Imagine who you want your kids to become. BE THAT.

Five helpful ways to help your children develop a great fitness habit.

It’s often been said, “Don’t worry that your kids don’t listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.” This then can be a challenging thought when we consider our health and fitness. Those who know my story will remember that the final catalyst for me losing 20 Kg and regaining my fitness was after I tried to race my three children in a 100m sprint at the local running track. It’s probably worth mentioning that 100m races had been a passion of mine and as a child and teen I’d gained much success in athletics.

The demands of motherhood temporarily hijacked my fitness, but fortunately for me, I have the privilege of being the daughter of a great role model. My father has worked-out every day (except when sick) since he was fifteen years old. Growing up I thought that all Dad’s loved sport, fitness and possessed six pack abs. The realisation that my father was on another level when it came to fitness went unnoticed by me until I entered my teens.  Guys would flex their muscles and act cocky in an attempt to impress me, and I’d be somewhat bemused by this behaviour, because, well heck, my Dad was in better shape. It’s not that I was looking for a guy in better shape than my father, just that to me, I saw exercise as a regular part of a daily routine, like brushing your teeth or eating your tea. It didn’t occur to me that there were other kinds of average physique because muscles were normal.

I now have three children of my own, all in their late teens and I’ve spent much time considering what it means to be a good fitness role model them. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, my best strategies have been the ones I saw my father practice daily.

Here are five helpful ways to help your kids develop a great fitness habit:

1. Lead by example – let them know you work out.

Your kids will do what you do, not what you say to do. When I was young, I spent time watching my Dad play Squash simply because he had a game to play. My father never told me to be “active” or to “work out”. I just wanted to be like my Dad.

2. Plan outdoor activities.

Find activities to do with your family at the weekend. I grew up in Birmingham, it’s the UK’s second largest city and the birth place of the industrial revolution. Like most large cities around the world, it has a high population, limited outdoor space and is a typical concrete jungle. My first home was on the 18th floor of a state owned tenement block in the inner city.  My parents, like most parents,  wanted something more for me than they had themselves. Through long hours of hard work and doing life tough, they managed to scrape together a deposit on their own home, on the outskirts of Birmingham. It opened up a new world for our family, as it meant we lived closer to open countryside. Finances were tight, but my favourite childhood memories were walking across farm paddocks, to the reservoir that backed onto the Rover Car manufacturing factory. Or, when it snowed my Dad would pull out a large piece of builders polyethene which we’d use as a makeshift sledge. We never had proper walking boots or a real sledge. Instead, we had something of far greater value, a Dad who loved fun, with a zeal for life and who included us in his adventures.

3. Exercise at home.

I find it mind blowing that before the invention of work out videos and personal trainers that my father would come home after a twelve-hour shift and spend the first 30 minutes performing a bodyweight workout. As far as I know, he never attended a fitness class or a gym he just developed his “general stuff” as he calls it, to help him stay in shape.

What is his “general stuff”, well, it’s developed over the years and given he’s now in his seventies it’s as follows:

2-3 Km power walk 4 times a week (or the equivalent of a Marathon a month) + 40 Dumbbell curls & 40 Lateral Dumbbell Raises.

Plus, 3 x weekly: 20 Squats, 40 Press-ups, 250 Curl-ups (broken down into 3 sets of 120 + 80 + 50) & dumbbells as previous.

Another point worth noting is that my Dad monitors his blood pressure, heart rate and weight only once a month. His current resting heart rate is 58.

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My Dad (Age 71)

 

4. Be the right kind of coach.

One thing I value about my Dad is that he uses positive examples to re-enforce his aims, for instance, when I struggled with an activity, he made sure not to tell me I was doing it wrong. Instead, he encouraged me to explore new techniques with advice and guidance. For example, “Have you tried catching the ball with two hands?” as opposed to “No, that’s not how you catch a ball.”

He was also mindful of his reactions, he didn’t throw water bottles, get aggressive, and I never saw him hold his head in his hands in disappointment. I remember he came to watch me race a 100m at a sports meet. The gun went off, I took two strides, slipped and near face planted. I got up, caught up, saw the approaching tape and I slowed down. My fellow competitor got her toe across the line first and won. I knew I’d let myself down.

My Dad’s reaction, “I saw you stumble, and you did really well to pull that back.” I gave a half-hearted shrug.

“What happened there at the tape?” he said.

“I got scared that it might strangle me and I slowed down.” My Dad said nothing, he just gave me a huge smile and a pat on the back. But, I’m pretty sure he made a mental note that we’d work on that fear another day.

5. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

The Journal of Adolescent Health studied 1328 teens in Germany, where researchers looked at families and their levels of fitness related to their cardiac health and healthy habits.

Researchers noted that the entire home environment matters when it comes to a child’s overall health and fitness. They discovered that parents who have normal healthy weight, good cardiac health and an overall healthy lifestyle had kids who showed the same results.

Let’s suppose that you are your child’s fitness hero. They look up to you as their role model and therefore start to share your beliefs, behaviours and actions. Perhaps, that’s a scary thought, but get it right and who knows what your kids could become. They may even leave a legacy of fitness to your grandchildren tomorrow.

What habits could you pass on to your children to help them live their best life?

How to turn your​ cheese sandwich into a DNA Whisperer.

I recently discovered how to make a superhero, here’s how it happened.

“I’m sorry Sharon, but I just couldn’t live without bread!” This is often the response I receive when I say I don’t eat wheat and gluten.

I totally get it, after leaving school I studied Hospitality & Event Management at University College Birmingham. Back then my Food Science lectures were based just along the corridor from the Patisserie training kitchen, and I’d often start dreaming of freshly baked Chelsea buns slathered in butter and confectioners sugar as their smell wafted down the hallway and into the lecture theatre. A much more appealing line of thought than the study of macro and micronutrients and how they affect the human body.

To pay my way through Uni. I worked three part-time jobs. Long hours, late night shifts and early morning commutes through Birmingham traffic, made the purchase of 2 or 3 of these high carbohydrate laden delicacies impossible to resist. I worked hard, and I deserved some upsides -right?

In hindsight,  treating myself to high carbohydrate foods and my standard British diet of pasta bolognese, lasagne or pizza was the start of my dietary issues. Moreover, my Saturday daytime job was at the local bakers. Oh, the delight! Row upon row of custard doughnuts, pineapple tarts, blackcurrant and apple danish, Bakewell tart and chocolate eclairs. Baskets of rolls and flour dusted shelves filled with loaves and loaves of freshly baked bread. The warm yeasty smell and the thought of all that sugary wonderfulness it was a carbohydrate lovers paradise.

For me, it’s not empty words when I say I understand the pleasure of sinking your teeth into a freshly made cheese sandwich. The truth is, my first thoughts when it comes to food are how does this taste? What are the nuances of flavour going on here?

A great recipe is like a concerto, the individual ingredients must add up to more than the sum of their parts. Does the saltiness, sour, bitter & sweet play in harmony? How about the creaminess does it resonate against crunch? And what about the first violin of taste -umami? For goodness sake don’t leave out umami he’s the star of the show. In short, I don’t just want to eat food, I want to experience craftsmanship.

So what changed? What happened to Miss Cupcake and her baker’s delights?

In a nutshell, she got tired and sick –read that as exhausted and waking up each morning with nausea. I know what it sounds like and I wondered that too. Could it be a bun in the oven? Time and a trip to the GP confirmed this as negative, but nausea and fatigue continued. A while later I found out I have a hypersensitivity to wheat and gluten, which means I can no longer eat products which contain them.

Today we have a wider variety of food available at relatively low prices compared to history. As a child living in the UK, we thought a banana was a treat. Meat portions were significantly smaller, and choice cuts of lamb and beef were unaffordable to the working classes.

Yet it seems that as food has become cheaper and more abundant, it has created more problems not less.  Today we are daily bombarded with a proliferation of people with a  view on what should and should not be eaten. It has gotten ever more tricky to know who to believe. Dietitians are legally bound to advise patients according to empirical science, that many believe is outdated. Take any two nutritionists trained in the same institution, and they can emerge with differing ideas on what constitutes proper nutrition. Geneticists, neuroscientists and endocrinologists are all chasing for answers. And it seems new opinions, research and recommendations, daily come to the fore. There are those at the battle front trying their best to help their clients, the fitness coaches, wellbeing practitioners and entrepreneurial businesses of  Social Media. Add to these recipe writers, celebrity chefs and cookbooks filled with more dishes than anyone could possibly eat in a lifetime. It’s become a confused picture.

Since the birth of the industrial revolution, our species has flourished. We’ve found ways to mass produce food stuff that was previously scarce. We’ve learnt that if you spray crops with pesticide and use genetic modification yield increases. These things have been important factors in the growth of western economies and our improved lifestyles. Yet the rates of diseases, such as Type II diabetes are still on the rise.

What can the average person do to ease the confusion?

Perhaps, acceptance that we live in an age of emerging science is a big key. For example, did you know, according to geneticists that there are over 100 genes that influence body weight? We all have a slightly different mix and a subsequent differing genetic burden. The problem is that while much is known in general terms, it’s simply not yet possible to determine exactly what we need to eat as individuals to maximise our biology and not fight against it.

What hope is there then if we don’t yet have all the answers?

Be curious. After all, you are the only real expert on YOU.

What could it mean in your life if you were to take steps towards healthy eating? What could you do and what impacts might it have on the bigger picture things, like sustainability or the environment?

Here’s a list of twelve things you could do to move towards a more healthy lifestyle. Why not pick a couple and start today?

  1. Eat in season – it’s cheaper
  2. Grow your own lettuce and green vegetables – Did you know that Chlorophyll in green plants is the basis of health? Chlorophyll contains magnesium, and that makes plants a powerful blood cleanser and antioxidant. Magnesium also helps activate enzymes that are essential for the production of energy. 
  3. Take care of the soil, grow your own compost – Did you know that because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today? Think about it, everything that lives on our planet does so because of the layer of soil beneath our feet. Crazy huh! That said, not all dirt is created equal, so get growing some amazing compost and you’ll reap terrific benefits.
  4. Plan your menus
  5. Have a meal preparation day – get in the kitchen, slice, dice and prepare all the vegetables you need for the week.
  6. Learn how to cook. 
  7. Know your portion sizes
  8. Educate yourself about how much protein, carbohydrate and fat you really need. These are also called Macros.
  9. Be mindful and present when you eat. Become aware of the nuances of taste & texture. Respect the fact that the use of flavour is a skilful art. Google ‘umami’, find out what it is & begin to find ways to add this culinary whiz kid to your meals.
  10. Learn about the importance of micronutrients, their effects on hormone production and how these help you.
  11. Reduce or eliminate sugar. Sugar does not have a single nutrient -no vitamins, no minerals. Eating lots of sugar-laden processed foods steals essential vitamins and minerals from your body. Your body then develops chemical imbalances, put another way that’s called malnutrition.
  12. Eat real food. “Don’t eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food” – Michael Pollan

How to make a DNA whisperer in your kitchen.

In the following talk you’ll find out why my recipe for Cauliflower Bread is a real superhero:

 

Click here for my FREE Cauliflower Bread – Recipe

Final Thoughts

Celebrate and enjoy your food. Science is great, but it would be awful to lose sight of the social aspects of food, the environments we create over a meal with family, with friends. Aim to eat healthy 80% of the time and extend a bit of grace to yourself for the rest.

Try not to get too caught up, remember life is short.  If someone has gone to the trouble of putting their time aside to prepare you a meal or bake a cake for your Birthday, put your food opinions aside and embrace the loving gesture with the same vigour that it was given.

Go live your best life!

Sharon xx

 

Further resources:

University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

https://www.cam.ac.uk/news/how-the-brain-controls-what-we-eat

http://www.feedmeright.co.nz/workshops.html

 

Three Steps to Success​

Convinced that running a marathon, climbing Kilimanjaro or entering the next local cycle race is just the challenge you need at this stage in your life?

One of the largest obstacles to success is often how to make a start. If what to do first to get you from where you are today to where you need to be has left you confounded, then fear no more, with this simple strategy you’ll be climbing mountains and deep sea diving in no time.

Three steps to success

Step 1

Draw a circle.

Step 2

Divide the circle into eight sections.

Step 3

In each segment brainstorm one resource that will be required to complete this goal.

Here’s a summary of what my circle revealed when I set out to complete my first triathlon:

Training programme

Time commitment

Equipment:

Tri Suit

  • Gear bag
  • Swim – wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, ear plugs, towel
  • Bike – Road or Tri specific bike, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, gloves
  • Run – Trainers, sunglasses, race number belt
  • Nutrition
  • during training
  • during race

Acquisition of new skills

Race Day Logistics plan

Injury management

Trainer or Coach

Hey, Pesto!

What if you knew in five minutes and with three steps you too could have the starting point for success?

Go on! Draw the circle –your dreams await your action.

Go live your best life!

What’s your motivation?

Being clear on your reasons and purpose for staying fit and healthy can be a great help in keeping your motivation alive.

“Children close their ears to advice but open their eyes to example.”

I’m a mother of three teenagers, and it’s important to me that I am a great role model. If like me you want to be a good example to your children by staying fit and healthy then let this ZEALFit Team Challenge inspire you:

Top 5 Healthy Snacks

I recently received a question from a runner about snacking. We’ve all had times, especially after a long endurance run or workout when our belly grumbles and light headiness is not the result of exercising after-glow.

Post-workout snacks help to reload muscles with fuel which enables them to repair, restore and replete. It’s an excellent idea to replenish lost fluid at this time too. You may be tempted to grab a bottle of sports drink because you’ve been led to believe that it will ensure your best recovery. They contain electrolytes but also a lot of sugar, which has been called by many, the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.

Most fitness conscious people will agree that you can not outrun a bad diet. What then do people concerned about fitness snack on to satiate their hunger and keep weight in check?

I have found this simple guideline to be useful:

Real food, made by me or someone close to me, mainly from plants.

By real food I mean anything your Great Grandma would have recognised as a food. In the case of running a race, an example would be to grab the free banana and a cup of water at the end. The banana contains lots of naturally occurring potassium and magnesium. The water will rehydrate and then there’s no need to consume a sugary sports drinks filled with colouring and preservatives.

Next time those hunger pangs start to moan why not give one of the following a try:

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How to achieve better prone holds and side bridges.

I love what Bill Gates says about feedback. We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.  I wanted to find out how the first ZEALFit Workout was going for people and who better to ask than those who see me go from sheer brilliance to spectacular ugliness in the space of a stroke -my Golf buddies.

Here’s what they said, “We like it….but… could you show us the easier versions of the prone holds and side bridges.”

If like my Golf buddies, you gave the ZEALFit Workout a try and decided the same, then this week’s challenge is perfect for you.

Go live your best life!

Revitalise your fitness.

This week’s challenge is all about finding enjoyment in your fitness journey. Perhaps like me, you workout hard in the gym all week and participate in a few spin classes. Put that hard-work to great use this week. Get outside your comfort zone and do something you wouldn’t usually do.

I used to believe being faithful to my gym programme was enough, I was wrong and have since discovered how much new ZEAL for exercise and life are generated when I give something new a go.

Your new ZEAL lies just beyond your familiar routine too!

Go live your best life! 

ZEALicious Pancakes with berry compote!

Start your weekend right with the perfect treat for all the family. Seriously, you won’t believe how good something this healthy tastes. It’s Dairy Free, Gluten Free, LCHF and Grain Free -What’s not to love!  They are quick and easy to make, so why not get the kids to help.

I’m one of those gluten free low dairy people and we can be high maintenance when it comes to food. These pancakes taste as great as the gluten & dairy versions and are made from real food ingredients. I often miss out because my food options are limited. At last, I can have my pancakes and eat them. ZEALicious!

Dairy Free, Gluten Free, LCHF, Grain Free (Serves 1)

Ingredients

For pancake:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 scoop pea protein powder
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 grated apple
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Coconut oil

For berry compote:

  • 1 Handful frozen mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberry work well)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Rosewater (optional)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Method

  1. Put all pancake ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz for 30 seconds.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a flat pan.
  3. Add mixture. (Medium heat or the mixture will burn before it sets)
  4. Once the bottom has set and is golden, flip over and cook other side. (I found it easier to slid the cooked side onto a plate. Then invert the pan onto the top of the plate and turn over.)
  5. While the pancake cooks make the berry compote. Place all compote ingredients in a microwave proof bowl and blast on high for 2 mins.

These are great served with a dollop of dairy free coconut yogurt.

For LCHF ensure vanilla extract is unsweetened and leave out the maple syrup. You could use butter, whey protein, greek yogurt or cream instead of the dairy free options.

(Nutritional information: Calories 540 Fat 31.9 Carbs 42.7 Protein 39.9)

It’s Tuesday! You can try anything on a Tuesday!

I accidentally trained for a Triathlon today.  I had intended to do an easy 10 Km run plus a bit of cross training, but it morphed into a spin class, followed by a run and then a swim technique lesson.

This got me thinking about how a lot of what I enjoy in life started out by accident.

Take for example running. I never set out to be a runner -it was just the cheapest and most efficient sport that fitted into my lifestyle. I had small children, worked and the only time that my husband could watch the kids was between 5:30 – 6:30 a.m.

That’s how it began. Four days a week I pulled on my gear, tied my shoes and was out and back before he headed off to work –perfect! But the experience was ugly. It took six months to progress from a run/walk between power poles to a 30 minutes straight run. Even then, at the end of each session, I’d lie on my bedroom floor exhausted with dark thoughts about how it never got easier and how I just wasn’t cut out to run.

Being the victim of my own worst thoughts was a habit I developed as a teenager. I’d get hurt, disappointed or afraid and not understanding that emotions need to be owned, I’d push them deep inside where they’d fester and color my outlook.

Twenty years of cynicism left me with few dreams or goals. Mainly because I was an expert at pouring cold water on every great idea, it came as a big surprise when over coffee with a neighbor; she suggested I run a half marathon -and I agreed!

How does a person go from being the victim of self-sabotage to living their best life?

Perhaps the biggest discovery for me was the realization that emotional fitness can be learned and grown in similar ways to physical fitness. That is through knowledge and practice.

It’s said that knowledge is power and I found that I gained a lot of self-awareness when I stopped trying to explain my feelings away and just let them be what they are -emotions. This allowed me to silence the suspicions and recognize that while we’re all different, everyone carries hurts, disappointments and fears.

The catalyst for this turning point began when my neighbor challenged and at the same time believed in me. In contrast to the critical way I viewed my own running efforts, she saw them as a determination to keep trying. I was challenged by her different perspective and realized that if I was going to succeed I needed to change.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and philosopher Albert Schweitzer observed, “The true work of a man is not to be found in man himself, but in the colors and textures that come alive in others.”

It’s amazing what can come alive in a person when someone believes in them. The truth is we all have these people in our lives –the ones who believe in us. Maybe it’s a best buddy, a work colleague, a coach, a boss, or in my case –a neighbour.

Who is that person in your life?

I’ve set myself a challenge to brave it, open the door on possibility and embrace whatever it is they believe I can do.

Why? Because it’s Tuesday! You can try anything on a Tuesday!

Go live your best life!