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Kayla Itsines is the world famous PT whose kickass fitness attitude has inspired over 8 million women to make healthier habits.
Her original BBG plan propelled bodyweight training into the headlines, with update BBG stronger tackling strength training for women. Her positive ethos – best seen through motivational Instagram posts – is now highlighting how to practice self-care in and amongst a structured workout programme and healthy eating plan. Her new book, Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide, is a glossy atlas encompassing all of the above in one handy guide.
WH got an exclusive sneak peek of the book before its release date and it’s everything you’d want from a healthy habits guide—informative, chock full of workouts, healthy recipes and self-care advice for the healthy wellness warrior.
Far too many weeks of festive indulgence—let’s face it, my friends and I peaked when we had ‘Friendmas’ on December 10th—left me feeling sluggish, lethargic and crying out for some healthy structure to my diet. I was officially Celebration-ed out.
So when tasked with the challenge of following the first three days of the meal plan from Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide, I lept at the chance. Three days of nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners, with snacks in between? I’m in.
BIKINI BODY MOTIVATION & HABITS GUIDE… AT A GLANCE
There are 310 pages of solid fitness advice but as the resident team WH foodie, I was keen to test the recipes. Sure, Itsines is a bonafide personal trainer, but she isn’t a nutritionist.
However, from the offset, it’s clear Itsines and her team have worked with one, if not several, nutrition professionals on the book. From the beginning of the food section, you are guided in detail through the different macro and micronutrients, with clear guidance on what different foods do to your body—like too much unhealthy fat, or not enough carbohydrates. Laid out in easy to follow boxes is your daily recommended serving of:
- Grains (6)
- Veggies and legumes (5)
- Lean meat, seafood, eggs and meat alternatives (2 and a 1/2)
- Dairy products and alternatives (2 and a 1/2)
- Fruit (2)
- Healthy fats (2)
Healthy eating, to Itsines, never means lacking energy, cutting food groups or restricting yourself. Pages are dedicated to fueling yourself correctly to balance fat loss and energy loss. So many women find themselves spiraling into a vicious cycle of not fuelling their bodies properly for fat loss and in turn lacking energy. It’s refreshing to see Itsines totally smash this notion by scientifically addressing your body’s needs to lose fat and reserve energy.
Laid out clearly day-by-day is a breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Team Itsines also designed a weekly meal plan and a shopping list for you—meaning there really is no excuse not to follow it exactly. The shopping list is even divided into store cupboard essentials and fresh produce, so you know what you can buy in advance and what will go smelly if left in the fridge.
Surprisingly, getting out of bed doesn’t seem too bad when I’ve got the promise of pancakes on the horizon. My normal dreary Wednesday morning soon seems a long lost memory. I’d initially panicked, thinking that pancakes were a weekend brunch food that’d take more time than I had in the morning to prepare. But in reality, they took no longer than my normal protein porridge or eggs. Only thing I’d say is the recipe makes enough for two, so halve the ingredients unless you have hungry housemates to feed like I do.
Come 11 am, I’m happily munching my way through a pre-prepped rocket and white bean dip. Which, sure, took 5 minutes to prepare (it’s as simple as sticking everything in a blender et, voila) but took double that to prepare and tidy up. Call me lazy, but having to use a Magimix for a midday snack is not something I’d do regularly when I can buy houmous from Tesco’s.
Lunch is lettuce cups topped with pearl barley cous cous mixed with red onion, red pepper, coriander and four beans. Simple enough, but next time I’ll make sure I top the lettuce leaves when I’m ready to eat, otherwise, I’m left with a bit of a soggy mess, as I found out.
By 4 pm I’m ashamed to say I’m actually not even hungry enough to eat the pre-prepped chocolate and banana mousse, and that is not something I’d say lightly. Instead, I bank it for dessert (my biggest vice). I could get used to this.
After a steady 5 mile run home, I’m ravenous and the last thing I want to do is march around the supermarket to buy ingredients for day two. I also remember, to my horror, that I’ve left the cookbook at work. But, luckily, all of the recipes are available to view online, so panic averted. Dinner is pistachio crusted salmon with quinoa, tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and spinach. Proper fuel after a big run. It was easy to prepare – pre-prepared packets of quinoa at no loss of nutritional value saved me – and was delicious.
After picking up my ingredients late on Wednesday evening, I’m surprised at how little time the preparation of all three main meals takes me. I blitz my chocolate and mint smoothie bowl up at work (perks of working at WH: Nutribullet in the office). It a simple combination of only seven ingredients, so even though reading it I thought it may be a faff to make, it really took no longer than making a cup of tea. I popped all your ingredients in the blender and was off.
Perhaps it was psychological because I had a smoothie after a 45-minute weight session, but I’m hungry by about 10.30am and happily scoff down the pre-prepared pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, almond, coconut flake, goji berry and blueberry trail mix I’ve chucked in a ziplock the night before. The combination is really great for snacking on as it zapped hunger and left me satisfied until lunchtime.
Lunch is a cajun chicken wrap which, as a vegetarian, I substitute for Quorn. I’d never think to take a wrap to work—I always roast veggies or prepare a salad in the vague train of thought that salads are more filling—but the wrap is satisfying and tasty, and leaves me content enough with my lunch that again. I don’t think about food until I’m heading onto the tube at 6.15pm with dinner on the brain. This is unheard of for someone who usually justifies hourly peanut butter and banana breaks, because, protein.
When I get in, I nibble on my mid-afternoon snack of baba ganoush and pita triangles with no sense of guilt that I’m ‘ruining my dinner’ or ‘eating two meals’ (alright, Mum). The chickpea, tomato and kale soup took an hour to soak, which I must admit, made me and my rumbling stomach fairly hangry. But slaving over the hob for an hour and a half was worth the satisfaction of tasting my very own soup. Perhaps I’m far too millennial and used to shop bought soups.
Day three rolls around and although I’m excited about avocado toast for breakfast, I’m tired. I was up for an extra hour last night preparing my lunch of homemade black rice sushi.
After breakfast, I’m not hungry again until it’s time to eat the uber-fiddly black rice sushi—which, of course, is delicious, but I chomp begrudgingly as I remember trying to stick the nori sheets together at near to 11pm.
Mid-afternoon and after a prolonged period of sitting at my desk writing articles, the cranberry and cottage cheese flatbread is a welcome snack and another reminder of what a balanced diet Itsines advocates. There’s no carb cutting over here—and all the better for it, looking at the strong, healthy bodies of her and her legions of fans.
Dinner is a parmigiana salad, something I would never have thought to cook for myself, but it’s surprisingly tasty and Joe Wicks-esque in a combination of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates. Vegetarians can use Quorn, tofu, seitan or jackfruit to replace the chicken here like I did. I go to bed happy and with a very content tummy. Chia pot for dessert and I’m stuffed, but quite looking forward to the simplicity of eggs for breakfast.
With so much pressure on what should and shouldn’t be in the perfect diet, it’s refreshing to see Itsines bucking the trend. She’s done what so many PTs and chefs before have tried to do—promote healthy, honest home cooking which focuses on whole foods, rather than calorie counting, macro obsessing or restriction – but perhaps, didn’t have the following to succeed. Couple this with her advice on planning for failure – even Itsines doesn’t feel motivated to get those jump lunges in every day – and you’ve got a straight-talking, easy to follow guide to making healthy habits a reality in 2018.
My only qualm? Working 9-to-6 every day leaves you with little spare time to workout and socialise, and so the gap in the nutrition market at the moment, for me, lies in healthy food that’s quick and easy to prepare. At times, the Itsines approach to food can be a little laborious when time is of the essence. Take, for example, the soup, which—delicious as it was—took well over an hour to make, and looking at the nutritional information, really didn’t sway too far from the macros on most Covent Garden or Soupologie shop bought options.
Having said that, the recipes are easy to follow, tasty and totally Instagram friendly. I was surprised and a little confused, initially, that none of the recipes state their calorie or macros counts. But actually, I think it’s massively encouraging to see such an inspirational fitness figure take such a conscious step away from micromanaging calories and food intake on such a level. Itsines whole book advocates eating good, wholesome food without monitoring it, and by omitting calorie counts from all of the recipies, she’s only further reinforcing this notion. It’s pretty rad.
Kayla Itsines The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide is out now, £16.33, kaylaitsines.com