Sunday, February 20, 2011

Re-discover sexy on the outside - rebuild from the inside

This is an article I wrote sometime ago and you may have seen it pop up elsewhere but it is one of my favorites and reminds us that it is important after having a baby not to cut corners and to ensure we rebuild our bodies in the best possible way to ensure we stay strong and injury free in the future.....enjoy.....

So you’ve had a baby (or two) and you want to re-gain that flat stomach, sexy bum and killer thighs.  We all want to look and feel fantastic for ourselves, our partners and hey, maybe even to attract a little attention from the opposite sex as we walk down the street.  How good would it feel to slide back into those pre-pregnancy jeans without having to wrench them over your hips and without the muffin top that takes shape as you squeeze to fasten the top button?

“Yes, yes, tell me how” I hear you say.  The secret is starting from the inside out.  You need to re-build your inner unit, make it strong and allow it to function to its greatest capacity THEN we can tweak the fancy bits and make you look pretty on the outside.  You don’t find million dollar homes built upon crumbling, second rate foundations.

Five reasons to make the effort to re-build form the inside out:

  • Pregnancy hormones and altered body shape weaken your back and tummy muscles.
  • Tummy muscles separate during pregnancy but will start to re-join soon afterwards, you should check the re-joining process at regular intervals.  At 6 weeks postpartum you are only 90% recovered.  Without the proper exercise some women’s abdominals will not fully re-join.
  • It is essential to get your inner unit working before embarking on an advanced conditioning program.  If you wobble on the inside it is only a matter of time before the outside crumbles.
  • You may need to re-learn how to activate your inner tummy muscles.
  • As your baby gets bigger and heavier you will still need to lift and carry them.  Maintaining and increasing your strength will reduce your risk of injury and more specifically back pain.
When I talk about your ‘inner unit’ or ‘core’ I am referring to those deep abdominal muscles which are made up of your transverse abdominals, diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor.  These muscles play a vital role in your core stability and function, they also protect the spine and protecting the spine is essential.  The best way to start working your core is to use a simple breathing exercise.  Focus also on the region underneath your undies line, breath in and as you breathe out draw this area away from your undies and draw your pelvic floor upwards (be sure not to push put).  You also want to try and keep you Rectus Abdominals (six pack muscles) and oblique’s nice and relaxed so it can be quite a subtle movement.  It is often easier to practice this exercise lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, be sure not to push on the floor with your feet.

If your abs are strong on the inside the outer muscles, your rectus abdominals, will work more efficiently.  You will then be on your way to re-gaining the stomach you once had or discovering an even better one.  Your return to fitness will progress in leaps and bounds and day to day fetching and carrying will feel easier as you move more efficiently.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

SUGARFREEfeb – how to satisfy your sugar cravings - Guest blog

Here's another fantastic guest blog from BBB mum, dietitian and nutritionist Marieke Rodenstein - enjoy and thanks Marieke:

Now that you have banished sugar from your diet you may be wondering how you can possibly satisfy that lingering craving for something sweet.

It is unrealistic to think that any craving can be completely overcome through sheer willpower alone so if you do find yourself in the grip of a sugar craving, here are some delicious and healthy sugar free ideas to help you satisfy it:

-    blend ½ a frozen banana (buy some ripe bananas, peel, halve and place in individual plastic freezer bags in the freezer) with organic full cream milk, 1 tbs of extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil (available from organic stores) and unsweetened cocoa powder for a creamy chocolate smoothie

-    add vanilla powder (available at most organic stores) or the seeds from a vanilla bean to yoghurt, porridge or your bircher muesli to add extra sweetness and flavour.

-    use stevia (available at most organic stores) as a sugar substitute in beverages such as hot chocolate (made with organic full cream milk and unsweetened cocoa powder) and smoothies for extra sweetness. Stevia is a natural herb which originated from South America and has been used for over a thousand years. It is several hundred times sweeter than sugar so you only need a little.

-    Drink a cup of young coconut water (naturally sweet and rich in electrolytes, coconut water is very hydrating and the perfect drink after a strenuous workout)

-    Drink a cup of naturally sweet licorice, hibiscus or rose hip tea

A few delicious sugar free recipes:

Chocolate banana mouse

1 frozen banana
2-3tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (available at organic stores)
a little chilled coconut water, coconut milk or filtered water

Blend with a blender stick or in a food processor for a thick and creamy chocolate mouse

Berry nut mouse
2 punnets of blueberries or 1 punnet of strawberries
1 cup of raw pre-soaked nuts (eg cashews – soak in filtered water with a little sea salt for 6-8 hours to neutralize anti-nutrients and enhance digestibility)
some vanilla powder or cinnamon for added flavour

Blend in a food processor and serve chilled with some fresh berries or slices of green apple.

Chocolate coated bananas

4 Banana’s
1 cup melted 100% cocoa chocolate*
½ cup finely chopped pecans
a little stevia
a little cinnamon and/or vanilla powder

Slice bananas and stick a toothpick in each piece. Line a baking tray with baking paper, place slices of banana on it and put it in the freezer. Allow to freeze for approx 30mins. Melt chocolate (bain marie) until soft and runny and add a few drops of stevia to sweeten. Finely crush the pecan nuts and stir through cinnamon and/or vanilla powder. Remove the bananas from the freezer, holding the toothpick, dip each slice into the chocolate sauce and then into the nuts. Place them back on the baking paper lined tray and freeze again.

* Best brands: Pacari, available at About Life on Oxford street or Dagoba, available at Norton St Grocer in Westfield Bondi Junction – these brands are a little expensive but well worth it as they are not nearly as bitter as other brands.

This recipe is a real treat and my personal favourite!

Final tip:

Remember, if you find yourself being hungry and craving sugar often, it is sign that you are not consuming enough quality protein and fat in your diet.

A quick and easy way to up your intake of these essential nutrients is by adding 1-2 fresh raw organic egg yolks and 1 tbs of extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil to a smoothie (eg with frozen berries, filtered water, organic full cream yoghurt and a little stevia if you need extra sweetness).

Marieke Rodenstein
Dietitian & Nutritionist
The Nutrition Practice
0450 458 549 (soon to be launched)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How much exercise is enough?

I'm starting to feel good about SUGARFREEfeb, the first few days have been pretty smooth sailing for me and we now have lot's more mums on board - I'm positive that if you stick to the no sugar plan you will lose that bloat around your tummy, it will flatten and you will feel better.  It's also a great psychological kick to know that you don't need to rely on those quick fixes and that you can do something great for your body and stick to it.

So, now that we have made improvements to your diet let's talk about your movement.  How much exercise should you really be doing?

Because we have a large group of women at different pre and postnatal stages I am going to break it down into what you ideally should be doing in each stage.  I will also comment of the kind of results you can expect to be getting at each stage and with differing volumes of exercise.  You will find that you fit somewhere and your results may depend upon the amount of time and energy you actually WANT to put into your diet and exercise.  What is reasonable for you and what is extreme.

During pregnancy

Ideally you should aim to maintain a moderate amount of exercise.  Again, moderate is relative to what your previous exercise regime has been.  It is not a time for striving to reach new goals but a time of maintenance.  If you have been working with a trainer before there is no reason to stop - just ensure that your trainer has the relevant experience and qualifications and stick to what you have been doing with the correct modifications.

If you re working on your own, aim to get moving for around 30mins most days - this can be in the form of a walk or jog if you are comfortable doing so.  Swimming is a great form of prenatal exercise and resistance training is fantastic, it will make you strong and the stronger and fitter you are during your pregnancy the better equipped you are to deal with labour and the physical demands of having a small baby.

  • Exercise to maintain
  • Listen to your body, some days you may just need to rest
  • In terms of effort don't peak at more than about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is sitting on the couch doing nothing and 10 is working as hard as possible
Postnatal (in the 6-12 weeks after birth) -

Energy levels and post birth recovery vary significantly from mother to mother at this time (which is one of the reasons I kept the time period so broad).  Some women will be itching to get back into their runners and hit the gym asap whereas others won't want to think about anything other than getting through the next few weeks with more than a couple of hours of unbroken sleep.  Neither scenario, or variations of, is right or wrong.  At this time, in the immediate postnatal period, you need to be in tune with your body - listen to what it is telling you.  If getting out of bed and dragging yourself to the shops is tiring enough the last thing your body may need is you dragging it to the gym.  However, you may find yourself in that downward spiral of non exercise where you don't move so you feel even more tired and maybe even depressed - in this situation it is important to recognise that some exercise might actually help you to feel more energised and also that you are doing something good for yourself.

At this time you want to be exercising on MOST days - if you are working with a trainer they should set you some guidelines as to what and how much of it your should be doing.  A combination of core strengthening, cardio and resistance exercise is key.

  • Ease your way back into exercise - if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't
  • Start by re-building from the inside out - if your core strength isn't up to scratch it will lead to injuries down the track
  • Your baby is still very little and your body is recovering so it is OK to give yourself a little break
  • On the other hand if at 4-6 weeks after bub you feel ready to get back to the gym just get a clearance from your doctor and start to ease your way back in - you are keen which is great and with right guidance you will probably see some great results
Post 12 weeks

When do we leave 'postnatal' behind and just become 'normal' again?  Once again this can differ greatly from person to person.  This time around for me (after my 2nd baby) I have only just felt, at 6 months, that I am starting to feel like someone that can run again properly.  I was back in the gym at about 5 weeks and have slowly built my strength back up and although am not quite at my goal weight or strength I am feeling good both inside and out on 'most' days.  When your body is feeling more normal and psychologically you feel you can commit to an exercise regime again this is where the amount of effort you put in becomes related to what you get out.  If you are walking once per week you are going to see much slower results than if you committed to three cardio and three strength sessions per week.

I listen to many mums that say they could not be as fit or look as good as they did before they had a baby - I would like to challenge that and say that yes you can, in fact some women go on to look and feel much better than they did before their pregnancy.  We are often more in tune with your body and have more respect and faith in its ability and if you put in the work in the correct way for you you will get the results you are looking for.

So, how much exercise is enough?  Well, ask yourself how important being 'in your best shape' is to you then you can decide how often is enough.   For me I commit to my exercise regime because it is very important to me to look and feel strong.  I exercise 4-6 days per week depending upon the way the week falls. As mums we must be flexible but we must also put our needs up there with the rest of the family.  You are not going to see amazing results with just one walk a week or even with 5 walks per week, great results take great effort - a combination of cardio and strength training and commitment. You also need to make each and every workout count - there's no point in just cruising through a session when you are 'me' time poor.

  • Figure out what you want to achieve
  • What you  put in you will get out
  • You need to do both strength AND cardiovascular exercise to see the best results
  • You must prioritise time for yourself
  • Get the right guidance and maintain motivation
I challenge you to figure out what you want to achieve and how often you need to workout to achieve it.
I have no doubt that you can all look and feel fantastic - it will take a little work and no one apart can achieve it for you.

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