Pilates Foundations

Pilates Foundations is a new course designed for those new to Pilates, returning after injury or illness or pregnancy. The classes follow a similar programme to the Monday Pilates classes and you can still expect to progress, learn and move your body – this class focuses more on technique and adaptations where necessary. 

Book Online

 

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Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Sugar Detox: Starts this Sunday, 5th January

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a great Christmas, with a chance to relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family.

Seasonal excesses can leave many of us feeling a little bloated and lethargic. Not just because of too much turkey and Christmas pudding. Did you know that for the majority of us, a month of eating differently and a change in routine can alter the nutrient balance in our bodies. That, coupled with winter’s lack of daylight and less exercise, is a recipe for sluggish systems and often low moods.

So the Fit School team have created a Sugar Detox plan. It’s a 10 day, online plan and it starts this coming Sunday, 5th January (Sunday will be a bit of a preparation day so you can hit the ground running on Monday, 6th). It costs £15 for Fit School members and £20 for non members.

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Over the course of the 10 days, the plan will help wean your body and mind from the sugar hit over the last couple of weeks. For some, the increase in sugar started as early as December! So here’s why we have created a Sugar Detox.

The three main nutrient groups in our diet are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

We consume these nutrients in varying ratios. Here are some common sources:

Carbohydrates

  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Cereals;
  • Grains;
  • Milk;
  • Alcohol (see note below *); and
  • Anything containing sugar.

 Carbohydrates can be further broken down into the following:

  • Starch;
  • Sugar; and
  • Fibre.

*Alcohol is a separate group all to itself. You get all the calorific effects of a carbohydrate (the side effects of simple sugars) and none of the benefits (despite some blood thinning properties – although you can get these from other sources).

Here is a breakdown of how one Fit School member’s diet changed over the festive period.

Pre-Christmas Average December December with drinks/sugar
Carbs 45% 63% 62%
Protein 30% 12% 8%
Fats 20% 25% 30%

So the big change is increased carbs in the form of sugars, less protein (except Christmas day) and more saturated fats (from processed foods).

The calories in the three examples were roughly the same but to explain why counting calories isn’t always beneficial, below you can see the calories just from food.

  • Pre Christmas – 2000
  • Average December – 1750
  • + drinks and sugar – 1400

Even though the calories were roughly the same, up to 600 calories were now being consumed in the form of refined sugars or alcohol which you can’t readily use. In our experience, this kind of nutrient change tends to result in little actual weight gain you might grow a muffin top and feel generally flabby. If the ratios change as they have above and you consume more calories, you will put on weight as well.

We generally exercise less in the winter, since we are less motivated. So unless you adjust what you eat, you will put on weight. Christmas then compounds the issue. You’re feeling lethargic and your clothes are tighter by January.

So this detox is to get your body back to a point where you are looking and feeling great. It will require some will power and also some support. That is why doing it in a group will help you keep going. Our golden rule with trying to create a new habit is you must not take something out of your lifestyle without putting something back in. No doubt you derived some pleasure from eating or drinking the things that you did over the festive period. So it is essential that you replace the pleasurable part of these activities with healthier alternatives. For example, drinking nothing but water for a few days is probably okay, but by day three, you’ll find that every fizzy drink you walk past will be talking to you!

We will provide:

  • Low sugar recipes;
  • Protein rich meals;
  • Healthy carb recipes; and
  • Exercise guidance.

These will all be posted daily in our Facebook group. If you have any questions, we will also do our best to answer them so you understand what we are trying to do.

Want to sign up? All you need to do is email us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com and pay £15 (for members) and £20 for non-members before Sunday via our PayPal account: fitschoolessex@gmail.com.

See you there!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

5 steps to avoid Christmas over-indulgence

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IT’S such a lovely time of year. We’re all starting to feel warm and cosy, mince pies and drinkies are plentiful and the promise of Christmas lunch and trimmings looms – plus of course a few well earned days off.

But it’s really easy to overdo it, get out of your normal active routine and become surgically attached to a box of chocolates. So here are a few, I hope realistic, yet practical steps to ensure Christmas doesn’t push you off track and that a couple of days of over-indulgence don’t turn into a couple of weeks!

1. STAY ACTIVE. This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or sweating it all out in a spin class but a walk on Boxing day morning can blast away cobwebs and keep your metabolism (and your system) revved. Plus you won’t have to experience sprout and turkey wind – let it all out!

2. FILL YOUR PLATE WITH MEAT AND VEG. The average Christmas dinner offers a feast of vegetable colour. Rather than filling yourself up on roast potatoes and sausages, go for a plate filled with meat and vegetables. You will find it  easier to digest your meal, without overloading on fatty carbs.

3. LIMIT YOUR OVERINDULGENCES TO A FEW DAYS. Christmas and New Year’s Day are great feasting days and a little feasting in moderation does not a wide girth make. But if you skip your normal routine for weeks and keep munching on chocolates and goodies, you will put on a few pounds. Chocolate is still chocolate, even if it comes from Father Christmas.

4. GET A WORKOUT IN BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR. Get your kit on and walk out of the door. You will be so grateful you did!

5. JOIN A GYM IN DECEMBER. If you know you want to join a gym in the new year, skip the rush and do it now! Why?December is the quietest month in the gym salesman’s calendar and they have targets to make. Get some free gym visits in between Christmas and New Year, then sign up before 31st, just make sure you play hard ball to get a great deal.

And finally … be prepared for the New Year.  At Fit School we’ll be running a 10 day Sugar Detox, a great way to start your year.

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The start date is the 5th January 2014, and the programme will guide you through the process of weaning the body off sugar. To help, we’ll provide low sugar recipes, exercises and a follow up plan. You’ll also be part of a closed Facebook Group so you can ask questions and get coaching through the whole plan.

If you want:
*More energy.
*To know how to reduce your spare tyre.
*To reduce your muffin top.
*To break the hunger-sugar cycle.
*To kick start your health for the year.
*To be generally less flabby.

You can register your interest by emailing us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com or by using the contact form below. The price is £15 for members or £20 for non-members.

We will limit this to 50 spaces as we will be providing a lot of content and we need to ensure that we can help as many people as possible. First 25 people get an early bird discount.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Why can’t I stop eating sugar?

I know. It’s hard. Without decisive action I can quickly slip into a sweet and sugary space. Going cold turkey seems like the hardest thing to do. We are programmed with a sweet tooth (mother’s milk is slightly sweet) it gives us energy. In fact studies consistently show that sugar is a harder addiction to crack than cocaine. So why is it that we get so obsessed by the white stuff?

1. LOW FAT CULTURE HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR BRAIN.

Years of low fat diets have a lot to answer for. We used to think reducing fat in our food would reduce the fat on our thighs and consequently make us healthy. Research is consistently proving that this is absolutely not the case and far from making us healthy, removing the naturally occurring fats from food has led to a rise in the amount of rubbish taking its place. Including sugar. Take a Starbucks Skinny Stem Ginger Muffin. It has twice as much sugar as a standard Blueberry Muffin. A low fat or skinny label does not mean healthy – it’s a clever marketing tool to make you want to buy it.

2. YEAST OVERGROWTH IS FUELLING YOUR CRAVINGS.

Nice! Candida is a naturally occurring yeast which lives in our guts. Too much is toxic but really hard to diagnose. One of the key signs is the need for sugar. Candida thrives on sugar and needs it to grow. The more it grows, the more sugar it needs. Frequent bouts of thrush, digestive complaints (including lady pumps), headaches and rashes or itching are also common signs.

How to stop it? The best course of action is to go cold turkey. Cut out the hard stuff and see how your energy shifts.

3. SUGAR OVERLOAD HAS SWITCHED OFF YOUR BRAIN’S ‘I’M FULL’ MESSAGES

The past ten years have seen massive developments in the study of hunger hormone, ghrelin and full hormone, leptin. Scientists used to believe that one of the hormonal causes of obesity was a lack of the ‘I’m full’ hormone leptin but new research is suggesting that it could instead be a resistance to leptin. So your body produces it but the brain somehow bypasses the signals and instead sends out ‘I’m starving – feed me’ signals making you crave sugary, high energy food. Professor Robert Lustig (University of California) has recently found it could be sugar which is causing leptin resistance. Professor Lustig and his team have shown repeated sugar spikes cause insulin resistance (the body no longer responds to sugar in the same way) and in turn, leptin resistance, which means your brain simply doesn’t recognise the fact that you are actually full. The findings were published in his book Fat Chance.

4. YOU ARE SLEEP DEPRIVED

While we’re on the subject of ghrelin and leptin, your body resets itself over night. Too little sleep and your hunger hormones get out of whack, meaning you don’t get that full up feeling and just crave sugary, energy dense foods all day. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprived, new mums hit the biscuit barrel!

5. YOU’RE PREGNANT

Pregnant women are necessarily less sensitive to insulin. It’s the body’s clever way of ensuring enough energy gets to little bubba’. Also, pregnant ladies are growing a whole new person, which takes a lot of energy. When you don’t eat enough good stuff to fulfil your pregnant energy requirements, you crave sugar.

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/07/13/why-do-we-get-fat-when-we-get-pregnant/

6. YOU’VE GOT YOUR PERIOD

A bit like pregnancy, when you’ve got your period, you’ll be more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows so it’s even more important to eat well and eat regularly. Some women swear by raw chocolate when it’s their time of the month to get them through. I love Om Bar coconut chocolate, it’s the least weird tasting raw chocolate I’ve ever eaten and there’s no sugar or dairy in it either.

7. YOU’VE GOT DIABETES

Craving sugar could be an underlying sign of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when cells fail to use insulin properly or become insulin resistant. Some nutritionists, like obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe (author of The Harcombe Diet) believe type 2 diabetes is the result of your body no longer being able to process the levels of sugar you are pumping in. It just, gives up.

8. YOU ARE EATING SECRET SUGARS

So you don’t have sugar in coffee, you rarely eat biscuits but you still seem to want some of the white stuff. It could be those hidden sugars that are fuelling your sweet fire. When did you last check cereal packets? You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial breakfast cereal which does not contain sugar or invert sugar syrup (don’t start me on that stuff – it screws your body’s system up on a whole new level to sugar) and yes, we like to feed this to our little babies too?!? Processed foods like soup, baked beans, or ready meals (yes the branded diet variety especially) all contain sugar too. And then there’s alcohol – which is sugar, refined to make you drunk. It’s everywhere!

What to do? Great piece of advice I recently heard, don’t eat anything that has a TV advert.

9. YOU ARE CONSUMING ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Ooh, now I’m not going to go deep on this one. There’s just too much science involved for a little blog (which is already pretty long). So aside from the whole heap of chemicals doing weird things to your body (like make you store fat) when you consume artificial sweeteners, eating sweet stuff that isn’t sugar confuses your body’s sugar response. It gets so used to expecting sugar when you guzzle diet drinks and then not getting it that it ultimately doesn’t respond as well to sugar when it finally comes. It gives up hope! So then you need more of the sweet stuff to get the hit etc etc… Just don’t do it. Aspartame is one of the worst culprits and oh, most artificial sweeteners will give you bad guts too.

What to do? The best replacement we’ve found is a product called Z-Sweet. If you really need the hit!

10. YOU’RE HUNGRY

I learned this the hard way before I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. When you are hungry, you crave sugar. If you eat refined foods when you are hungry, you’ll get a high, shortly followed by a dip, then want more refined foods.

What to do? Eat good food and don’t skip meals (yawn). But if you are stuck and starving, go for a piece of fruit with some sort of protein. Nut butter, cheese (a little piece) or nuts are a good option.

For more information on food to make you feel good take a lot at my other posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/24/say-no-to-rainy-day-blues/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/06/25/mood-food/

Ease back to health: Clear out the junk

So I’m going to admit it. My diet for the past month or so has got pretty rubbish. I like to think that I operate on an 80/20 rule, where 80% of my diet is good quality protein, fruit, vegetables and oils and 20% is enough of the naughty stuff to make me normal.  However, the past few months have seen lots more toast, biscuits and crisps on the diet plan than is good for me.  And whilst I’ve not got fat, my mood, my energy levels, my skin and my digestive system have suffered.

Hopefully you don’t think I’m some awful fitness fraudster for admitting this. Just a working mum who has been putting her own wellbeing last for a little too long.

So day one (which accidentally started with marmalade on home made toasted buttermilk bread) is about cutting out the junk.  No drastic fasting or dieting but an absolute ban on rubbish.  I’ve already noticed that usually, after getting back from my morning class with Isaac, starving hungry (me, not him) that I would grab a digestive biscuit and then forget lunch. So today we lunched together on scrambled eggs, toast, olive oil and tomatoes.

Anything shop bought or processed is bound to be full of sugars and trans fats that clog up the system, so they have to be the first things to go.  And as soon as you decide to eat better you quickly notice what triggers you to reach for processed snacks.

My triggers are:

  • Not planning my meals;
  • Skipping meals;
  • Not eating enough good quality protein;
  • Sugar;
  • Tiredness; and
  • Lack of structured exercise.

Do these ring any bells with you?

Tomorrow we’ll hit the activity trail but for now I’ll leave you to enjoy your lunch and some Vitamin D time!

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake

Here’s definitely one for the weekend – one of my favourite desserts, which also happens to be packed with protein and lots of yummy dark chocolate. But is it a cake or a mousse? You decide.

What this hybrid mousse cake lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste. And although it’s not sugar free, the protein punch from the eggs means that a little goes a long way (take note hubby). It’s also gluten free.

It’s adapted from a James Martin recipe.

Ingredients

300g good quality dark chocolate (I use Green & Blacks cooks chocolate)

15og unsalted butter

5og unrefined caster sugar

6 large free-range eggs, separated.

1 tsp vanilla extract

(Grease and line a deep, 9″ round cake tin)

(Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4, 18o degrees)

Method

Slowly melt chocolate and butter together and then add the vanilla extract

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites with half the sugar until stiff.

In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for 30 seconds.

Allow the melted chocolate mixture to cool slightly before mixing with the yolk mixture. You’ll need to work quickly now since the cooling chocolate will start to go stiff.

Mix 1/3 of the egg whites with the chocolate mixture to loosen it before carefully folding in the remaining egg white. Make sure you incorporate all the sticky chocolatey bits from the bottom of the bowl.

Pop the mixture in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Once cooked, allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning out to a cooling rack. Do not be alarmed. It will look beautifully cake like on removal from the oven but soon sinks in the middle.

Eat this cake at room temperature, just don’t put it in the fridge or it will go stiff. I tend to make it at lunchtime for an evening dinner.

Et voila! The resulting cake is heavenly with chantilly cream or some lightly sweetened mascarpone.

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