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6 Weeks To Sexy Program: What I learned, What I most Enjoyed

So by now you must be thinking, I thought she was doing 6 weeks to sexy, not 18 weeks?! It’s true, I have totally become hooked on this program, and have carried it through to the 3 month mark. Whilst my first two programs really saw me commit to the 5 days a week workouts, this last one I have been nursing an old back injury, and focusing on more pilates, walking, yoga and Physio exercises. However, as I will explain below, each 6 weeks taught me something different about myself and my body, and I guess that is just realistic and reflective of life in general. We can’t be perfect, things come up – emotionally, work-wise and physically – and at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you at that point in time. I have seriously loved every single workout throughout this program, and can’t wait to share with you what I have learned, and what I have most enjoyed!

What I have learned:

  1. Appetite increase – I get much hungrier when I am working out intensely, and need to ensure I fuel my body properly. For this, smoothies have been a dream – and I never have more protein than a 3-4:1 carb:protein ratio. I’ll make myself a turmeric latte for afterward, and that would hold me over to a mid-morning snack which I now always need!
  2. Listen to my body – In terms of hunger, energy and injury it is so important to listen to your body. It will repay you, and it will also catch up to you if you don’t! Even when it didn’t feel right to train, I still took care of myself in some way- whether it was a rest day or I chose to move my body in a different way (walking, yoga, pilates, Physio exercises).
  3. It’s about frame of mind – set the goals you wish to achieve and focus on them every day. I can tell the difference in my attendance and performance the weeks I said to myself (and out loud) that I was going to smash every day of that week. You make less excuses and you make the time to see it through- whether it be setting your alarm, a reminder on your phone, telling a partner or friend of your intention, packing your bag etc. etc. being in the right frame of mind get’s you to training every  day and pushes you to do your best.
  4. Overall energy boost – my gosh I have so much energy lately!  I really have no energy crashes, and I attribute it to working out daily and eating accordingly. Exercise should invigorate you, if it doesn’t, it might be worthwhile to speak to a practitioner about your adrenal health.
  5. Increased water consumption – this might be a silly one but I have also never drank more water and I feel like the combo of this, plus sweating daily, has really helped my skin.
  6. It’s not about what you weigh, but rather how you feel. I made the decision to not weigh myself as I went along, as I didn’t want any old insecurities to creep back in. I also now know how it is your body composition that often changes most, and that might not see a shift on the scales. 6W2S is very intent on letting you know this, with weekly emails and info regarding muscle, body fat and overall weight. As we get measured in a variety of ways at the start of each program (InBody Scan showing body fat percentage and muscle mass etc., body measurements, and strength capabilities), having this 6 week weigh-in is all you need. I also love how it is not simply weight, but rather, there are so many ways to track progress!

What I have most enjoyed:

  1. Having a solid routine, and taking the thought piece out of the exercise equation! This might sound silly, but choosing what to do each day can be stressful, and ensuring you have carved out the time to do it can be challenging! With 6W2S- I just get up and go and have someone tell me what to do 🙂
  2. Blake has a few “tests” he runs throughout the programs whereby he times you going through the session – without a doubt, I constantly bettered myself every time I was re-tested, showing me how much stronger and fitter I was becoming.
  3. Being outdoors for the most part, especially our once-a-week at Bondi. Sunrises always make a workout that much more rewarding and set a beautiful calming, energising tone to the day.
  4. The crew – the girls and trainers are the best of the best, and really motivate, inspire and make it all the more enjoyable turning up each morning. Not to mention the support and community generated through external activities and events and the FB set up each and every program.
  5. Feeling like my body has moved sufficiently each and every day – for someone that is seriously desk-bound either blogging or seeing clients, it can be challenging to get the 10K steps in we should all be aiming for. Whilst I still make a conscious effort to take breaks and walk around, these morning sessions ensure that I have moved my body daily to counteract the hours of computer-time.
  6. The results! Whether it be a more positive mindset, cleaner eating patterns, weight-loss, increased muscle mass, commitment, or hitting new goals, each 6 weeks actually offered me something new. The first one I was most committed to and saw the most physical progress, the second was all about new goals in fitness and strength and this third has been about mindset and listening to my body (due to my injury). Overall within the 3 months I’ve seen a significant drop in body fat %, comparable for what I had to loose, and am really happy with my overall results.

Healthy Easter Hacks

Easter can be a tricky time for some people, with chocolate eggs and bunnies crowding office kitchens and store aisles. Not only have we put together fuss-free, guilt-free Easter hampers for you to keep your chocolate choices simple and pure, we have also put together this list of what to look out for when making an Easter purchase, healthy swaps, ways to have fun and how to indulge this weekend! Happy Easter!

1. Stay on the Dark side…

of chocolate that is! A good rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. 70% and higher is a good guide. That is not only because it’s antioxidant content will be greater, but usually, the higher cacao percentage it is, the less sugar/milk you can usually find in it. In fact, dark chocolate v milk chocolate is less likely to contain dairy, and dairy-free is definitely the way to go when opting for a guilt-free treat! When sugar or milk/milk powder is the first ingredient, you can be sure that bar has fewer health benefits. My pick for all the best dark and dairy-free chocolate this Easter is this assortment of goodies.

2. Make your own

Be completely confident with what is in the chocolate you’re munching on by DIYing it. Try the easiest chocolate recipe here. You will need this and this. You can also find a more decadent Easter chocolate truffle recipe here. Another fun choc-treat to make yourself is dark chocolate coated fruit by melting down this chocolate. If you would like to minimise the chocolate used, simply drizzle it over instead of fully immersing the fruit in the melted chocolate. For added crunch, sprinkle with crushed nuts. This is a fantastic way to get the whole family involved, so that it isn’t just about eating, but more about creating and spending time together.

3. Chocolate replacements

There is no need to completely skimp on that chocolatey flavour you crave around this time of year. If you don’t want to splurge on chocolate, why not try and incorporate it into your day in other fun ways? Try this chocolate thickshake for a protein-packed breakfast, a bliss ball for that mid-morning or afternoon slump, a soothing creamy hot cacao or the healthiest chocolate mousse for those nighttime cravings!

4. Work for it!

Kids or no kids, an Easter egg hunt is a great Easter activity to do with family or friends, that actually sees you work for your chocolate! Get creative with the hiding spots, scattering them over a greater area of space to get you all moving further for longer! What’s more, you can also hide other Easter-related items: think baby carrots, bunny ears, pom-pom baby chickens, spiced teas, chocolate-scented lip balms. Get creative!

5. Apply the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is a realistic one to live by: you abide by a healthy diet and lifestyle 80% of the time, and allow room for indulgence the other 20%. Whilst to some, this might mean a weekend of “blowing” out, because the rest of the week they have been “good”, I prefer to think of it with a little more moderation. Enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, whilst also savouring those chocolate eggs (i.e. don’t skip meals! You will only over-indulge). If you can sneak in a walk or a workout over the Easter weekend, great! but if you are busy having fun, don’t sweat it, you ate fresh healthy meals, spent quality time with loved ones, and you treated yourself without the guilt!

How to keep it clean when dining out

Socialising over food is a part of life, and shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. There are times when you want to indulge and the rules go out the window (that is fine), and there are times where you would like to stick to the rules a little more closely. I eat out once or twice a week for a main meal, and whilst I usually find it relatively easy as I seek out health-oriented cafe’s and restaurants, there is the occasion where I have no control over where we go, or end up somewhere I wouldn’t usually choose. That is often the case when traveling or dining with larger groups! But these occasions don’t need to be avoided entirely, nor do they need to be stressed over. Embrace them and enjoy them for the company and experience, and keep these tips in mind, or in your phone, to gently guide you toward more healthful options.

1. Skip the bread basket, order crudités if on the menu, a veggie based starter to share, or simply olives, if you feel tempted to snack whilst you wait for your meal.

2. Avoid words like creamy, crumbed, crispy, or deep-fried on the menu, it is likely loaded with nasty oils and saturated/trans fats.

3. Let them know you are dairy-intolerant – vegan or not, there is no need for milk, milk powders/solids in your sauces and mains. This also means steering clear of creamy based dressings and sauces which often contain other undesirables like preservatives, thickeners and unhealthy fats etc. Find out why I choose to avoid dairy here.

4. Ask if they can cook in less oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil/coconut oil instead of butter (for vegans/dairy-free) or other vegetable oils.

5. Request dressings and even sauces on the side. Ask for a lemon, balsamic vinegar, tahini or avocado to compensate.

6. Order a bunch of side vegetables as a main – a balanced meal can often be created from a side of sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, steamed greens, grains, side salad etc. Alternatively, see what produce ingredients they use in their other dishes and single out one or two you would like e.g. avocado, quinoa or beans, to add to your sides. This is also a great tip if you are vegan and there is no suitable plant-based option.

7. Ask if they have a vegetarian / vegan menu – these often exist, and are often healthier as veggies are the star of the show! They also tend to be grouped together with other diet-specific requirements i.e. gluten-free, refined sugar-free too.

8. Skip the fries and double the veggies or see if they will steam you some rice or sweet potato instead, if craving something more starch-based. NB: sometimes I do have the fries, moderation 😉

9. At Asian restaurants, see if they have gluten-free Tamari sauce available in place of soy sauce for a happier tummy. Be wary of the sugar used in some sushi-rice, ask if they would be open to swapping for steamed rice, however this might not always be possible.

Enjoy your food, but mostly the dining experience and the company you keep! There is no perfect, and your body can tolerate less-than-ideal choices from time to time 🙂

A New Chapter & Part 1 of My Health Story

A New Chapter!

Some of you may have noticed that my eating habits have shifted over the past year. Most notably, since late last year I have moved toward plant-based eating, eliminating animal products entirely. Yes, I am vegan – that word that seems to rouse a particular reaction within people. I know that it may seem “extreme” to some, unimaginable to others, and ridiculous to a few. The truth is, it has been the best decision for me- after feeling it in my own body and knowing all that I have come to learn, I am very happy and proud of my choice.

This entry, as well as the following two posts, will outline my journey, openly and honestly, with the intention to help those going through similar struggles – yo-yo-dieting, fluctuating weight, eating disorders, disconnection from food, hormonal imbalances… I have been there, you most certainly are not alone. I have gone through it all, and I can honestly say that my transition to plant-based eating has allowed me to reconnect with my body – my metabolism, appetite and self-esteem – in ways that I never experienced before, from the many diets I have tried! I offer you this, believe in the power of food to impact your health. This isn’t limited to women or hormones, our diet undeniably effects men and women alike in every way.

So without further ado, let‘s get into exactly how I got here

Part 1:

When I was four years old, I stopped eating meat. No, no one in my family was vegetarian, I was just one very particular little girl who knew what she did and didn’t like. I believe that intuitively, as a young girl, I knew something was wrong about eating animals – I didn’t like the taste or the idea of it. Whilst I grew up enjoying veggies, I also loooooved dairy. In fact, processed cheese and refined carbohydrates were a mainstay in my diet – hello, melted cheese on white pasta/toast…everything! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t entirely unhealthy. Since I didn’t eat meat, I ate a lot of colourful fruits and vegetables and grew up with an appreciation of legumes and nuts.

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Whilst I was always encouraged to look after myself, as a teenager I interpreted that, like many of us do, as being conscious of my weight. Thus the emphasis was on numbers, sizes, and physical appearance as opposed to nourishment. At this time, the health world was focused on quick-fixes and diet foods – particularly low-fat – with less of an emphasis on real foods. I remember seeing older females around me ordering programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I would gaze at the powders, shakes, bars and puddings like they were magic.

I believe this planted a little seed in my head, that dieting was “the thing to do”, that it was feminine, trendy, and convenient.

I don’t remember the exact moment I tried my first diet, but slowly my obsession with controlling my weight grew. At 15 I became a chronic calorie-counter, sticking to low-fat, I worked out exactly how many calories I would eat a day and would balance that with excessive exercising and other physical exertion e.g. I even accounted for calories burned during sleep! I was meticulous and stringent. A little nutritionist in the making (with not so healthy ideas of health).

I lost a lot of weight, although I definitely didn’t consider myself underweight at the time. People began to get concerned. Reluctantly, I agreed to see a dietician where I was told to lessen my strict exercise regimen and food monitoring. Eventually I complied. After all, it was exhausting! Gradually, I put the weight back on.

It wasn’t until then that perhaps an even nastier voice entered my head and I developed the tortuous eating disorder, bulimia. For years, no one knew. It was born out of pure frustration of being unable to lose weight as easily as I did that first time of rigorous calorie-counting. And yet, I didn’t lose any weight, and all I gained was a very unhealthy relationship with food and myself. It made me completely disconnected from my body and the choices I was making. I felt like I was living a double life and had completely lost sight of the big picture that I was originally motivated by, health.

Amongst all that, it makes sense that my period had disappeared. I was quickly diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and put on the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), having only had two natural periods in my life. I stayed on the pill for 8 years and whilst I didn’t have a terrible experience on it, it is what happened after I stopped taking it that would present me with another health challenge, and inspired my interest in studying nutrition.

Thanks for reading! Part 2 coming to you tomorrow… 🙂

Love & health,

Sami xx

The enigma that is Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance” is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Some people have it, some people think they have it, while most people longingly aspire to it. The phrase itself assumes that “work” is not a part of “life”, and must be “balanced” against it. It has become almost enigmatic, we can’t describe it or crack its code, leaving many somewhat intimidated by it. How could we ever balance one (work), so demanding and integral to our financial situation, with the other (life), that encompasses so much?!

Defining the work aspect is pretty straight forward – you know when you’re showing up each day, hitting goals and adding value to the business. But life, how do we judge if we are showing up and adding value to our lives?

It is increasingly recognised that quality of life is strongly intertwined with quality of health. Not simply our physical health i.e. what we eat or how often we move, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This involves relationships, leisure, pleasure, self-reflection, self-love, beliefs and much, much more.

With one third of our lives spent in the office, how are we expected to find the time to fit in all this other stuff?

The truth is, many of us don’t. We prioritise careers and allow our health to take second chair. That looming deadline… or time for the gym? Early morning meeting… or a much-needed 15 minute meditation? Coffee to get me through… or herbal tea? Late night working… or time with loved ones? So many of us sacrifice the latter for the former far too often. By the end of the day, we are so exhausted and resentful of the sacrifices we have to make, we often make further poor choices – the thought of preparing a healthy meal ridiculous compared to the easier options like takeaway and comfort food, the idea of a yoga class (if we even left the office in time) ludicrous when there’s chores to be done, relationships to nurture or simply mindless reality TV on offer.

With workplace stress levels continually rising, it is becoming abundantly clear that the work-life scales are tipping unfavourably for the majority of us. Physically, stress is impacting 75% of Australians, while mentally it is taking its toll on 68%. Only half of Australians feel their employers truly care about their wellbeing.

To combat this, a few forward-thinking organisations have recognised the integral role health initiatives have with cultivating corporate culture and business success. Implementing programs such as lunch-time yoga offer desk-bound employees an opportunity to exercise, ease their minds and reconnect, within work hours.

This is not only fantastic for their overall health but also serves as a business tool – the midday boost increases focus and productivity, encourages team-building and makes employees feel that they are getting more from their job than simply a pay cheque.

When I teach corporate yoga classes, the first comment I get after Savasana is “I could take a nap!” But 10 minutes later, they all report feeling much more alert and focused, and this stays with them throughout their afternoon. Students are happier because they are getting their workout in, they feel valued by their employer, their work improves and they enjoy the social aspect. The benefits are endless!

Work-life balance isn’t necessarily asking, are we hour-for-hour spending equal time on both, but rather, are we giving as much energy to our wellbeing and relationships, as we are to our occupation? Are we supporting ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, so that we can fulfill our jobs and career ambitions to the best of our ability?

Organisations need to help with the balancing act by prioritising employee wellbeing. That one hour within the work day just once a week truly makes all the difference to tipping the scales back in our favour. By implementing a wellness initiative employers assist their team by decreasing stress, increasing productivity and generating an inclusive corporate culture that fosters loyalty to the business.

If you’ve identified that your company needs to introduce a healthy dose of yoga, why not suggest in-house lunchtime classes?

I’d love to hear from you! Enquire today: sami@samibloom.com

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