Summer Blogger Challenge: Getting Fit For Summer

We’re now on to week 4 of the #summerbloggerchallenge and the topic is ‘fit for summer’. This is something I often struggle with because A) I love my food. B) I don’t have the fitness levels to stick to a daily exercise regime and, C) I’m the kind of person who feels the pressure of the social media resulting in putting myself down even when I’m achieving. With this in mind, I aren’t the best person to give advice about the whole concept of the word ‘fitness’ and the word can have so many different meanings depending on what you plan on getting out of it and what your objective is to aim for. However, I think once summer hits and all the dazzling bikinis are displayed in the shops, the holidays abroad are booked, the beach bods are sprung into action, and it becomes too warm to cover yourself up, everyone can benefit from creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself; to not only feel more comfortable and confident, but to also boost your energy levels, your general well-being, to reduce the risk of illness, provide new experiences, and even contribute towards better skin, stronger nails and sleeker hair (which is something we’d all love to have I’m sure!).

Before I start talking about what I do to try my best to stay in shape, I’d like to point out that when you change your lifestyle choices, it has to be for YOU, nobody else. Always go by what you believe matters and what goals you wish to reach. If you love what you see in the mirror, stay as you are and remain happy. If you’re unhappy and it’s starting to cause problems within your self esteem, then go ahead and begin to think about what you desire. Either way, you’re sure to feel the positive effects in the long run and will continue to strive.

DIET

I never realised how important your diet was until I started researching the ins and outs of successful fitness. There is no point working extremely hard exercise wise, and then coming home to a big, greasy takeaway or a bar of chocolate and some biscuits as that’s all the hard work wasted. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is key. Obviously, I (and many others) would be lying if I claimed I never treat myself once in a while because I do, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that you can enjoy the odd cake knowing you deserve to have one day off. 

Depending on your targets, your diet should vary. For example, if you’re aiming for muscle building, you need a good mix of protein but cutting down the carbs (yet eating enough for your energy), and eliminating the sugars and the fats for losing weight all round is essential. For me, my goal was to zap the puppy fat, slim down and tone up a little. For this to happen, the first thing I needed to do was change my diet. 

For around a year now, I have completely turned the tables diet-wise, and over this time, with the push of a little exercise, I have dropped from a size 12/14 to an 8/10. I’m a sucker for a sweet treat, and any sort of high carb foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, rice and potatoes but this didn’t mean I had to cut these out completely. Making small changes to start with such as swapping the food for a similar, healthier option is what I found to be the most helpful. Now, I only eat wholemeal bread, the odd wholewheat pasta meal and brown rice, and jacket potatoes and sweet potatoes. If you’re impressive at cooking (which I aren’t) you could even create your own healthy option like a wholemeal pizza with full tomatoes and a smidgen of low fat cheese. You can even do this when your cravings are in full swing; Nakd Bars, Eat Natural Bars, raisins, Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn and Special K Biscuit Moments (I know they’re still quite naughty) are what snacks I seem to have to resolve the sweet tooth.

Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland, I’ve learnt in time how you can add other good foods to an already good food to spice it up. My favourites being fruit layered on wholesome cereals with 1% fat milk, a small amount of Light Dairylea spread into a celery stick, avocado on seeded crackers, diced chicken cooked on a fat busting grilling machine mixed with an all green salad, and blended vegetables made into homemade soup. Eating natural, or ‘clean eating’ is the route I’ve taken ever since I started dieting. Cutting out the bad foods and the artificial ingredients is what I focused on the most. A diet containing plenty of fruit, veg, salads, and the ‘good’ fats such as nuts, and fish is bound to give you nothing but positive results. Remember, you do need a balanced range of foods for your body to function properly. You need some carbs, some dairy and some fats and sugars but it’s how you develop a healthier alternate of which contains these things that matters.

It is not only food you have to concentrate on, however, the liquids you pour into your body are just as major. Any kind of fizzy pop is a no no (yes, even Diet Coke!) don’t be fooled by the ‘no calories’ advertisement, they’re packed with artificial sweeteners which in turn doesn’t contribute towards weight loss in the slightest. For those tea and coffee drinkers (I’m not one, so I don’t need to worry about that) it’s wise to either just have these in moderation or once again, swap to a more healthier version for e.g. green tea! I love my hot chocolates on a night time and I won’t ever give them up, but I refuse to have a 120 calories Cadbury’s when there is the option of Options! (that’s a mouthful). Only 40 calories, available in a range of flavours and extremely tasty. Pure, fresh juices (orange, apple, cranberry etc) are another healthier option whilst keeping the tangy taste. However, water is a life changer for me. Drinking around 6 large glasses of water a day is the best decision I’ve ever made (even if I do constantly need a wee). Either alone or topped with ice and a lemon, it’s all I have from day to day and I am 100% certain that alone has lead to the point I am now. Water washes the bad toxins out of your body (which is why you can even rely on it to feel less guilty about a binge), it keeps you nourished, hydrated and raises metabolism. Plus, from the tap it’s completely free (apart from the water bill) so there’s no excuses! Another step I’m on the verge of taking is making my own smoothies, made from pure fruit, blended with water and crowned with any other ingredient you can think of. My ultimate smoothie consists of banana, apple, strawberries, and spinach for that extra kick (although I’m now out of spinach which is why the above picture is less green!). Natural smoothies seem to fill me up, taking away that urge to pig out through the day.

I am a strong believer that steadily improving your diet and partaking in exercise works and is the safer, better, more flourishing way to gradually lose weight and keep that weight off long term. Each to their own preference of course, but I would never go near these fad diets such as Juice Plus, and these harsh fasting diets. Starving your body and/or living off juices filled with tons of stuff you don’t need is not the way to go. Achieving takes time and you just have to be patient. It’s guaranteed you and everyone around you will notice the difference, you will feel yourself losing the cravings for calorie filled treats and will get used to eating well, thus thriving on prolonging your new healthy lifestyle.

EXERCISE

For some (yep, I’m one of them) that word is scary. Even just thinking about the amount of strict exercise you need to become involved in to tick off every inch of the imperfections you see makes me tired. There’s days when I’m feeling super motivated, and then days where I’m severely sluggish and shrug off the thought of moving from the sofa. I think mainly, that’s down to my physical ability and how I vary from day to day. If, like me, you are unable to partake in intense exercise due to health problems and the lack of strength you have, then gentle exercise is the way forward. When I feel up to it, I will pedal for 30-40 minutes on the exercise bike, taking a break in between if I need it. Then I will cool off, do around a 5 minute quick workout of jogging on the spot, stretching and step ups. That will be me finished until I go to bed. Before bed and in the morning I will try and do a quick session of twists, squats, lunges, calf raises, sit ups/crunches and a leg stretch laid on my hip. I aim to do about 20 sets each as anymore than that kills me, but saying that I do it when I feel like it and don’t set myself up for disappointment which I think is the best way and the correct attitude to have so you’re not left feeling drained (well, exercise is draining but I like to feel more pumped than the collapsed on the floor feeling). Plus, exercise is time consuming so you have to do it only when you won’t leave yourself short of crucial time.

Being at a gym, you have more choice and high standard equipment that will be more useful but you don’t get much privacy and do not have your own space. I, personally, prefer being in my own comforts as I’m an overly paranoid person and would be worried people were judging me/watching me and I can’t work out under pressure (lord, it’s hard enough as it is!). However, there are people; especially those who are more dependent on working out, who are increasingly agile with powerful abilities, and are extremely focused with their regime, who prefer being a member of a gym which is completely fine too. There are so many varied exercises that you can do both at home and in the gym. This, once again, all depends on your goal and the core areas you want to target. If you’re muscle building, then add weights, concentrating on a specific place (like me with my hips, bums and thighs), then put more of your attention to working on burning fat in that area. I’m not an expert so I’m not going to go into lecturing depth, I just know it’s necessary to find the correct exercise suited to you. Building muscle is all about training, losing weight is all about the cardio side of things; you can always move on to different stages as you progress.

Along with the diet, there are also supplements you can take alongside to compliment your growth. Make sure these are safe, appropriate and will not put you in any danger. As tempting as it may be when the influence of an over obsessed society is eating away at your brain with these images of what they (both men and women) think is the ‘perfect’ body, it’s not ideal. Diet pills, growth hormones, steroids; I just don’t believe in them as it’s not only cheating and doing it the easy way, you have no idea what harm it could be causing; even if you have no signs or symptoms. Also, a little extra tip – it’s best to actually be present when purchasing these products as I never trust the internet businesses. Protein bars and shakes are your best option, I’ve seen for myself how they contribute towards evolution. Plus, it’s an excuse for having something chocolate flavoured I suppose!

It is important not to over do it when you’re exercising. I read somewhere that if you’re feeling excessive pain whilst working out, it’s a sign for you to stop. Aching and having sore muscles is completely normal but over exhausting yourself isn’t going to be nice. You mustn’t forget that warming up beforehand is significant. Warming up prepares your body for exercise; it increases your blood flow, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, reduces the chances and risks of injury to joints, mentally motivates you and improves your coordination. All of which I’m sure you’re aware you need during exercise!

Overall, I think generally keeping active will keep you at a healthy, stable weight and fitness level but if you wish to increase, you need to go that extra mile. Although eating more wholesome foods can be quite pricey, exercising doesn’t always have to cost money. Walking instead of taking the car or bus, or even taking a run around your local park will all be beneficial to you as an individual, now and in the future!

TIPS

– Keep count of your calories. Apps like MyFitnessPal are brilliant. It really helps having the calculated amount of calories you should intake in front of you so you can always check, but don’t feel too hard on yourself if you go over. It doesn’t matter, it’s the type of food you’re eating that matters!

– NEVER skip breakfast, your body only stores more fat that way and you will be running on no fuel. An appropriate breakfast would be filled with as many nutritious foods possible such as fat free yoghurt, granola, a bowl of fruit, wholemeal toast, and so on. The more you eat in the morning, the longer you’ll feel full, meaning you won’t be as tempted to snack! Even though that isn’t always manageable on a busy morning, you must remember to grab something to eat.

– Avoid/cut down on alcohol. In moderation, it’s fine, but if you’re dieting, drinking every other day and at weekends, and wandering why nothing is happening; remember a glass of wine is equivalent to a chocolate eclair and a pint of beer is equivalent to a slice of pizza! If you can’t give it up completely, there’s always a lower calorie option too which will improve your healthiness slightly (but not a lot!).

– Drink as much water as possible! Whenever you’re feeling thirsty, make yourself a glass of water. When you’re feeling hungry late at night, this may be due to slight dehydration, so get that glass of water and it should solve the problem. It’s amazing what water can do!

– Set goals appropriate to you. You know what’s right and wrong and what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new challenges and push yourself that little bit more too, you’ll most likely be grateful of doing it afterwards!

– Take before and after pictures. A picture of you in a bikini/underwear before you begin making these drastic changes, and a picture to follow when you are satisfied with the results you see. Put the two together and you will be astounded by what you see. You never notice when looking at yourself, but as soon as a picture is compared, you realise just how crazy different you look and how what you are doing is actually working. Here’s mine (you’ll just have to excuse the non-matching underwear!)

– Make it fun! By that I mean don’t take it too serious and don’t make it a chore. There’s no point in beating yourself down over something that’s supposed to make you feel cheerier and less conscious. Take it at a steady pace, indulge in the food you eat and pick out all the salutary parts instead of the boring parts, make up your own activities based on what you enjoy, and blast that music out as you’re working out to motivate you more!

– Keep note of what inspires you. Whether this be a quote, a picture, a book, or even a determined spark inside you that suddenly comes alive and says ‘I WILL do this, I CAN do this’. Fixating on the positive opportunities and thoughts will guide you through your journey.

I hope this is of some help to anyone out there whose bucket list option, or even all season goal, is to become more fit. I’ve enjoyed writing about my opinion on what a healthy lifestyle should contain but I’d love to hear yours! I’m still not where I want to be but I’ve come a long way since the start. You have to remember it’s not always a smooth ride, there’ll be ups and downs, but it will be worth it in the end!

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