Monday 25 September 2017

Your six-week shape-up plan for summer

Never mind 'beach-body ready' - it's time to get beach-body healthy. And if you look good in a swimsuit? That's a bonus… here's how to get there in just six weeks, writes Maria Lally. While some of our favourite people tell Andrea Smith how they get fit and healthy for their holidays

It's time to get body healthy
It's time to get body healthy

Summer diets. Often they come with promises to 'shed a stone' or get your 'best-ever bikini body', all in as little as a week or two. Most of us, however, want to forgo the fads and simply lose a little weight to have more energy and feel confident in our clothes.

"Six weeks is a good amount of time to make a difference to your body shape," says personal trainer Matt Roberts, who has worked with Samantha Cameron, wife of the former British prime minister. "If you try something new every few days, you'll develop small habits that will add up to big changes."

With that in mind, here's your smarter shape-up guide…

WEEK 1

Identify your weak spot

Do you have a 4pm KitKat every day? Are your portions too big, or are you a late-night snacker (or all-day grazer)? Or do you drink wine every night after dinner? Matt says most of us have a weakness we know is bad for us and that's the thing we should give up for the next six weeks.

"If you take away just one obvious thing, the difference in pounds lost and extra energy will be amazing," he says. "I tell clients that they can pretty much cope with any change if it's only for six weeks. And, interestingly, studies show it takes two weeks to break a habit, so after 14 days you'll have fewer cravings anyway - and if that happens, give up something else."

WEEK 2

Break up with sugar

Amelia Freer, nutritional therapist and author of new book Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan, says sugar is often one of the hardest habits to break and advises how to do it.

Apart from the obvious sugar baddies like biscuits and sweets, Amelia says to look for hidden sugar in your food and drink - in particular alcohol, juices, white carbs and foods marketed as diet or low-fat which may contain hidden sugar or sweeteners.

Make all your meals 'complete' with a little bit of carbohydrate, vegetables, protein and good fat so you're less likely to crave sugar between meals.

While Amelia says everybody's supplement needs are different, she says that a chromium supplement can be helpful to wean yourself off sugar.

Don't give up on day one. Amelia says giving up sugar is a process and for the first few days you may feel tired and groggy.

WEEK 3

Sleep more

Trainer Lee Mullins, who works with supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, says a health kick should always be combined with better sleeping habits.

"It doesn't matter if you get your diet and exercise right, if your sleep isn't good enough you'll never look or feel your best," says Lee. "Good sleep helps you lose excess weight, get fitter and feel happier and more energized."

Firstly, Lee says a lack of sleep plays havoc with weight gain hormones and can increase your appetite and slow down your metabolism.

"This is why a bad night's sleep will often leave you craving sugary, carb-heavy or fatty foods (and your slower metabolism provides a double whammy when it comes to weight gain). Secondly, sleep helps your body repair more efficiently after working out and reduces the risk of injury, which is especially helpful if you haven't exercised in a while. Plus studies show it boosts your willpower."

Lee says the biggest sleep thieves are coffee after lunchtime, stress and blue light from our laptop or phones - but only if we browse on them in the evening, when it disrupts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. "Either put your gadgets in another room after dinner until the morning or download f.lux, which is an app that syncs to the sun's rising and setting and then determines how much blue light comes from your phone or laptop."

WEEK 4

Rethink breakfast

Until recently, the well-worn saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has never been questioned. However, recently Professor Terence Kealey, an Oxford-educated biochemist, did just that with his book, Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal. In it, he questioned what he calls the 'glorification of breakfast' and now, it seems, many others are in agreement.

Personal trainer Max Lowery, creator of the 2-Meal Day plan (www.2mealday.com), hasn't eaten breakfast in more than four years. "I tell new clients to push back breakfast, until eventually they just have a large lunch and dinner with one snack, which extends the fast they've had overnight," says Max, who points to the science behind intermittent fasting (several studies link it to weight loss and improved heart health). Research has found that people with diabetes do better when they skip breakfast and eat a larger lunch and dinner.

And researchers at Cornell University in New York found that breakfast-eaters eat the same later on as breakfast skippers (which challenges the notion that breakfast keeps your appetite in check for the rest of the day).

"The other issue with breakfast is the type we usually go for," says Max. "If you rush out the door to work or the school run, you're hardly likely to poach an egg before you go. You'll grab something quick, usually made up of carbohydrates and sugar like toast or cereal, which are just about the worst things to eat because we're more insulin resistant in the mornings, which means our muscle and fat cells are unable to use insulin effectively to lower blood glucose levels."

However, the experts we spoke to said that skipping breakfast - or having a late breakfast - isn't right for everybody and, as ever, it's best to listen to your body. "If you eat breakfast, make sure it includes some protein and fat," says Amelia Freer. "Add nuts and seeds to porridge or have poached egg with spinach and avocado."

WEEK 5

Exercise first thing

On the subject of a later breakfast, Matt Roberts says early morning 'fasting cardio' is one of the best ways to burn fat.

"This is where you do around 30 minutes of light to moderate cardio before you eat. I recommend doing it three mornings a week and it can be anything from a morning swim, to walking your children to school or power walking some of the way to work. Basically it's anything that gets your heart rate going and it quickly hits your fat reserves."

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that exercising before breakfast burns 20pc more calories than after.

As for the rest of the time, Matt suggests doing something that gets you a little sweaty (like a bike ride or a hilly walk) and some weights four or five times a week.

"If you can't make the gym, just do a weights circuit routine with some light hand-held weights at home for the upper and lower body. So work the lower body with things like squats and lunges and the upper body with press-ups and shoulder presses."

Matt says you can pick and choose the moves you'd like to do as long as doing the whole routine takes around 20 minutes.

WEEK 6

Get off your bottom

Personal trainer and Instagram star Shona Vertue says most of us spend too much time sitting down, which can give us a flatter bottom.

"If you spend a lot of your day sitting down the gluteus maximus, a crucial muscle, loses definition," she says. She suggests introducing this bottom-lifting-and-firming move into your fitness routine.

Breathing bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent, heels on the floor (toes lifted), and your feet hip-distance apart. Position your arms out straight towards your ankles, palms facing up.

Take a deep breath so you feel your ribs rise and fall.

On your next breath out, pull your ribs in and raise your hips just off the floor by tucking in your tailbone. Then slowly lift and roll each vertebra off the floor one at a time.

Squeeze your glutes at the top. Inhale to lower, one vertebra at a time. Repeat 10 times.

Aoibhin Garrihy

1. When choosing a getaway destination, I opt for one where we’ll get out and about to trek, run, cycle and kayak, ideally in the morning so as to get the day off to a good, clean start. It also has to have great fresh food options and a place to chill and recharge.

2. I’ve always struggled to drink water until I bought a water bottle with a built-in fruit infuser. They work like a dream. Now I’m drinking as much as my body needs with a fruity twist, in the hope that I’ll avoid the ice cream and sugary temptations.

3. I recommend saving the indulgence for the delicious meals, and keeping the fridge stocked with healthy snacks for in between. I love nut butter, nuts, fruit and protein bars.

Elaine Crowley

TV presenter

1. The one thing I do on holidays is have breakfast, even a banana. Previously I’d forget and would end up having bad food for lunch and maybe a couple of drinks. And after a couple of drinks, you eat all the pizza!

2. Nobody is going to be an angel on holidays, but build a few small habits at home like five minutes of weights on the couch in the evenings or 10 squats in the sitting room. Then try to keep them up when you’re away.

3. I don’t drink a lot of cocktails when I’m away, because a lot of mixers are basically sugar and they spike your glycemic index. When you come down, you’ll be stuffing your face with toast and pizza. A mojito is grand once in a while, or a cocktail made with natural sugars.

4. It might sound mad, but get a full night’s sleep as that’s when your body rejuvenates and burns the calories. Rest and don’t put too much stress on yourself to see and do everything.

Baz Ashmawy

TV personality

1. It sounds nerdy, but if you’re going to a fancy restaurant, look at the menu before you get there. This allows you to have already made your decision before you arrive, so you can make a clean or healthy choice.

2. Finding a balance is the main thing. You shouldn’t feel that you are punishing yourself all the time. A good way to do it is to eat clean or healthy from Monday to Friday and enjoy your burger and fries at the weekend.

3. I started off wanting to lose a few pounds, but I was shocked at the benefit it had on my mind and overall well-being. When you have a healthy lifestyle and take 45 minutes’ exercise per day, you actually start to crave good food.

4. You can’t out-train a bad diet, so if you’re training all day and stuffing your face at night, it won’t work. MyFitnessPal is a good app for keeping track of everything.

Kathleen Lynch

1. Happy hours are a nightmare on holidays, and I think everyone falls into that trap. Looking at the sights will make you get out and walk.

2. When you get home, exercise needs to be steady and continuous. Be determined around fitness. The roads may be dangerous, but the couch is far more dangerous. Don’t let the rain put you off doing the garden — put on a raincoat and wellies, set yourself a time and get out.

3. I love trying different things to eat on holiday, but I wouldn’t be one for splurging on ice cream. At home, I have porridge and fruit in the morning and try to eat as much oily, fatty fish as I can — thankfully I love it. I never managed to have lunch until a year ago, and the hunger pangs would come at 4pm, which was a disaster. So now I ensure I have a banana or pear in my bag.

Katherine Lynch

1. I was at my lightest after Dancing With The Stars, where I was dancing four hours per day — so my tip is to go to Ibiza and dance it off. Or jog around the table when you’re eating!

2. It’s easier to eat healthier abroad as you can avoid the chips because there are lots of lovely salads available like nicoise and Greek. I’m going to France soon and apart from the wine, my intake of food is always healthier there.

3. I find the 5:2 diet brilliant, where I eat 500 calories two days per week. I pick days that are boring enough, like Monday or Wednesday.

4. My best tip from Operation Transformation was to eat simply, kind of like our parents did when they were younger, with meat and two veg. Pizzas and processed foods are the enemy.

5. If you’re on holidays and you wake up with a bit of a hangover, get up early anyway and go to the pool for a swim or walk on a beautiful promenade.

Mary Kennedy

1. When choosing a getaway destination, I opt for one where we’ll get out and about to trek, run, cycle and kayak, ideally in the morning so as to get the day off to a good, clean start. It also has to have great fresh food options and a place to chill and recharge.

2. I’ve always struggled to drink water until I bought a water bottle with a built-in fruit infuser. They work like a dream. Now I’m drinking as much as my body needs with a fruity twist, in the hope that I’ll avoid the ice cream and sugary temptations.

3. I recommend saving the indulgence for the delicious meals, and keeping the fridge stocked with healthy snacks for in between. I love nut butter, nuts, fruit and protein bars.

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