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Monthly Archives: October 2008
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Weekend reading – some different and unusual articles

(Happy Hallowe’en to you all! If you’re having trouble resisting that tempting bowl of mini chocolate bars, then you might want to read Resist Hallowe’en treats…)I’ve been reading some great articles around the blogosphere recently, and thought I’d link to a few for you to enjoy too! This time, I’m going for articles which are a bit different from the usual run of quick weight loss and exercise tips…

Lucid Dreaming For Slackers on Cranky Fitness is a really fascinating read. I’ve been keen to try out lucid dreaming for a while but it always seemed like way too much effort. This is the Crabby McSlacker way! (If you’re wondering what the heck “lucid dreaming” is, it’s nothing too wacky – it just means being aware you’re dreaming whilst you’re asleep, and being able to control your dream.)

The cool thing: it’s a learnable skill. There’s a set of steps to follow, and if you do them, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually start having dreams where you’re aware you’re in a dream and you even get to control what happens.

The Skinny of Raw Food, a guest post on A Daring Adventure is another interesting one. My scepticism about anything that would involve not eating chocolate knows no bounds, so this was a great piece that dealt with a good few preconceptions I had about raw foodists.

Obviously if an apple has been burnt to a crisp there’s not going to be much goodness left. Eating raw is just taking that to the other end of the logical extreme – the closer to just being picked (or fallen!) from the tree, the better it’s going to be for your body.

What’s Holding You Back on The BridgeMaker was a very insightful read for me. I still have some hang-ups about body image and self-esteem, even though I’ve been a healthy weight – and reasonably fit – for years. This piece helped me pinpoint why.

Leave the Past Behind. What happened in the past must stay in the past. It can not define your present value or worth unless you allow it. When you make the choice to move forward, you are also making the decision to live in this moment, in the here and now. Consider what’s ahead; what’s next in your life and place your energy in discovering more of that. 

Hope you enjoy those pieces as much as I did!

And don’t forget that you can receive free updates by email (pop your address in on the top right), or straight to your RSS reader, if you don’t want to miss out on any of The Office Diet’s posts.

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Exercise: a treat, not a chore

Sometimes, we tend to see a lot of things that are bad for us as “treats”: things like chocolate, crisps, takeaways, lazy afternoons slumped on the sofa. I know I’m a bit prone to doing this too, but after an email from one of The Office Diet’s readers, I’m trying to rethink my attitude! Why shouldn’t I think of things that are good for me – like exercise – as treats too?

After all, I know that a trip to the gym is a real treat for me – when I was working full-time, it was a wonderful hour of freedom away from the office, and now that I’m studying, it makes a nice break from my desk. Going out for a leisurely walk with my boyfriend is also a treat, as is eating something delicious, homemade and packed with long-lasting energy, like pasta with a chunky vegetable sauce.

Here’s a few ways to think about your exercising as a treat, not a chore:

  • If you work from home during some or all of the week, treat yourself to a half-hour walk every morning and afternoon as a break. You might want to listen to your favourite music or podcast while you walk, or use it as “couple time” with your partner.
  • Pick a fun activity to do at the weekend – perhaps ice-skating, trampolining, rowing, skateboarding, or anything that you genuinely love to do. Set aside a morning or afternoon to indulge. If it’s something that brings out the big kid in you, so much the better!
  • Get some friends on board, and have a blast doing something active together. How about a game of Ultimate Frisbee in the park, or an afternoon at an adventure playground with your kids? I love Lazer Quest (my competitive spirit comes to the fore when I get to prowl around and shoot people in the dark…), and I’m keen to try Paintball some day.
  • Enjoy a long, chilled-out gym session: make some time for yourself, work off some energy on the machines, push yourself with the weights, and then take a long soak in the pool – or relax in the sauna – to wind down. Start viewing your workouts as “me time”, a chance to escape the computer, phone and pressures of daily life.

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Maintain your weight-loss for good: setting your “diet again” weight

If you’ve successfully reached a healthy weight range for your height, congratulations! But did you know that most dieters subsequently regain all the weight they’ve lost? If you want to be among that lucky few who don’t, read on…

Why you need a “diet again” weight

I’ve been “maintaining”, as it’s commonly known in dieting circles, for the past three years. Now, one of the nice things about not being “on a diet” is being able to relax, eat what I like, and enjoy the occasional indulgent weekend with friends. However, I know from experience that it’s easy for me to slip into bad habits. What I do is set a “diet again” weight: if I step on the scales and they’re showing this figure (or, horrors, a higher one), then it’s time to take a good hard look at what I’m eating, and cut out some of the less-good choices.

How to pick your “diet again” weight

I’d suggest giving yourself about 4lbs – 5lbs leeway to allow for natural fluctuations. For example, if you’ve successfully reached your goal weight of 125lbs, you might want to set your “diet again” alarm bell at 130lbs.

Using your “diet again” number to help you maintain your weight

Weigh yourself on a regular basis (not necessarily every week – every fortnight is enough when you’re maintaining, and stops you getting too obsessive).

If you’re over the “diet again” weight two weigh-ins in a row, it’s time to get out the food diary, clear the junk from the cupboards, and get back to healthy eating and exercising basics. If you need a reminder on what those are, why not check out a few posts here on The Office Diet?

If you find those useful, you’ll love my Dieting Basics ebook (just $12 for everything you need to know about nutrition, healthy weight loss, getting started with exercise, and achieving a healthier lifestyle – not just a thinner body.) You can even download a free sample here.

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Struggling with your workout? Find out why …

Have you ever had a day when your workout just seemed tougher than usual? Maybe your ten minute warm-up stint on the exercise bike had you feeling worn out, or you couldn’t manage as many reps as usual on the weights. Before you start blaming yourself for being “lazy”, here’s some factors you might want to have a think about:

Water

Did you drink enough before your workout? It’s not enough to just drink water during your gym session – you need to be well hydrated beforehand, too.

Being dehydrated can severely hamper your athletic activities, slowing you down and making it harder to lift weights. Exercise requires additional water, so be sure to hydrate before, during and after exercise.
9 Great Reasons to Drink Water, and How to Form the Water Habit

Fix it: If you’re hitting the gym at 5.30pm after work, try having an extra glass of water at around 4 – 4.30pm. Take a big bottle of water into the gym with you and sip from it regularly.

Food

If you feel as though you’re lacking energy – and especially if you feel faint or dizzy – you might not have eaten enough. Remember that you need to eat a snack an hour or so before working out, to make sure you’ve got some energy for your body to burn!

Pre-exercise meals are important to be sure that you have adequate energy and that you get the most from your activity and do not experience undue fatigue.
Eating Around Your Workout Schedule

Fix it: Have a pre-gym snack (around an hour before your workout usually works well), or exercise within 3-4 hours of a good-sized meal.

Sleep

Feeling exhausted during your workout might be a sign that you’ve not had enough sleep. If you’re yawning the day away at your desk, dragging yourself to the gym can help wake you up – but you might not be able to perform at your usual levels.

Without adequate sleep (eight hours a night), there is not enough rest for muscle cell growth and repair. In fact, when you sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis in the muscles occurs.
The Importance of Sleep

Fix it: Make sure you get an early night the day before a workout. If you do sleep badly, go easy on yourself in the gym – it’s better to do your session at a slightly lower intensity than to not go at all.

Health

If you’re feeling under the weather, your ability to exercise is likely to be diminished. Jogging on the treadmill probably won’t help that nagging headache, either. Most experts say that you can work out if you have “above the neck” symptoms (stuffy nose, sore throat, etc) but not if you have “below the neck” symptoms (chest congestion, upset stomach). You also shouldn’t work out if you’ve got a fever.

If you’re not feeling well but still want to exercise, reduce the intensity of your workout and listen to your body. If your symptoms worsen with exercise, stop and rest. Missing a few days of exercise isn’t the end of the world.
Exercise and illness: should you exercise when you’re sick?

Fix it: Don’t be afraid to skip your workout for a few days if you’re ill: it’s more important to recover quickly and fully than to force yourself through a gym session when you’re feeling awful. Try taking a gentle walk instead.

(Image above by The Yorkshire Rambler)

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Resist Hallowe’en treats

That little candy bar on the right looks innocent and innocuous, doesn’t it? But it just might be the scariest thing you have to face this Hallowe’en…

We’re getting into that time of year where all sorts of excuses for overindulgence are just round the corner. Hallowe’en is the first biggie; it’s almost synonymous with chocolate and sweets (candy) in many people’s minds, with ghosts and ghouls relegated to second place.

If people are already starting to bring packets of “spooky cupcakes” and “scary cookies” into the office, or if you’re tempted to stock up on packs of fun-sized bars well in advance of the big day, read on…

Don’t buy treats until the 30th

You really don’t need to buy mini chocolate bars a couple of weeks in advance. Wait until nearer the time; that way, the goodies are more likely to end up going to trick-or-treaters than going into your stomach…

Keep treats well out of reach

If you’ve already taken advantage of the supermarket offers on Hallowe’en snacks – or if you really do need to buy in advance – then keep the treats well out of reach. Leaving them lying around in the kitchen won’t do much to boost your willpower.

(This works for chocolates at all seasons, not just Hallowe’en! You might want to read one of The Office Diet’s earliest posts, Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach.)

Be ready to say “no thanks”

If your colleagues are constantly bringing in treats for the office, learn to say “no”. Yes, it’s hard if you feel like you’re missing out – but if you leave your share for someone else, they’ll probably enjoy it more (and without the guilt)! If you’re worried about offending someone, read How to refuse a cookie.

Beware of fun-sized bars

Of course, one teeny tiny little chocolate bar isn’t going to hurt your diet. Why, it doesn’t even have 100 calories. So it can’t really count …

This is dangerous thinking! I know from experience that those multi-bags of mini chocolate bars are likely to do more harm than one proper-sized bar from the corner shop. If you scoff four or five mini bars (which is easy to do), you’ve eaten far more chocolate than if you had one “real” bar.

If you’re staying in…

When you’re home on Hallowe’en, you’ll probably be expecting trick-or-treaters. Try to find something that occupies you, without being so absorbing that you can’t interrupt it to answer the doorbell to a gaggle of witches and ghosts. If you’re sitting around watching television, that basket of chocolate bars near the door will look all the more tempting.

One word of warning: although you might be tempted to give out something healthier (fruit, or home-baked non-additive-packed goodies), parents are very cautious about what their children accept from strangers. Pre-wrapped treats are always best.

If you’re going out…

For those attending a Hallowe’en party for adults, you’ll probably find that the fare on offer includes at least some healthy options, so follow the same guidelines you’d use at any buffet. Look out for seasonal non-chocolate treats like pumpkin soup. Go easy on Hallowe’en drinks – it’s hard to tell how strong punch is.

Have a great Hallowe’en – without anything scary happening to your diet! And make sure you continue getting tips from The Office Diet by adding our RSS feed to your reader, or by simply entering your email address on the top right of this page.

(Image above by TheTruthAbout…)

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Recent diet and fitness news articles

I usually find myself too busy to read a whole newspaper, so I pick and choose articles from different online papers based on what I’m interested in! Here’s a few of my favourite recent diet-and-fitness news items:

The reluctant dieter

The problem for me isn’t that I’m trying too hard to be perfect, it’s that my attitude is so relaxed that I’ve gone from swallowing down one or two treats a week to, well, nine or 10. Oops.

I’ve linked to Kira’s series before – she’s got a wonderful, frank and funny writing style, and it’s been a fascinating look into her dieting ups and downs.

The Dangers of Working Out When You’re Stressed

Letting off steam at the gym is a good idea – up to a point. Exercising too aggressively when you are under a lot of strain can raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

An interesting read; I’ve been feeling a little stressed recently, and found that I was getting back-ache when on the rowing machine in the gym earlier today. I’m wondering now if it could have been due to having tenser muscles than usual.

New Diet Books Put To The Test

This month, we asked members of the Times Health Club to test some brand new diet books. The rules were simple: follow the diet for a minimum of two weeks, keep an honest diary on your progress, and record the (hopefully substantial) weight loss. These were the results…

I’m not a huge fan of diet books, but if I do consider buying one, I’d definitely want to read a few reviews first. These ones, by normal women rather than marketers or journalists, are informative and helpful.

Common Fibre a “True Superfood”

An ongoing study by the Institute of Food Research suggested pectin, a fibre found in everything from potato to plums, helped to fight the disease [cancer].
Lead researcher Professor Vic Morris said the likely effect of the fibre meant there was no need for people to rely on so-called superfoods.

I’m always suspicious of the fads for superfoods (especially expensive ones, like blueberries), so it was great to read that normal fibre may be just as good! Make sure you’re getting your five-a-day and you should be fine.
Break out the bubbly: White wine may be good for you

Rats that were fed white wine as part of their diet suffered less heart damage during cardiac arrest, compared to animals fed only water or grain alcohol. These benefits were similar to animals that ingested a red wine or its wonder ingredient found only in grape skin, resveratrol.

Although I drink red wine too, I’m rather fond of white wine so I’m hoping this research turns out to be true for humans as well as for rats!

Special announcement: I launched a new blog, Alpha Student, a couple of weeks ago, to celebrate starting on my MA course and to help other students get the most out of their time at university. If you happen to know any students, feel free to point them towards the site!

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