The Pursuit of Happiness

Why the hell am I talking to you about happiness?

You read my stuff for tips on how to get healthy and hella hot so -while a worthy pursuit – the pursuit of happiness might seem a bit off topic.

But it’s actually the whole POINT.

Think about it. You don’t actually want a flat belly or to be able to do a pull up. You want the FEELING that you think those achievements will give you – Confidence, energy, freedom, pride.

In other words…Happiness.

So what I’m proposing is that we skip right to the end goal and focus on what we can do to be happier.

Not when we lose 10lbs.

Now.

(And then for life.)

So the first question is: How much control do we have over our happiness?

The latest theory is that 50% of our happiness is genetically pre-determined. You were born with a tendency to be cheerful (or not).

So what about the other 50%?

Well, interestingly, it seems that only 10% of your happiness is due to your circumstances. In studies done with people who had won the lottery vs people who had accidents resulting in  spinal cord injuries, they found that their relative happiness level was definitely affected by their circumstances for a while –  but when the researchers followed up four years later, both groups reported happiness levels similar to before their life changing event.

So if our circumstances don’t determine our happiness, what does?  It seems that (after genetics) your happiness is largely determined by your intentional actions.

 

And, fortunately, there is a lot of agreement about exactly what those intentional actions should be.

 

So here’s how to get happy:

 

  1. Maintain your friendships and social connections.

“Sadly, our increasingly individualistic society suffers from impoverished social connections, which some psychologists believe is a cause of today’s epidemic levels of depression,”

– David G. Myers, The Pursuit of Happiness

Here’s the deal: relationships are like your biceps. They will deteriorate over time if you don’t put in the work to maintain them.

And to maintain a relationship you need to do more than ‘like’ a status now and then.

Happiness expert David G Myers recommends:

  • Aim for at least five good friends with whom you can talk about the deep stuff.
  • Touch base with those people every two weeks
  • Practice active listening and celebrate their accomplishments.

If you want to get really specific, your relationships at age 47 seem to be predictive of your general life satisfaction and your relationships with your siblings seem to be especially significant.

You’ve probably heard about The Grant Study – it’s that 75-year longitudinal study of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939–1944.  For three quarters of a century these men were surveyed every other year on everything from their sex life to their income to their health. When George Valiant, the director of the of the study,  was interviewed about what he has learned, he said:

“That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

 

Forgive and forget:

You might have been seriously screwed over in your life.

Or maybe you just can’t deal when someone cuts you off in traffic and you steam about it for blocks and come home and tell your spouse about that total dick who blah blah blah blah.

Ruminating over any situation is a huge mental health no-no. It’s associated with depression, anxiety and OCD.

Just let it go already.

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

– Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (1999)

Gratitude:

One of the first things we drill into our kids is to say thank you and we should be practicing what we preach.

A daily gratitude journal has been found to improve your sense of well being and positivity, increase your empathy, your physical health, improve your sleep, make you happier and reduce aggression, envy and frustration.  Just ten daily bullet points of good things in your life will do the trick.

Know that it’s not about the money:

A famous study in 2012 determined that the magic income was $75,000.

Apparently our happiness  increases with our income until we get to the $75,000 a year mark. After that, you get more opportunities but also more challenges – so your day to day happiness level doesn’t really improve as you get richer.

So maybe you’ve hit that $75,00 mark and maybe you haven’t.

In either case, it’s worth taking a breath and asking yourself what exactly you are working so hard for.

And if you’ve got a couple of extra bucks to spend, all the research shows that you’ll get much more happiness when you buy experiences (like a vacation, a course) rather than things (like a new pair of shoes). And even more so when you share those experiences with others.

Spend your leisure time in the ZONE

The funny thing is that we work so hard for our leisure time and then we just fuck it right up.

Most people spend their leisure time watching TV or on social media.

And studies show that both of these activities are shown to make us actually feel pretty crappy.

What we want to do is spend time in’flow’ or ‘the zone’. You know when you are happily immersed in some task that is kind of hard but still enjoyable and not stressful?

Examples of activities that promote flow are:

Puzzles

Reading a good book

Writing in a journal

Singing in a choir

Dancing

Playing cards

Gardening

Tennis and other amateur sports

So next time you have a precious sliver of free time, it’s worth asking yourself if what you choose to do will actually make you happy (and if not…why are you doing it?).

Seriously. Exercise.

You knew this was coming, right?

I’ve told you straight up before that exercise is actually not that great at helping you lose weight.

But exercise IS the fastest path to happiness. (which -again- is the real end goal)

The science that links exercise with elevated mood is so conclusive it doesn’t even make headlines anymore. Everyone from your GP to your mother will tell you to get some exercise if you are feeling down.

When dealing with clinical depression, some studies have shown regular exercise to be even more effective than medication.

Even if you aren’t depressed, moderate aerobic exercise (so going for a brisk walk, no burpees required) is shown to boost your mood for as long as twelve hours.

And if you are trying to lose weight, exercising is shown to increase your body confidence – EVEN IF YOUR BODY DOESN’T CHANGE.

Because again – it’s not the flat belly/thigh gap/toned arms that you want. It’s the FEELING that you think you will have when you finally achieve those things.

So why not skip directly to the feeling?

(Literally. Get skipping. It just might make you happy. 🙂

 


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Heather’s Healthy Lifestyle Makeover

Note from Oonagh:

When I first read Heather’s story, I thought her lifestyle would be hard to improve on!

As you’ll see – she is kind of a straight A student when it comes to fitness.

But then I spotted a few areas that could be tweaked that will give her much better results…

Let me know if you spot them before watching the video! – O


The Stats

Heather

49

Female

5’2″

184lbs

 

Goals:

My fitness goals are focused on endurance cycling. Being able to travel and ride with my boyfriend. Right now I am only able to ride with him on his recovery days. Due to my weight climbing hills is a struggle and huge effort. It would be nice for us to plan a vacation where we can do 100km rides together not worrying about terrain or location. This summer we are going to Portugal and I fear riding won’t be part of my trip due to the hills.

Challenges:

I am a person who works hard, I think in terms of challenges right now its losing weight. Weight loss would increase my overall fitness. In January 2017 I have done Moksha Yoga every day and spent over 10 hours on my bike (on a trainer). I have seen improvements in my strength, my endurance and my performance. No weight loss, very little change in my body and clothes. Its the struggle of working hard with little to no results that is my challenge.

Typical day:

Wake 5:30, Ride my bike for 30mins, Eat breakfast drive to work at 7am, leave work 4pm Yoga at 4:30. Home. Make dinner, eat 7:15pm (due to husbands training schedule) get ready for bed between 9-9:30

Breakfast

Coffee, Muesli Pita with Natural peanut butter and skiff of creamed honey

Lunch:

Salad with olive oil and vinegar, half a chicken breast, 1 slice of homemade sourdough. 1 cup homemade soup. (this is often eaten in stages over a couple of hours)

Snacks:

Daytime Buckin eh oats around 9:30 am 1/3 cup.

Sometimes an orange at some point in the morning or afternoon.

0% greek yogurt with 4 tbsp of homemade granola (chia, flax and wheat germ)

Night 250 ml of almond milk with vega protien and greens powder

Dinner:

Chicken breast, Pork Chop or Cod, basmati rice and broccoli. occasionally we add a salad

 

How happy are you with the state of your health? (scale of 1-10)

3

How happy with how you look?

2

 

Anything else I should know?

Last year I put 2500 km on my bike 2000 of those outside on the road.

I did not see a significant change in my body and my weight remained relatively the same.

I am wearing all the same clothes with really no change in fit.

I have hovered for the past few years between 180 and 190 pounds, with no significant difference regardless of the changes I have made.

I am frustrated, everything I do and have done would result in change for the average person.

I have had blood work done, I have had the celiac test, other than high iron everything is normal.

I don’t need to be a stick just need to be a healthy weight. Right now I am carrying and extra 30-40 pounds and its really difficult.

So….what advice would YOU give Heather?

Oonagh gives Heather a Healthy Lifestyle Makeover!

Resources for Heather:

Online bike training classes she can do from home:

Zwift  (classes you can stream at home to your TV or computer)

Peloton (an app)

Online yoga:

Yoga with Adrienne (a Youtube Channel)

Gaia (a paid streaming service)

Alternative breakfasts

Oonagh’s Favourite Smoothie

1/2 banana

2 cups kale

1 cup almond millk

1/2 cup blueberries

1 scoop Vega with greens

1 tbsp chia or flax seed

Simple scramble breakfast

2 eggs

1 handful of spinach

1 slice of Ezekial sprouted bread

Must reads:

What everyone ought to know about cycling for fitness. (This goes into more detail on how to get the most out of your cycling training and includes a workout for cyclists)

How to not exercise (this will explain more about why it’s so important to take time off!)

 

Leave a comment!

Did any part of Heather’s story resonate with you?

Do you have any tips for Heather that have worked for you?

Want to tell her that you are rooting for her and her upcoming trip?

Leave a comment below! 🙂

 

The 6 things I did to lose 25 lbs in 9 months

Last week I asked some of my most successful clients:

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I’m a personal trainer  – but there is something pretty awesome about tapping into a hive mind of normal people (with jobs and kids and social lives) who have collectively lost hundreds of pounds and completely changed their fitness trajectory.

They had a lot to say – and I’m so excited to share it with you in a series called Transformer Tips, starting with Holly.

Holly was actually our Fitness Story a few months ago. Since then, she’s reflected on the 6 things she did that actually delivered the results:


The 6 Things I did to Lose 25lbs in 9 months

by Holly Best

Scrimmaging through the storage closet for the only power cord we apparently own in the entire house, I stumbled upon our family scale.

Odd – as I had sworn I had thrown that sucker under the nearest bus this past spring, after it accurately informed me that I had gained 2.5 pounds.

Punch drunk from the paint fumes leaking out from the under a pile of skates, I recklessly decided to give it a go.

And it is at this point we all freak out when I reveal that  I most definitely have lost 25lbs.

Nine months ago, this plump, completely unhealthy, happy Momma (me) decided to get fit by joining all the things that Oonagh has put her name on.

And now with the holidays squarely in my face, I am THAT GIRL – the one who has A Weight-Loss Story.

That’s great, you wonder, but most probably shouting, how the hell did you do it?

Do these 6 things – and you too will be approaching strangers, yelling at them that you lost 25 pounds.

1.Try:

Nothing begins without a willingness to do something, anything.

Just do it for god’s sakes, who cares if

  • your clothes aren’t hip
  • your sneakers are sneakers, not trainers
  • that you tend to turn bright as a tomato after running half a block.

No one, truly cares, NO ONE.

But you will, trust me on this, you will every single time the endorphins hit and that little pride button starts shining.

 

2. Sweat:

Walking for 2 hrs –  while great – isn’t really going to burn the sweet muffin top off.

After working-out you should be an uncomfortably smelly version of yourself, vindicated by what you have accomplished but disgusted by your own body aura.

 

3. Support:

Find a support group, a work-out buddy, someone who will make you accountable because guess what losing 25 pounds healthfully is not going to happen after two weeks.

We are talking months people. MONTHS.

Personally, I enjoy having a trainer at hand, and a community of like-minded Transformers who will kick my butt while patting me on the back when things seem impossible.

Go figure, I am human.

 

4. Ignore:

Ignorance is bliss. Or at least it is with me.

The scale is my enemy, rather than showcasing a slow, positive decrease in poundage, the scale forever triggers my inner demon who whispers,

“you’re so fat”

“what the hell, only 2 pounds”

-crap.

To replace the scale, I use the clothing perspective, when a pair of pants I had in the closet for 3 years, FELL OFF my body in August, I realized that this shit was real.

Screw you scale.  The pants don’t lie.

 

5. Reduce:

Guess what? I ate too bloody much. All the bloody time.

ALL THE TIME.

The only way I learnt this was by joining the 28 Day Transformation Challenge.

It forced me to portion control, eat my veggies like some type of guru, stop snacking on my kid’s uneaten meals, and finally instructed me that sugar is not my boyfriend. My gawd, I wish I had a sugar boyfriend. Wait, I’m married.

 

6. Enjoy:

With all things in life, you should enjoy yourself, as these annual trips around the sun, are finite.

Once I realized that I hated lettuce, I stopped munching on it like some sad, depressive bunny.

The same can be said of running: it sucks.

Kickboxing and Bootcamp for some reason do not – hence my continued commitment to do both for close to an entire year.

 

There are a myriad of healthy options out there, folks – find what makes your heart sing, and you too will have a partner call you a gym rat (happily).

 

My name is Holly and this is my weight loss story. I still can’t believe it.

**

Holly Best – @GirlsSciFi

Holly Best, stay-at-home momma by day, voracious sci-fi reader by night, is taking over the world, one book review at a time. Her blog, Thank the Maker  is her perspective on all things sci-fi, and how it all ladders back to being a doting mom. Acquiring full geek status (and keeping it) isn’t easy and it’s one task Holly takes seriously, as she curls up with her favourite space operatic tome, quietly avoiding the laundry.


Did any of these tips resonate with you? Or what would you like to know about losing 25lbs in 9 months? Leave a comment below!

 

How to fight the Fuckits

If you are interested in fitness, you probably have a bunch of rules buzzing around your head at all times:

  • Should drink 8 glasses of water a day
  • Must do cardio, strength and flexibility training
  • Must get 10K steps in today
  • Should avoid sugar and starchy carbs
  • Must moderate booze intake
  • Should eat protein at every meal.

etc etc.

And now the Holidays are approaching and

**SPOILER ALERT***

A lot of these rules are going to collapse into a pile of mashed potato.

 

Because:

You are a guest at someone’s house

Because you are sick

Because drinking Bailey’s at 8am on Christmas morning with your dad is awesome.

Because there is no way you will make it through the office party without wine

Because your mum makes that marshmellow sweet potato casserole thing because she thinks it’s your favourite.

Because you are hungover as hell

Because your kids are home all day

Because it’s only once a year and you want to enjoy it and relax a little.
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And guess what? I’m actually down with all of that.  Really. I do want you to relax a little and enjoy the season.

**BUT**

Sometimes ‘relaxing a little’….. can turn into The Fuckits.

fuckit-gif

It happens like this:

“I’ve already broken my ‘no sugar’ rule and had a piece of pie. So fuck it. I’ll have three pieces.”

“ Well, I opened the bottle… So fuck it. Might as well finish it.”

“I missed my workout every day this week so far. So fuck it. I won’t bother going today. I’ll get in shape in January ”

The Fuckits are a recipe for weight gain and bing/purge behaviours that will screw up your metabolism long after that ball has dropped on New Years Eve.

So if any of those internal monologues sound familiar,  you need to implement:

 

Oonagh’s Two Rules

to Fight the Fuckits.

1. Exercise consistency.

 

Just do something.

Pretty much every day.

You don’t have to do the same old thing (those who signed up for my Get Better In December program are banging out quick 20 min at home workouts, for example.)

It doesn’t have to be hard (try Adrienne’s yoga for when you are hungover).

It doesn’t have to be long.

It just has to happen.

Because exercise is a keystone habit. Meaning that if you do it, it sets off a chain reaction that will lead to other positive decisions.

For example, you are less likely to eat Toaster Strudels for breakfast when you just came back from a run. Even a pathetically slow 10 min run.

You are less likely to finish the bottle of wine if you’ve paid for a Bootcamp class the next morning.

DO NOT WASTE MENTAL ENERGY on a big old debate about whether or not you REALLY have to exercise today because blahblahinsertexercusehereblah.

Listen to how funny your brain is trying to make excuses and then do something anyway.

2. Try moderation.

I know. Mega boring. My personal motto has always been:

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth OVERdoing!”

It’s a philosophy I’ve applied with gusto to everything from run training  to tequila shots, The Master Cleanse to eye makeup.

I love extremes. But extremes are unsustainable and therefore give birth to The Fuckits.

Check it out:

You could be someone who has two glasses of wine and then stops. ( I swear. I have met these people.)
You could go for long walks when you don’t feel like running.
You could make a small plate from the hors d’oevres table and then walk away like

explosion

The point is not to be PERFECT…

(and if you try to do that in December, you will probably fail and then get The Fuckits.)

The point is to make better decisions, more often.

And to relax and enjoy the season. 🙂


Did you like this post? If so, leave a comment below and tell me a bit about your strategy for staying fit during December!

How Meditating Helps You Lose Weight

This month in my online program we are focusing Sleep and Stress Reduction and one of the tasks I’ve given my clients is to try meditating for 20 mins every day.

 

And let me be clear.

Most of my clients hire me because they want to lose weight and get fitter, not because they are looking for a spiritual guru.

 giphy

So one of them asked,

 

What is the real value of adding 20 mins of daily meditation to my life? If I’m not stressed, sleep well and feel grounded in life as it is, should I bother?

 

To reply, I told her this story:

 

 

When I first heard that story, it really hit me. 

Because I can relate to that woman getting impatient in a yoga class.

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And I know that most of my clients have a pattern like this:

  1. Run around like crazy all day –

      2. Mindlessly eating whatever comes their way because they don’t have time to prepare

      3.  They try to chill themselves out with wine at the end of the day

….. and the cycle continues until you are burnt out, overweight and exhausted.

 

When you take the time to meditate every day, you are:

  • less likely to overeat
  • you will not need alcohol to help you relax
  •  you will lower your levels of cortisol, which leads to retention of belly fat.

 

So that’s how meditating helps you lose weight.

 

But more importantly, meditating every day will lead to a great acceptance and love of exactly how your body is RIGHT NOW. 

 Which is obviously the whole point. 🙂

PS.

To get you started on your meditation practice, here are some of my favourite meditations available for free online plus one of my own for you:

 

http://www.omvana.com/

https://www.calm.com/

https://www.headspace.com

 

And we use this story of a hot air balloon ride to put the kids to sleep:

 

Cosmic Kids Yoga Chanel also has a bunch of great guided relaxations for kids

 

And here’s a meditation of my own that I will often use to get grounded and get perspective: