Bikram Yoga – 90 minutes of death

They say you should change your routine up to improve your bodily function. I have tried pretty much everything to get rid of my crazy headaches and stress, so I thought I’d try bikram yoga as well.
Can’t hurt, right? Well, it’s been two weeks, and 7 sessions – and I’m still not a convinced yoga person. In fact, I actually hate doing it already in the first pose. 90 minutes become a very long time when you don’t like what you’re doing.
For those who don’t know, bikram yoga is 26 strict yoga poses, performed twice and held for a period of time, in a 40 degree room, over 90 minutes. Its selling points promise better sleep, a happier mentality, less recovery after injuries and a toned body, as well as improved physical and mental health. It is also suggested that it may lower blood pressure, reduce depression, and strengthen the immune system – all while detoxing your system and helping you lose weight and increase flexibility.

Just like any other type of exercise, pretty much.

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So they tell you that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th session will be way easier than the 1st session. Not too sure about that. I still struggle. I actually think I struggle more now that I know what I’ve got coming up. But I’ve said I’m going to give it a month – because apparently you become a completely new person after a month of practising bikram yoga. They just forget to mention how bloody hard it is, and how dizzy you get if you do one of the early morning classes.
If you want to be someone you’ve never been, you have to do something you’ve never done, they say. So here I am. Stepping outside the comfort zone again.
You know you’re inflexible when the old lady in a swimming suit in front of you can touch the floor bending over, and you can’t. I knew I had no flexibility, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Hamstrings – on fire. Lower back – stiff as a pole. Calves – cramping.
Oh, and the best thing? When they tell you to HOLD OFF drinking your water until the water break. Sorry abnormally flexible lady in lululemon clothes, if my body asks for water, it gets water.

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They like to tell you how you can burn around 1000 calories during one session, however – if you do intense exercise for 90 minutes in any way, form or shape, you can easily burn that amount of calories either way. And as much as bikram yoga challenges the body, each session is the same, meaning that your body will adapt. You might get really good at practising bikram yoga poses, but the shock your body got in the initial period of doing it, will wear off.

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Studies have shown that the raised temperature in the room, and the set structure of the poses can assist in stimulating glands that improve the T-cell function, i.e, the proper functioning of the immune system, which is great, however the excess sweating can also bring high risk outcomes with it – if you are not careful.

Ask me again once my month of practising this torture type of exercise is up, and I’ll answer whether my silky baby soft skin result is worth 90 minutes of hatred. For now, I believe it is a good detox for periods of time, but not the first choice of exercise people should resolve to.

Oh, and if you think you have sweated the most you’ve ever sweated it your life – you haven’t until you’ve tried bikram yoga. You sweat in places you didn’t think could sweat.

The perfect body and social media

Probably crossing the controversial line again today, but I think it needs to be done.

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How many of us follow people on Instagram that we are jealous of? Their hair, their legs, their face, their money, their insanely low body fat, their car, their dog, their toe nails.. You know where I’m going with this. Now, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of inspiration, but you can’t deny that if you’re having a bad day, and you’re constantly bombarded with pictures of seemingly perfect people with perfect lives, it’s not going to do anything but put you down.
I’ve told you before that to boost my self-esteem, I unfollowed people that made me compare myself to them, and only followed people with positive inspiration. However, lately my feed has somehow become this vicious circle of people who appear to be perfect. Add that to a 13-hour working day, not having worn makeup in weeks, yet again eating breakfast in the gym changing rooms, body fat slightly higher than what it used to be, and yet another day of wearing gym clothes and a hoody, – and voilá, one depressed Marita.
It is SO easy to put yourself down, based on what you see other people do. When I was younger, I’d always argue with my mom and say that it was unfair that I wasn’t allowed to do whatever, because “everyone else was doing it”. My mom would say “but we are not everyone else.” And she’s right, we are not everyone else. We all have different struggles, different lives and different priorities, but we need to understand that not everything we see online is the truth.
Let me show you an example.

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These pictures are taken on the same day, however in one, I dare say it pretty much looks like I have an eating disorder. We choose the way we want other people to view us, and let’s be honest – if I posted that picture on any social media, everyone would be on my back. But that’s not what I look like every day. I have a normal body, I exercise 6 days a week, my body fat might be a bit lower than others, I might eat healthier than most – but I am not sick, and I don’t want people to associate me with a negative thing.
Victoria’s Secret recently published an ad featuring their airbrushed angels, titled “The Perfect Body”. What kind of a signal does that send to the rest of the girls in this world? That ad has nothing but one body type, suggesting that that is what we should all strive to look like! There is so much more to this life, than being skinny. Being healthy is what we should strive for, not looking a certain way.

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We need to understand that the way other people choose to present themselves, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the way their life really is. You know those girls on Instagram with perfect lives and perfect bodies, and their 100 000 followers? They’ve made their body into their living. They are basically paid to look like that. So are models. And fitness girls. Great for them, and great for us if we can get inspired to stay healthy from that. But we need to be weary of it becoming an obsession.

I guess my point is, it is easy to pretend online. Good lighting, whether you take the picture when you get out of bed, after a workout, or after dinner, makes a massive difference, and let’s not forget – genetics plays a huge role in where you store fat. Hard work pays off, there is nothing wrong with trying to inspire, or getting inspired. But please don’t believe everything you see online. It has a tendency of getting to your head.

The different phases of exercise

I haven’t always enjoyed exercise. Always been active, yes, but let’s just realize that it took solid work to get to the point of wanting to exercise.

Everyone else is doing it

Growing up I did figure skating (and attempted a rather poor soccer career – only went for the post-training ice-cream), but when my knee set a stopper to that, I had to start doing something else. Bring on the spin class, pilates and the 20 minute jogs around the block.

I did spin classes every friday after school because all my friends were doing it, and I absolutely hated it. Had to catch the bus back home, and to get to the bus, I had to walk past the grocery store. What did they have in the grocery store? 5 chocolate bars for $4. Did I eat all of them on the way home? Yes.

Signed up to do pilates every thursday night with my friends. Had to walk past a candy-shop on the way there, bought an entire bag of candy to eat in the car home, ’cause pilates burns sooooo many calories.

Then I decided I was going to become a runner. I used to tell the boys living around my house that I was going to go for a run. “Yeah riiight,” they’d slam in my face. So of course, I had to go. Turns out, running was really hard, and keeping a consistent pace so that it would look like I was running when I went past their house was really hard. I also had to go past their house on the way back, so I had to make it look like I had gone very far, and had to be gone for a while. Did they ever really notice that I was out running? No.

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I want to impress

Moved away to do the IB diploma, met people who went to the gym wearing LEGGINGS. Up until then I had been wearing big Manchester United t-shirts and sweatpants. I thought leggings was extremely weird. But then peer pressure got me, and I (that be my parents) invested in a pair of leggings that I used to wear, aiming to burn 100 calories on the treadmill followed by 30 minutes of ab-exercises and maybe a bicep curl or two.

Squats with a medicine-ball in the back left me sore for an entire week, but the trainer I had told me doing them 3 times  a week would make me look hot. Potentially also did a group class of yoga. Made sure I looked reasonably good going to the gym, wore makeup, brushed my hair. You know. Spent a fair amount of time staring at the fit guys a couple of years above me training in the same gym. Followed up the MASSIVE GYM SESSION by either baking a cake, or buying cake at school. Still attempted going for runs past hot guys’s house, or said yes to going for runs with my ATHLETE friends – always a bad idea.

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Fanatic

Moved back home to have a gap year. Still oblivious to the fact that diet plays a huge role in losing weight, and nibbled on candy and cakes at work, despite eating fairly healthy meals. Got a car, joined the local gym. They had a list up saying who had been to the gym the most each month, and I made it my goal to get my name up there.

Was still a big fan of numerous ab-exercises, but slowly got the interest in compound exercises using more than one muscle group at once. Read somewhere that intervals were the way to burn fat, and started running them every other day. This is also when I got interested in split-programs. It took a few months, and my name was up on the list. Still obsessed with wanting to look hot, I decided I wanted to be on the top of that list, i.e being the one with the most visits. Christmas came around, and guess who’s name was first? Yeah that was mine. Big mistake, because now I had to keep it up there. Pretty much went to the gym every day, however despite getting stronger/fitter, my diet was out of whack and I had no idea what I was doing. Spent most of my weekends being stupidly drunk in a club.

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New conditions

Moving to Australia was a big step in my life, and I was determined to keep my fitness level up. Let’s just say that I spent the first 3 weeks being drunk and eating crap food, and when I went for my first run it almost killed me. Probably spent most of my first year here swimming in alcohol, to be honest. I did still exercise as much as I could, but the focus was still on looking good. Joined a new gym full of massive bodybuilder guys, tried to impress them and voilá, tore something in my lower back (that is still affecting my exercise today massively, lesson learnt). After a bit of money thrown at the physio, I decided I was sick of feeling shit about my own body.

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Lifestyle-change

And here we go, my favourite part of the journey. I changed my diet, was still obsessed with going to the gym, but started noticing how different the body reacted to various types of good and bad food. It’s been a struggle, and what really started with yet another quest to impress someone has now turned into my career.

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I used to laugh at those people saying exercise gave them more energy. I would even argue, “but you are exhausted after exercise, it drains you.” But now I understand. Exercise gets you through the week, it gives you something to focus on when you are tired, and it gives you motivation to master something new. I still hate spin-classes, but I’m open to trying one. Having worked my ass off trying to make a living as well as studying full-time, exercising hasn’t always been easy to fit in, or even been a thing I’ve wanted to do. But I’ve still maintained 6 sessions a week.

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And now that I’m done studying and spend some time in an office, in front of a computer? My back KILLS. No wonder office-rats out there have back problems! But guess what, I leave the office, drive to the gym (or park), thinking about how my back aches and how I really only want to go to bed, but then I get to the gym, start exercising, and the back pain is gone. Exercise has become something that I need to keep my body going, it clears my mind, and I ALWAYS feel better after. Even if I don’t come home drenched in sweat.

I use food to nourish my body. So that it can live a 15-hour working day. So that it can recover after a gym session. So that I can get up at 5 every morning and not wear makeup, because my skin still looks fine. So that my body can recover quicker when I’m going to need another knee surgery. It’s no longer all about looking good, it’s about feeling good. And I really hope you all get to experience that one day. Exercise and nutrition is medicine, start healing your body the right way.

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Ps. Sorry that it’s been an entire semester. Turns out that working 3 jobs and finishing your last semester of your degree takes up a bit of time.

Well, what do you even know about that?

Ah, the amount of times I hear this whenever I talk to people who think I was just magically born fit.

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Newsflash, I wasn’t. Even though I have never been severely overweight, I sure know what it is like to try completing a run with 15 kg extra on my body. I know what it is like to crave something so bad that all you do is constantly look at the cupboard where you know it is hidden. And I for sure know what it is like to throw up of exhaustion after a workout session, struggle with every single thing in the gym, and feel like you are getting nowhere.

The treadmill has been my worst enemy for years. When I decided to go to the gym every day at the age of 19, I remember I told my personal trainer then that I absolutely hated the treadmill, and would never use it. It still has its limitations in my world, but he helped me find a way to efficiently use it to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. I was once also one of those ‘I don’t want to become big and bulky’ kind of girls, who wouldn’t do weight and relied on pilates followed by a bag of candy. Yeah, that didn’t work either.

I know what it is like to mentally argue with yourself to not eat that chocolate bar until it is Saturday, and I know what it is like to make excuses to stay on the couch instead of going for a walk or going to the gym. I can still remember how I, in high school, hated the feeling of putting the gym clothes I’d been carrying around all day on, to exercise, when I’d rather be at home watching Home and Away (yes, guilty pleasure right there), and I can remember the frustration of not seeing the number on the scale drop.

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‘It’s too hard to count calories, I wish I just knew everything like you do’. I don’t. Well, I didn’t. I spent a few months tracking the food I ate, estimating the amount of nutrients in various types of food, and learning how much I can eat of one good thing compared to how little I can eat of a bad thing. It just has to be done. I don’t count calories anymore, I don’t track my fat or carbs, and I don’t religiously control what I eat. But for a while, you might have to do that. It’s a learning process, and you need to trust that process. Trust that it works. The only thing I attempt to track is my meal frequency, my protein intake, and I always make sure I drink enough and eat enough fruit and vegetables. Every meal, every day. My favorite thing when I’m hungover is actually an apple. And then ice cream (but let’s not talk about that now).

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‘It’s hard to eat 4 healthy meals a day’. Excuses, excuses and more excuses. It is only as hard as you make it. Sometimes I cook my meals for the next day at 10.30 pm, whilst I’m so tired I could fall asleep in the frying pan – you need to make it important. Prioritize. Even if some of my meals literally consist of random vegetables and eggs in a box, it is still food. And you can’t always expect to eat gourmet meals on the run. Nutrition is important, no matter what it looks like.

My point here is, that I’ve struggled too. I’ve been annoyed, frustrated (still happens actually, true story), upset (yeah, we all know that story about how I cried when I’d gained 2 kg…), and I’ve argued with pretty much everyone about my way of eating and exercising. I’ve drowned in sweat, I’ve failed at eating the right food, had candy on a tuesday for lunch, injured myself a ridiculous amount of times, struggled to get up in the morning, tried quick-fixes, gone for runs with guys who run 50 times faster than me, I’ve been convinced that sit-ups were the right way to get abs, I’ve starved myself, I’ve overeaten, I’ve not listened, I’ve felt critiqued, and I’ve hit the wall because I haven’t listened to my body.

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But from all this, I’ve learnt to be healthy, happy and confident.

I have people say they want to look like me, and it is so important to emphasize that this has taken me a few years. My body fat didn’t just drop in a month, it has solidly been dropping a couple of percent every 6 weeks for over a year and a half. I’ve lost about 2kg or less every 6 weeks.  I’ve consistently increased my fitness level, and I’ve worked hard. In fact, I’m still working. There are still thousands of things I don’t know, which is why, even I, branch out for help. I still get so sore I can’t walk properly, I still look at myself in the mirror and see the same person I saw 2 years ago, I still die running intervals, and I still doubt myself from time to time, but I also know that I’m doing something right, I’ve never felt this healthy. Ever.

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When my clients tell me about nasty comments from boys, or negative friends who will try to put them down for trying to change their lifestyle, I can always relate. People don’t like it when other people do it better, or when other people try to change. Particularly if it means changing into the healthy gears, and not drinking alcohol every weekend, followed by a midnight-snack at McDonalds and a Sunday junk food binge. (The whole, ‘you have to live a little too’ tends to float around quite a bit).

And they for sure don’t like it when they see that the determination and hard work is starting to pay off. Particularly not if they know that whilst you have been out there working your ass off and making healthy decisions to get the results you want, they have been lazy, making excuses for themselves not to do it. Trust me, you’re better off ignoring those people. You don’t push your banana in their face, why should they push their crap food in your face?

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Ps. I had a ‘bad’ pizza (for the first time in several months), ice cream AND chocolate this weekend, and you know what, I haven’t put all that weight back on, indulges now and then are fine. Things take time to build up, and it takes time to break it down. That’s why we start building the summer body after summer, not right before summer.

 

The difference between succeeding and failing

Warning; similarly to when I posted an entry about Australian guys, this entry might offend someone. Please remember that I’m often sarcastic, and don’t take everything I say deadly serious.

When it comes to being healthy, working out, and meeting our goals, some work hard and get results thereafter, others look for shortcuts, and see minimal results.

The difference between the one getting the results and the one barely getting results is that the ones with results never lie to themselves. They know if they’ve been eating bad or skipped a gym session, and will make further choices based on that decision.

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If a person getting results is out and about, and forgot to bring a snack/food, he/she will not go to the nearest fast-food joint to buy food, he/she will instead head to the nearest supermarket/health food shop/fruit shop to stock up on bananas, nuts, and other nutritious snacks. There is never an excuse for making poor food choices!

You will see a person getting results eating this

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not this

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when in need of a snack during the day.

Someone seeing results will find a way to buckle the cravings, i.e make dessert healthy, and therefore eat dessert every day. This person is also likely to have one bad treat now and then, because they know that one bad meal once in a while won’t hurt them. Treats 4 times a week, on the other hand, will.

A person with results will go for a run even when the legs feel like heavy blocks, just because it is Monday and Monday is the day to run. If the weather is bad, this person will find a way around it. There is never an excuse to skip exercise!

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The very same person is also likely to go for walks, happily take the stairs, and pay attention to the choices they make during one day. He/she will not make poor choices in the supermarket

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and will not eat a protein bar of 400 calories and a Boost smoothie packed with sugar and more calories than a normal dinner, after their workout, even if they want to. He/she will know that a banana and a proper meal is more than sufficient, and be satisfied knowing that they are nourishing their body properly.

He/she will also know that the fewer ingredients a product has, the better it is for you. And that the first ingredient on the list is what the product contains the most of.

It will be common knowledge that sugar, gluten, yeast and sodium are products we should try to refrain from to a greater extent, and that eating enough of the right food is important to be able to stay away from the bad food.

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The dedicated type of person, is also the kind of person to see results. My housemate has ankylosing spondylitis, in other words a chronic form (meaning she’s stuck with it for the rest of her life) of arthritis causing inflammation in the joint that joins the hip and the spine. She went from being super active to stuck in a hospital bed in no time, but is slowly learning to function again. Despite being very limited in terms of what she can do, she gets up at 5 every morning, rides her bike for 20 min to the gym, to either do rehab and stretch, go in the pool or do the limited amount of weights she is allowed to. If she can, so can you. 

A person with results will know his/her limitations. He/she will understand when to suck it up, and when to stay at home in bed. The rule is; if it hurts from the chest and down – stay at home, if not – sweat it out in the gym.

The person getting results will be ‘cheating’ with the food the person not getting results is eating on a daily basis. Your daily toast and bowl of pasta is my guilty pleasure once a month.

The successful person will know that dedicating time in the gym is only the start. Anything is always better than nothing, but the results most people want are not going to come unless a proper diet is acquired. Why waste your time on endless hours in the gym, only to come home and eat food that your body can’t use to rebuild what you just broke down?

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The person getting results will, however, also be the one understanding that everything has to be balanced. He/she will understand that it is all about the lifestyle change, not a quick fix or a temporary diet, that it is a journey in which he/she will fail, but learn from those mistakes and keep going. He/she will find a way to be healthy, get fit, but also ‘live’ their life. It’s never all or nothing, it’s about finding the way that works for you.

Foodie talks

That incredibly sad moment when you grab the wrong lunch box in the fridge. This

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was meant to be cauliflower-crust pizza. Yes, I was very sad.

Prepare yourself for a little bit of a food ramble. My life is hectic, I swear every hour of my day is booked, and I have now had to skip a day of uni to be able to catch up with uni assignments – oh the irony.

Anyway, when life is so hectic that you pass out at 9.15 on a Saturday night, all you can do is cherish your body (yes, pun intended). I may not have the time to cook healthy food for hours each day, so I make sure that I stock up on fresh produce, lean protein and fruit when I actually have some spare time. The dishes created might not have a name, come from a recipe or even be remotely exciting. But it is healthy, it provides my body with energy, and most importantly – it never EVER comes from a can, a box, a frozen package or a fast-food place. Cook your own food, know what you eat – stay healthy. It is as simple as that.

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Try reading the label of a can of iced tea, should only contain tea and water/ice cubes – guaranteed that the list of ingredients exceeds that, and it will be packed with sugar. What about a box of pre-made guacamole? For sure more than just avocado, lime, garlic and coriander. Or a can of tomato soup? High in sodium, high in sugar, high in preservatives – and very low in nutritional value and vitamins. Making your own soup takes about 10 minutes, search the internet, suck it up – and do it.

I normally never buy bread or crisp bread, but for the occasion of a tapas-night, I had to. Spent 30 minutes reading labels, trying to find a gluten-free bread with as little ingredients as possible, and boy was I surprised – the manufacturers add so much crap to bread! Most of us have tried baking our own bread, and we all know that there is no need to add apple juice or preservative A, B and C, to make a healthy bread. Just keep in mind that the food might not be healthy, just because it is labeled gluten-free, sugar-free and fat-free. Something else has usually been used to substitute those ingredients.

It is also fully possible to have a completely healthy girl’s night in (okay maybe ignore the chips and the crackers, remember; no one is telling you that you have to eat the bad food on the table).

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Because I very rarely eat carbs like quinoa, rice, couscous, and bread, this night may have made me look slightly pregnant

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On the note of preservatives. I’ve been testing pre-workouts due to my lack of energy in the gym. Bad idea. Pre-workouts are often added ingredients that no one should ever put in their bodies. Pre-workouts are, in fact, banned in Norway. (And so is any candy that is coloured blue, but that is another story). Let me demonstrate

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These pictures don’t even justify what happened to me, or what I looked like. Already in the car (10 minutes after I drank it), I told my boyfriend that my heart was hurting, and I kept scratching my skin. Got to the gym, looked in the mirror, and my skin was covered in massive red patches, and I was all flustered and dizzy. Also had pins and needles in pretty much every limb of my body. Even though it made me look like this at the end of my workout

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And let me burn this many calories

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I just don’t think it was worth it. No more pre-workout for this little Norwegian.

I’ve had a few days where I’ve either forgotten to bring dinner to work, or been too lazy

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The important thing is to note that this does not happen often, I dare say that 3 out of 4 weeks are close to perfect when it comes to my food.

I am a blog-nerd, and I’ve been reading health and fitness blogs for years, but it is not until I realized that the food and suggestions that they posted to their blog was what they ate all the time, that I understood how I could change my own lifestyle. I can’t remember the last time I ate ‘normal’ pasta, pizza or burgers, or the last time I had anything canned (as in meals, I use canned tomatoes, beans etc) because that’s just no longer a part of who I am.

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I went to Yong Green Food on Brunswick St this weekend, and had this healthy little gem

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No bad ingredients, no allergens. Happy Marita. Everything on their menu is healthy (and cheap), so I suggest anyone who has the chance heads there ASAP.

I often get asked about protein bars, supplements, protein shakes etc. My only advice is; buy the ones with as little ingredients and sugar as possible. Nothing that the supermarket sells! The only protein bar I can personally approve of is the Quest bars (you can get them from iherb.com, or a couple of health food stores in Melbourne), as they never leave me bloated or feeling sick. But remember, this is still a chocolate. 200 calories – about 20 minutes on the treadmill. If you are trying to lose weight, consider where you want to get those 200 calories from, what’s going to fill you up the most?

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Favourite flavors; white chocolate raspberry, double choc chunk brownie and cookies and cream.

My client, Julijana, has started mocking the ‘just do your repetitions’ face that I give all my clients when they don’t want to do what I’m telling them to

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As if you wouldn’t do another set of squats to that face.

I’ve also made a Facebook page for this blog to make it easier to keep up with posts and motivation for you guys 🙂

Should you not be sick of my endless writing yet, have a look at my article about Personal Training here.

The awkward moment when your girlfriend eats as much as you do

Yeah, it happens. A typical Sunday morning in my life; “I’ll have the veggie breakfast with gluten free bread.. Oh, and can I have an extra side of avocado and bacon?” Then the boyfriend will follow up with a casual “yeah I’ll have the same”.
I always choose the vegetarian breakfast and add either an extra egg or chorizo/bacon (not healthy, I know), because the vegetarian breakfast always comes with the most interesting sides.
If anyone was under the impression that I don’t eat, try again. The other day my boyfriend even said I had to practice portion control… Yeah I don’t think so.
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I’m pretty much always on my feet, and I will eat accordingly. So should everyone else, if all you do is sit still – don’t eat half your kitchen for dinner, plan your bigger meals for after your workout, and Jesus Christ please go for a walk now and then.

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I was so happy with myself for smashing out over 400 calories doing cardio this week, until I bought the boyfriend a Polar Loop (it’s genius, everyone should have one, it counts your steps, calories etc), and watched how he burnt over 1000 calories doing a chest workout. No wonder guys eat all the time.

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Went for a run last weekend, fell over, and pulled a quad-muscle. It sucked, and I therefore decided to rest for a week. Learning to listen to the body, rather than pushing it. Resting does not mean sitting on the couch for a week, but rather resting actively by going for walks and getting some cardio done.

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Anyway, my newest obsession is chia pudding. Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, omega-3 and omega-6, and probably the only superfood I will ever buy into (spirulina is literally the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth). 100g of chia seeds, a can of coconut milk, raw cocoa, cinnamon and raw honey. Mix and put it in the fridge for 30 min.

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And lastly, a little update on what goes on at work these days.

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Yeah, my life is pretty damn cool.