How much punishment do you deserve for all that pleasure?

None! Have you ever returned from a holiday/long weekend/festive season and decided you are going to begin a brutal punishing exercise and weight-loss regime that will whittle down all that body fat accumulated over the past few weeks of your break?

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You worked so hard in the lead-up to your hols, going through the weekly routine of work, kids stuff, gym, family commitments, controlled portion sizes and healthy eating.  By the time the hols arrive, you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and drink and eat with hedonistic pleasure. Those £2 cocktails are the warm-up for the bottle of £6 wine in the restaurant and you start the day with double espressos to bring you out of the booze and food fog, before launching into a day of eating, drinking and soaking up the sun, the environment, and all it has to offer; which often includes 2 hourly feeds of ice cream, pastries, coffees, cakes etc. I maybe exaggerating just a little but you get the pic!?

That folks is what holidays are all about, enjoying yourself and letting go! The problem is how do you come down off this self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking ride and get back to a more normal routine, adapting your tastebuds and getting rid of perhaps an extra layer of bodyfat?

Back to the punishment: for some reason, we decide to castigate ourselves after a period of indulgence and go full-tilt for a few weeks, hammering away at spin classes, jogging laps of the park, bootcamp classes, alongside shake diets, lack lustre salads, restricting calories and banning all alcohol. This is what we (Jack and I) used to do; it was penance and payback time and we’ve been there and done that, several times in the past.

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We’ve since learned a few things about our bodies fat storage system, our hormones, the effect of food on our brain, the leptin feedback loop and, more importantly, what hyper-palatable, hyper-rewarding and heavily processed foods will do to your body and brain – disrupting the most important signals for weight management: hunger, satiation and those ‘stop eating’ signals.

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Yes, the holiday was amazing, but if you’ve over-indulged, moved very little (walking around cities does not count), eaten out nearly every meal at a restaurant and drank alcohol and coffee every day, then guaranteed you will be a bit acidic and your body will be holding inflammation, which will in turn effect your immune system. You will no doubt have around 2 to 4kg of extra weight, which is an added load to your back, hips and knees. Your stomach will have stretched, as it’s prone to do when you eat more than what’s required for energy and you will probably be bloated and lethargic plus starving!  You will also have got used to a daily cocktail of salty, sweet, starchy and fatty foods and perhaps daily ‘rewards’ of caffeine and alcohol, both addictive substances.

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If you now start a punishing regime of exercise and weight loss strategies from ‘high profit making weight loss companies’ then you could end up sick, injured and  ultimately,slowing your metabolism down, so that you are burning less calories and storing more fat. If there was ever a time to go gently, then it’s now. Those 50 burpees, push-ups, side planks etc. with your extra weight and inflamed body will set you up for an injury or muscle imbalance. Cutting back on food, or skipping breakfast and eating less or replacing your meals with shakes puts you into starvation mode, your body will respond by making you move less, so it can preserve energy and it will slow your metabolism down even more.

By the end of week 1 of your regime, you may be binge eating and drinking, sore and tired. If you are still going in week 2, your body may rebel completely by making you sick, to slow you down, a head cold or scratchy throat will do the trick.

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These are our suggestions for a bit of ‘self-love’ for your post holiday body to keep you injury free, reduce bloating, body fat and get you back on track to a healthy body and mind.

DRINK TWO GLASSES OF RED A DAY: New research is saying that two glasses of red a day (only two, no more) can actually help you lose weight! And indeed, Tim Ferris, author of the best selling ‘Four Hour Body’ says his two glasses of red wine per day have no effect whatsoever on his weight – he’s a bit a of a geek and has done all the tests daily to see what happens metabolically. White wine is okay, but too much causes weight gain – it goes down much easier than red and we don’t have the same ‘off switch’!

More on this here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/wine/is-red-wine-really-healthy/

I find that upon our return to normality, a reward at the end of the day helps get you back into the swing of things. We may actually have a few days off alcohol as we don’t want it, but we are not going to ban it from our lives for the next three weeks or ban it from Mon to Friday, then binge on the weekend.

This leads onto the fact that a lot of what we eat and drink on holiday is reward food and highly addictive, so going ‘cold turkey’ when you come home can make you binge once your will power recedes (usually 10 days) setting you back considerably.

The first time I tasted red wine, I thought ‘Yuk’ and it was the same for coffee, but now I love them! I was able to override my distaste because my brain, quite naturally loves both caffeine and alcohol. It’s the same with sugar: sweet foods are now rewards for kids and adults. Imagine the queues you’ve stood in just to get your ice cream, take-away coffee and cocktail? We stand at crowded bars for our fix and join queues out the door for our coffees and the same goes for some cake shops, especially those selling both cakes and coffee!

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EAT: Eat 3 times a day with two snacks and don’t cut meals or restrict calories. You need to keep your metabolism fired up, so keep eating.  Do not try to starve the fat off your body, you’ll go backwards. A good breakfast of high protein will set you up for the day and stop you from making bad choices later: two poached eggs on good bread with spinach, avo and toms is perfect and actually any eggs, scrambled or boiled will do and fill you up.

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EAT A LOT OF THE RIGHT STUFF: Add greens to every meal. Pick natural, whole foods as the majority of your meals; eat fruit and nuts as snacks or make your own healthy snacks; stay away from processed foods; cook as much as possible at home or take your own lunch to work; take on slow-digesting, high fiber starches such as sweet potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, butter beans for fullness and satiety; add nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish to your diet for good quality fats.

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GO SLOW WITH THE EXERCISE: Okay this is a tough one, but for the first week back, don’t go hell for leather and make like you are training for the Olympics – we don’t have the access/funds etc. that Olympians do for a bunch of physios, chiropractors, injectable growth repair cocktails and massage therapists!Start slow and build up. Don’t feel the need to go back to doing what you did before your holiday; guaranteed your are carrying more weight and you won’t be able to hold the plank for the same amount of time, but you’ll bust your gut trying! Give yourself a break and leave your ego at home; do half of everything that you usually do. If you run 3 x a week for 6 miles, walk the first mile fast and jog slowly for 3 miles only. Use the time left at the end to stretch your body! Go to your normal exercise class and get a light sweat (it won’t take you long if you are toxic J) and don’t push it, then go home to a nice bath with Epsom salts (detoxing) and a glass of red, followed by herbal tea! Spend the week, being nice to your body, easing it back into some movement, it does not have to be brutal. The bootcamp will still be there next week or month!

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HOT YOGA: Go to a Hot Yoga class, it’s a detox dream! You’ll get rid of residual fatty acids in your bloodstream and lose upto 2kg in water: hey, you might not be losing fat, but guess what, you’ll feel better with a flatter tummy – Jack can drop 5kg in one class, that’s blokes for you!.  During class you will stretch your spine, loosen off your lower back, balance your blood sugars from the compression postures, get fresh blood into all your injuries and arteries and leave walking taller with a very healthy glow! You won’t feel like alcohol or too much food, but you will want to drink heaps of water – bonus!

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SLEEP 8 HOURS MINIMUM A NIGHT FOR TWO WEEKS: Some people barely manage this once a week and even if you lie- in on your holidays, guaranteed if you were eating and drinking late at night, the quality of sleep will have been crap! Log out, leave the TV alone, turn your phone off after 930pm and get to bed earlier than usual. Sleep is the most underrated activity of all and right now your body needs to repair, renew cells and reset hormones. Help it by giving it the resting time it needs.

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SWEET NOTHINGS: Don’t deprive yourself of sweet food, it’s addictive and like all addictions, it will catch up with you again once your willpower recedes. Remember the food manufacturers have created the ultimate ‘brain food pleasure bombs’, so stay away from packaged confectioneries and make your own snacks, using natural ingredients. The first time you bake/make healthy snacks is the hardest, because all the ingredients seem a little foreign and take some sourcing, but if you can add sweetness naturally via fruit, honey, dried fruits (in moderation) then you’ll satisfy that sweet tooth. Eventually your taste buds will change and adapt, so something other than a piece of fruit or your homemade bliss balls will feel ‘sickly sweet’, because that is what they are.

Sugar has no ‘off switch’ – that’s a fact: we always have room for dessert even when we’ve consumed a banquet of food, we can still squeeze in a small Tiramisu! We could actually probably squeeze in 3 x Tiramisu’s because unlike healthy carbs and fats, our brain would never say, STOP! You can’t overeat fruit, there is too much fibre in it, so a piece of fruit at the end of a meal, or some berries and full fat yoghurt, or orange segments with cinnamon, nuts and some cheese is often a better option for desert.

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DRINK TWO LITRES OF WATER A DAY: If you can’t flog it out, then flush it out! Drink heaps of water, every day to help your liver and kidneys flush out toxins and work efficiently. Guaranteed you are dehydrated from travel, alcohol, too much salty food etc. Buy two 1 ltr bottles and fill them up every morning. Keep the toilet handy!

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FIND REWARDS THAT DON’T HURT YOUR BODY BUT MAYBE YOUR BANK BALANCE:

  • Go to a new exercise class that you’ve never tried before, break out of your routine.
  • Book a massage at the end of your first week back, your body and muscles will appreciate it and you’ll be revving up your circulation and sluggish lymphatic system.
  • Go swimming or do aqua: the water is an amazing healer. If you are feeling heavy, then the buoyancy of the water will support your joints and back and you can achieve a great cardio workout from swimming or aqua: the water (it’s 9 times denser than air) pushes against your body boosting your circulation and acting as a mini massage.
  • Buy yourself some great new exercise gear: shoes, leggings, the lot! 
  • Read a ‘self-help’ book! I love reading books that inspire, motivate and make me want to be a better person (right, Jack?). Now is the ideal time: you are looking ahead and focused on the next few months. Right now I’m loving:

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Finally, look at your diet, lifestyle and exercise regime long-term and the patterns you repeat on a regular basis, and as we age, mature and keep moving forward in this crazy life, is there something you’d like to change and how can you do that; be it a calmer mind, more energy, less yo- yo dieting. Small steps start with awareness, being flexible, staying healthy and not beating ourselves up so much when we fall off the wagon – it is indeed only natural!