Tuesday 26 August 2014

There's more to strength than the physical

As a mother, I don't promote being thin to my daughter. Muscle is where it's at and whenever I can, I express how having muscle can be feminine and women/females can be strong outside and in.

I love training. In the past week, I've had two separate people at the gym ask me, "you're still here?" But strength training extends beyond the gym, beyond the physical. It's a mental commitment combined with a courage to push yourself and face insecurities, fears, and doubts. Why? Because we can and we want to be better versions of ourselves.

Being an athlete is not easy. UFE's (Ultimate Fitness Events) #I'mnoteveryone slogan and how true is that? It's the constant challenges, both physical and mental, that make the process rewarding at the end of a competition because despite the odds, you did it!

And this applies for non athletes as well.

It's a decision. As Yoda says, "do or do not; there is no try". It's a commitment. You fall; get back up. A mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn from it. Give yourself permission to learn the lesson and try again. You are worth it.

To be human is to make mistakes. To be strong is to be relentless despite the odds.

Although I will be honoured to share the stage with my fellow, fierce competitors at UFE's Halloween Mayhem, and if I qualify, the World Championships, I want to slam every fear, insecurity, and obstacle in my personal challenger, aka the old me. And I will win because I have become stronger inside and out. I know the old me quite well and I'm going to take her down.

I know I am not alone. There are countless strong women out there and I'm proud to be one of them.

If you do not feel strong, you can be but it might require some professional guidance. Allow me to help you build your strength. You are stronger than you think.

After all, we're strong women!

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Food is NOT the enemy. Is it OK to cheat?

Do you eat when you're sad, angry, frustrated, bored, etc? This is otherwise known as emotional eating.
If you answered yes, it's likely you reach for the unhealthy stuff, which from time to time is fine.

Our relationship with food can be redefined. You can be in control where you can treat yourself to some indulgences but plan those times, i.e., frequency (number of times per week), the length of time (of the treat meal itself), and other specifics (which day and what time the treat meal begins). The cheat/treat meal is actually necessary to avoid plateaus; think of it as a reset button for your metabolism. And psychologically it's needed so we don't feel as resentful or deprived of certain favourite foods.

And just as important is fuelling your body with healthy food. We have one body so take care of it as it's with you for life. The benefits from eating healthy extend beyond weight management or fat loss. It also helps other physiological systems within our body as well as our mental state, i.e., alertness, ability to focus and function more effectively, sleep, improves mood, boosts energy, helps prevent other health issues and even increases your chances of enjoying a longer life.
Is healthy eating too complicated? It doesn't have to be. When in doubt, single ingredient foods that come from the earth are generally healthy, i.e., fruits and veggies. Being from Ontario, I like to support the local farmers and buy much of my produce from the Farmer's Market every week. It's fresh and always tastes much better than imported food.

Food itself is not the enemy. Our choices of what we eat can affect us either negatively or positively. Learn how to eat smarter, which isn't healthy all the time but it's important to plan both healthy and unhealthy meals. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Why not start planning now?

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Is there such a thing as a healthy fries recipe?

Yes! Nutritious and flavourful sweet potato fries in less then 20 minutes.

Sweet Potato Fries


1 large sweet potato, cut into pieces 2 inches (5 cm) long and 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
2.  Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Toss to evenly coat.
3.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
4.  Remove from the oven, heat the broiler to high-broil, and place the potatoes under the broiler to finish with a quick 1-minute blast.

Makes 2 servings.

Source:  http://www.deliciousdetoxcookbook.com/

Tuesday 24 June 2014

5 Tips to Beat the Post-Competition Blues

It's done! The competition you've been working your butt off for, literally, is finally done. After many months of training and super clean eating, the show is done. You completed it and that's an accomplishment. There's a natural high an athlete gets when competing. The excitement leading up to and the day of the show is hard to describe but the electricity from the other athletes is contagious. At some point though, the show does end. Athletes congratulate one another and go off for a well deserved cheat meal that's been talked about all that day. The show is over and you can eat!

But then, there's day 1 after the competition. If you're not competing soon, often times athletes splurge this day as well. In an ideal world, clean eating albeit more "normal" clean eating takes place on day 2 after the competition. However, this isn't always the case. Doing just 1 more day of cheat meals turns into 2, then 3, then a week then somehow longer. Weight gain returns, and sometimes at an alarming rate. Despite knowing full well how to get back on track, something holds you back and you can't stop eating the sugar, the unhealthy carbs and fats. Family or friends may tell you not to worry as you just did a competition and to give yourself a break. You might even listen to them but you come to a point where you repeat unhealthy choices and the scale climbs and your self esteem takes a nose dive. This is known as the 'Post-Competition Blues'. You become lost without a plan to follow. Either there's no next competition to keep you accountable or the next competition is further away. To quote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” You suddenly have the freedom to do whatever you want, but you become overwhelmed with stepping outside the strict rules of competition preparation.

Does that mean getting the Post-Competition Blues (PCB) is inevitable? Not necessarily. Here are 5 things you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting PCB.
  1. You fail to plan you plan to fail: That means pre-plan what you're going to eat day 2 after the show. Check with your trainer for suggestions but it's hard to go wrong with lean proteins and veggies. Since food is more than just fuel for many people, it's important to enjoy the taste of the healthy foods you're eating. If you're not, or have maxed out on chicken and broccoli for instance, choose other healthy foods. The key is to gradually increase your caloric intake. This will allow you to reprogram your body and be kind to your metabolism otherwise it will fight back. Increasing your water intake particularly 1 week after the show can help manage the post-show bloat as well as keep sodium, fat, and toxins flushed out of your system.
  2. Manage your expectations: You cannot maintain the physique you had on stage 365 days a year. That isn't even healthy. To extend that type of training alone for a prolonged period of time would play havoc on your adrenal system. Lengthy periods of physical and mental stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is not relieved by sleep. The activity of the adrenal glands becomes so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed, changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive.
    You can also expect to gain weight; 10-15 pounds is normal but you want to do it in a healthy way. I know from personal experience the sadness one can feel by seeing their abs go into hibernation; however, it doesn't have to be for long. You know what to do to get those abs to come out and play. You've done it before and you can do it again. That's a fact!
  3. Return to normal: Yes you can incorporate 1-2 cheat meals a week without sabotaging yourself as long as they are cheat meals and not cheat days.
  4. Recover: You just tested your limits so now it's time to rest and recover from any and all competition training. I admit I struggled with this one. After the Saturday show, I thoroughly enjoyed a cheat meal and a full cheat day on the Sunday so my muscle cells were full and I felt super strong. I wanted to hit the weights with a confident fury but I was warned beforehand that would be a muscle or joint injury waiting to happen and I listened for the most part. So I recommend that you can look at the weights but no touching. ;) For the first week after the show, either don't train at all or just do some low to moderate cardio or even better yet do something entirely different. This could include activities you haven't done in awhile because they would conflict with your competition prep or try a new activity or hobby.
  5. Reconnect with your family and friends: One of the many sacrifices in your competition prep is focussing on yourself, especially the 12 weeks before the show, which is needed. Supportive family and friends have tried to be understanding of your seemingly anti-social behaviour and moodiness (think Despicable Me's purple minion). After the show, reach out and spend time with your supportive family and friends. They probably miss doing the "normal" things with you that you had to cut out during your prep. Relationships are a two way street. They supported you and it's only right you acknowledge and appreciate their support. Reconnecting is also important for the mind and soul. 

Now what if you're going through the Post-Competition Blues right now?

You may be feeling like you're losing your identity. You don't recognise your body anymore as what you looked like on stage is SO different than what you see in the mirror now. In fact, you avoid the mirror and reach for the junk food. You've blown it anyway so what's another cheat meal or cheat day? DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF! You still have the power to make different choices. Learn to forgive the choices you've recently made by focussing on what you're going to do differently from that point onwards. We can't change the past so your day 1 will be later than day 1 after the show. Dust yourself off and get back up again. Your new day 1 is your commitment to yourself to regain control. Distract yourself from the food temptations by spending the time formulating your new plan of attack with concrete strategies. This can include researching a new activity or hobby, drinking water, protein and veggies, reconnecting with supportive people in your life, etc. If you didn't make a plan before, make a plan now. It isn't too late. Start fresh; start now!

Saturday 21 June 2014

Life is full of tough choices

Harry Potter's Dumbledore said it best:  "Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."

Saturday 24 May 2014

The Courage to Change

I enjoy helping others overcome their challenges as I can relate to the struggles of overcoming some of my own. I struggled with my weight since I was a teenager over 30 years ago. After children, I reached a peak of size 14.

Size 14 Dress 11 years ago
Countless times I lost the weight through some sort of new diet, new exercise program of the day and once I reached the end goal, I'd rebound and regain the weight. I never had healthy examples growing up, and many of my relatives died young from obesity related diseases.

There is no magic pill to overcome weight challenges just like there's no magic pill to fix your relationship, overcome depression or anxiety, or to put your life back on track.

What helped me reach and keep my size 0 today was finding the right personal trainer.  Working one on one with a trained, experienced professional provided me with a concrete plan tailored to my goals. I also learned what I thought I knew about healthy eating was based on misguided information, which is still circulating today, and had contributed to derailing my results. Another important piece to success is the communication between yourself and the professional with whom you work. The right professional listens carefully, knows when to speak up, holds you accountable for your actions, and incorporates tough love as needed.

Age 45 Size 0 at Fitness Competition April 2014
Similarly, self-help books are not tailored to your situation. This is where a counsellor can provide you a tailored solution to overcome your challenges, clarify commonly held misconceptions, keep you accountable, provide empathy, encouragement, and yes even provide tough love when necessary.

Whether it's muscle buidling for fitness, weight loss, depression, or anxiety there are dangerous and easier paths like drugs or alcohol. These can serve as a quick fix but ultimately only delay addressing the core issues in your life.

Like temporary diets versus lifestyle changes, long term success only comes from finding a healthier path you can stay on for the long term. The right professional can provide the helping hand you need.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Facing your fears through a fitness competition

Yes, even Psychotherapists have to face their fears. The thought of wearing a bikini in public is something I dread. The thought of parading on stage wearing a very small bikini in front of an audience and being judged by a panel of strangers has the appeal of a root canal. Some people love the spotlight but I am not one of those people.

UFE Spring Bash Fitness Competition
UFE Revolution Fitness CompetitionSo one might ask why I would even consider the goal of entering a figure competition.   Last year, I entered a 90 day Transformation Challenge at my gym and I won. Then Christmas came, and like many holidays in the past, I gained much of the weight back. I needed a new goal, a more aggressive goal and entering a competition seemed like a good idea at the time.  I have never been an athlete so when I found out that fitness competitors were referred to as athletes, I thought this is the closest I'll ever be to becoming an athlete.  I registered for the UFE Spring Bash show, which is this Saturday, April 5th, as well as the UFE Revolution in Cobourg on April 26th, but UFE has many other shows which can be located at http://ufeshows.com/. By registering for 2 shows, I made it official and I became committed to taking on this new venture.

Then I got a lovely dose of reality. Even though I hired a very experienced and great trainer at Elite Fitness Training Systems, who helped designed all my workout programs and meal plans, I did not anticipate the mental challenges throughout this process. My professional training in psychotherapy certainly came in handy.

Plus I had a plan. I was going to do a practice show, especially since this will be my first time competing. I would learn what to expect, learn from my mistakes, meet some cool people, and try to have fun through this root canal experience. Then I would do my 'real' competition and feel more prepared. That was the theory behind my decision but, in practice and now just 2 days leading up to my practice show, I neglected to think of how I would feel not looking my best in front of an audience and a panel of judges. Was I really ready to do this? One is never truly ready for a root canal are they? I reminded myself of my goal and why I was doing this. I want to confront some fears and test myself.  In essence, I was counselling the counsellor/myself. If this was easy, everybody would be doing it. This isn't just a physical challenge; it's a mental challenge as well.

Is it time for you? Do you have any fears to address or goals you would like to achieve but are facing roadblocks? Whether you are having challenges getting through a competition, creating goals, facing fears, or addressing unresolved issues, contact me and let's deal with them head on.

Take it from a Psychotherapist who knows. Sometimes a helping hand is all that is needed.

Welcome to Lesley's 1st Blog

As a Psychotherapist, I'm wired to help people. I can relate to struggling through various challenges and it's one of my goals to help others learn how to help themselves. I provide specific tools and specific guidance. Be prepared though. If you ask me a question, I will be very direct in answering it. While I tend to favour CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, I do incorporate other modes of counselling depending on the person and issue at hand.

I hope to share some of the wisdom I've gained over the past 2 decades of counselling, being married, weight loss, fitness, and raising kids through my blog. Feel free to share your comments; however, I cannot offer online counselling.