Sunday 25 September 2016

Struggling to lose weight? Why calorie counting alone will not work.

Hi All

As a fitness professional I'm always getting asked what's the best way to lose weight, or how do I get rid of fat, and over the years I've done quite a bit of research and qualifications on the subject. 

There is an ongoing debate between experts as to whether calories are the reason we store fat or if hormones are the reason.  The truth is both matter when it comes to trying to lose weight that it's a bit of both - you must have a calorie deficit (that's just pure physics - the first law of thermodynamics and energy balance); and you must also have your hormones in balance - otherwise you will always be fighting a loosing battle (something that the likes of big weight loss companies count on, as they are setting you up to fail, in my opinion).


Just like a doughnut and a chicken breast may have the same amount of calories in them - each of those will send different signals to the brain; the chicken will send signals that give you a better sense of well being and will enable your body to function better physiologically.  The doughnut will send a signal to your body that it is not getting any nutritional value and will activate hormones that send further signals that you need to continue to eat.  

See where the difference lies, not all calories are the same and it's because they make your body react in different ways. Hormones are chemicals (we're doing chemistry now!), if you can balance your hormones you will eat less without being consciously aware of it, and the calories will take care of themselves (I hate calorie counting!) - this is the key difference between fat loss and weight loss.

Not all calories are the same! Calorie counting will not work alone,

What are hormones?
The word 'Hormone' come from the Greek 'horman', which means to arouse or excite.  Your hormones play a critical role in many of the bodily processes that keep you alive and healthy, such as building new muscle and bone, digesting food, and maintaining hydration and blood sugar levels.  

Here are some of the key hormones that you need to thinking about when it comes to losing weight;

Insulin - this is the storing and locking hormone, high insulin levels will assure that any excess calories will be stored as fat, whilst inhibiting the body's ability to release fat.

Ghrelin - This is the hormone that makes your stomach rumble.  It affects your body hour by hour, as ghrelin rises hunger signals are sent to the brain, the levels fall immediately after a meal.  It's cyclic during the day, so it's what makes you want to eat at regular times.

Leptin - This is the hormone that controls your hunger on a day-to-day basis.  Some people become leptin resistant - they will eat and eat as if they are starving, this is why some people become morbidly obese; their bodies never receive the message to stop eating and start burning.  

Testoerone & HGH (Human Growth Hormone) - these are hormones that send signals to the brain to be lean and muscular - we all want a bit of these ones!!  

There are a lot more hormones that influence appetite, saiety and fat storage or fat burning.  

Finding out how to stimulate the hormones that you want to work is key to getting the body  to burn fat - remember to want to burn FAT from the body, not take energy from muscle.  When you go on a low-calorie diet your body will take the sugar out of the muscles, and your hormone balance will be all wrong, this is why almost everyone who does a low-calorie diet regains their weight once it is lost within 6 months - 1 year; 66% gain even more fat than they had to begin with. 

So, if you are struggling to lose fat and feel that you are in a constant battle with your weight, then your hormones are probably the key that you're not considering. 

It's all about balance! :)

Jill x

Sunday 18 September 2016

How the Principles of Pilates can change your life!

Hi All

I've been teaching and practicing Pilates for many years. One of the things that always strikes me is that it's not really about the actual exercises that we teach that makes Pilates a great program, but it's more to do with the principles that we apply to EVERY exercise that we do which makes it great.

The 'Principles' are what sets Pilates apart from all other exercise systems, and if adhered to, make Pilates the most effective and efficient training method.  These Principles can be applied to any other sport or exercise that you do but we can also bring the principles into everyday life, and into all of our other activities that we do every day.

So what are they? - Depending on what/who you read there are up to 9 principles, Joseph Pilates did not directly write them down, so there is no concrete agreement, but they are basically the following;

Centering - this is bringing the focus to the centre of the body where all movement originates from.  Joseph Pilates called this the 'Powerhouse', or what we now call the 'core' - this is the area that incorporates from the pelvic floor, up through the abdominals, obliques, multifidus up the back and transverse abdominus (the body's natural corset).  All movement flows from the centre out to the extremities, allowing a safer more efficient movement, and strengthening the abdominal area.  
No movement should be attempted before the core is properly engaged.

Control - All Pilates exercises are performed with the utmost control (no flinging randomly in our classes!), this helps minimise the risk of injury and creates better results.  All of our exercises come with clear instructions as to which muscles to use (and which ones not to use) - attention to detail is crucial. 

Concentration - this is the mind/body connection, bringing awareness to the muscles that are working and attention to the movement that is required.  This is why Pilates can sometimes feel frustrating to beginners, as there are many different instructions to focus on for each movement - it can take years to perfect some Pilates exercises. A good tip is to close your eyes when exercising which allows the brain to focus entirely on the body and brings an awareness to the feelings and sensations.  We often live too much in our heads - thinking, planning, analysing, that we become unaware of the sensations through our body until it's too late.

Precision - this is where we focus on alignment and placement of the body.  Every exercise has a precise movement whilst keeping the body in it's true alignment.  We focus on correct posture and good alignment whilst carrying out the exercise which improves the body's overall movement in everyday life.  No floppy feet or hands - everything is engaged and has a purpose, you should always know where your body parts are in relation to the universe!

Breath - The most important of them all?  Joeseph Pilates said 'Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly'.  In modern life, our breath is too shallow, Pilates believed that forced exhalation was the key to full inhalation, and that as the oxygen enriches the blood all of the body's cells are awakened.  Every movement in Pilates has a specific breath pattern and timing - effective breathing can help to lengthen the abdomen, broaden the upper back and helps train the correct muscle recruitment for everyday core strength. The most common thing for beginners to say is, 'the breathing is the hardest part!' - which it is!

In Pilates we practise 'Thoracic or diaphragmatic breathing', which is the practice of pulling in the abdominal muscles whilst inhaling and exhaling - thus protecting the spine. Also exhaling deeply encourages the deep core muscles to engage.

Flow - All movements should be performed with a flowing movement - there should be no beginning and no end.  Movements are not held static (unlike yoga) and should be a continuous and even flowing movement. 

Today we hear so much about 'mindfulness' and 'being in the moment', when you practice Pilates you have no choice but to be fully concentrating - you wouldn't be able to do it if you weren't, a proper Pilates class with a good teacher should fly over - you will be fully in your body and aware of every movement and nuance, it's like a moving meditation.  

know that I always say this, but EVERYBODY should practice Pilates, and I get more and more convinced of this every week!  I sometimes hear people say that Pilates is just a fad, my answer to that is - when is it a fad for your body to be free of pain, moving beautifully and feeling good?  I don't think those benefits will ever go out of fashion!

Which is the most important of the above Principles?  They all have a place and are as important as each other.  Try applying them to your everyday life - I'm still to learn the principle of 'control' when presented with a bar of chocolate - but we can't all be perfect!!

:)  Jill x

Sunday 11 September 2016

The best piece of gym equipment you'll ever own!


We've all seen those adverts on QVC and the like, for the 'best piece of gym equipment you'll ever own', and 'buy this fancy gadget and you'll have great abs' - how much of that stuff is actually gathering dust in your garage?  Be honest....! 

The truth is most of us already own the best piece of equipment or can find it for free, and it's available in all homes without any further payment's your floor. 

Newton's third law states - 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction' therefore when you are standing on the floor you are exerting a force against it, your own body weight is being pulled down by gravity and the floor is pushing back with equal force. Thinking about where gravity is in relation to your own body parts is a major part of my job as a Pilates instructor, I'm always thinking about what adjustments can be made to make an exercise more effective, and it's usually about using the downward pull of gravity and using bodyparts to push/pull against it.

The human body has six hundred muscles, and full stability of the joints gives us the ability to use all of those muscles.  However, the lack of movement required for modern day living has left us with some joints being massively overused whilst the rest of the body is dormant and inert.  This means that not all of our bodily systems are being maximised, and disease will ensue.  Aristotle would say that, under sub-optimal conditions, one's spirit and life force would be unable to express, and he'd probably be right.

In today's society we spend too long with our joints sitting at right angles, the 90°hip/knee ratio - have a think about how long you spend in this position - it's probably hours a day!  Get out of it, get off the couch and onto the floor.  You don't have to do any formal types of exercise on the floor, just sitting on the floor gives time for our joints to articulate into new positions, and get out of old ones.  This then gives the body chance to stretch off overused muscles and strengthen new ones, it feels good - give it a try!

No need for expensive gym equipment, and if you did want to learn some more excellent ways to use your own bodyweight against gravity on the floor, then come along to one of my Pilates classes and I'll show you how!

Jill x