Healthy mind, healthy body

A lot of the most important changes in the body have to start in the mind. At Inspirit Retreats in Portugal, we spend a lot of time working on people’s mindsets. Bootcamps are all very well for burning off a few pounds before putting them back on again – but real, lasting change is all about new perspectives.

It’s not uncommon for people to come to us telling us ‘I have to get rid of this fat’, deep in despair at the impossibility of their situation, focusing only on how unhappy they are currently, and how much this is something they do not want.

When you feel like that, there’s no way forward. You sink into a cycle of depression, and your motivation and energy drains away.

The solution? It’s all in the mind.

There are some really helpful visualisation techniques which can start getting you towards the place you want to be, and these are something we find we use a lot in our work at Inspirit Retreats. We help our clients focus their attention on what it is they want, and give them a hand getting there – it’s amazing to see what can be achieved once goals are defined and people are in the right mindset to reach them.

You can train every day of the week and eat as cleanly and restrictively as an Olympic athlete, but if your mind is in the wrong place your body will be in the wrong place too. An Inspirit Retreat is designed to help with that.

One more cup of coffee

Like most people, we love coffee and think it makes the world a better place. But as fitness and wellbeing experts, we have to take a professional view too.

So do you want the good news? Coffee can have huge health and weight loss benefits! That’s because coffee is a very powerful antioxidant, and if you drink it before a training session it can massively increase your fat-burning potential.

This welcome truth does come with a big disclaimer, though: the other things that go with coffee – creams, milks, sugars and syrups – can turn it into a serious source of fat. With more than 200 calories in a cup, these souped-up versions are putting inches on waists everywhere.

And that’s not the only way coffee can cause a problem with your weight. Caffeine spikes the stress hormone cortisol, which becomes chronically elevated if high amounts are consumed.

Cortisol is good, earlier in the day. We need it to mobilize energy to go about our business, and it can break down fat when we exercise. But the higher your cortisol levels are later in the day, the more fat you’ll store around your belly.

Coffee is a big part of the culture down in the Algarve where Inspirit Retreat is based, and we often go to local cafés to enjoy it – but we’re careful to use it wisely.

We recommend you drink coffee earlier in the day (ideally before 1pm), keep it as low-calorie as you can (by avoiding all the extras), and use it before training to make the most of its fat-burning properties.

We also recommend you buy quality, organic coffee which hasn’t been exposed to pesticides. These can cause issues with excess oestrogen, among many others, which isn’t much good when it comes to weight loss. And properly good coffee tastes much better, too.

Negative needs

“Need” can be a dangerous word. Many of our clients come to us because they “need” to lose weight. They’re obsessed with that stubborn belly fat, those flabby arms, those big hips…

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with identifying problem areas to address. But if all your “need” is focused on the problem itself, there’s no room left for what you’re going to do about it, and it’ll always feel like more of the same.

So here are a few simple things which will help.

  • Go beyond concentrating on what you don’t want, and be clear on what you do want instead. Be specific.
  • Now you can find out what it will take to get there. This includes diet, workouts and lifestyle changes. Don’t just pick the latest diet fad. Ask someone who consistently gets results: how do they do it?
  • Focus on where you’re heading. Stop talking about those negative “needs”, and start looking forward to those positive results: once you’ve started the process, there’s no reason at all you won’t get there if you believe in yourself – so look forward to it. Visualisation techniques can help with this.
  • Be consistent with your training and diet. Yes, it would be nice to say it’s all in the mind, but be sensible and practical about the daily basics too.

If you “need” (!) any advice to get you started, reach out and we’ll help point you in the right direction.

Guardian angels

Over many years of working with people looking to achieve health and fitness goals, we’ve noticed that there’s something the ones who do really well all have in common: they all have great support.

This is so important. Working towards a new you can be a lonely business, but everything – the food, the exercise, the lifestyle – is made so much easier if there are some people around who want to head the same way.

It’s one of the things that makes our residential courses in the Algarve so successful: every member of our small groups (there are never more than eight) shares similar aims and may also be grappling with some similar issues, and we see a lot of value in the mutual support guests give each other during their stay.

Of course, no two people are the same, and each guest is treated as an individual with a personally tailored programme. But the camaraderie and friendships that develop at Inspirit Retreat play a big part in the overall experience.

You need that camaraderie and friendship when you’re not on an Inspirit Retreat, too – and that’s why we always recommend that you try to find some likeminded people who’ll support you in your health and wellbeing goals.

Who they are isn’t important. They could be family, friends, colleagues, or strangers you meet at a group – what really matters is that they’ll understand and care about what you’re trying to achieve, and will always be there with that quiet word of encouragement when you need it the most.

Top of the morning

What’s the first thing you drink in the morning?

Tastes vary. A glass of juice for some, a cup of tea for others? We usually used to have a sip of water and then get stuck into the caffeine!

But for the last couple of years we’ve been enjoying something else, and it’s been working so well for us that we’ve been encouraging all of our clients at Inspirit Retreat to give it a go.

What is this wonderful secret? All it is is a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt, and some filtered water.

It’s a simple mix, but it’s full of benefits. Lemon and lime are both very friendly to the liver, as well as good for the digestive system. The better your liver works, the easier it is for you to drop body fat. Meanwhile, if your digestive system is working well then it is less likely you’ll feel bloated, sluggish or tired during the day.

The Himalayan salt helps restore good electrolyte balance in your body, which again means less bloating as you’re less likely to ‘hold’ water.

Why not give it a try? We think you’ll soon notice a difference.

As a general point, remember that dehydration makes it harder to drop stubborn fat, so make sure you drink plenty during the day. You can add sliced lemons and limes to your water to make it a bit more interesting. We recommend one litre per 50 pounds of body weight, and more on days when you exercise.

Under pressure

Have you ever noticed how much pressure people tend to put themselves under when they decide they want to make changes to their body?

They’ll hurl themselves into a restrictive diet or an intense bootcamp regime, suffer like crazy, and maybe it’ll work for a while in a limited way. But what they’re doing is so unenjoyable, so extreme, that there’s no way of sustaining it indefinitely. And then it all stops – and slowly but surely the problems begin to pile up again.

That’s not how we believe in doing things at Inspirit Retreat. If you want to look and feel better you don’t need a chicken and broccoli diet while living year-round at the gym. You just need to make a few small changes and learn some useful habits, and the incremental changes will soon start to build.

The point is that if you’re enjoying a few small improvements and not slavishly sticking to unpleasant things you know deep down aren’t going to work, the way forward becomes much clearer, and you’ll notice the change. Losing a pound a week really is no big deal – keep it up for a year, suddenly you’re 50 pounds lighter, and you haven’t put yourself under too much pressure.

If you come out on an Inspirit Retreat, you’ll find we focus a lot on your individual tastes and habits, because lasting change is much more likely if it fits into a lifestyle that suits you and that doesn’t need enormous effort to accomplish. We’ll work with you to set you on the path towards greater wellbeing, but it’s a path you should be able to walk with confidence, and maybe even enjoy the view.