You may be standing, waiting for your train to arrive for your daily commute and to make the time pass you’re reading a newspaper or a magazine (or sneaking a peak over the shoulder of a fellow commuter). Alternatively, you could might be at home, watching TV and a string of commercials come on. Or, it could be that you have the radio on in the background, listening to the news and even they are talking about it - the nation’s obsession that is body image.
This time of year in particular, the media is rife with body transformations, weight loss plans, diet pills, miracle procedures or recommendations on nutrition. As soon as the sun comes out, less clothes are being worn and the media starts cramming down our throats articles about celebrities sporting “THAT bikini body” - when just four months ago they were being labelled “beached whales” by the very same magazines.
Then we have to contend with the constant poking in the eyes of stories about “how to create that magic formula” for shedding those extra pounds, or articles and adverts about what you food and supplements you need to buy to look great on the beach/holiday/wedding - or even as shallow as - for bagging the love of your life.
As a Personal Trainer, I hear many requests like “I just want to look good for my holiday” or “I have X amount of weddings to go to this summer and want to get into each outfit/look good in the pictures”. This is all fair and well. Shucks, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t booked a holiday and gone crazy on that last 4 weeks lead up to it - hitting the gym hard and detoxing their bodies of sugar and alcohol. I can even hold my hand up to that one.
However, what really amazes me is that the media can get away with this massive bombardment of advice to “lose 10 lbs in 4 weeks” and that these starvation and liquid diets are actually followed by us, naïve enough to think we can get there quickly and effortlessly. In reality these fads cost very little to start up by companies spotting an opportunity in the market. They create some media hype, charge a high cost for their “miracle solution” (some, more than a gym membership) and they succeed by pulling at our lazy strings.
We all like to have faith that some things in life can be accomplished without us having to put in too much hard work - just look at the amount of people that play the lottery. In the fitness industry, fat burner and diet shake companies are all making their millions through us as a nation seeking out that magic pill.
I am going to apologise to you here, as I am about to burst your bubble...
There is no magic pill. There is no four week miracle diet. And there is no 30-minute workout in the world that will help you look like Cameron Diaz or David Beckham. You can do all the ab crunches in the world before bed but when you wake up during the lead up to that “need to look good” event, a six pack won’t have exploded through overnight.
So, put down the magazines, empty your online shopping baskets, put your purse back in your bag, or your wallet back in your pockets and save your pennies. Instead, just take a second to stop and think. As what you do have costs absolutely nothing - you have time - you have a whole 365 days in the year.
So, use them.
Take just one of your 24 hours every day, grab a friend, get a personal trainer or simply have that hour all to yourself and......MOVE!
It can be anything from a brisk walk, running, sprint intervals, rowing, learning how to weight train or joining a class of Yoga or Pilates etc. Anything - As long as you enjoy it, it’s something that you want to do and involves you moving your whole body.
What is most important here is that you don’t settle into a sedentary routine then go into panic mode and crash diet or over-train on the lead up to something that you want to look good for. Wouldn’t it be easier and more satisfying if we always looked, and felt our best? How amazing would it be if we could more often than not have that glowing skin and shiny hair from good nutrition, plus more energy and happy endorphins released from exercise?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “Don’t ever have that piece of cake/glass of wine.” or “Never have that day where you hibernate under your duvet and watch all your favorite movies”. The key is to train smart. Eat to fuel your body. Look and feel amazing every day.
Here are some of my key tips to make that idealization of having the beach body a realism:
• We are creatures of habit. On average, we work five days a week. Those five days are usually a routine and structured. So, make one more hour in the day a routine. Before the kids wake up, go in the garden and do one hour circuit. Or, rather than sit and chow down lunch, go and join a class or go for a run. Or, rather than going straight home at the end of the day, go and vent your day in the weights area. Whatever you enjoy doing or whatever time of the day suits you most, just create that one hour for yourself.
• Go into your kitchen, look in your cupboards and your fridge. Be honest with yourself. Is what you are eating/drinking day to day actually fuelling your body? For some people, this honesty or ability to change their diet is the hardest part. Grab a friend or family member (as long as they don’t also live with you - as you can be certain that they are stuck in the same rut) and get them to help you to get rid of those “fat free” breakfast bars, “five a day” juice boxes, “diet” sodas and convenient tinned foods. Most of these tasty “healthy” packet foods are a media hypocrisy and won't help you meet your long-term goal to feel fantastic.
• How much water do you drink a day? We should be aiming for two litres a day and that’s WITHOUT taking into consideration exercise.
• Finally, be prepared and be consistent. We all have moments when we’ve eaten well all day, kept busy and on our toes all afternoon. Then those hunger pangs set in. We instinctively look in our bags/car/pockets or shops around us for something to eat - but all too often there’s nothing we can eat that will keep us on our path to a better self. So, be prepared for these moments. Have a snack box in your bag, or in the boot of your car, or have it in the glove box if you are used to sitting in traffic each day. Enjoy filling it with food that won’t perish and doesn’t matter if its in the heat/cold. Experiment with different packets of mixed plain nuts, some dried fruit and even some cashew or almond nut butter. All of these ideas will give you that hit of energy and the satisfaction of nibbling on something in them times of need.
My final point is that with easy changes to our day to day routine, I often question why we feel “privileged” to eat what we want, binge on all the foods that we know your body will not appreciate and then book a holiday and starve ourselves for weeks on end? I am pretty certain you won’t spend the day dressed in a sack, dirty and unwashed and I bet you wouldn’t purposely chuck yourself into large objects during the day, creating bruises and cuts all over your body. So, why do people treat the inside of their bodies in this manner? Diabetes type 2, liver disease, obesity, brittle bones and depression are all contributed to through bad diet and lack of exercise and/or extreme crash dieting and training routines.
So, please remember this and shift away from this “summer transformation” mentality and lets treat ourselves to healthy living and eating - every day. A better you will always be staring back at you in the mirror.
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