Tag Archives: nutrition

A Day In The Life Of

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Today I thought I give you a little insight into what life is like when preparing for a bodybuilding competition. I knew a few bodybuilders before I decided to do this and knew it would be hard. But oh boy was I not prepared for what I had coming. It is one thing to hear about someone’s struggles and imagining how they feel vs actually feeling it, believe you me.

So here it goes:

6 am I get up for my first session of cardio. Some of my friends have to get up at 3 or 4 am, so I consider myself lucky!

8:30am I will have meal number 1 – oats and lots and lots of egg whites, which I turn into pancakes. As it turns out, I can turn pretty much anything into pancakes. They are bland, but they look like pancakes, so I imagine they taste good.

10:30am time for meal number 2. Food? Again? Well, when you have 6 meals to get through in a day, you have to eat every 2-3 hours. This is quite time consuming. Although eating the exact same things at the same times every day means I can prepare a lot of it over the weekend and save lots of time during the week. And let’s be honest here for a moment: I never struggle to eat… ;-D

1pm – lunch (ah yesss, I was close to starvation)

2pm – gym for a proper weight session. We are talking bench presses, deadlifts, weighted squats and basically just lifting some heavy stuff. I grunt, I swear, I sweat. It is not pretty… But this part is the one I enjoy the most. Every workout counts and I push myself as hard as I can. Leaving the gym after a really good leg workout and barely being able to walk is one of the most satisfying feelings to have. I can’t deny that I feel a sense of disappointment when I wake up the next morning and am not sore ;-D

3pm – meal 4 straight after the gym to replenish my body. Ooh, that one always feels good!

5pm – meal 5. More food. Glorious food.

7pm – my second cardio session for the day. I get to walk through the local parks for an hour with a heavy bag full of water bottles strapped to my back.

9pm – meal 6, my final bit of food before heading to bed.

10pm – lights out! Sleep is such an important part of life. It is necessary for good health, something that I have chosen to ignore in the past. Sleep is also necessary for muscular development and so now I am making it a priority. I work too hard on my physique to jeopardise it with a lack of sleep. Besides, sleep tastes so, so good (I tend to dream of food… haha)

The cardio sessions are designed for maximum fat burn and so I wear multiple layers (3 pairs of long trousers, a thermal shirt, hoodie with the hood up and fleece on top plus a jacket for the session in the park). The layers ensure that I sweat. A lot. We are talking waterfalls running down my back and sweat dripping into my eyes and off my chin. This is one aspect I don’t love about the process, if I am very honest.

So there you go – a day in the life of… me! Living the rock’n’roll lifestyle 😉

I may be missing out on a social life right now, but it will all be so worth it when I step on that stage for Rosa UK.

If you are feeling generous after reading this, you can sponsor me here.

Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue

I mentioned yesterday that Monday was a rest day. Today was not active either, hence the late post. I don’t suppose you noticed what I did with my wording here? Instead of saying that Monday was a bad day, I said it was a rest day. And this is how I have decided to see it now. I have spent most of today resting also. It is dawning on me that I may have overdone it just a tad last week. I probably got a little excited when I started to feel better, you see.

For your adrenal glands to recover from Adrenal Fatigue, there are many factors to consider. Below I have outlined a few tips and my experiences with those. As you might notice, for me it is mainly in the head. I mentioned before that I used to follow a very healthy diet and I have been trying to exercise ever since I came back from abroad 4 years ago, but that did not work. So what is it then?

The Good And The Bad

It is very important to know what is good for you and what is not. And it is very useful to write those things down. Make a list of everything that is GOOD FOR YOU and everything that is BAD FOR YOU. Select the top 3 for each out of that list and come up with an action plan to ensure you get more of what is good for you and reduce exposure of the things that are bad for you. I suggest the top 3 as a starting point. Rome was not built in a day. Improve on the top 3, then move on to the next top 3.

Jayne Morris, the amazing coach I have mentioned before, refers to these “bad for you” things as the Energy Vampires, because they literally suck the energy right out of you. When creating your action plan on your top 3 Energy Vampires, consider that you have 3 choices:

1. Change The Situation

Note that it is the situation you change. You cannot EVER change another person. If it is a particular situation that costs you your energy, change it. If it is a person, you may have to reconsider the relationship you have with that person.

Changing a situation can be simple. If the ever dripping tap does your head in, just call someone to fix it. If you are always fighting with your flatmates about cleaning chores, hire a cleaner. I recently did. Not because I cannot do the cleaning, but because I don’t mind cleaning but get super upset when cleaning up after others. So it is well worth the money. Think about it this way: Rather than wasting £20 or £30 on something that you can easily do yourself, you are investing that money in a harmonic home life. That is well worth the money, I’d say. And another beautiful  re-framing example.

2. Change yourself to adapt to the situation

While you cannot change another person, you CAN change yourself. In fact, YOU are the only person you can ever change. The changes you can make are usually straight forward (in theory):

If a poor diet robs your energy – eat more healthily. While I had a pretty good diet, I had some really odd cravings that I had been giving in to more and more. Mainly for very fatty, salty and sweet foods. I ate things that I would have never previously eaten, such as a meal at a self-proclaimed Burger Royalty chain. I am not proud of it and needless to say, it did not make me feel better. So being reminded of good nutrition was very useful and I went back to a better diet to help control blood sugar levels.  I also had a little reminder of that food allergies and intolerances can do to your body and those become more prevalent during times of fatigue or stress. For example, I am usually ok to eat wheat and gluten. I am German after all, I come from the country of bread! But whenever I am ill or very stressed, my body does not seem to handle wheat very well and I serve myself best by swapping normal bread for rye and pasta for brown rice during those times. That, of course, applies right now.

One thing that I found the most impactful was to drink salted water. I know it does not sound very nice, but tired adrenals love sodium and so every morning I drink about half a litre of salted water before even getting out of bed. When I feel a dip during the day, I have another glass and usually feel a little lift shortly after.

Another thing to consider are supplements. I am taking a high quality multi, high strength Vitamin C (adrenal glands’ best friend) and an omega mix. But why? Well, when your body is going through stress, your metabolism speeds up and your body burns through nutrition at a much higher rate. That is why a nutritious diet is so very important as well.

If the way you see yourself or others causes problems – change your thinking (for example through reframing). This was a biggy for me. But I am changing my thinking every day and that helps. You have already witnessed a re-frame in this blog when I mentioned in the beginning that I have decided to refer to last Monday as a rest day rather than a bad day. And I had another one today when I mentioned to an acquaintance today that I am “nurturing my adrenals back to health” when only a month ago I would have said that I am “kicking them back into gear”.

If your hectic lifestyle is at fault – schedule more time to relax. I started off in the first week by meditating for 20 minutes every morning. Unfortunately that has fallen by the roadside again, but I truly believe that it had a big part in why my second week was so darn good. Even just belly breathing for 10 minutes will bring down your heart rate and is a good way to relax. In fact, belly breathing has so many benefits, that I have just decided to dedicate a whole post on it in the near future.

If you do meditate, using a mantra or affirmation can be very useful. I made up my own to suit my history with Post Traumatic Stress: I said “I am safe” on the in-breath and “I let go of the past” on the out-breath. The theory in my head was that I am breathing in more of feeling save and breathing out the bad memories.

Other useful changes to your lifestyle is to go to bed earlier. I really noticed a difference when I was in bed by 10:30 rather than past 11, another thing that has slipped again in recent days. Try to be asleep before 11 and sleep in as often as you can. And do not underestimate the power of rest. When you feel tired, have a little lie down or power nap. Lying down for just 15-30 minutes will be more effective than sitting for the same amount of time (unless you meditate)

Exercise is also an important part, but as described in my post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea, keep it fun, light and DO NOT PUSH YOURSELF.

3. Leave the situation

This is something that luckily I started before knowing I suffered from Adrenal Fatigue. Over years, I had tried to improve my working life by making changes. To the jobs at hand, to the people around me. But of course you cannot change others. And feelings of helplessness are killers for your adrenal glands, so eventually I decided to leave. And I feel it was the right decision for me.

By far the most difficult to get my head around are relationships though. Relatives, friends, colleagues… What if you used to be really good friends with someone? But lately, every time you see that person you come away feeling bad? For me, there have been a few people that I have slowed the contact with. It is not that I no longer like them or am no longer their friend. It is more about accepting that the friendship has changed and instead of fighting to keep what you had, you embrace a new type of friendship. While I did cut some of my old friends out of my life (not aggressively, but rather just by stopping to pursue the friendship), I have managed to keep most of them just by re-defining that friendship. This is not easy, but possible. And bear in mind that the most important thing in your life is YOU! And when you feel good and healthy, you can contribute so much more to a healthy, mutually beneficial friendship.

Why not try out some of those tips? Which ones work best for you? Let me know in the comments. And if you have questions, I will gladly respond.

 

A Bad Day Allows Time to Consciously Appreciate The Good Ones

Yesterday I missed publishing my blogpost. I already had an idea of what I wanted to write about. In fact, when I write a post, I usually have the idea for the next 3 or 4 which I briefly outline to myself in a few bullet points. That allows me to keep some kind of flow going between posts. At least that is what I aim to achieve.

So yesterday’s blogpost was outlined. I already had the idea. I just needed to write it. But yesterday was a bad day . I only managed to drag myself out of bed around 11am and spent the rest of the day on the sofa or eating on the sofa. Adrenal rest days are characterized by cravings, insatiable hunger and lots and lots of eating all day long.

Where did the day go? What did I do all day? Apart from eating… Well, mainly I spent the day staring into space. I was back to being so desperately tired, I could not even be bothered to sit up straight and type a post for my blog. It just seemed too much to ask of me or anyone who feels that way. And I did have a little “here we go again” thought creep into my mind. But I took a long hard look at that “thought gremlin”. Do you know “thought gremlins”? Those little lying fuckers that tell you all the shit you don’t need to hear, like you are useless, you cannot achieve something or you are not good enough.

Since I was not going to do anything but sit on my arse all day, I decided to reflect on the last couple of weeks since I found out about Adrenal Fatigue and the improvements I have made since then to help my adrenals back to good health. And immediately I did not feel bad about being so “lazy” any more. Because for one, I was being quite productive by thinking about all the good stuff that has been happening. And I realised that things have improved so dramatically over the last two weeks. I now had one day of lying around incapable of doing anything, yes, but after I had spent two full days over the weekend helping to facilitate training sessions and having spent a full day working on various things on Friday. Three full days in a row. How amazing is that? I have not managed to do that for about a year!!!

I would not even call yesterday a set back. Just a logical conclusion – a day of necessary recharge. My adrenals are getting noticeably better. And going from having a productive hour 2-3 times a week to 3 full days of doing things, being active and productive and after having hit the gym 3 times as well last week, I think that is quite an achievement.

Yes, yesterday was not a good day. I was tired. I could not think. I just wanted to sleep all day. But I am no longer hopeless. No longer accepting that this may just be how it is now, this is what life has become. Having those thoughts bashes your adrenals even more and feelings of being helpless and hopeless.

So my top tip to anyone who suffers from Adrenal Fatigue is: Be conscious of the good times and know that those can become permanent again. But not over night. So cherish them when they come along and be conscious and grateful for them when the bad times come knocking again. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t go back from 0-100 in a day. But while acceleration may be slow, it is also steady. When I started two weeks ago, I got a productive morning followed by a day in bed. But wow, I had a whole morning of feeling awake. Then last week, two weeks into the changes I have made, I had 3 whole days.

Yesterday’s bad day was not a reason to be distraught. It was a reason to celebrate. I had 3 full days. And I am feeling really good today. So after 3 days I needed 1 day rest. So what? Soon I will get 4 days and 1 day rest. Eventually I will only need half a day rest. And over time I will be able to do more and more without feeling exhausted while my body will be able to recover in shorter periods of time.

One thing is for sure, I will now always make time and space in my schedule to rest and recharge, even though one day I won’t feel the need for it any more.

Why Is A National Epidemic Not Being Recognised By The Medical Profession?

Thank you to Food Matter for the image

I say national, but actually I think this statement can be expanded for the entirety of Western society.

Of course we can spend some time discussing on whether there is an epidemic of Adrenal Fatigue in the Western World or whether it is wise to make such sweeping statements. Or we just accept that this is my blog with a representation of my opinions. Great – now that we have cleared that up, let me tell you that I believe it is an epidemic. And I am sure you will want to know why, so I shall oblige:

I’d say 90% of people I have worked with during my 8 years in a consultancy firm have complained about being tired. A lot. And now I understand how I got to suffer from it myself – mainly due to ignorance,mind.

Adrenal Fatigue can be easily prevented. But to do so, you’d have to know about its existence. And that is where the problem starts. Many moons ago, after adrenal fatigue was discovered over 100 years ago, it was a big thing for the first 50 years. It was being researched and studied. Then someone figured out that medication can’t really do much about it. Rather getting better requires healthy lifestyle choices. Now there is a shocker. And let’s face it, unless there is money to be made for Old Daddy Big Pharma, nobody is interested in it.

Anyone who is vaguely interested in nutrition may have heard of people who healed their MS or cancer purely through nutrition. You may have even heard of studies proving that very high amounts of Vitamin C (over 1,200 times the RDA) cannot only stop the growth of cancer cells, but heal it completely. And we have all heard about the impact of fast food, with a certain skinny bitch of a clown and Burger royalty receiving regular media attention. Yet nothing is really being done about it. In fact, the U.S National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, does not even index studies into the positive effects of “natural medicine”, such as curing cancer with Vitamin C (and this, dear haters, is why it is so blooming difficult to find them!).

I have to warn you before you read on – this next part will be a bit of a conspiracy theory:

There is no money to be made from dead people. No Shit Sherlock. But there is also no money to be made from really healthy people. Not in the medical sense. So what to do when the pharmaceutical industry is so immensely powerful. How can we keep them happy? And we do want to keep them happy!

Oh hang on, here is an idea: How about we keep the population just a little bit ill. Preferably chronically. Severely enough to have them running to a doctor and begging for relieve of their symptoms. But preferably without killing too many of them. And to make sure this model actually works, we just adjust the education system and make sure that a certain level of ignorance is being maintained in the masses. Such as telling everyone that Fluoride is good for their teeth, but just omitting the fact that it is also a toxic sedative. Adolf Hitler was a big fan – he used it in the concentration camps. And now it is used in our tapwater. Glorious!

Coming back to Adrenal Fatigue, www.adrenalfatigue.org (currenlty my favourite but not only source of information on this subject) states:

“Although there are no recent statistics available, Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%. This was before the extreme stress of 21st century living, 9/11, and the severe economic recession we are experiencing.”

Having taken the Dr Wilson’s test, my own rating suggested very severe Adrenal Fatigue, in fact it was not far off Addison’s. In Addison’s disease, the adrenals have stopped working all together and sufferers need to take medication to replace the cortisol that their adrenals are no longer producing. The NHS website states that Addison’s patients need to take cortisol for the rest of their lives. Go figure. They make no recommendations to how you can enable your body to heal itself, which IT IS DESIGNED TO DO by the way. However, at least Addison’s is being diagnosed. And if the medical profession acknowledges and treats Addison’s and Cushing’s, which represent the 2% extremes of each end of a bell curve (I have popped a nice little generic bell curve picture down there so you get an idea), does anyone seriously expect me to believe that the entire 96% in between those two extremes is normal and would have no effect on how I feel? Really? So forgive me when I come to the conclusion that the existence of medication is paramount in the acceptance of a condition in medical terms.

Bell Curve
Section F = Addison’s
Section A = Cushing’s
And according to the medical profession in general, EVERYTHING in between is just dandy.

What T. F. Is Adrenal Fatigue?

When I first heard about Adrenal Fatigue, I thought WTF is that? Some new fad? Some new scam to sell us whatever supplements or rubbish? Until I started reading and it sounded as if someone had taken notes when I was complaining about how I was feeling.

Below I have summarised some of the information taken from Dr Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org, which you can check out for further details.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. However, it is not as easy to identify it as other illnesses because of its array of perceivingly unrelated symptoms.

As the name suggests, the paramount symptom is fatigue that does not seem to be alleviated by sleep. While you may look healthy and may not even be able to quite pinpoint what may be wrong, there may be a sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray feelings”, similar to depression. Although I was not so lucky. I don’t just feel like shit, I look it too. Friends and family have repeatedly been pointing that out to me, as I have become increasingly paler and the rings under my eyes increasingly darker.

Adrenal fatigue has been known and researched by the medical profession for over 100 years and has been known under several names, such as non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, adrenal neurasthenia, adrenal apathy and adrenal fatigue.

The more severely fatigued the adrenals are, the bigger the impact it has on every organ and system in your body. The changes can affect the metabolism, thereby contributing to weight gain as well. Our bodies are amazing pieces of engineering (Mother Nature must be German…!) and so they try to make up for the under-functioning adrenal glands, but hat comes at a price.

Ugh, just a quick nap. About 8 hours or so…
What causes adrenal fatigue?

The adrenals are called into action each time stress is being put on the body, whether that be negative stress from grief or work or positive stress from exercise, for example. They are responsible to regulate the body’s response through hormones to stabilize the body’s health and functioning and to enable you to respond to those.

You may have noticed that your heart starts racing or your muscles tense up when your favourite boss screams at you from across the open plan office about that report that was due on his desk 2 minutes ago while you are still typing the last paragraph. Those feelings, that’s your adrenals at work.

During adrenal fatigue your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain your body’s equilibrium because their hormonal output has been weakened. In extreme cases such as Addison’s disease, the adrenals cease to work completely, usually because of over-stimulation. Over-stimulation of your adrenals can be caused either by a very intense single stress, or by chronic or repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.

Who is susceptible to adrenal fatigue?

Anyone can experience it and there are many different levels to it. Whenever you have experienced trauma or prolonged stress, chances are you have worn your adrenals out. Interestingly, feelings of being trapped or helpless are a big drain on your adrenals. So if you tend to see yourself as a victim, you may be more susceptible. Lifestyle choices will also influence your adrenals’ performance, such as diet, substance abuse, sleep patterns, lack of rest and the way you deal with stresses in your mind (more on that bit in a future post).

How can I tell if my adrenals are fatigued?

Some common symptoms, which I experience myself:

  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Having trouble getting up in the morning, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Feeling rundown and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness (already had 3 colds earlier this year, each took ages to shift!)
  • Craving salty and sweet snacks
  • Feeling more awake towards the evenings (I barely got that. I was always tired)

When I saw this, I started thinking back to my “stress history”

  • Working long hours in a high pressure performance driven environment
  • Experienced a whole series of traumatic events while working abroad and after return, which resulted in post traumatic stress disorder
  • Taking on my employer through a grievance process and getting ready to possibly take them to court, talking to solicitors and worrying about upsetting old friends I worked with
  • Trying to force my way back into fitness and beating myself up for feeling tired

If you think you have some of those symptoms and may not have had a chance to recover from accumulated stress, you may want to take Dr Wilson’s adrenal fatigue test. Check out the questionnaire at http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz

Continue to follow my blog to learn more about adrenal fatigue and how I am overcoming it by supporting my body to heal itself naturally.

To Determine Your Route You Have To Know Where You Are

Yesterday I mentioned the importance of taking one step at a time to achieve a goal. To know what a step is, you need to know where you are stepping from.

So let’s say you want to go to Leeds (don’t ask why, just stay with me here). If I gave you directions from Manchester but you are in Glasgow or London, my directions would be pretty useless. And this is what I feel some nutritionists and trainers do. They just make an assumption of where you are. I did try training with the help of a PT, but he just pushed me to work harder and harder without any previous chat on where I was right now.

And for me, knowing my starting point was not as easy. I would throw myself into exercise and good nutrition again and again, injure myself, get frustrated, give up, start again and so it went on and on. Only this was not a viscous circle but rather a downward spiral. I felt worse and worse and this came to a peak at the beginning of this year. For a while I accepted it but eventually went to see my GP who ran a few blood test to see why I was always so very tired. Many days I barely make it out of bed. Just getting onto the sofa is an achievement.

The blood tests came back within the acceptable range so my GP told me that I am ok. Oh great thanks. Now that I know that, I suppose I will just wake up tomorrow morning and all my symptoms will have magically disappeared? That is just awesome. Only they didn’t. I woke up the next day feeling just as shitty as I have done for months.

But what do you do when your doctor is not very helpful? My answer is: READ!!! You know your body best. You know how you feel. If you feel like shit, chances are something is wrong there somewhere. No matter what the doctor says. You have to trust yourself and your own judgement and remember that your GP gets 15 minutes with each patient. Everyone puts how they feel into their own words rather than textbook terms and even a doctor, whilst highly educated, is only human.

So educate yourself, read, search online. Whatever is the matter, chances are it is not unique and there are others who have been through it already. Establishing your starting point is so important that you should not allow anyone to gloss over how you feel just because they cannot find the cause easily.

Read, see what sits well with you and then try things out. This is all I am doing right now and what this blog is about. Every day I will write about my trials and mis-trials, see what worked and what didn’t. And hopefully, if any of it resonates with you, my journey can help you on your own.

Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea

So yesterday I mentioned that you have to accept your current state. But actually, before you can accept anything, you need to KNOW what is going on with yourself. The natural state is to be fit, lean, energetic and clear-minded. And while I am not there, I have been working really hard to get it back. Hard work is what I am used to, it is what gets the results, right? And if I am not working hard, if I do not feel exhausted and almost constantly overwhelmed, then I am just not working hard enough. That is the only way to achieve anything, right?  Well, not always.

In fact, in my case it is the very reason why, after 4 years, I am not back to feeling so gloriously uber healthy. By constantly pushing myself beyond my new, much lower, limits I only contributed to not recovering and continuing to feeling tired.

Yesterday I mentioned that feeling tired or being ill was not natural. So being awake, fit and healthy is natural. And if it is natural, then shouldn’t it be easy? HELL YES!!! The natural state is the easiest of all. This is why we call it dis-EASE when we are ill. We are not at ease. Stress causes and contributes to pretty much all illnesses in some way or another these days. If you work hard to be healthy, you are just contributing to dis-ease!

And so what I have learned over the last 4 years of continuously failing at regaining my health, it is because I was trying to force it, rather than easing back into it. If you want to learn a language, you will start with learning your first few words, then the first easy sentences,  a bit of grammar and some more words. You continue doing that and you will be fluent before you know it. But start yourself off in a debate club of your chosen language and you will feel pretty frustrated straight away and possibly give up. The trick is to do a little bit at a time. Take it step by step. Introduce one new thing, like a new vocabulary, and keep rehearsing it. When it becomes second nature, you can introduce more and more. But do it all at once and you have single-handedly put yourself into a position where it is almost impossible to succeed.

As I mentioned yesterday, I used to work out a minimum of 2 hours a day. Now I go to the gym for 15 minutes at a time. Failure? I don’t think so. I tried to push myself and ended up not going at all any more, because I felt so ill afterwards for several days. So I would say 15 minutes is a hell of an improvement. It is not a competition. It is your life. Do what you can and you will naturally be able to increase it over time.

Optimum Health – Why The Absence of Illness Does Not Equal Health

The absence of illness does not equal health – only my second blog post and already I am repeating myself. But there is a reason: This is a quote I have taken from a nutrition book. When I first read it, it made no sense to me at all. Surely, when you are not ill, you must be healthy, no? It was only after I had been on my path of strict optimum nutrition coupled with exercise for about a year (at the age of around 27/28) when I reached a point of feeling better than ever before in my life. And finally I understood. Just because you are not acutely ill does not mean that you are enjoying optimum health. To give you an example, I was eating 5-6 meals a day and not small ones. I ate a lot. And I mean A LOT. Yet I was slim and toned. I only slept about 4 hours most nights and woke up refreshed and switched on. And by switched on I mean alert and clear minded. None of that headfog malarkey. Do you know that feeling – when you feel like your mind stayed in bed and you got up to go to work?

But why is it that we consider ourselves healthy just because we are not acutely ill?

I think it is because we have become so used to those little aches and pains. The tiredness in the morning and after lunch, the lack of energy, the brain fog, the headaches, the back aches, the PMS and the cramps (for the girls). We consider it normal. It is part of life. There are just some everyday niggles that we have to accept, right? And our doctor will reinforce that. They may run a couple of tests if we complain enough. If they come back ok, then the verdict is easy: You are ok, get on with it.

WRONG! Aches and pains are not natural. Getting a cold every winter is not natural. That after lunch energy dip? You guessed it – Not Natural!

When we are at optimum health we have strong bodies and a solid immune system. We feel rested after a night’s sleep and fully alert when we rise. There are no aches and pains (unless you leave the top kitchen cupboard open and bang your head right on the corner of the door – ouch!) and there aren’t even any uncomfortablenesses (I think I just made that up – you know what I mean though). You have energy throughout the day with no peaks and trophs.

I am not feeling great right now, but I still know this to be true, because I have been there! Only I lost it. At the beginning of 2010 I started to work on a project abroad in a country where, as a woman, I had very limited freedom. Healthy food choices just were not available and I was not allowed in a gym (you need a penis to get in) while exercising outside was just too dangerous. It had taken me a year to reach my state of optimum health and it took me just as long to lose it.

I was over there for 14 months and eventually the flat belly gave way to a bulge, the boundless energy moved over for some extra time on the pillow. But before you get disillusioned, it did take a lot for me to lose it. For those 14 months I worked anything between 60 and 80 hours a week. Every week. I was unable to do any exercise, which would have been my stress outlet. Stress levels were exceptionally high, due to work pressures and the constant danger I felt to be under. I was putting my body through completely unnatural circumstances. There was never a break from it, never an outlet or a change to the situation.

Almost 4  years after my return, I have still not gotten back to that optimal stage. Having had it once before seems to make it more difficult. Because I want it back so bad. Right NOW. Straight away. 

And this is why I have not gotten back to my optimum health yet. Because I was trying to rush it. And it has taken me until now to take it slower. Acknowledge that I am not starting where I let off, but rather am starting from scratch again. The key is to be realistic. It previously took me a year to achieve it. This time round, my body was so severely depleted of vital nutrients, the prolonged stress had wreaked such havoc with my system, that a lot of healing is required before the restoration of any fitness level.

While I have been through times of worry that this is just it now, I will not ever get it back, I know now that I will. I just had to accept where I am right now.

While I used to exercise a minimum of two hours every day, I have been to the gym for a little swim today. 15 minutes. It was enough and all I could do. The first step to getting back to optimum health is to accept that and know that over time, I will build back up. And in this blog I will write about my successes and mistrials. If I can get there again, then anybody can.

The Absence Of Illness Does Not Equal Health

Well, hello there and thank you for visiting my blog. I have to admit, this is my first one and you are reading my very first ever blog post. In fact, the very first thing I have ever written of my own volition – apart from the diary I wrote when I was a teenager.

Woah, show us that diary! I can hear you think. Trust me, it is a funny read. The things that went through my mind back then and seemed ever so important. It did make me giggle when I recently came across it again during a declutter-a-thon.

While this blog won’t have the same hilarity, I sincerely do hope that you will find it entertaining and informative and that I can make a positive contribution to every reader’s life in some way.

As mentioned in my About page, I became very interested in nutrition a few years ago. This was when I was working out like mad in the gym for 8-10 hours a week whilst starving myself trying to lose a few pounds.

I went to see my GP because I was constantly so desperately tired, it was seriously impacting on my life. I will admit, the constant fatigue, even after 16 hours of sleep (oh yes, I pulled a couple of those nights…), did get me somewhat down. I suppose if you feel like sleeping all day and not feeling like being up to anything, it does not exactly give you cause to scream “hip hip hooray, life is so good!” However, after having suffered from depression while graduating from school, I knew that I was a little down about it, but not depressed. My GP would not have any of it. His verdict: Take anti-depressants and if you are struggling to lose weight, exercise more and eat less.

A brave verdict considering that he did not ask what diet or exercise regime I had in place.

It was around that time that a trainer at my gym approached me because I was there so much and worked so hard, he expected I must have lost lots of weight. Au contraire mon fraire, I had to tell him. So he had me fill in a diet and exercise diary. For one week I wrote down every move I made and every little thing I ate or drank. It turned out that I consumed around 2000 kcals LESS than what I burned. Now, calories are not an exact science, we don’t exactly know how much we burn doing anything. So the estimated calories you find for let’s say 10 minutes of running, are more like guesses. However, they give you a rough idea, at least, of where you might be going wrong. And that picture for me was very obvious: I was starving my body.

Of course you are tired when your body does not have the energy or nutrition to function and of course you will not lose weight when your body has actually started to run on reduced functionality because it received the wrong signs. And I had given my body a very clear sign: CRISIS! REASON TO PANIC – We are starving!

I was putting my body through a prolonged time of stress and triggering it’s response. Chatting to a work colleague at the time, she recommended a nutrition book that has become a steady companion and got me started in my interest and education in nutrition. I stopped taking anti-depressants (which had a side effect of causing tiredness and depression… *raise an eyebrow to create that cynical look*) and focussed on improving my diet. And I went to town on it. At work I became known as the “Nutrition Nazi” (not really that funny when you are German – and that is due to history, not our inherent lack of humour). But I did not mind them mocking me. Because it worked! I became more alert, more energetic, suffered less headaches and was a whole lot more cheerful. Of course initially I gained some weight while my body was adjusting to the fact that we were not, in fact starving and she did not have to store every morsel in fat, just in case we went back to the scarce times. However, that soon reversed and within a year, I was healthier, fitter and more energetic than I had ever been. I had reached a state of optimum health. It lasted for about a year and a half and I am planning to get it back!

Follow this blog to see how I achieve it and hopefully learn a few things with me on the way.