Christmas Shopping

Out for hours shopping in busy shops and streets. Means you’ll get hungry and need to eat and that can mean unexpected calories making it hard to stay on track with all the coffee shops and fast food places as pit stop options in most town centres.

Some ideas to help keep your diet on track when out shopping:

1/ Have a big breakfast before you go out then take some snacks with you (nuts, fruit) so you don’t get hungry and need to stop for a Macy’s

2/ Plan ahead and pick somewhere you can get a lower calorie lunch – coffee shops like Starbucks often do things like egg based meal boxes or you could grab a salad from Subway. Add a black coffee or water and you have a filling lunch whilst keeping within your calorie goal

3/ Allocate yourself enough calories from your weekly balance so you can have that Christmas coffee and huge slab of cake knowing your still on track

4/ Shop online so you can eat at leisure at home!

What other strategies do you have to stay on track?

Project 40- Week 2

Week 2 of Project Fitter at 40 and this week my goal has been to improve consistency with various habits.

Some, like going to the gym, are habits I find easy. Hitting 20,000 steps a day, not drinking too much coffee, daily gratitude journaling are habits I find a bit harder to hit. Whilst I’ve still got room for improvement I have been more consistent with these habits and I feel like I can continue to work on this.

What I’ve definitely identified as my issue this eek though id my diet. Specifically, quite simply, I’m eating too many calories each day. In reality I’m less active than I used to be, simply because I’m teaching fewer classes each week, this is why I’ve put on weight. So what I need to look at next week is planning my meals and sticking to that plan with a view to lowering my intake. I’m looking to make no adjustments to my training, as I feel like if I’m reducing calories a bit I might want to adjust to that before I look at training intensity, although I might do a few classes as a participant just to mix things up a bit.

Honestly I’ve felt fat this week, probably hormonal as I’ve neither gained nor lost any weight in weeks, but to be my face in particular looks fatter in the mirror (not helped by a spot outbreak I don’t think). When this happens it’s natural to feel an urge to do drastic things to feel better (detox, strict diet, up training sort of things) but my new approach is to consciously avoid this kind of self talk ad approach my week in a kind way, a way I’m more likely to stick to and enjoy.

Calories Matter

I write a lot about calorie deficits to lose weight and how what you make those calories up of doesn’t matter in terms of dropping weight.

Of course that doesn’t mean that what you eat doesn’t matter. How you actually structure your diet to meet these calories will have an impact on how you feel.

The fact remains that you can eat foods in any combination, eat specific foods, eat at certain times. If you aren’t in a deficit you won’t lose weight, but once you’ve got the deficit thing nailed looking at what you actually eat can help you progress further and feel better with it.

Increasing your protein intake for instance, that can help you feel more satiated, which in turn makes calorie deficits feel easier.

Swapping out some of your sugary snacks for fruit will make you feel better over time and also reduce the calorie value of your snacks.

Looking to fill up on denser lower calorie foods (piling your veggies high for instance) will keep you full but also help stay within your calorie goal.

Focusing on eating homemade food with lots of salad and veg included will make you feel better than takeaways and grab a go sandwiches, probably be lower calorie (and reduce your spending).

So of course how you chose to make up those calories does have an effect.

Why do PTs tend to say calories matter more as a headline then?

Because it’s a pyramid and you need to have the foundations right before you build.

If you aren’t yet in a deficit then looking at changing everything about what you eat and worrying about the specifics of certain foods is going to feel overwhelming. Quite simply if you can hit a calorie deficit by cutting a snack out, reducing your portion size, changing your McDonalds order from Large to regular, making your takeaway coffee an Americano instead of a Pumpkin Spiced Late every day, well that’s going to make sticking to a calorie goal easier. Once you’ve adjusted to that then you can look at some more small changes bit by bit. Generally speaking we are better at adjusting to small changes over time rather than overhauling our life all in one go, we are much more likely to stick with small changes consistently and consistency is what is needed to reduce weight and keep it off.    

When is a calorie deficit not a calorie deficit?

When is a calorie deficit not a calorie deficit?

You might be surprised at how often people say to PTs, I’m barely eating anything and still not losing weight or I’m in a calorie deficit but nothing is happening.

This is when the idea that it must be your metabolism, carbs, the time you’re eating or the lack of random expensive magic juice in your diet that is stopping the weight loss.

Now I’m reality, on the odd week it might simply be water retention, not having a poo recently, your period or hormones affecting your weight.

But if your weight is consistently not coming down week on week even if you are in a calorie deficit here’s the reason for the scale not going down.

You aren’t actually in a calorie deficit.

– Are you actually tracking and if you are are you including EVERYTHING (sauces, coffees, left overs). You need to honest with yourself here.

– Are you consistently in a deficit. If you are Monday to Friday but waaay over calories on the weekend you probably aren’t actually in a real deficit.

– Maybe you are being honest about what you’re eating but overestimating how much your burning each day.

If this is the case you could try dropping your calories by a small amount each day (250 calories to start) and seeing what happens, you might need to drop a bit further but by bit until you start to see movement.

If you are in a calorie deficit consistently you will overtime drop weight so if you aren’t seeing progress you are not in a calorie deficit. Good news here – now you know that’s the issue you can work to change it.

Weight Loss & Diets … Dirty Words

My latest podcast all about diets and losing weight … how we view it in society and on social media these days and why it’s still ok to want to lose weight along with a bit about why you might be finding it tough to actually reduce the number in the scales

https://anchor.fm/heather-sherwood/episodes/Diets-and-Weight-Loss–Dirty-Words-e1nm3r7

Things that affect weight loss

Our weight can be affected by lots of things and being aware of the things in our life that might have an impact can be helpful, for instance:

  1. Sleep – When you are tired you not only have less energy to move but are also more likely to eat more in an effort to feel more energetic.  Lack of sleep can also have an impact on your hormones and this too can affect your appetite and cause you to eat more than you need.
  2. Stress- The more stressed we are the more our cortisol levels increase which has shown to cause weight to be stored around our midsection more easily. Feeling like you are constantly in a state of flight or fight can also affect our hormones and affect our weight.
  3. Age- Our metabolism does slow with age and so (especially for women around menopause where estrogen levels start to decrease) it can feel like it’s harder to maintain our weight as we get older.  This is probably heightened by the fact that weight distribution can also change as we age (so we start to notice new ‘problem’ areas we’d never noticed before).
  4. Hydration Levels – Dehydration affects our body functioning properly and can affect amongst other things digestion.  Some people will also confuse thirst with hunger, so whilst the old ‘you’re not hungry drink a glass of water’ saying may feel like outdated diet twaddle, if you haven’t drank much that day but have eaten recently you may indeed actually be thirsty.
  5. Genes- Yes how and where we gain weight is affected by genes and also family background, how we were taught to approach food , our families eating habits and so on will likely subconsciously affect how we think about food now and may be the source of some of our misconceptions about diets and certain food groups.
  6. Medication – Everyone reacts differently to medications but for some weight gain can be a side effect from taking medication long term. That may be because they cause carb cravings, water retention, affect your metabolism, increase appetite (some medications do the opposite and supress your appetite).  Some medical conditions themselves can have an effect on your weight, be it through appetite changes or being less able to exercise / move, and thyroid conditions for instance have a direct effect on your weight away from food and movement.

All of these things can affect our weight and how easily we might find it to lose weight, of course this is just a selection of a variety of circumstances and factors that can play a part.

But whilst it’s good to be aware of these things (and beyond weight reducing stress, sleeping more, drinking more water are going to have a positive effect on us) let’s not forget that they alone are unlikely (medical conditions aside) to be the sole reason you aren’t losing weight. 

If you are eating more calories than you are burning a day that is the reason you are not losing (or even gaining) weight. Your medication might be making it harder, stress and lack of sleep may not be helping,  but these things are great things to review either for the other benefits they bring or as additional considerations AFTER you have established whether your energy in versus energy out is where it should be.

Think of it like trying to ice a cake before it’s cooked.  You need to get the absolute basics (calories) right before looking into the minute (lifestyle factors, macros, whether your Deadlift on a Monday or Friday) aspects of your life for the results to turn out as you’d like.

Calories in a 1 Minute Read

  • The Energy Balance Equation = Calories in V Calories Out
  • You burn a certain amount of calories just existing (Your BMR)
  • You burn some calories depending on your activity levels through the day
  • This combined is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
  • This is your Calories Out
  • Everything you eat has a calorific value, everything you eat in a day gives you Calories In.
  • If Calories In and Calories Out are equal consistently you will maintain your current weight
  • If Calories In is more than Calories Out consistently (creating a surplus) you will gain weight
  • If Calories In is less than Calories Out consistently you will lose weight
  • Calories In being less than Calories out is the definition of a Calories Deficit
  • Consistently is the key word, one day in surplus or deficit will not make a difference
  • If you want to lose weight and are not you need to review Calories In
  • You could keep Calories In the same and look at increasing Calories Out but this may be difficult to do depending on your current activity levels
  • It may be ideal to look at both reducing Calories In a little and increasing Calories Out a little
  • Calories are calories regardless of whether they come from fat, carbs or protein. Different amounts of calories make up different foods but when it comes to being in a calorie deficit how those calories are made up is not relevant

Day 1

There’s always so much hype about ‘Day 1’.

You start a diet or a gym regime and people praise the ‘Day 1’ posts. Of course Day 1 is tough, starting anything can be daunting and finding the motivation to start is a positive which should be cheered.

Day 1 is also shiny, new and novel enough to actually be easy though. Those first few meals, gym sessions, days of change have a novelty to them that can help you stick to it.

It gets tougher as the days go by. As people perhaps stop asking how it’s going, as you have long days or challenging days and want to revert back to comfortable habits to make yourself feel better, it becomes harder to stick to your new habits and actions.

It’s not just that. In the early days and weeks results will likely come quick and fast. Depending on how much weight you have to lose you might find the pounds drop off quickly at first. If you are just starting lifting or running you might find the PBs come thick and fast for a while.

As the weeks and months go on and you establish your new habits, those results will slow. This is natural, but it’s also challenging for your motivation, as it gets harder to see progress it also becomes harder to stick to things when times get tough.

Day 1 is tough, starting is tough, but I think staying with it and never having another ‘Day 1’ again is far more challenging and yet also the ultimate goal. Fitness will always be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and being less at your peak, we don’t need to have a ‘day 1’ every time we have a down though, we just need to keep going with a healthy habits.

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Can Intermittent Fasting help you lose weight?

Sure, if you eat during a shorter time window every day but don’t eat dramatically more than you usually would at each meal or eat extra meals in that time period (i.e. you don’t just eat breakfast later) you will possibly lose weight. Why?  Because you’re eating fewer calories. You may also find other health benefits to eating in this way and it can really suit some people’s lifestyles and mindsets.  But is it a magic formula in itself? No, if it’s not for you the fact is you’re really not missing out on some great health cheat.

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Maybe, if you normally drink it with milk and (or) sugar and cut back you’ll reduce your calorie intake naturally and you may see an effect on your weight. Equally, even with black coffee you may find you sleep a bit better and as getting enough sleep is helpful when it comes to both weight loss and training you might see a small benefit there. Having said that coffee can sometimes act as an appetite suppressant so cutting back may affect your appetite a bit at first, if you’re also adding in pre workouts to replace a pre gym black coffee you might even end up consuming slightly more calories.  Essentially, whilst there may be benefits they might well be minimal.

Can using an acupressure mat help you lose weight?

It is reported that Acupressure mats provide many benefits, including weight loss.  The idea being the pressure points relieve stress due to the release of endorphins, lowering cortisol and this reduction in stress helps weight management.  I have an acupressure mat and try to use it every night, I certainly feel I sleep better and feel more relaxed after 20 minutes laying on it, for me, whether there is much scientific research or not it makes me feel good. Does it help with weight management though?  If it does it’s probably minimal and only in conjunction with eating the appropriate amount of calories.  Would laying on this mat alone reduce weight? No.

Will meditation / mindfulness help you lose weight?

Mindfulness, practiced often, can be an effective method for helping change habits and ways of thinking and as such could help you lose weight by helping you adjust your habits. Again, on it’s own it will not help you lose weight, it’s a tool which can help you adjust your behaviours and the change in behaviour is what will lead to weight loss.

There are many habits, actions and behaviour changes which, can when incorporated into your life, make you feel better and assist with weight loss. Ultimately though, weight loss comes from consuming fewer calories than you burn over a consistent period of time.  Sometimes on a weight loss journey, the habits we adopt across the way can feel like the magic ingredient that actually made the difference in losing weight. Perhaps they are, in the respect if they make us feel better and more positive and help us stick to a calorie deficit then they are positive weight loss tools that can also bring other benefits at the same time.  It’s important to recognise that in terms of weight loss however, these things alone do not create a calorie deficit and understanding this will allow long lasting changes to occur.

Gym sayings that should be scrapped

Not all calories are equal

Different foods have different nutritional values, some can offer more more nutritional benefits than others, may be more or less filling, may affect your energy levels in different ways. Fundamentally though a calorie is a unit used to measure the food we eat, a unit of energy if you like and the calories in a 200 calorie salad are the same number of calories in a 200 calorie chocolate bar. In terms of energy in v energy out all calories are equal.

No carbs after 6pm (and other timing rules)

Whether it be this rule, Intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet or any other rule that suggests when you eat will be the magic ingredient to weight loss. Whilst setting yourself eating windows may help you eat less and therefore lose weight you don’t suddenly store more fat by eating after 6pm or having breakfast.

Muscle weighs more than fat

Whilst it’s true the same volume of fat will take up more space than an equal volume of muscle (hence you can drop a dress size but remain the same weight as your body composition changes, a useful thing to remember) a pound of fat and a pound of muscle of course both weigh a pound.

Never miss a Monday

If you want to train 3 times a week why would it matter that one of those in on Monday? Whilst the concept of starting the week positively makes sense if Monday is inconvenient for you it really doesn’t matter.

Go hard or go home

Yes you want to work hard during your workouts, but life happens. Some days we are tired, have little niggles, we might be recovering from a cold. Some days we might be fatigued from previous sessions. On those days going hard could be more detrimental than positive. Listening to your body and resting, stretching or taking a de-load week when needed can help improve results more than simply pushing through.

‘Baby Weights’

No matter what you lift to someone out there it will be ‘so heavy’ and to someone else ‘their warm up weight’. Judging your weights in comparison to others won’t help you progress or make you feel good about yourself in the gym. Others might be lifting more of less than you but sticking to weights we personally find challenging for the rep ranges we are doing and working on progressive overload in relation to that weight range is the best way to progress.