Impressing My Toughest Critic (“You could have done 13!”)

December 5, 2015

My nephew has never been especially moved by my various feats of sporting endeavour.

I once picked him up from school brandishing a big silver cup (won at a bodybuilding comp), and he asked why I didn’t bring my dog with me.

He knows I’ve swum the English Channel. He knows I sometimes ride my bike quite a long way. He knows I once did a competition where I pulled a truck.

No biggie.

There was the – somewhat devastating – time when I was two days out from a bodybuilding comp and went round to his house so my sister could take progress pics. He popped his head round the door as I was doing a front double bicep, looked me up and down and said, “no, Auntie Nic. Your muscles are too loose”. I was 48 hours away from getting on stage in my bikini in front of a load of strangers. I’m surprised I didn’t have two nights full of nightmares about “loose” muscles.

10698520_10154587920110072_7693303579520668776_n.jpgThen there have been all the times (too numerous to detail) where he’s assured me that “I’m stronger than you, anyway, Auntie Nic”.

Even at 10 weeks old, he barely batted a baby eyelash when I did an entire Nephew Workout using him as a weight.

So, it is with pride that I can report that finally, after five years, I have earned some encouragement from him about my physical prowess. Not just some encouragement. Glowing praise. Solid encouragement. Unshakeable faith in my abilities.

It was last night. Just before his bedtime. He suggested we do some “exercise” with his Mum and Dad’s dumbbells. I told him I could pick up the biggest ones. He eyed those 17.5kgs dumbbells, then looked at me doubtfully. “Really, Auntie Nic?” Yes, I told him. In fact, I told him to choose a number between 10-20 and I’d (single arm overhead) press it that many times.

12 reps was the challengeย thrown down.

“Ooh, gosh, well I’ll try my very best!” I told him.

I got to 8. I struggled to 10 ๐Ÿ˜‰ I made a big deal about rep 11, and then I “just managed” rep 12. “Phew! I did it!” I told him.

“Auntie Nic…” he said. “YOU COULD HAVE DONE 13!”

๐Ÿ™‚

Impressing My Toughest Critic (“You could have done 13!”) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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Reducing sugar intake (the pre-schooler edition)

June 27, 2014

Have you heard this week’s news story about SACN’s recommendations regarding our consumption of sugar? SACN – the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition – have recommended that we all consume more fibre and less free sugars. Specifically, they’ve said:

For the population to lower the consumption of free sugars to around 5% of daily dietary energy intake which is 25g for women (5 – 6 teaspoons) and 35g (7 – 8 teaspoons) for men based on average population diets. The consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages (e.g. fizzy drinks, squash) should be minimised by both children and adults.

If you fancy reading the press release rather than the media’s interpretation of it – it’s here SACN draft report on Carbohydrates and Health for public consultation.

My sister made the decision some time ago to vastly limit the amount of free sugars my little nephew eats and drinks. So, I thought it would be interesting to ask her more about the decision, the practicalities of it, and what it’s like to live a low-sugar lifestyle with a toddler in the house.

(Check out my other nephew-related posts: The Nephew Workout when he was a baby (we’ve both grown since then LOL!) and The Nephew Workout revisited when he came to stay with me when I was just a few days out from a bodybuilding comp!)

On with the interview!
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The Fit Writer: Why did you decide to minimise sugar in Henry’s diet? Was there one event, a trigger, or something you’d read/heard?

The Fit Sister: We initially took Henry to have food intolerance tests as he spent the first two years of life with a runny nose and cough. After putting it down to being in childcare from an early age (and him “being a boy”), we decided to look into it further. I mentioned his other unusual behaviours to the herbalist: Henry always seemed angrier than most toddlers, with more energy, had tendencies to push and hit out at other people, and throw and kick his toys. These are usual traits of toddlers, especially boys, but they seemed more pronounced in him (in comparison to his peers). It was at this point that we realised he was intolerant to sugars (as well as lactose and cheese).

TFW: How easy (or not) has it been? How did life have to change in terms of cooking, shopping, sourcing food, recipes, life outside the home?

TFS: It was a lot easier to begin with when Henry didn’t really realise what was happening. We always cook from fresh, so main meals were easy. He had always had cinnamon on porridge for breakfast but instead of following it with a children’s yoghurt, we switched to goats milk yoghurt sweetened with a cinnamon. Shopping was time consuming to begin with. I was genuinely unaware how much sugar is in things like bread, his beloved wraps, cereals and even some crisps! However it only took a few weeks to realise what I could and couldn’t buy. I found that by not having it in the house, it was easier for us all. It’s more difficult when we’re out (the main culprit being ketchup). At first I could just tell him the restaurant had run out, but now he’s nearly four he knows full well I’m fibbing. I believe in everything in moderation, and tell myself that I’m doing better than most when we’re at home and therefore the odd “treat” of a small dollop of ketchup in a restaurant isn’t all bad. (I make my own!)

TFW: What have been the biggest challenges been? Henry himself, or other people?

TFS: The biggest challenge at the moment is kids parties! But I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let him be that kid in the corner who can only snack on natural popcorn. Actually, when he does get a free rein, he often leaves a piece of chocolate cake half-eaten. I suppose it’s just too sweet. I found the grandparents’ attitudes towards it the worst to begin with; I think it’s just their generation. However, even they have noticed a difference in his behaviour, and now they stick to his diet more and more each time they see him. I suppose they have realised what a different boy he is if they are stricter with it. In the beginning I had comments like “well, what can I give him to drink that’s a nice, poor thing, I feel terrible!” Erm… water is nice!

TFW: Has minimising sugar helped Henry? In what way?

TFS: I can’t tell you how much it’s helped. We literally noticed a difference from day one. The funny thing is how much it educated me! Henry and I used to start our day with a homemade smoothie of banana, frozen berries, spinach and flax seed. I thought I was being the best Mum in the world! But actually, I now realise that this wass one of the worst starts I could give him. I wondered why he was bouncing off the walls all morning. The biggest difference I notice is when he does have something sugary (his main triggers are squash, ketchup, beans, and chocolate icecream). I know when to make my excuses, get him away from wherever we are, and back to an environment where he can tear around!

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TFW: Exactly what do you mean by minimising sugar? What do you see as sugar, and do you have any goals in terms of intake, or is it just to reduce it?

TFS: My aim is to reduce it as much as I can, in all forms… when it is within my control. I do allow Henry to have natural sugars in small quantities, but never pureed or in a juice form. I will make substitutes for refined sugars by using natural sugars such as bananas in cakes, cinnamon, agave and sometimes honey. My rationale is that, if I can “control” his sugar intake 80% of the time at home, then it doesn’t matter as much when he is around the bad stuff.

TFW: What has surprised you about this whole venture? Has it been easier or more difficult than you thought?

TFS: It’s got to be not realising how much sugar there was in things. I’m an educated person, but even I was unaware of where it was snuck in. I now choose full-fat rather than the “healthy choice” option (which tends to be padded out with sugar). Smoothies were an eye-opener. The fact that the sugar in smoothies is absorbed in a different way than eating the whole fruit. It’s been easier than I thought, as Henry was young when we started. But, even now he’s older and starting to ask for things, I can just tell him “no, that’s full of sugar, have this instead” and he’s fine. He’s even started to tell people himself that he doesn’t want it.

TFW: What are your top tips for other parents who want to minimise their children’s sugar intake?

TFS: Cinnamon to sweeten porridge and yoghurt has been great, especially as he likes to sprinkle it on and make patterns. I’ve gone back to a lot of the “baby” brands for biscuits etc: although they are sweetened with grape juice, that’s a lot better than refined sugar. The internet has hundreds of blogs, recipes, hints and tips from other parents that have gone sugar free, so it’s a lot easier than it would have been years ago. My top tip would be: cut sugar out yourself for a few weeks, and see the difference it makes to you. As a sugar addict, this has been my biggest learning curve. Monkey see, monkey do! If you don’t eat it, they won’t ask for it.

I’ll leave you with a pic of my nephew lying on my floor having a picnic of nuts, blueberries and oat cakes (if memory serves me correctly)
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Reducing sugar intake (the pre-schooler edition) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Random thoughts from 4 days out

September 11, 2013

d663732af46811e295c822000ae80c95_7Yawn. Hello. This post is brought to you by black coffee and a not-insignificant amount of effort… yes, my bodybuilding British Finals is this Sunday so suffice to say I’m feeling very tired, very sore and very flat.

I remember how you guys liked my very first “random thoughts from…” post back in 2011, before my first ever competition. A few funny things have happened in the last few days (well, not BAFTA-winning standard of comedy, you understand, just things that have raised a wry smile). And since you found it interesting to read about weeing into a plastic cup, I thought you might find it interesting to read about the things that can happen at the sharp end of a prep diet.

This post could be titled: “Why does everything. Take. So. Long?”

Everything takes longer when you’re dieting right down for a comp. Maybe it’s just me! I hope not. But I seem on a permanent go-slow. I forget things. I stand in the middle of the room not even knowing if I’m coming or going, let alone what I’ve forgotten. You get the idea.

So, here are a few scenarios which go some way to answering the question “why does everything take so long?”

Because you have to double back on yourself
Today I went to train, and even took my shoes with me to get some extra posing practice in at the gym’s studio. Chuffed with myself for getting so many things done, I left and went off to my sports massage. Lying there, I had a nagging sensation which was nothing to do with my hamstrings. Where were my shoes? I don’t recall putting them back in the car. Please, for the love of Arnold, say I didn’t put them on the roof of the car before driving off. No, I didn’t. Phew! I also didn’t put them in the car. I left them at the gym. Worst of all, I left them upstairs. So not only did I have to go back on myself to the gym but I had to walk up an extra flight of stairs.

Because you knock things over more often then get a bit OCD about clearing it all up
Particularly in the morning. Make a coffee. Knock the aeropress off the cup. Decide it simply must be cleared up this moment. Slop water on the floor. Ditto. Pull some crockery off the side whilst moving the tea towel. By now it is half an hour later than you hoped it would be and the kitchen is in worse disarray than if you’d left the few atoms of ground coffee where they fell.

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Because you stockpile food like there’s a zombie apocalypse incoming
I do need more chicken, turkey and steak. But not this much. Is it just me who over-purchases diet food? Why! My fridge is bursting with broccoli. My freezer runneth over with meat. My sister is clapping her hands at random gifts of chicken and mince. And, meanwhile, my eyes still light up whenever I get an email declaring some amazing offer on chicken breasts and sirloin. Stop the madness!

Because you put things in the wrong place

Where is the tin of dog food? Where? I mean… just… where? Oh, sure, it’s in the freezer.

Because you lose things
I actually can’t even remember what I was going to write under this section. Does that make it even worse?!

Because things in containers are not always what they seem
On Sunday I went from the gym to my Dad’s to hang out with Pops and my nephew.

Here’s an adorable video which you simply must watch, about Matthew the caterpillar. I’m sure it’s quite the cutest video of a 3-year-old ever.

Anyway, I’d taken a meal with me in a plastic tub, just in case I hung out long enough. And I did. So I got the tub out of my warm gym bag, set it in the sun on the garden table and then opened it up to eat it. Oh, no. That’s not my chicken and veggies! It’s possibly the last thing you’d want to carry with you in a hot car, then in a gym locker, then in a hot car, then in a warm garden. Raw trout.

If you’re competing, racing or performing (Sista!) this weekend: good luck and enjoy!

Random thoughts from 4 days out is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


The Nephew Workout revisited

July 26, 2013

Remember The Nephew Workout?

(My, haven’t we both grown? LOL!)

Well that little baby is now nearly three, and he’s staying here with me for a few days whilst his Mum (my sister) and his Dad are at a wedding and enjoying some well-deserved couple time away. It’s the longest he’s ever stayed away from them (only ever one night previous to this).

So, I guess this is The Nephew Workout 2.0 It’s more of an endurance workout than the strength-based session in the post and video above ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m 9 days out from a bodybuilding comp, and 5 days post-comp. I’m training hard, dieting harder and… well, I’m a prepping bodybuilder.

I thought it would be interesting (and perhaps helpful to any other bodybuilding Aunties out there – holler!) to note my dos and don’ts for this Nephew Workout (the endurance session), in the context of me being so close to a comp.

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Do:
– Enjoy.
I promised myself (and, indirectly, my nephew) before he arrived that I would enjoy his company and enjoy our few days together. I love this boy (sorry what you hadn’t noticed?!) and he won’t be little forever. We’re going to have fun. So – when I’m training, I’m training. When I’m cooking, I’m cooking. That’s it. Everything else can wait. We’re going to enjoy each others company and have a good time.
– Make the most of the extra “energy output” (let’s not call it cardio). Yesterday, on a whim, we decided to go and hire a rowing boat on the canal out the back of my house. Um, yes, rowing a small boy in a shonky old boat for an hour (after training shoulders and back) was hard work. That’s cool. So in one hour I had fun, entertained my nephew and caned some kcals. Good-oh!
– Have a plan. I can’t imagine any bodybuilder a week out would not have a plan, but this is where it will really come into its own. I’ve printed out my diet/meal plans and put them in the kitchen. I don’t have time to faff about this weekend. If you haven’t got a plan, come up with one before the nephew arrives. Now is not the time to be wondering what you might have for lunch, or for realising that you forgot to get the chicken out of the freezer.
– Prep your meals in advance. I usually do this but not always. Well, now I really don’t have an option. I’m not going to be able to cook the nephew his dinner, round him and the dog up from the garden, and oversee him eating if I also have to be chopping and cooking my own food. Also, who knows when I might randomly be on a rowing boat at meal times! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m prepping all my food for the next day every single evening whilst nephew is here.
– Realise that small nephews just don’t mind, unless you do. I ate my mackerel and courgette out of a tupperware by the side of the canal in the middle of the afternoon – not lunch, not dinner. I briefly wondered if he might think I was strange. Nope, he just leaned over and said “and that’s your lunch”. He also doesn’t even seem to notice that I’m eating different things to him.

Don’t:
– Eat the nephew’s snacks.
My fridge has gone from one containing chicken, red meat, fish and green veg, to one containing all of the above + yoghurts, juice, berries, milk and cream cheese. My cupboards now contain gingerbread men, breadsticks, crackers, chocolate lollies and some kind of jelly wiggly-worm thing. Don’t let the presence of these newfangled food stuffs turn your head!
– Let the tiredness make you snappy. Yes, you’ll be more tired than usual (you know how sometimes in prep you are so tired you can’t bear the idea of climbing the stairs? Well, tough luck Auntie, cos someone’s up there shouting “um… Auntie Nic? I had a accident!”) It’s not the nephew’s fault you’re tired (it’s yours, you’re dieting for a comp and that was your decision).
– Weigh food in front of the nephew. I dunno, but it strikes me as wrong to let a little boy see you weighing broccoli. I mean, come on, it’s not normal is it, and a small child probably can’t understand why you’re doing it (many adults wouldn’t!) And I’m damned if I’m going to be responsible for creating any kind of food or body issues other than positive ones.
– Weigh self in front of nephew. I need to weigh in tomorrow for my coach. I’m not doing it til nephew has gone to his swimming lesson. See points above ^^^
– Stay up late watching Netflix. Go to bed.

The Nephew Workout revisited is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


A toddler’s guide to bodybuilding comps

September 10, 2012

Hello hello! Phew, I’m home, I’m sitting down and I’ve finally got time to write. I haven’t unpacked yet, and this tan will take a while to come off but, you know, let’s blog.

I’ll post a full show report soon (when I have the official photos for illustration) but here’s a quick summary: I came second and got an invite to the NPA British Final next month! ๐Ÿ˜€ The lady who came first is the competitor I came 2nd to at the BNBF Final last year (she even turned Pro with the BNBF at that comp), and so she’s certainly top competition! It was a good battle, all three of us had fun and it was a lovely atmosphere. The whole show was really enjoyable, and I had a blast all day. I’m very very happy with my progress this year and with how I posed and performed my routine. But, more of that later!


Today, I wanted to blog about some of my two-year-old nephew’s “funnies” from the show yesterday. He’s a chatty little guy and very funny (did you see his impersonation of Lou Ferrigno?). He did come to this competition last year but was too young to be saying much and I’m not sure he understood what it was about at all. This year, he got into it a lot more.

So here is Henry’s guide to bodybuilding competitions.

What to say…
– when you see your Auntie’s tanned-up feet: BEEN PLAYING IN THE MUD, BEBE?
– when you are impressed by a pose: THAT’S A BIGGER ONE!
– when you are really impressed by a pose: THAT’S A REALLY BIGGER ONE!
– during the men’s classes, when you see competitors with particularly small trunks: THAT’S A WILLY! AND THAT’S A WILLY! AND THAT’S A WILLY… (etc)
– when competitors leave the stage to get ready for their individual routines: WHERE THE BOYS GONE?
– if a competitor begins their routine lying down on the stage: SHE HAVING A NAP?
– when your Auntie walks out on stage but she’s a funny colour: THAT’S NOT BEBE?!
– when your Auntie is doing a lat-spread: OPEN UP! OPEN UP!
– when you disapprove of your Auntie’s tan: BEBE HAVE A SHOWER NOW?

nicola joyce NPA miss physique
And, this morning, he was studying my trophy in great detail. He asked me to read what the engraving said, so I told him: “NPA South East Champs 2012, Miss Physique, 2nd” He looked at me, shrugged, and said “Mrs 2nd”. Much easier, I agree! LOL!

Henry hopes you find this handy guide helpful. He also says that he’s learned there’s no point offering a bodybuilder a crisp, a plum or a “happle” the night before a comp… but the next morning, wow, you’d better protect your croissant with your life ;D

A toddler’s guide to bodybuilding comps is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!

September 8, 2012

So, just one more sleep and it’s showtime!

I’m tanned (good work, Sister: a sterling attempt on her debut outing as a tanner-upperer… long story involving an aborted visit to a salon… don’t ask). I’m resting up. And I’m ready to go.

One of my night-before-comp traditions is watching Pumping Iron, but I’m not going to do that tonight because I’m staying with family and I’d sooner chat to them.

So, in honour of that most well-known of bodybuilding films, here is a short sketch featuring my two-year-old nephew. Altogether now: “Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!” ;D

(the original clip is here, should it not be immediately crystal-clear what my nephew is doing… !)

I’ll be posting as many updates from the show tomorrow on Twitter: thefitwriter on Twitter should you want to follow along ๐Ÿ™‚

Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Hosting a bodybuilder? No need to panic

June 7, 2012

This weekend just gone, we had a lovely l-o-n-g weekend here in the UK. Something about the Queen, or something? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, it was the Jubilee weekend and we got not only an extra Bank Holiday Monday but a crazy bonus Bank Holiday Tuesday, too.

So I decided to actually do something with the little holiday, and go to stay with family by the seaside. Very nice it was, too. But this post isn’t about watching the Red Arrows at the local airshow, nor is it about bombarding an unsuspecting Frenchman with questions about his career. It’s not even about why my 21-month old nephew refers to our friend Hayley as “Mickey Cakes”, very clearly and very specifically (although we would all love to know the answer to that mystery).

No, it’s about just how easy it actually is for non-bodybuildery folk to host, feed and water a dieting bodybuilder. Or, in the words of my sister:

“That really wasn’t bad at all!”

If you’re related to a bodybuilder, friends with a bodybuilder or simply trembling under the knowledge that you have a bodybuilder coming round for a cuppa, here are some top tips, courtesy of my family.

1) Just ask them what they can and can’t eat. Chances are it isn’t as scary, expensive or tricky as you’ve been imagining. Most BBers live on a diet of chicken, eggs, vegetables, rice and water. See? Not so bad. If it helps, my sister triumphantly declared on Facebook that “the fridge is stocked with berries, veg, salad, chicken, and fish. The cupboards are stocked with sparkling water and coke zero. It can only mean one thing, I’m hosting a bodybuilder this weekend.”

2) Tell them to bring their own. No bodybuilder I know would expect their host to cater to their every whim. We know we’re a pain in the glutes. We’re used to preparing food, travelling with it, eating it in the strangest places out of the strangest of containers. So, if you tell us to bring our own egg whites/chicken/espresso because, quite frankly, you can’t be doing with getting those items in, that’s just fine. We’ll just be happy to have a plate to eat it from!

3) Get creative. As my sister and step mother will agree, hosting a bodybuilder is actually a fine excuse to think outside the culinary box and try a few new recipes (or revisit old favourites). For example, my sister cooked a lovely family meal which suited us all – I think it was a Jamie Oliver one (?) and it was basically chicken breasts baked with lemon and sage, with asparagus (always a winner) and then a lovely side dish of sweet potatoes, chili, coriander and feta. She just left the feta out of my serving. Easy! And so delish. And then on another day, my step mother cooked chicken kebabs (the skewer kind! not the kebab-shop kind!) under the grill, with puy lentils and salad. Simple, lovely and most certainly bodybuilder-friendly. Put extras out like a bread basket and wine for those who aren’t dieting for a bodybuilding competition, and everyone’s a winner!

4) Don’t feel bad for the bodybuilder. Don’t worry that we can’t, or choose not to, have a dessert. Don’t be sad that we’re not drinking wine. We’re OK with it, and we’d like you to be, too. As long as we can sit with you, enjoy your company and (best of all!) have a meal cooked for us, we’re in heaven. Honest! And it will make the distant future time when we *can* have dessert and drink wine with you all the sweeter…

The final word goes to my sister: “I was panicking about what to cook and wanted to make sure I got it right, but actually it was surprisingly easy to cook something that everyone could eat and most importantly enjoy. PS You can also say on your blog that I’m very pleased with the state of my veg and salad drawer!”

Yes, over the course of one weekend I managed to empty that salad drawer single-handedly. I take my duty to all things salad-related very seriously! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hosting a bodybuilder? No need to panic is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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