Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Choosing Healthier Alternatives - T-minus 20

Date: Tuesday 30 December
Weight: 62.1kg (down 2.1kg) Water retention gone!
Relaxation and Recovery: 30min walk around lake with TJ and Rob then 30min yoga DVD to stretch out tight glutes from yesterday's front squats
Exercise: HIIT sprints (30s on, 90s off x 8)
Meal Compliance: 6/6

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Choosing Healthier Alternatives - T-minus 21

Date: Monday 29 December

Thought for today: Instead of worrying about eliminating bad habits, focus on adopting good ones

Weight: 64.2kg (water retention from carbs over the weekend)
I am trying to gain muscle at the moment so am eating above maintenance but expect scale weight to come down a bit as I clean up my act.

Incidental: walk to shops to get eggs for breakfast
Planned: weight training: incline bench press, front squats, DB row, Bulgarian split squats
One benefit of the water retention from the weekend is increased leverage in my lifts. Got a PB in incline bench press - woot!

Meal Compliance: 6/6
Rob had his 'chocolate biscuit night' - once a week he eats two packets of D'lush gluten-free chocolate biscuits. I usually 'help' him eat them - I think they taste better than Tim Tams! Hard to stop at one (or two or three) though. Luckily I was at the gym when he had his first packet, and then was starting on my evening oats when he opened his second packet, so wasn't tempted.

My organic fruit and vege box arrived this morning so here's what I've got to play with this week:
baby spinach
bok choy
corn on cob
oak leaf lettuce
salad mix
spring onion
sweet potato
yellow squash

honeydew melon

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Plan

For the next few weeks my menu will be as follows:

M1: egg whites, whole egg, beans, veggies, cheese, fruit, fish oil
M2: yoghurt, nuts, protein powder, Vital Greens
M3: lean protein, salad, nuts, oil dressing, fish oil
M4: lean protein, salad, nuts, oil dressing
Weights (protein and carb drink)
M5: lean protein, veggies, fruit, rice & sweet potato, fish oil
M6: egg whites, fruit, oats

Non-weight-training days will be the same for meals 1-4
If doing HIIT will have drink with BCAAs, glutamine and Vital Greens
M5: lean protein, veges, fruit, few nuts, sweet potato, fish oil
M6: egg whites, whole egg, fruit, cheese

This gives me plenty of variety, as I can subsitute whatever lean meat, fruit, and veges I like into the menu, and it allows me to create meals that I enjoy and look forward to eating. And I have 10 percent of the week (roughly 4 meals) to eat some foods not on the menu. Where possible, I want to try and make those '10 percent' meals healthy alternatives rather than sugar-laden processed crap that turns my 'moderate indulgence' into a 'free-for-all'.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Conscious Competence

I was reading The 4 Stages of Mental Mastery by Chris Shugart yesterday, and this part in particular really struck me:

'Most experienced Testosterone readers probably find themselves stuck in the stage of conscious competence. And that's not a bad thing really. They aren't failures at all, but the daily grind and struggle make it easy to slip back to stage two.

Time is often the cure. Avoid shitty foods long enough and you won't want them anymore. Sometimes this can be done in as little as 21 days: a time period most behavior experts agree it takes to kick a habit.

With diet goals, that means that cold turkey is best. Let's take that 21-day example literally (although there can obviously be differences among individuals and individual habits). Okay, so if you avoid fried food for at least 21 days, you'll begin to lose your taste for it. But what if you have a cheat meal of fried food once per week, you know, 'cause you "deserve it" and it "replenishes glycogen or somethin'"?

Well then, you never reach 21 days of cold turkey, do you? In fact, you reinforce the negative behavior by making it special – a reward for being good all week.

The alcoholic doesn't kick booze by rewarding himself with a 12-pack every Saturday. Food addictions work the same way, which is why I now disagree with the idea of all-out cheat meals.'

This part of the article struck me because I am like this with sugar. My eating during the week is good (protein, veges, fruit, good fats, and carbs around training) and I deliberately avoid sugar, but during the weekend I am more likely to eat chocolate, biscuits etc. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I have a problem being 'moderate' with these kinds of foods. I need to get back into the habit of choosing other alternatives to satisfy my sweet tooth.

So I am going to try going without sugar for 21 days (with the exception of workout drinks). I figure if I can do it during comp prep, there's no reason why I can't do it any other time, right?

Because I found being accountable to my blog helpful to achieve my Christmas Day goal, I am going to do the same for this goal. Starting Tuesday morning I will briefly log how the previous day went, and what alternatives I've used when I wanted something sweet.

On the Flip Side

I could have spent all Boxing Day on the couch reading, but felt like having some carbs so headed off to the gym in the late afternoon. Had an awesome workout, including DB deadlifts and dips. My upper back felt so tight from holding the DBs that I put my Skins top on when I got home to get some relief. Then I pretty much cleaned out the rest of the sweet treats left over from Christmas Day. Back is looking pretty full this morning (not to mention the rest of me, LOL).

10 July

27 December

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Had a good workout on Christmas Eve and then had some Christmas mince pies for my post workout carbs. Also a little bit of fudge and some chocolate-covered macadamias. Our gym is open today but I am going to be spending the day at home with friends and family, so have planned a lower carb menu since I won't be training. I am hoping that by blogging pics of what I eat today I will be more mindful of the amount that I eat at each meal - because I have been known to go back for fifths of dessert, LOL. I will try to post pics throughout the day.

Breakfast, 9.30am

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on grilled eggplant

Snack, 1.30pm

Protein powder and yoghurt, almonds, Vital Greens

Lunch, 4.30pm

Barbecue garlic beef fillet, salad with avocado and fetta

Snack, 7pm

Ham, brie cheese, egg, cherries

Pre-Dinner Nibbles, 9pm


Dinner, 10pm

Pickled pork, pineapple, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, cheese sauce

Snack, 11.30pm

Chocolate-coated ginger

- 2 coffees
- 1 glass champagne
- 3 glasses sparkling shiraz
- 1 glass pinot gris
- 1.5L sparkling mineral water
- 2 glasses diet coke
- 1 decaf coffee

A successful day for me food-wise. By being accountable to my blog (and therefore mindful of what I was eating), I learnt that I can eat the same way on Christmas day that I do on any other day. My protein portions were probably a bit bigger than normal (especially breakfast) but at no stage did I feel stuffed, or that my eating was out of control. I also proved to myself that I can drink alcohol in moderation (roughly 1 glass with each meal) without it affecting my eating. The other thing that helped this year was that I didn't volunteer to do a dessert, so I didn't have one of my favourites to tempt me. Rob's cousin made a trifle, but it's not something that I would normally choose to eat, so it was easy to pass up. Plus I had Christmas mince pies last night, so that kept me pretty happy. Now to do it all again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Food Photo Log

I'm thinking about keeping a photo 'log' of the food I eat over Christmas and posting it here. Although I have planned healthy meals, I think the thought of showing everything I eat here will help me reduce my grazing and overeating. Would anyone else like to join in? Might be fun to see blogs full of a day's worth of Christmas eating.

Get in Better Shape Over Christmas?

My Holiday Fitness Challenge to You
by Tom Venuto

Media reports say that most people gain between 5 and 10 pounds of body fat in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to research from the New England Journal of Medicine, the average amount is much more modest - just over a pound. However, even modest holiday weight gain may be cause for concern: A study by the National Institutes of Health found that this seasonal weight gain - even just a pound - is usually not lost after the holidays; it simply adds to the “weight creep” that sneaks up on us as we get older.

Whether the weight gain is a pound or ten pounds, did you ever ask yourself why does holiday weight gain happen at all?

Here are some common answers I’ve heard:

“I’m too busy over the holidays to work out as often as usual.”

“I’m more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there, so I eat more.”

“I have at least three parties to attend and then there’s christmas and New Year’s, so it’s impossible to stay on a diet”

“No one can tell me not to enjoy myself over the holidays so I’m just going to eat whatever I want.”

These answers all have a few things in common.

First, they assume that it’s an either/or proposition: You can either get in better shape or enjoy yourself, but not both. Stated in reverse: You can either deprive yourself of holiday enjoyments or gain weight, but it has to be one or the other. The truth is, “either/or thinking” is a very limiting form of thought.

Second, these are all excuses or rationalizations. “I’m too busy” for example, is always an excuse, because I have never known someone who was too busy to make time for his or her highest life priorities. The problem then, is not lack of time, but that most people do not make exercise or eating healthy a priority. We all have the same amount of time - 24 hours a day - but the way people prioritize the use of time is the difference between success and mediocrity. And remember, words mean little. Actions reveal a person’s true priorities.

Third, none of these are the real reasons most people gain weight over the holidays to begin with. The real reason is because an intention was never set for the opposite: To get in BETTER shape over the holidays.

Most people set a “goal” to get in worse shape over the holidays!

It’s not consciously set, of course, as few people would intentionally set out to gain fat. They simply do it by default. In their minds, they accept that it must be just about impossible to stay in shape with everything going on over the holiday season, so why bother?

Once the decision has been made, then the rationalizing (“rationing lies”) continues:

“Why should I deprive myself?”
“Family is more important”
“Worrying about diet and exercise during the holidays is neurotic”
“I don’t care if I gain a few pounds, I’m going to enjoy myself anyway”
“It’s only these two or three weeks that I let myself go wild”
“I’ll start the first week in January and lose the weight then.”

As a result of this “negative goal-setting,” they expect to work out less, eat more and gain a few pounds, and they don’t seem to even consider alternatives.

But what would happen if you set an intention and a goal to get in better shape between now and New Years’s Day?

What would happen if you decided that it was not an all or nothing proposition and that you could enjoy the holidays and all it has to offer and get in better shape at the same time?

And what if you decided that your health and your body were the highest priorities in your life, because you realized that can’t enjoy anything else in life, including family or holidays, if you don’t have your health?

Here’s what would happen: You would get in better shape!

I’m not all that different from you just because I’m a bodybuilder and fitness professional. I have many of the same problems, concerns and struggles as you do. Although today I always get in better shape between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, that’s a result of a conscious choice, a close examination of my old belief systems and a lot of action. For me, it all started about six years ago.

For most of my adult life, I wasn’t much of a traveller and I didn’t enjoy flying or staying in hotels. I had a belief that if I traveled, my workouts and nutrition would suffer. After all, “it would be hard to stick with my usual bodybuilding diet, and I wouldn’t have access to my usual gyms.” Because of these reasons (excuses), I never did much travel back in those days.

Then I was forced to take some trips for business reasons. Predictably enough, my nutrition and workouts suffered while I was spending time in airplanes and in hotels. With my experience having confirmed my beliefs, I re-affirmed to myself, “See, travelling is nothing but a pain. You just can’t stay on a diet and training program when you’re out of town.”

After several more trips, I noticed that something very negative happened: I surrendered. I had resigned myself to “not bother” while I was on the road. I let my expectations create my reality.

But I didn’t let it go on for long. As soon as I became aware of what was happening, I decided that I wouldn’t tolerate it, so I challenged myself and my previous limiting beliefs. I asked myself, “Why the heck not? Why let myself backslide? Why even settle for maintaining? Why not challenge myself to improve while I’m traveling?” The answer: There was no reason, there were only excuses.

From that day forward, I set a challenge for myself: To come back from every trip or vacation in better shape than when I left. Of course there were exceptions, as when I went on a vacation for total R & R. But I never let travel get in my way again…

I prepared food that I would eat on the planes so airline food was never an excuse…
I only chose hotels that had kitchens, so I could cook my own food…
I went food shopping immediately after check-in…
And I actually found myself training harder than usual!

No matter where I was training - it could even be some “dungeon” of a gym in the middle of nowhere - it didn’t matter because my mind was focused on improving and looking better when I came home than when I left. I had a goal!

What do you think happened? It’s not hard to guess: I always came home in better shape than when I left.

Since then, my “travel challenge” has become somewhat of a ritual in my life. When I’m away from my “home-base” it becomes a “fitness road trip.” I search the Internet or yellow pages or ask locals to help me find the most hard-core gym nearby wherever I will be staying. When I get there, I train every bit as hard as if I had a competition just weeks away. I look forward to it now.

In fact, this experience is what led me to my “holiday fitness challenge.”

Like many people, I travel over the holidays, so I’m automatically in “travel challenge” mode at thanksgiving, Christmastime and New Year’s. But with the additional temptations and busyness that the holidays bring on top of the usual travel stresses, I saw fit to declare a new challenge: “The Holiday Challenge.” The difference was that for my “holiday challenge,” I pledged to not only to return home in better shape than when I left, but to enjoy the holidays to the fullest at the same time.

People who think I “deprive” myself to look the way I do would be shocked: I eat some damn good food over the holidays including Pie at Thanksgiving and my mom’s famous red and green Jell-0 Christmas cake. Then on New Year’s I’m usually toasting champagne and having a blast with friends or family. The difference is, every other meal stays right on schedule and I work out hard and consistently over the holidays; I don’t let everything fall apart just because ‘tis the season.’ In fact, I work out HARDER over the holidays!

The idea that you can either enjoy the holidays or stay in shape - but not both - is damaging and limiting. It hurts your social life, your emotional life and your physical life. Life is not an either or proposition; it’s a matter of balance. Success does not mean going to extremes. Success can be a simple matter of re-examining your beliefs, rearranging your priorities, setting goals, changing the questions you ask yourself, re-evaluating your expectations and acting in accordance with all of the above.

Your expectations will become your reality.

What are you expecting this holiday season? Are you expecting to be in better shape after holiday parties, celebrations, banquets, dinners, and desserts? If not, then why not? What’s preventing you from enjoying all of the above and still getting in better shape? Do you have a limiting belief which dictates that it’s one or the other? Could it be that you never set a goal, intention or expectation to do it? Could it be that you’re rationalizing or making excuses? If so, then I challenge you to change it this year.


There’s less than a month until the end of the year. Why not see how much you can improve your physique over the holidays, without depriving yourself of any holiday enjoyments or festivities? Just step up your expectations. Step up your standards. Step up your nutrition. Step up your training. Step up your action. Step up to the “holiday fitness challenge” the minute you finish reading this, and then just see what happens!

Eat right, train hard and expect success

-Tom Venuto

Steering Clear of Sugar

by Maya Anderson

'With many of the latest health reports now focusing on carbohydrates and fats, it sometimes seems that sugar has been forgotten. So does sugar actually deserve the bad rap it has gotten in previous years? Natureco naturopath Samantha Warner said while sugar in itself is neither good nor bad, the issue is quality and quantity. “Sugar in the modern world has become evil purely due to its high availability and excess in processed foods,” she said. Most processed food does not contain many minerals and vitamins, which help the body to use the energy from sugar. “We must use our stored nutrients to help us digest and assimilate the sugars we are eating, leading to chronic deficiencies particularly magnesium, chromium, zinc and B vitamins,” Ms Warner said.

Too much sugar can also feed fungi and other pathogens in the blood, leading to candida and other bowel dysbiosis. “Sugar makes the blood sticky, potentially leading to clots, and blocks in small capillaries, leading to tissue and nerve damage,” Ms Warner said. Excess sugar can also cause free radical damage and oxidation in the vascular system, which can contribute to plaque formation in the arteries and cardiovascular disease.

Read more

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Managing Cravings

From 'Dreaming of a Light Christmas' by Paula Goodyer in today's Age newspaper.

'If you have a craving for cake - or a drink - trying to supress it can sometimes make the craving worse, [psychologist] Kavanagh explains.

"Not only are you trying not to focus on the craving, you're also mentally checking to make sure you're not thinking about it," he says.

That's where mindfulness comes in - the practice of allowing thoughts to float into your head, rather than fighting to keep them out.

"The idea is to try to see unwanted thoughts - like cravings - as paper boats floating past on a stream. You can grab them or you can let them drift past," he says, adding that, with practice, we can learn to let the thoughts go - and perhaps replace them with more positive images of how we want to be.'

Friday, December 12, 2008


I upped my food intake this week since I'm now doing more strenuous workouts but I'm hungry! I woke up early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep because I was hungry so got up to have something to eat. I took TJ for a walk straight afterwards and by the time I got home I was hungry again! Hopefully that means I am growing, yay! Fruit and veges have just arrived, so am off to unpack them and find something else to eat, LOL.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Program!

I've spent the last four weeks or so addressing some structural, flexibility and strength issues. I now have more of a curve in my lower back, my hamstring flexibility is much improved, and my instable shoulder is feeling much stronger. I was training legs consistently throughout this phase, but did little in the way of heavy upper body work, focusing instead on external rotations and scapular retraction to strengthen my shoulder. On Monday I started on a new program to gain muscle and am really enjoying getting back into the heavy lifting. Needless to say, my upper body was pretty sore on Tuesday, especially my back (and I only did two sets of rows for my back!). Trained again yesterday and slept really well last night. Rob said he was a bit tired this morning because he was up after the cat a couple of times during the night - I didn't hear a thing!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Start your day with water

(An excerpt from Water for Weight Loss by Jonny Bowden)

'In two separate studies, (both published in recent issues of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism) researchers found that within 10 minutes of drinking about a pint* of water, metabolic rates in both men and women begin to increase as much as 24-30 percent!

They don't completely know why, but it might have something to do with osmotic pressure changes. (If you're wondering, other drinks don't seem to have the same effect, so it's definitely the water that's doing it.)

You know, if you drank this much water every day upon rising you could actually burn an extra 17,400 calories a year- for a loss of five extra pounds. Just from drinking water!

Now granted, that's not an awful lot of weight. But added to all the other benefits of water, the little bit of extra weight loss is a nice bonus!

For best results consume it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

And then keep on drinking all day!'

* A pint is almost 500mL

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lonely Planet Christmas Party

Date: Saturday 6 December
Theme: Treasure Island
Dress: Pirates and Wenches

Thursday, December 4, 2008

BBQ last weekend

Last weekend we had the first of our Christmas functions - a barbecue for the staff of the Australian College of Sports Therapy, held at one of the lecturer's houses up near Hanging Rock. We got there a bit early, so ended up going to the cellar door at Paramoor Winery for some wine tasting.

The atmosphere was lovely, and after buying a few bottles, we decided to sit outside in the sunshine with a glass each and have a chat. Then we headed off to the BBQ. It was a nice afternoon, sunny but not too hot, and I enjoyed meeting Rob's workmates and their families and having some yummy pecan pie and baked cheesecake.