Happy & healthy life at any time and ages

Born in England Rona Morgan has made a great career in a banking. She had been managing large branches of HSBC in London, then for 13 years in Hong Kong, and more years in Melbourne, Australia. But now, instead of chilling during her retiring, Rona is a very happy woman with her new full-time job as a health-life coach, personal and small group exercise trainer in Singapore.

I have met Rona at a biggest fitness educational conference in Asia for fitness, health and wellness professionals in Bangkok (Asia Fitness Conference and Expo 2015). When I heard her life story and the way to fitness pro, I understood I have to share this motivational story with people. Rona knows well what does it mean to be busy, stressed and depressed with your business and job. She was not in a good shape or fitness person for all her life. But she has found a way to manage an active and healthy lifestyle regularly, has lost 20 kg, and used the time from banking retirement to study Personal Trainer and Health Coach certifications.

Me: Have you ever been in a bad shape?

Rona: I started my first diet at the age of 13 and had been on and off a weight-loss diet for most of my adult life. While I had always been active, there were periods of my life when I was very busy, stressed and sometimes travelling for work, which impacted my exercise regime and my health. I would say there were 3 occasions when I lost a significant amount of weight, each time vowing never to regain it!

On the last occasion, I was in Australia. I foolishly believed that moving to Australia would enable me to get fitter and healthier because of the outdoor lifestyle and fresh food, both of which are highly limited in Hong Kong.  I was wrong, and gained even more weight due to a number of factors including hormonal changes, great food and great wine which is relatively inexpensive, and stress.  Due to my job, I wasn’t as active as I should have been, although I did try.

I joined the gym in the same building as my office and came across a Step class and I loved it. I used to do Step a lot in Hong Kong and at one time, I used to do 5 classes a week. I went into the classes with a bit too much enthusiasm and at the beginning of my fourth class, I badly sprained my ankle. It was quite bad, and I didn’t work out for quite a while. I became depressed. I felt I was not in control of my weight and I would end up being obese.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How did you find your motivation again?

Rona: Eventually, it was husband who took positive action. He came across a small PT studio near where we lived and signed us both up. They specialize in weight-loss among other things and friend of mine had also lost weight with them. It was a very non-threatening and friendly atmosphere and all the team knew our names and greeted us each time we went. In addition to PT, they ran a lot of group exercise classes, which were fun, and so we went almost every day!

Our weight-loss was slow and steady. In 10 months, I lost 20kg and John lost 30kg. In the process, we learned more about nutrition and healthy eating. I think doing it together was huge factor in our success, since we would shop and cook together and most importantly, did not lead each other astray, even on holidays. We have maintained the weight-loss now for more than 3 years.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: Why did you decide to be a PT and Health coach?

Rona: I have always been interested in health and fitness and it was more than 10 years earlier (when I had lost weight and got fit after an operation), that I first thought about trying to help others, particularly mature women, to lose weight and get fit.  I saw a gap in the market at that time, as many older women find the gym environment intimidating.  That idea was put on the back burner when my career took off but once I decided to “retire” from banking and having achieved my lasting transformation, it became a possibility. With not working for the first time in my adult life, I had the time and energy to study, so I took the ACE personal Trainer and ACE Health Coach certifications, as well as a nutrition qualification.  I also achieve a Functional Ageing Specialist certification, as this is an area that particularly interests me and is not well served by our industry yet.

Me: Are you happy now? Why?

Rona: I am very happy now, as I feel I doing something very worthwhile and helping others to make changes in their lives.  I was also very fortunate to be hired by a new concept club that’s looking at a holistic approach to wellness for senior executives, business people etc.  This is a very good match for me, having worked in the corporate world for so many years.  I understand their challenges.  Every day, I use my previous corporate experience to help me to help others.  The last 10 years of my banking career were in Risk Management and I see a lot of similarities in the world of wellness.  I am passionate about disease prevention and exercise as medicine.  The world is facing a health crisis of epidemic proportions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc).  I hope to change the world, one person at a time.

Me: What is your schedule now?

Rona: I am currently working full-time at the club I mentioned. My normal day is coaching a few clients, running a small group class and helping with health assessments. I am also continuing my studies in the next levels of nutrition and coaching.

I try to workout every day, except Sunday, when we usually take a long, evening walk. I think the general population believes that people in the fitness industry are super fit but I have seen a large number of fitness professionals who are not “walking the talk”. While I don’t think I am “super fit”, I try hard to maintain a very good level of fitness.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How can you explain your working style in a fitness industry?

Rona: I design my own workout programmes or borrow from the many sources that I read.  I love to try new things and always test before I use with clients.  I like to use combination exercises, which challenge the mind as well as the body and my current favorite thing is to incorporate a short metabolic circuit into sessions, which my clients enjoy too.  My approach is total body conditioning rather than to train isolated body parts, unless that’s what a client specifically requests.

My philosophy is to get people moving better and feeling better about themselves, at any age. For the future, I would like to further explore the market for mature adults and continue as a specialist weight-loss coach.

Me: How would you describe a good fitness & health coach?

Rona: Personal Training 101 starts with rapport, and that principle endures. A good coach is someone with great listening skills and empathy for their client. It is also someone who understands what their client is experiencing in their lives and someone who can identify and build on the client’s existing competancies and recognise their achievements.

Me: What is your main principle to keep happiness?

Rona: To stay happy, I count my blessings.  I acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to live the life I lead and to be fit and healthy.  

Brownie (sugar and gluten free)

Yummy! I have found a good ratio of ingredients for a home-made brownie! Of course, there were no sugar, no gluten, no butter. We both say this is a best brownie in our life 🙂

Ingredients:

Bananas – 2 pieces;

Baking powder – 1 tea spoon;

Cacao nibs or cacao powder – 7 tea spoons;

Water – 50 ml;

Eggs – 2 pieces;

Coconut oil – 3-4 tablespoons;

Flaxseeds – 4-5 tablespoons;

Brown rice flour – 4-5 tablespoons;

Dates – 7-10 pieces;

Walnuts – by your taste.

I whip bananas, baking powder, cacao nibs and water up in a blender. In a separate bowl I whip eggs and coconut oil by hand mixer. Then I add a liquid from the blender to the bowl and mix it together. Then add a grounded flaxseeds and a rice flour. You can also add an additional cacao nibs or powder. The wight should be enough thick. Finally I add there a chopped dates and spread in a silicone shape for baking. But before I sprinkle this with grated walnuts. And put it to bake for 35 minutes at 180C.

Homemade brownie is a great desert or breakfast for a healthy Christmas and New Year holidays! 🙂

 

Karin G. Reiter. Australian Medical Nutritionist

Australian Nutritionist Karin G. Reiter inspires me not only to change in nutrition. She was an lawyer in a bank industry some years ago, studied Medical Nutrition, opened her Nutrition clinic in Singapore, became the wife of a happy husband and a mother of two healthy children. In the same time Karin was educated as a personal fitness trainer, shares her professional and personal experience in her blog Nutrisious&Delicious, has launched its own free ebook with healthy recipes, exercise five times a week, and just lives a fulfilled, meaningful life.

LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO EAT A GOOD FOOD

Karin is my teacher about medical nutrition during the course “Personal trainer FISAF Singapore”. I am very inspired by her lectures, and wanted to know more how she organizes a healthy food habits for her family with two children at ages five and three years old.

Me: How do you teach your children to eat healthy food?

Karin: They were born to know healthy food flavors from birth. They eat vegetables, fruits whole grains like quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds… I make an almond milk… So they know flours in their systems and they love it. The challenges happen around the ages 3 or 4 when the children see the other children eating unhealthy food. So I do a workshop called “Kids eat healthy”. I educate parents why some food is unhealthy for children and how to get your children to eat healthy food. Because most people don’t really understand why some food is best avoided or how to get their kids to eat healthy. And also I explain sociological side how to deal with that: children should eat 90% healthy food cooking at home or eating at healthy restaurants. My kids love sushi and there are many places in Singapore where you can find fresh juices. So it’s very easy for us to eat out. And we never eat at McDonalds or places like that. And when we go to parties, I allow the children to eat whatever they want. Because this is a small percent of their food. They are still kids.

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Me: You told me that problems happen around the ages three to four. So how do you persuade them to eat healthy food 90% of their time?

Karin: You don’t persuade children. And you don’t teach them what is the nutrition food. You just try to create positive thoughts for their habits. I’m modeling behavior for my children. I eat healthy food, they eat healthy food. They help me to cook food. They help prepare the food, touching it, smelling it, learning about it. They come shopping with us to the markets. So they know well what is healthy food. And when they choose healthy food, I tell them “Good choice, healthy choice”. When my daughter wants to eat unhealthy food, she knows this is unhealthy. And sometimes she can say me “I feel a stomachache”. And I remind her, she has a stomachache because she ate an unhealthy food. Or also there is a big connection between unhealthy food and children’s reaction and feelings. When you have kids one day, you will see that when they eat unhealthy food, they have mass of reaction. Really like running around, crying. And it’s very difficult to manage. So I try to show connection to my daughter how she eats and how she feels.

Me: What are the general rules to choose a good food?

Karin: The first is it’s a natural form: coming from trees, from a ground rather than something coming from a box. And fresh is best. Also little or no ingredients. You need understand all ingredients. I strongly recommend eating 80% of plant-based food: vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and different kinds of whole grain, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat…. Things like that.

Me: And how many times a day do you eat? How many times a day do you recommend to eat?

Karin: There is no one recommendation for every persons. Everyone isn’t the same. Some people need to eat six meals a day, and other three meals a day. I think it really depends on your hunger, your personality. I think generally you should eat around every two hours when your stomach is empty of previous food. So it can be three main meals, and two-three small meals. Or ot can be six small meals.

The photo is from a personal archive of Karin
The photo is from a personal archive of Karin

Me: How much time do you spend for cooking every day? Because some people think it’s quite difficult to cook healthy food.  

Karin: I usually write down a menu plan on Friday for the next week. So know where my kids will go next week, or if we have guests at home. On Saturday I make shop for a whole week. And then usually on Sunday I cook four or five different big dishes. I make a lot of vegetables, I make hummus, I a big soup, I make much amount of beans or lentils, I make an almond milk. I don’t make fresh food in advance. I like fresh salads, green juices and smoothies, which I can prepare very quickly during a week. And I cook some fish, steamed vegetables during a week too. I don’t spend so much time for cooking. I usually spend one day for shopping, one big day for cooking around for three hours, and 30 minutes for cooking during weekday.

Me: How do you help your clients to change them?

Karin: We set goals: where we are gonna to be six weeks later, 12 weeks later or one year from now. And how we are gonna to get these goals. Maybe one week you cut out this type of food. You know, that’s the goal for this week. So it’s about the goals. But also about the plans how to make these goals. For example, if you want to decrease your cholesterol, how are you gonna to do it? Are you gonna to workout three times a week, to eat fresh vegetable salads for lunch every time, and you’re gonna to cook by yourself 90% of time.

Me: What could you recommend to people who have allergies?

Karin: You need to define if you have food allergy or food sensitivity. You feel tired, your mood is not good, your skin is not good, your bowel is not working correctly then you might have food sensitivity. The cheapest way to test if you are allergic to certain foods is to do elimination diet. So generally many people don’t feel good to gluten or wheat, dairy products, eggs and nuts. So and you need to avoid these food for two weeks but 100% to avoid them. And after two weeks one by one to add them and to see if you have a reaction. And if you have some of reaction like your skin, stomachache or headache, or diarrhea. It means you have sensitivity to this food. So you should cut out of your diet.

Me: Could you let us know your food diary for a day?

Karin: I don’t eat the same every day. But I can say what I ate yesterday. I had a green juice for breakfast with muesli, almond milk and berries. And then I had buckwheat with homemade hummus and fresh salad, and lemon for lunch. And afternoon I had berries, and some nuts, and some pineapple. And then for dinner I had a sweet potato with a small piece of fish and a big salad.

The photo is from a personal archive of Karin
The photo is from a personal archive of Karin

Me: And if a person wants to lose just 2-3 kg, what could you suggest generally?

Karin: Go back to the labels of food, which you eat. They should be simple with few ingredients. Drink a lot of water, eat a lot of vegetables in all forms: soups, salads, juices. Limit your fruits during a day (up to three fruits per day), eat only whole grains, and reduce the amounts of animals, which you eat.

Me: Thank you so much! And what is your main advice for people?

Karin: My main advice for people you should listen your body. You should learn about your body. Most people have no idea: they listen to the doctors, they listen to other people. Don’t follow the trends, magazines. The point is not to be skinny; the point is to be happy. And nutrition connects with your happy. When you eat a good food, you are happy. You are happy inside and love yourself enough to eat a good food. So all starts to love yourself and being true to yourself.

Green smoothies

Good morning!

I’m accustomed myself to making smoothies in the morning. I pour it in a sport bottle and take to work. So I can have tasty and enriched bite in the first half of the day. Yesterday I had orange smoothie with carrots, papaya and almond milk.

Today I have green smoothie (for two):

  •  2 kiwi
  •  1 green apple
  • 1 glass of water
  • Couple pieces of a pineapple
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of stevia

Enjoy the mornings! 🙂

Morning notes and fruit salad with cinnamon

Morning is my favorite time of the day. In the morning I love to do the most pleasant things: practice yoga, cook delicious breakfast, read a book, work out or just go for a walk. Recently I began to write morning notes. They say it helps to disclose the creativity. You wake up in the morning; you take a pen and write everything you have in your head (use a pen, not the keyboard or touch screen). The main thing is to write everything, even some funny and crazy thoughts!

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This morning I wrote my notes and made bright fruit salad for breakfast.

Fruit salad (for two):

  • 1 kiwi
  • ½ pineapple
  •  ¼ watermelon
  • Cinnamon to your taste
  • Home-made yoghurt or non-fat cottage cheese to your taste (optional)

Let this day be also bright and rich!

Fruits and nuts smoothie for breakfast

A multilayer smoothie! Beautiful, healthy and nutritious!

I rescheduled my workout in order to make it and take some pictures of it.

Multilayer smoothies look really beautiful in transparent glass. I also enjoy the richness of taste when I eat different layers with the small spoon and occasionally mix them.

Fruit and nut smoothie (for two):

  • 1 mango
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 kiwi
  • Fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • About 20 Hazelnuts
  • 100 g of homemade yoghurt (or non-fat cottage cheese)
  •  8 walnuts

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Blend the mango and pour the first layer into the glasses. Wash the blender. Then blend avocado, kiwi, mint and cinnamon. Pour a second layer. Put hazelnuts on the top. Then pour homemade yoghurt or non-fat cottage cheese. Decorate your smoothie with walnuts, hazelnuts and mint leaves.

Enjoy the taste of this wonderful breakfast!

Carbohydrate lunch in 20 minutes: pasta with salmon in a coconut milk

Today I have carbohydrate day and I eat cereals, rice noodles, rice and/or buckwheat crisp breads and bananas. But no other fruits, and no fat.

I cooked rice pasta with salmon in a coconut milk for lunch! I stewed the salmon in multi cooker for 10 minutes. At the same time I put noodles in boiling water. You need only three minutes to cook rice noodle! Then I stewed the noodle with olive oil for couple of minutes and added finely cutted salmon with five spoons of coconut milk. I love coconut milk; it adds a zest to any dish! In Russian supermarkets a bottle of such milk costs 100-120 rubles. That’s enough for a week of everyday use.

Today I cooked not just regular rice noodles but with moroheiya added. I’ve never tried to find it in Russia but I brought it from Vietnam. I was delivered from Thailand by a Californian shipping company. Moroheiya has been grown in Egypt since ancient times. Few people know that it contains vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber more than five times that of other herbs and vegetables. If somebody finds moroheiya noodles in Russia, please leave a comment 🙂

Anyway instead of moroheiya you can use rice or glass noodles to cook this nutritious and delicious lunch!

A healthy dinner in 20 minutes!

Most people think that you have to spend a lot of time to cook a healthy food. But this is not true. I usually spend 20-30 minutes to cook dinner. Of course, sometimes you have to do some preparations but it is not the reason to eat something unhealthy.

For example, sometimes I boil beet and keep it in a fridge till next day. While the beet is boiling you can do some housework if you want. Also I always have some defrosted ready-to-cook fish in my fridge.

So yesterday I cooked salmon steak. I used multi-cooker and added some olive oil. As for spices, I used some salt, dried mint, a little bit of rosemary and juice of fresh lemon. Because of multi-cooker I cooked it really fast – in 10 minutes. You can also stew the fish in a frying pan with an olive oil and some water for 15 minutes.

I also cooked vegetable salad with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, fresh cucumber and sweet pepper. As for dressing, I used my favorite balsamic vinegar, some olive oil and black pepper. To diversify my meal I grated some beet and added olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some sesame.

Bon appetite! 🙂

Breakfast: cottage cheese pancakes with strawberry

Recently I’ve cooked our favorite cottage cheese pancakes. That time I added more eggs and flour so portions were bigger than usual. I had them for breakfast and I wasn’t hungry for several hours till lunch. Time of cooking: 10 minutes to prepare paste, 10 minutes for frying and making strawberry mix at the same time. Total: 20 minutes.

I always put the meal into the separate plates for each of us. We don’t have additional plates or salad bowls with food on the table lest you want to eat more. In fact, a plate of food is quite enough to satiate the stomach.

The recipe of my pancakes:

  • 2 small eggs;
  • 2 small white eggs;
  • 1 teaspoon of stevia;
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon;
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla;
  • 3 spoons of rice flour;
  • 3 spoons of coconut flour;
  • 200 grams of cottage cheese.

I mixed all ingredients in a blender, then I fried pancakes in a pan with olive oil. At the same time I put washed strawberries in a blender, added one teaspoon of stevia and two spoons of coconut milk. Then I put three pancakes with strawberry “jam” in the middle of plate. I also put some berries to the pancakes and poured blended strawberries into the glasses to use it as a jam.

Bon appetite!

My nutrition or how to increase the immunity and loose 6 kg a month

Today I’m going to tell you about my nutrition that saved me from permanent colds and illnesses. It also helped my dad to lose six kg a month, my mom – three kg, and my boyfriend has lost four kg a month!

More than two years ago I had permanent immunity problems. It forced me to study different nutrition researches. I found out how the food influenced our health and lifetime.

Analysis of food preferences of people from different countries led scientists to impressive results. People with complex illnesses started to feel better; they got rid of symptoms and as a result had an eventful high-quality life for more than 80 years. It is not a one-time diet: first results can be seen only after 6-12 months. This is the diet for the whole life.

Having read lots of information I realized that everything we eat is potentially affecting our lifetime. I decided I love myself so much that I’m ready to stop eating cookies, chocolate, meat, mayonnaise and so on. That’s right; two years ago I’d been eating it every day!

So here is the summary of all the information that I’ve found in internet about a healthy diet. It became my healthy lifestyle program.

I harshly changed my nutrition. We discussed all the information on family council and decided to change our diet together.

First two weeks were the hardest. When we went to a supermarket we realized that at least 80% of food selling there was unhealthy. I had a headache after 30 minutes of reading lists of ingredients. During two first weeks I was hungry all the time. At such moments I’ve been eating the small amount of fruits, vegetables or nuts. But then everything has changed! I felt lightness and cheerfulness; it seemed there was more positive in my life and my brain started to work better and faster.

Later I felt terrible after eating something unhealthy (pizza, chocolate or French fries) and I didn’t ever want to eat it again.

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So here are my nutrition principles and their reasons*:
*Please, pay attention there aren’t prescriptions. This is just my personal experience. And this is your personal or your doctor responsibility to choose and/or prescribe any diet.

Principle Reason
(how I explain the reasons for myself*)
Exclusion of gluten: no wheat flour, barley or rye. It means you have to exclude bread, sweets, wheat noodles, kvass, beer, whisky, and oatmeal. Wheat, barley and rye contain gluten. It makes your intestinal walls thinner so pathogenic bacteria can penetrate into your blood. They also contain proteins, which cause cancer and autoimmune diseases.
90% exclusion of dairy products: milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. Dairy products contain unhealthy proteins; they also contain fats, which cause different diseases and shorten your lifetime. I drink a cup of coffee with milk once a day.
Exclusion of red meat: beef, pork, and mutton. Researchers say that you can eat boiled beef or mutton once a week. Meat contains saturated fats, which increase your cholesterol level and the risk to heart disease and diabetes.
Saturated fats were replaced with unsaturated. For example, I don’t have any sunflower oil at home, but I eat more olive oil, nuts, red fish and olives.

I also reduced the amount of eggs consumption.

Saturated fats are increasing cholesterol level.
Exclusion of legumes: haricot, peanuts, and peas. I eat soy sauce but only with sashimi 🙂 Legumes contain unhealthy proteins, which can cause undesirable immune reactions or may be reason of cancer diseases.
Exclusion of sweets, any drinks from the shop, food with high content of sugar. They cause undesirable immune reactions; reduce intestinal flora.
Exclusion of semi-prepared foods e.g. sausages. Also mayonnaise and ketchup. Large amount of saturated fats. Plus you cannot control the production of this food and you never know what it contains.

Here is the list of my food daily plan:

  • Fish and seafood – two times a day for lunch and dinner;
  • Lots of vegetables – lunch and dinner;
  • Filleted chicken and turkey. I don’t eat it for the last year; formerly I had been alternating it with fish and seafood;
  • Rice or buckwheat crisp breads;
  • Rice or glass noodles, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa;
  • Fresh fruits;
  • Dried fruits and nuts;
  • Stevia instead of sugar just for baking;
  • Sweets of my own recipe (rice or coconut flour and stevia) – one-two times a week;
  • Eggs in the sweets or in the omelet – once or twice a week;
  • Coffee with milk without sugar – one time a day. Sugar can be replaced with stevia. You can put it into container and keep it in your bag;
  • Any amounts of greens;
  • Lots of water of room temperature.

Once a week I have a cheating day when I can eat scoop of ice cream or some cake in a cafe.

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I’m used to my nutrition and have no problems with it at all. I enjoy eating savory vegetables, fresh fruits and delicious fish and seafood!

I love cooking a healthy food and this is actually easier than to cook the food from my past life 🙂 My health has greatly improved for the last two years! I became healthier, more cheerful, more active and more creative! All the time and money I spend on healthy diet will be the best investment in the life!