“What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?”

Upon starting my fitness account on Instagram, I was pleasantly surprised by how many young people also had accounts of this nature. Young people tend to get a bad wrap when it comes to health and fitness so I was interested in putting together a short film on what each individual understands the term “healthy” to mean.

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KfxfnHMpkk

Enjoy.

Screw the Scales

If you follow me on Instagram (paigefitnessuk), then you’ll know that I’ve talked quite a lot recently about my experiences on a lean//slow bulk. Due to a stomach infection last September, followed by training for a half-marathon, I lost a LOT of weight. I didn’t find this out by weighing myself, I found this out by my worried mum noticing how much muscle I’d lost on my legs, followed by a friend at uni, who I hadn’t seen for a while, commenting on the thinness of my arms after a reunion hug. For some people, I understand that these comments might have appeared upsetting, but for me it was exactly what I needed to hear. Because you are looking at yourself everyday, it’s almost impossible for you to see the extent of personal weight loss/weight gain, so sometimes it takes a family member, friend or even a doctor to inform you otherwise.

I have NEVER been the type of girl to weight herself week in/week out, but out of pure interest following both these comments I weighed myself and I was completely shocked. I weighed 51KG, which at the height of 5″7 is scientifically classed on the BMI scale as underweight. I had been following a Paleo based diet, due to ongoing stomach issues, which is perfectly fine, but seeing as I was still weight-training 4/5 times per week I now realise that I was getting absolutely no where near the calories my body needed to a) correctly function and b) repair and look after my muscles. Looking back on some of my ‘What I Eat In A Day’ posts or videos, I’m convinced that on some days I wasn’t even hitting 1200 calories, which is extremely dangerous for someone of my measurements.

So, after a few days of moral panic, where I started to doubt everything to do with my fitness regime/diet/life (shout out to my mum for rearing me back to sanity), I am FINALLY back and feeling content for the first time in just under a year. I’m aiming for around 2300 calories a day, with the minimum always being 2000, and I’m making sure I’m getting heaps of protein and healthy fats. If you were to compare by current regime to a standardised diet, the #iifym is probably the most accurate. However, I’m not obsessing over every gram or losing sleep if I don’t hit my recommended macros, I’m simply loosely tracking to ensure I’m getting the correct nutrients and calories in which my body needs.

I recently did a comparison picture on Instagram which inspired me to write this post. This particular picture gained the most activity out of all my posts, with the important message being that just because your weight has gone up on the scales, does not mean this a negative thing. Within two weeks of eating properly and consequently smashing my workouts, I’ve had several compliments from family and friends on my current physique, but the most obvious thing which has changed about me is my mood. I can’t describe how much happier I am in myself and my body. I’m starting to enjoy food again and even though some days I feel down if my stomachs playing up, I know that the place I’m at now is exactly where I need to be.

Collaboration With The Pilates Studio

Pilates is often stereotyped as a form of exercise which is substantially less vigorous than the majority of other workout options. In terms of how you feel during the session; fairly relaxed and not too out of breath, it definitely feels less strenuous than say a high intensity session. However, because you are repeatedly engaging your muscles and paying attention to specific areas of your body, Pilates can often be a more beneficial workout.

There are a few variations of the workout including mat, barre and reformer machines. The most popular is a mat pilates session, upon where you work through a process of strengthening and toning exercises in order target different muscle groups. Even though the tempo is fairly moderate, the results you can get from continuous sessions of this format is incredible. Within a few weeks you feel stronger, more toned and eager to try more difficult moves.

Having only ever experienced this form of pilates, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to try more variations of this ancient exercise at The Pilates Studio in Norwich. Nestled down a scenic side street, The Pilates Studio boasts a wide range of machines in the most aesthetically pleasing and relaxing studio. The owner of the studio and experienced teacher, Lauren, tentatively went through each exercise by informing me and my friend, Lorna, the science behind the effects it was having on our bodies and how it would help our posture and flexibility. After only an hour’s session, both me and Lorna agreed that we had learnt more from our time with Lauren than we had with any other fitness instructor.

A real eye-opening moment for me during the session was Lauren’s comments on how both me and Lorna naturally do not sit with correct posture. We both appeared to hold our spine at an angle, most likely due to our prominent lifestyle of spending hours on end sitting at a desk studying. Alongside this reason, which will affect a large majority of the student population, another factor to our improper posture are exercises which me and my friend regularly partake in. As fans of Les Milles Body Pump class, there are frequent elements of fast paced deadlifting, which appears to helped in forcing mine and Lorna’s spine to naturally fall into an incorrect position. Lauren aided us in helping to focus on correcting this error and by the end of the session my back felt sufficiently stretched and less tense. When I go to deadlift now I make a conscious effort to make sure my back is set in the correct position, and I have subsequently noticed a big difference in terms of my upper body flexibility and ability to perform more reps.

A lot of people associate pilates as being an exercise for the older generation. However, with young people spending more time than ever at a desk, or slouched over their phone, it is just as important for our generation to practise pilates in order to assess and prevent issues within our bodies which may occur later in life. At her studio, Lauren offers both group and private sessions. For your first time I would highly recommend a private session, so Lauren can figure out your strengths and weaknesses in order to tailor your sessions in a way which will benefit you the most.

I cannot thank Lauren enough for the patient and methodical approach she took for our session. I learnt so much about my body and, due to implementing the tips given to us, I feel as though my posture has greatly improved after only a week on. To book a session at The Pilates Studio, simply contact Lauren by email on info@thepilatesstudionorwich.com or ring 07891 987055. It’s also worthwhile checking out her Instagram, @thepilatesstudio_norwich, which is full of mindful quotes and amazing progress pictures. If you want to see the session in action, then click here to watch the video we filmed on the day.

 

My Fitness Story: Part Two

Much like my previous post, My Fitness Story: Part One, upon where I documented how my diet had changed dramatically overtime, my workout regime has also had many ups and downs. During my scary transition from attempting to do something other than aimlessly run on the treadmill, I found myself making a lot of mistakes, having several staring competitions with the ‘how to use’ machine instructions and lots of moments of sheer panic when I realised, 15 squats in, that it was highly likely I would not have the energy to lift the weighted bar back off my shoulders (massive thank you to the many strangers who came to my assistance). It may sound silly, but no matter how embarrassing some of those situations were, I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing. Seeing as I was forced into learning from my many mistakes, this subsequently led to a feeling of gratitude over even the smallest of my personal achievements which, in the long run, helped me keep a clear perspective and improved my confidence.

When I first began training I was often conflicted over which goals I wanted to pursue for my body. Did I want to try and look like a stereotypical sun, sea and sand Instagram model? Or did I want to be able to lift heavier weights than the men at my gym? Firstly, I decided to try the cardio and high intensity approach to my fitness. This definitely brought visible progress and I was happy to be feeling more lean, but one worried question from a high school teacher later (she was concerned I was anorexic) made me cut back from my 5 sessions a week of cardio. Looking back, I now know that doing that amount of cardio, on top of my already naturally high metabolism, was not in fact my finest decision. However, in my head I was going to the gym multiple times a week, therefore I was simply being super healthy.

After pondering over whether I did in fact look too skinny, I decided I liked the appearance of my stomach and my waist but I wanted to gain muscle pretty much EVERYWHERE else. This is the point of my fitness journey where I saw a lot of progress in my body, consumed the most calories and repeatedly overused the hashtag ‘#weights’. I started using heavy weights for my glute, leg, arms and ab workouts, which definitely improved my overall physique. I began to look somewhat curvier in certain areas, particularly my glutes and legs, which only encouraged me to carry on upping both my weights and reps. This was a very bad decision on my part and has now left me with some niggling joint issues. Due to my body responding well to weights at the time, I had no desire or need to research efficient stretching, complimentary cardio to weight exercises or even simply different workouts, therefore I started to suffer from constant achy joints, a feeling of stress and zero motivation towards my workouts.

Coincidently, I developed a stomach infection at the end of last summer which forced me to re-evaluate my whole fitness and diet regime. Due to feeling both physically and mentally weak, I had a sudden drive to want to be strong. Not necessarily strong in the sense that I had bulging muscles and could’ve been mistaken for an aspiring bodybuilder, but in the sense that my body responded well to what I was doing. This brings me to my current fitness routine of weight training twice a week, a pilates or yoga based class twice a week and a cardio session once a week. This balance has given me the best results I’ve ever had; I’m building muscle from weight training, I’m then toning and strengthening these muscles during pilates or yoga and then I’m burning any excess fat during cardio.

I have learnt a hell of a lot about fitness since I started regularly going to the gym and I’m incredibly grateful to have finally realised that being fit is not about whether you look like a fitness model on Instagram or another member of your gym, it’s about feeling good in your own skin and enjoying your preferred method of fitness, whatever that is.

My Fitness Story: Part One

Around four years ago I made the change from someone who occasionally messed around on the treadmill, and didn’t pay any attention to what I was eating, to a regular gym-goer who (finally) enjoys eating healthy. My interest in food came a few months after my new exercise regime, when I began to understand that in order to see continuous progress, my diet needed to aid my workouts.

Since this realisation, I have tried SO many different diets and styles of eating to the point where I have tried bulking, cutting, a coeliac diet, a pescatarian diet, a vegetarian diet and just about anything in between. After a stomach infection at the end of last summer, which left my gut short of several trillion good bacteria, this further heightened my interest in food and the complex ingredients of what actually goes into it. The research I conducted in order to simply stop a painful infection, actually brought up alarming results. So much so, that for the last time I finally changed my diet to one which works for me.

I have never coped well with excessive amounts of dairy produce. When I was younger I always had to have skimmed milk on my cereal, and I could never manage to stomach cream. But, it would infuriate me that I could happily enjoy eggs and have no repercussions, yet as soon as I touched a milkshake * sigh * I would instantly be overcome with a feeling of sickness. Through my research of, what feels like, the anatomy of a British cow, I now understand that it isn’t dairy itself which I am intolerant too, it’s the additives and preservatives in which is added to the likes of milk, cream and some cheeses which don’t agree with my gut.

This got me thinking whether other foods which contain various additives and preservatives, aka the majority of foods on the market, are also harmful. This then led my research to gluten. As Calvin Harris recently tweeted, the food which “everyone in LA is scared of”. Jokes aside, the fitness freaks of LA have a point. In order to ensure that bread, bagels and croissants survive shelf-life there can be up to 5 preservatives added, which are often what causes the instant bloated feeling. If you often feel lethargic after a pizza or pasta dish, then you may benefit from either switching to gluten-free, make sure you use a brand with no added preservatives, or opt for fresh bakery bread which is made on the day.

My next stomach culprit is refined sugar. Basically, the sugar which doesn’t occur naturally from agave, honey or fruit (raw sugar). Refined sugar can be a very hard ingredient to eliminate when you’re first beginning a healthy diet, as it is, worryingly, included in a HELL of a lot of snacks, cereals, yoghurts and carbonated drinks. Therefore, my advice, and the rules I tend to follow, is to not overthink about refined sugar when you’re eating out at a restaurant, as most meals will contain at least a trace, but on the days after your cheat day try to not consume any refined sugar. This may sound tricky, but simple tips I use are adding honey to a snack, eating berries and consuming organic, 100% dark chocolate, as these cure the cravings.

At this stage you might be wondering what in fact I do eat? Fair point. The answer to that is WHOLE FOODS. My staple diet is lots of fresh veggies, lean meats and fish. I try and make any sauces that I can myself, and I steer clear of processed food. For snacks I either have a small portion of fruit, such as 1 ripe banana or a handful of berries, or an energy or protein ball. This diet is often referred to as the ‘Paleo’ diet, upon where you have an exceedingly low in-take of grains, if you’re craving the likes of rice, pasta or granola then you simply always opt for gluten free, 8+ portions of fruit and veg a day and plenty of healthy protein. Oh, and white wine is also an element to the diet. Win, win.

For the first time in years, I finally feel like I’ve found the perfect diet for me. Everyone is different and no one diet will fit all, but in terms of how I feel both on the outside and the inside, this is definitely the healthiest I have ever felt.

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Weekly Food Order & Healthy Meal Plan

Nothing in this world makes me more excited than the delivery man ringing to say my weekly food shop is here.  Being in university, I find that one big order based on meal plans for each day saves time, money and it prevents (most of the time) snacking on the student union shop’s chocolate aisle.

I usually tend to stock up on staple food cupboard items such as pasta, rice, eggs and any cereal or granola in bulk once a month, therefore my weekly shop mainly consists of fresh food. After following a pescatarian diet for the past month, I am now back to having meat, but I still want to ensure I am getting the same large portions of fruit and vegetables as I was having with the medetarian based diet. Therefore, I have planned my meals around a guideline of 1/4 of protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 fruit or veg.

Food Order

  • Eggs
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Koko Dairy Free Milk
  • Actimel Yoghurts
  • New potatoes with herbs
  • Gluten Free Pasta
  • Buckwheat Pancake Mix
  • Wholemeal Ciabatta Rolls
  • Genius Plain Bagels
  • Mixed Salad
  • Asparagus
  • Peppers
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tinned Tuna
  • Minced Meat
  • Cod and Parsley Fishcakes
  • Steak Burgers
  • Tilda Coconut Rice
  • Mixed Carrots and Peas
  • Smoked Salmon Slices
  • Nairns Oat Crackers
  • Roast Chicken Slices
  • Pears
  • Buckwheat Granola

I try to stick to breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner. My meal portions vary depending on whether they’re pre or post workout, so if I’m going to the gym after breakfast I’ll have something small and energy fuelling then if I’m going later in the day I’ll have something bigger and then a smaller lunch.

Using the food order above, my meals this week will consist of:

Breakfast

  • Granola, Yoghurt and Fruit
  • Buckwheat Pancakes and Fruit
  • Salmon & Scrambled Egg Bagel
  • Mushroom and Spinach Omelette

Lunch

  • Sliced Chicken and Salad Ciabatta Roll
  • Tilda Rice, Salmon, Peppers & Asparagus
  • Cod fishcake, Spinach & Salad
  • Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta
  • Sliced Chicken, New Potatoes & Peppers

Afternoon Snack

  • Blueberry, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie
  • Bagel & Prutella Hazelnut Protein Spread
  • Sliced Pear & Coconut Yoghurt
  • Sliced Banana & Honey Oat Crackers

Dinner

  • Low Fat Mince, Peppers, Mushrooms & Low Calorie Tomato Sauce
  • Fishcake, Carrots, Peas & New Potatoes
  • Ciabatta Steak Burger, Carrots, Peas & Salad
  • Salmon, Coconut Rice, Asparagus & Peppers
  • Tuna, Sweetcorn, Pepper & Spinach Pasta

What I Eat In A Day And Why

For many people the hardest aspect of losing weight, or toning up, is diet. Once you’ve established a routine, exercise quickly becomes addictive, but there is absolutely nothing addictive about choosing a riveta cracker over a chocolate fudge cake.

At

All.

Both the problem, and the benefit, of fitness social media accounts, is that the pictures of victoria secret model lookalikes posing on a Caribbean beach is enough to make you consider whether you can in fact live off a grape a day. But, if you dedicate some serious scrolling time, you’ll learn that the majority of these girls are actually consuming 2000+ calories a day, alongside exercise, they just know exactly what to eat.

So what should you be eating? I have changed, adapted & tweaked my diet frequently over the last four years depending on my goals and shape. Right now, I’m consuming 2000-2500 calories on days which I train Legs, Glutes & Arms and 2000 calories on a day where I train Abs. I separate my calories into 4 or 5 separate meals, as I find eating little and often gives me the best results, and I ALWAYS ensure I’m eating 5+ fruit and veggies a day (being a newly converted pescatraian helps).

This is a typical meal plan for a weight intensive day at the gym for me. It consists of whole foods, fruit, veggies, protein, carbs & healthy fats which all assist in achieving goals on the outside of your body, and making you feel good on the inside too.

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Pre Workout & Breakfast

  • 6 Strawberries
  • 10 Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 tablespoons of ‘Oatly’ Oat Drink
  • 2 tablespoons of Coyo Coconut Yoghurt
  • Grenade Caramel Chaos Protein Bar

Using a blender, blend the strawberries, blueberries, banana, oat drink and yoghurt together. Pour into a bowl and then add the chopped up Grenade bar and any excess fruit. Smoothie bowls are a great way to consume a large majority of your 5 a day, and coupling it with a protein bar before your workout gives you the extra energy you need to smash your workout.

 

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Taken with breakfast

Every morning  I take one Zinc tablet and two Peppermint tablets with breakfast. Zinc helps build immunity as well as maintaining hormonal balance and the growth of your skin, hair and nails. Peppermint tablets assist in relaxing your stomach muscles and encourage sufficient digestion.

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-extra-strength-oil-of-peppermint-capsules-200mg-60005010

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-high-strength-zinc-tablets-15mg-60005711

 

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Taken after Breakfast (and each meal)

If you suffer with bloating after certain foods, or a big meal, then taking two capsules after eating helps to improve that uncomfortable feeling. Or, if you simply want to aid digestion then these work rapidly in assisting this. I take two after every big meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then one after my snack.

https://www.philrichardsperformance.co.uk/index.php/super-digestive-enzymes.html

 

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Post Workout & Lunch

  • Tila Coconut Basmati Rice
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Asparagus

This meal takes under 5 minutes to prepare yet it’s filled with complex carbs, healthy fats and a source of veggies. I try to include asparagus with at least two meals a day as it’s a natural diuretic, meaning it’s great at cleansing your digestive system. Substituting salmon for a lean chicken is also a great combination.

 

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Afternoon Snack

  • Narins Oat Crackers
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 scoops of Muscle Food Prutella Hazelnut Spread

This is the perfect snack to have mid-afternoon if you need an extra boost (or to satisfy some sugar cravings). Another one of your five a day ticked off and a great source of protein from the Prutella spread which will continue to assist your muscles throughout the day.

http://www.musclefood.com/prutella-chocolate-hazelnut-spread.html/

 

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Dinner

  • 1/2 cup of Pasta
  • 4 Broccoli Stems
  • 6 Green Beans
  • 2 Stems of Asparague
  • 1/2 cup of Sweetcorn
  • Handle of Mixed Peppers
  • Cod Loin

With my dinner I like to pile on as many veggies as I can, alongside a sufficient carbs and protein hit. This is usually my last source of food during the day, unless I’m particularly hungry and fancy another snack, so I like it to be as filling as possible. Again, substituting the cod with another lean meat is equally as tasty.

This is just an example of one of my week day meal plans. I like to try and mix it up everyday to ensure I still get excited about making and planning food. However, even though I may change the rice to a wholewheat bagel, or substitute pasta for potatoes, I’m still ensuring that I’m consuming good, whole foods, which I enjoy eating and give me the results I want.