Real health #23 Keep it simple to lose weight easily

Following on from yesterday’s post on perfectionism, today I wanted to talk about how simplicity can be the way to reach your health goals with minimal effort. I’m not telling you you can lose weight by sitting on the sofa eating cookies all day. But you don’t have to be following some elaborate diet and exercise plan either, unless you are training for a bikini competition or some other competitive sport. Most of us just want to feel healthier and happier in our bodies, quit the obsession with food and exercise and just live and enjoy our lives. Right?!

If you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself, focus on simplicity and habits. Choose simple actions that you can take consistently until they become habits. When you first start to make healthier choices, of course it’s going to be a challenge. You might have to learn new information about which types of foods to eat, how to move your body and how to tune into your body (for example through tracking and syncing with your menstrual cycle!). You probably have to change some of your existing habits, try new things and get out of your comfort zone. You have to constantly be self-aware and make decisions about which actions to take. There could even be some uncertainty holding you back and you might not fully trust the process, especially if you have tried hundreds of times in the past to lose weight and improve your health. All of this means that there is a lot of mental focus at the start and you need to put in effort to keep yourself on track.

But as time goes on, if you continue to take consistent action in the direction of your goals, those actions will start to become habits. You won’t have to make so many decisions, you won’t even think about them anymore. It will become automatic and easy. For example, when I started my “diet recovery” process many years ago, I wanted to change the habit of eating low-fat foods as my goal was to gain weight and get my period back. In the beginning, my habitual action was to choose the low-fat version of everything and so every time I went to purchase a low-fat food, I had to stop myself and choose to act differently. This was difficult for the first few weeks but after that, choosing the full-fat option became my new normal and I didn’t even think about it anymore. The same process works for any habit you want to change, whether it’s starting to eat breakfast in the morning, going for daily walks, eating vegetables with your dinner or meditating.

It’s much easier to build habits when the actions you take are simple. If you need to use fancy recipes, have access to gym equipment or follow some 20-step process it puts you at a greater risk of letting things slip and giving up when you feel tired or when things feel too difficult. If the actions are easy they can become automatic to the point where no matter what is going on in your life you still do them without thinking. You want your healthy choices to become the easy option. On that note, I will leave you with some suggestions on building simple habits which will help you to stay consistent and meet your health goals with less stress!

  1. Have a fixed shopping list prepared with healthy items that you eat every week. Especially staple foods like produce, grains and dairy products. You can always add extra things to the list that you don’t need every week and rotate the list every couple of months. This will make your shopping trips much faster too as you’ll know where the items are!

  2. Limit your meal choices and rotate. I usually suggest having 3 breakfast ideas, 5 lunch and dinner recipes but it depends whether you like more variety or you’re happy eating the same foods on repeat. Eating similar meals day to day takes away some of the decision fatigue of choosing what to eat.

  3. You can also use “component based” recipes like I recommend to my health coaching clients where the base recipe structure is fixed and you vary the different ingredients e.g. porridge with different fruits and spices, stews with different vegetables and beans. This gives you enough variety to not get bored without having to learn loads of new recipes.

  4. Add daily walks into your routine. Walking is an amazing exercise for your overall health and weight loss, don’t underestimate it! Walking gets you outside in the fresh air, get your body moving in a gentle way and helps you relax your mind and de-stress.

  5. Have options for when you don’t have time. Especially have some go to meals that take less than 15 minutes to prepare and some at home workouts you can do in under half an hour (including walking!). You can spend more time on the days you feel like it but having a minimum that feels easy to achieve makes it much more likely that you’ll follow through.

  6. Stack habits together to help you build multiple habits at once. For example, taking a vitamin D supplement with a glass of water first thing in the morning or focusing on mindfulness and meditation when you are walking

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on keeping it simple to reach your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

Other posts you might like

Real health #22 Is perfectionism preventing reaching your health goals?

Today I wanted to talk about perfectionism. It’s day 22 of this 30 day Real Health January series and I am proud of myself for writing and sharing an article every day so far! But today I had a lot to do so I missed my morning writing window. It’s now 9pm and I very nearly didn’t post anything because it is late and I don’t have time to write something as in depth as I usually do. Then I realised that this is perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head and the false belief that I should do everything well or not bother at all. This is definitely a trap that myself and the women I have coached have fallen into on our journeys to better health. The idea that if we can’t follow the a diet perfectly and we don’t have time for the perfect exercise routine then why even try?

The truth is that you don’t have to be perfect to reach your health goals. No matter whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your fitness, balance your hormones or get your period back, it’s what you do majority of the time that counts. For those of you with perfectionistic tendencies, even if 90% of your actions are aligned with your goals you will focus on the 10% that you did “wrong”. This can lead to negative self-talk, beating yourself up, self-sabotaging behaviour and often giving up all together. You can find yourself spinning in circles, constantly starting new diet plans or fitness regimes with the hope that this time it will work. At the start you feel super motivated and follow the program to the letter, but as soon as life starts to get in the way you quickly lose motivation and end up back where you started. Then you feel frustrated because you never see results you are looking for. I don’t mean to criticise, I am saying this from experience!

Perfection and procrastination go hand in hand. Know the feeling of spending weeks researching the perfect way to eat or the specific combination of exercises to achieve your dream body? Often perfectionists can get stuck in this phase, over-thinking and over-analysing to the point of paralysis. What is the anti-dote to this procrastination? It is to just start. Even if you’re not sure it will work, start making healthier choices for yourself. Make some simple changes that feel achievable for you right now and don’t worry about the details. Eat some more vegetables. Move your body more. Spend time relaxing. Try to get to bed early. You don’t have to do everything at once. Be kind and compassionate with yourself and be your own cheerleader. If you eat healthily all week, don’t obsess over the takeaway you had on Saturday night. Focus on the positive changes you have made and give yourself the freedom to “slip-up”. If your healthy habits get in the way of you living your life, they aren’t going to be sustainable long term. Life will always get in the way.

Yes you can enjoy souvlaki and cake and reach your health goals!

And not only can perfectionism prevent you reaching your health goals but it can actually be harmful to your health. Perfectionism has been linked with anxiety and depression as you are constantly comparing yourself to an exceptionally high or even impossible standard and feeling like you don’t measure up. You feel like you are constantly being judged by others as well as by the negative chatter in your head. Living with this harsh inner-critic and feeling like you are never good enough can be totally exhausting! Perfectionism can lead to insomnia, fatigue, stress and burn out just to name a few. Overcoming perfectionism, or at least learning to recognise and manage it is a key step on the road to becoming your healthiest self.

Letting go of perfectionism is something that I really focus on in my health coaching programs. Often women come to be expecting a detailed meal plan setting out exactly what to eat to lose weight or to fix their hormones. But what I aim to do is put you in charge, giving you the resources and a structure then guiding you to listen to your own body and your intuition when it comes to how to eat and move your body. You really don’t have to be perfect, it can be easy and natural to find your ideal, healthy body once you have the basic knowledge and set off in the right direction. I can teach you about the power of certain foods and how to build your plate and set up your day for maximum success but at the end of the day it is you that is in charge. Consistency and compassion for yourself are the keys to success, NOT being perfect.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experience with perfectionism and reaching your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

Other posts you might like

hypothalamic amenorrhea

Real health #20 Why your period is so important for your health

It’s been a while since I talked about my favourite topic.. the menstrual cycle aka your period. Specifically why your period is important for your overall health and the problems associated with not having a regular menstrual cycle. Any guys out there, maybe this isn’t the article for you but feel free to read on and you could just learn something to help the ladies in your life!

We usually think of our menstrual cycle as two phases: bleeding and not bleeding. In reality it is a menstrual cycle with levels of several reproductive hormones shifting throughout the month. The amount of these hormones your body produces is sensitive to stress, including both physical stress from under-eating and over-exercising and mental and emotional stress. When you lose your period because something is off in your lifestyle is it called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). I wrote all about this in a previous post so you can check that out if you are interested in learning more. But here I want to focus on the problems that come with not having your period.

The problems with not having a period

The most obvious reason to have a regular, healthy period is of course your fertility. The whole point of your menstrual cycle is to prepare your body for pregnancy and allow you to have a baby. If you don’t have your period, it’s very unlikely you are going to be able to get pregnant. But what if you have decided you don’t want children or you’ve already had children? It’s still important for you to have your period too! I spent many years believing it was “fine” that I didn’t have my period and it was actually pretty convenient to be honest, not to have to buy tampons, worry about getting pregnant or have my period ruining my plans but once I found out what it means to not have a period and how unhealthy it is for your body I was shocked and I wished I’d been told sooner.

One of the key hormones that drives your menstrual cycle is estrogen. Apart from it’s role in your menstrual cycle, did you know that estrogen also helps to build your bones? When women enter the menopause and stop producing estrogen they start to lose bone mineral density and are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis or brittle bones. Not having a regular period is a sign that your hormone balance is off and estrogen levels could be low. Girls who don’t have their period due to hypothalamic amenorrhea during their teenage years are at risk of developing early onset osteopenia which can lead to osteoporosis if not treated. This might not mean much when you are young but trust me, you want to make sure you are building strong bones while you can! And don’t forget that your if your bones are losing minerals then it’s highly likely that your teeth are suffering too putting you at increased risk of cavities and teeth sensitivity. Who thought that periods and teeth were related??

Another surprising link is between hypothalamic amenorrhea and heart disease. Estrogen has an anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory effect in the body and also acts as a vasodilator meaning it causes your blood vessels to expand and low levels of estrogen have been linked with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Even though most of the research is in post-menopausal women, there have also been studies linking low estrogen levels in younger women with build up of plaque in the arteries and increased risk of heart disease in later life. And yes this is even for those who exercise! You might think you are being super healthy and boosting your cardio-vascular system but if you are exercising excessively and you have lost your period then you are undoing all of that hard work. Another thing I wish I’d known about sooner..

Other problems with hypothalamic amenorrhea

Not only does hypothalamic amenorrhea put you at risk for issues later in life, it can also cause problems in the here and now. Low estrogen can also be the explanation for fatigue, headaches, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression and insomnia just to name a few. And as well as your reproductive hormones, not having your period could be a sign that other things are off in your body. We often think of our body systems acting in isolation but in reality, all of these things are connected and if one falls down it can have a domino effect throughout your body.

Often women with hypothalamic amenorrhea have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol which also has been associated with bone loss as well as anxiety, insomnia and lower thyroid hormones. In hypothalamic amenorrhea, your metabolism is suppressed which could explain symptoms of hypo-thyroidism such as feeling cold all of the time, hair loss and low energy levels. Many women who develop hypothalamic amenorrhea due to restricting their food intake also experience digestive problems like bloating, stomach pain, constipation and food intolerances. If you don’t have your period and you feel like you are constantly struggling with digestive issues, then maybe the two could be related.

What should you do if you’ve lost your period?

So if you have made it to the end of this post, well done and I hope I didn’t scare you too much. If this is you, don’t worry, now you know you can do something about it! First you can read my blog posts about hypothalamic amenorrhea, how to recover and my recovery story. I’d also recommend buying the book No Period Now What by Nicola Rinaldi if you want an in depth explanation of all things hypothalamic amenorrhea related. If you need that final push to commit to getting your period back, definitely buy her book. If you think you have hypothalamic amenorrhea, visit your GP to get your hormone levels checked and Nicola also offers blood test results analysis through her website if you’re unsure. Three steps you can take right now:

  1. Eat more food and let go of any dietary rules and restrictions
  2. Take a break from intense exercise for at least a month
  3. Reduce the stress in your life and add more stress relieving activities

Easier said than done I know, but I believe in you! It’s never too late to recover your period and undo at least some of the damage to your body from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Recovery is challenging but so worth it.

References

Emma O’Donnell, Jack M. Goodman, Paula J. Harvey, Cardiovascular Consequences of Ovarian Disruption: A Focus on Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea in Physically Active Women, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 96, Issue 12, 1 December 2011, Pages 3638–3648, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2011-1223

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article on why it’s important to have your period and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to hear from you.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Shufelt, C. L., Torbati, T., & Dutra, E. (2017). Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and the Long-Term Health Consequences. Seminars in reproductive medicine35(3), 256–262. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0037-1603581

Real health #19 Common nutrient deficiencies and the benefits of eating MORE FOOD

As usual, I want to go against the typical health and fitness industry advice and this time talk about the benefits of eating more food. We are so often told we need to eat less if we want to be fit and healthy but is this really the case? In my opinion, this obsession with eating as little as possible is harmful for your body and your mind. We need to eat plenty of food to survive and thrive as as a fully functioning human being! Even if you are trying to lose weight, it is still important to nourish your body and give it the energy it needs. Maybe I sound like a broken record but I will keep shouting this message as I know it can benefit a lot of you out there. If you have been on the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster, bouncing between restricting your diet to lose weight and overeating on unhealthy foods, then keep reading as I am talking to you!

Now for the science part, if you hate numbers then feel free to skip to the next part. But if you’re a number geek like me, stick with it. I want to explain a bit about energy balance and caloric flux. If you are maintaining your weight on 2000 calories a day, you are taking in 2000 calories in food and burning 2000 calories through your metabolic processes and physical activities. This is known as your caloric flux (see the work of Ari Whitten if you want to learn more about this). If you want to lose weight you need to create an energy deficit by eating less than you burn. If you burn 1800 calories and eat 1500 calories, that’s a 300 calorie deficit. If you burn 2500 calories and eat 2200 calories, that’s still the same 300 calorie deficit but at a higher caloric flux. Make sense?

Whether you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, in my opinion you will feel better if you do it at at a higher caloric flux. Naturally, the amount of calories we burn will depend on factors such as our age, height, gender but there are ways to increase your caloric flux. You can do that either by boosting your metabolic rate or by increasing your activity, not through intense exercise but by moving more often throughout the day. Also just by eating more food you will increase the amount of energy you burn as your body actually uses energy to digest food and assimilate nutrients.

In general, eating more and not worrying about eating too much will reduce your stress levels and help you to feel healthier and happier overall. I’m not talking about aiming for 10,000 calories a day here, but more about getting yourself out of a metabolic hole and maintaining or losing weight on a reasonable, sustainable amount of food for your body where you don’t feel deprived or like you have to constantly restrain yourself in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Caloric intake and nutrients

The main benefit of increasing your food intake is that more calories = more nutrients. This is assuming you are eating mostly nutritious foods of course! Many of us, especially women, have dieted their way down to maintaining their weight on 1800, 1500 or even 1200 calories. Eating so little makes it harder to get in the nutrients you need unless you are very careful about the foods that you eat which doesn’t leave much wriggle room for less nutrient-dense fun foods. The less you eat, the more important nutrient density becomes.

Every food contains macro-nutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) and micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) in varying amounts and our bodies need these nutrients to keep us healthy and our metabolic, digestive, immune and reproductive systems working as they should. Macro-nutrients give us energy to fuel our bodies, amino acids for repair and growth and fats to keep our hormones balanced and to help us absorb the micro-nutrients in the food that we eat. Not taking in enough macro-nutrients can lead to a slowing down of your metabolic rate as your body becomes more efficient at using the energy it is provided with.

Micro-nutrients are essential meaning that we have to take them in through food as our bodies can’t produce them by themselves. What happens when you don’t get the micro-nutrients you need? Nutrient deficiencies can develop over time leading to all sorts of problems from feeling fatigued and run-down to dry skin and slow growing hair and nails. Below I’ve listed some of the most common nutrient that we lack in our diets, some of the signs to watch out for and foods to eat to prevent and overcome deficiencies. This is based on advice from the NHS and British Dietetic Association but you can look up your own government advice if you live outside of the UK.

NutrientSigns of defiencyFoods to eat
Iron– Tiredness and/or insomnia
– Hair loss and pale skin
– Shortness of breath
Kidney beans, black beans, red meat, liver, blackstrap molasses, dried fruits
Calcium– Weak bones and teeth
– Dry skin and hair
– Twitching or muscle cramps
Dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt) or fortified dairy alternatives, sesame seeds (tahini), oily fish
Vitamin D– Weak bones and teeth
– Low immune system
Dairy or fortified dairy alternatives, egg yolks, oily fish, red meat, fortified cereals
Folate– Tiredness or lack of energy
– Muscle weakness
Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards), broccoli, brussels sprouts, chickpeas, kidney beans
Iodine– Tiredness or lack of energy
– Muscle weakness
– Hypothyroidism
Dairy, most types of seafood and fish, sea vegetables, nori, iodized salt
Magnesium– Muscle cramps
– Constipation
– Insomnia and fatigue
Whole grains, nuts, leafy greens, dark chocolate or cacao, black beans, avocado
Omega-3 fatty acids– Poor memory and depression
– Slow growth of skin, hair, nails
Oily fish, hemp seeds, flax seeds or flax seed oil, eggs, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds

A lot of these symptoms are pretty vague and can creep up over time so you might not even realise until something extreme happens to catch your attention like a broken tooth or patches of hair falling out. Prevention is always better than cure! If you are reading the list and feel like you have multiple of the symptoms mentioned, you can always contact your doctor to get your nutrient levels checked if you are unsure. Depending on the severity of the deficiency, you might need supplements to help boost your levels alongside eating the foods listed above.

How to eat more food and maintain your weight

So how do you go about eating more food and getting in the nutrients you need? You can either go “all in” and ramp up your calories suddenly or you can take a more gentle reverse dieting approach by gradually increasing the amount you eat each week until you reach a sustainable amount for your body. If you aren’t exercising at all, start to gradually increase the amount you move your body. Try going for a walk every day and build it up from there. Even day to day tasks like laundry and washing the dishes help to get in that body movement which will increase the amount of calories you burn so that you can eat more food and maintain your weight. No need to obsess over it or track anything, just try to become more aware of how often you move your body throughout the day.

Reverse dieting can help to minimise weight gain as your body has more time to adjust your metabolic rate to the increased calories but it takes longer and it relies on you tracking your food or eating similar meals day to day. If you are afraid of weight gain, know that you probably won’t gain as much weight as you think you will. Especially if you eat more of the nutrient dense foods listed above, you will likely feel better and your body will thank you for it. And if and when you decide you want to lose weight, you will be at a much healthier starting point which will make the process a whole lot easier! If you are interested about learning more about what to eat or how to reverse diet, let me know in the comments below and I can write a future post on that topic.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #18 Masculine vs. feminine energy a balanced approach to weight loss

Think about the last time you tried to lose weight? Did you have a structured meal plan, count calories or track macros? Did you think that carbs were the devil or “the fat you eat is the fat you wear”? Did you stick to a regimented workout plan from a coach or personal trainer and never miss a day no matter how tired you were? Did you have an expectation to lose Xlbs in 12 weeks and feel disappointed with anything less than that? How did these strategies work for you? My guess is if you’re reading this article it probably didn’t work out so well!

The thing that these strategies have in common is that they are all a masculine energy approach to weight loss. Masculine energy is great, we all need a dose of it in our lives. It is logical and rational, it gives us structure and helps to build discipline. All excellent things! The problem with masculine energy approach to weight loss though is that it forces us into this micro-managing mindset where we believe that controlling every aspect of our lifestyle will get us the results that we want. All that calculating and measuring is tiresome and you need a lot of motivation and will power to keep it up long term. Not only that but our bodies hate to be restricted and deprived and it won’t be long before they fight back with increased hunger and cravings. This is why most diets fail and you end up gaining the weight back, plus some.

So if these are masculine energy approaches, what does a feminine energy approach to weight loss look like? Feminine energy is that flowing, surrendering quality that brings beauty and mystery into our lives. When it comes to weight loss, a feminine approach is much more intuitive. Rather than relying on external factors to determine how much to eat and how to move your body, you turn inwards and listen to your own body, learning to work with it rather than against it. No more rules or restrictions but instead a flexible approach that is adapted to your needs and preferences. Rather than being your own bootcamp trainer you take on a caring, nurturing approach, having compassion and acceptance for yourself rather than criticism and shaming. Understanding that health is about more than just weight loss and being open to seeing all of the holistic improvements in your health rather than being focused only on the number on the scale.

So how can you start to implement a feminine energy approach to weight loss?

Feminine energy approach to diet

  • Intuitive eating is the foundation of the feminine energy approach to weight loss. Learning to tune into your hunger and fullness cues is key! Trusting yourself to know when you are physically hungry and allowing yourself to eat until you feel fully satiated rather than stopping because you should or because you have eaten your allotted calories for the day.
  • Tuning into your cravings and understanding what your body is trying to tell you. We have cravings for a reason, whether it is a physical or an emotional need. Choosing the right foods and the way you build your plate plays a big role in how satiated you feel – something I dive into with my health coaching clients.
  • Understanding that you are human, not a robot! Developing understanding of why you act the way you do and not expecting perfection. Always plan for failure and have a plan B so that you don’t panic and completely give up when you can’t prepare your meals yourself. You want a weight loss plan that fits in with your life so that you don’t have to worry about social situations, events, travelling etc.

Feminine energy approach to movement

  • Make movement a part of your daily life rather than separating out your “workouts”. We are designed to be active and we feel good when we move. The active couch potato model of sitting down all day then going hard-core with high intensity exercise for an hour is not aligned with how our bodies work and can cause excess stress and even weight gain long term.
  • Move your body in ways that you genuinely enjoy rather than forcing yourself to do something for the results. Some of my favourites are walking, dancing and yoga but you can try anything that is fun for you. See exercise as a pleasure and a way to connect with and enjoy being in your body, remember that it’s the only one you’ll get so you might as well make the most of it.
  • Listen to your energy levels and be flexible with your routine. Skipping a day of exercise is not going to harm your weight loss efforts and might actually be just what you need. Pushing yourself to the extreme is a recipe for burn out, hormonal imbalance and even weight gain as it is a physical stress on your body even if it does feel good in the moment. Rest and relaxation is a necessary part of weight loss too and might actually improve your results.

Feminine energy approach to mindset

  • Start with a 30-60 minute morning routine every day. Set yourself up for a positive day by connecting with your body and setting your intentions first thing. Ask yourself what you need to let go of and what you need to support your energy levels for the day ahead.
  • Keep a journal of the changes you are making and how they make you feel. Do more of the things that make you feel energised and happy and less of those which cause tension in your mind and body. You want weight loss to feel as easy and natural as possible so that it is sustainable long term. If a habit feels obsessive or restrictive, ask yourself how you could do things differently.
  • For the ladies, track your menstrual cycle and start to sync your lifestyle to your natural rhythms. Our hunger levels, energy levels and performance change from week to week. Learning to ride this wave will stop the pattern of falling off the wagon every month when “shark week” comes around. This is another thing I dive deeper into with my health coaching clients!

And above all, remember that all bodies are different and focus on YOUR PROGRESS rather than comparing to others. A huge part of feminine energy is surrender and acceptance of what is. Building healthy habits so you can look and feel like the best version of yourself but knowing when to stop pushing and how to find your balance.

Over to you…

So those are my tips on how to adopt a feminine energy approach to weight loss. I hope you found it interesting and have some ideas to implement yourself. Let me know your thoughts and experiences below.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on your health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.
the problem with fitspo

Real health #16 The problem with fitspo and fitness influencers

I actually wrote this post about 5 years ago for my first ever blog site! This was before fitness influencers were a huge thing, or at least they weren’t really on my radar, but I think it is more relevant than ever today. I’ve updated it a little but the core message is still the same. Enjoy!

This morning a friend posted this image on Facebook..

fitspo

I know she had the best intentions behind the post but it really got me thinking about the “fitspo” trend, fitness influencers and their effects on viewers’ body image.  The Urban Dictionary definition of the word fitspo is:

“Images of active, strong, and fit women that promote proper exercise and diet. May also include images healthy foods. Much like thinspo (images of dangerously thin women used by people with eating disorders to motivate) but healthier.”

From the definition it sounds like a great thing. Replacing the horrible trend of “thinspo” and encouraging women to be healthy and active.. both of those things get a great big TICK from me. However, what can’t be escaped is the fact that images like this still encourage women to focus on their body shape and size. They still provide a body ideal, a goal for women to aim for. They still encourage women to base their self-worth on their appearance and attach morality to food and exercise. And this results in the same feelings of unworthiness and disappointment for those women who don’t follow the rules and don’t look like the picture-perfect Instagram fitness models.

The image above does an amazing job at showing us that the number on the scale is, well only that really. A number. The point here is that body weight and BMI are pretty meaningless and bodies of the same weight can have completely different body shape and composition. That’s all well and good, but what does the image imply? That we should be focusing on getting lean and toned instead of skinny? That it’s much better to be heavier and look like the photo on the right? Yes it may be successful in shifting the focus away from the scale and obsessing over how much you weigh but to what… the way your body looks in the mirror or a photo?

Lots of women (myself in the past included) have fallen into the trap of shifting their health and fitness goals from trying to weigh as little as possible to eating clean and looking lean and muscular. Maybe it’s getting abs or building a booty. But what the fitspo images like the one above don’t show is how the woman is feeling in each photo and what her life really looks like. What kind of behaviours is she engaging in to maintain her body? What is her overall health like? How are her relationships and social life? Is she following her passions or is she spending every waking minute obsessing over eating healthy food, exercising and comparing her body to others online?

There could be a whole range of things going on behind the scenes. We often assume that just because someone looks “normal” that they are not suffering and this is not always the case. Disordered eating can take on so many shapes and sizes. Bulimia and exercise bulimia, orthorexia, food fears, laxative abuse, binge eating, compulsive exercise. All of these can often go unnoticed as people can maintain a normal BMI and not end up looking like the skeletal eating disorder stereotype. I am not saying by any means that the girl in the photos is suffering from any of these issues but what I am trying to say is not to take photos like this at face value. Images mean nothing unless we know the full story behind them.

For me personally, looking extremely lean and fit came at a great cost. I did all of the healthy things. I worked out daily. I ate clean. I drank plenty of water. But I didn’t feel good and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t healthy. My periods were totally absent. I started to wake up in the early hours of the morning for no reason. I felt fatigued all of the time and had to rely on more and more caffeine to get through the day. I know not everybody will have the same experience but I am sure I am not the only one. It took a lot of effort to unlearn all of the so-called healthy habits I had developed and get back to focusing on feeling good. Finally after going back to university to study public health nutrition, diving into my yoga practice and becoming a qualified teacher I found a balance where I could feel good and maintain a slim, healthy body without taking it to the extreme or letting it take over my life.

For those of us in the health and fitness world, food and exercise and shaping our body can easily become the focus of our life. Yes it is fun to experiment with food and of course moving your body feels great. But it doesn’t have to be your sole purpose. It is very easy to get caught up in the social media bubble and forget that there is an outside world. Real life connections and meaningful relationships where you can be yourself can do so much more for your health and wellbeing than following some online fitness guru and feeling connected to others by the restraints of whatever lifestyle they preach. My point in this article is to let you know that you don’t need to idolize anyone and your body is perfect whether you feel more like the “before” photo or the “after”. Remember to focus on the things that keep you feeling happy and healthy above all!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article from 5 years ago Amy. I would say my opinions haven’t changed much since then. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on fitspo and fitness influencers, do you find watching them uplifting and motivating or does it make you feel bad about yourself and like you need to change?

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on your health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #12 Signs of a low metabolic rate and how to speed up your metabolism

People always talk about metabolism but what does it actually mean?! Your metabolism is all of the processes which go on inside your body to keep you alive and functioning as a human. This includes digesting the food you eat into macro and micro-nutrients as well as using these nutrients to generate energy in your cells. So what does it mean to have a slow metabolism? In reality, your metabolism can’t be fast or slow, it just is what it is. Actually what people mean when they say this is that their metabolic rate is low. To “speed up your metabolism” you want to increase your metabolic rate.

Your metabolic rate is the rate is how quickly you burn energy to fuel all of these processes. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you burn at total rest and your total energy expenditure (TEE) is your BMR plus the energy you burn through daily activity, exercise and digesting foods. If you have a “slow metabolism”, your BMR is lower than optimal meaning that your body is in energy conserving mode and burning less calories at rest than it usually would. Slowing down your metabolic rate is actually a survival mechanism as it makes your body more efficient and able to keep functioning when less food is available. However, it isn’t the most enjoyable state to live in! A low metabolism affects the way your body functions and can prevent you from thriving and feeling your best.

Sometimes a low metabolic rate can be caused by being underweight, especially if you take extreme measures to get there. But if you are trying to lose weight to get into the healthy range, you want your BMR to be as high as possible so that you can lose weight whilst still eating plenty of food and getting all of the nutrients you need. It’s much easier to lose weight if you are maintaining your weight at 2000 calories compared to 1500 calories as you have that bit more wriggle room. And when your body is in a low metabolic state, it wants to hold onto it’s fat reserves to keep you safe. So if you feel like you’re doing everything right and the scales aren’t budging, a slow metabolism could be to blame. Read on to find out some of the signs of a low metabolic rate and tips for how to increase your metabolism.

Signs of a slow metabolism or metabolic rate

  • Feeling cold, especially in your hands and feet
  • Low energy, fatigue or lethargy
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Dry, cracked skin and lips
  • Digestive issues e.g. bloating, gastroparesis
  • Thin hair or hair falling out more than usual
  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Hormonal imbalance, irregular period, no period
  • Low sex drive
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating or lack of clarity
  • Getting sick often
  • Feeling weak and/or stiff

Yes all of these things can be related to a low metabolism.. crazy I know. Of course there are other causes for these symptoms so you should always get checked out by your doctor, but if you have ruled out anything else then maybe a low metabolic rate is to blame. When I experienced this, I felt like my body was shutting down and it was terrifying. My sleep was terrible, I felt like a zombie all day, my digestion was a mess and my hair became brittle and thin. I had no menstrual cycle at all and zero sex drive either. Not much fun. I didn’t realise at the time just how many of my problems were related to the fact that my metabolism had tanked and once I followed a protocol to speed it up my symptoms gradually went away!


How to speed up your metabolism

I want to start by saying that we are all born with a different genetic rate, some people naturally have a “fast metabolism” and others tend to hold onto weight more easily. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I am talking about when your metabolic rate is slowed down and you experience any or all of the symptoms above. If your metabolism is low you might just not feel like yourself, like your energy has been zapped and you’ve lost your natural vibrance. There are many potential reasons for a slow metabolism, but here I am going to focus on one that we can do something about: stress. This can be physical stress due to calorie restriction or over-exercise or psychological stress. Any of these can put your body into a state of survival mode and cause your metabolism to slow down. The way out and to speed up your metabolism is to help your body feel safe and relaxed again. How can you do this? Try out the protocol below for a month and see how your body responds…

  1. Diet
    Even if your goal is to lose weight, if you think you have a slow metabolism, I’d suggest you focus first on getting your metabolism healthy. Fixing this first will make it much easier to lose weight down the line and keep it off. If you are on a restricted diet, take a break. Stop counting calories or macros. Stop weighing your food. Don’t restrict any food groups, eat plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Focus on mainly whole foods but don’t stress out about eating some processed foods too. Basically you want to flood your body with energy and nutrients so that it feels a state of abundance. You can include meat and fish but you can also do this on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Go for energy dense foods such as bread, potatoes, dairy, chocolate, nut butters. Focus less on high water, high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry this is only for the short term! Allow yourself to eat till you feel fully satisfied but don’t stuff yourself when you aren’t hungry. Listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs.

  2. Exercise
    If you are currently following an intense exercise regime, please give yourself permission to take some time off. It might seem counter-intuitive to stop exercising to speed up your metabolism and yes you do burn calories through exercising. But exercise, especially chronic cardio can actually decrease your BMR and make your body more efficient at using calories. To speed up your metabolism you want to increase the amount of energy you burn at rest. Especially if you have been doing endurance exercise or high intensity interval training, let your body heal any underlying injuries and relax any built up tension. This is even more important if you are feeling chronically stiff and sore as it is a sign your body is feeling stressed and overloaded. Keep moving your body but try walking and gentle yoga or any other easy going activity that you like instead. Have fun and let go of any pressure to perform, burn calories or change your body. As your metabolism starts to improve and you feel better, you can add in some resistance training to build muscle which will help to boost your metabolic rate even further.

    Remember that this isn’t forever.. this is a protocol for helping your body to heal itself and your metabolism to recover. As you start to feel better and have more energy you can start to switch things up, maybe with the foods you eat or by adding in more exercise. But let this process be guided by your body rather than your mind.

  3. Relaxation
    This is a big one! If you are feeling stressed, anxious and on edge your metabolism is highly likely to suffer. Stress alone can be enough to prevent you from losing weight, so if you feel like you have tried everything and nothing works, take a look at your stress levels and you might understand. Identify the major stressors in your life and figure out a plan, maybe with a coach or therapist, for how you can reduce your stress from these things. If you are stressed about losing weight or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself why? Purge your social media of any accounts that make you feel down on yourself and replace them with interesting or uplifting things instead. Try to bring more relaxing activities into your day whether that is meditation, deep breathing, creative projects, reading, playing with your pets.. anything that helps you to get into a calm and relaxed state. Making relaxation a priority part of your every day self-care routine is a key step to getting your metabolism functioning optimally.

  4. Sleep
    This goes hand in hand with relaxation. There have been so many studies showing the impact of lack of sleep on the metabolism. Poor quality sleep is a stress on your body and can cause your cortisol levels to spike, putting your body into that energy conserving mode and making you more likely to gain weight. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to changes in blood sugar control and release of the hormones that regulate appetite. Ever noticed that you crave more sweets and caffeine after a bad night’s sleep?! To speed up your metabolism, make sure you are getting as much sleep as you need to feel refreshed and energised. If you are struggling with sleep, try out my tips on dealing with sleep disturbances, especially taking care of your sleeping environment and having a solid evening routine to help you to relax and wind down. If you have chronic insomnia and signs of a low metabolism, focus on the tips here and you might just find your sleep improves naturally along with your metabolism.

How to know your metabolism has increased

Keep track of how you are feeling throughout this process. Look out for changes in your energy levels, sleep and motivation for life. Notice if you are feeling warmer and more relaxed, maybe your hormones and hunger levels become more balanced. Celebrate any small wins you observe and don’t worry if you gain a bit of weight along the way. You are in this for the long haul and setting your body up for future health and success. Enjoy the process as much as you can and take the chance to focus on other areas of your life outside of health and fitness. Pay attention to the signs from your body and when it tells you it is ready to start exercising again or to eat lighter foods, you can start to make gradual changes but remember to always let your body lead the way.

Over you to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post on signs of a low metabolic rate and how to speed up your metabolism. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #11 Should you try the keto diet for weight loss?

As a public health nutritionist, I like to keep track of current trends in the dieting world and wow 2020 was the year of the keto diet! On average there are a million internet searches a month for the phrase “keto diet” and Youtube health and fitness world is full of people sharing their success stories of dropping 10lbs in a week, curing diabetes and overcoming binge eating on a keto diet. You might be wondering whether you should try the keto diet for weight loss. In this article I want to explain a bit about the keto diet, how it works for weight loss and some of the potential risks so that you can make your own mind up.

For anyone not familiar, a keto diet is a high fat, very low carbohydrate diet meaning that grains, potatoes, beans, most fruits and some legumes are off limits. The maximum recommended carbohydrate intake is usually between 20g and 50g per day, sometimes less in the beginning. If you ate this amount of carbohydrates from bread and pasta it wouldn’t add up to much! So generally these carbohydrates come from non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, peppers and courgettes as shown in the plates below by the Diet Doctor.

The majority of your energy intake on a keto diet is from fat, usually 75% of calories come from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbohydrates. Fat sources are often animal products such as meat, eggs, lard, fish and dairy but there is also the magical unicorn “vegan keto” which only includes plant-based sources such as oils, nuts and seeds. The difference between the Atkins diet and the keto diet is that Atkins diet focuses on the low carb aspect and doesn’t set any limits for protein, whereas keto emphasizes the importance of consuming only a moderate amount of protein. This means that you can’t just eat bacon and cheese all day on the keto diet as they have too much protein!

How does the keto diet work for weight loss?

The keto diet works by putting you into the metabolic state of ketosis. Your body has this back-up mechanism for generating energy when carbohydrates are unavailable, for example during periods of fasting or famine, extended intense exercise or a low-carbohydrate diet. In ketosis, your liver produces ketone bodies from fatty acids which are then transported to your cells to be used in place of glucose for energy. The theory is that adapting your body to run on fat rather than carbohydrates allows your body to turn more easily to it’s own fat stores for energy rather than sending out signals for you to consume more carbohydrates every time your blood sugar drops.

Once you are off the blood sugar rollercoaster, you no longer experience the dips which cause you to experience hunger and cravings. Those who follow the keto diet claim that their hunger levels are significantly reduced and they can go much longer periods of time without feeling hungry. On the keto diet, you have the majority of your calorie intake coming from fat. Even though fat is more energy dense having more than twice the calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins, it also which triggers release of satiety hormones which make you feel full. This helps some people to feel satisfied on much less food than they usually would, especially when fats are combined with low calorie vegetables which provide fiber and water.

By excluding carbohydrates, the keto diet also completely cuts out many energy dense processed foods such as chocolate, soda, sweets, cakes and other baked goods. For some people with more black and white thinking, eliminating these foods altogether is easier than trying to eat them in moderation and it makes decisions about what to eat more simple. Over time on the keto diet, your taste buds can adjust so that you no longer have cravings for these foods, great if you are trying to beat a sugar addiction! Of course there are energy dense snack foods on the keto diet too, especially nuts and seeds, but generally these are harder to over eat because they are so filling.

keto diet foods to avoid
Another useful infographic from the Diet Doctor!

What are the downsides of the keto diet?

Even though the keto diet works for weight loss short term, I’m not convinced that it is sustainable long term. Firstly, it’s complicated! Some people test their urine using ketone-strips or test their blood ketone level to check whether they are in ketosis which can be pretty invasive. At least in the beginning you have to learn the carbohydrate content of different foods and have some way of tracking what you eat to make sure that you are below the recommended 20-50g of carbohydrates per day. I’m sure that over time this gets easier, especially if you eat similar foods day to day, but it still needs some attention and certainly isn’t for everyone. The world isn’t exactly keto-friendly either and finding options to eat when out socialising with friends and at family or work events could be a challenge.

Even if you decide that the complexity is worth it, the risk with any diet that cuts out whole food groups is that your food choices are limited which puts you at a greater risk for nutritional deficiencies. Of course, a well-planned keto diet which includes a variety of vegetables, animal and plant fats can be nutritionally adequate but I’m not sure that every person following this diet is going to do their research and pay enough attention to their diet to make sure they are getting everything they need. Short term in a healthy person this is unlikely to be a problem but when someone attempts the keto diet after a long line of other failed diets, they may already have depleted nutrient stores and could run into problems down the line. Restrictive diets also put you at a greater risk for binge eating and rebound weight gain.

Another risk of the keto diet is that your appetite might be reduced to the point where your don’t eat enough. You might laugh at this one, especially if you think your problem is eating too much, but when you are removing so many types of foods from your diet it can be easy to accidentally under eat. the problem with extremely calorie restricted diets is that can be very stressful for your body. I wrote above why calorie restricted diets don’t work in a previous post so you can check that out for more information but in short, when your body perceives a large energy deficit, it starts to freak out and tries anything it can to reduce your energy output and maintain balance. This is commonly known as starvation mode and can lead to low energy levels, fatigue, slow growth and repair, and hormonal issues.

keto diet fatigue keto flu
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

On the other hand, many people report feeling high energy when they start out on the keto diet. This might seem like a positive but it can be a sign that your body is releasing stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline as it struggles to adjust to the extreme change in diet. Cortisol is normally released by your body during low blood sugar events to trigger release of stored glucose from your muscles into your blood stream and this can be more intense as your body adapts to ketosis. Reports of hair loss, sleep issues and menstrual disturbance in women who attempt the keto diet can be because it is just too stressful for the body. Again, a generally healthy person may be able to handle this adjustment period but someone who is already under a lot of pressure and stress might want to think twice about whether the keto diet is for them.

Finally, there is the risk of medical complications with the keto diet. Removing carbohydrates affects the water and electrolyte balance in your body and can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure and kidney problems. The “keto-flu” is common as the body transitions into ketosis and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, bad breath and low energy. The keto diet was originally developed to cure epilepsy and was carried out under medical supervision. It is now being widely promoted as a weight loss diet but the long term impacts of the diet on the body are not fully understood. If you decide to try out the keto diet, you should know you are putting your body in an extreme state and effectively conducting a science experiment on yourself!

So should I try the keto diet to lose weight? And how can I reduce the risks?

It’s not for me to say whether you should try the keto diet for weight loss or not. It isn’t something I would try myself or recommend to my health coaching clients but there are definitely people who have had success with it. I would always ask the question of whether you need to put your body through such extremes or whether there is an easier way. But with that being said, if you do decide to try it out I’d suggest the following to reduce the risk and make the transition smoother:

  1. Always speak to your doctor before you start out. Check that you have no pre-existing medical conditions or nutrient deficiencies that could be made worse by the keto diet.

  2. Do your research. Don’t just dive into the keto diet but take some time to research what to eat to get the nutrients you need as well as other precautions to take or supplements you might need.

  3. Transition slowly. Rather than going from a standard omnivore diet straight into keto, try gradually decreasing your carb intake over time to give your body chance to adjust.

  4. Stay aware of your physical and mental health. If you feel like you are suffering in any way, don’t be afraid to “fail” the diet. The keto diet is definitely not for everyone and it is ok if it doesn’t work for you.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post on the keto diet and the blog series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on the keto diet and your experience if you’ve tried it.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #9 How to enjoy exercise and healthy eating and make getting healthy fun

A quick, lazy post today as it’s Saturday and we have been out all day enjoying nature, it’s getting late and I am tired and hungry. We drove down to Saronida this afternoon and went for a walk on the beach even though it was pretty cloudy and windy but we just needed to get out of Athens and get some fresh air. This lockdown has been loooong and even though we managed to get out for a hike and to see some friends over Christmas it is really starting to drag now and there’s still no end in sight.

Anyway, I thought that today is as good a day as any to remind you to have fun as you work towards your health and weight loss goals, in case you forgot! Wherever you are on your health journey, whether you are just starting out changing your lifestyle or you have been focusing on health and fitness for years, don’t forget that the purpose of improving your health is to enjoy your life more. Getting healthy really doesn’t have to be a chore. If you hate your diet and your workout routine feels like hell, try something different. If you hate yoga and meditation, you have to don’t do it! There isn’t one road to health so experiment and find what works for you.

I used to believe that controlling everything from restricting the foods on my plate to sticking to the same, high intensity workout regime was what I needed to do if I wanted to reach my health goals. I never really thought about whether I actually enjoyed it or not it was just something I had to endure. Nowadays my approach is definitely more fun! I practice yoga because I love it. I dance because I love it. And I eat in a way that I genuinely enjoy. If I’m not enjoying something and my body is sending me a hell no signal, I listen rather than push through it. Of course I still challenge myself.. right now me and my boyfriend are working up to running 5km in 30 minutes (well I am as it’s already easy for him) but if we had planned a run and I am feeling exhausted on the day, I won’t feel like a failure if I skip it.

I always recommend to focus on building healthy, sustainable habits that you enjoy rather than a quick fix to lose weight where you also lose your sanity. Even if your goal is to lose weight, focus on health first and your body will find it’s happy place but focus on weight loss alone and you just might lose health in the process. Remember that health doesn’t always equal weight loss. On that note, here are a few of my tips on how to enjoy eating healthy food and how to make fitness fun..

How to enjoy eating healthy food

  • Get creative and take the effort to make your plate look pretty, even if you’re eating alone
  • Have plenty of variety in your diet (unless you’re the type of person who genuinely loves eating the same things on repeat)
  • Try out a new food or recipe at least once a week, more if you have the time and the energy
  • Get your family involved and share your healthy meals with them so that you don’t feel left out
  • Don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself of all treats, remember the 80:20 rule!
  • Remind yourself that your taste buds adjust over time and you will genuinely start to crave healthy foods

Fun ways to improve your fitness

  • Try out a dance class, learn salsa, street dance or ballet
  • Experiment with gymnastics, acro-yoga or rock climbing
  • Get fit with friends, join a running group, cycling club or try out group exercise classes (as long as you can social distance)
  • Mix things up, if you normally exercise in the gym then get outdoors or vice versa
  • Listen to music or a fun podcast as you walk
  • Try out a yoga or fitness challenge at home to keep you motivated

And finally, remember that even though things might feel difficult and impossible to enjoy at the beginning, it does get easier! Once you start to eat healthier foods on a regular basis, your taste buds will change over time to the point where you actually enjoy and even crave them. As you improve your fitness you will start to enjoy moving your body more and more. Keep things simple, have fun and be kind to yourself.

Your challenge for today is to reflect on your own “health regime” and ask yourself whether you genuinely enjoy the things you are doing. If not, how could you make it more fun?

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on how to enjoy exercise and healthy eating and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on how to have fun on your journey to health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #8 Benefits of yoga for health and how to start a home yoga practice

The benefits of yoga for health are endless! Of course, as a yoga teacher I am pretty biased but I honestly think that starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. In this article I want to share the top benefits of yoga for health that I have experienced over the last 10 years of practicing yoga.

Benefits of yoga on the body

The practice of yoga has so many health benefits for people of all ages. A daily yoga practice, even if it is just 10 minutes, is a great way to get your body moving, get your blood flowing, loosen up your joints, improve your flexibility and strength. Physical health benefits of yoga include:

  • Better cardio-vascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. Like any other type of exercise that gets your body moving, the health benefits of yoga include improved cardio-vascular fitness. Unlike many other types of exercise, yoga is low intensity and not stressful on the joints so it is a great way for those new to exercise to start out. Vinyasa and other types of “flow” yoga can be especially good for improving your fitness.

  • Lowered blood pressure. Practicing yoga regular can help to lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are certain yoga postures which specifically help to lower blood pressure including standing forward fold, downward facing dog and legs up the wall pose. Practicing yoga daily along with a healthy diet can lead to huge improvement in your blood pressure readings.

  • Reduced muscular tension from prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Now more than ever we are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and phones. Especially with COVID19 restrictions, many of us are working from home and sitting for long periods of time. Yoga helps to counter-balance habitual tension in the neck, shoulders and hips creating a sense of ease and wellbeing in your body.

  • Improved flexibility, balance and joint health. One of the most well-known benefits of yoga for physical health is improved flexibility. Remember you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga but practicing yoga will help to improve your flexibility! Yoga practice improves mobility in all of the main joints in the body including the spine, knees, hips and wrists, helping you to stay fit and mobile as you get older and improving your quality of life.

  • Stronger, more toned muscles. Many fitness enthusiasts see yoga as “not challenging enough” but then you get them on the mat and watch them struggle! A yoga practice can be a full body workout where you are challenging and all of your muscles in a holistic, functional way. Of course, the intensity of a physical yoga practice varies a lot but practicing yoga can definitely be a great way to strengthen and tone your upper body, core thighs and glutes.

  • Improved sleep quality. Yoga helps to calm and relax both the body and mind which can help you to get a better nights sleep. Practicing yoga in the morning helps you to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day and sleep more soundly at night. a gentle bedtime yoga practice is also an excellent way to wind down, let go of the stress of the day and prepare your body for sleep. Better sleep has all sorts of health benefits including better blood sugar control, improved energy levels and lowered inflammation.

Benefits of yoga on mental health

As well as the physical health benefits of yoga, there are also many mental health benefits of yoga. In today’s busy world, most of us feel some level of pressure, tension and stress on a daily basis and cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are also on the rise. The benefits of yoga for mental health include:

  • Reduced anxiety and stress levels. Getting yourself onto your yoga mat to take some time for yourself and close out the outside world is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Unfortunately life will happen and no matter how we try to reduce the external stressors in our life the past pace and pressures of modern society will always cause us some level of stress but practicing yoga helps to reduce this stress and the anxiety that going with it.

  • Improved nervous system health. Because of the high levels of stress, adrenal fatigue and burn out are becoming more and more common. If you have a stressful job or busy family life, drink a lot of caffeine or spend excessive time on the internet or social media it’s highly likely that your nervous system could do with some attention. Yoga practice, especially breathwork and meditation but also physical asana practice is a great way to nurture your adrenals, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and and strengthen your capacity to deal with the stress of daily life.

  • Feelings of calm and wellbeing. Regular yoga practice helps you to tune into your body, notice habitual patterns of tension and gripping and learn to let go into deep states of relaxation. Often we hold on tightly to life, feeling like we need to control every little thing but yoga invites us to surrender to the flow and accept what is, creating a sense of peace and wellbeing in your body and mind

  • Improved self-awareness. I wrote an article on yoga and self-awareness recently but I think improving self-awareness is a key benefit of yoga for mental health. Yoga helps you to listen to your thoughts and feeling and over time to become aware of patterns that may be hurting you or holding you back in life. Through practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to rewire these patterns, changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you approach life.

  • Greater connection with others. Yoga classes have been an amazing sense of community for me over the years. From the huge gym classes I took when I started out my practice to the intimate group in my teacher trainings, I have always found yoga to be a gateway to deep connection with others. I’m not sure if it’s because people who are more emotionally open and vulnerable are drawn to yoga or whether it is yoga that cracks people wide open but either way, I’ve always found this sense of connection and community amongst yogis. For those interested in embarking on a spiritual path, yoga is also a great way to connect with your surroundings, higher self and something greater.

How to start a home yoga practice

I started practicing yoga by going to face to face classes and I always recommend this as the best route for beginner yogis. But a home yoga practice is a great way to complement teacher led classes and deepen your practice. The way that I started my home yoga practice and still continue to learn more about yoga is through reading yoga books. You can find books on the foundations of yoga, yoga philosophy and history, yoga anatomy and physiology and meditation and pranayama (breathwork). Some of my favourite yoga book recommendations are:

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
Yoga for Women by Bobby Clennell
Light on Life/Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Thrive through Yoga: A 21 day journey by Nicola Jane Hobbs

These yoga books will give you different perspectives and techniques and highlight the health benefits of yoga. They will talk you through the basics of connecting with your breath, quietening your mind and learning the alignment of the asana which will form the foundation of your home yoga practice.

Also with the internet and social media it is now easier than ever to find information and learn how to do things at home. There are endless yoga tutorials on Youtube from beginners foundation classes to crazy advanced ashtanga sequences. Whatever level you are at, you can find an online class to suit you. Some of my favourite online yoga teachers are Yoga with Adriene, Yoga Upload, The Mindful Movement and Cat Meffan. You can check out my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga as I am planning to upload more guided yoga classes this year!

I am also offering 3 online yoga classes a week during the COVID19 pandemic.

Yoga for Absolute Beginners – Tuesday 1pm UK/3pm Greece

Yoga for Beginners/Intermediate – Thursday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

Yoga for Women – Sunday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

You can find out more information and sign up for classes here.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on the health benefits of yoga and how your yoga practice has affected your physical and mental health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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