Sheeva, let me start with a gossip portal-style question to whet our readers’ appetites: I know you have been a celebrity trainer in one of the most prominent gyms in London for a long time. Do all of those celebs really look that amazing in real life?
Oh! This question is definitely an all-time classic. Most of the time, when we see a public figure, we see them on TV. What we don’t see is the number of people working behind the scenes to make them look this way. Photoshop, make up, special lighting, camera filters and god knows what else. Most of them are simple people you would hardly recognize on the street if they weren’t surrounded by paparazzi and bodyguards. Once I was talking to one of the most popular celebrities in the UK (I won’t reveal her name!) Only after she left did someone tell me who she was. I couldn’t believe it. On TV, she not only looks 3 times taller but also bigger. Even her skin color was different.
Let’s take Victoria’s Secret models. The transformations I’ve witnessed were beyond my wildest dreams.
Their bodies were covered with special cream so they looked glowing, then powder for a matte and silky effect, various skin correctors… I swear I would not recognize any of them out of that room. I have to make a point here, I’m not saying they look bad or anything, just very different. Simpler and more naturally beautiful. None of them wake up in the morning with that perfect hair and matte skin. It’s very hard to believe that all of this is nothing more than marketing. You shouldn’t judge yourself by what you see on the TV screen or magazine covers, but by your health.
To continue the topic – you look absolutely stunning in real life, too. How do you do it?
Well, thank you very much! I really just concentrate on eating fresh food and staying active. I don’t kill myself in the gym. I don’t drink protein shakes. Doing too much of something will always make you dependent on it. You don’t want your nice bum to depend on protein shakes, do you?
Sheeva, the first thing I googled when putting this interview together was “what to eat to lose weight”. I got 120 million search results, however “exercise to lose weight” got 172 million. Do people believe that exercise is more important than food? As a fitness expert and nutritionist, what do you say to that?
People believe what they want to believe in order to achieve the body of “what’s her name” superstar or catwalk model. Or they eat “junk” and then try to burn it all off in the gym. I have very bad news for them – it’s not going to work! Let me just say that everybody is an individual with a unique body. Everybody has their own system. Some can eat pizza late at night and you can still count their bones, but some can’t seem to lose a single pound without starving.
You have to understand your own system, and make the best of your genetics without harming yourself. We have to remember that health is a long term “all-inclusive” friend, whereas size and shape are more like enemies, causing depression, dependence and irritation.
I don’t believe in killing yourself in the gym or crazy diets. I believe in eating tons of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans etc.
We usually see fitness models eating breasts of chicken all day long, substituting fruit and veg with pills – and more pills. I hear it so many times from trainers all over the world, that fruit contains a lot of sugar. Bananas will make you fat. Fat will make you fat. This list is endless, I will probably write a book on it one day. But what I really want to say is that the right food is everything! Moving means living! We need to stay active to boost our energy levels. Life is much more than eating and exercising. Balance is the key!
I used to walk 6-8 miles a day with my baby stroller and ate very healthy food but I found that I still gained weight. It is true that the amount of food I eat is more important than exercise?
It’s not really the amount of food, rather what kind of food it is and the quality.
I’ve found that to different people, healthy food means different things.
For some, brown bread is a healthy choice, but for others it’s poison. I specialize in the “value” of the food and in its healing nature. Because of that, I believe that you have to choose food according to its nutrients rather than the number of calories.
For example, you can eat as much fruit and veg as you like and you will never gain weight. The amount of nutrients a simple banana contains is way greater than that of brown bread. Bread will provide mainly calories with very little nutrition, whereas a banana has tons of nutrients. For me it’s better to eat 5 bananas for breakfast, than 1 so-called “healthy” muffin. I am not a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat for my own reasons, but I do eat fish. So to answer your question, I would probably say that your food choices or combination of food was wrong.
At one point I understood that I could eat whatever I wanted but the most important thing was to actually feel hungry between meals to lose weight. So don’t eat out of boredom and it doesn’t matter what you consume. When I shared this thought with you, you replied “never say that to people!” Why?
Well, for the same reasons that I described previously. I can assure you that you can eat chocolates all day long, in small portions and feel hungry between meals, and you will lose weight. But how many nutrients do you get? And what would happen to you after a couple of years of living like that?
I can tell straight away when I see a person if he or she eats good food. Your skin tone, radiance, glow, quality of your skin, hair etc.
I had a client once, when she came to me she had been diagnosed with anorexia. Her diet was one Mars bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also she managed to run about 10 km every day! Trust me, she looked nothing close to what you usually see in magazines.
I absolutely believe that you don’t need the extra stress in your life of having to weigh yourself.
Everybody wants to have a Brazilian bum, but do you know how much they weigh!? LOL Or some women have bigger breasts than others – it’s all relative. The more you train with weights and gain muscle, the more your weight will change. You will look sexier and leaner in the mirror, but you probably won’t fit into your jeans and your weight will definitely increase.
Muscles weigh much more than fat.
So if you take a pound of fat it will look 3 times bigger than 1 pound of muscle. From experience: One of my girls wanted to make her bum rounder and her waist smaller. So I designed a program for her. After some time she came to me saying that she couldn’t fit into her jeans but she could easily close them on top. I asked her to bring the jeans to me. Finally, she had got a curvier bum – that’s why she couldn’t get it into her skinny jeans but the waistband was loose. So she got what she wanted. She was happy to admit that. But I have these issues all the time.
Girls, when they see nice Brazilian curves in bikinis on the beach – they don’t seem to realize that they’ll probably need a size or two bigger than an XS
Being a vegetarian – I didn’t eat meat for several years and I found that I was totally exhausted: my hair became brittle, my skin was grey and I was constantly cold, especially in winter. Do you have any experience of vegan food?
Oh yes! It’s quite common for people who turn vegetarian to undereat. Something meat-lovers say is: if you’re a vegetarian, you have to eat 30 oranges in order to get this and that. Well, eat those 30 oranges and everything will be fine. It’s only about a liter of juice.
I’ve met a lot of vegetarians who ate a lot of pasta and bread, which did not provide any nutrients for their skin or hair. Instead they had very bad skin tone and weak muscles.
If you are a vegetarian, really, you have to EAT, and I mean EAT a lot!
More raw food, to get all the nutrients, as they will be lost when you heat them above 45 degrees C. So if you are eating vegetables, steamed for an hour, you can forget about getting anything from them but pointless calories. So eat more nuts, seeds, raw fruit and vegetables and grains (preferably raw), for example – overnight soaked oats.
Many women are obsessed with being thin but not to be in shape. Being thin helps when your clothes are on. Being in good shape helps when they’re not. Now at the age of 36 I realize how very right you are. But focusing on exercise is becoming harder and harder for me each year, but at the same time, eating less is becoming easier. Why is that?
As we get older we need less sleep and less food, that’s our natural life cycle. Our metabolism also slows down. I cannot say the same thing about exercise though. Being active is a lifestyle you don’t have to concentrate on. You don’t necessarily need to lift heavy weights. I believe in active pleasure. Have you ever thought why Brazilian women are so toned? They dance a LOT. At any age, in any given circumstances. It makes them happy so they don’t need to concentrate on it. We all have things we enjoy besides lying on the sofa. Walk as much as you can, dance, play games and sports.
Do basic gymnastics, eat simple fresh food and you’ll be surprised.
You will burn a lot more calories that way.
All of these dance classes, pilates, fitness yoga and zumba etc – do you consider them a real workout, or just a light type of physical activity that makes you feel better through boosting your endorphin levels but has no real impact on shape?
I don’t support endless runs and aerobic classes, because you are rapidly diminishing your body’s resources. Combined with poor nutrition you will end up with pain all over the place, especially in your knees. The guy, who invented JOGGING, jogged a lot. Guess what happened? He died of a heart attack while jogging! That’s a terrible example to all of those people who try to do the survival SOS program to their body every day! All sports people are done by the age of 30 and then they are plagued with injuries and health problems. You can jog, of course, but not 10 km a day every day. When you are in great shape and you are exercising, when you need to run for your life, even 20 km, trust me you will.
Combine stretching with weight training and you are good to go.
Yoga and Pilates are great for you, as they reach places normal training doesn’t. The way you pose actually builds endurance and involves all of those small muscles you probably didn’t even know about. They stretch your body, as nobody seems to find time for that after training. Stretching I have to say, not only relaxes the muscles and prevents them from hurting, it also makes you longer and leaner. So you will look taller and fitter, rather than smaller and bulkier.
And now, the most important question for moms: how do they find time for exercise and time to prepare healthy food?
I will probably make you laugh by saying that you need as little as 5 minutes every day to stay in shape. I did an experiment not so long ago. A man who worked in finance came to me and told me that he didn’t have time to exercise.
He joked by saying he only has 5 minutes in the morning and 5 before he goes to bed. I said that would be just fine!
I gave him 3 basic exercises: Push-ups, squats and sit ups. He needed to do as many of each as he could. He started with squats, he did about 60 of them, then sit-ups (35) and finally, push-ups (25). He finished in 2 minutes 49 seconds. I said you still have time to grow. We laughed, and he left satisfied. Some time later he came to me saying that he had never felt so fit before in his life.
A lack of time is all in your mind. You don’t have to cook fruit, a smoothie takes around 2 minutes, vegetables as well, seeds and nuts… You can soak oats overnight and they’re ready to eat. Eat porridge, it takes about 5 minutes to cook. It’s not healthy food which is hard to cook, it’s processed food that takes much more time. I eat raw desserts only, and compared to regular ones, they are so easy and quick to make – they don’t even seem like desserts, more like a healthy sweet meal. Every ingredient of which will not make you sluggish and unhealthy but healthier and happier. Do your research.
I realized that walking burned 20 pounds off me, and I haven’t stepped inside a gym for 7 years. Instead, I power walked, rollerbladed and skied. However, my triceps needed some extra attention. What three main points on a woman’s body would you advise women to focus on?
That’s because you burned a lot of calories, stayed active. So, I would say… everything! You can’t have great legs and sluggish arms. When you are balanced you look fitter and in proportion.
Talking to me, you probably understood that I’m not a quick-fix girl. I support a healthy mind transformed into a healthy lifestyle. Understanding what foods are and WHY you are putting them into your body – what you will get from them.
But because I don’t want to disappoint you, I would probably recommend going on a juice detox.
You have to drink juice and smoothies made from fruit and vegetables all the time. The reason is that your stomach won’t have anything to digest so will clean itself and you won’t miss out on vitamins and nutrients. Your skin will change its appearance. It will become more radiant, you will see improvements in tone and texture. But I wouldn’t recommend doing it for more than 14 days. And that’s for really healthy people; for the others, 3 days, 7 days. Listen to your body.
Sheeva Raynn, a certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist, lives in London. She enjoys every aspect of healthy living, including fitness, dance, organic food and a no-stress approach to life.