You won't be able to tell that just barely a year ago, Brandon can barely do most of the exercises that he's doing today. Here’s his story of transformation.
"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 UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge is much more than a controlled diet program. It's a major milestone towards a changed lifestyle. It will enhance the detoxing processes in your body, introduce you to better ways of eating and better food choices, and help you become leaner.
Importantly, as you begin to enjoy the taste of real food and the feeling of it in your body, you will develop new eating habits before you know it. We are creatures of habit after all.
Our most important guiding principles are to base our food intake on fresh products, as close as possible to their natural state. It includes lots of vegetables, good sources of proteins, good fats, limited carbohydrates and no refined sugar whatsoever. On top of that we encourage you to challenge yourself with physical activities and fun fitness.
The changes you see in the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge are amazing. After overcoming sugar withdrawal symptoms and detoxing side effects such as tiredness, grumpiness and headaches, you will suddenly feel so much better.
YOU WILL START NOTICING THESE IMPROVEMENTS IN YOUR WELLBEING AND APPEARANCE:
Your blood sugar levels will stabilise - Drastic changes in blood sugar levels are caused by excessive consumption of carbohydrates, which in turn are responsible for food cravings, drops in energy and mood swings. At first, when we reduce our carbohydrate intake we might feel tired, hungry and grumpy, but after a few days once the sugar levels are low and the body has the opportunity and ability to use fat storage to create energy, all the symptoms will have disappeared.
You'll feel less hungry - You will control your food intake and the food will not control you!
You'll have much more energy throughout the day - Stabilised energy all day long, without massive energy drops and need for stimulants.
You'll have more energy during your training sessions - Once your body is trained to create energy from fat storage, it can do it faster and more efficiently, prolonging long term energy throughout your training sessions.
You will feel more balanced emotionally - Mood swings are often affected by our sugar ups and downs. At the beginning of the process, the limited carbs might lower your serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for our happiness. However, when your body gets used to lower sugar consumption you will experience a much more balanced emotional state.
Your weight will drop - At the beginning of the process your weight loss will be mainly due to loss of fluids, as carbs attract fluids. After a few days you will experience real weight loss, mostly from fat storage.
You'll lose body fat and become leaner - Once insulin levels drop, the body will burn fat to create energy. We aim to lose body fat as opposed to losing body mass.
You'll notice your skin is clearer and your eyes brighter and whiter - You might experience some skin rashes during the detox period, but once this phase is over your skin and eyes will shine.
You'll experience improvements in your blood lipids and blood pressure - Lower triglycerides, higher HDL cholesterol for example.
You'll learn more about your body - The clean diet will help you eliminate foods that are suspected to cause indigestion, gassy stomach, heartburn or any other problems. It is a good way to learn which foods suits you the best.
Finally, at the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge, you'll meet great people and form a supportive team, sharing ideas, recipes, difficulties and achievements.
You'll also have a set deadline to achieve your goals within, and get great ideas and support from our community via the closed community Facebook page.
This will help you to be accountable and stay on course, and eventually help you achieve your goals.
There is no better way to kick-start your new year than with the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge - starting Saturday 13 January! Sign up right here.
Clean eating has been getting mixed press lately, and like anything in life, taking things to an extreme can make it bad for us. Being too restrictive with our diets and paranoid about what we eat can cause more issues than it solves.
At UFIT our approach to clean eating is much less harsh and more exclusive, it’s about taking things back to a more simplistic way of eating and as fresh and whole as possible. Here are some simple tips to eat cleaner:
1. Load up on fresh produce
When it comes to vegetables, most of us aren't getting enough. We should be aiming to get in six portions of vegetables and one of fruit each day.
Eating more vegetables can significantly reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer. The fibre in whole produce also helps keep good bacteria in your tummy happy, which can reduce your risk for autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens and infections and even improve your mood.
Get those greens in over Christmas, it should be easy with seasonal greens such as Brussel Sprouts everywhere.
2. Whole grains are our friends
Carbs are not the enemy, it’s about getting the right type with the highest amount of nutrition. The best whole grains are the ones that have been touched the least by processing. Think whole grains that look most like their just-harvested state—quinoa, wild rice, oats.
Don't get duped by "whole-grain" claims on labels though, to eat clean, packaged whole grains you're going need to take a closer look at the ingredients. Whole grains should always be the first ingredient, the ingredient list should be short and recognizable, and it should have minimal (if any) added sugar.
When you swap out refined carbs (like white pasta, sugar, and white bread) for whole grains you'll get more fiber, antioxidants and inflammation-fighting phytonutrients.
3. Pick the right processed foods
Not all processed foods are really bad, look at amazing ranges such as The Whole Kitchen products.
Technically when we chop, mix and cook at home we are processing foods. The problem is that so much processed food at the supermarket is processed beyond the point of recognition. Keep an eye out for anything with lots of sugar and refined grains, super-long ingredient lists with foods you don't recognize and anything with partially hydrogenated oils.
Clean processed foods exist like plain yogurt, cheese, grainless granola, seed crackers and nut mixes. Just be sure to read the ingredient list and know what you are buying.
4. The biggest “rule” of Clean & Lean - limit sugar
Most people eat too many added sugars. The Singaporean Health Board recommends no more than 8 to 11 teaspoons of sugar a day for adults. The average person gets about 2 to 4 times that amount per day. To clean up your diet, cut down on added sugars by limiting sweets like soda, candy and baked goods.
But it's more than just desserts—keep an eye on sugars added to healthier foods like yogurt (choose plain), tomato sauce and cereal. Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it's listed towards the bottom, which means less of it is used in the food. We usually recommend no more than 5g of sugar per 100g of product
5. Consider the environment
Clean eating is better for you and the planet, and eat seasonal and locally grown foods where possible. Foods that are transported not only increase our carbon footprint but also will need to be preserved for the journey. The longer the shelf life of the food the shorter our shelf life.
So how to take clean eating to an effective, safe step to a healthier you? The next UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge starts 13 January 2018, where under Wendy Riddell's guidance you will learn how to detox safely from sugars and eat clean, healthy food to start new eating habits to sustain you and your family for the rest of your life!
Start up your 2018 on Clean & Lean 18 - our 18th challenge - by signing up right here:
Once again - the results from the latest UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge have been amazing.
Well done to our overall male winner Guillaume Augustin who lost a staggering 9.38% body fat, and female winner Hang Nguyen who lost an outstanding 6.88% body fat! What a truly fabulous effort, hard work and consistency always pays off. The runners-up were not far behind, with Bryan Shon losing an amazing 8.41% body fat and Jennifer Gillespie losing an exceptional 6.55% body fat! What a great start to the Christmas holiday season!
Regardless of the results, we are proud of all our participants in our Clean & Lean Challenges this year. Even the smallest changes count, like thinking twice about what you eat and drink, and embracing healthy new foods that keep the weight off and help you feel great.
This leads us to the Silly Season, it’s called that for a reason! The Head of UFIT Nutrition’s Wendy Riddell shares with us her tips for staying relatively Clean & Lean over the holidays:
- Watch your drinks - go for wine (red or white) or spirits with soda water, and don’t bulk up over Christmas with beer and sherry. Champagne and cocktails also have lots of sugar in them and it's best to avoid those drinks if you can.
- Don’t overindulge on a daily basis, plan your events diary and don’t use Christmas as an excuse to go off the rails for the full 31 days. If you do get off the program get back on it the next day
- Try using the phrase “I don’t eat/drink that” instead of “I can’t” and be strong by choosing what you want to have and not what's forced on you
- Load up on proteins and salads first, what's not to love about great turkey and ham combo or a fab bit of salmon! Then have some carbs if you have room. Start with the good stuff, not on the boring old bread sticks
- Pick one dessert and own it! Don’t keep going back and trying everything till you feel nauseous, have that one special something and make it last
- Enjoy the festive period! Don’t blow a whole year of gains on a week off excess, but in the same breath have some fun too
- Stay active with your fitness over the holidays - try to make time for it as much as you can.
- Remember to sign up for the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge 18 starting 13 January to get the new year off to an amazing start.