take for granted: In Ireland, it will rain a lot during the summer, governments will break pre-election promises and when you go to parties there will be a lot of food and drink available, and almost none of it will be low-carb.

It always amuses me when people seem surprised by any, or all of the above. I’ve lost count of the number of times that clients have had a particularly bad weigh-in and then confessed that it was due to a party or celebration that they’d attended over the weekend. They then tell me that they “had to” have the cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sandwiches because “there was nothing else there!”

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Get Fit For Easter

There are certain times during the year when it feels like it’s physically impossible to stay healthy, fit and motivated. Christmas immediately springs to mind.

Luckily there are also times when it’s a little easier to focus on getting in shape and right now we’re coming up to one of them: Lent. From a purely weight-loss point of view it’s an ideal opportunity to get your health and nutrition in order as it has been a tradition in Ireland for many years to “give up” something for Lent. The usual suspects are alcohol, cigarettes, sweets and chocolate.

Although the original purpose is spiritual and is based on self-sacrifice and repentance, there’s nobody saying that you can’t lose body fat while you’re saving your soul. So that’s why we can use a season like Lent to either start a new health campaign or resurrect the one that died somewhere around the middle of January.

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Get Your Weight Loss Back On Track

It’s the end of January and that means that the New Year’s Fitness Plan is well and truly dead for most people, or at best, it’s hanging on for dear life. Hopefully this does not apply to you and you’re starting to feel the benefits of a well-structured nutrition and exercise regime.

But don’t despair if you’re one of those people who’ve fallen off the fitness wagon – or didn’t manage to get on it in the first place. Today we’ll look at some of the reasons why New Year’s Resolutions don’t make it into February and what you can do to ensure that a healthy lifestyle becomes a natural way of life for you.

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