Avoid cheat meals, lift weights all the time – trainer Svava Sigbertsdottir’s no-nonsense advice and tough fitness method is loved by celebs – a Healthista exclusive
Weight-loss, fat loss, muscle gains – but where do you even start? There is so much information out there that your head can literally hurt from thinking about it all.
That’s where Icelandic native Svava Sigbertsdottir comes to our rescue with her Viking Method. Taking inspiration from her home nation, she has created a fitness and diet plan that delivers the results you are looking for in the simplest, no-nonsense way possible.
As well as inspiring many of us normal folk, her clients include drop-dead gorgeous celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger and Amanda Holden.
The no-nonsense Viking Method is all about quality and challenging exercises that really burn the fat and strengthen the core, think burpees, squats, walking planks, bunny hops, kicks and core rotation.
Healthista had to find out everything there is to know about this famous Viking Method. In an interview with Healthista, Svava reveals 18 ways you can get Viking fit…
#1 Don’t complain about shit
‘I grew up in Iceland, we don’t live in huts or anything but we are quite tough; winters are dark, it gets really cold, and if you’re going to complain about shit, well it doesn’t matter, you are still going to do all of the things that you have to do.
‘I am very grateful to my mother for how I am today, she had a very good balance of being tough, we were not allowed to feel sorry for ourselves. If we complained about something it was more like OK can you do something about it? Yes? Then do it. No? Then stop complaining about it.
‘My mother used to separate who I am with what I look like and what I do – and this is what I do with my clients in The Viking Method, and we call this the Greatest Separation – separating who you are from what you do. Because when you do that, you can look at something and see it for what it is, instead of having a personal attachment to it, getting upset by it, complaining about it and being really hard on yourself if something doesn’t work out.
‘If something you do fails, that doesn’t make you a failure. If something isn’t good enough, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough – so stop complaining.
‘One thing that has always stayed with me – I mean it’s just so simple – but once I came home from school and told my mum that this boy in my class had called me stupid. My mum said ‘if someone says you’re a car, are you a car?’ I said no and she replied exactly. And that was it.
‘What people say, doesn’t mean that you are that. It does not define who you are. Even today I ask myself ‘are you a car? No’ so I stop complaining and I get over it’.
#2 Address your attitude FIRST
‘Your attitude controls everything you do. The mental state you are in controls everything, your actions, your non-actions, how you see yourself, how you feel other people should treat you, how you talk to yourself, if you capable to reach a goal for example – your attitude and mental state is a top necessity in all of these areas, including weight loss.
‘The problem with most fitness methods is that they only cover the training and the nutrition. There’s no talk about your mental state, why haven’t you been able to lose weight before and what’s been stopping you reach your goals.
The problem with most fitness methods I find, they only cover the training and the nutrition
‘Then they set up plans for people to go to the gym five times a week and change their diet completely – like as if you are going to change all your life habits overnight, it’s just too much for people.
‘You didn’t become unfit and out of shape, unhappy and discontent in a day, that happened gradually. It’s fine to give yourself a little bit of time to get back to get back to where you want to be.’
#3 Pick quality exercises over the quantity of exercises
‘I really don’t like doing things where you could be doing better stuff. I went to a class the other day with my daughter and we did some jumping jacks (star jumps) for three minutes.
‘I mean jumping jacks for three whole minutes? Come on, you can do other great stuff in that time. Exercises need to focus more on quality rather than quantity. Think about the best exercise that you can do or get to work your body in the best way.
‘I like to focus a lot on the core muscles and balance. I don’t usually do a whole load of exercises and then spend just ten minutes at the end working on the core. The core should be used in every exercise – there is no point in wasting your time on any exercise that isn’t going to do the job’.
#4 Kick boxing for fat-busting
‘What I like to do most for fat-burning are compound exercises that include kick-boxing and anything that involves loads of muscle groups and your core and makes you tired. Your body therefore has to use all the muscles, keep the muscle which tones your body and at the same time burns loads of fat because you are doing something that is strenuous.
‘My clients also love my core workouts because they are different. I don’t do core crunches, I don’t do swinging the legs like crazy up and down – I do more rotation core moves like balance and kicks. But of course they love everything I tell them to do – or else.
‘I also am a big fan of bur-pees, they are one of the best exercises you can do, even though I know nobody likes them.
‘My clients love to kick, because of the feeling it gives you. I mean you feel like a bit of a bad-ass when you kick something right?
‘Everybody also loves to do exercises that you can progress on, so let’s say you start with normal kicks, then kicks that you start from kneeling, then kicks with a jump and then kicks with a jump and a switch of the leg. My clients love to progress, we all love to see progression in anything in life don’t we?’
#5 Train like a celeb
‘Ladies always want to work on their legs and arms, that’s what women seem to want – lovely long legs and lovely toned arms and shoulders. Amanda and Nicole’s aims were to have toned backs for their backless and strapless dresses that are worn during award season’.
‘Amanda, Nicole and most women generally want to make their bum a bit bigger too. They also want to work their shoulders and arms. Triceps too are important for women, they don’t want that area to hang at all.
‘Both Nicole and Amanda are very fit already, they have no problem with doing anything I say and they really go for it, they know what the exercise is doing for them.
‘Often I get clients that will complain and say ‘no that’s too hard’ but Amanda and Nicole never made a fuss, because they know that it’s the hardship that gives them the results. If you do it half-heartedly you’ll only get half hearted results.
Celebrity really do have the same body goals as everyone else
‘Celebrities really do have the same body goals as everyone else – and they really do put in the hard work. We are always unhappy about something not matter what you look like that’s just life – that’s the funny thing – we will never be fully happy and we will always want to strive for more and train as hard as you can’.
#6 Lift weights all of the time
‘I think women should do resistance training all of the time. In all of my programmes and in The Viking Method, I always use weights, they are always incorporated into my programmes, the body needs that resistance training – especially women.
‘Women seem to think of strength training the wrong way, because they say they don’t want to bulk up … have you seen how hard guys have to work to get bulky? They eat all day, they are in the gym for two hours and still it takes them forever to ‘bulk up’.
if you want to lose weight, use weights
‘Women think that by picking up a 5kg weight that they are going to be bulky the next day, it’s just such a wrong way of thinking.
‘What weight training really does, is strengthen your bones, tone your muscles, things that us women need for things like the menopause – the older you get the more important it is to lift weights – it’s so good for us.
‘Plus weight training is more beneficial for fat burning – if you want to lose weight, use weights’.
#7 F*** motivation
‘I am not a big believer in motivation. I believe that motivation is what holds people back quite a lot, especially in the beginning. People believe that to achieve their goals they absolutely have to be motivated.
‘Let’s say you’ve never been to the gym, and you have decided you are going to go to the gym five times this week – it’s hard work and you feel uncomfortable, you are not going to be motivated because let’s face it, it’s a horrible feeling. People think: Why am not motivated? Why am I not feeling inspired? Why is this too hard? How do people do it?
‘The truth is nobody feels motivated to make a change, it’s always hard and difficult. So I encourage people to make the change but without all the motivation. Once you start doing something and then feel the benefits, it’s then that you will start to feel motivated’.
#8 Make one small change at a time
‘On a Sunday, you can’t make a list of ten things you want to achieve on a Monday. There is just no way you are going to do it. So you have to start with one thing.
‘If you want to change your diet, start with your breakfast. Have a healthy breakfast and make that the only thing you have to change. Do that for a week or until it seems like a routine, then make another healthy change, a healthy breakfast and lunch’.
#9 Shut out your thoughts
‘The mind is not your friend, it’s your worst enemy. When you come home after work to pick up your gym clothes after work, it’s the mind that tells you you’ve had a long day at work, just stay at home.
‘The brain wants to avoid pain, hardship and change at all costs. Even though change is good for you the brain will always go against you, that’s just how it works.
‘So to trick your mind you have to shut it out. I don’t allow myself any thoughts unless it’s about what I’m doing. I come home, I get my things and I go.
‘Putting on music can really help, upbeat music will help to drown out your thoughts that are telling you to stay at home. Walk out without a thought. I mean it’s not like you would get half dressed and then be like oh I can’t be bothered anymore.
#10 Don’t waste time making your food look pretty
‘The Viking Method sticks to the simple stuff, nothing too complicated, no ingredients that you have to get from special or expensive places. The Viking diet consists of lots of protein and healthy fats. Poultry, meat, a lot of fish, nuts seeds, vegetables – all the good clean and nutritious food true to the Nordic diet.
‘When I see all the food perfectly laid out, it just isn’t realistic. In The Viking Method there are recipes called My Ugly Lunchbox. Lunch time for most people is the hardest time to find healthy food as you are busy at work or on the go.
‘My lunch looks ugly – that’s a fact. I cook it quickly and throw it into the lunch box, I’m not spending loads of time arranging it and cutting out stars with my pineapple. My Ugly Lunchbox is more realistic and when people see it they think yeah OK I can do that, I can throw some stuff in a box and have a healthy lunch to take into work.
‘The recipes in The Viking Method also give you options. So if you get to an ingredient and you don’t have it, it’s fine, just use something else or whatever you have that is healthy in the fridge – it’s no biggie.
‘If you have spinach but not broccoli, just use the spinach. Sometimes I literally go over to my fridge and say ‘what can I make with the stuff in my fridge, so I don’t have to throw it away or go any buy more.
‘Once people know what is healthy, they can use the recipes and just throw some healthy meals together – it’s as simple as that’.
#11 Wave goodbye to cow’s dairy
‘One thing that we don’t have is cows dairy – it is a big no no on this plan. Cows milk has been said to weaken your bones, can promote acid in your body, and can cause inflammation. There are also many hormones in milk, so there is so many reasons as to why we don’t include cows dairy on the Viking diet plan.
‘We use sheep milk instead, it is more easily digestible and it doesn’t have as many hormones. And of course there are alternatives such as almond, coconut and soya milk which is also fine to use on the plan.
#12 Be smart with your carbs
‘The plan doesn’t limit carbs though. With carbs, we have ‘anytime carbs’ and ‘sometimes carbs’. Anytime carbs are vegetables (non-starchy) such as broccoli and spinach. These types of foods are also full of fibre, that’s why you should have these foods all day long and as much as you want (they are low in calories too).
‘Sometimes carbs’ are rice, pasta and potatoes (the dense carbs). These you would have on a training day for breakfast, and after you train. But otherwise you don’t have these sometimes carbs’.
#13 There is no such thing as a cheat meal
‘On the Viking Method, there is no such thing as a cheat meal. It isn’t even talked about. The only thing I say about cheat meals – is that you don’t have a cheat meal. What even is a cheat meal?
‘I just don’t think cheat meals provide people with the right mental attitude. I don’t like when people start a programme and they are told to eat this on a Monday, that on a Tuesday and then they get to Sunday and can have whatever they want. That just makes it sound like you have restricted yourself and that’s not what it’s supposed to be about.
‘It turns all the bad foods that you do enjoy into a negative element about your life. Your healthy meals should be delicious enough so that you don’t feel you are missing out and eating whatever you want on a Sunday.
‘If you want to have a pizza on Wednesday, just have a pizza on Wednesday. You’re a grown up, nobody has said you can’t have one till Sunday. You can’t go out for dinner on a Friday and say ‘oh no I can’t, it’s not Sunday’ – just have it and the next day you go back to making healthy food choices. Don’t make it a big deal and don’t call it a cheat meal’.
‘I love pizza – that would be my ‘cheat meal’. I love pizza with stuffed cheese crusts, then you feel awful and sluggish after though, not awful as in bad for eating it because I don’t care about that. But I especially feel awful after a meal like that because I don’t normally eat dairy.
#14 Avoid snacking and eat carbs after you train
‘It’s hard to pick just one but I would say, don’t snack. This is important for those who are starting out. For those people who already have the nutrition knowledge I would remind them to eat carbs after you train.
‘After you train you have depleted you energy stores, so your muscles are empty and calling for energy, so that is the perfect time to get them in and fill your energy stores up again so you are ready to train again tomorrow.
‘After training carbs will get absorbed straight into your muscles, they don’t just sit in your bloodstream, so the body is actually doing something with this energy. If you haven’t trained and you have a big bowl of white rice, it will have nowhere to go. So have the carbs after you train’.
#15 Don’t focus on counting calories
‘I don’t count calories. I don’t like it when people count and weigh everything out. I don’t think food should be made to be that important in your life. It should be seen as a beneficial thing that you can enjoy but mostly have as fuel for your body.
‘Food should not be in a conversation you have with a friend in the pub, you shouldn’t be talking about what you had to eat that day – which people do a lot and I find it really weird and boring!
‘In general people talk too much about food, they make it too important in their life. Then food becomes something that if you are feeling bad, food comforts you, if you’re feeling good, let’s go and treat ourselves. Once you start thinking this way, it is then very hard to think as food as just fuel.
Food should not be in a conversation you have with a friend in the pub
‘I understand why some people do count calories, if you are an athlete or body builder and it’s your profession then you do have to keep control of things like that.
‘It can be good though to count calories at the beginning of your journey so that you can grasp an understanding of the amount of food you should be taking in a day for your energy levels and it is good at showing you portion sizes.
‘Calorie tracking is a good way to understand what you are putting in you body and how much you do need, you might be eating healthy but you could be eating too much, so it can be a good idea, if you want to lose weight’.
#16 Stock up on healthy essentials
‘Broccoli and spinach. I use both of these ingredients so much. I have a vegetable smoothie everyday and I have broccoli and spinach with pretty much all of my meals.
‘Other things I will always have are blueberries, chicken and eggs – very interesting isn’t it?
#17 Remind yourself that losing weight takes time
‘People give up too quickly. They go by what they see instead of what they know. Let’s say you want to make a change, and you have gone all out in the gym, you have changed your diet and it has been a month. Then you will look at yourself and you won’t actually see that much difference, so you give up. This is going by what you see.
‘But if you go by what you know, then you know that change takes time – a lot longer than just one month. In the first few weeks the body is just working against you, because it doesn’t want to lose this weight that your body has held on to for some time.
People give up too quickly. They go by what they see instead of what they know
‘If you start to give the body less food and working it out more, your body will go into shock and it will be hungry for the amount of food and energy it is used to. The body feels like well we aren’t getting the food so let’s hold on to what we have already. So for the first few weeks, there isn’t going to be a noticeable difference. You need more than a month for the body to go ‘ah ok we can deal with this now’.
‘Tell yourself that you know it will take at least three months for you to see a difference. Be patient, you didn’t gain all of this weight in one month so it isn’t going to take just one month for it to disappear.
‘Allow time to pass and keep on going, because time is going to pass anyway, so you might as well keep on going with something that is good for you instead of giving up and not doing anything at all.
‘Often when I tell people what they need to do, they say ‘oh that seems like a lot of work’ and I say, so you don’t think you’re working now? You only think you are working when you are making a change for yourself? No you are working everyday – you might as well work towards the right direction.’
#18 You can only get the body that your body could have
‘It is possible for anybody to get a celebrity body, but you can only get the celebrity body that your body could have. You are born with a certain body, I was born with a very straight waist, I’m not curvy, my waist doesn’t come in at all, I am literally straight. I will never have a small waist and a big bum’.
‘I might get my bum a bit bigger so my waist appears smaller but naturally I cannot have those things. So if I were to compare myself to Nicole who was born with a tiny waist, then I would always be unhappy with myself if that was my goal – because quite simply I will never reach that goal – my skeleton is getting in the way, I can’t change that.
‘You can have an amazing looking body but it has to be one that you can actually have’.
Svava’s book The Viking Method is available buy now on Amazon.