UFIT Orchard Trainer Aaron Tregaskes explains how changing a few things in your life such as exercise, social interaction and breath control can make huge differences to how your body deals with stress.
Is skipping breakfast bad for me? Does cutting out carbs help me to lose stubborn fat? Our qualified nutritionists give their take on 10 commonly asked food and nutrition questions.
"If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you."
We recently spoke to Lee-Ann Sullivan and Leonard Leong, the female and male winners of the recent 28-day Clean & Lean Challenge on their amazing efforts and how it has transformed their lives.
Lee-Ann is a mother of 2, and has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. Through the challenge, she discovered the objectives of diabetic management and the Clean & Lean Challenge were in sync – a clean and lean lifestyle means a better control of her diabetic condition, and less insulin required as a result. A win-win for her! She lost 6kg (9.45%) of body fat in the challenge.
Leonard Leong is a Clean & Lean alumni, having participated in 3 previous editions of the challenge. After 2 years, he wanted a refresher to recalibrate his lifestyle and eating habits, to feel better and learn how to listen to his body. Leonard lost 3.8kg (4.78%) of body fat in the challenge.
What was your motivation to join the Clean & Lean Challenge?
Lee-Ann: My motivation was to lose stubborn body fat that I just couldn’t seem to lose, even with regular weekly physical training sessions. I knew my diet was not what it should be, causing my type 1 diabetes to be challenging to control, and not allowing me to achieve a healthy consistent lifestyle.
Leonard: For me it was to get back to good health by reducing my body fat. Since participating in the last Clean & Lean Challenge 2 years ago, bad eating habits had formed due to work stress. Despite keeping a moderately healthy lifestyle, my body fat had still gone up. Knowing that the challenge has previously worked for me, I decided to commit 4 weeks to re-learn and reset my body.
Lee-Ann, was having diabetes a concern for you going into the challenge?
Lee-Ann: I have had diabetes for over 30 years. Personally I was not concerned about embarking on the challenge as such, although I was very much aware of the danger areas to be mindful of when making substantial changes to my eating habits. My insulin doses did reduce dramatically. Ensuring that my blood glucose levels were being continually tested and closely monitored, and that my medication was being adjusted accordingly, meant that the risk of hyperglycaemic episodes (when my blood glucose levels are too low) were reduced.
What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?
Lee-Ann: The hardest part for me was the low energy levels. During the initial 2 weeks, I was unaware that I was severely iron-deficient. The program offered complementary iron panel test, which prompted me to have my levels checked out. Luckily an iron infusion solved that issue immediately. My energy levels returned, but I did still have to consider how much physical training I was doing, and when to reintroduce some complex carbohydrates into my diet. Head nutritionist Wendy and her team were very helpful and provided ongoing guidance and attention to my needs throughout the challenge.
Leonard: Finding Clean and Lean compliant food during my business travels was my biggest challenge. I spent almost half of the 4-week challenge travelling to 2 separate countries for work. Both countries I have never been to, and hence find compliant food was a mammoth task to say the least!
And what is the best part of the challenge?
Lee-Ann: I really enjoyed hearing about other participants’ journey through the Clean & Lean app. It provided all the weekly information you need, such as nutrition advice, healthy recipes, and daily food challenges. The weekly information sessions were great, covering topics that I found very relevant, such as cardio versus strength training, the type 3 diabetes warning, and the importance of getting enough sleep. The recipes provided are simple, tasty, and easy to follow.
This program is different to other nutrition programs I’ve tried. It gives you all the tools to succeed, and also gets you to rethink about your lifestyle, listen to you body, and learn how to make positive changes to your eating and exercise habits. So you can continue this clean and lean lifestyle even when the challenge ends.
Leonard: Head Nutritionist of the Clean & Lean Challenge Wendy Riddell! She's keeps things going through the 4 weeks with good humour, and her big heart in encouraging everyone to stick to the program, especially in the first 2 weeks when it was the toughest.
How do you feel now? Has taking this challenge change your perception about nutrition and wellness?
Lee-Ann: I have more energy now and feel much healthier. My diabetes is easier to manage and well-controlled with very little if any insulin required for meals, and a 20% decrease in my basal insulin requirements.
I also have a much more positive relationship with food. Previously it was a love-hate relationship...loved chocolate, but hated how it made me feel. Now I don’t have cravings for foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates anymore. If anything, my body craves healthy foods, lots of greens, seeds, protein, some complex carbohydrates, and of course Clean & Lean bread! I also listen to my body more when it comes to what I am eating. I think part of Clean & Lean is a discovery, or experiment, to find out more about your body and what works best for you. For example, I've discovered that cow's milk in my coffee makes me feel unwell!
Leonard: I feel healthier and more aware of the food choices I'm making. The challenge has definitely got me re-acquainted with my kitchen. Cooking healthy food doesn’t mean boring, tasteless, and cold. It can be as delicious as you want it to be! All you need is the knowledge to read nutrition labels. I've also learnt to regulate my carbohydrates intake in accordance to my workout schedule.
It is all about the 80/20 rule. Eating clean 80% of the time, with 20% set aside for cheat meals (especially in social gatherings). Plan a week ahead to identify the time I eat clean, and when it is about having fun - wine included of course.
What advice do you have for newbies who are thinking about taking up the challenge, but is concerned about the difficulties to stick to it?
Lee-Ann: I would suggest using the Clean & lean app to its full benefit. The discussions, advice, and information provided are valuable when things get hard, and actually makes the whole experience more enjoyable. You soon realise that everyone is feeling the same way as you do, and the tips and tricks shared to get through the difficult times are great. Preparation is key. have all your “approved” snacks ready so when times get tough, you’re prepared. Listen to your body, and talk to the Clean & Lean nutritionists for guidance, they’re a great support. And have fun exploring new ways of cooking, and discovering food that are on the “approved list”, you might amaze yourself with what you can come up with!
Leonard: Planning is crucial. Think ahead about what you are having for your meals. For example, if you are ending your day at the gym, know what are the options available around the vicinity. When you are low in energy levels, you want to take out the guess work and frustrations that come with it. Learn how to break your goals up into small achievable steps. Instead of thinking that you have X days to the end line, try to focus on just the day ahead. Having a friend to join you on the program also helps!
The experience of having a baby is an emotional roller coaster ride. From the excitement when you first found out that you are expecting a baby, to the creeping thoughts of what will happen to your body during and after the pregnancy, it is a journey filled with intense trepidation.
For us women, it is understandable that we are concerned about how our body would inevitably be changed by the pregnancy. Some of the most common questions that gets asked are, “Can I still work out?”, “Is it bad for the baby?”, and “Will my body ever be the same after pregnancy?”
My answer is, if you want your muscles to recover quickly after pregnancy, you’ll have to use them and strengthen them (wisely of course!) throughout your pregnancy. The benefits are manifold: you can avoid stretch marks, cellulite, loose skin, improve your posture, and reduce body aches just by following a sensible exercise program.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
If you keep active during your pregnancy, muscle memory will help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight quicker. If you’re not physically active before you got pregnant, you should talk to your doctor before you start. If you always have been active, continue to stay active!
Exercise elevates your endorphin levels, which will make you feel better and happier as your body adjusts to new changes. You will have more energy, and less pregnancy-related symptoms such as swelling, back pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, and varicose veins.
Your postpartum recovery will be quicker, and getting back to regular exercise will be easier. However, you should note that there is no one-fits-all exercise plan for pregnant women. Training with a professional who is certified in pre and post-natal exercise programing is essential.
Pregnancy exercise tips:
- Have an exercise routine and try to stick to it, it will be better for you and your baby.
- At every trimester, the way your body reacts to exercise will change, so it is important to adapt to those changes by modifying the intensity and the exercises.
- After your second trimester, avoid staying too long on your back when exercising.
- Drink 1 cup of water every 15 minutes of exercise to keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
- Remember to exhale on the efforts of each exercise to keep the oxygen flow to your baby.
- Avoid all contact sports completely!
After pregnancy, the uterus shrinks approximately one centimetre every day. In 5 to 6 weeks, it should go back to pre-pregnancy size. At this time, it is important for the new mom to start strengthening the inner core muscles. Getting rid of that mommy’s pooch, unless you do deep inner-core concentrated exercises, will be a tough challenge.
Getting back to regular exercises should be done slowly and only after the doctor’s permission. You should start with basic core strengthening exercises, working the pelvic floor, and focusing on your posture, balance, and stretching.
COMMON POST PREGNANCY ISSUES THAT CAN BE CORRECTED WITH EXERCISE
For many women who has just given birth, abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) is a common concern. Avoid crunches and twisting moves. Your post-natal trained fitness coach will be able to prescribe a series of exercises to effectively activate your core muscles correctly, to help bring your abdominal muscles back to normal.
60% to 80% of women injure their nerve endings when giving birth, which damages the pelvic floor muscles and affects the ability to control the bladder. Pelvic floor exercises such as pelvic tilts can help to alleviate the condition, as well as helping to relieve back pains. You should also consider Pilates practice as a highly effective form of exercise to strengthen the deep core and pelvic muscles to to reduce the risk of post-pregnancy issues.
Exercising after birth can also decrease the incidence of post-partum depression. Getting fitness into your daily routine is one of the the best mood stabilizers for new mums. Finding a little bit of me-time in your busy day is important. You can’t take good care of your family if you don’t take good care of yourself first.
*To learn more about pregnancy related health and wellness issues, check out UFIT Clinic's 4-week Pre-Natal Program where our team of women's health experts including physiotherapists, massage therapists, pilates instructors, and personal trainers teach expectant mums how to stay happy and healthy during pregnancy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tsvetelina Ivanova is a Personal Trainer at UFIT, and a mum of a 2-year-old toddler. Specializing in strength training, plyometrics and metabolic conditioning, Tsvety has a keen interest in improving mobility, functional training, and Olympic lifting.
Tsvety can assist anyone who is looking to improve their strength, body composition, and overall fitness level. She is known for her patience and encouragement with clients new to strength training, and her tough and motivating approach with clients who are looking to take their fitness to a higher level. Also known as the "wedding trainer", Tsvety has helped many brides look their best on their wedding day by creating an effective personalised training plan for each client to achieve their goals before their big day.
So are you a carb fiend? Can you simply not imagine having your meals without rice or mashed potatoes? Yet your love of carbs is ruining your goals, and you're always chasing that weight loss, six-pack or less bloating. Well we have a solution for you!
There’s a little, cruciferous vegetable in Singapore that can be substituted into virtually any dish. This food turns pizzas low-carb, and garlic mash into heaven.
Say hello to our new best friend the cauliflower.
This sometimes overlooked vegetable gives the potato and rice a run for their money, and those with a restricted diet will relish the possibilities cauliflower presents. Once you discover cauliflower’s life changing powers (might be overselling it a tad there but it is amazing), you won’t be able to imagine eating any of your favourites dishes again without it.
So why is cauliflower so amazing? Other than being a great substitute for our main emotional carb crutches it has some pretty amazing health benefits:
- Helps fight cancer
- Boosts heart health
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- Detoxification support
- Antioxidants and phytonutrients galore
And yes it's safe to say that cauliflower wasn't always the sexiest vegetable on our supermarket shelves, but since it revealed itself as a versatile veg that can solve many of our “replacement” problems it's gone up in popularity.
If you're trying to lose weight, have gluten intolerance or just unexplained bloating, here's why you need a head of this white cruciferous vegetable ready to go at all times:
- It's low in carbs: One of the reasons we've majorly fallen for cauliflower is because of its low carb count. It easily subs in seamlessly for so many of our favourite comfort foods
- It offers Omega-3s: Cauliflower is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can improve the body's response to insulin by stimulating the secretion of leptin. Leptin is one of the hormones that helps regulate body weight and can also increase metabolism by decreasing our hunger (telling us we are full).
- It's high in fibre: Healthy digestion is essential to beat bloat and support weight loss. Luckily, cauliflower is a vegetable that's naturally high in fibre.
Here are some of UFIT's favourite Clean and Lean dishes:
- Cauliflower garlic mash
- Cauliflower fried rice
- Cauliflower sushi
- Cauliflower hummus
- Cauliflower crust pizza (see recipe below by UFIT Nutritionist Becky Brake)
- Cauliflower and bacon soup
- Cauliflower curry
- Cauliflower bread
- Cauliflower tortillas
- Cauliflower tabbouleh.
If you only thought cauliflower was for cauliflower cheese, think again!
Cauliflower Pizza Recipe
By Becky Brake, UFIT Nutritionist
TOMATO BASE (will make more than needed for this pizza)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp oregano
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Begin by heating the oil in a saucepan with the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper.
Lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for about 20 minutes.
Either use straight away or leave to cool and store in a container
- 1 whole cauliflower
- 3/4 almonds (ground)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- salt & pepper
Use what you fancy! – in this pizza I used:
- 1 zucchini (chopped and pre-steamed for 10 minutes)
- 4 broccoli florets (pre-steamed and then chopped)
- 1 small red onion (roughly chopped)
- small amount of goat’s cheese (chopped roughly)
- pea shoots (roughly chopped).
1. Preheat the oven to 200 c and line a large oven try with baking paper.
2. Place the cauliflower florets into a processor and blitz until finely chopped.
3. Then place the cauliflower into a large bowl with the ground almonds, dried oregano and beaten eggs and mix together.
4. The mixture will be fairly sticky (this is normal!).
5. Transfer this mixture onto your baking tray and using your fingers sculpt and flatten into your desired pizza shape
6. Place into the oven to pre-cook for 20 - 25 mins (until a nice golden color)
7. Take the pizza out the oven and spread on some tomato base. Then scatter on your chosen toppings! (there are no technical skills needed here!)
8. Place back in the oven for a further 10 mins before seasoning with some salt and pepper.
9. Finally – ENJOY - Sit yourself down at the table and get eating!