The detox myth

Anyone who reads my blog (hello mum) will know that I am highly sceptical about some elements of the diet and fitness industry, especially those who have a vested interest in selling you stuff and more stuff – stuff that you don’t need.

As ever at this time of year, the marketing of health and fitness products is at a high. As we lament the festive excesses, the relentless new year new you message encourages a turn towards a healthier lifestyle – for a while at least.

And what we want most of all, is a quick fix.

When I lost my weight, I was asked over and over how I did it. No one wanted to hear the real answer: I ate less junk and exercised more.  At little over simplistic perhaps, but true all the same.

One of the quickest alleged fixes, is the miracle detox. From cleanses to teas to foot pads (yes, really) there is a company ready to take your money with little, if any, evidence to back up their claims.

Here’s the thing. Our bodies are built to detox themselves.  The function of the liver and the kidneys is to rid our body of toxins.  You can treat these organs badly, but most of the time they will bounce right back.  They don’t need juices or stick-on patches or specific aids to assist them in doing their jobs.

Outside of specific medical terminology (eg, detoxing from hard drugs via a controlled programme) a detox means, well, pretty much nothing.

But it is worse than just marketing and sales. It’s something more than that too.  The detox myth is dangerous. It encourages the idea that you can do what you like to your body, and balance it out with a couple of days of abstinence.  It is the encouragement too of the notion there are quick solutions to this difficult stuff, as opposed to choices to be made every day, for life.

These ideas are that also lead people to embarking upon unhealthy diet plans and schemes promising quick results but which are impossible to sustain. And I should know; I’ve tried most of them.

If you want to be a little kinder to your body, to those organs performing such vital functions, then go right ahead and do so. More fruit, vegetables, water.  A little less alcohol. And so on.  You know the drill.  But a detox?

Your body has it covered.

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Dry (ish) January

The first (and so far, only) time I completed Dry January, was in 2016.

Now I am known as a girl who likes a glass (or five) of Prosecco. Or a nice crisp, cold French white.  But that year, I was preparing for a number of key events, including my first triathlon and half marathon.  So it seemed like a good way to start my training.

Although if I am completely truthful, that wasn’t the only reason. Over the Christmas holidays I’d seen mention of Dry January on the telebox.  I half-heartedly suggested I might take part.  And my then husband had hysterics at the very idea.  There was no way, in his mind at least, that I could achieve such a thing.  So that became the main aim: prove him wrong.  There is nothing like someone thinking that I can’t to ensure that I can and I will.  Stubborn should have been my middle name.

After the month was out, I got it. I understood why a month of abstinence can make you change your habits for the longer term.

I did miss having a glass of wine. Especially when I went out for a meal.  But, you know, not that much.  And as the month went on, I missed it even less.

After Dry January my drinking habits changed considerably. Where in the past I’d quite often have a glass in the evening or finish off a bottle on a Saturday night, without any real effort or fanfare my drinking dropped down to a glass or two a week.  Add that to the days of abstinence before one of my many events that year, I was barely drinking at all. As a result, I lost weight, had more energy and my skin was better.

But of course, you slip back into bad habits oh so easily. I’ve found of late that it’s getting all too easy to open a bottle mid-week….. and finish it.  One beer with our Friday night pizza becomes two.  From a calorie point of view it all adds up.  From a nutritional point of view, well, there isn’t any.

So it’s going to be another Dry January in our house.

Or maybe just a slightly damp one………

Mince pie lethargy

The last couple of days, I’ve had no energy at all.

It’s hard to wake up and get going in the morning, even though I’m getting more sleep than usual. The lure of the sofa is just too strong, even when there’s plenty of stuff I should be doing.

The reason is pretty obvious when you think about it. I’ve been eating crap, so I feel like crap.

Since just before Christmas, my diet has been made up almost exclusively of three key food groups; sugar, fat (not the good kind) and grapes. By which I mean wine.

There has been some protein (turkey, Christmas Day), some healthy fats (olive oil, Greek yoghurt on top of pancakes plus syrup) and I did manage some fruit (the orange creams in the Quality Street).

But a few vegetables aside, the bulk of my food has been highly processed food, with low nutritional value. And there has been too much of it.

All of this equals a very lethargic, smudgy, lazy Gem.

There are plenty of ways to approach eating, especially when you want to lose weight or simply feel in yourself. One of them is to focus on eating food as close to its natural state as possible and with high nutritional value.  Good food that contributes to feeling good, rather than detracting from it.

The overall amount of food you eat, including the total calories within it, are important. But there’s more to it too.  That’s one of the reasons I can’t get on with many diet plans.  You can limit yourself to a 1600 calories a day, but there’s 1600 healthy calories and 1600 calories of crap.  You might lose some weight, but not necessarily in a way that will make you feel at your best.

Today, to get over my lethargy, I went to the gym. It’s true that exercise gives you more energy. I nourished myself in a better way too.  Protein, fibre, fruit, salad.  And only the one mince pie…….

After the excesses, the guilt trips

Encouragement for weeks, from every angle, to indulge yourself.  TV adverts, magazine articles, food pictures, special offers, biscuits and chocolates in every work place.  Mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas cake, marzipan fruits, After Eight Mints, cheese, chocolate tree decorations, a cheeky little glass of fizz.

After the excess comes ta new message.  To do, to be, something else instead.

Just because it is January. 

The new year, new you pressure. 

Blatant fat shaming. 

Adverts everywhere, for a quick detox, weight loss clubs, gym memberships. Celebrity exercise DVDs.

10 Steps to this, that and the other.  All the clickbait.

Shiny and bright white new Christmas trainers, waiting in the box. 

It’s all just marketing.  Much of it promoting quick fixes, doomed to fail.

 

There is a reason that many diets and big life-style changes fail. 

They are just too big.  Too much change all at once.  It’s cognitive overload.  

There is nothing wrong with making some new resolutions for the new year.  They can be a positive thing, providing focus and helping to create new habits (or tackle unhelpful old ones).  But instead of deciding to change everything, all on one day, choose something else instead.

Choose small changes.  Doing one thing at a time. Small steps. 

If you have never even run for a bus, deciding to go for the marathon in a matter of months is probably setting yourself up for failure.  Aiming, just to being with, to go for one single parkrun is more doable,  more real.  Then when you have that achievement ticked off, take the next step.  And the next one. 

If you want to improve your wellbeing in 2018 (and not just the first week in January), take just one action, make just one change.  Today.  Stick with it for a while.   And then think about making another.  It’s tortoise, not hare, time.  And while you are at it, ignore the marketing and the clickbait and all the other stuff that just makes you feel like crap and simply wants to part you from even more of your money. 

Make your wellbeing changes manageable.  Make them count.  Make them today.

 

The Christmas Quality Street Grief Cycle

Promises self not to eat any Quality Street

Decides that some Quality Street might be acceptable.

Limits self to one strawberry cream and one orange cream.

Actually eats 12 strawberry creams and 10 orange creams.

Decides might as well eat entire tub now.

Opens wine to go with it because, well, Christmas.

Goes to bed drunk with chocolate still smeared on face.

Wakes up and promises self not to eat any Quality Street.

Repeat.

 

Excuses, excuses

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been lying.

To myself.

It’s the big lie too.

The ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ lie.

Let me explain.

When I first got seriously into fitness, I found it fairly easy to fit it in. I had a short commute, and a job good enough to mean I could afford a cleaner and send out my ironing.  My time of choice to work out was in the morning before work.  Up at 5.30, in the gym for 6.15, a hard training session and then off to the office.  Weekends were dedicated to running, cycling and even longer gym sessions.

Fast forward to today, and I have a gruelling minimum three hour round trip to work. Layer on top of that the cooking, cleaning, washing and all of the other life stuff we all have to do. Trying to fit in family and some freelance work on top, exercise just kept getting pushed further and further down the priority list.

Exercise was important, but not urgent. Not in the same way that having clean clothes and food in the cupboard was.

Before I knew it, I was out of the habit. I didn’t have the time, or so I said.

Excuses are easy. But as with all things, it’s a matter of priorities. I have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce (although probably less domestic help to be honest).

So I have had a long hard look at my lifestyle.

Last week, instead of driving to a few places that I needed to go, I took my bike.

I prioritised my health over the emails that I could do on the train later, and ran at lunchtime.

I ignored the ironing pile and went out for a late evening run. I couldn’t make a full gym session but I could do a quick jaunt near to home.  And let’s face it, I can always wear something with a few creases.  I ditched a TV programme that I normally watched and did some cardio instead.

We are all busy. No one just has the time.  You have to make it.

As the saying goes, if you want to do something you find a way; if you don’t you find an excuse.

Power in the group

There’s something about having an exercise partner. On one hand, I don’t like it.  I like to do my own thing, at my own pace.  But that’s the thing.  Left to my own pace, that pace will be slower.  When I run in an event or in a group, I run faster than I do when I’m on my own.  When I don’t have a commitment to someone else, I am just that little bit more likely to stay on the sofa.  It’s a peer pressure kind of thing.

I’ve recently joined a lunchtime running club at work. Like many of us who work in offices, I rarely take a lunch break. Most days, you will find me eating a sandwich at my desk whilst scrolling Twitter.  But when there is someone counting on you, you go.

There’s just a couple of us. It’s a chatty, not too hard-core kind of thing.  It gets me moving, even if it does mean that some of my colleagues inevitably see me in lycra (sorry about that).  We do laps of the local park.  At this time of year its cold and muddy and wet and I like it.  Running with someone else makes me run longer and faster than I would if I was on my own.

So if you need a little more motivation, if you need that extra push, find someone to exercise with. There’s power in the many.

 

Good enough

We are coming up to that time of year again.

First we will have Christmas, and all of the indulgence it brings with it.

Then there will be New Year’s Eve, the final excess of the season.

And then…..

The guilt.

The resolutions.

The TV adverts for diets and detoxes.

The celebrity exercise DVDs.

The pressure – from external sources and from within.

Being hard on ourselves.

 

Anyone familiar with my story will know that I found losing weight and finding fitness hard. I still do.  I know that I always will.

I read this article at the weekend.  I wanted to share it, not just because I found it inspirational, but because it also echoes my own lived experience over the last five years.

I have learned that there is no end goal, no finish line. That the path is not always a straight line – sometimes you fall back a little and that’s okay.  I have learned that health and wellbeing is about caring for yourself and putting yourself first, something that many of us don’t do often enough.  I have learned that when it comes to weight loss and fitness, we have everything we need inside ourselves, we just have to believe it.  Most of all I have learned that there is no quick fix – there is only one race, and that is your own.

I am not perfect, but I am good enough.

 

The 9 kinds of people you always meet in the gym

The protein bore

Often found in the changing room discussing chicken, raw eggs and supplements. Bore off.

The selfie taker

It’s like, a thing in the gym today. Posing in front of a big mirror looking for the perfect shot to put on Facebook, smug model style. Did your workout really happen if you haven’t posted it on social media?

The one who looks done

Whether male or female, this person has the perfect figure and looks super awesome. Logically, we know that they probably got this from all the hours that they spent in the gym working their (tight) ass off.  But it is still okay to hate them a little bit.

The one who looks overdone

Usually a guy tbh. Often found bulging out of a very small vest.

The grunter

Found in the big weights section. Sound like they are trying to do a very big poo.

The one with the fancy, expensive gym gear

It always matches. Sometimes, even the bag and the trainers.  Mostly women, these people, never ever look like a sweaty mess.  They also usually have done their hair to go to the gym.  WTAF.

The one who is unnecessarily naked

You are in the changing room. There is, naturally, a requirement to change, wash, remove items of clothing and so on.  And yet some feel the urge to wander around the changing room as naked as they day they were born.  For ages.  Even worse, they engage you in conversation and you don’t know where to look.

The randomer

There is always one. Looks like they were intending to go for a nice day out and accidentally took a wrong turn.  Wearing a sweater and gardening shoes.

The person who doesn’t put their weights back

A special place in hell is reserved for these people.

Running, again.

Today, I ran.

It’s been a long time.

Months in fact.

Right now, I feel a long way from the girl that last year ran a half marathon, did a mud run and their first triathlon.

I’ve been quiet on this blog. Mainly, because there has been nothing new to say.  How many times can you write that you still aren’t getting your shit together with this stuff before it gets boring?

I know what I need to do, but somehow I am just still not doing it.  For months now, it has been excuses all the way.

But I remembered how I got into running in the first place. I joined a beginners group – and that started everything.  With the support of other runners, I found my running groove.

Where I work now, there is a whole running community going on. And they are have a beginners group.  I figured if it worked before, it might work again.

So I signed up.

I was nervous.  I wasn’t entirely sure I still knew how to do this stuff.  Physically, I am heavier than I was when I was running last.  I have a dodgy knee that I can’t quite get right.  I wasn’t even sure I had the breath (or VO2 max if you want the proper term) to sustain a run of any sort.

I carried my kit on the train this morning, still not entirely sure I was going to go. I’d lined up an excuse just in case (meetings, meetings).  Only they changed the time just for me and I didn’t have an excuse any more.

So I went.

Putting on my running shoes has always felt good. Wearing them after such a long time felt like coming home.

On the run itself, I was, if I am honest, a bit rubbish. But as they say (on Pinterest anyway), a bad run is better than no run.

The girl who once ran more than 13 miles without once stopping to walk is still in there.

And now she is running again.