There are very few things worse than constantly feeling unhappy or even ashamed of your body. I personally have very few friends who can say that they are 100% satisfied with their bodies. There is always something that needs to be changed. Something that needs to be trimmed. Something that needs to be added.
It’s not surprising that weight loss, diet and fitness industries are still growing rapidly today. However, what is the purpose of being in good shape? What is the real motivation for many people to achieve their peak form? Why are they willing to try any (even most insane) diet and workout regimen out there after their attempts have already failed several times?
Life that is focused so much about body is not balanced. There is no way to be in balance if you are constantly unhappy with a part of you. There is no way to be in balance if you are constantly depriving your body of enough nutrients (diet), overwork it without any real reason (long and strenuous workouts) and constantly remind yourself how much more you have to go to reach your goal. Obviously there is no way for a plan like that to work.
A few weeks ago I got a request to review a new book on my blog – Body Confidence by Mark Macdonald. I must admit that I was very skeptical about it at first – I personally do not believe in diets or crazy workout schedules. I’ve tried my fair share of them and finally reclaimed my body confidence when I started listening to my body and bringing it in balance both physically and mentally.
However, I was interested to see what the book was all about because Mark claimed that it was not a diet book. Surprisingly I found myself agreeing with most everything in that book (BTW, this book is for those who want to drop some weight and those who want to gain a little bit and take their body to the performance level.) Here are several points that I found most interesting and useful:
- Knowing your “Why.” Why are you interested in reading this article? You want to take your body to the next level. But why? What is the real reason of being fit for you? Most people decide to lose weight because their doctor says so, because they are unhappy with their current body, because they want to look like fitness models on the covers of the magazines. But what is the real reason? All of those reasons and goals are very shallow and not motivating enough. They are short term goals that can get you through a few weeks or even months of achieving your body goals but after that your motivation will crash.
Ask yourself these five questions:
1. “Why” do I want to achieve my goal(s)?
2. What will I “get” from achieving my goals?
3. What happens once I achieve my goals?
4. Is my “why” strong enough to keep me focused on my health during life’s changes?
5. Is the “why” I’ve chosen only short term? If so, what is my long term “why”?
- Balancing your Quadrant. We all know that life always gets in the way of our plans and goals. Let’s say you are living a full life already and all of a sudden you try to add regular workouts and a new nutrition plan to your lifestyle. Very quickly your life gets out of balance, you start getting stressed out about your new healthy habits and you approach a complete meltdown when you undo all the positive changes that you’ve made to your lifestyle. Does it sound familiar?
Take some time to calculate how many hours you’ll be spending on your health – and then be honest with yourself about which part, or parts, of the Quadrant [health, lifestyle, profession, relationships] you’ll take those hours from. Give yourself time to regularly rethink that balance – weekly, monthly, or however often you need. New commitments arise all the time, and it’s time for us all to stop trying to live as though there are limitless hours in the day.
- Nutrition is a cornerstone of your internal balance. Dieting, eliminating certain food groups from your diet, depriving your body of the nutrients that it needs creates an inner imbalance in your body. Proper nutrition should give you energy throughout the day, it should bring your body in balance, making you look and feel good. Constantly thinking about your cravings is definitely not a balanced way of living.
Nutrition should be used to create internal balance. This is what separates maintaining stable sugar from dieting.
Mark Macdonald focuses on stabilizing your blood sugar by eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours. The meals can be anything from yogurt with fresh berries to a steak with a side of green beans and even mashed potatoes (in moderation of course.) By keeping your blood sugar stable you avoid those spurts of uncontrollable hunger and keep your unhealthy cravings at bay.
- Balanced nutrition. As I mentioned before the meals that Mark recommends are 100% balanced and they consist of 30%-40% protein, 35% carbohydrates and 25%-30% fat. It is preferred that you eat clean and minimally processed foods that are high in nutrients (you can’t go wrong with a plan like that!)
- Each body is different. Did you ever wonder why some people stay naturally lean while eating all the food that they want while others gain weight even by literally smelling food? We all have different body types which affect our metabolism and they way we process food. There are three distinguished body types but a lot of people may be somewhere in between two of them.
Considering your body types is important in setting your goals and knowing how to reprogram your metabolism.
- Everyone should initially do core training. This is not part of the nutrition plan but I definitely agree with Mark on this one. While cardio is your best bet when you are trying to burn some fat (and there is plenty of information on how to do cardio to reach your body goals in the book) …
core training is primarily designed for people who want to increase flexibility, improve strength, lengthen their body, and develop muscle tone and definition without gaining muscle size. Initially, everyone should do core training, regardless of gender or goal type. Then, once you learn how to activate your core, you can move on to the second type of strength training: weights.
Can you guess the best ways to train your core?
- Pilates (which focuses more on core strength)
- Yoga (which focuses more on your flexibility)
- And Core Specialists (a little bit of both)
My personal takeaway after reading Body Confidence
- Definitely focus on eating snacks between my meals (actually both meals and snacks should be almost equal in size according to Mark MacDonald to prevent overeating, energy loss, and to keep your blood sugar stable.)
- Drink more water (8-12 glasses a day.)
- Explore more interesting and balanced meal ideas.
I am not the type of person who does everything (or anything) by the book. Even when I cook a new recipe I usually change something in it to make it suit my personal taste, make it healthier or just try something new. I must say that I have the same approach to any health advice that I read – I always transform it to fit my lifestyle. Here is what I would change for myself after reading the book:
- Instead of focusing on 60-90 min workouts (as recommended in the book) 5 days a week I would focus on 30 min workouts 6 days a week. This workout routine better fits my daily schedule.
- Avoid sugar-free sweeteners and drinks. I believe that any artificial sweeteners are not good for your body (the only exception might be lemonade or tea made with stevia that you might grow in your garden.) I also do not feel right about “lying” to my body. If I want a soft drink – I would drink the one with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) but make it a once-a-month treat. The same goes for deserts and other sweets.
- I personally do not like protein shakes, protein bars and all other highly processed and extremely unnatural foods. I would not use them in my meal plan because I prefer natural nutrition (and if it means having a little less muscle definition – I am perfectly okay with that.)
If you think that Body Confidence is a book that will help you reach your body goals – check it out on Amazon. You can also get a free assessment of your current health level (with tips and feedback) at Venice Nutrition (the official online “home” of Mark MacDonald and his book.)
Keep it balanced!
P.S. Right now you can download my new 100% FREE Simplify Your Life with Balance Workbook. It is a limited time offer (2 weeks only) so hurry up to get your copy today!
Photo credit: cszar