Over the next 12 weeks, Healthista’s Marie Pan will undergo a lean body transformation. In the second week of her diary, she talks mini-breaks and eating out – read about her first week here
Eating out – it’s one of my favourite pastimes. Whether I’m on my own or dragging one of my friends, I eat out…let’s just say, more than the average person per week.
I know it’s hard to believe, but it used to stress me out when a friend would spontaneously invite me out to eat; I would usually end up cancelling.
During my years of yo-yo dieting, I would still eat out on occasion but that would be after days of mental preparation, meticulously studying different menus and calculating calories to make sure that meal wouldn’t hinder my progress.
I used to think that once I lost enough weight, I would be happier and more successful in every aspect of my life. But the disordered eating habits I developed over the years left me socially isolated and miserable.
Even when I did show up to a social event, my mind was filled with guilt and worries of how I would fit an extra gym session to burn off the calories I consumed that night.
It took me years to learn to stop automatically saying ‘no’ to my friends and start enjoying myself at social functions. I still get a little nervous sometimes when I’m eating out, but I remind myself that I should be allowed to enjoy the food in front of me, as well as the company of my friends.
Why is eating out the theme of this week, you ask? Because the week I started my Lean Body Transformation, I went up to Edinburgh to visit some friends during the weekend.
As you can see, I did allow myself to indulge – but that’s the thing. When you’re on holiday, you need to remember that you are on holiday and that means enjoying yourself. When I look back at this weekend, I want to remember the fun times I had with my friends; returning to my favourite pizza place, getting so drunk during pres that we didn’t make it out and fell asleep instead, and all the naps in between.
The trick is to embrace mindful eating. That means listening to your body – its cravings, when it’s hungry and making sure that most of the time, the food you’re consuming is nutritionally beneficial.
Most of the time, while I was on holiday, I tried to make sure that I was consuming a range of vegetables, fruits, protein and fats, and I tried to avoid any processed food. At times, I wanted to try a dessert, but I knew I was full already so decided against getting one.
Although I didn’t have time to hit the gym in Edinburgh, I used my pedometer app to make sure that I at least hit 10,000 steps every day. When there was an option to walk, I would always take it. Even if you’re not exercising as hard on holiday, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll be back in your training routine in no time. So don’t freak out, I told myself.
Getting lean through mindful eating
As I mentioned in my first post, I’ve decided to do this Lean Body Transformation without counting calories.
For some people, counting calories helps. But given my history with disordered eating, I decided against it. During these next few months, I’m not going to restrict any foods but I aim to eat healthy, home-cooked meals most of the time.
Why? Because eating healthy and keeping fit shouldn’t be short-time, but a lifestyle change. And if you’re too military with the foods which you eat, it’s likely not going to be sustainable.
Despite indulging in pizza and alcohol from time to time, that is not what I consume in a normal day.
Normally, I try to drink at least 3 to 4 litres of water or green tea throughout the day; I drink a bottle of water (750ml) first thing in the morning, a protein shake before or after a workout and always have a cup of tea at hand during the day.
Making sure you drink enough water is crucial, as it helps to curb cravings. There are times when I feel as though I’m hungry, but it’s actually the case that I need water or sleep instead.
For breakfast, I normally have a protein shake before I go to the gym and if I’m hungrier than normal, I’ll have some fruit or half a slice of toast with vegan cream cheese. The protein powder I use at the moment is Vega Clean Protein in the chocolate flavour. It’s relatively low in calories (137 calories per 37g serving) but high in protein – there’s 25g of protein per serving.
As a creature of habit, I pretty much cook the same meals all the time when I’m eating in. I like to include a good amount of carbs, proteins and fats when I cook a meal and try to whip something up that isn’t too time consuming. One example of my go-to meals is a simple noodle salad.
My salad usually includes a pack of udon noodles (200g), some diced tofu, spring onions and sweetcorn. I bring all these to boil (it takes me around five minutes), before draining and running them under cold water in a colander. Then, I place them in my lunch box and drizzle some sesame oil salad dressing over the top. If I’m feeling especially hungry, I’ll add half an avocado.
the effects that certain foods have on me will be different for you. It takes time but you have to simply listen to your body
With my meals, I go with what I want to eat while making sure I’ll get enough fuel from my food in order to get through the day. Sometimes instead of udon noodles, I’ll make a cous cous salad with roasted vegetables and vegan sausages.
I used to believe the myth that I wouldn’t be able to consume enough protein on a vegan diet. After some research, I found that not to be true at all and I have compiled a list of the best vegan protein sources.
Eating intuitively is what works for me. I don’t want to tell you what to eat – the effects that certain foods have on me will be different for you. It takes time but you have to simply listen to your body.
Trust the process
On Friday of week 2, I had consumed a protein shake in the morning with some toast, a Mexican bean soup from Tesco for lunch with toast, eaten two packs of Brave Peas snack packs in between my meals and bought a hummus and falafel salad from EAT before my PT session in the evening.
After my salad from EAT at 5:30pm, I felt the most painful bloating I’d ever experienced. I could barely walk to the Mindset gym because my stomach had expanded so much.
I spoke to Darren about this and he noted that perhaps the bloating was caused by consuming too many legumes.
Because of their high fibre content, legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils) can cause bloating in sensitive individuals. They also contain sugars which may contribute to excessive gas production and bloating.
Bloating used to give me anxiety and even on that Friday, it made me feel uneasy. Bloating changes the shape of your body for a few hours, sometimes longer for certain people, and it can mess with your perception of your progress.
However, it is NORMAL to bloat. Granted it’s not comfortable and if you experience extreme bloating, there are ways to ease that pain, but it shouldn’t make you think that the food you’re eating is making you fat.
It’s the same if you track your progress by weighing yourself (which I personally don’t do). Sometimes you may have gained weight, but that could be water weight/fluid retention or affected by other factors, such as stress and tiredness. It doesn’t always necessarily mean that you’ve gained fat.
Even when I looked at my week 2 transformation photo, I started feeling stressed that I couldn’t see a difference already. But then I told myself – it had only been ONE week. In general, I’m feeling fitter and stronger and know that on the whole, I’m eating well. So all I can do is trust the process and be patient.
Getting back into training routine after holiday
When I returned from Edinburgh, it was easy to get back into routine. If you make it a habit of going to the gym regularly and prepping your meals normally, a weekend holiday is not going to have any serious implications on your ordinary lifestyle.
My first week 2 session at Mindset involved training my upper body, with emphasis on how to Clean and Press. It was a combination of compound, weighted and isolation bodyweight exercises for muscular endurance only.
We performed the following exercises: clean and press, plank raises, unilateral dumbbell clean and press, dumbbell lat pullovers, tricep dips, close hand press ups, dumbbell shoulder presses and dumbbell lateral raises.
‘All exercises performed were minimum 15 reps,’ explains Darren. ‘This was to incorporate more muscle fatigue than the recreational 10-12 reps.’
‘Technique is most important after 7-8 reps when the muscle really wants to stop. Then it’s mind over matter and it’s important to push through the lactate acid and incorporate more blood into the muscle (vasodilation) and more aerobic capacity.’
Let me tell you, that session really was a test for my mind, as well as my body. My arms were shaking by the end, when we had to hold a push up position for 3 minutes, moving to the left or right from time to time as directed by Darren (I now believe that he is secretly a masochist).
There were a few times when my arms buckled and I actually broke out of the push up position because I had found the session so physically challenging.
But how did I know that it had been a good session? That night, as I lay in bed, my phone dropped on my face because my hands simply gave up. Stay tuned for more of these shenanigans next week.