Today I’d like to introduce you to Dr Clarissa Hughes from Getting Lean and Curvy. To put it simply, Clarissa really is an incredible woman! A self-professed foodie, a researcher and mother, this 40 something girl ‘Accidentally’ became a figure competitor and competed 4 times between October 2010 and October 2011 (including in the INBA Australian Titles, in which she placed 3rd in Intermediate division) & plans to compete in 2012 and beyond!
If that’s not impressive enough, Clarissa still manages to find the time to get in the kitchen and create some amazing healthy recipes for her ebooks and eating plans all whilst running leanandcurvy.com and her facebook page – Getting lean & curvy with over 7,000 subscribers!
Your Facebook page, Getting Lean and Curvy, grew almost overnight into a community of thousands. What do you think it is about the concept of Getting Lean and Curvy that resonates with women?
Yes its rate of growth is quite astonishing! We’ve just had our 7000th member join which is amazing in only a little over 12 months. I think part of the appeal is that I’m not putting myself forward as an ‘expert’ up on a pedestal – they all know that I’m an ordinary mum in the ‘burbs who is juggling kids, work, running a househould and lots of other things – just like they are! But I also bring a level of knowledge that can help them in their daily lives.
The other aspect is that it’s a very positive page and community. We celebrate one another’s successes & coach each other through the tough spots. Getting Lean and Curvy shows women that whether they can afford a personal trainer or not, hate gyms or love them, adore cooking or detest it, have lots of spare time or are run off their feet – there ARE steps they can take to improve their health and wellbeing. So I guess I try to make all that accessible for women and create a real feeling of sisterhood and support.
You’ve certainly had an incredible transformation of your own. If you had to sum it up, what would you say ‘transformation’ means to you?
Well in my case it meant being prepared to face my fears and jump into the unknown! I was utterly terrified that I’d end up looking masculine and bulky if I embarked on a strength training regime. I’d seen photos of enormous, ripped female bodybuilders and there was NO WAY I ever wanted to look like that! I wanted to look sleek and toned and feminine – but what I was doing (lots of cardio and cutting back on food) was not getting me there, so a new approach was necessary. I was quite worried, but Steph Hapel (who later became my trainer for my first figure competition) assured me that massive muscle development does not happen easily or accidentally. So I just had to trust her I guess. I’m so glad I did! By the time I turned 40 I had developed those lovely lean curves I’d been aiming for – but without the ‘bulk’!
I also had to transform my approach to eating. Previously I thought of food as something to be avoided wherever possible ‘burned off’ through exercise. Strength training forced me to re-frame it as something much more positive – as fuel for my body which would help me achieve my goals by building my lean muscle mass and shaping my body from the inside out. I used to think that my love of eating and cooking would always work against me – now I know that if you give your body what it needs, you feel and look so much better than if you’re always in ‘deprivation mode’. Lindy Olsen’s ‘7 Rules for Success’ are brilliant guidelines that have become my new modus operandi.
You’ve written a few incredible looking e-books to help busy women achieve healthy eating that still looks and tastes delicious. Can you share your favourite kitchen tricks for simple and healthy cooking?
Thanks – I’m quite proud of them! I currently have three e-booklets – on the topics of Protein Fruit Smoothies, Wrap/Sandwich Fillings, and how to get back on track with healthy eating after Christmas – as well as an e-book on Healthy Breakfast recipes. I also have an online seminar on healthy fat loss for women. The e-books and e-seminar are all downloadable from my website .
I guess my approach with healthy eating is summed up by the ‘3 Ps – Protein, Produce and Preparation’. Some form of protein is central to every meal. I also try to include lots of fresh produce, especially leafy greens and highly coloured vegetables. And the last part is Preparation – most of my food is fully or partly prepared in advance. So I never cut up a single carrot or chicken breast, for example – I’ll do up a whole bag of carrot sticks for snacking & kids school lunches, and prepare enough chicken so that there’s some ready to eat, some to go in the fridge & some for the freezer. That approach makes the most of my time, which is precious!
As far as kitchen tricks go, I’d encourage women to start ‘substituting the staples’. Too often our cooking can revolve around white flour, sugar, rice, potatoes and pasta – out of habit as much as anything. These foods will NEVER help you to build a lean, curvy physique! So I encourage women to start substituting these nutritionally bankrupt foods for more nourishing alternatives.
Instead of white flour, try cooking with buckwheat flour, chickpea (besan) flour or almond meal. Replace sugar with stevia or xylitol (not chemical sweeteners). Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is a great, tasty alternative to rice and other grains. Lastly, try out veggie alternatives to white potatoes and pasta – like cauliflower mash and spiralised zucchini. Obviously there’s a bit of trial and error involved, but there are some great websites, blogs and books around to assist with your transition to ‘clean eating’.
When it comes to managing your own health and fitness in the midst of a busy life, what are 3 things that are ‘musts’ for you?
Well number one would have to be REST! Most of the time I feel like I don’t have time to rest, but prioritising and scheduling it is essential for me. I used not to appreciate how important sleep is for fat loss and general wellbeing. When you are training hard, getting enough sleep becomes even more important. I particularly notice that in the lead-up to my competititions where I’m working at a desk job all day, looking after my kids, running the household, producing content for my Facebook page and website, AND exercising for up to two hours per day. Without enough sleep I’d collapse in a heap in a very short time! I also allow time for my muscles to recover between training sessions so they can build and grow – so I never train the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
The second ‘must’ is getting organised with my food. Followers of Getting Lean and Curvy will know that I have a ‘Sunday Food Prep Sesh’ every week. I work out what we’ll be eating for the week then go shopping for the food (or sometimes these happen in reverse) then spend a couple of hours preparing lots of healthy meals and snacks. It’s a fantastic habit to get into, as the amount of time (and stress) you save during the week is incredible. I NEVER leave the home without my food, or get home late and think “What will we have for dinner?”. This really works for me and I’m finding increasing numbers of women telling me what they’ve created during their “Food Prep Sesh”, too. The sharing of recipes and ideas is great.
The third ‘must do’ in my life is taking time to reflect on the things I’m grateful for. It sounds a bit corny but I do think that this contributes to my wellbeing in a really powerful way. I’m quite a driven person, so I’m often focused on the future in terms of challenges, goals and plans. That’s fine, but the downside is you can get so caught up in the future that you forget about the present! Focusing on what I’m grateful for helps me to live ‘in the moment’ a bit more. I recently bought a little plaque which says “The more you praise and celebrate your life..the more in life there is to celebrate”. I’ve certainly found that to be true and I try to live by it.
Do you have any tips for indulging without undoing all your hard work?
Well for me, ‘indulging’ usually means eating something sweet! My first tip is to kick your sugar habit, which will reduce the frequency and intensity of sugar cravings. I find that eating clean, with lots of protein and produce and very little in the way of refined carbs means that my blood sugar levels are quite stable – so my brain sends that ‘MUST. EAT. SUGAR’ message far less often : ) Now if I’m indulging it’s more a matter of conscious choice, rather than a compulsion if you know what I mean? I’m fond of organic chocolate (preferably with nuts) and also creamy, citrusy things like lemon tarts with King Island cream….Which brings me to my second tip – which is to ‘schedule’ your indulgences. Basically I choose to eat clean, home-prepared meals and snacks most of the time but I have one meal a week (or a day a week, if I’m not preparing for a comp) which is ‘off plan’ – in which I don’t concern myself with portion sizes or nutritional content or anything like that. I just eat whatever I fancy at the time. Previously I tried to ‘be good’ (i.e. stick to a diet) but every time I succumbed and ate a Time-Tam or whatever I’d think “Now I’ve blown it!” and use that as an excuse to keep eating badly. It was terribly discouraging. Now I look forward to and enjoy my ‘off plan’ meal without the guilt and the cycle of self-sabotage I used to get caught up in. This way is so much better!
And lastly, what would your number one piece of advice be to ladies who want to achieve their own transformation?
Don’t assume that ‘getting fit’ will deliver the fat-loss results you’re after. I see many women punish themselves with endless hours of cardio, for years on end, even though their fat doesn’t budge. If that sounds like you, it’s time to try something different! Figure competitors and natural bodybuilders eat and train in ways that dramatically change their body composition in only a couple of months. Even if you have no intention of competing, make an effort to meet some figure competitors and their trainers, and learn about the strategies they use to prepare for a show. There are lots of small changes that you can make to get your own transformation underway. Make 2012 your year!
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