3 Reasons Diets Don’t Work (and What to Do Instead)

Chances are, you have been on a diet before. You decide it’s time to lose weight, get healthy, and eat well so you make a list of foods you are no longer going to eat.

It may have gone great for the first day or so, but slowly it gets harder and harder, and before you know it you are binge eating everything in your kitchen at 10pm, then sitting in a slump on the floor with a food coma feeling guilty about your lack of self control.

Well, you are off the hook because I’m here to tell you it was not your fault. The truth is, diets don’t work – they are just a billion dollar industry trying to convince people that they will be happy when they lose weight, and the way to lose weight is to try their new fad. But it is a load of crap.

This is why diets don’t work:

  1. Dieting changes the way your brain responds to food. When you decide to go on a diet, you all of a sudden begin to notice food more than ever before. Not only are you more responsive to food, it starts to look tastier and has a higher reward value. This makes it harder to resist and results in serious food cravings.
  2. Your metabolism slows down. Because you are depriving your body through dieting, it goes into a panic and starts to use calories in the most effective way possible. This would be a good thing if you were starving to death, but you body doesn’t understand that you are only trying to fit back into your skinny jeans. Not only does your body start using less calories, it starts to store fat which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
  3. Your hormones start to change as you lose body fat. Because you are losing weight, your hormones that make you feel full decrease, and the hormones that make you feel hungry increase. Unfair, I know! This essentially makes you feel hungrier than usual, and you need more food to feel satisfied.

So there you have it – diets don’t work. But what is the alternative?

My advice is: start listening to your body.

The truth is, every single body is different, meaning there is no single solution for everybody. This may make it more complicated than simply following the instructions set by someone else, but it is worth finding your own solution. Find what works for you, and you alone. Your body may thrive on meat, maybe you can’t live without a little sugar here and there, maybe you’re body is sensitive to gluten.

Most of us don’t know what foods our bodies want to eat, but it’s time to start paying attention. We may be used to eating a certain way due to habits we have developed since childhood (you may be so used to eating your morning cereal you don’t know any other way). The key is to start becoming more aware of the effect different foods are having on your body. This is a challenge because after years of eating the same way, chances are you don’t even know how your body is supposed to feel. But there are little clues you need to listen out for.

Many of us are used to feeling bloated, or have become accustomed to the feeling of heartburn after a heavy meal, but the truth is, we don’t need to feel this way.

I’m challenging you to start paying attention to the foods you are eating and the way they are making you feel.

You may make some groundbreaking discoveries, such as breaking out every time you eat dairy, or feeling tired the day after eating a few too many slices of cake. The easiest way to do this is to create a food diary. Write down everything you eat, as well as how it makes you feel.

Once you start putting these patterns together, you will become aware of the effect your diet is having on your body. Once you start to realise you can feel better, you will start eating the foods your body wants to eat. And once you start eating foods your body (not anyone else’s) wants to eat, you will realise a new sense of vitality you never thought possible. This new level of health will make it easy for you to skip the cake at the party, or stop yourself after one or two glasses of wine.

– Ashley

Have you ever kept a food diary? How did it work for you?

Get Back on Track

Did anyone else just wake up and realise that it’s May!? Seriously, where has the time gone? I remember so clearly feeling motivated at the beginning of the year and making my new years resolutions. It is almost scary to go back and read your resolutions in case you are totally off track!

It doesn’t matter if you have lost some motivation, it’s not too late to get it back.

These are my tips to get you back on track to achieve your goals this year:

Recognise how far you have come.

You may have veered off track a little, but there must be some steps that you have taken that are pointing you in the right direction. Appreciate your efforts so far. Giving yourself a hard time won’t motivate you to keep going.

Re-evaluate your goals.

Are they still relevant? Are they still as important to you as they once were? Don’t be afraid to tweak them a little to ensure they are relevant and in line with your values.

Figure out where you went wrong.

Finding that you are far off from your goals? Ask yourself why you haven’t been able to achieve them. For example, your goal may have been to hit the gym three times a week, but work commitments mean you can only get there once or twice.

Make a fool proof plan.

Knowing where you went wrong will help you create a realistic plan to ensure you don’t diverge again. Using the above example, if you know that it is unlikely you will finish work early enough to get to the gym four days a week, make a backup plan. You might plan to do an at-home bodyweight workout for the days you finish late.

Get excited!

There are still 7 months left in the year. That is more than enough time to achieve your goals.

Good luck!

Ashley

5 Reasons Looking After Yourself Is Actually Selfless

You know the feeling. Your to do list is overflowing. So many things to do and so many people to take care of. All. The. Time.

Every week you promise yourself that you will actually plan your meals, you will make it to that yoga class, you will find time to meditate. But each week something more important pops up, and your wellbeing slides further and further down your list of priorities.

While it may seem selfish to do something for yourself when you have a million things to do, especially when you have dependents, looking after yourself is actually one of the most selfless things you can do.

Here are my reasons to take care of number one (without feeling guilty):

Taking care of yourself will make you better able to take care of others. This alone is reason enough to prioritise yourself. The healthier you are, the longer you will be around to look after those important to you. The fitter you are, the easier simple daily tasks will be, such as running around after the kids. The better you feel physically, the more energy you will have to look after the needs of others.

Your relationships will flourish. The better you feel about yourself, the more confident and happy you will be. As you become sure of yourself, you will stop being anxious to please and instead learn to be yourself. Those close to you will appreciate your honesty and your genuine approach. A healthy and positive mindset will cause your friends to see you as reliable and approachable, and make you better able to handle interpersonal conflict.

Respect yourself and others will respect you. The way you treat yourself shows others how they can treat you. Looking after yourself shows those around you that you value yourself and your wellbeing. This means you will have less relationship/friendship drama as no one will be able to take advantage of you.

Looking after yourself brings clarity. As you reconnect with your true needs and desires, you will begin a journey of self discovery which will result in true satisfaction. Your happiness will be infectious and those around you will be able to feel your calm energy.

You will set a positive example. When those around you see your glow and realise it is due to some simple self-care, they will want to follow suit. You will be inspiring others to take care of themselves – now that is truly selfless!

Some ways you can start taking care of yourself today:

Listen to your body. Take a moment to think about how you are feeling and what you think your body needs.

Get some sleep. Go to bed early or sleep in at least once a week to make sure you are getting adequate rest.

Invest in a trainer. Booking a session with a fitness professional will give you specialised attention to help you work towards your own personal fitness goals.

Get some fresh air. Take some time away from your computer, TV, phone and go outside.

Meditate. When was the last time you took some time to just be still? Just 5-10 minutes of sitting still and focusing on your breathing will have a huge calming effect and help reduce stress and anxiety.

Take a bath. One of the oldest tricks in the book, taking a bath is the ultimate sign of making time for yourself to simply relax. Add some lavender to your bath for extra relaxation.

Pamper yourself. That appointment you’ve been putting off or keep cancelling? Make it happen. Go to the hairdresser, get a manicure, book a massage.

What stops you from looking after yourself? What can you do to look after yourself today?

Trusting in a Greater Plan

What I’m about to share with you may seem like a bit of a stretch. I want you to keep reading with a calm heart and an open mind. Take a deep breath, read it slowly and allow it to sink in.

Imagine that before you were born, you were given a choice of what life to live.

Imagine that all the different lives were lined up in front of you, and you could choose any one that you liked, and you consciously chose yours.

You knew full well all of the trials and challenges that you would face.

You knew of all the good times and hard times you would enjoy and endure.

You knew everything your body would go through, the falls, the illnesses, the surgeries, the pain – even the stretch marks, the cellulite, and the extra kilos. You chose it anyway.

You chose it all, as a gift to yourself.

For you to utilise, love and enjoy, every day of your life.

While you may not remember making these decisions, thinking about them now will help you appreciate what you have been through and who you have become.

When times get tough, as hard as it can be, trust in the greater plan of the universe. The plan is bigger and better than you know.

You chose this life for a reason.

When something doesn’t turn out as you hoped it would, whether it is that promotion you missed out on, the relationship that ended, or the friend you lost – trust in your choice.

All of the struggles you are going through are preparing you for a bigger and brighter future. The difficulties you are facing now, are moulding you into the person you will become.

One day, you will look back and be glad things didn’t work out the way you once hoped they would. You will realise how much stronger you are because of those hard times, and you will be grateful they happened.

So if you are going through something tough right now, whatever it is, remind yourself that one day you will look back and appreciate this lesson.

I hope this makes you reframe your thinking, and appreciate everything you have and have been through.

I’ll leave you with a favourite quote of mine from Maya Angelou:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Ashley

How to Gain Control of Your Emotions

I’m making a confession today: I am a highly emotional person.

I’m the kind of person that feels before I think and am sensitive beyond all rationale.

This can be extremely frustrating and have negative consequences on my everyday life, as seemingly small issues are very serious in my mind. It is often difficult for people around me to understand why I feel so deeply, and why little things can be so impactful on me.

It has taken me a long time to accept this about myself, and to find a way to come to terms with and take control of my emotions. It is an ongoing journey, but I can say with great pride that I have come a long way.

Just in case this happens to be something you struggle with too, I’m sharing with you my best tips to help you gain control of your emotions.

Remember, being emotional is not always a bad thing. Sensitive people also tend to be highly caring, insightful and creative. However these tips will help make sure you get the most out of your sensitivity without giving in to the vulnerability of feeling like you don’t have control.

Don’t react right away. When something upsetting happens or you feel negative emotions taking over, pause and take a breath. Once you are calm, evaluate the situation objectively. Is this really as bad as it seems? How long will the unpleasantness last? What will you learn from this? Is is worth becoming so upset? Taking 10 seconds to centre yourself and take deep breaths will stop you making irrational decisions.

Trust in a greater plan. Things may not be going the way you want them to. It can take a lot to trust that things are going to work out alright, especially when you are feeling down and upset about the current situation. When we get caught up in our emotions, we can forget about all of the incredible possibilities the future holds. As much as you may not like to believe it now, one day you will be glad things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to.

Find a healthy release. Emotions are not meant to be bottled up. This doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone all your deepest and darkest thoughts and fears. We are not all cut out for sharing our private concerns, and it may not feel better for us. However, you need to find a way to express yourself. Whether it is writing, through sport, exercising, or meditating. Find what works for you, and make sure you use this outlet regularly.

Get a second opinion. Sometimes we have a way of creating an inner dialogue that is far from the truth. When our emotions get out of control we can create unrealistic scenarios in our minds. In situations like this it is best to confide in a close friend for another opinion. Your friend will be likely to shine some light on the situation and tell you what youneed to hear (even if it is not what you want to hear).

Understand your triggers. When you start to become aware of the thought patterns that lead to negative emotions, you can stop them in their tracks. Triggers may be being stuck in traffic and noticing yourself become frustrated, angry and impatient. Notice as your heart beats faster, your fists clench and your teeth grind. Now that you are aware of what is happening, ask yourself if this reaction is making a difference to your situation, i.e. are you going to get there faster by being mad at the traffic? Once you realise you are gaining nothing from these negative emotions, you will be able to release them as quickly as they arise.

Have you tried any of these before? Did they work for you?

If you give the tips a try, I would love to hear how you go!

Why You Should Give Your New Year’s Resolutions the Flick

(how to make changes that actually stick)

Here are my best tips to starting 2015 off with a bang, no New Year’s resolutions included.

Instead of writing what you want for this year, start by reflecting on all the amazing things that happened last year. Start the year feeling positive and grateful for how far you have come, so you can really appreciate what you are capable of.

Next, ask yourself some questions to ensure that you know what you want, and that what you want aligns with your core values. Take the time to really reflect on the questions, and write them down if possible. Then you can revisit them next year to stay accountable.

These are the questions I like to ask myself at the beginning of each year:

– What am I most proud of?

– What have been my greatest achievements to date?

– What is the greatest lesson I have learnt?

– What do I love to do in my free time?

– When do I feel most inspired/alive?

– What do I need to forgive? What guilt am I holding on to?

– What are my greatest strengths?

– When am I happiest?

– What things are most important to me?

– What would I most like to change & why?

– What has stopped me achieving my goals in the past?

– Why do I want to make change now?

– What would give my live meaning?

– In 5 years from now, if I could be anywhere where would it be?

It may take some time to go through all the questions, but it really is worth it to properly understand what it is you want and how you can get it. Set aside half an hour, make yourself a cup of tea and sit down with a journal to document your answers.

After reflecting on the above questions, you are ready to start setting the wheels in motion to make some real changes. Think about what it is you really want (it may be a few things). Write them out into sentences in this format:

I want….. so that…….”

For example: I want to lose weight so that I can take control of my health and feelconfident.

To figure out why you want what you want, ask yourself why it is important to you to reach your goal. What will happen when you reach your goal? What would change in your life and why would this be positive?

Now break your goals down into tangible actions you can do throughout the year, to help get you there.

Start with what you can do this week.

For example:

On Monday I will book a session with a personal trainer.

On Wednesday I will go shopping to buy more fresh food and produce.

On Saturday I will start reading that book I have been meaning to read.

Then, think about where you want to be 6 months from now.

For example:

In three months I am exercising regularly, eating a more balanced diet and setting aside time for myself more often to do the things I want to do.

Lastly, write down where you are going to be at the end of the year. This is your big vision statement for the year. It should be personal, reflect your values, but also be realistic and specific. Make sure you use strong, affirmative statements such as “I am…” and “I have…”

All that is left now is to realise you have the capability to achieve anything you want. With a New Year comes a clean slate, make it the start of something magical!

Make this year your best year yet!

5 Post-Christmas Detox Tips

Your guide to recovering from the silly season

If you are anything like me, you indulged in far too much delicious food and drink over Christmas. So how can we reverse the damage?

Firstly, instead of feeling guilty about your indulgence over the long weekend, appreciate the quality time you spent with family and friends relaxing and enjoying yourself. We cannot be perfect 100% of the time, and it is important not to give yourself a hard time if you slip up on your healthy eating goals every now and then. In fact, studies show that people who feel guilty after eating are more likely to be overweight. So let that guilt go and just remember how delicious all that Turkey, Champagne and mince pies were!

Similarly, gorging yourself over the break is not a reason to let go of all your hard work to date. Sometimes, when we hit a rut it is easy to give up altogether, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Always appreciate your efforts so far, and even when you have a setback simply remind yourself to keep trying.

Here are my 5 post-Christmas detox tips to help you get back on track:

  1. Nourish your body. While you are recovering from your indulgence add as many of the following foods into your diet as you can: garlic, lemon, apple cider vinegar, beetroots, coriander, sprouts, and green tea.
  2. Avoid coffee and sweets. The last thing your body needs is more stress with caffeine and sugar. This will help prevent rising levels of cortisol which wreak havoc on your health and can cause fatigue, poor sleep, weight gain, anxiety or headaches.
  3. Eat yoghurt. Try starting the day with natural or greek yoghurt to get some probiotics in your diet. Your tummy will thank you. If you don’t eat dairy try some Coyo (coconut yoghurt) or some Coconut Kefir.
  4. Get moving. Sweating helps your body release toxins and will help you recover from lethargy due to a relaxing break. Exercising also improves your mood (which will help you adjust to being back in the office after time off!).
  5. Get a massage. Treat yourself to a massage to increase blood flow and assist the lymphatic system. If a massage isn’t possible, try dry body brushing which is affordable and quick.

Natural Beauty Remedies

As I began my journey to health I focused on changing my eating habits and exercising. However, it wasn’t long before I discovered there was much more to health than I realised. My holistic approach to health now incorporates my actions, thoughts, beauty routine, cleaning products and household items.

You may have heard that there are toxic chemicals hidden in normal everyday products, especially our beauty products. Common culprits include parabens, sulfates, and aluminium which are all being absorbed into our bodies when applied to the skin. Once I found out about these hidden nasties, I went on a mission to cleanse my beauty products. I now make the majority of all my beauty products, from deodorant, to makeup remover and face wash.

It may seem overwhelming, but once you discover how simple (and affordable) it can be to make your own products, I promise you won’t go back!

Here are the simple recipes for my homemade beauty products.

Deodorant

Ingredients:

3 tbs coconut oil*

2 tbs baking soda

2 tbs arrowroot powder

Optional: essential oils

Method: Combine all ingredients together in a container. Mix until there are no lumps. So simple!

Apply onto skin by rubbing it in like a cream. I also like to add some drops of tea tree oil with is a natural antibacterial, and lavender essential oil.

*Using fractionated coconut oil will stop the oil from solidifying in cooler temperatures.

Notes: This natural deodorant combats odor and the arrowroot powder will help absorb moisture, however it will not stop you sweating. Remember, sweating is a natural process – it is the body’s way of cooling us down.

Relaxing Body Scrub

Ingredients:

¼ cup sugar (I use caster sugar, but other types will do too)

¼ cup of coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbs lavender

Method: Mix all ingredients together in a container until combined. Store in the bathroom or shower and use as necessary.

Coconut oil is extremely hydrating for the skin and helps prevent sagging and wrinkles. Your skin will feel supple and soft afterwards, so there is no need to moisturise!

You can also experiment with different scents by adding essential oils (such as rose geranium, lemon, orange) instead of honey and vanilla. You can also use olive, jojoba, almond or avocado oil instead of coconut.

Make up remover

Ingredients:

2 tbs water

2tbs coconut oil

1 tsp vitamin E oil

Method: Combine ingredients in a small bottle. Apply with a cotton round.

Most commercial makeup removers can be so harsh on the skin. This makeup remover is all natural and very effective. It can remove eye makeup as well as foundation and will leave your skin feeling clean and smooth.

Toner

Ingredients:

¼ cup water

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp tea tree oil

Method: Combine ingredients in a small bottle. Apply with a cotton round.

This toner will keep your skin clean and helps prevent acne and imperfections.

Dry Shampoo

Ingrdients:

1 tbs arrowroot powder

1 tbs cocoa powder

Method: Mix ingredients in a container and apply with a large, clean, makeup brush.

Bonus: You get to smell like chocolate all day! Yum!

If your hair is blonde, you can simply use arrowroot powder along.

Moisturiser

I have experimented with a few different moisturisers, heating and combining ingredients such as cacao butter, shea butter and oils, although my favourite moisturiser is plain, simple, coconut oil. You only need the smallest amount and it keeps your skin feeling soft for hours. For best results exfoliate first with a dry body brush to remove dead skin.

Once you start making your own products you will discover how easy it can be. You will notice that a lot of ingredients are similar, meaning you only need a few staple to get started.

If you try to make any of these beauty products, let me know how you go!

Spring Cleaning for your Mind and Body

Spring cleaning is not just for your home.

I’m the first to admit that I am not always as healthy as I would like. While I go through months of exercising regularly, eating well and looking after myself, eventually I tend to slip back into negative patterns. Instead of giving myself a hard time, I have come to accept that this is part of the process. Whenever this happens, I try to give myself a “Rejuvenation Detox”. This is a week of reconnecting with myself and afterwards I always feel re-motivated and energised.

Read my Spring Cleaning for your Mind and Body article on the Move Eat Heal blog now.