Wednesday 29 January 2020

Welcome to week two of #100fitdays...

Yvonne Hogan and Siobhan Byrne
Yvonne Hogan at the start of the programme in February 2010
Yvonne Hogan after one month on the programme

Yvonne Hogan

I had never thought about a healthy lifestyle as being the result of a series of decisions. I thought you were either fit or unfit by nature.

Well, how did your first week go? We have had an incredible response to our 100 FIT days programme and we are delighted that so many of you are joining us. We have had lots of email, messages on Facebook and Twitter over the past week with your questions and suggestions and we will answer them all. We will tailor how we deliver the programme to suit your needs as they evolve, so make sure you keep in touch and let us know where we can do better.

My first week went well. I really put my heart and soul into working out when I was in the gym and I realised that I have a lot to do to improve my cardiovascular fitness. I am fairly strong, but my endurance isn't great. I am quite lazy by nature, which is why I prefer strength training to running, for example, and I need to work on that.

Another thing I realised is that I eat way too much red meat. I also realised that my breakfasts are a bit boring. Eggs, eggs and more eggs. I have bought some turkey bacon to add a bit of variety this week, and Siobhan has advised me to have a handful of blueberries with my protein in the mornings, to give me a bit more energy for my workouts.

That is the beauty of keeping a food diary - it really shines a light on what you actually eat, as opposed to what you think you eat. I also fall down when it comes to variety in my meals, and I have an unholy fear of carbs.

I cut down way too much on carbs for the first week, and I need to reintroduce things like sweet potato, brown rice and butternut squash daily.

I suppose my fear comes from a lack of trust in myself - I am afraid that if I don't cut them out drastically, I won't be able to control myself. When I first started on my quest to lose weight I was too scared to have a cheat meal. I was terrified that if I deviated from the healthy foods, I would unleash a monster and I would never find my way back.

But the cheat meal is important - it helps you drop fat and makes the whole plan more sustainable. Siobhan will be talking more about that in an upcoming column.

Anyway, back to this week, I found myself lacking in energy by day four so I added butternut squash to my dinner that evening and it really helped.

By now you will have realised that the food is the hard part. Changing your eating habits is a massive thing. It requires planning, discipline and control.

But it is entirely necessary if you want to move to a fit lifestyle. And if your goal is fat loss, you really, really need to be strict with yourself. You are wasting your time exercising if you are not on plan with the food.

When I first decided to get myself into shape in 2010, I found the food really hard. But there were a few things that helped me get through it successfully.

The first thing - and this is very cheesy, was something that Oprah Winfrey said on one of her shows. It was along the lines of: "I was in my 30s before I realised that discipline was something you learned, not something you were born with."

That really hit home with me. I had never thought about a healthy lifestyle being a series of decisions and actions, I just thought you were either fit or unfit by nature.

The second thing was keeping a food diary and making myself accountable to somebody else for what I ate. I was training with Damien Maher, of Be Fit For Life in Sandyford, and he made me send him my food diary every week. The very act of writing down what I was eating, and planning to eat made me really think about what I was doing. It also made it a lot easier to plan. I still keep a food diary and I email it to Siobhan weekly for comments and suggestions. If you want to have a look at it yourself, sign up for the daily emails below.

The third thing that really helped was deciding to bring my meals to work with me. I would cook a load of chicken, salmon and lean meat on Sundays and Wednesdays. Every day I would take two protein sources and a big lunch box of salad to work with me. As well as making it easy to stick to my healthy eating plan, I saved a fortune by not buying my lunch every day.

The fourth thing, and the thing that probably made the biggest difference, was having my dinner before I left the office.

Most people who fall off the wagon, do it in the evenings. You are tired, you are worn out and you want a treat. If you are hungry on top of that, then you are highly susceptible to the biscuit tin, or to that slice of toast. Whereas leaving the office full, or if you are at home, eating before 6pm, makes you much stronger in the face of temptation.

So take steps like these to make things as easy as you can for yourself. Set yourself up to succeed. It is only a struggle for the first couple of weeks. After that you really start to see and feel the benefits. Your skin will glow, your wrinkles will fill out, you will stand taller.

I have pictures from 2010 when I first started my journey to fitness and I can really see a huge difference after the first month. Not so much in fat loss - even though that was significant, but in how happy I looked. I felt taller and stronger and it showed in my face and my posture.

If you stick to the food plan strictly for three weeks, I promise you will, in a short time, also feel these benefits and you will also start to find it pretty easy to stick to. You just need to make good food decisions consistently for 21 days, for them to become a habit.

Another good way to keep on track is to take your measurements weekly. There is nothing more motivating that seeing those inches drop down and feeling those clothes get looser. When I first started training, I had my body fat measured weekly and it really helped me stay focused. If you have your cheat day on Sunday, Wednesday is a good day to take your measurements. A lot of people will hold a pound or two of water for a couple of days after their cheat.

As always, we are here to serve, so send us your emails and comments. Also, if you have any food tips for us we would love to share them for you.

Don't miss your bonus nutrition advice and recipes in next Thursday's Irish Independent.

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