In addition to my goals for the year, I have also undertaken the concept of #gettingdadfit. It’s not a fad diet plan, or fitness regime, it’s just getting up and doing more in order that I’ve got more energy to spend on my kids. Too many times I’ve got home from work, slumped on the sofa and whilst the kids are excited to see me, I come out with the inevitable, “Not now kids, Daddy just wants to rest a little.” The problem is that this began to become the norm and even at weekends I’d struggle to find the energy to invest in fun time with them. I’d half heartedly indulge in play time fantasy, but I began to notice that the amount of time I could play chase or be a horse or dance along to the Spice Girls got less and less, whilst the time spent on the sofa watching TV got more and more. Enough was enough and I decided to try and make more time for them.
I quickly identified that I wasn’t getting unfit, it was all mental. I was so drained by work that lethargy took a hold of me and I succumbed to it deeply. The cycle was vicious, because the more I gave in to it, the more lethargic I became and the less I moved, the less I moved the more lethargic I became. I knew I wasn’t getting unfit because I was still passing my fitness tests with work really quite easily, so I needed to address the mental weakness rather than the physical. The only way I thought I could do this was to get in the habit of moving when I was tired, drained, or just simply being lazy. The problem was, when? I finish work at around 5:30 – 6 and the kids go to bed at 7. If I went to the gym straight after work I would miss the kids and resign myself to only seeing them early in the morning or at weekends. I could go early in the morning, but I found that I’m definitely not a morning person!
In the end I decided that I would do it during work time, I have to be fit as part of my job, so they can sacrifice some time to let me maintain it and if I did it at the end of the day my will to live should be just low enough to test my mental resolve! This quickly became an issue, because I was finishing in the gym and then going home to excited young children who have more energy than the Duracell Bunny. So I decided that instead of going to the gym, I would use the time with my kids to get fit, doing press ups with them on my back, squats with them on my shoulders, playing tag and now one of my son’s favourite games on the iPhone is my Tabata app. So I’d cracked what I needed to do physically, but I realised that my nutrition was playing a key part in how I felt when I came home.
To be honest the food was really quite easy to find a solution to. If you struggle with lethargy, or mid afternoon slumps or general feeling of fatigue, chances are your blood sugar levels are way out of sync and you need to cut refined sugar from your diet, increase your fat and salt levels and do a diabetes check. But for me it goes further than just stop eating junk, it’s a balance of what I eat and at what time. I found that if I had carbs at breakfast I would have a mid morning slump that would be difficult to recover from and if I had a low fat lunch, I would have a mid afternoon slump. I dropped artificial foods and refined sugars, increased my fat intake and began having my carbs last thing at night. The thing that I did that will confuse most people, is increase my saturated fat intake and decrease carbs in order to get my body used to using fat as energy. Everyone fears fat, but it is incredibly good for you. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble. If you have no fat in your diet, you will suffer horribly of malnutrition and in severe cases die of it, but your fat sources have to be well sourced. Medium chain triglycerides are saturated fats that are easily broken down in the body and used as energy (they do not clog your arteries and they do not make you fat, provided you are in a calorie deficit). These fats come from sources like grass fed beef, oily fish, coconut oil and ghee.
In order to get this fat in I started every day by drinking an espresso mixed with coconut oil (delicious), cook with ghee (it is far more stable at high temperatures than vegetable or olive oils and is much better for you) and eat grass fed beef, oily fish and full fat butter from grass fed cows. Trust me, do not be afraid of this fat! The other thing that I did in order to avoid a mid morning slump by having carbs at breakfast was to have my carbs at night. The notion of no carbs after 7 is a complete fallacy for me personally. By having a bowl of oat bran porridge just before bed, I partially replenish glycogen and that provides me with enough energy for the whole of the following morning and if it runs short, my body then relies on the fat that I have with my coffee (or body fat). The more your body gets used to using fat as energy, the more reliant it becomes on body fat to subsidise the lack of carb provision. In order to provide roughage and a good supply of vitamins and minerals, I limited my veg intake to the following 5 sources: Kale; Spinach; Sprouts; Broccoli; and Cauliflower.
The other thing I did was to stop weighing myself. As my body changed, I expected my weight to change but it didn’t. I lost 9lbs in my first week of change (all water weight, possibly some muscle breakdown), over the next 4 weeks it all came back on, but I had lost 4 inches of my waist gained 2 inches on my calves and chest and an extra inch on my biceps. My point being that scales should not define you, choose a different less enslaving way of measuring your success such as how long you can play tag before you get tired, or how many peekaboo push ups you can do, or even body measurements or how you feel when you look in the mirror. If you rely solely on weight as a measure of success your mood will fluctuate just as much as the scales!
Needless to say, my energy levels improved, my mood changed and my outlook became brighter, but I keep this drawing that my daughter made of me to remind me why I do what I do and why I will keep doing it. I don’t want my kids to be embarrassed of me when they are older, I don’t want them to think they can never play with me because I am too tired and I certainly don’t want them to draw a picture like this ever again hahaha.
Have you ever had to call playtime short because of your fitness levels, have your kids ever shocked you into changing the way you live your life or yourself? Sometimes it takes the blunt honesty of kids to make us see that we need to change.