Wellbeing

Join LIFE Fit’s Wellbeing Blog, exploring the journey to better mental and emotional health

Our 5 Top Tips on How to Stay Focused: Weightloss, Fitness & Having a Great Festive Season

We all know that December brings Christmas parties, family gatherings, drinks and get-togethers with friends. Not to mention a kitchen-full of tempting Christmas goodies just waiting to be picked at as you kick back on the couch with a festive film. 

It’s a wonderful time for having fun and catching up with friends and family but unfortunately, it’s usually not the best time for those of you working towards a fitness goal and especially difficult for those of you aiming to drop some body fat.

It is easy to trick yourself into believing that second mince pie won’t make a difference and that third helping of Christmas cake won’t really have an impact on your goals. The problem is, eating in this way every day over a period of two, three or maybe even four weeks will most definitely go against your efforts in losing body fat. Especially when accompanied by alcohol, reduced physical activity and a broken sleep pattern.

It is also very easy to make promises to yourself. While you might think you’ll lose those festive pounds as soon as Christmas is over, it doesn’t always happen that easily for the most. Telling yourself that you will revert to wholesome foods straight after Christmas and start training every day as soon as January arrives, is not often followed through. This false sense of comfort that feels so real at the time, is enough to give you the false confidence to believe that what you are doing will not hinder you. However, many people never go on to lose their Christmas weight gain and even for those who do, it can be a slow, frustrating journey back that takes goal setting and planning.

The good news is that staying healthy over Christmas is possible and you are able to avoid gaining excess weight and still enjoy the holiday season, so you can start the new year feeling great

The problem with letting go of all your efforts and self-care over the Christmas weeks doesn’t simply stop with excess body weight. The reduced physical activity, increase in calories, higher levels of alcohol intake and less sleep all have a huge impact on our state of mind and many people experience a downward turn in their mental health post-Christmas. The festive party season often leaves people feeling exhausted, overweight and unmotivated. This can be avoided and for your own physical, mental and emotional health, it is well-worth remaining mindful of how much you eat and how much you exercise over the Christmas period. Perhaps that extra festive cocktail and ‘must-have’ chocolate can wait for another day after-all?

Here are our top five tips to help you have fun at Christmas without hampering your body goals and jeopardising your mental state.

 

1. Accept that not every occasion is a ‘special occasion’ that requires a ‘special indulgence‘

Friday is not a special occasion. Neither is Saturday and Sunday is not simply the ‘recovery’ day. Much the same, not every day in December is Christmas day.

We all like to treat ourselves and it is very important to do so but where does it say that to treat ourselves is to indulge in something that will knowingly do us harm and result in us feeling bad about ourselves.

Try to find something that you enjoy doing over the festive period that you do not get the time to do ordinarily and that does not involve food or alcohol.

It is hard to avoid that December is typically party season and for many this does mean a series of events surrounded by indulgent foods and festive drinks. This is a perfect time to remind yourself of your goals and to keep focused. Your mind set will be the key to success over the festive weeks and you are the only person who can decide what you do or don’t do, eat or don’t eat, drink or don’t drink. This will be the perfect time to add a measure of restraint and decide, ahead of time, when and where you are going to indulge and when you are going to remain focused on your own goals.

  

2. Set realistic goals over Christmas

The festive season might not be the best time to aim for your best weight loss result of the year and with some gyms and fitness centres running reduced opening hours over Christmas, your fitness routine can be easily disrupted. It is important to have goals to aim towards and this is true throughout the year but understanding that the Christmas period can be a little unpredictable, for all the reasons discussed above, it would be advisable to keep your goals realistic over this time.

If you have set yourself a goal of going to the gym at 5.30am every morning and relying on nothing but a smoothie to see you through each day in a week where you have 5 Christmas lunches and 14 parties to attend, you will find yourself burning out very quickly. An unrealistic goal is very hard to achieve and when you see yourself falling short of your target, it is often followed by feelings of disheartenment. This in turn leads to you feeling unmotivated and all too often, this leads to your overall goal be pushed aside altogether with a feeling of failure and frustration. Before you know it, you are on your fourth sitting at the cheeseboard washing it down with your fifth glass of your favourite festive tipple. 

Setting yourself realistic health goals to see you through the party season will be far more beneficial overall. Maybe your goals for December could be to achieve a minimum number of workouts each week, at any point in the day; spoiler alert, training at 3pm will have the same effect on your body and wellbeing as training as 6am, but not everyone in the ‘fitness’ industry wants you to believe that.  When it comes to food and drink, if you go to a party with the expectation of not eating or drinking anything at all, you could find yourself very disappointed in your own efforts as you wake up the next morning hungover and bloated from ‘just one more’ Christmas chocolate. Perhaps instead, before you go, you can decide on a maximum number of drinks you will have and plan your food throughout the day so that you do not arrive at the party too hungry.

  

3. Stay hydrated

There are so many benefits to drinking water; it helps to keep you focused, it helps with healthy skin, hair and nails, it helps to oxygenate your blood, it helps to maximise your physical performance, it helps your energy levels and brain function and it is worth noting that if you allow yourself to get too-thirsty, your brain will send signals for water that we can often mistake for hunger. This means that, if surrounded by the usual Christmas goodies, you will be more likely to reach for all the extra treats on offer at this time of year. 

By keeping yourself sufficiently hydrated will not only benefit you overall, it will also help your body flush out any extra toxins from all that festive fun.

 

4. Get enough sleep during the silly season 

Sleep is massively under-rated at the best of times. Sleep plays a fundamental part in our well-being for so many reasons. It is well-known that a lack of sleep can cause feelings of irritableness and can make it harder for you to work at your best and to think clearly. However, sleep deprivation can be far more serious than that; after just a couple of sleepless nights, the mental effects can become more severe as your brain becomes foggier while your body’s chemical and hormone levels become unbalanced, leading to low moods and even depression and anxiety in extreme cases.

Sleep also boosts your immunity, meaning that when you are getting enough sleep, you are less likely to feel ill.

A little less known reaction is that sleeping less can lead to weight gain. If your body is not getting the rest and recovery it requires while you are sleeping, it becomes stressed which produces increased levels of cortisol. This causes your body to temporarily slow down your metabolism, whilst at the same time causes your body to call out for high-fat and sugary foods, which is what you feel as cravings when you are tired. If that wasn’t enough, a lack of sleep also reduces levels of leptin, which is the hormone that tells the brain you are full-up and increases levels of ghrelin which is the hormone that tells the brain you are hungry. Not an ideal loop to be stuck in when your goal is to lose body fat and be fitter and healthier. For those of you who have read LIFE Fit The Process, you will already know the importance of leptin. And for those of you who have not yet read this book, it is available on Amazon.

So, throughout the party season, if you plan on performing at your best, looking your best and continuing after Christmas at your best, it would be a very good idea to prioritise your sleep.

 

5. Move every day

Moving your body every day is fundamentally important not just for your physical fitness but for your mental and emotional wellbeing too. Physical activity means many different things to different people. Whether you go to a gym, workout at home, jump in the saddle and cycle, go for a long walk, swim, dance or skip, whatever it is you do, keep doing it. Physical fitness is not an 11-months of the year option. For our over-all wellbeing, doing something to get your body moving will have a massively positive effect on your overall mindset.

Even if you do not continue with your normal fitness routine over the Christmas period, do something, anything that will prevent you from becoming completely sedentary during the festivities. This will not only help lift your mood but it will also help to ease you into January and the fourth coming months with the right mindset, meaning you will be more-likely to slip back into your fitness routine more easily and make the most of the year with the continuation of creating the best you, yet.

5 steps on how to create real change

6 Steps on How to Create Real Change

Change is essentially about moving from where you are now to a new destination and in this respect it can be likened to a journey that you do not usually take. Therefore It has many of the same fears associated with it. This is primarily because it will take you to unfamiliar territories and in doing so away from your zone of familiarity. 

There are ways to plan for greater success in your journeys though and here are 6 steps to help you create and achieve real change.

1: Do you want to and are you willing? If you are reading this, then it would probably suggest that you are looking to change something and this is the first and probably most important step. Because without the desire and willingness to change, there is very little chance of change happening.  If you have gotten this far though, I think we can probably agree that you are looking for a desired change. So step one is complete.

2: Specify what to change and why: This may seem a very obvious step, but if you are unable to provide a convincing specific reason to even yourself, change is unlikely to occur. For instance if you decide you would like more money in your life, are you clear on what it is for? However, if you decide you would like more money because you would like to buy a new car, there is now more specificity. Once this is determined and Identified you now have specifics on what to focus on. This not only makes the following steps easier, it is a major contributing factor of a successful change. This is primarily because, to say we desire more money or that you would like to be happier, lacks a specific destination to move towards; both are more often than not a byproduct of something we do or don’t do and are more of an end goal than anything we can tangibly imagine or specifically visualise. 

 

3: Make a Plan: if we look at this again like a journey to a new destination. One of the very first things we do is put the destination into a satnav and this generally lets us know how long it may take, which way to travel and where you will pass along the way. In the same way, when we make a new plan, one of the first steps you can take is to create a focus board. Generally a focus board is a picture and or short statement of what we would like to achieve. This as the name suggests is a way to maintain focus on the destination. If you do not regularly remind yourself of where you are heading, it will often take a lot longer to get there and sometimes you may even completely forget where you were heading. Do some research and collect some ideas on how you can move towards your desired destination. For example, if you wanted to learn a new language, look at what classes are in your area or what online lessons are available and decide which best suits you at the present time. Making a plan does not require having all the details worked out before you take the first step either. Every step you take is a step forward and your end goal will continue to get clearer with each step.

4: Consistency: As far as I know we haven’t yet created a teleportation device, so we still get from one place to another, one step at a time and this is the same for change. The basic premise of consistency is to follow one step with another and then another and so on because if you do not, how will you ever get to your destination? This is where we refer back to step 3, our planning stage and see what the next step will be, to get us closer to our goals. It is also important to remember that on each step of your plan to appreciate how far you have come and to observe your destination getting closer and becoming more in focus with each step. This serves many purposes including being a motivation to help you take the next step.

5: Be aware and Adapt: At the start of a journey the destination can often seem a little vague, but as you get closer and closer you begin to see more detail and this aids in choosing what the next step is. Often even on the simplest of journeys things can and almost certainly will not go quite according to plan and the ability to adapt at these times is highly advisable. The more aware you are the more likely you are to discover new things along the way. This is all part of why being aware and adapting as you go is an important part of change. Because the plans you are making for yourself and the goals you are setting to get there will almost certainly be unfamiliar to you, or else they would not be a change.

6: Rest and reflect: It’s often when we look back on a journey that we realise just how far we have come and that we have so many amazing tales and stories to share, especially the bits we weren’t anticipating happening. This reflection happens when we give ourselves time to rest, breath and recuperate and this is an essential part of change and also for having a better idea of which direction to head in next. Because it is often only when we stop to rest and reflect that some of the most important observations can be made.

Remember As with all things the first steps can be a little slower and more wobbly than the ones that follow, so please be kind and supportive of all your achievements no matter how small you think they are at the time. Also take the time to stop and congratulate yourself, because each of these steps have been your choice towards your goals and hopefully a happier version of you.

Do Your Words Support & Encourage Your Growth, or Hold You Back & Belittle You?

 

The person we speak to and listen to the most is ourselves, as we all have a near constant narrative going on in our minds. Because of this, the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one there is, especially as we are the only person we are guaranteed to be with 24-7, for our entire life.

If we also take into account that the mind registers little difference, if any, between physical, mental or emotional pain or reward, no matter where it comes from, ie. from the outside from other people, or from our own internal narrative. The way in which we talk and refer to ourselves is of paramount importance, especially as our words are also a window to our beliefs of not only how we view others and the world, but also how we see and treat ourselves.

This is a very simplified understanding of how we work, but explains a little about why the words we use are so important to us. If you find yourself berating your own efforts or putting yourself down, do you think it might be time for an upgrade of your words? 

The first step in this process is to listen to the words you say to yourself, in the most impartial way you can.  You can do this by imagining it is a conversation between a stranger and the person you most care for and love in this world. In this scenario, you are the stranger talking to your loved one but doing so in the same way you generally talk to yourself in moments of frustration. Then it is about being honest with yourself and deciding if you are happy with the way your most cared for and loved person in the world is being spoken to. For instance, can you hear a narrative of an abusive person being spoken by the ‘stranger’  or is the ‘stranger’ being supportive, caring and respectful.

Another way we help our clients with understanding which words are more appropriate, is to be aware of how they feel when they say them. This may sound a little odd at first as we are not ordinarily taught to feel the words we speak but once you understand this concept, you will appreciate the value of its meaning. So, to explain further; one of the phrases we generally highlight with our clients is their use of “have to” as it can more often feel very different to saying “want to”. This is because to say “have to” do something has a feeling more like a chore whereas “want to” has a feeling of choice and deliberate action about it.   

There are many reasons you talk to yourself in the way that you do and these have been primarily formed over your formative years. As you begin the process of listening to your own self-talk, you may begin to hear that you echo the ways in which those around you speak and or spoke to you. These are all subjects worthy of their own discussions and for those of you who follow our blogs, you can look forward to investigating topics such as this but for the purpose of this blog, the lesson we are hoping you take is this; if you wouldn’t say something to your loved ones in fear of upsetting or offending them, why say it to yourself? Show yourself the respect you deserve, speak kindly to yourself and in doing this, learn to feel the difference between the words that put you down and the worlds that pick you up. Your words are powerful and if used in the right way will have a wonderfully positive effect on how you view yourself and subsequently how you feel.