Healthy on holiday

Why You Shouldn’t Be ‘Healthy’ on Holiday

It’s summer, which means the influx of ‘how to stay healthy on holiday’ articles and blogs are go.

Wait, what?

You’ve worked hard all damn year, and now you’re telling me you want to keep it up at one of the only times throughout the year that you get a lengthy break from real life and responsibilities?

Let’s take a proper look at this

Is there anything wrong with wanting to stay healthy on holiday? Of course not. If you fancy going to the hotel gym, go for it. If you actually want fruit for breakfast instead of the selection of pastries your all inclusive hotel has, that’s fine. I’ve been on runs on holiday before breakfast and chosen to have fresh fruit instead of any of the fried or chocolate-filled options available.

But, if you’re going to the gym every day and not spending time with your family or friends, that’s a little strange. Or if you choose fruit and salad and say no to the treats you actually want, then that’s surely restriction.

Of course, if you go away all the time with work, and it’s not strictly a ‘holiday’ even if you are going to be in a different country, then naturally you’re going to want to stay healthy while you’re away. But, if it’s your summer holiday – your five days, ten days, two weeks – then is staying completely healthy and in routine something that sounds healthy?

I love summer holidays

For me, they are about relaxing and taking yourself away from your everyday life for a period of time. On my holiday this month, I ate salad and lots of fruit, but I also ate chips and ice cream and drank some incredible cocktails. I swam and walked a lot, but I also lay there with my boyfriend doing absolutely nothing but reading, listening to music and enjoying the 34-degree sun shining on me.

Going on holiday is not about routine, it’s about relaxation

Please, use your holiday as a chance to take a break from health and fitness. Don’t try and track what you eat, don’t work out every day in favour of quality time with the people you have paid to be away on holiday with, and don’t say no when all you want to do is say yes.

Make healthy choices, but make unhealthy ones. Have full fat, fizzy drinks if you want them, definitely choose the cocktails and the overly large glasses of spirits they always give you abroad (why do the UK measure it out and no one else does?) and if you really want the chips and the chocolate croissants, please pick them.

There is always choice

I could have had a fry up every day, but I chose healthier options. But I also chose to have chips and paella and mojitos. Make your choices healthy if you want to, but please also make sure you treat yourself and relax a little.

Life is too short to spend your whole life in the health and fitness bubble and forget to actually live it. You did not spend all year working out in the gym and sticking to a regimented diet, to go on holiday and do exactly the same thing. Give yourself a break, you have definitely earned it.

Summer

Summer Body? How I Prepped For Holiday

It’s a given that everybody wants to look good on holiday. They want to put on a bikini with confidence, go to the beach and feel happy in their skin, and have photos and memories to look back on that they love.

A summer body or being ‘beach ready’ is different for everyone. Naturally, we are all bikini body ready. We have a body, and the ability to put a bikini on it. But there is nothing wrong with setting yourself a goal to get in shape you’re happier with for your holiday.

What did I do?

I bulked from December to April – not with the intention to put on muscle mass purely for my holiday, but to put on more muscle and build a body I knew would look better when I eventually cut down.

Eight weeks out from my holiday, I began a gradual cut. We cut my calories, mostly from fat and then another large amount from carbs, keeping my protein the same. I added in two cardio sessions of 30 minutes LISS each every week, to further place myself in a calorie defect.

What actually changed?

Because my metabolism is pretty decent, we didn’t need to cut my calories too much in the first instance. I dropped water weight after 2-3 weeks due to the drop in carbs, and felt a lot lighter and less full – while I was on my bulk, I often felt bloated and quite full in the evenings because I was eating 2,500+ calories. For a 5 ft 1 human, that was quite a lot!

I also found that I felt healthier. Doing only a couple of cardio sessions a week, I was able to up my cardiovascular fitness, which used to be incredibly good. Cardio is one element I will keep on my programme even after I have finished my cut. Although I don’t find it particularly enjoyable, the effects have a positive impact on my life and my wellbeing.

Glutes

Did I get the body I wanted?

100%? No. I still have a problem with losing the last layer of fat from my lower abs – if I put on weight, it all goes there, and not to the rest of my stomach, so when I cut my top four abs coke in and my lower ones are still in hibernation mode.

I did, however, manage to hold onto some size on my glutes and quads. My quads feel more muscular than they ever have been, and my glutes are definitely bigger. Sure, I still have cellulite and stretch marks, but the majority of girls will walk onto a beach like this – even those who put in tremendous amounts of effort at the gym to work on their lower body.

I am particularly pleased with my upper body. It leans out a lot quicker than my lower body, and it makes my whole appearance seem a lot more athletic. Girls, if you want the look, it’s best to keep in mind that big shoulders = smaller waist, and give a more muscular appearance overall.

What would I do differently next time?

Next winter, I am definitely going to go on a longer bulk, and then a slower cut; possibly about 12 weeks, depending on how I look and feel, and when I book my holiday for – if I’m even going on one!

I would also have my protein a bit lower throughout. I haven’t felt hungry at all during my bulk or cut, but mainly I think that’s because of the high levels of protein. Which, is obviously a good thing. But at the same time, I think dropping my protein would allow me to feel a little less sluggish and full, especially during my bulk, where it became hard to fit in all the food – especially protein.

Would I recommend a bulk/cut cycle?

Absolutely. It has taught me that I am stronger than I think, and also that a bulk doesn’t make you fat – or bulky. You can put on as much or as little muscle or fat as you want, it is completely down to what you eat, how you train, and how much of each of these you are doing.

It has also taught me that a cut for a holiday isn’t a bad thing – it’s not like girls you are cutting for a bikini comp. It is more relaxed, less stressful, and a lot easier to complete because you know in your mind that you already have a bikini body, you’re just working towards one you’ll be prouder of.

5 Tips

Letting Life Get In The Way

I am pretty impressed with my blog writing track record. For well over a year, I managed to write one blog per week. It was two in the beginning, but once I got a full-time job it became too time-consuming to think, research and write about two topics per week.

But finding time is hard.

Last week was the first week since I started this blog that I was unable to find the time to post something, but, in turn, it inspired this little post: sometimes, life gets in the way. And that’s okay.

The events in the world recently have made me take a step back from my whirlwind of a lifestyle and assess it. The Manchester Arena attack struck the biggest chord with me, and ultimately it made me – and a lot of people I have spoken to since – realise that we need to be living our lives. We need to be enjoying it, spending time with loved ones, excelling in our careers.

And that’s what I’ve been doing.

I went to a gig with my boyfriend, I have had an incredibly busy (and stressful) time at work recently, which meant I didn’t have the energy or the focus to then sit down and write something else in my spare time. I have also been spending time on myself, with appointments and a regimented gym schedule because I go on holiday in just one week now.

I am someone who loves to do everything. Who enjoys being busy. But I’ve realised that I can’t do it all. As much as I would like to be, I am not and never will be superwoman. But what I do know is that I am happy, successful, driven and dedicated. I also know that taking time out is important. That sometimes we have to prioritise, and if that means something we usually do gets put to the bottom of the pile, then so be it.

Not only should we let life get in the way of menial things, we should enjoy it

Recent events should have taught us all of the importance of life. I am in a place now where I understand that, sometimes, I need to prioritise things in my life. I also understand that, sometimes, it isn’t fun. It means I don’t get to go to the gym as much, or that I can’t write a blog that I love to write.

But it also means that I put everything into my career and get rewarded for it. And that I get to spend time with my boyfriend and my friends, and I am happier because of it.

So, my message to you all: live your life. Let it get in the way. Do what you enjoy, do what you have to do, and do it well.

Self Care

Realising Your Potential

Why did you start your journey?

Think about what you’re doing right now. Your career, your hobbies, your lifestyle. Why did you start it? There must have been something inside you that said, “this is what I want to do,” with enough affirmation to go ahead and do it.

Nine times out of ten, it’s because we are inspired. We see someone excelling in a career they love, and we want to do it too. We scroll through Instagram and see people doing these amazing things, and we want a piece of the action as well. We’re at the gym and we gaze at people who look strong and athletic, and we want to be like that too.

It’s important to have inspiration

Inspiration keeps us going. Whether we use someone else as our inspiration, or maybe even ourselves, it gives us the drive and the strength to keep going in whatever it is we are trying to achieve. It’s useful to use both as our motivation: to try and again the same great success someone else has worked so hard towards and to try and harness their drive, and also to use ourselves as motivation; to look back on the past and see where we came from to where we are now is the ultimate inspiration to keep going.

But what happens when the tables are turned?

We always look to other great, successful people to inspire us. But have you ever thought that someone might be looking at you in this way? Everyone, at some point in their lives, inspires another person. Whether that’s a work colleague looking to you to emulate your passion for the career you’re both in; whether it’s someone who looks over at you in the gym longingly, wanting your figure and your passion to succeed in your training… you never really know when people find you inspiring.

We must always try to inspire

My philosophy on life has always been to work as hard as I can. It’s as simple as that. I have put everything into my education, my career, my lifestyle, and the gym in order to get where I am today. I don’t necessarily do this to inspire other people, but mainly because I have always had this drive instilled in me from a young age, and if that’s something which inspires others, and if I can help even one or two people have a similar drive, then I will have made a positive impact on not only my life but the lives of others, too.

What is the point of this ramble?

Last week, I went to Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Awards,  celebrating the young talent in the second city. It was incredible to be in a room filled with hard working, driven people who are making the most out of their lives and their careers.

And it made me think, that it wasn’t only just those nominated that were inspiring – it was every single one of us in the room. We could look to the winners for inspiration, of course, but we could also look around at work colleagues and people on the tables around us for inspiration; for courage, resilience, determination, passion.

It made me reflect on what I have done, and what I can do to inspire other people. I started this blog because I don’t think the Internet can really have enough fitness blogs. Especially positive ones. When I first started my journey, I’d liked to have read honest,

When I first started my journey, I’d liked to have read honest, first-hand accounts of different things that work. To be told that it’s not one size fits all, and that you are on your own path, your own journey, and what you do doesn’t have to be what everyone else does, it just has to be what makes you happy. What you find inspiring. 

Take from this blog what you will, but if you take one thing away, I want you, the reader, to know that even when sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, you are inspiring. You are motivating. You are succeeding. Just as much as the person you look to for inspiration is.

Carbs

Why IIFYM changed my life

Healthy eating. How do we actually define it?

Sure, eating your greens and limiting sugar and saturated fats sounds pretty healthy to you or I. But what happens when this becomes mentally unhealthy? What if eating healthy isn’t about what you have on your plate, but about what you have in your head?

I would never claim to have suffered from an eating disorder

I have seen people go through them, and suffer with them, and they are terrible things. What I had was a disordered style of eating. I took healthy out of its box and, as such, my relationship with food was an unhealthy one – even though I was eating all the vegetables and none of the stereotypical ‘bad stuff.’

I would only eat low GI carbs. I would feel my heart thudding in my chest whenever I had to eat at a restaurant – a situation I always tried to avoid – as my eyes scanned the menu and my brain told me ‘not that… not that either… oh god, imagine all the oil that was cooked in.’

Healthy eating became unhealthy

You can have all the salad and all the sweet potato in the world, but when you’re lying on your bed crying that you hate your body, something has to give.

I escaped the cycle, but I still didn’t eat enough. I didn’t track my calories or macros, I ate intuitively, enough to stay fit and healthy, and build some nice muscle, but not enough to really get the figure I wanted.

Enter IIFYM

In December, I started with a personal trainer because I wanted to change. I was ready. I wanted to go on a proper bulk t build some muscle, and for the first time, I started tracking my macros.

I still did it the stereotypically healthy way. I didn’t eat cake to cap my macros, I ate meat, rice, potatoes, pasta. And then, one day, I wanted some biscuits. So I did a bit of food maths and got them into my macros. And then, one day I wanted some chocolate, so I managed to fit that in, too.

You see, IIFYM has changed my outlook on food. It has made me realise that if it fits, it won’t actually make you fat – even if it doesn’t fit, it won’t do much harm.

But to me, the knowledge that a calorie is a calorie has really opened my eyes to the restriction I had placed myself under in the past, and the real stupidity of it.

I’m not a numbers girl

If you struggle with numbers, i.e, you easily get consumed with them, I wouldn’t suggest tracking macros. It can be a mental challenge for some if they go over by a few grams, and I don’t think IIFYM is the solution to everyone’s eating problems.

But, for me, although I have been in a much better place with food for the past year or so. Sure, there was a year or two in between my unhealthy eating stage and when I began an IIFYM approach, but I still wasn’t 100% happy with my mentality towards food. Intuitive eating is all well and good, but I really needed something which made me see food as something to help feed my goals, not the enemy which would keep me further away from them.

IIFYM has made me realise that there are no foods to fear, no foods that you have to exclude, and that a healthy mind is much more idealistic than a healthy looking plate.

Your life doesn’t have to revolve around sweet potato and chicken to be healthy. Mine includes sweet potato and chicken, but it also includes meals out, untracked alcohol, unplanned biscuits and chocolate. It includes life.

Grateful

What’s Your Mentality?

Control. In fitness, whatever discipline you’re taking part in, you need it in spades.

People often take it for granted or forget about it completely. How often do you see people in the gym doing half reps? Or doing an exercise so fast they might as well not be doing it at all?

Control over what you’re doing with the exercise is important, especially if your goal is muscle growth, but what about the control your mind has over your body? That’s ultimately the important one. It’s the key: if you don’t have control over your mind, and your mindset, how are you mentally going to convince yourself to put the work in physically?

For me, it is, has, and always will be about your mentality. It is what has kept me going and what will keep me going. But what’s your mentality, and how can you make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your progress?

Set a goal

Whether it’s fat loss, muscle gain or somewhere in between, what is your end goal? There will be one specific goal you want to reach, and you need to be certain of it. Also, make sure it’s one. ‘Fat loss and muscle gain’ is one aim people bang on about, but it’s fairly hard to achieve both – successfully – at once. Pick one, stick to it, and then choose your next one once you have achieved it. Your goal might also change along the way, so make sure you’re driven and in control enough to roll with it should it alter.

Pick out your milestones

While you have only one goal, you must remember that it will be far in the future, and there will be certain milestones you reach before you achieve your end goal. Some people work well in time periods: set yourself realistic milestones in weeks or month timeframes, e.g lose one pound per week, or gain 1kg in one month.

You can also set targets to do with your diet or your mental health, such as eat vegetables with two meals per day or take 30 minutes to meditate or practice breathing twice per week. Write them down and date stamp them, and then you can look back and see how you progressed in your set time period, to measure how far away you are from your end goal.

Find your motivators

You need something that actually gets you motivated to reach your goal, other than the goal itself. You need to be more internally motivated than you are externally. You must be able to do this on your own without relying on other people: no one else is going to get you to the gym, get you through your workout, spend hours meal prepping, other than yourself.

Of course, you can use external motivators such as friends, family, or a personal trainer. But you need to realise that you must be your own motivation (cringe alert) if you’re going to go all the way. There’s only so much other people can do to influence your choices.

You need to be a realist

You need to be mentally strong to realise you will have to make one or two sacrifices along the way, and even stronger to be able to actually carry them through.

That’s not saying you can’t enjoy yourself: the whole point of a healthy lifestyle is that it is exactly that – a lifestyle. And in order for it to be something you are living day in, day out, it must be sustainable. A few alcoholic drinks won’t kill your dreams of reaching your goal. But you must also realise and acknowledge that going on the piss very weekend will take you one step back. Just like one ‘bad’ meal won’t make you fat, but several over an extended period of time will do some damage, especially if your end goal is fat loss.

So, back to my initial point

What’s your mentality? If you have a goal, a meaning behind it, and clear plan as to how you’re going to get there, it’s already on the right track.

Progress pics

Why I Love Progress Pictures

For a girl who has long been concerned about her appearance, I never have paid much attention to the scales.

For me, it was a number, and I have always had a dislike for those. I would often weigh myself, but I would fluctuate a few pounds up or down, and it would never tell me the true story or show me the who picture. Images, however, have always been a little more helpful.

Since I first started my fitness journey way back in 2014, I have taken progress pictures. I have a Dropbox folder full of them. All in years, months; sectioned off and kept, for no real purpose, other than for me to look back at them and think okay, yeah, I have come a pretty long way.

They allow you to compare truthfully

Everyone knows that muscle weighs more than fat. So that’s why, for me, I’ve never really judged my progress on a number on the scales. For me, progress pictures, when compared side by side, show you a better picture of how much progress you’ve made. The scales might only say three or four pounds lost, and that might dishearten some, but compare pictures and that three or four pounds can feel like a stone.

you can see where you’re going wrong

And where you’re going right. Pictures are something you can look at, you can compare, and also contrast. You can take progress pictures and study your own body – you can see changes from the previous week, or month, and you can analyse yourself – of course, in the nicest way possible – and decide your next steps. If your shoulders look too big for your liking, you can train them less. If your legs aren’t big enough, you can add in another leg day. Visuals are so helpful when it comes to tracking where you are, and where you want to be.

they make you feel good

More often than not, we take progress pictures when we are really feeling ourselves. When we get to the gym and think damn, I look good today or maybe even my outfit is on point. We take them, post them on Instagram, and get instant gratification. And doesn’t it feel great? Progress pictures are wonderful in this way, because not only can we share our journey with others – mainly on the internet and the aforementioned Instagram – but we can flex, we can pose, we can show off our gains and our results, and we can feel good about ourselves.

they let you see the mistakes you once made

This blog post came about because I compared the below images. I was shocked when I came across the left image. The old me, the university student, who thought in order to accept herself, she needed to lose more and more weight. And then I put it next to me, today, with big legs, with no real thigh gap anymore. And it made me sad for girl on the left, that she had felt that way and that she had damaged her body and her mind to get there. But it also made me feel incredibly happy for girl on the right; that she fought hard to get there.

Progress Pictures

Progress pictures are about tracking your journey. They are about sharing it with others. And, most importantly – for me, anyway – they are about showing yourself that change and growth is possible, so long as you let yourself.