Sunday, March 25, 2018

Chloe Madeley: The 4-Week Body Blitz

As I come to the end of week 3 on the 4 week body blitz it dawned on me that it might be helpful for those thinking about doing it or those already on it, to write a blog post about my experiences.

Firstly, in summary, I lost in total, 6lb weight. I didn't do measurements (but I suggest you do), and I believe that my body fat reduced by 1.8% or thereabouts. I do recommend the book, for sure. As I come to the end of the plan I'm hoping this is the first step towards a permanent healthier lifestyle.

First, the best bit of advice I can offer to people on, or looking to start the plan, don't expect miracles. That's not to say, don't expect change, because change you will get. But I know that I went into this still carrying some post-Christmas weight and I did fully expect to come out the other end with a near-Madeley body which wasn't realistic.

Second, be very wary of the scales. Chloe herself says this time and time again that the scales are not an accurate representation of what's going on with your body. I didn't lose loads on the plan, certainly not as much as some other instagrammers I've seen and definitely not as much as I'd expected from a four week plan and 5/6 gym sessions a week, however, like an idiot, I did not take measurements at the start.

I can see the difference though. And having to use the next loop on my belt is evidence in itself.


What to expect through the weeks
You have to go in ready to stick the whole damn thing out. For me, this was a completely different diet to my usual fare and because I had injured my back at the beginning of January and then experienced my first flu in the beginning of February, I was more out of shape than my usual dipping in and out of gym visits.

Now, I chose to post daily on instagram about the plan, and anyone in my office who walked into the kitchen while I was dishing up my breakfast or lunch and who made some kind of comment, was informed of the plan I was on. I guess I'm someone who is more likely to stick it out if I feel I'm being held accountable. That is a personal choice but I do feel like it helped me.
It's also a bit demotivating knowing you're on like, day 3 of 28 for example, knowing how far you have to go.

As you get to the end of week 2, if you're anything like me, you're getting really fed up with your limited pre-prepped breakfast, lunch and dinner options (though I will point out you don't HAVE to stick to the recipes in the book and Chloe explains how to build your own meals, I was just straight up too lazy to put that extra work in). The best advice for those in week 2 and hitting the 'what's the point' moment, just stick with it because once you hit week 3 you very much feel that you're over the hump and it's all downhill from here.

Entering week 4 I'm feeling pretty great. Already proud of myself for completing it, even though I have a week to go. It just very much feels like, I've come this far, this last week is going to be cake, figuratively speaking.

Today is my final day of the plan and it coincides with the 'rest day' so I'm enjoying some downtime. I feel really great for having finished it even if I did expect greater results and I'm very determined to stick with the lessons I learnt and to stay on this fat loss trajectory.

Weekdays vs weekend
It's difficult to say which is hardest. The week days, if you follow the plan to the letter involve the HIIT workouts which increase in duration each week, and if, like me, you have a full-time, office-based job, it's not necessarily easy to fit that in. I planned my starting date a little in advance and I purposefully did not make any evening plans for those four weeks. Once or twice when we did decide on a little movie night or something, I dragged myself out of bed before work and got my workout out the way first thing.

However, something about the routine of being in work made the diet easier. You kind of don't have a choice in that you've prepped your lunches to stay on course and once that's done and you're there, in the office, it's fine. You drag yourself to the gym after work and it's done.
The weekends, don't necessarily include a workout on the plan (you pick your options and the details of this are in the book) which you would think make them easier to get through and I'm sure for some this is the case, for me though, the weekends weren't necessarily easier because I always have plans at the weekends. And these plans usually involve a drink, especially when the six nations are happening. So, right now at time of writing I am on the third week and it is St. Patrick's Day and, full disclosure, I'm making an exception to the no-drinking rule. My meals will be in line with the diet but I am having a few drinks. I made this choice at the outset of the plan and I'm hoping by keeping it sensible (and dancing away some extra calories) that it won't derail me too much.

Update: I did keep it sensible on the day and managed to maintain a calorie deficit of approx 380 calories.

But anyway, the first weekend of the plan we had friends staying over and we spent Saturday in a pub and again, last weekend, we met friends in a pub for the France v England game (but let's not talk about that). Now, I did have an enjoyable weekend both times, my friends are good fun regardless of whether the drink in my hand is a diet coke or a beer...or a glass of red...or a G&T..., so it was still good fun, but I am fully comfortable in saying that I love a good drink and sitting with a diet coke did not quite cut it for me. Not to mention the unnecessary comments indicating I must be pregnant *eyeroll* winding me up slightly.

So, which is easier? It really depends on you. I'd vote the week days are easier. I'm a fan of routine.

The diet
I've been following Chloe Madeley on Instagram since she was featured in Women's Health in July 2015 (stalker alert!) so I remember a long time ago when she first mentioned she was bringing out a book, and I commented asking whether the ingredient list would feature options that are readily available in your local Tesco or whether it's more likely to be found in your bigger Holland & Barretts kind of stuff and she responded (exciting times for me) to say they are all easy to find ingredients. This has always been my annoyance with cookbooks. I have quite a few and I read the ingredients and think, yeah got that, got that, got that...what the fuck is fenugreek?! And it usually means that I give up hope of making the dish properly (I mean, I'm not a great cook at the best of times) and the cookbook gets donated or gathers dust on the shelf.

However, Chloe was true to her word and the recipes are straightforward and, thank goodness, they are quick to make. There were one or two that didn't work for me and one or two that...yeah I'm going to go ahead and overreact here, changed my life. Who knew it was so easy to make protein pancakes? I did not, and game changer! Also, going to be obsessed with the breakfast shakes for some time I think, and I am not one who usually enjoys drinking my breakfast.

I was rarely hungry, I really enjoyed my meals (though my new years resolution to have one vegetarian day a week meant I had a lot of quorn courgetti bolognese which I got sick of, fast), and I learnt to love some great alternatives to unhealthy snacking (stick with 90% chocolate, you will learn to love it).


Calorie counting
Chloe does not disclose the calorie intake you are on in the book but has said that the plan is a calorie deficit. I have been a user of myfitnesspal for years so I know roughly how much the plan is per day though it does vary a bit depending on your meal and snack choice. On occasion (I think though maybe only 1 or 2 days) I had a little extra something to eat within the plan as I'm very wary of having too few calories in a day. For me this would be if I fell below 1200 calories. This was my personal choice. I do tend to clock up about 12k steps a day so, add in these workouts and I just didn't want to eat what I decided for myself was too little.
My average calorie deficit (calories burnt against calories eaten) was 945 daily. Which I just worked out (thanks to diligent food tracking and my fitbit) and which is actually quite massive. Of course there's always massive debate about how accurate fitness tracking and calorie counting is, so, by all means, take that with a pinch of salt.


Weight Loss
As mentioned earlier, the scales are not a great tracking option and it would probably benefit a lot of people to measure yourself and use this to track your progress, however, I did want to share what happened for me in terms of weight loss, and it may help others stay on track. As mentioned previously, I lost a total of 6lb on this blitz. BUT, it was came in spurts, like I would lose a couple of pounds within a few days and then nothing for ages. Here is a breakdown of loss:
Day 1: starting weight
Day 2: 1lb loss
Day 3: no change
Day 4: 1lb loss
Day 5: 1lb loss
Day 6,7,8: no change
Day 10: 1lb gain
Day 11: 1lb loss
Day 12,13: no change
Day 14: 1lb loss
Day 15: 1lb gain
Day: 16,17: no change
Day 18: 1lb loss
Day 19: 1lb loss
Day 20-28: no change

As you can see I had the odd day when it jumped back up a pound for no understandable reason. So whatever's going on with the scales, ignore it and don't let it demotivate you and stick it out for the whole four weeks. I'm pretty damn glad I did.

What I learned about myself on the plan
Firstly, I seem to do well when I have very clean cut rules. This plan has a set list of foods you can eat. You can look at it negatively and think, this is all I can eat for four weeks? Or you can appreciate that with such defined terms, you just have to adhere. That's how I looked at it. I had these meals and these options and that's it. So when someone brought Ben's cookies into the office for their birthday, it wasn't a case of, ooh if I have this and then do an extra twenty minutes at the gym it'll cancel out. It was just like, cookies, well, I can't eat those, damn they look good, better get out the kitchen. Learning this, going forward and moving off the plan I'm putting in place some new rules for myself.


The second thing I learnt was that all those times when I'd told myself, you know what, I really can't face the gym today, I really can't squeeze in a workout that day, or oh I really need a rest day, they were absolute bullshit. I made it to the gym five times a week minimum for four weeks. And yes, sometimes it was really, really hard to get myself there, but I did it, and I got through the workouts, and I found time for it. So that excuse is gone now, no more intentions without following through. And I'll say, there was never a workout that I didn't appreciate. Even the days when they were tough as hell from beginning to end and once I finished, I didn't linger, I grabbed my stuff from my locker and headed home dreading the fact I then had to make dinner, I still did it. If I can do it once I can do it again, and if I can do that for four weeks, I can always do it.

My new four week plan
So after my last week is complete on Chloe's 4 week body blitz I will start my own four week plan which I will revise again at the end of the next four weeks. This, I hope, will enable me to always stay on track. Knowing that if I'm really struggling with something, I will revise it in four weeks time to make it work in the long run for me.

So the next four weeks, firstly, I'm recycling the workouts and starting again with Chloe's week one HIIT routines as a base level. Since week 4 of Chloe's plan has six workouts, week 1 of my plan will have five workouts. And at 40 minutes minimum. Week 2 will have four workouts. Week 3 will have five workouts and then week 4 will have four workouts. This is my minimum. I can sub-out the HIIT routine for a gym class, and if that gym class is 30 minutes I'll tag on some gym work to meet 40/45 minutes minimum. I can also sub one workout per week with minimum 40 lengths swimming or minimum 3 miles run. I have downloaded Chloe's "Weights for Women" app today as well so I'm going to start implementing some weight training. In terms of fitting it into the above plan, I'll pair it with 30 minutes HIIT. I won't necessarily stick to hitting all the workouts during the week but I do think I'll do my best to do this because I don't want to find myself on a Sunday trying to fit in that last workout, I'd rather have all my workouts under my belt come Saturday (when possible) and then anything I do on the weekend is a bonus.

Second, well, diet-wise, I'm going to keep a lot of these meals involved. And I'm thinking that I want to keep carb cycling to a degree but not keeping to the rules as strictly. I'll just try and keep the days in the plan that are meant to be high protein/high fat as exactly that, but I won't be keeping the carb list as restrictive, so I'll reintroduce fruit and some higher carb veg. I'll be trying to keep my macros mainly protein and fat, but I expect the percentages will not be as unequal.

Third, I will be introducing "cheat meals", though I don't really want to term them this...deviant meals? Indulgences. And these will be either some kind of sweet treat (for example the packet of Joe & Seph's salted caramel popcorn that I'm saving for the end of this plan), or they will be a nice meal, for example, if we go out to eat and I have pizza or if we decide to indulge in a takeaway. These will be once a week only. And I will be monitoring how they go over the four weeks and whether they are really hindering me and need to limited more or if they're making it harder to stay on plan. Also, having a drink is not included as a cheat for me, but it is limited to one day per week, and will be kept sensible.
These are entirely my own rules based on my preferences and my lifestyle. They may not work but I will evaluate where I am on April 21st and make a plan going forward from there.


I hope this helps anyone on the plan or thinking about the plan to go for it or stick with it!

And on a final note, I have chosen to not post any 'before and after' pictures for several reasons. One, I don't really want pictures of me in underwear, not in my preferred shape, available online to the public. Two, my progress has nothing to do with your progress, my changes will not be the same as your changes, and my goals are not your goals, so where I started and where I finished have nothing to do with anyone but me. Third, as much as there are a lot of before and afters of people who have completed the four week body blitz, seeing some of the incredible progress that some people have made gave me some unrealistic expectations for myself which wasn't helpful. All my own fault, I didn't take my own advice that I am giving now (see point two) which is, don't compare yourself. Four, like most people, I am a work in progress and my after will hopefully not be my best.
Those are my personal reasons. I have before and after photos and they are for my eyes only, and Ben's because he had to take them, haaa!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day 90 - Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur

Our first full day in the Cameron Highlands was very full on. We'd signed on for a tour the day before so we were up bright and early and piled into a jeep at 08.45. The jeep took us up the highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands, and we passed the gorgeous tea plantation we would be visiting later on the way up the windy roads.

At the top, we climbed a very rusty tower for a view, and then we headed further down for a tour round the 'Mossy Forest'.

This is essentially a section of forest where the trees are heavy with moss because, due to the height, the daily clouds form moisture around the trees. Our guide explained to us that due to the fact that this is now a popular tourist visit spot, a boardwalk has been built to prevent further destruction in the forest. In past years, visiting tourists were able to simply enter the forest and explore, but this has done damage that will take years to repair.

Anyway, after a very long talk about the forest and several plants being pointed out and discussed (Ben and I tuned out quite early on), we wandered around for ourselves.

Plants done. Onto the bit we were excited about, the tea plantation!

A zip round the factory, an explanatory video and Ben and I hot-footed it to the bit that mattered, the cafeteria. Where we ordered three different teas. We agreed Ben's loose leaf choice was the best and wandered over to the gift shop, where they informed us that they were sold out. Great.

The guide took us to a lovely viewpoint of the plantation where we took pictures and cursed the blue plastic in the background, and, the tour was done.

Ben and I asked to be dropped off in Brinchang on the way back. We had plans to visit the strawberry farm and pick our own strawberries. A complete tourist gimmick and rip-off but we didn't care, we just wanted to pick our own strawberries!

So, that done, we walked in search of the Buddhist temple nearby. We accidentally came to the Hindu one.

Never mind, we located the Buddhist one afterwards. 

Then, we decided to head to the Smokehouse which is famed for it's scones. A longish walk around the golf course and we arrived back in England.

The famed scones are average and the cream was lacking flavour. But hey, we ate it all. It was past two and a long time since breakfast.

We continued a long walk home, past a waterfall I'd spotted on our map which turned out to be disappointing as there was so much rubbish downstream, and, exceptionally tired we arrived at our Guesthouse. 

Planning to head straight to bed, we walked up the stairs to find the door open and the room immaculate, and empty.

Panicking, we headed back down to reception where we saw our two backpacks, next to a garment bag and a black bin bag and asked why our room was empty. The receptionist told us we had only booked one night. I looked accusingly at Ben as we both informed her that no, we definitely booked three. After digging his tablet out of his backpack, Ben brought up the reservation. Turned out, because we'd checked in at the same time as another couple, they'd accidentally given them our room and us, their room. So, grabbing our big backpacks, little backpacks, garment bag and bin bag of our belongings, we were shown to our room, again. 

Luckily, this room was much nicer than the one we'd had the night before and we crawled into the freshly made bed to rest up a bit before enjoying a tasty dinner out. 

The next day we did next to nothing. Also fun.

We took a bus from the Cameron Highlands to Kuala Lumpur. It took about four hours, the first hour and a half of which were hugely winding roads. It meant I couldn't read or watch anything on my tablet since trying to do so was making me feel incredibly ill so I stared out the window. I ended up seeing about seven or eight waterfalls either along the roadside or set just a bit further back in the cliff face. It was pretty awesome. I love waterfalls. Hopefully we'll be visiting one tomorrow that we can swim in and my travel goals will be nearly complete!

Anyway, our time in Kuala Lumpur, though it was four nights, was pretty uneventful. People generally recommend you don't spend too long here but I'd (somewhat accidentally) organised four nights. It worked out though because it meant we had a day to recover after watching the six nations game which aired at 00.50 Malaysian time.

Our hotel in Kuala Lumpur was interesting. It was slap bang in the middle of China town, which, as I remember from staying here 6 years ago with Fiona, sold all kinds of jewellery and random souvenirs. Now it's purely knock-off products... And not good knock-offs, I was sad to find when I looked at a 'mulberry' bag that felt like crap and was lined with something akin to paper. 

The hotel itself was made up of rooms which one TripAdvisor reviewer called 'cells'. Ben and I quite liked the painted brick small rooms and it had a lovely for terrace you could sit and have a drink at watching the market bustle beneath you.

While in Kuala Lumpur, Ben and I had fun shopping, bowling and getting Ben another tattoo. On our last night we had dinner with Mai who we had met in Langkawi when we crossed over with her and Mel's holiday. Funnily enough, we had Vietnamese food, which we'll certainly be having plenty of in the next few weeks!

I'll have to write again on our week in Borneo!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Day 75: Yogyakarta, Singapore, Langkawi and Penang

Since the start of our travels, Ben and I have been wary of being scammed. Tourist scams are, unfortunately, pretty common in southeast Asia. Six years back Chris, Fiona and I were subject to a very irritating scam in India.

Wide eyed and excited, we'd arrived in Delhi and told the airport taxi guy that yes, it was our first time in India and we were very excited to be there. We told him where we wanted to go (a budget option listed in Chris' lonely planet guide) and he put us in a taxi. Some amount of time goes by (maybe forty minutes, I forget) and the guy drives slowly past a blocked off, very quiet, and seemingly abandoned road. He tells us this is our road and that it is closed for the night. It's quite late, so we're a bit concerned about this, but the taxi driver says he will take us to a tourist center...

The 'tourist center' was a back alley shack with a man trying to book us into one of his hotel options. Feeling uncomfortable, we ask the taxi driver to take us back to the airport, thinking we'll speak to the guy in charge we had originally spoke to. En route, reading the lonely planet guide in the back of the car, I find the section entitled 'beware' and exactly what had just happened to us was listed. Irritated, we checked into a hotel near the airport for the night, and travelled to our planned hotel the next morning. It wouldn't have cost us more than an extra £10/20 but it was pretty annoying.

More irritating was in Thailand, on a booked bus trip, when my backpack was raided and £100 was taken while we sat unknowingly on the bus.

That was pretty annoying, but it could have been much worse.

Anyway, my point is, Ben and I have been extremely wary. This is a bit of a shame as it means, in part, you're automatically suspect of a friendly local.

So now to Yogyakarta. Walking to the water palace a friendly guy started chatting to us. We stopped to talk politely, defences up. Small talk ensued. He mentions, among other things, that if we were interested in batiks (famous here in jogya) then we should be careful of the knock offs they sell around the tourist hotspots such as the water palace. He said, if we were interested, we should visit the student art center where they are taught batik and put their works up for exhibit. He mentioned we should go today as tomorrow the exams were starting. Ending the conversation as politely as possible, we continued on our way to the water palace and chatted about how nice he had been... funnily enough we never discussed going to the art center, we're not interested in batiks, we were here for the temples.

So nothing struck us as untoward until later, when another friendly Indonesian asked us if we had visited the art center. Slightly pushier, he told us it was literally 200m away from our present location and that we could visit malioboro market (where we were headed) anytime, as the exhibit was closing. We politely declined, making mumbled comments about another time as we didn't want to outright say we don't care about batik, and walked off. After that, fairly suspicious it was some kind of scam, when people mentioned it, we just told them we'd been already.

After some googling, I'm still not entirely sure what the scam is. People who went and bought aren't sure whether they got a real or fake batik but I think the key is to not spend the money unless you've done the research.

The upside to backpacking is that we're not really shopping as there's nowhere to put it!

Anyway, on the bright and positive side of life we did experience a genuine act of kindness from a local. On our way to the water palace we were crossing a road, or attempting to. We had been stood a few minutes, judging the least likely time we'd be killed, when a man in a helmet appeared, waved at us to start crossing while he walked in front of the traffic and held his hand up to stop/slow down cars and scooters. Once safely across, Ben and I called thank yous to him as he mounted his moped and continued on his journey. He had actually pulled over to help us out. How nice is that?! There are good people!

Anyway, to recap Yogyakarta, we did a day trip (booked through our hotel) to the two big impressive temples nearby. Borobudur, which I've been excited about seeing since before we left, it's one of the biggest Buddhist temples in the world, and Prambanan, because... it was also nearby.

After that we were a bit templed out, and, since we had to get up at 4.30am for the tour (whyyyyy), when we got back to our hotel at 2pm, we went back to sleep.

We flew from Yogyakarta to Singapore. Ben helpfully pointed out that this was the same route as the Air Asia flight that went down in 2014. Despite the odds that our flight would be a safe one, knowing this did nothing for my newly acquired fear of flying. Neither did the extreme turbulence, complete with stomach-losing drops that I have never experienced on a plane before.

Regardless, we landed in Singapore safely, my feet were very happy to walk on land once more.

Onto Singapore...this would be the first dormitory stay of our travels. It hammered home our suspicions that we, personally, feel we are too old for shared dormitories. We booked the smallest possible, a six-bed dormitory and, after check-in, walked into the three sets of bunk beds, waking two gentlemen who were still sleeping at 1pm, and attempted to bustle about quietly, putting things in lockers and figuring out our next move.

Downstairs in the lobby, we decided to explore our immediate area. We had booked into Five Stones Hostel, which was located in the colonial district, which was pretty awesome. We walked around the cute shops and up to Little India before settling down for dinner on Arab St, where we ate on tables placed out on the street. Food was tasty and cheap, and the novelty was excellent! Back at our hostel, we noticed a Nintendo Wii in the communal area and, as luck would have it, Mario Kart was in the game offerings. And so ended our first day in Singapore.

Day 2 was an unapologetic shopping day. Marks and Spencers was spotted to much excitement.

Day 3 we visited the cat café not far from us that we'd spotted on day 2. The cats were very cute, if a little skittish, and the cake was delicious! We followed that with a visit to gardens by the bay and the Cloud Forest. Then, highlight, we went to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel roof top cocktail bar and watched the sun go down and the skyline of Singapore light up. We headed down an hour later to catch the Super Trees Rhapsody and then headed back to the nighttime snoring of one of our dorm buddies. Eventful day.

Day 4 (Singapore was pretty jam packed with activities), Universal Studios. Just, awesome. Some rides, some shows, and plenty of fun!

Day 5, the infamous Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel. Note: the cocktail is very sweet, I personally preferred the Raffles Signature Gin Sling. We ate many peanuts and threw the shells on the floor, as tourists must do.

Day 6, ten bloody hours at the zoo. River safari, regular zoo and night Safari. All awesome (though night safari wins it) and our step count was through the roof!
Day 7, we rested. Well, not true. We marched around trying to find a new phone for Ben after his took a swim in the toilet. No luck. Chinese new year, everything (well, Samsung) was closed. The next day we boarded a flight (yay) to Langkawi in Malaysia.

Four nights in beautiful Langkawi. The first night, I can safely say, was our favourite because we saw Mel, our friend from London who was doing the same Malaysian route as us, but on a shorter timescale. Fortunately, we crossed over at least for this one night, and we met her and her friend Mai for dinner and drinks. A mini beach bar crawl ensued with several delicious (and wonderfully cheap) cocktails, enjoyed by all!

Ben and I then enjoyed three beach days. Langkawi beach is beautiful. We spent one day at a small beach not far from our hostel which was wonderfully quiet. And the next two days on the main beach, renting sunbeds, watching jellyfish wash up and resolving not to go in the sea.

 On our last day, we decided to take the 'skycab' trip. This is one of the world's highest cable cars or something, and Ben and I discovered we are not a fan of one of the world's highest cable cars, especially when the wind swings you from side to side. At the middle viewpoint we got out, hastily took some pictures and then explained to the woman working there that we didn't want to go to the next viewpoint, we just wanted the hell down. Crossing some stairs, we steeled ourselves to get back in the little plastic box of terror, accidentally chose a 'panoramic' car (windows down to the ground) and counted the seconds until we were back on the ground.

Since our cable car ticket had included a trip to the 3D museum next door, we decided to whip round our third 3D museum in Southeast Asia. We have enough of these pictures to last a lifetime now.

From Langkawi we took the boat to Penang which is famed for its street food. I think too many people/books/articles had hyped this past anything it could realistically deliver in line with our expectations, so, while we enjoyed the edible offerings in Penang, we have also eaten just as well in other parts of Southeast Asia.

We loved the street art though.

We were also fortunate enough to be in town for the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival! Pretty cool!

Four nights of essentially eating and walking and today, we bussed over to the Cameron Highlands where we have spent the afternoon. So far we have eaten an extremely filling and incredibly delicious Indian meal and booked ourselves into a jam-packed day tomorrow exploring a tea plantation and a mossy forest, followed by our own plans to pick some strawberries, do a mini hike and maaaaybe enjoy an afternoon tea... But we'll see how tired we are... I mean, getting up for an 08.45 tour is the closest we come to work out here...