Best lessons I’ve learned about exercise and nutrition

Lesson 1: Fat cannot change to muscle, and muscle cannot change to fat

It’s a common misconception to think that as you workout, you begin to convert fat into muscle, or if you stop working out muscles will turn into fat.  They are 2 different tissues! In a practical sense, for someone who want to become lean and tone, you will need to drop your body fat per centage (leaning out) and increase your muscle mass (toning up).     

Lesson 2: You can eat anything and still lose weight

When it comes to weight loss, what matters is ??? ???? you eat NOT what you eat.  In simple term, you can eat low quality food like chocolate, cake, biscuits, and chips all day long and still lose weight IF what you take in is less that what your body needs.  Is it healthy for you? It certainly is not.  But, what I want to highlight here is that:

1️.You don’t need to cut out a particular food group from your diet in order to lose weight. You just need to create energy deficit.
2️. Cutting out food groups (especially ones that you enjoy) just result in binging.
3️. Energy deficit can come from reducing your food intake or increasing what your body can burn or both.
4️. Quantity of food matters when it comes to weight loss
5️. Quantity and quality of food matter when it comes to health

If you want to lose weight healthily and have basic nutrition knowledge, then you will be empowered to do what feels right for you.  In my opinion, “if you want to lose weight, you need to stop eating pasta, bread, chocolate, fried stuff, and chips” is simply too broad an advice, too drastic, and too impossible for most people. 

Lesson 3: To be lean and toned exercise like you’re an old car

My current car is 10 years old; it still runs great but it’s a real gas guzzler.  I don’t get very high mileage out of my car even on a full tank because it’s very fuel inefficient.  Your body is like a car and food you eat is like fuel. When you exercise, your body is subjected to physiological stress. Your muscles, nervous system, and cell membranes all needed to be repaired and restored after a gruelling session.  All of these repairs will cost you fuel and energy.  The more stress your body is subjected to, the more fuel and energy it needs.  But, unlike an old car our bodies have ability to adapt quickly.  This is why when you just started running, the first few sessions always feel much harder, and subsequent sessions much easier.  This is your body adaptive response at work.  Once your body become adapted, each session will no longer feel as taxing. You have become fuel efficient, covering same distance using less fuel.  This is great if your goal is to train for a marathon (less tiring, faster time) but not so great if your goal is to become lean and toned.  What I’m getting at is If your goal is to be lean and toned, you want your body to be like an old car, as fuel inefficient and use as much energy as possible.  Short answer on how to do this is to mix up your exercise so you can keep challenging your body. Don’t always do the same workout day in and day out. 

Lesson 4: Pre-emptive strike

Pre-emptive strike is when you launch an attack against the enemy to prevent the enemy from doing it to you.  I feel defenceless when I run on an empty stomach on the edge of starvation whether it’s a 4pm snack attack, a late brunch, buffet, Christmas or New Year feast.  Whenever I go into these battles empty I always lose.  My senses and nutrition knowledge abandon me. I reach for the nearest dinner roll and ask the waitress to bring 5 more. I’ve lost these battles enough times to know that I need to do pre-emptive eating so I never go into these situations starving.  My favourite pre-emptive snacks are nuts, milk coffee, fruits and cheese. Something with protein, or fat, or fibre that will keep me full, level headed, and mindful! Throwback to my pixie hair day!

Lesson 5: Don’t exercise

Yesterday, I ran into an old client in the playground.  As we stood there talking, she told me she hasn’t been exercing just yoga and walking a lot. That sounds like exercise to me! What she told me really was that she hasn’t been doing HIIT and strength traiming like when she was training with me.  Many people hate to “exercise”. The word “exercise” seems to conjure up images of putting ourselves through a painful experience doing whatever it is we hate doing. In this respect I must say I haven’t been “exercising” either.  My “exercise” is swimming, half drowning, half gasping for air as I try to do my interpretation of a freestyle- not fun.  You don’t need to put yourself through something you hate to count it as exercise.  Don’t battle with it.  Make it your friend.  Don’t “exercise” but pick whatever movement you enjoy and weave it into your life regularly.

Lesson 6: Be your own laboratory

I used to be one of those people who counted my daily calories and tracked how much protein I eat. I tried to eat 1,500 cals and 50 grams of protein per day.  I eventually stopped. Why? Because I was eating so much protein it was getting expensive and I was becoming neurotic tracking so many things.

Today, I eat normally. I wake up, have 2 pieces of buttered honey toast and a Kinto of chia seed iced tea. For lunch, I have rice with 2 kind of main dishes, one meat based, one veggie based.  Sometimes these dishes are home cooked or sometimes they are whatever I feel like from the street vendors like moo ping or spicy pork from a Korean shop next door.  I enjoyed closing off my lunch and dinner with a sweet snack, my rule is no snack until mid-day, it’s arbitrary but it feels reasonable to me.  Dinner is whatever leftover we have in the fridge.  Last night was rice, grilled chicken with kimchi.

I know research shows you need to eat a butt ton of protein to make and keep your muscles.  Today, I don’t eat extra protein or supplement, and I can honestly say I can’t see any difference in my body eating 50g of protein per day or eating normally like this.  So, keep an open mind, experiment and be your own laboratory.  At the end of the day, you know yourself best, distill it down until you find an approach that works for you.  This goes for everything in life not just nutrition.

Lesson 7: Path of least resistance

Last night my daughter was having a meltdown, refusing to go to sleep – she wanted to finish her Panda mask so that she could wear it to bed.  Upon packing up she realized she has forgotten to add the horn, “what Panda has a horn I asked?”. Tears in her eyes, screaming “a Unicorn Panda mummy!” as she shot me a death stare and I was left feeling like an imbecile.  Sometimes, most of the time, motherhood throws you a curveball, but you roll with it.  I felt grateful I don’t have additional stress in my life as I simply don’t have energy or time for anything else on top.  Motherhood is already stressful enough, don’t add extra stress on top especially if your goal is weight loss.  I’ve helped enough mums over the years to know what works to help lose weight and keep it off, let me share a few things.  Most mums who want to lose weight think I’ll eat less and move more.  Some might even enlist the experts’ help, see a dietitian and be put on a meal plan, or get a personal trainer so you can exercise and stay accountable.  Most diet and exercise plans fail not because people don’t lose weight on them but because you can’t stick with them for the long run.  We don’t do things purely for practical reasons, but also for enjoyment.  The extra stress of having to do something that goes against your grain and your preference will always create resistance. You will give-up eventually and it won’t even be your fault.  What I do with my clients is, I find out their preferences and make small tweaks of improvement.  For clients who love carbs, I asked them to have it after the meal to slow down the rate of absorption and blunt the insulin spike. For clients who love big portions, I asked them to add a full plate of veggies to whatever they are eating. Vegetables are voluminous and will naturally fill you up, without filling you out.  I find these approaches reduce resistance because at the end of the day my clients are still able to eat and do things they enjoy.  These tweaks don’t encumber, so they are able to weave it into their daily life.  This is when weight comes off and stays off.

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