My Efforts to Stay Strong

2020 has been a test of resilience for me. Since March, I can’t count the amount of emotional ups and downs I’ve experienced. With winter approaching, I worry about the mental health and wellbeing of not only myself, but that of my family, friends, coworkers, and community members. It’s only October, and we are already experiencing a heavy snow fall, which means the end to patios visits and a lot of outdoor activities. COVID19 cases in our provinces are slowly creeping upwards, so it’s highly possible we will see a repeat of economic shutdowns.

My day time profession is in Human Resources, and I’ve seen first hand the toll the Pandemic has had on my coworkers. The diversity in people’s emotions range from fear, denial, to an utter refusal to feel anything. However, many people are exhibiting similar behavioural changes. People have become less patient with each other. Snapping and casting blame for things that shouldn’t be issues at all. It’s as if they are looking to blame someone for the discomfort they are feeling. Corporately, there is a sense of impending doom. Will we get future contracts? will we have enough workers to do the work we have? What if COVID19 strikes our workplace? Life is hard right now, and personally, I think it will be for some time.

I do believe, however, I will survive this emotional roller coaster. Speaking for myself, I feel I have two options. Succumb to the negatives and let depression set in, or continue to stay focus on the moment and stay strong. I have had to let go of my old self, and rebuild my mental models of the world. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m choosing my thoughts carefully, as I don’t want to waste any bit of my life. The world could end tomorrow, and I’d be pissed if I spent my last day(s) in a foul mood. Not that I see things with rose coloured glasses, I’m not that good. However, I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been for the opportunity to be alive.

Wellness, I think, is a state of mind. I feel if I care for my physical self, show kindness to others, and give myself permission to experiences my own emotions without judgement, I may have a chance to stay strong.

Winter Fitness Prep 2020

With cooler temperatures fast approaching, it’s time to get prepared for winter fitness. Depending on where you live and what your comfort level is, the gym may not be an option for you this year. Exercise, however, is important for both our physical and mental health. Not to mention the health & safety of the people who have to live with us 😉 So without further ado, here are some ideas to keep you moving during the cooler months.

Outdoor Activities

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels

There are plenty of winter outdoor activities to keep fit, and many don’t require a large financial investment. The list below offers suggestions that range from FREE to $$$$$.

  • Ski or Snowboarding: Whether you are an avid skier or want to learn, there’s plenty of room on the hills for everyone. Most ski villages have rentals and lessons available for beginners.
  • Snowshoeing: This is one of my favorite activities because it’s inexpensive and can be done almost anywhere there is snow. The MSR Evo Trail Hiking Snow Shoe is a budget friendly option that will get the job done. It’s worth doing a bit of research to determine which snow shoes will work best for you.
  • Running or Hiking: Running/Hiking in cooler weather is great, but what about when the snow falls? Just add a set of YakTraks, and you’re good to go. There are a variety of snow cleats on the market, but not all are the same. It’s always good to read reviews if possible. I bought a pair of “no-name” cleats one year that were terrible. When it comes to cleats look for a pair that offers comfort and traction.
  • FAT Bike: Fat bikes are gaining in popularity among mountain bikers. PRO: It’s a great workout CON: a decent Fat bike will cost you. You can always rent a bike if you want to try before you buy.
  • PLAY: The easiest and cheapest way to exercise 🙂 Get outside and build a snowman, taboggan, make snow angels, skate on a frozen lake, or have a snowball fight. Not only will you burn calories, but you’ll have fun doing it.

Indoor Activities

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

At-home workouts are another option, and they can be done with little to no equipment. If you don’t have a dedicated workout space, consider using your living room, bedroom, office or even kitchen. You can easily move a coffee table or chair to make a little space. Now let’s talk options.

Cardio Machines: If you have a favorite cardio machine and a little money to invest, this may be an option. Treadmills, spin bikes, steppers, or a row machine will keep you cardio fit. However, a quality machine will cost you, and it will take up space. If you are going to invest in a machine, I recommend shopping at a fitness supply store. Do a search to see what’s available near you.

YouTube Fitness Videos: There is no shortage of free workouts available on YouTube. From beginners to advanced, there are literally thousands of options. I’ve even started my own channel that offers full-length at-home workouts. Feel free to check it out, or do a search for a class style that suits you. Workout ideas: Cardio, no equipment required, HIIT, Yoga, Zumba, kettle bell workout, strength with dumbbells, stretch.

Equipment: A few pieces of equipment can add a lot to your workouts. I prefer items that are versatile and require little space. Here are my go-to home gym items: One or more sets of dumbbells, Kettlebells, Yoga Mat, exercise bench , and medicine balls. What ever you choose, pick items you enjoy using. There’s not point spending money on fitness equipment that won’t get used.

Live Stream Workouts: Why not check out some live streamed classes? Plenty of instructors, Personal Trainers, and fitness clubs are offering virtual classes. Join a group on Zoom or Facebook to enjoy real-time workouts.

Home Renos: This option is for the very motivated…. haha. In all seriousness, renovating involves physical activity if you’re doing them yourself. Laying floors or painting a wall not only burns calories, but also gives you the benefit of an upgraded living space.

As you can see, there’s more than one way to get your winter sweat on. Keep strong everyone and cheers to the end of 2020.

Mental Fitness: 10 Tips for Managing Anxiety

There’s no doubt we are living in challenging times. A global pandemic, societal divide, political unrest, environmental concerns etc. — It’s becoming more and more difficult to simply “keep our ….. together.” There was a story on this morning’s news that caught my attention. The headline was “What has been the most “Googled” topic since the beginning of this pandemic?” The answer was not surprising: Anxiety.

Anxiety is nothing new for me. I’d lived with generalized anxiety disorder for what seems like a lifetime. Fortunately, I’ve learned to manage my disorder with medication, therapy, and physical activity. It’s taken years to develop coping skills to navigate my world without constant fear. I still have anxiety, but I have a tool kit for easing the physical and emotional toll it takes on me. An anxiety disorder is different from the acute anxiety people are feeling during this pandemic, but the mental and physical effects are similar.

Side effects may include: fatigue, anger, sadness or depression, lack or increased appetite, possible substance abuse, lack of concentration, sleep disturbances, drastic mood swings, shakiness, and panic attacks. Two main contributors to anxiety include: a lack of control and a lack of security or safety, so it makes sense that people are feeling more anxious as of late. However, there are ways to make things a bit easier on ourselves. I’m not a mental health professional, but I can provide some tips that have helped me manage anxiety.

10 TIPS FOR EASING ANXIETY

  1. Talk it out: share your thoughts with friends, family, or even a counselor.  Talking about our thoughts can give us an alternate perspective.  Additionally, connecting with others reduces loneliness and provides us with a sense of community and security.
  2. Get moving: Exercise is excellent for our physical health, and it improves our moods by releasing endorphins.  Daily exercise will also help you sleep better 😊 This can be as simple as going for a walk.
  3. Limit substances:  Don’t over indulge in alcohol or drugs. It may seem to help in the moment, but it will only make things worse in the long run.  I speak from experience on this one.
  4. Get your sleep: try and get into a good sleep routine.  Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day if possible.  This may take time, so be patient.
  5. Focus on things you can control: such as what you can do to protect yourself: wear a mask, limit outings, keep your distance, wash your hands etc.  Do the things that make you feel safe and that are in your control.  Remember there will always be things in life that are out of our control.  Stay in the moment, and deal with issues only when they arise.
  6. Get outside: Fresh air is a great way to release stress.  Go for a walk, run, bike ride, hike, or just sit in your backyard. 
  7. Practice mindfulness: If you struggle to stay in the moment, try a guided mindfulness meditation.  There are plenty of free YouTube videos on this topic.
  8. Eat well: It can be tempting to reach for comfort foods, but unhealthy food choices can affect your mood.  Stick to whole foods such as lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lots of water. 
  9. TURN OFF THE NEWS: Stay informed, but limit the amount of news you watch or listen to.  Constant negative information makes it difficult to recognize what’s good in the world.
  10. DO things you enjoy: play with your children, cuddle a pet, listen to music.

My thoughts go out to anyone dealing with excess anxiety or depression. Know you are not alone – be well and take care of you.

Weight Loss Progress – Fit After 45!

Disclaimer: The daily caloric intake described in this post is based on my personal requirement (age 45, height 5’4″).   Caloric needs are based on several factors such as, age, gender, height, and activity level.  For guidance on your daily caloric requirement, speak to a medical professional (doctor/dietitian).

Aging is bitter-sweet: mostly bitter with a hint of sweet.  The hardest part of aging, for me, has been the physical changes that go along with it.   Looser skin, not-so fine lines, age spots, brittle hair, perimenopause, and “the middle-aged spread”.   Every little change is a reminder of my own mortality – not an easy pill to swallow.  Harder yet, was accepting I needed to make changes to my life style if I wanted to age well.

I’ve been living in semi-denial for the past couple of years.  I knew I was gaining weight, and I wasn’t completely clueless as to why.  I blamed it solely on aging since that was an excuse I could live with.  In reality, my nightly glasses of wine and constant snacking throughout the day were the real issues.  Admitting this, however, would mean I’d have to do something about it, and I didn’t want to.   I told myself that I wanted to be happy, and I didn’t want to give up the things I enjoyed.  Lies, lies, and lies – I wasn’t happy.  I hated the way I felt and looked.  I no longer wanted to socialize, as I felt embarrassed by my own body.  Deep down, I was ashamed of myself.

Indeed, aging played a part in my weight gain.  In my younger years, I could drink and snack regularly.  If I gained a bit of weight, I would clean my act up for a month and get right back to my fit looking self.   My clever routine started losing its effectiveness with each year added to my 40s.  As the weight started to pack on, my usual clean eating habits began shifting too.  Partly due to living with a man who eats pretty much whatever he wants to, but mostly because I felt like crap.  With 20lbs of extra weight and an almost diminished self-esteem, something inside of me woke up.

I was depressed and tired being fat, so I tossed out my excuses and made some changes. 29 days ago, I tossed out my wine and changed the way I eat. For years, I’ve been eating three small meals a day with 2 to 3 snacks.  This goes back to my heavy weight training days.  Experts recommended this eating pattern to keep energy levels up, and to ensure adequate fuel for recovery.  If monitored, I could keep my caloric intake between 1500 to 1800 cal/daily.  (1500 for weight loss, 1800 for maintenance) It seemed to work for the most part, so I never switched it up.

AGE, unfortunately, plays a factor in a person’s caloric requirement.  With age, we start to lose muscle mass, which lowers our metabolism.   Described in simple terms, our metabolism is a chemical reaction that takes place in our body when we eat.  This chemical reaction breaks down nutrients in our food to create energy which fuels for our body.   If we eat more than our body burns, the excess energy is stored as fat.   Therefore, if we have less muscle mass, we use less energy to fuel them.  Energy = Calories.

With this in mind, I struggled to keep my caloric intake under 1500 a day with my 5 – 6 feeding times.  I began researching weight loss tips for women over 40, and intermittent fasting came up several times.   I decided to give it a go.  If you want details of what this looks like, read my previous post: here. It’s been nearly four weeks of no wine, intermittent fasting (around 1200 cals/daily), and regular exercise, and I’ve dropped 12lbs.  That is a significant amount of weight in such a short amount of time.  Not all 12lbs were fat, as I would have lost a fair amount of water retention.  However, I’ve found a way to lower my daily caloric intake, lose weight, and start feeling myself again.  I still have weight to loss, but I’m confident it will come.  If you have struggled in your mid-life with weight gain, I highly recommend seeing if intermittent fasting is right for you.

Intermittent Fasting – 16/8 Method for Mid-life Weight Loss

Disclosure: I am not a doctor nor a dietitian, so I recommend consulting a physician before trying any type of diet.  This is especially important for people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, an eating disorder, or if you are pregnant or breast feeding.  The information in the Blog has been collected from several professional articles, and from my own personal experience.   Article sources will be listed at the end of this post. 

INTERMITTENT FASTING FOR MID-LIFE WEIGHT LOSS

Mid-life weight gain started for me after my 43rd birthday.   That was the year I received the fabulous gift of perimenopause!  Wow, I was not prepared for the challenges “the change” was going to present for my mind and body.  I can’t completely blame perimenopause for the 15lbs I’ve put on over the past 2 years, but it certainly played a part.   

After several failed attempts at losing my mid-life weight, I knew I needed to change my approach.  I began researching weight-loss after 40, but there seemed to be too many opinions with not enough specific guidance. For a short period of time, I contemplated trying either Keto or the Ideal Protein program. Friends and co-workers had attempted one or the other, and they all succeeded at losing weight. However, almost every one of them regained some, all, or more of their weight back within a year or so.  I’m not going to knock any diet, as I’m not qualified to present a professional opinion. I’ve been in the fitness industry long enough to know that people need to find what works for themselves. However as a personal trainer, I won’t promote a diet either. I recommend getting professional medical advice when it comes to starting any type of extreme diet.

That said, I do believe that eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins is appropriate for the average healthy person.  This has been the basis of my diet for years, and I was able to maintain my weight throughout my adult life.  You are probably asking yourself, why then, did I start gaining weight?  The truthful answer is two-fold: I was drinking too much wine, and I was eating too much/too often. The more weight I gained, the more I would drink and eat.   I started to hate my body, and I was becoming depressed.  I wanted nothing more than to regain control of myself, so I continued looking for answers. Recently, I came across a blog post titled “Should You Intermittent Fast During Menopause? A Hormone Expert Explains” written by Taz Bhatia, M.D. 1

Now I’ve heard of intermittent fasting before, but I never gave it much thought. The word “fasting” was enough to turn me off. However, after reading the blog post, I was enlightened, and I wanted to learn more about the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF).  Luckily, there is no shortage of information on IF, and I was fascinated by the science behind this type of eating pattern. Without getting into too much detail, I will summarize IF and what it’s done for me.

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

Simply put, intermittent fasting involves a period of cycling between fasting and eating.  There are different approaches to intermittent fasting, but the one that seems to be easiest is the 16:8 method.  For this fasting method, a person fasts for 16 hours and has an 8-hour eating window.  The fasting and eating time are not specified, so a person can pick times that work for their own schedule. Personally, an eating window of 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. worked the best for me. During your fast, you can have water, and plain coffee or tea.

HOW TO BENEFIT FROM INTERMITTENT FASTING

Intermittent Fasting is not a diet, so there are no set guidelines for what you eat.  However, for weight loss, many experts suggest eating non-processed whole foods: lean proteins (fish, chicken breasts, lean cuts of beef or pork, or plant-based proteins), whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat), healthy fats (avocado, olive oil), fruits and vegetables. 2  This is my preferred diet: I also eat small amounts of plain Greek yogurt and cheese.  Additionally, weight loss is easier by reducing or eliminated alcohol from diet.

Calorie counting is not part of IF; however, I’ve chosen to count calories to get a good understanding of how much I should eat at each meal.   I’ve settled on approximately, 600 cals for both meals.  I eat brunch at 10:30 a.m. and dinner between 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  – no snacking between or after meals.  If I have to eat dinner later than 6:30 p.m., I simply adjust my brunch time the following day. 

MY CURRENT RESULTS

It’s been two-weeks since I stopped drinking alcohol and started intermittent fasting.  I’m more than pleased with the results I’ve had so far. 

  • 9lbs lost
  • Improved sleep
  • More energy
  • No more bloating
  • Better digestion
  • Improved mood

I did experience side-effects during the first few days such as, reduced energy and sleep disturbances.  However, the side-effects went away, and I’m feeling good overall.  In addition to intermittent fasting, I do exercise daily to stay both mentally and physically fit. 

Intermittent fasting is working for me, and I will keep you posted on my progress.  If you decide to try it for yourself, please do your research and consult with your physician if you have any health considerations. I’d love to hear your thoughts or opinion on this topic, so feel free to leave comment below.

Post References:

1. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/should-you-intermittent-fast-during-menopause-hormone-expert-explains

2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156

Additional suggested IF Readings:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting

https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20191226/intermittent-fasting-diet-could-boost-your-health#1

Fit After 40 – 7 Tips for Mid-life Weight Loss

Hello my fellow mid-lifers.  If you are reading this, it’s likely you’ve noticed some unwanted changes to your body after the age of 40.  A loss of muscle mass and weight gain are common for people as they enter middle-age.  It happened to me, and I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 16 years.  Getting fit after 40 isn’t as hard as it might seem, however.  The trick is to change our mind-set and make appropriate adjustments to our old fitness and diet routines. 

After many trial and error attempts, I’ve finally found what works for me. I put a plan in place to lose my mid-life weight gain and regain body confidence. I’m half way through week two, and I’m down 8lbs. Today, I will share 7 tips that helped me gain back control of my health and fitness.

Tip #1:  Be honest to yourself and make the decision you are ready for change.  It’s easy to get into a pattern of denial.  We make excuses for why we can’t exercise or eat better: not enough time, nothing seems to work, it’s impossible to lose weight at this age.  Don’t be hard on yourself, but be honest.  I had a list of excuses and lies I was telling myself.  What it really came down to was I didn’t want to make the changes I knew I had to make.  Instead of accepting this, I started labelling myself.  Labels are useless, and most of the time untrue.  Have you put labels on yourself?  If so, get rid of them.  They won’t serve you – stop bullying yourself and start treating yourself the way you would treat a loved one.                                                                                                                                              

Tip #2:  Make fitness fun.  My biggest mistake in trying to keep my strength after 40 was that I started to dislike working out.  In my 20s and 30s, I worked out hard.  HIIT training and running were my go-tos, but these intense training sessions started taking a toll on me with age.  High Intensity training is still possible in our 40s, but it isn’t necessary.  My other challenge was that I started dreading the gym.  The same old routine with the same old equipment – I needed a change.  You may need to experiment and find what excites you, but I will share what I did.

I switch out running for long trail hikes.  Slowing down allowed me to take in the beauty of the trails.  When I ran, my focus was on breathing and the pain in my legs.  Hiking still challenges me, but it is easier on my body, and I take time to appreciate nature.  I’m getting a great cardio workout, and I’m enjoying it.

I bought a mountain bike and took some lessons.  Learning something new is fun, and I push myself to get better.  I was terrified when I started, but now I love getting out on a sunny day for a ride.     

I incorporated a variety of strength training routines: check out my 30-day strong challenge https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChKqwvEUm3rkYI57y9vbngQ if you want some inspiration. I moved away from the gym, and set up my home gym.  This made it easier for me to get in a workout whenever I had time. 

Tip #3:  Find ways to reduce stress.  Stress creates a hormone called Cortisol which tells the body to hold on to fat.   Excess stress means more cortisol, and this can sabotage any weight loss attempts.  Take an easy walk in nice weather, or go for a swim in a lake.  Cuddle your pets, read a book, do some yoga or meditate.  Find a stress reliever that works for you.

Tip #4:  Examine your diet.  My diet was pretty strict in my 20s and 30s.  I counted calories and ate mostly vegetables and lean proteins.  As I aged, I had less overall energy than, and I started making poor eating choices.  It happened gradually, but before I knew it my daily caloric intake had greatly increased.  I was also indulging in foods I would never consider when I was younger.  Burgers, chips, and chocolate made appearances more than they should have.  I had to come to grips with the fact that my older body needed less calories, so I needed to find a diet that was appropriate for my age.  I’ve reduced my caloric intake by incorporating intermittent fasting.  I eat brunch and dinner, and I am eating healthy fats, whole grains, lean proteins, limited full fat dairy, vegetables, and limited fruits and berries.  What ever your diet is, choose unprocessed whole foods.  My caloric intake currently is around 1200 – this is for weight loss.  I’m 5’4” and 46 years old.  When I move to maintenance, I will up my caloric intake to 1500 – 1600 cals. 

Tip #5: DON’T Drink your calories – Reduce or eliminate sugary drinks and alcohol in your diet.  This was the hard one for me, as I love my white wine.  However, I needed to make a choice.  What was more important: having my nightly 2 glasses of wine, or to feel better about my body.  I’m not saying you have to give up alcohol all together, but drinking will make weight loss very challenging in your older years.  Switch out high caloric beverages for ones with less sugar and calories.  For example: a vodka soda with lime over a glass of wine or beer.  If pop or juice are your thing, change it up for soda water with lime or lemon.   You can still indulge in your drink of choice occasionally, but keep it to a minimum.

Tip #6: Get your sleep.  When we are properly rested, we have more energy.  That energy will help motivate you to work out.  Additionally, when we are tired, we tend to crave fatty and sugary foods.  Proper rest means a better workout and healthier diet.

Tip #7:  Be kind to yourself.  Mid-life is challenging in many ways: work stress, raising children, perimenopause.  It may take some time to adjust and accept were you are at.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve put on a few pounds, or if you’ve let your fitness routines slip by the waste side.  Weight can be lost, and you can increase your activity when you’re ready.                                                                                                             The hardest part of making change is starting. When you’re ready, let go of the “can’ts” and let yourself see what you’re made of.