The Feel Good Plan: in-conversation with fitness trainer Dalton Wong

As you know if you follow my blog, I am not a fan of January detoxes and subscribe to the way of thinking that small steps towards your big goal are much move effective. When I started thinking about the Winter Wellness series, I wasn’t sure whether to feature any books that come out in January, as I have done a book ‘detox’ towards the end of last year and realised that many books bought by me in the past in January didn’t end up being my ‘keepers’. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and my copy of ‘The Feel Good Plan‘, written by a personal trainer Dalton Wong & health & lifestyle journalist Kate Faithfull-Williams, won’t be going to Oxfam any time soon.

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I actually heard about this book towards the end of last year and asked Dalton for a copy, which arrived signed with a personal message for 2016. The more I read the book, before meeting Dalton, the more I smiled. This book has great pictures (yes, I like my visuals & think they are an important motivational tool) but it’s not what makes this book stand out, it is the positivity that flies off every page, giving you options and suggestions, addressing your concerns and arming you with tools to achieve YOUR goals. As Dalton said to me when we met ‘who am I to tell you what to eat and how to live your life? You know yourself better than anyone. This book is a culmination of my own experience of working in the fitness industry for the last twenty years and in a way I view this as a book that I have written for my 20-year old self’.

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The Feel Good Plan is divided into five parts, titled Start, Eat, Move, Relax & a 12-week plan (notice the time frame, not five minutes, not a week or even a month – twelve weeks – that’s 84 days). A time during which you can implement ample changes to make you feel good about yourself, improve your fitness and nutritional choices, be calmer & more energetic – and where is change, there are plenty of possibilities ).

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Nature is on your side: your body is surprisingly well-tuned to be healthy when you treat it well

Change can be as easy as letting go of guilt ( we, women, are prone to it, unfortunately) and ‘taking at least 15 minutes a day to put yourself first. After all it’s only 1% of your day !’ The book gives you some diagrams which will show you if you are in the stressed or calm zone, depending on your answers. Often, the way we approach life affects not only how we feel, but how we look to, and according to the book ‘wanting to look slimmer or to have clear skin aren’t concerns that should be dismissed as a matter of vanity’. We work hard, we have many responsibilities that weight down on our shoulders daily, don’t we deserve to feel good? I think the secret is in motivating yourself in the right way, thus giving you the energy to push forward and work on improving your sleep and posture, lowering risk of disease and increasing your metabolism – all good goals, not fads.

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To understand hunger, it is essential to separate your need for nutrients from the desire to eat

Dalton is a father and was partly motivated to write this book by his ten-year old daughter, who came back from school one day feeling upset because someone has called her ‘fat’. In our day and age, when even grown-up women with great looks and self-assurance can end up feeling insecure, after being bombarded with the images of skinny & re-touched young women frolicking on the beach, posing half-naked in front of gym mirror and magazine articles focussing on retaining one youth, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to address the fact that each one of us is unique and not everyone is blessed with the supermodels body – and who says that having it will make you truly happy? Plus we, women, are emotional – never forget about your capabilities and being honest with yourself when setting your goals! Instead, the book helps you to celebrate your individuality, understand hunger signals, chew properly ( this is a great tip for those of us who eat on the go and in a rush – slow down, appreciate the food and the flavours and it will help you lose weight, if that is one of your goals. At times we forget that we should eat when we are hungry – we often do so because we are tired, angry or simply dehydrated instead).

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When it comes to your breakfast – enjoy it, it sets you & your body for the day ahead. Remember that we all wake up dehydrated though, so drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up & another with your breakfast – those two glasses will not only help your body get re-hydrated, but will raise your metabolic rate as well.

Lunch is a good time to have protein and vegetables, but don’t feel bad if you fancy a sandwich – just cut it into small pieces and make sure you that you bypass energy drinks. You will also find a helpful diagram on how to build a perfect ‘feel good salad’ that will inspire your eyes and fuel your body and it can be made using your last-nights left-overs, by the way!

Not all of us have the luxury of time to prepare the evening meal but according to the book ‘grandma was right – cooking is the key to making healthy choices’. What I also hope you will find, in the same way that I did, is that you get plenty of choices between -feels ‘bad’ to ‘feels ok’ to ‘feels good’. There are no banned foods, instead you have plenty of choices, one of which is bound to appeal. An example – I love having sandwiches for breakfast, even though I know that freshly baked bread that I so love, when eaten daily, goes on my abs. Did Dalton judge me or said ‘don’t? No, instead he suggested that I go for sourdough or rye variety or try having one sandwich instead of two. He makes you think and almost appeals to the smart side of you, without banning the ‘naughty’ side.

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You also will find plenty of tips for your supermarket shopping, as well as other places to shop, delicious snack ideas & how to be healthy in the real world, for example when going to the restaurant. During our chat I asked  Dalton about supplements in general and he said that he is not a fan of supplements per se – ‘taking supplements can be like holding a shotgun to your body’. Think about it – some of use take supplements but don’t eat properly, thinking that supplements will do the ‘good’ work instead. He holds the opinion that if you have variety in your meals and eat real, not processed, seasonal food you should be getting all the nutrients, even though he agreed with my point that sadly our food is generally not as naturally nutritious, as it used to be when we were growing up. He does take protein powders and says that greens and essential fatty acids are important nutritional blocks for your body but says that he chooses not to recommend supplements to his clients ( you certainly won’t see any brand endorsement in the book and neither is Dalton planning to launch supplements bearing his name ) – instead you need to go to the doctor and have a blood test done, only then an informed choice can be made. Definitely food for thought, as I actually take several supplements myself & not on doctor’s orders.

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I met Dalton at his Gym, Twenty two Training, located in a calm and discreet mews house not far from Gloucester Road. No fancy equipment or endless rows of orchids – you come straight into the gym where people work out and trainers push clients towards their goals. We talked in the gym space upstairs, straight after one of his clients finished her session. Dalton looks like a ninja – muscly, ready to move at a moments notice, buzzing with energy. There is an almost army-like precision about him and he talks even faster than I do, yet he comes across as friendly and genuinely insightful and passionate about his work, 20 years after he began his professional career path.

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When I asked Dalton why he decided to go into fitness as his chosen professional field, he told me that his father died from  heart attack when Dalton was only ten and that motivated him to look after his health, fitness playing an important part in it.

Surprisingly, you won’t find any huge exercise suggestions in his and Kate’s book and the chapter actually starts with a great motivational quote.

Exercise is about feeling good – looking your best is the silver lining

Think about it – if you have to exercise but don’t like let’s say going to the gym, will it be an effective strategy for you? No, you will look for ways ‘not’ to do it. When I asked Dalton about his own exercises preferences, he says that he does Jiu Jitsu three times a week – that’s what he loves and that’s what challenges him. So find an exercise that you enjoy – be it running, martial arts, doing a DVD at home, netball, tennis and commit to it, schedule it in your diary and enjoy yourself.

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Small changes make a big impact

What you get in the book are the ‘Anti-ageing Exercise‘ ( rest & stretch are part of it ) and the ‘Expresso Energiser‘ for days when you have energy to burn. There are also ‘Power Circuits‘ and lots of tips to help you find your footing, energy and joy in regular exercise, as well as the importance of rest and stretching. And yes, it is ok sometimes to take a step back from it and just be – rest, eat well. When you are ready, pick your point on the mood curve from the book and start over – working out is about actually wanting to!

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Stress, oh stress, you are familiar to so many of us and while we know you, we choose to ignore you, forgetting that while our bodies are built for it and sometimes it pushes us in the right direction, too much of it is ultimately detrimental to our bodies and minds. Take the time to call a friend, read a book, dance to the music you love – every day! The book gives a somewhat shocking statistic that 66% of us feel stressed before we even get out of bed. Not good, is it?

From stretches that can be done at work, to the point that stress makes us put on pounds – it is the little things that do make the difference and sleeping well makes it in spades! When we love doing something, it stops being a chore or obligation and becomes  part of the day that we look forward to.

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If you ask me for what age is this book suitable, I would say a woman of any age, be it a savvy teenager or a woman in her 70s, will find something useful in it. As a mother I certainly am taking advice distilled in this book by Dalton and Kate and will be sharing it with my own daughter in due time, coupled with my own experience. We talk to our children about ‘the birds and the bees’, but at times forget that we need to be proactive when it comes to fitness, nutrition and confidence advice – it can be hard not to put your own expectations and ambitions on the shoulders of the children, but Dalton takes pride in being not just a fitness professional, but a father who takes active part in his children’s upbringing. In the time and age when the problems with eating  and confidence in your girls & women are only multiplying, this book, where you don’t see the word ‘diet’, is a step in the right direction. In some ways the future of our next generation depends on us – so do take the time not only to address your own body concerns but talk to your children about their bodies & nutrition as well. We can’t control our bodies, but we can control our food by the way of making choices that make our bodies feel healthy and energetic. Confidence is empowering but sadly our society managed to erode it in the last few years. Let’s roll up our sleeves and start ‘undoing’ the damage that was already done, are you with me?

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Another good point that Dalton raised in the course of our conversation, is that not everyone can afford a personal trainer or a gym membership. Not everyone can buy fancy equipment or latest sportswear. That’s not what’s important – he, for one, doesn’t care for latest sportswear or eye-wateringly expensive trainers – that’s not what determines your success. Workout in PJs, if it makes you feel good. Everyone is different – in your 20s you can get away with a lot of things but by the time you get to your 40s, stress and lifestyle start taking its toll – so set your goals, be passionate about your wellbeing and do whatever works for your body, be it at the gym, at home or outside.

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After reading the book and spending half an hour with Dalton last week, talking about the book, fitness and nutrition, I am still contemplating things that we talked about and am planning to re-read the book. Dalton says it is not a coffee table book, nor is it a fitness or diet manual. Some advice might seem obvious but I believe that being well and being healthy, being fit and eating well should be a priority for each one of us. We can all look back on the experience we have had in the past and that serves us well in present. Take it on board, add some modern tips relevant to you and your body and do what makes you feel good – life is not about perfection, but about being the best version of you. To me, this is exactly the book that can be a knowledgeable friend – not a loud or forceful one, but a wise and truly helpful one.

“The Feel Good Plan by Dalton Wong and Kate Faithfull-Williams, Ebury Publishing, £14.99

Categories: Beauty & well-being, Reviews

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