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Personal Training & Nutrition

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By Sarah O'Neill, Apr 12 2019 01:05PM

I’ve been working as a Personal Trainer for 10 years and loved every minute of it. Getting diet and exercise on track is a life changer for people – and it’s such an honour to be part of that journey. So many clients report back that they didn’t have the knowledge or confidence about the best ways to get in shape, and by working with me and my team they’ve gained such valuable skills and feel incredible as a result! This is so exciting for me and I’m determined to help as many people as possible find the healthiest version of themselves.

With that in mind I recently decided to launch a series of online programmes so that I can help people across the country, and beyond. I decided to focus on the bridal market, and so am in the final throws of launching ‘My Wedding PT’ ( which offers 12 week programmes to get brides into the best shape of their lives for their big days

All my programmes contain bespoke fitness plans, tailored to individual needs, schedules and goals, that can be performed in the gym, home or outdoors. As a Nutritionist my programmes also include tailored nutrition to optimally support the training element, but whilst hitting weight loss goals (where relevant). These plans are simple, healthy and easy to follow and will teach skills for life, so that clients can combat their food demons once and for all! All my clients receive 24/7 access to me, every step of the way, as I guide them through their programmes, plus weekly accountability telephone calls. There’s also the Facebook page ( which links out to a closed group where brides can journey alongside each other, motivating and celebrating each other every step of the way. Plus the ever important mindset pieces, including relaxation and meditation guides – because so often the mind is the site of many of our battles!

However having decided to focus on brides I suddenly received an influx of enquiries from mums-to-be and new mums, and so based on my studies in ante and post natal training I will am also offering 12 week plans for this audience. This is really exciting for me as I am constantly seeing women fearful of exercising at this life stage due to an awareness that adaptations need to be made, but a lack of clarity of information regarding what exactly IS safe, unsafe or beneficial to perform. This groups of women can really benefit from the 1-2-1 support my programmes offer, and the ability to check-in with me whenever they need.

In reality, my programmes can support women from all walks of life, at all stages in their journeys. I have years of experience in weight loss, dietary control, marathon training, long and short distance training, as well as the niches I spoke about above. If you’ve been trying the same thing for a long time without any success, feel stuck in a rut and unsure how to progress your training and become the healthiest version of you, then please get in touch!

By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 29 2017 05:37PM

I was busy reflecting on the psychology of food choice, and came across an interesting review* that analysed the most prevalent barriers and enablers of healthy eating across 34 research papers. The authors concluded the barriers to be:

- male apathy towards diet; unhealthy diet of friends and family; expected consumption of unhealthy foods in certain situations; relative low cost of unhealthy foods; lack of time to plan, shop, prepare and cook healthy foods; lack of facilities to prepare, cook and store healthy foods; widespread presence of unhealthy foods; lack of knowledge and skills to plan, shop, prepare and cook healthy foods; lack of motivation to eat healthily (including risk-taking behaviour).

Personally I can relate to a number of these triggers. For me there is a strong psycho-social element to my periods of (self confessed) over eating. For example, I would say I'm a 'feeder' and so if I'm entertaining I struggle to release my guests in anything other than a calorie coma. When eating out, I adopt a 'less than three courses is cheating' mentality. With a toddler to care for (who still doesn't buy into all-night sleeping) my motivation to eat healthily has been replaced by an overwhelming desire to eat cake or chocolate at least thrice daily. I have the knowledge and skills to identify which foods are best for my body and the ability to create healthy balanced meals, and yet the desire not to do so often wins out through those inner voices telling me it's a treat not to do so, plus a lack of perceived self efficacy to change this behaviour amidst the tired fog that is motherhood...

I am sure we can all look at the list and identify our own triggers. And perhaps this is the first step on the road to change. But the second stage is also critical - discovering the enablers of success, which the authors identified as:

- female interest in a healthy diet (hurrah, girls!); healthy diet of friends and family; support/encouragement of friends and family to eat healthy; desire for improved health; desire for weight management; desire for improved self-esteem; desire for attractiveness to potential partners and others; possessing autonomous motivation to eat healthy and existence and use of self-regulatory skills.

I think critically we have to really desire to change. It's essential to identity why you want to change and what's stopping you before you embark on a weight loss journey. You may still 'fall off the wagon' but you'll be far more likely to ride the blip and return to those positive lifestyle changes, which is absolutely fundamental to achieving your goals longer term.

Ask yourself (and perhaps write down)...

- WHY you want to change your diet (weight loss? well being? fitness? self image?);

- HOW it looks to eat healthily (taking into account your current knowledge and the advice of your PT or nutritionist); and therefore

- WHAT you're going to change to make positive nutritional choices (e.g. no alcohol, more veggies, less refined carbs, cutting back on sugar...) and

- HOW you will support this with self-regulatory skills (positive mindset, saying 'no', rigorous planning etc).

But if you are currently in a place where you feel your barriers outweigh your motivation to change, then I would suggest doing some work on your mindset in the first instance, ensuring you have a sufficiently positive perception of your ability to achieve your goals, and therefore greater likelihood of long-term success.

* Barriers and enablers of healthy eating among young adults: a missing piece of the obesity puzzle: A scoping review, A. E. Munt, S. R. Partridge and M Allman-Farinelli et al. (2016)

By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 2 2015 06:00PM

New Year Guilt...

Most of us will have stepped nervously onto the scales at some point since the New Year dawned, maybe moved them round the carpet a few times to get the best reading... January is the month of ‘catastrophe’ buying – from unused gym membership to fat burning pills and potions, as we berate the fifty mince pies that weigh heavily on our consciences (and waistlines).

Detox Junk(ie)

Clearly we all really know these plans and supplements are just a marketing ploy to make us part with our hard-earned cash. But doesn’t it sound tempting right now? Your body feels like a waste disposal site, but subsisting on a perfectly balanced diet of green juice and water is going to ‘cleanse, revitalise and eliminate’...isn't it?

1. The rapid weight loss offered by these diets is utterly irresponsible. Yes, if you drink only green water for 7 days you will lose weight (and sanity). However you will also slow your metabolism right down and regain all those pounds, plus more, when you start eating again.

2. In the most part the Science is wrong. Any drink or weight loss diet that offers to ‘restore your body’s natural pH’ is quite simply rubbish. The body is finely tuned to 'buffer' and maintain pH, mainly via the lungs and kidneys - it doesn’t need you to ingest something rancid in order to achieve this

3. The ‘elimination’ promise...We have a finely tuned waste disposal system (how to put it nicely), which you can assist by increasing the fibrous content of your diet: it is more than able to ‘eliminate’ waste without the need for detox drinks.

The good bits

Where detoxes do make sense is where they encourage us to strip back our diets from alcohol, high sugar snacks, and recommit to exercise and health-promoting foods.

Consider setting yourself the following New Year’s Resolutions to DETOX your lifestyle:


- Increase the amount of vegetables (mainly) and fruits you eat. The Japanese eat 11 a day so aim high.

- Avoid buying supplements unless you really need them. Vitamins and minerals are much better absorbed from foods than pills, so change your DIET not your capsule choice.

- Consider doing the Sarah O'Neill Nutrition re-set. There are lots of balanced, nourishing recipes and healthy snack ideas that won't leave you hungry.

- Identify your bad eating habits and take them on one at a time. It takes approximately 3 weeks to kick a habit. For example, do you devour a packet of Doritos when you're watching TV in the evening? Could you change the time of your main meal to counteract that?

- Invest in a steamer

- Commit to drinking 2 litres of water a day.

- Pimp your cupboards! Chuck out unhealthy or out-of-date food.


- If you’ve let exercise slip throughout December, use January to reboot. Timetable your exercise sessions for the week, diarising them as a firm fixture.

- Book a running race or sportif or set yourself a target for the month such as swimming the channel at your local pool (47 lengths a day of a 25 metre pool!). The act of booking an event will automatically make you feel like you’re taking control of your fitness, whilst providing training motivation through the colder months. Why not fundraise as an added incentive.

- Buy yourself some new exercise kit in the January sales; it’s amazing how motivating some new togs can be!

Feel positive!

December is a month of slacking off whilst January is a month of commitment – so embrace this time, set some goals and be excited about all you can achieve this year.

By Sarah O'Neill, Sep 3 2013 01:25PM

90% of post-pubertal women suffer with cellulite. That tells me that 9 out of 10 of you will experienced some form of horrendous bikini-buying moment, usually characterised by an unsightly bottom-related manifestation in the changing room ‘rear view mirror’ (are they really necessary?)

Cellulite is an evil that is widely experienced but poorly understood. In a nutshell cellulite, or lipodostrophy, is a modified form of subcutaneous adipose tissue (i.e. body fat). It affects skinny minnies and the more fullsome alike, although higher levels of body fat will exacerbate the condition.

Cellulite is largely found in the gluteal-femoral area (bum and thighs) although it can also appear on the abdomen and shoulders/armpit area. The characteristic ‘cottage cheese’ or ‘orange peel’ effect is due to fat ‘bulging’ through connective tissue into the dermis. The appearance of cellulite is due to structural alterations in the skin and reduced circulation, leading to a reduction in blood flow to affected areas. Retention of fluids in the matrix also contributes.

A little Science – subcutaneous fat (the fat beneath our skin) is divided into two layers: an areolar layer just beneath the dermis and a deeper lamellar layer. The lamellar layer is comprised of smaller, horizontally arranged cells with larger blood vessels providing a richer blood supply. This is the layer that enlarges with weight gain. The areolar layer is formed of larger globular adipocytes (fat cells) arranged vertically, and numerous fragile blood vessels. This layer is home to cellulite, and is under the control of oestrogen - hence why it is predominantly a female problem. Furthermore, the areolar layer in the femoral region is more resistant to fat breakdown which leads to dimply thighs. For a pictorial representation, leaf through any trashy mag and it’s likely to have been located on the latest unsuspecting holiday-making celebrity!

In spite of the limited availability of Scientific papers on cellulite, is has become a multi-million pound industry, with salon treatments, potions and lotions costing the consumer astronomical sums. Every year a new ‘revolutionary’ treatment goes in and out of fashion. I must confess to once wrapping myself head to toe in clingfilm in a DIY full body wrap (why pay £80 when I can do it for 80p at home?) My findings? Don't try to go to the loo wearing clingfilm.

On a serious note, however, cellulite is simply another form of body fat and hence weight loss strategies used to reduce body fat should synergistically work on cellulite. Analysis suggests that the fat globules can retract out of the dermis with weight loss.

Improving the circulatory system can also help. Clearly exercise is the optimal means of boosting circulation and blood flow. Cardiovascular exercise such as jogging is ideal, whilst weight-bearing exercises serve to tone muscles leading to firmer, leaner limbs, reducing the cottage-cheese effect. Further practical approaches include body brushing and massaging in upward motions towards the heart, stimulating lymphatic drainage. On a dietary level, decreasing saturated fat intake and increasing the levels of omega-3 heart-healthy fats will also improve circulation. Aim to eat oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel 2-3 times per week.

Strict, restrictive (and often hideously depressing) detoxification diets are largely unnecessary, as the body is primed to detoxify itself, however there are foods and strategies that can support the body’s detoxification systems. These include drinking at least 2 litres of water a day to ‘flush’ toxins, eating a diet rich in wholegrains and fibre to reduce transit time (the time digested food stuffs including toxins remain in the bowel), eating your 5 a day (as a minimum), reducing alcohol consumption and consumption of fizzy and caffeinated drinks, and switching for herbal teas, such as dandelion which can reduce fluid accumulation. An interesting contradiction arises with caffeine, which, when ingested orally is thought to worsen the appearance of cellulite through reducing circulation and lymph flow, but when applied atopically to the problem area is proposed to open up blood vessels and improve blood flow to allow breakdown of fatty deposits. Caffeine is a common ingredient in cellulite creams and treatments.

Whilst we often focus on saturated fat as the harbinger of all evil, sugar is in fact body fat in a cunning, delicious, chocolate-coated disguise. Insulin, the hormone released proportionally to sugar intake, stimulates fat storage – be warned: sugar can make you just as fat as fat! Cellulite is a hormonal issue with insulin, oestrogen and prolactin all increasing its prominence.

Cellulite-sufferers should avoid processed foods as they tend to be loaded with salt, sweeteners and additives (as should we all). Instead, increase consumption of fresh foods, especially those rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, E, essential fatty acids, calcium, fibre and potassium. Foods such as avocados, oily fish, bananas, bran, oats, broccoli and asparagus are all excellent anti-cellulite warriors. Indeed asparagus is so loved by the celebrity world that it is used to reduce water retention the night before a red-carpet event – far preferential to the cling film I feel....

Mangoes, papayas and bananas may increase blood flow, whilst vitamin-C rich foods increase collagen formation which improves the appearance of skin. A diet rich in grapefruit, onion, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, apples, spinach, carrots and chicken, plus antioxidant-rich berries and nuts for healthy fats should see you on your way. Drinking a cup of boiled water with squeezed lemon and a teaspoon of honey (option) is also a strategy adopted by those looking to cleanse the system first thing in the morning.

In sum, cellulite is a very normal and highly prevalent condition. It is designed to ensure that adequate calories are available for pregnancy and lactation and thus affects most of the adult female population.

Distressing though it may be, rather than investing hundreds of pounds in anti-cellulite treatments and creams, which may or may not have any significant and lasting effect, see what changes you can make to your nutrition for lifelong results. Boost your diet with these cellulite-fighting foods and reduce intake of processed, fatty and high-sugar foods. Treat your body like the beautiful temple that it is.

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