Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Feature for current issue of Irish mag IMAGE

With 300,000 children in Ireland being obese, experts say it’s time for parents to start tackling the problem head on. Phoebe Doyle gets the facts about the fat and seeks solutions.

More worrying even than the number of children obese in Ireland right now, is perhaps the fact that this number is rising… and fast. In fact, it’s estimated that around 10,000 more children become obese, in Ireland alone, each year. What the World Health Organisation (WHO) refer to as an ‘international epidemic’ has certainly hit our shores big time. Around 22% of Irish girls and 19% of Irish boys are either overweight or obese.

Time for Change

At least it’s not gone un-noticed. Schools are now more readily encouraging healthy lunches to be brought in, with some having rules about how many snack/treat-based foods are allowed. The Irish Government announced last year that they’re in discussions about restricting the number of fast food outlets near to schools.

What’s more, those of you who’ve dined in hotels recently may have noticed a disclaimer on the kid’s menu saying that they’ve signed up to a healthy eating initiative, launched by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). This is a pledge of commitment to providing food with less salt, more vegetables and less fried food.

Why are our kids getting fatter?

Personal Trainer Scott Marsh says there’s really no simple answer to this one: “One of the many factors is that children (and adults too) are getting more and more sedentary each year; some blame technology, some even blame the recession.”

Speak to most adults and they’ll recall childhoods packed with climbing trees, playing sport and running around in the streets. Scott notes: “Yet today’s children and adolescents spend most of their days cooped up in front of the latest console re-enacting a life of activity they could be having. The reasons behind why kids are spending more time indoors are varied, but with the press reporting on how dangerous the streets are getting day by day and with technology providing a stimulation at the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that many are veering clear of traditional activity and play.”

As well as social reasons there is, of course, the hot topic; nutrition. “Our food quality is getting worse by the decade, which certainly doesn’t help matters. But a more pressing issue is the lack of time that everybody has”, says Scott, adding: “Parents are too busy and too stressed to cook appropriately for their kids anymore. We must remember that children are greatly influenced by their parents. If their parents don’t have time to look after themselves by eating a healthy balanced diet as well as taking part in regular activity, where are the children supposed to learn such essential habits?”

Another pressing, and depressing, issue is the stress that many children are increasingly placed under. Scott’s seen the effect of this time and time again: “It’s not uncommon for children to develop binge-type eating from the stress put on them to achieve throughout their school life, and now with the added concern of financial strains many families are in right now. The stress is on for kids in Ireland today and one way of seemingly dealing with such pressure is by turning to food.”

It’s clearly time we took action…                   

Get Moving

The level of physical activity our children do can have an enormous impact on their weight, as well as their overall well-being. Our angst about them going out these days, coupled with the amount of technology we have on offer, sees our kids adopting ‘staring at a screen’ as the default position.

Scott says to try and exercise with your children: “Show them the benefits of working hard and praise them for doing well. Find an activity the whole family will enjoy. Remember you’re their most prominent role model.”

“Set them physical challenges and goals. Things that will stimulate their mind and that they will need to work towards to achieve.” For younger children this might be to run, or skip a bit further, for older ones you might start improving on sprint times – make it fun!

“Let your children try new sports”, says Scott, who firmly believes there’s a sport for everyone. So if they aren’t into the usual football or rugby, seek out what’s going on at the local leisure centre or gym for young people.

Food, Glorious Food

The solution doesn’t stop with exercise; it needs to be in partnership with diet. National statistics show that a whopping 40% of children have excessive levels of fat intake through their food consumption. What’s more over 60% don’t get enough fibre.

But those of us with children know that getting them to eat healthily, it ain’t always easy! Food labelling and advertising is mightily persuasive and, while the government are set to review the rules on this, that which is aimed at kids can be hugely powerful.

Scott says it’s time to get back to basics, using fresh ingredients, cooking from scratch and cooking with the kids: “Getting them involved in making their own food serves to get them interested in produce and also, you’ll find, they’re much more likely to eat something if they’ve made it themselves.”

The key is making healthy eating fun: Think fruit kebabs (pieces of fresh fruit on kebab sticks), think fresh veg sticks with dips, like hummus or guacamole. Think homemade pizzas stacked with veggies.

“It’s all about becoming a healthier, more food-savvy, family together. It’s about helping them realise just how good healthy food can make us feel. Without concentrating on their weight, without laying on stress and pressure (which can lead to binge eating), this well-thought-out approach can really impact the whole family”, says Scott.

Final thoughts…

With almost 1 in 4 children now overweight in Ireland, there’s really only one conclusion: We need to make changes now. Obesity can lead to so many problems in later life, diabetes and heart disease to name just two.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. Healthy eating and getting fit can be enormously enjoyable and, done together, can be a fabulous family bonding endeavour.

Ditch the Junk: Have healthy snacks as your weapon!

DITCH the crisps. SWAP for dried apple rings.

DITCH the biscuits. SWAP for flavoured rice cakes.

DITCH the fries. SWAP for sweet potato home-made wedges.

DITCH the sweets. SWAP for raisins and dried apricots.

DITCH the ice-cream. SWAP for frozen yoghurt.

Upping exercise is easy…

ü  Always opt for stairs not lifts when in hotels or stores.

ü  Play with them; what child can resist an offer of a game of football?!

ü  Give them options; have lots of equipment, from hula hoops to hockey sticks.

ü  Instead of driving everywhere, could they walk, scoot or cycle?

ü  Limit TV and computer games.

Writing Analysed

Oooo following on from my recent Stationary Week blog post I just recieved this from a hand-writing analyst. He looked at my writing which was done on a Post-it...

“You enjoy reaching out, speaking to and working with people. If others demonstrate to you that they have noticed how well you are doing, that will be a strong motivator for you, as well as your own strong, practical goals. You live in the present - your thinking is logical and analytical and you move from one job to another with ease.

“You are a very warm person but aren’t scared to speak out if there is an issue.”  

Adam Brand, Post-it® Graphologist

Well, I'm delighted. Not sure if it's all fully true just yet - but certainly covers a few personal goals!

If you love Post-it® Notes as much as we do, click Like on the Post-it UK Facebook page

Monday, 24 March 2014

Out now in Bodyfit

Yoga for Life

Yoga has never been more popular. We take a look at how yoga can help boost our lives…at any age

The reasons people do yoga vary widely. Whether it’s simply about doing a workout, or more to get in touch with your spiritual side, the benefits can be far-reaching. Increased flexibility and agility, psychological calmness and relaxation, as well as improved general fitness and well-being, are all sighted as reasons to get yogic. But is yoga just for the trendy twenties in swanky gear? We take a look at why it certainly is not!


What’s going on?

A lot! There are quite often many massively challenging life changes including pregnancy, babies and children, for our bodies to contend with. We might be climbing the career ladder fast too, so there’s too much time spent hunched over our laptops, whilst cramming in a sandwich at lunchtime and making little time for any down time or general relaxation.

Why yoga?

Yoga expert Danielle Collins (www.faceyogaexpert.com) says that as our thirties are so busy and demanding on our bodies, yoga can help to support and protect our backs, she says: “Taking some time each day to do a few back stretches will mean that your back will be healthy for years to come.”

Must do pose

Danielle says: “The Cobra pose is a great posture to stretch the lower back muscles and open the shoulders, therefore correcting the slumped- over slouch we may be adopting in our daily lives.”

Type of yoga?

Vinyasa Yoga. Yoga expert, Alice Asquith (www.asquithlondon.com) tells us: “Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for "flow", and classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Vinyasa teachers choreograph their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, and often play music to keep things lively. No two vinyasa classes are the same!”


What’s going on?

The juggling of work/babies/life continues. We want to be all things to all people and our bodies can really feel the strain. Recent research has shown that this is the age group of women turning to a little too much wine in the evenings – trying to cope with the pressures of a household, relationships and raising a family can begin to take its toll.

Why yoga?

Danielle says: “Yoga should be something which helps us to feel more relaxed and centered as well as boosting our energy.”

Must do pose
Danielle suggests: “Downward Facing Dog is a great pose to bring fresh blood and oxygen to the head which will give us a sense of vitality, as well as stretching and releasing tight hamstrings and the lower back.”

Type of yoga?

Hatha Yoga. This is both calming and energising. Alice explains: “When a class is marketed as hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. You probably won't work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.”


What’s going on?
We know that we’ll have to work until well into our 60s, so our careers remain a priority, yet there are changes going on hormonally and physically that can make us feel less like ourselves. So whilst most of us remain as busy as ever, the odd niggle physically becomes increasingly likely.

Why yoga?

“Yoga can help us to accept these changes and balance hormones. It can also help joints to remain supple and improve circulation, which is beneficial in our fifties and beyond”, says Danielle.

Must-do pose

Danielle advises: “A Twist pose can help to detox, balance and relax, as well improve energy and circulation.”

Type of yoga -

Lyengar Yoga. This is a highly meticulous style of yoga, with utmost attention paid to finding the proper alignment in a pose. Alice says: “In order to help each student find the proper alignment, a Iyengar studio will stock a wide array of equipment such as blocks, blankets, straps, chairs etc. There isn't a lot of jumping around in Iyengar classes, so you won't get your heart rate up, but you'll be amazed to discover how physically and mentally challenging it is to stay put. “


New in Yoga

Fierce Grace - http://www.fiercegrace.com/  a radically new system of 5 interconnected hot power yoga classes. Founder Michele Pernetta says of the benefits: “Combining hot yoga types allows the joints to stay healthy by stretching and opening the joint creating traction in the spine and avoiding bad backs, aching joints and damaged knees. It also improves circulation and keeps us feeling full of energy.
“The heat can help keep our energy high, our mind and our stress levels down, and the combination of types keeps people motivated and interested.”

Alternative box:

Tim Allardyce Registered Osteopath and Physiotherapist tells us:

Yoga is a natural and beautiful movement discipline that will have many healing effects on your body. We live such sedentary lives, governed around computers and smart phones, and yoga provides fluidity and mobility to our stiffness. Our joints become restricted, and our muscles get tired, and what yoga does is it provides our bodies with flexibility, and suppleness, reducing life’s every day aches and strains. But don’t think that yoga is all about flexibility, its also teaches control, movement awareness, core stability and strength. But most importantly of all, it relaxes the mind and teaches important breathing techniques allowing you to distress, and improve your body’s overall health in many different ways.

National Stationery Week

Wow - who'd have thought it. At last one of the very loves of my life, stationery, is being recognised in a week of its very own!

And who better to sponsor this wonderful time than the marvellous people at Post-it®

I've got too much going on to remember everything!
I need notes.... everywhere!!

I'm a real list writer and with so many different colours and shapes, the Post-it® Brand from 3M is perfect for adding personality, emotion and individuality to your handwritten notes. I've got them everywhere. Reminding me to email work leads, prompting me to collect something for the children, for lists, for notes for others, for timestables that my eldest MUST learn... for everything!!

Never forgotten a coffee date with a friend yet...
But you never know!

All you have to remember is the list itself!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Best Spa Evening!!

I had the best spa experience I've ever had (and, lucky me, I've had a few!!) last Wednesday evening at Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire.

An evening with a great friend, having a massage, an hour and a half of yoga and a fantastic meal - really what could be better??

The spa itself oozed luxury - it wasn't crowded or tacky like so many are. It really is a special and relaxing place to be.... highly recommended.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Image Ireland Feature Out Now!

What AM I doing wrong?

For once you’re sticking to your pledge – you’re actually working out regularly. So why (oh why, oh why) aren’t you seeing results? Phoebe Doyle asks the experts.

When Ali dusted off her gym kit and vowed to stick to a 3 day a week commitment, her goals were clear: “I wanted to get fit, and lose weight. I was fed up of feeling older than my age and I wanted to fit into the clothes I used to wear”. For Ali the weight had crept on when she’d had her second child Ciara; crept on and stayed on.

Many of us reach the point Ali had, a turning point when we’re all, “enough’s enough” and, “this time I’m going to stick to it”. Some of us honour our self- promise, others wane after a short time and, whilst we understand the benefits of regular gym-going, we succumb to the appeal of our warm homes, with cold wine and a sumptuous sofa. But for those of us who do stick martyr-like to our regime, we want some result for our effort.

“I expected it to basically drop off”, Ali confesses. “My friend had lost heaps of weight, and it’d inspired me to do the same.” But Ali’s tale, an all too familiar one, didn’t seem to unfold in the same way; “I stayed the same weight! I felt fitter, sure, but nothing I did seemed to change my weight.”

So, what do the fitness experts have to say on this most frustrating of phenomena?

What are you doing wrong? You’re eating more…

So, you’ve been to the gym, you deserve that cake, right? Perhaps not…

The expert says:People new to exercise often feel hungry post-workout”, says Papillon Luck, of Liberte Fitness (www.libertefitness.com) “But stick to food in it’s natural form, if it hasn’t grown, walked or flown on the earth or swum in the sea, don’t eat it. The cleaner the food, the fuller you’ll feel, preventing over eating, even after training.”

The advice: Papillon says the trick is getting organised: “Instead of eating convenience food after exercising that prevents you losing weight, plan your snack knowing it will actually enhance your training.”

What are you doing wrong? You’re only looking at weight…

The scales don’t lie, that’s what they say. But it’s not altogether true when it comes to looking better.

The expert says:Factors like water retention can mean your weight can fluctuate drastically from day to day”, says Cardiff-based Personal Trainer Luke Grahame (www.toughlovecardiff.co.uk), adding: “A resistance training program may not produce drastic change on the scales, but methods like body fat testing and taking physical measurements will tell a different story, as you get smaller and leaner.

The advice:  Luke says it’s time to have other goals: “An often neglected way of recording progression is how exercise actually makes you feel. After all, most of us start exercising to improve our health and our psychological health is equally as important as that of our body. Feeling more energised and confident can be a an instantly achieved goal scored through exercise.”

What are you doing wrong? You’re only doing cardio…

Women often focus almost exclusively on cardio exercises, at the expense of any weight training, and professionals agree this is the wrong strategy.

The expert says:You need to balance cardio with interval weight training to get really noticeable results”, weight loss expert Elaine Taylor tells us (www.porridgeontuesday.com). “It doesn't actually need to be weights, the best option is our own body weight to get started.”

The advice: “15 minutes a day of short bursts of exercises would be best, and introducing press-ups, squats, lunges, and planks, all help build muscle (without bulking up) which in turn supports a healthier body and better weight loss,” advises Elaine, assuring us: “It really is the biggest game-changer for women, and so easy to introduce.”

What are you doing wrong? You’re losing commitment…

So the goal was 3 times a week after work, but then there was that film to see, and that friend to meet for coffee, and that time you needed to…

The expert says: “Sometimes we all feel like missing a session at the gym”, says Director of Fitness for Herbalife, Samantha Clayton, “But if we give ourselves a break from working out, too often we’re in danger of getting out of the habit of regular exercise.  If you can’t squeeze in your usual full session, remember a little exercise is better than none.”

The advice: Samantha says the key is to keep goals realistic:Try to aim for just 20 or 30 minutes of exercise a day when you first start out and work out at a comfortable intensity.  As you progress, either increase your intensity or add 10 more minutes onto each session. If you add time progressively you’re less likely to give in completely.”

What are you doing wrong? You’re doing the same old thing…

You’ve been going to the gym for a year now, you like to stick to what you know and avoid what you don’t…

The expert says: The problem that most individuals encounter is that they never a) vary the program they are on and b) never vary the intensity”, says Personal Trainer, Scott Marsh from Xcelerate Fitness. Scott tells us he’s shocked to find that people have been on the same program, at the same level for months if not years, yet wonder why they aren’t seeing results.

The advice: Scott says intensity can be about how much you do when there, but also about matching the intensity to your other lifestyle needs: “When we speak of intensity in a programming sense we are often referring to the total load lifted, or the total resistance used. However, in a more general sense, it can refer to the fact that in busier times in our lives we have to accept that we just can’t do quite as much. Allowing you to skip a session or two without guilt is realistic and not something to feel bad about.”

Side bar

Top 5 tried and tested ways to kick-start your metabolism

1.     Add intervals to your training: The next time you run, swim or cycle, ramp up the intensity for 30 second intervals every minute.
2.     Eat Omega 3: It balances blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. So choose oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. If you don’t eat fish, consider a supplement.
3.     Lift weights: Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so increasing your muscle mass will help you lose weight. Stick to lots of reps of lighter weights and you’ll tone, rather than bulk, up. Aim to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
4.     Drink green tea: This antioxidant calorie-free super-drink  has many health benefits and is now also proven to boost metabolic rate. Drink one before mealtimes to reap the rewards!
5.     Get more sleep: Not only does a better night’s sleep help us function more fully in terms of brain-power, researchers have discovered that less sleep can equal slower metabolism.

Small box out

ü  Change your goal
ü  Try something new
ü  Step up your game
ü  Shock your body
ü  Snack… but on the good stuff


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