New Year, New You?

You know you’ve been out of Norway a bit too long when you have to Google translate things from English to Norwegian when writing articles for your dad…

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Anyway. Happy New Year my dear little fitness freaks (and stalkers), a New Year – a new you, isn’t that what we all try to tell ourselves? I personally believe, that all you need is a new morning, to change whatever you’re not happy with, but now that we actually have 12 fresh months ahead of us, we might as well make the best of them, right?

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I’ve had a blast in Sydney, and whatever slight definition of abs I had before I left, is now gone. HOWEVER, I’m not crying. I know that all it will take is another two weeks of doing what I love to do, to get back to where I was before Christmas.Food has been left in charge of the hosts, but I have tried to keep some balance in there (if you ignore my day-long eating parties from Christmas Eve to..eh New Years Eve) and I’ve pretty much had oats and eggs every day, I’ve also aimed for my daily portions of fruit and chosen water, coconut water or a freshly squeezed juice (beetroot, apple, carrot, celery and ginger – get in me) over soda and wine (particularly after I discovered that Diet Coke contains the same chemical as that used to clean garbage bins..).

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There has been time for the occasional workout too, but I’ve spent plenty of time soaking the sun and laughing with my crazy fellow Norwegians. We should all remember that what matters is what you do for the rest of the year, not necessarily what you do for Christmas.

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As a result of putting my body through a lot of stress before Christmas, I have pretty much been sick ever since I left for Sydney. Eating food with sugar has for sure not helped my recovery, so I’ve said that there will be no cheats until I feel like myself again. This might, however, has happened yesterday when I was all by myself and very bored …..

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See, things don’t always go my way either. I did my first run of 2014 in Sydney, and it was bloody hard, I had to stop several times and my heart rate was abnormally high considering that I was running very slowly. I forced through a leg session Friday morning and even though I increased all my weights, I actually threw up before I left the gym because I had pushed my body too hard. Still sore from that leg session by the way. On Saturdays I always pick whatever exercises I like the most and do them without too much structure, and it’s usually fun, however this Saturday was a struggle and I left the gym drowned in sweat. New week, great start, I thought to myself this wonderful Monday morning. 30 minutes of 4×4 intervals, 15 minutes of core-exercises and 15 minutes of foam rolling later…

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HELL, is all I have to say. This is brutal. But I still do it. I love doing it. And I can’t wait to get back to where I was. Motivation is what gets you going, habit is what keeps you going. Make it a lifestyle, guys – all it takes is 4% of your day.

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Strong is the new skinny

Strong is the new skinny”, they say. Access any Instagram account related to fitness or open a health and fitness magazine and you are most likely going to find a picture with a muscly man/woman who has a low body fat percentage, supposed to function as motivation.

We no longer crave being the stick-thin model on the catwalk, we want muscles, we want to be strong, we want to eat the right food and exercise enough. That should, in theory, not be a problem. Building muscles and eating healthy is good for us, right? And it is, but what happens when we are constantly exposed to ripped fitness models – who in reality dedicate a tad more time to their bodies than the average “these ab-exercises will get you a six-pack” article the pictures usually are accompanied with? Some would argue that overly focusing on eating right and exercising enough is not any healthier than wanting to be as thin as possible. Like with anything else, overly obsessing over something can cause a problem, and this is where we need to find the right balance. 

World Natural Figure Champion, fitness model and editor of Oxygen Magazine, Lindy Olsen, thinks that women should be encouraged to be fit and healthy rather than feel defeated by those who consciously chose to push their own potential and get out of their comfort zones to reach their own ultimate levels of health, wellness and condition.

“Fitness models make a conscious choice to be as fit and as healthy as they possibly can be and if that intimidates people to feel less adequate than others then I’d encourage women everywhere to embrace their inner beauty and be the best versions of themselves that they can be”, Lindy says.

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She also says that the secret to staying lean, fit and healthy all year round is to eat all foods in moderation and not to cut entire food groups out of the diet. “I certainly have my cake and eat it too”.

Education is key. Lindy was once 89kg and felt tired, lethargic and pretty average, but gaining knowledge about good nutrition, exercise and how to healthily combine it all has changed that in such a huge way for her and her passion is evident when she talks about how anyone can get into great shape with the right information, support and mindset.

” If someone like me can learn about health and nutrition and learn to not “miss out” on the foods that all of us love it’s just a matter of re-educating people so that they truly understand that food should not be classified as bad or good, simply eat more of this and less of that”, she says.

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 Luke Tan  (yes, the vegan body builder) ,explains that the change of lifestyle leads to a healthier diet, a stronger body and better mental and physical health, but emphasizes that people should be doing it for themselves, and not for others.

Competing in fitness is certainly a challenge and requires both discipline and willpower, and even though fitness models are being used as motivation, it is not necessarily said that we should all strive to look like that, but simply let ourselves inspire and change into better versions of ourselves.

They both agree that we should not be comparing ourselves to others, rather strive for becoming comfortable in our own skin. And they emphasize that if we manage to become fitter than we once were, then instead of receiving negative comments and critique, we should be shown encouragement and support.

So how about we say that happy and comfortable is the new healthy, and stop comparing ourselves to the images we are constantly presented with so that we can start comparing the old us to the new us?

Eating healthy is so hard.. or is it?

People always complain that eating healthy is complicated and expensive. That fruit is more expensive than chocolate. That you get more frozen, deep-fried chicken for the same prize as vegetables. That choosing the healthy option when eating out is hard. But you don’t and it isn’t. Let me present you 200 calories (to the confused Line on calories; you need about 2000 calories a day depending on your level of activity) in pictures:

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Now, what food do you think will fill you up the most? Where do you get the most nutrition from? Maybe we after all did get more food and nutrition for the money when choosing the health-benefiting food?

When it comes to eating out, you only make it as hard as you want it to be. We had dinner at the restaurant across the road yesterday and they did have an option of baby snapper fillets, grilled chicken and other healthy deliciousness, nobody is forcing you to choose the pizza or the extra side of chips. Yes, so maybe I paid a tad more for my baby snapper, but it was so good. And SO filling.

When claiming that eating healthy or joining the gym is too expensive, you are in reality only jeopardizing your own body and health. Why should you not be prioritizing buying real food? Isn’t that the one investment you should be doing? You will be paying a lot more in the future as a result of being hospitalized for your bad nutrition and/or not exercising.

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I spend about $40-50 a week grocery shopping. That is absolutely nothing! I eat at least four meals a day, and I am pretty much always satisfied. My gym membership is about $60 a month, in being there 9 times a week I pay about.. $1,66 per visit. Worth it? I think so. And you don’t need to go to the gym to work out, the nature is after all free and a perfect place for recreational activities.

I also stumbled upon a picture from a few years back.

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My amount of working out was the same, but I ate candy or cakes at work every day, I refused wearing tight tops, and believe me; running intervals was pure hell.

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Now, I don’t eat crap every day, my body-fat has lowered, my self-esteem is way better, I am stronger, I run faster and I recover faster.

Today has been one of my double gym session days, and I’d just like to give you an example of one of those days. (We did celebrate Line’s birthday at home yesterday and I did have tremendous amounts of sugar/milk/wheat-packed cake, so I’ve been slightly full today). I had my first leg day of the week this morning (yes, I have noticed the requests of my leg-program, and it will come), died and then ate the breakfast I eat pretty much every day; porridge made of oats topped with a banana, cashew nut-butter, blueberries and strawberries, a soft-boiled egg and a large cup of muscle recovery yogi tea from iHerb (use the code TBW611 and get $10 off your first purchase).

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I brought leftover pizza and an apple to uni, had a soft-boiled egg, a banana and a handful of nuts/raisins as a pre-workout snack, went to Body Balance and finished it off with a 10-minute vegetable soup (I’m starting to feel sick and soup always helps) topped with pan-fried mushrooms and turkey, and had strawberries for dessert. So simple, yet so incredibly good. And so not complicated at all!

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So, just a few tips on how to keep the clean and healthy eating affordable.

  • Buy things locally and choose whatever is in season
  • Add meat/fish/poultry into dishes where veggies are the main ingredients, thus making it last longer/for several meals
  • Cook batches of meals that can be frozen/left for a few days and brought whenever needed
  • The key to success is planning!

But honey, you need a little bit of sugar

Yes you do. The natural kind. Not the kind found in candy. Not the kind found in your artificially, processed cereal. And not the kind found in your soda or orange juice. You need the natural sugar, or glucose, that your body makes from the food you eat, such as fruit, complex carbs and vegetables.

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Author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and DiseaseRobert Lustig, explains that sugar is addictive. In humans, fructose (commonly found in artificial and processed food) lights up the reward center in your brain called the nucleus accumbens on MRI; however, after repeated exposure, the reward center lights up less and less, and you will be needing more and more to achieve the same effect. Fructose has effects on the reward center similar to alcohol; and can implement a “vicious cycle” of consumption and disease. Thinking of chronic diseases, evidence links sugar directly to heart disease, type 2 diabetes or cancer.

But fructose is found in fruit?!?! Yes, it is. But fruit also contains magic amounts of fiber, making the fructose harder to absorb. Little amounts of fructose is not dangerous, large amounts is, as it may overload your liver being consumed and absorbed at once – and we do not want that, do we?

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Discover good nutrition compares natural sugar to artificial sugar:

An average orange has about about 3 teaspoons of natural sugar and a cup of strawberries has less than two teaspoons. And on top of that, you’re getting 3 grams of fiber, a full day’s worth of vitamin C, antioxidants and some folic acid and potassium – and it’ll only cost you about 50 or 60 calories. By contrast, a 0,5L coke will set you back about 225 calories and, and will for sure not be supplying any antioxidants, vitamins, minerals or fiber. You’ll simply be enjoying carbonated water, artificial color and flavor, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 grams of added sugar. So what sugar did we say we wanted again?

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Line, my fellow Norwegian, highly enjoys her sugary poison and would probably never give up her treats. But she recently decided to give up sugar on weekdays. It has been a week and she has succeeded, claiming that this will continue next week too. She says it was hard the first days, but found solutions to the late night snack cravings; smoothies, bananas, other fruit, loads of chewing gum, and homemade granola. Accidentally putting candy in her mouth mid-week, thinking it was sugar free, put a little nervous breakdown to display, but she concluded “it didn’t count”. Has she noticed any benefits? The initial candy cravings disappeared after a few days. “If I can do it, anybody can”, she says.

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Now, my rule is having a candy-day once a week, Line’s is more.. quitting it Monday-Thursday. But we all have to start somewhere, don’t we?

We know where the obvious sugar is found, but for some reason people tend to think that other processed food is free of sugar. It is not. ABC Health and Wellbeing suggests to stay away from:

  • sugar-laden breakfast cereals – some of these contain up to 30 per cent sugar (breakfast cereal review here). Despite claiming to have enough fibre to get you through the day, they contain the wrong fibre that is full of phytates – substances that bind essential minerals and take them out of the body, and thereby steals your much needed minerals.
  • premade meals and sauces (yes that includes your baked beans and canned soup).
  • supposed ‘health foods’ such as muesli bars and other snacks found in the health food section.
  • spreads including jams and sugar-free fruit spreads, as well as less obvious suspects such as peanut butter.

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How about we try to limit our sugar-intake to once a week guys, read the labels of your food, choose the ones with ingredients you actually can pronounce, and maybe we get to save our bodies from a couple of internal inflammations too.

Balance Your Body

Are you one of those people who think of “training” as weights and cardio? Who skips the stretching session after? Looks at the foam roller with hostility? So am I. And stepping out of the comfort zone is just about as probable as traveling to the moon.

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Imagine this. I used to be a figure skater. I used to be flexible. I could at least touch the floor bending down. However, standing in a room full of flexible-looking people, this including the younger generation and the casual 70-year old, I feel as flexible as a tree.

Les Mills defines Body Balance as a combination of yoga, thai chi and pilates, and is claimed to build flexibility and strength whilst leaving you centered and calm. Benefits include improved core strength, reduced stress levels and an advanced range of movement. Each class is made up of 45 minutes of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of complete relaxation. A study conducted by the Roehampton University in 2010 proves that Les Mills Body Balance can be used as a tool for prevention and treatment of low-back pain and state anxiety – so why not give it a try?

First time. Could not touch the floor. Could barely move or stretch. Could for sure not balance. Felt out of shape, despite being a gym addict, and was looking forward to the relaxation part more than anything. Coburg Leisure Centre, why are you doing this to me? 

It took about a month for my weights-suffering muscles to get into the habit of the Body Balance routine, and as it operates with the same routine for about 12 weeks, the familiarity with the exercises made me feel successful and the chances of returning to the class became higher.

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CNN Fitness Expert and owner of SCW Fitness, Sara Kooperman, suggests that students return to the class because of the motivating music and focused instructors, as well as the system being the same regardless of who is teaching the class – hence allowing for maximum benefit in terms of successful workouts. “If a participant isn’t successful in their exercise routine, they will drop it”, she explains.

Justine and Michelle belong to the younger generation, and they both agree that they are coming back because of the “lovely instructor”. Being frequent attendees at Les Mills Bodypump and fans of weights and cardio, they find the stretching sequences of Body Balance beneficial for keeping the body at good health. “It is a good change up in the normal workout routine”, they say.

One face standing out in the crowd of flexible Body Balance‘rs, is 69 year-old John Saunders. He started the class with his wife, who did not like it, and has been returning by himself for the past 6 years. John explains, “suffering from a sore back, I believe Body Balance is giving me more flexibility and is positive for my body”. Being a part of the aging generation, John has changed his philosophy of life and wants his life to last as long as possible.

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And as with John, I kept coming in every Wednesday too. Body Balance is not a workout I would solely rely on, but as a break and change up from my other weekly workouts, it is definitely a keeper. I still cannot touch the floor, I still cannot twist my body into the craziest positions – but Body Balance has become a part of my weekly routine – leaving me incredibly relaxed, just in time for MasterChef Australia.