So, here you are. You’ve made a decision to make a change, health-wise. Well done! We’re about to embark upon a journey to change not only your physical health, but your mindset, diet and complete outlook on health and fitness. It may feel like you are taking a huge step today, but the biggest and most amazing changes happen by putting one foot in front of the other and taking one step at a time.
If you feel a little nervous, just remember that so many people have undertaken this process before you, all with different goals and aspirations. Your goal, just like you, is unique. Where do you see yourself at the end of this program? What’s your ultimate body goal? Got it fixed firmly in your head? Good. Write it down, then put it somewhere you’ll see and read it every day. Stick it to your bathroom mirror or under your computer screen, or pop it in your wallet or handbag. Just make sure it’s easily accessible for those times when you are questioning why you started, or are lacking motivation. You’re bound to have those moments, but reminding yourself why you want this, and how you want to look and feel at the end can be very powerful ways to get yourself back on track.
The key to success is to constantly remind yourself of the end goal. You might be a long-term goal person or a step-by-stepper – there are so many different ways to succeed. We just need to find your way, so that at the end, you’re exactly where you want to be: a stronger, fitter, healthier and happier version of you.
Ready? Then let’s get started.
What to expect
Week one will be a shock. Even if you already have a good, balanced diet and enjoy a rigorous exercise routine, it’s going to challenge you because it’s different from what you usually do. The hardest part of any new routine is the first two weeks. Drinking more water, changing your eating habits, exercising and forgoing everyday treats can be tough. But if you can do it for 5 to 10 days straight, you can make a real difference straight out of the starting gates.
The challenges you face when it comes to food will depend on your personality type; you might have to curb your sweet tooth or avoid the salty snacks you love. You might be an emotional eater, or stress might make you lose your appetite. When you face temptation, remind yourself why you’re doing this, and that this program is not just about the food. It’s about creating healthy new habits, finding new hobbies and fitness activities to enjoy, and discovering new healthier meals.
Every person reacts differently to our program.
You might find that it makes you feel slow or lethargic, or maybe a little bit weak. Or, you may notice an increase in energy. However you feel is fine. Listen to your body and give it the extra support it needs to get through this challenging time – that might be drinking more water, getting to bed earlier or having a healthy snack. Just try to stick to the program as much as you can. Your body and mind are smart – they’re used to a routine, and you are probably dramatically changing the routine they have been used to for many years. Building new habits will take time.
Take your measurements
This might not be a fun step, but it’s an important one. Tracking your numbers on this journey is going to be vital to your motivation, your dedication and your enthusiasm. Taking measurements is the most honest and true record of your progress, and there’s nothing like seeing those numbers change to keep you pushing through the weeks.
These are the important figures to take note of:
[A] Dress/pants size
Write down your measurements before you start day one of this program, because you’re going to start noticing changes quickly. We also want you to take a few ‘before’ photos. Get down to your underwear (or go au naturel, if that’s your thing) and ask your partner/mum/mate to take the photos, or set the timer function on your phone’s
camera. You want three photos: one from the front, one from the side and one from the back. It might not be fun to look at those right now, but keep visualising where you’ll be after 8 weeks. Print these out, then put them into an envelope in a safe place. Trust me, you’ll be glad you have them 8 weeks from now.
You might be wondering why we haven’t asked you to weigh yourself. It’s because your weight doesn’t matter for this program. These measurements and your photos will be enough. Trust us!
Stop and think
It’s a good idea to think of this eating plan as a reboot rather than a diet. Making changes is definitely hard, but try to focus on what you will have at the end of the 8 weeks as your biggest reward. You’re teaching your body how to use food for the right reasons again. Your body probably knew how to do it once, but it forgot along the way, when all the healthier choices that your parents made for you became your responsibility. That’s why diets don’t work – they have a start and a finish. This plan, however, is a foundation for what comes next.
How often do you open the fridge when you aren’t hungry, search through it and then eat something simply because you’re bored? We’ve all done it, but we’re going to work on eliminating that habit. We want you to try to do something else – make a cup of tea or coffee, make a phone call or step outside for some fresh air. Try not to let a habitual food temptation trip you up every time.
So take a moment to stop and think: how can you start to choose healthier options that you will look forward to eating? Eat slowly and enjoy the taste. A salad will still taste good after an hour on your plate. Fast food tastes stale and almost old once it gets cold or sits on your plate for that same hour.
Embrace your new diet
I try to live by the motto, ‘you are what you eat’. And I would rather be clean, lean and fresh, than fast, greasy and fatty! Don’t get me wrong, we all have our vices and love foods that may not be the best for us (pizza, anyone? Burger?). Food is a touchpoint. It brings back childhood memories and complex issues from our teenage years, or simply makes our tastebuds sing. And that’s absolutely fine. We aren’t going to remove your favourite foods from your life entirely. We’re just going to get you to look at them a little differently. In 8 weeks’ time you might find you have a new favourite food or ‘vice’.
Generally, when we think about dieting (even the word makes me shudder), the vision that pops into our minds is not a good one. But with our program, there are so many recipe options that you shouldn’t feel too restricted or like you aren’t eating delicious food. Some people even tell us that there are too many food options to choose from. I bet you never thought that would be possible on a diet, did you?
Follow these rules in Week 1 and beyond
You must drink 2 litres of water each day, without fail. Either have 2 glasses of water with each meal, or sip 2–3 litres throughout the day. Try not to go over 4 litres unless you already drink this much. It’s definitely possible to drink too much water, and that carries its own set of risks. We’re aiming for maximum hydration without putting your system at risk.
You must eat your ‘compulsory daily greens’. Compulsory means you need it and you have to have it! Roughage ensures your metabolism and body are working at their best. The 100–150 g or women and 150–200 g for men of salad roughage every day is compulsory. You’ll learn to love it for the way it makes you feel. It might seem like a lot of leaves to begin with, but the salads you can make for lunch and dinner are ridiculously good – just use your imagination. Salads and greens are delicious when prepared well.
As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to eat more than 30–50 g of carbs in a single day for the entire first week. This is simply a guideline, for the time being. Carbs are not the enemy – they serve many beneficial purposes. However, if you’re like the majority of people who eat a ‘Western’ diet, it is very likely that you’ve been consuming them in far greater quantities than necessary. This first week is all about reminding your body how to use carbs – the right way. By greatly reducing them in their complex form (but not eliminating them entirely)
in the first week, your body will start fuelling itself in a much more efficient manner. Stick with it – you can do it!
Try to exercise 6 days out of every 7. It doesn’t matter which day you have off – do whatever works best for your schedule. For example, work out every day from Monday to Saturday, then have a rest on Sunday. But you must have a complete day off from exercise once a week. A walk or a gentle swim on your rest day is fine, but try not to wear yourself out. Your body can only get stronger when it has the chance to recover, and it needs time to repair.
Images and text from 8 Weeks to Wow by Emilie Brabon-Hames and Chief Brabon, Murdoch Books, RRP $29.99. Photography by Jeremy Simons.