48% of girls saying getting sweaty is not feminine. Be proud of your sweat. Be in the 52%

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Preaching Paleo

A month of eating paleo. Just some of the meals I wolfed down.

A month of eating paleo. Just some of the meals I wolfed down.

Last year I lost quite a lot of weight – around a stone and a half, by following Weight Watchers  and adding Crossfit to exercise regime (I already ran quite a bit). After six months I weighed under 10 stone and felt fitter than I had in years but the Weight Watchers thing was getting me down.

Yes, I undoubtedly weighed less but I was still eating unhealthy foods – you can splurge on chocolate and booze or eat a microwave meal as long as it is within your daily points limit. So, when my Crossfit gym suggested a paleo challenge last November I thought it sounded like a way of eating that was worth exploring, moving away from processed foods and getting back to basics. It was a month that had a profound impact upon the way I eat. For a start I don’t think I’ve eaten a microwave meal since. I rarely eat any form of grain or legume (unless I’m in a fancy restaurant and the bread is really good or I’m on holiday in Italy and turning down the fresh pasta seems like a sacrilege), my egg consumption has gone up and they have become an integral part of my diet,  I’m beginning to like kale (it’s a learning curve) and when I do eat diary I eat the full fat version. I think more about my food and what I’m cooking and I notice the hidden horrors in all kinds of foods you wouldn’t think contain it (did you know that even M&S plain peeled and cooked prawns contain added sugar…?).

In July, after a particularly decadent fortnight in Italy and a trip to Africa where I thought it would be churlish to turn down good food given to me, I needed to get back on track, so I did a month on the Whole 30 to re-programme myself. I was nervous about the challenge as I have always thought of myself as a bit of a chocoholic. A month without chocolate, heck no added sugar at all, was daunting but in reality I found it surprisingly easy. I never found myself in the grip of a sugar mad lust for a Galaxy bar or a packet of Harbio and to my surprise a date really did cut it when a slight sugar craving hit. Doing the Whole 30 takes some research, a good chunk of commitment and lots of discipline when it comes to cooking your meals or preparing food to take with you when you’re out and about. There were ‘rules’ I fell foul of on the first week when I was still getting to grips with it (carrageenan in almond milk, ‘paleo’ pancakes being off-limits, a slight misunderstanding about peas) but ultimately I think I did pretty well to stick to the letter of the challenge. The only real difficulty for me was not having any booze. July was the hottest month in England in quite some years and not being able to enjoy a cold class of white wine on a summer evening or a beer with friends at a festival at times felt like torture but the fact that is was so hard convinced me it was worth persevering with.

Since finishing I have had a drink or two and even a celebratory Magnum ice cream, enjoying the relative freedom to eat something in a restaurant without asking them to omit butter or substitute salad for fries, but already I feel sluggish compared to a month of eating really, really well. Ultimately I need to remember that don’t feel deprived of food when I eat paleo foods, any deprivation I feel is usually social and clearly my relationship with food is deeply rooted in the communal experience and its bonding abilities. There are still some bad habits there but these are ones that I am in control of that little bit more than before. Hopefully.


The first things about getting fit

1) Stop worrying about what other people are thinking. Right now. No, stop. Don’t ever think you can’t run outside because people will stare at you. I promise you if anyone is looking and they aren’t also running they are marvelling at just how badass you are or a thinking about when they can do their thing and be badass too. Give no more thought to other people in the gym, unless it’s to be nice to courteous to them. No one is laughing, you’re getting fit and that’s something that is never to be laughed at. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who is exercising automatically belongs to the club, congratulations you’ve joined, smile on your way past.

2) Record what you do. If you just go and half heartedly press a few dumbbells or jog on the treadmill for a few minutes you’ll never get anywhere. Trust me, I’ve tried that. Fitness is about progress and progress needs to be tracked. Use your iphone, a notebook or if you have the capacity, your memory, and make sure you’re pushing yourself onwards.

3) Which brings me neatly to – goals! Have them. Try not to make it “I want to feel good in a bikini”, because that isn’t a goal, it’s a state of mind. It might happen after reaching your goals, but it’s not a goal in itself. Perhaps you want to run for 10 minutes without stopping or do a pull up.  It might seem small but it gives you something tangible to work towards. By all means add bigger goals like a marathon or a crazy time  for ‘Fran’ but make sure you keep sight of the small stuff – it really is where the sweat reaps the rewards.

4) Eat well. That Pret sandwich? It’s not healthy, put it down. Say hi to your kitchen and start using it. Cooking my meals from scratch MADE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE. It takes time, sure, but it’s time well spent. Try and make it a habit – when you’re cooking one meal why not add more veggies so you’ve got them cold for tomorrow? Or also pop those chicken breasts in the oven as you’re making your pasta? You’re already cooking, so cook more and eat it for lunch or dinner when you know you’ll be late home and thinking a pizza would be quick and easy right now.

5) Stick at it. It took me years to get in the habit of exercising daily but now it’s something I just do. Eating was easier, after about 6 months I changed the way I eat permanently and although I have the odd slip or fortnight off when on holiday I more or less stick to it. Don’t give up after a month, keep going, it’s worth it, it really is.