Health + WellnessLifestyle

Here’s to your health with Jessie Pavelka

Most of us want to lead healthier lives, but what changes – more specifically, what practical changes – can we make to reach our goals? To help get to the bottom of this all-important question, I met up with fitness and wellbeing expert Jessie Pavelka to chat about ways to improve my health in 2014.
by Donna Martin


Jessie has graced our TV screens in well-known inspirational programmes such as FAT: The Fight of My Life, Obese: A Year to Save My Life and most recently on ITV’s Daybreak as the spokesperson/trainer for Motivation Nation.

As the insideKENT crew consists of people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels, I thought I’d use our team as guinea pigs in this feature, asking Jessie to give his top tips for each of us in our individual walks of life. Though your own profile might not match one of these to the ‘T’, we’re sure you’ll learn something useful, and will hopefully make a change or two to live a healthier life in 2014 and beyond.

Adam – Publishing Director
• Age: 31
• Current activity level: Fairly active
• Current lifestyle: Spend a lot of time driving across the county and to work in the car, but try and get to the gym at least 1-2 times a week and play football on a Sunday morning when time allows.
• Food, diet and fitness goals for 2014: Cut out takeaway and fast food by eating more home-cooked food. My weakness is bread and I have started to eat more chocolate than I ate before, so I need to concentrate on keeping the weight off (lost over a stone in 2013) by eating well and not falling back into old habits. I’d like to tone up a bit more at the gym and push myself a bit harder to keep trim after losing weight.
• How much time to commit to health and exercise every week? 2-3 hours per week / 1-2 evenings and a weekend morning.

“At 31 years old, you’re still in a good place to set yourself up for life in terms of health and fitness, so up the gym time to 3-4 times per week. Just by adding one or two extra days a week, you’ll see incredible results – and do your sessions in the morning if you can. For the morning workouts, do interval training, which is basically giving it 100% (like a sprint), followed by a minute of slow to moderate recovery for the duration of your workout.

Also, with upping the exercise, you get a bit more freedom with your food, so takeaways once a week won’t hurt you. If you’re concerned about your weaknesses with certain foods, and you think they might cause you to fall back into old habits, cut them out. Swap white bread for brown or sourdough, or if you know you can control yourself, eat those guilty pleasures in moderation.

One of the best things you can do to maintain your weight is to prepare your own home-cooked meals – that way you know exactly what’s in it, and won’t be eating hidden saturated fats or simple carbs. You can also make sure you’re eating enough protein with each meal and stick to proper proportions (1/3 protein, 1/3 starchy veg and 1/3 leafy greens).”


Donna – Editor
• Age: 34
• Current activity level: Sedentary (unless I’m running through the supermarket or after one of my kids)
• Current lifestyle: I have three little boys, and due to my 1-year-old’s erratic sleeping schedule (or lack thereof), I could fall asleep anywhere, anytime if I close my eyes for more than five seconds. Throw in a full-time job, trying to keep my house presentable and making sure my kids don’t starve, I have very little ‘me’ time, or time to exercise or plan meals.
• Food, diet and fitness goals for 2014: Eat less sugar. Eat more veg. Maybe try going on a chocolate fast. Forever. Lose the baby weight (2 stone!), get back to being able to run a few miles without stopping.
• How much time to commit to health and exercise every week? I could do a half hour here and there, wherever I can fit it in.

“One of the most important things you can do is schedule things, and trim the fat out of your schedule. Find those little windows of time and let your schedule rule you, and don’t just say you need to work, work, work, or that you can’t make time for yourself.

So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you know that you have some free space in your schedule where you don’t have a meeting. Block off half an hour to go for a brisk walk, or do another type of exercise you enjoy – one that can clear your head and give you some exercise at the same time.

3,500 calories equals one pound, so to lose one pound a week, you have to create a deficit in your body of 500 calories a day. If you love chocolate, switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, and only cut out a few squares so you know that’s all you can have. Don’t take the whole chocolate bar with you to the couch thinking you’ll only eat a little bit – that will never work. Have just enough to satisfy your cravings.

Eating more veg is a great goal, but concentrate on cutting out sugars. Surround yourself with good snacks to start breaking the sugar habit. If you want to lose two stone, exercise in the morning if you can, and most importantly make sure you start scheduling in time for yourself to be active.”

Alex – Account Manager
• Age: 19
• Current activity level: Fairly active
• Current lifestyle: Probably drive too much for my own good, no kids, no health issues, eat too much curry but tend to eat fairly healthily. Play football 1-2 times a week for at least an hour at a time non-stop, and currently do 20+ push-ups a day.
• Food, diet and fitness goals for 2014: I already eat lots of vegetables, but would like to eat more fruit. Carry on with what I’m currently doing but push it a bit further (perhaps go from doing 20 push-ups a day to 50).
• How much time you could commit to health and exercise every week? Every day!

“You’re 19, you’re young, and have the opportunity to get in the best shape of your life. You’re body’s chemistry is about to be at its peak, so you want to take advantage of that. You should be doing a lot more than just push-ups – this is a time to really train and sculpt your body.

Do resistance training at the gym – a whole body workout 3-5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour. Become stronger, which will in turn help your football, and generally just add variety to your routine, so arms, legs, core, and cardio.

At 19, you can kind of eat whatever you want, but it’s best to create good habits now. If you have the time to exercise every day, do it! Don’t put it off – as you get older, your free time will only get less and less, so creating the lifestyle and body you want while you can is ideal.”


Gemma – Features Editor
• Age: 26
• Current activity level: Fairly active
• Current lifestyle: I tend to eat out a lot, and often consume random meals at random times, mainly due to a busy lifestyle and my lack of desire to cook. I feel less lethargic after cutting wheat out of my diet at the end of 2013, but I still need to increase my intake of fruit and veg and healthier foods. I have a gym membership, but struggle to get motivated and often feel embarrassed in that environment too!
• Food, diet and fitness goals for 2014: Stop skipping breakfast; ensure I at least eat my 5-a-day; avoid eating late at night; drink more water. To actually utilise my gym membership and tone up; sign up to some fun post-work classes and be consistent; take part in Race For Life again this summer, but input some serious training; increase my health levels in order to boost my immune system
• How much time you could commit to health and exercise every week? Three evenings after work and one weekend morning.

“I think the key for you would be planning ahead, and having more consistency in your routine and with food. Every Sunday, schedule in what you need to do to have a healthy week – so give yourself time in the morning to prepare lunch and eat a healthy breakfast, and schedule in specific times to exercise.

Try keeping a food diary to see where your weaknesses are in terms of skipping meals and eating unhealthily.

If you have a gym membership but find yourself not using it, either make a 100% commitment to start using it, or get out of it. If you’re continuously not using it, it’s probably not something you enjoy doing, so you won’t stick with for life. Find something you enjoy and stick with it, whether it be jogging or home DVDs. Once you’re in better shape and start to enjoy exercise, think about incorporating a gym membership then.

To tone up, you have to do resistance training – there’s no way around it. If you’re slim to start, use heavier weights to tone your muscles. If you find you’re getting too ‘muscley’, just back off or use lighter weights. But, I have to reiterate the importance of a healthy diet if you’re doing any sort of training; if you don’t have the proper nutrients to back up your exercise, you wouldn’t be benefiting your body at all.”

Greg – Account Manager
• Age: 29
• Current activity level: Sedentary
• Current lifestyle: I used to play a lot of sport, but I had a bad sporting injury around three years ago and it has had a mental impact on me exercising – I am worried it may reoccur. I don’t eat heavy (or at least I don’t think I do!), but what I do eat is the wrong type of food, and with no exercise this has had an effect on my weight.
• Food/diet goals for 2014: To eat cleaner in 2014 (easier said than done for me!); try to reduce takeaways to being a treat, I think I may appreciate them more that way.
• Fitness goals for 2014: To take up swimming as it is an exercise which is good for you and works all of the body, and hopefully that may strengthen my confidence to take up sport of some sort again. I have never been one for the gym (and never will be) so I think swimming would be a great substitute.
• How much time you could commit to health & exercise every week? Once or twice a week, perhaps more in summer months.

“One of the biggest things you can start doing is cardio. Start out with walking, turn it into jogging, and swimming is an outstanding choice – you use more muscles when you swim than with any other exercise.

I wouldn’t say don’t do resistance training, but I’d suggest starting with cardio until you’re a bit more confident, then add the resistance training. Once you feel better and have lost a bit of weight, it will make incorporating other exercise easier.

At 29, to play football after your injury, I’d suggest getting confident with other exercise first, then starting up with the football again. Train yourself to get fit and confident so you’re not worried about getting injured again.

Eating clean is a great goal, but try getting to that goal little by little. If you eat a lot of takeaways, cutting them out altogether and eating only clean foods will probably leave you craving those takeaways, and you may not be able to resist. Instead, start with experimenting with home-cooked food. Try preparing healthy foods differently – sautéing, baking, grilling, or try masking healthy foods that you might not necessarily like in other dishes. Putting healthy veg in smoothies is a great example, or mashing green veg into your mashed potatoes. Once you start eating those healthy foods, you’ll begin to enjoy them and crave them more, and wonder how you used to eat so many takeaways.”


Cathy – Account Manager
• Age: 49
• Current activity level: Lightly active
• Current lifestyle: I feel I’m always busy and on the go, but I don’t actually do much physical exercise nowadays because I’m either sitting at a computer, driving the car, standing in the kitchen cooking, clearing up or doing things around the house. I am quite a healthy person, but I discovered last year that I have a slightly under active thyroid, so I have to take one tablet a day and I have been going through my menopause for about a year and a half now and seem to be coping without having to take any other medication.
• Food, diet and fitness goals for 2014: I need to give up butter, bread, full-fat milk, cheese, and stop snacking. To lose 4 stone, as I’m going to be 50 next January 2015 and would love to be slim again; however to aim for 2 stone to start with would be good!
• How much time you could commit to health and exercise every week? An hour a day.

“As far as giving up food, saying things like ‘I need to do this’ and ‘I need to do that’ are quite negative. Instead of beating yourself up and saying how you need to do certain things in a negative way, give yourself positive affirmations – so change the saying ‘I need to give up butter because I need to lose weight’ into ‘I want to give up butter because it will improve my health, wellbeing and confidence.’

Changing your internal dialogue like this will do wonders when making small lifestyle changes, like cutting down on certain foods or increasing exercise. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind – concentrate on filling your brain with positive things. If you obsess over what you shouldn’t eat, you’ll always be thinking about that food, and will probably end up eating it (and probably too much of it).

Surround yourself with your goals. Write your favourite quotes on your bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker so you see it first thing in the morning and right before going to bed.

For exercise, look for a good class that you can become a part of. Try Zumba so you can mix fun, socialising and exercise at the same time. Extreme exercise isn’t good when you’re going through your menopause, just something where you’ll stay at your target heart rate, which is (220 – [age] x 75%).”

For more info on Jessie Pavelka or to become a part of the Pavelka Health Revolution, visit




Previous post

Your Garden This Month: Here Comes Spring!

Next post

A Year of Kent Gourmet with Andy McLeish