Although it is a couple of days until Christmas, I am beyond broke (even though I opted out from the commercial present buying aspect of the season) and the sky is wrapped in dreary grey matter – I am walking on sunshine! Today I am happier and richer in spirit than ever before! For the last 27 years, I didn’t know what direction I was going to take in life. I blissfully & anxiously drifted across fourteen countries, in the cliche search for myself. That which was there all along.
One year ago I quit my job to dedicate time to focusing on what made me tick, what my passions were. I was fully aware of my failures, weaknesses, failed relationships, half finished or forgotten projects, what made me unhappy and what I should NOT eat or do.
Setting my ego aside and putting my health and relationships top on the priority list has just drawn a snowball of greatness in my direction.Last year was my longest unemployment stretch in my life. Although I did use the time wisely, I will get to that later. Considering I have studied psychology and have a degree in international relations with over 12 years working experience I figured getting a job wouldn’t be problematic. I applied to over 70 positions that were seeking my experience and or education. Such as, with the migration office, as a receptionist, sales representative, administration, translator, Batista and so on.
Turns out with hard economic times or *cough* having a foreign name in Sweden I wasn’t getting any bites. One day I ate some humble pie and went out, equipped with several resumes and applied to every cafe I went by and as a cashier in several stores. Of course with most employers directing me to their website. One place however did show immediate interest. That was a gym, however without the certification as a personal trainer, I was once again greeted with, thank you but not interested.
|Vital Stats (before and after)Before:
Weight: 161 lbs
Body Fat: 30%
Weight: 128 lbs
Body Fat: 18%
Why You Got Started?
Although I was active in sports when I was younger and outdoors most of my free time; I have always had more ‘padding’ than I was comfortable with. Since I reached 5’6 from as long as I can remember I have always hovered around 150-165lbs. Despite this, you name it, I have probably played it! I was a jack of all trades so to speak, half-decent at a lot of sports but never really excelled or followed through at one in particular. As a child I participated in minor soccer in the summers, I even took silver medal at the Atlantic Canada Junior championships for Judo, and competed in the badminton trails for the Canada Games. In high school I played for the volleyball and basketball teams. Above all, having grown up by the ocean I never feel more at home than when I am in water! Just recently in 2009 I swam seven kilometers in the open ocean off the coast of England to raise money for the Canadian Diabetes Association. I have always been a pretty competitive person in sports and life in general. Above all, I have a preference for individual sports and improving upon personal bests.
Despite possessing a thorough knowledge base regarding training and nutrition; after high school I allowed work, university and the added stress and responsibilities of adulthood take priority in my life leaving my own health and general wellbeing on the back burner. After completing five years of university I began as a supervisor at a busy Starbucks in Copenhagen’s International Airport. Within the same week I could be working 4:00-13:00 or 14:30-23:30. Needless to say I drank far too much coffee, ate and slept irregularly and was often too exhausted to train. I figured since I was on my feet all the time that once or twice a month ought to do it. It didn’t!
After two years I was physically and emotionally drained. I felt like my potential was being wasted at my current position, my health was not as optimal as it could be and I avoided friends because I didn’t want to radiate my negative energy upon them. In December 2012 I got the courage to resign from my position and put my priorities straight; first and foremost, my health! I had trained Thai boxing a handful of times and have always wanted to participate in a competitive match. Although I really enjoyed it, like many endeavors before; I never took training seriously.
The week after I stopped working with Starbucks, I took a vacation to Thailand. Some members of the Golden Leaf Team from Malmö had trained diligently with World Thai Boxing Champion Somluck Kamsing at his gym in Bangkok twice daily for the duration of a month. I went on the ‘when in Rome’ principle and after not having trained in a month; for one day I joined in on a training session. After one hour I was exhausted, embarrassed and inspired at the same time.
This became my motivation, I knew if I ever wanted a match I would need to whip my butt in shape to get in the 59kg weight class. I wanted to prove to both myself and coach that I had what it takes! Now that I have achieved my goal weight and become more balanced mentally and physically I am ready to train hard in the upcoming season with the club starting August 19, 2013. Regardless if I get a match or not, I have already won – I have never felt healthier and happier!
How You Did It?
After leaving my job, I suddenly had an extra 120+ hours each month to dedicate to myself. The first step on the agenda began with regular sleep at normal hours. It is true what they say that the key to a healthy body is 80% diet and 20% training. Upon return from Thailand I cleaned up my diet and began to eat nutritious homemade food five to six times daily. To be honest, I eat more now and have more energy than I did at my maximum weight. Before when I ate large amounts at irregular hours, my body thought it was starving so it stored everything I gave it, now my metabolism is regulated and faster, thus, I burn more calories in resting state.
I enrolled in a gym and trained six days a week for six weeks until I achieved my initial goal of 140lbs/64kg. For me the key to weight loss was building muscle, I opted to maximize results by implementing the principles of high intensity interval training (HIIT). I wanted a quick intense workout that would target the core muscles. A week consisted of three days of strength/cardio training combined in an explosive approximately thirty minute session doing supersets that worked the entire body. Over time, I would just increase the repetitions and or intensity. For example, did walking push-ups or push-ups on a ball instead of normal. Doing sit-ups, chest presses, and squats on the ball and adding weights is also a great way to maximize the core stabilizing muscles. I alternated with three days of thirty minutes of cardio, either running or swimming, followed by a day of rest. After I reached my initial goal at the end of February, I toned down the frequency but not the intensity of training; as well, happily continued with healthy eating. I didn’t even know I had reached 128lb until asked to write this article! I knew I felt and looked good which is most important.
What Supplements Did You Take?
Other than a healthy balanced diet, after training I usually had a 100% organic, non-gm hemp protein shake with almond milk and fresh fruit. A powder packed with 14.1g of protein per 30g, all the essential amino acids and omega 3 fats. It is also nice to sprinkle on cereal or have blended with natural yogurt and honey!
Give Us A Sample Week Of Your Diet.
We are mainly composed of water, so the number one rule of a healthy diet is water! I drink as much as possible to keep replenished and detoxify. The second rule of my diet is if I don’t know what it is or what is in it, I won’t eat it; for example processed food, corn syrup, sodas, genetically modified foods etc. White sugar is out of the question, white bread & rice as well; instead I opt for complex carbs such as bulgur, quinoa, couscous, whole wheat rice and pastas. I eat a namely vegetarian diet, getting most of my protein from oats, seeds, nuts, fish and cheese.
|Breakfast||50g oat flakes, pear, 3 tbsp natural yogurt||Banana, oat, mixed seed, whole milk, honey smoothie||Two boiled eggs w/ oat cakes, fresh juice of 2 oranges||Muesli, yogurt, blueberries||50g oat flakes, 3 tbsp natural yogurt, juice of 2 oranges||Banana, oat, mixed seed, whole milk, honey smoothie||Scrambled eggs & toast w/ mixed seeds|
|Snack||Apple, feta cheese, warm honey/lemon &ginger water||Rye biscuits w/ humus||Cream cheese, rye bread & avocado||Honey/lemon & ginger water, apple & mixed nuts||2 slices of wholegrain bread w/ sun roasted tomatoes & mozzarella||Plum & oat squares w/ cream cheese dip||Cottage cheese & pineapple|
|Lunch||Lentil Salad||Cauliflower soup w/ wholegrain bread||Tuna & wholegrain pasta salad||Mixed salad with quinoa, avocado & feta cheese||Green pea, ginger & cannellini bean soup||Mixed salad with feta & wholegrain bread||Tofu stir fry w/ wholegrain noodles|
|Snack||Banana smoothie w/ mixed seeds||Apple, pear, cucumber, 2 tbsp. yogurt, apple juice smoothie (1/2 of each)||Mango, almonds, Warm honey/lemon and ginger water||Banana & 2 oatcakes||Warm honey/lemon & ginger water, apple & mixed nuts||Apple, pear, cucumber, 2 tbsp. yogurt, apple juice smoothie (1/2 of each)||Apple, feta cheese, warm honey/lemon &ginger water|
|Dinner||Salmon streak w/ sweet potato & spinach||Butter beans in tapenade with vegetables||Asparagus, halloumi, & quinoa||Oat covered white fish fillet with steamed broccoli & sweet potato mash||Eggplant, parmesan & tomato bake w/ side of couscous||Oven roasted chicken breast w/ carrots & bulgur||Warm Quinoa, bean and fennel salad.|
|Snack||40g dark chocolate, mint tea||Warm milk & honey, pop corn||Dried apricots, mint tea||Natural yogurt w/ mixed seeds & honey, green tea||40g dark chocolate & warm milk||Mint tea||Homemade zucchini chips (one oven roasted w/ olive oil & spices)|
What Did a Sample Week of Training Consist Of (exercises, reps, sets)?
As mentioned, my training was based on high intensity interval training. I was usually in and out of the gym within an hour including time to relax in the sauna afterwards! I alternated with HIIT training one day, then thirty minutes of cardio the next with a rest on Sunday. After a grueling six weeks I achieved my goal weight, since then I have implemented a “2 day” rule; I never take more than two days’ rest! After eight months of healthy eating and regular training I have dropped and kept off 33lbs, but most importantly gained muscle mass!
Superset = Move from one exercise to the next without break; take a short 30 second rest at the end of the rotation before repeating. Between supersets take a 1-2 min break, drink water if necessary.
- Superset #1
- Speed clean 3 x 12
- Slalom jump 3 x 25
- Single leg slalom jump 3 x 25 (per side)
- Jump Burpee 3 x 12
- Superset # 2
- Lunges 3 x 12 (per leg)
- Kettle bell swing 3 x 12
- Push-ups 3 x 10
- Superset # 3
- Mountain climber 3 x 30 (can do with TRX)
- Bent knee rear-leg lift 3 x 15 (per leg)
- Plank 30 sec
- 30 Min Cardio – Swimming / Front crawl
- Superset #1
- Treadmill 7 min x 1
- One-arm dumbbell chess press 3 x 12 (lay on ball to work core)
- Dumbbell squat & press 3 x 12 (use BOSU ball to target core/stabilizing muscles)
- Superset # 2
- Dumbbell curl 3 x 12
- Dumbbell squat 3 x 10
- Wide-grip lat pull-down 3 x 12
- Superset # 3
- Plank 3 x 30 sec (per side)
- V-sit hold 3 x 30 sec
- Leg drops 3 x 20
- 30 Min Cardio – Jogging
- Superset # 1
- Treadmill running 7 min x 1
- Box Jump 3 x 12
- Dual cable seated row 3 x 10
- Superset # 2
- Jump rope 3 x 3 min
- Dumbbell step-up to shoulder press 3 x 20
- Push-ups 3 x 12
- Superset # 3
- Crunches on ball 3 x 25 (per side)
- Plank 3 x 30 sec ( per side)
- 30 Min Cardio – Swimming / Front crawl
Suggestions For Others.
Make health a priority! There are countless students, parents, professionals, just everyday Joe’s (and Sue’s) that are putting their jobs, friends and family above their own needs. I would recommend against this, there is a difference between being selfish and putting yourself first! When you make time to focus on your health and wellbeing it takes little time to notice how much more energy you have to give back to others. Having goals is great, but if your goal is to be “skinny” or “look good on the beach” it is unlikely you will have lasting results, there are no quick fixes. Chances are if it took you years to get to the way you are, it will take time, commitment and patience to turn things around. The steps required to getting in shape demands dedication and lifestyle changes! It is not always easy, but is always worth it!
It’s been said before & I agree that the key to fitness is 80% diet and 20% training. The first step is to educate yourself and take responsibility for what you are eating. It’s true that we are what we eat, the nutrients we consume is the building blocks our bodies use to give us the healthy toned figures we want! Eating heavy meals two to three times a day was ok a century ago when in general we had to work manual labor in a field to eat the very food on the table. With a grocery store on every corner, that is not the case anymore! Irregular eating will trigger highs and lows and the majority of excess calories will be stored as you guessed it…. FAT! If you eat small balanced regular meals your body will know what to do with the rest. Most importantly, I like to call it healthy eating and not dieting; such an ugly word! It should be roughly 85% or more healthy food and 15% not so healthy. I also don’t like the word cheat days or cheat meals, there is no good or bad food; some things just don’t have as much nutritional value as others. Associating things like alcohol and sweets as ‘forbidden fruits’ triggers unhealthy emotions like guilt or euphoria when consumed; it also leads to the risk of binge eating & drinking. You can have your cake and eat it too! Enjoy, but in moderation. Your body is the best doctor and advice giver, if you feel like you have low energy, no motivation or are depressed, that is your body’s way of trying to tell you something is not right. Cleaning up your diet should do wonders in regulating mood, sleep and improving overall health.
The second priority should be regular excise, which type will vary upon personal preferences and goals. However, regular strength & cardio training will give the added bonuses of boosting serotonin, improving heart/lung capacity and building muscle; just to name a few. Training doesn’t have to be tedious 30+ min of cardio with another 30 min of strength training. After a while our bodies get used to the same movements and we hit plateaus. Switch it up, take your session outside the gym, book a badminton court with a friend, or take the bike instead of the car! If you wish, enlist in the help from a personal trainer and nutrition coach ( I happen to know the best around ) to create a training plan suited to meet your training goals and guide you on what foods are needed to do so. I even encourage asking friends and family to support your journey, but in the end it is up to you to put in the hard work. And it is totally worth it!
A third component, often under-rated is the mental aspect of health. Considering we are comprised mostly of water I would like to discuss an experiment by Japenese scientist Masaru Emoto. In brief, he took samples of water; to some of the water samples he expressed words and energy of love and encouragement. To other samples, stated that he hated them and that they were useless. Under a microscope, the ‘ugly’ ‘useless’ water was disorganized looking more so like splatter paint. Interestingly enough, the water which received love turned into beautiful crystal geometrical forms resembling snowflakes. Our thoughts manifest themselves in our physical reality. If you have a pessimistic internal dialogue thinking that you are not good enough, are ugly, or make excuses, this impacts your body negatively. Rather if you believe that you can do whatever you put your mind to than you’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish! It has to start in your mind before you’ll see the results in the mirror or on the scale.
Lastly, I am so proud I took the leap to make these lifestyle changes! I never would have guessed one year ago I would be where I am today. Since December I have accomplished my training goals. My relationships have improved and I have done much needed catching up with family and friends! I even squeezed in some travel to Thailand, England, Hungary and Croatia. Finally, I finished up a book I have been working on for seven years and look forward to a career fulfilling my potential as an author and freelance writer. I’ll conclude with the words of Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”.