How Strict Do I Need To Be?

I’m a fan of a relaxed Paleo diet- if calorie tracking doesn’t work for you a four day on three day off ‘paleoish’ diet can be a good way of managing calories without counting.

When people start Paleo for the first time the most common question asked is …

Can I … [insert hack here]

Can I have almond milk in coffee?

Can I have nut butters?

Can I have fruit and nut based bars?

My answer is always well technically if you were to follow Paleo strictly no, but as we are looking at a Paleo based way of eating then yes if it makes you happy and enjoy your food.

Essentially you have two choices when you elect to do a method of eating such as this.

Either do it as it is prescribed.

Or roughly follow it but add in a few of your own rules.

Neither is the right or wrong way (and there are so many variations in between).

The choice on how you approach it depends on what you want from your diet.

If you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to kick start a bit of fat loss, well to be honest the more strict you are with the bigger results you’ll see.  And yes, you might really crave pancakes for breakfast for two weeks, but it is just two weeks so just abstaining for fourteen days won’t kill you.

On the other hand if you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to just re-set some habits or if you’re planning on doing Paleo as a longer term way of eating then having a few ‘adjustments’ to the rules might well serve you better.

Equally if you know you won’t last two weeks without a few tweaks there is not point setting yourself up for failure by not making those tweaks.  80% is always going to be more effective than 100% saint for ten minutes before giving up will be!

Hopefully by now you know there’s no right or wrong way of eating – the way that suits you won’t suit everyone else, so it stands to reason that the decision of how closely you stick to something also needs to be personal to you.

Social media is awash these days with judgement over food.  I’m in one particular group where people defend their way of eating (Keto, IM Fasting, plant based) with zeal and lament anyone who doesn’t do the same as them or doesn’t follow that particular diet in exactly the same way as them (who doesn’t love a they’re doing it wrong post).  Don’t get me wrong there are times when I see things and think OK- perhaps you’re over complicating this or hmmm, I think you’re looking in the wrong place for the problem here; but actually if it suits them and makes them happy and isn’t a diet of cyanide that is going to kill them then it’s none of my business.  You can offer educated advice but you have no out and out right to be heard.

I digress – how strict you follow a food plan should depend on your goals and how you feel.

My general rule of how to decide what’s right for you.  Think about making those little adjustments – does the idea of adding a bit of flour to some pancakes for breakfast make you smile and really look forward to that meal when you wake up tomorrow or are you already feeling guilty about ‘breaking the rules’ before you’ve even done it?  That normally gives you a decent idea of which way will work best for you, because if what you eat makes you feel guilty after eating it that’s not going to lead anywhere pleasant.

This outlook can be expanded beyond Paleo to any way of eating, way of training, in fact way of living.

Does what you are doing make you happy.  Yes – keep doing it then.  No – maybe you need to make some adjustments to change that.

Will adjusting the training plan you’ve been given make you feel like you’ve ruined your workout or will swapping those sprints out for a row make you feel 100% more successful.  Depending on your answer to those questions you have your answer as to whether you should follow the ‘rules’ to the letter or not.

What kind of person are you?  If you feel guilty when you bend a rule then stick to them and don’t make yourself feel guilty.

What result do you want?  If you are looking to get very specific results then following a plan very precisely matters, if you are looking to feel better but have more relaxed goals then you can equally follow guidelines in a more relaxed manner.

The key is knowing yourself and knowing your goals then being honest about what you need to do, sacrifice or change and for how long to get to those goals.

Because if you want transformational results on a fitness plan but are only wanting to follow the plan 50% of the time you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you want isn’t as dramatic then the changes don’t have to be so dramatic either.  Neither of those extremes are wrong, they are entirely personal and in reality the only person you need to be able to justify yourself to is you.

I’m not saying join a programme and don’t do it here!  What I’m saying is very few of us can do everything 100% perfectly for even a short period of time (well I say very few of us , perhaps others can and I’m just trying to make myself feel better!) so knowing your own expectations of yourself, what will feel like success to you and then working to that level is the key to success.

If you have high expectations cool- but know you’re going to have to be stricter on yourself to reach them, in that case looking for the hacks and quick cheats won’t serve you.  The opposite applies just as much.

Pick your stance, work to that stance and don’t be swayed by what others are or aren’t doing.

Jump 4.2 – Week 2

Today I’m entering week 3 of Jump 4.2.

Yesterday I finished two weeks of eating a Paleo based diet and having spent last week reviewing my TDEE I am about to embark on a week where I track my calorie intake to help me see where I am food intake wise and hat I need to change to stay on track.

I do feel quite comfortable on a Paleo based diet and have in the past done 4 days on / 3 days off for long periods of time, so for me fourteen days wasn’t too tough, although weekends are still tough when you are used to being able to relax your diet a bit and social occasions require thought and planning if you want to stay on track.

The reward for sticking to it however was worth it.  Yes I’ve lost  little weight (around 4kg but my weight fluctuates a lot anyway so this number doesn’t mean lots) and my body fat went down whilst muscle mass increased (according to my scales I would add so again take that as you will depending on how you feel about scales).

More importantly for me I feel better- less bloated, more energetic and like I’m fully back in the habit of eating homemade, fresh food over processed foods.  I think you can see a difference around my waist and I feel like my skin looks brighter.

Today I’ve had toast with my breakfast (which also contained plenty of protein and veg) and a really nice slice of homemade coffee and walnut cake courtesy of a colleague, my lunch has still essentially been chicken and veg.  Mentally I’ve noticed how much I’ve enjoyed adding foods back into my diet without feeling guilt, instead focusing on how much I’ve enjoyed what I’ve eaten today.

Training wise I’ve largely stuck to my normal training routine, although where I’ve had time I have tried out some of the sessions (I’ve done three so far), and these have been challenging but fun.  I like the fact they have all taken less than an hour to complete and that each one has a clear focus and is easily adaptable to your own current fitness levels and equipment availability.

There is also a strong mindset focus each week and this week the focus has been on morning routines.  I have long felt I need to work more on my morning routine as I often feel rushed in the morning.  This week has made me realise that in order to get my shit together in the mornings I need to get a better night time routine to help me get to bed earlier ad get a good night sleep so I’m less desperate to snooze come morning.

A week with a trip to Edinburgh and being away from home over the weekend wasn’t the best week to get into regular night and morning routines but this week I am making it my one goal to really develop a more positive morning routine.

The thing I like most about this programme so far is being able to read through the downloads and listen to the audios and videos when it suits me rather than having to be in a particular place at a set time.

All in all I’ve enjoyed the first fortnight and am looking forward to week 3, and to keep me accountable I will update you again next week!

Jump 4.2 – Week 1

This week I started two weeks of Paleo based eating.  I’m currently on day 5 and feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with it.  The first couple of days I find hunger always hits a little no matter how much I eat and I often feel a bit of a drop in energy as my body adjusts to not having some of the things it’s used to.

I’ve tried to keep my meals varied with eggs, chicken, pork, salmon, different vegetables, salad and fruits as well as nuts and so far haven’t missed chocolate too much- although all the nice cakes and biscuits people keep leaving in the kitchen at work don’t make this easy!  Thankfully I normally drink black coffee so the lack of milk isn’t too much of an issue.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’ve decided to work through the 8 week Jump 4.2 Programme with Ricky Long.

I’ve trained with Ricky for a couple of years and his coaching has always extended beyond simply giving you a training plan, so he has encouraged the formation of numerous habits and mindset shifts for me in that time.

This has allowed me to be in a position where I am able to be involved in helping support those who are going through (and have previously gone through) Jump.

I realised however that what I haven’t yet done however is actually fully work through the full 8 weeks from start to finish in the format and order the programme lays them out in myself.  This is something I felt would be both useful in allowing a greater understanding of the challenges within the programme so I can provide more support whilst also continuing to work on my own mindset, habits and fitness.

I haven’t started the workouts or mindset work as yet but plan to get going with that this weekend.

I’m committing this down on my blog to hold myself accountable to you for the next 8 weeks and plan to keep a regular diary of my progress on here over the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing please contact me and I’ll be happy to answer anything you may want to know.

Ways to Create a Calorie Deficit – Paleo

I’ve written before about my own nutrition and how I mainly eat a Paleo based diet.

I say Paleo based because I don’t follow Paleo eating at all in the strict sense or all the time and I adjust it to suit my own needs.

Essentially Paleo is eating what cavemen ate so basing your diet on meats, veg, nuts and seeds.   It’s high protein and fats and low in carbs and dairy free.   I eat largely like this with some exceptions (I include potatoes and often some chocolate milk after my classes in the evening).  This is largely because my job means I’m very active so it wouldn’t be sensible to stay low carb.  I try and do this 4 days a week with three days where I eat freely (although often along the same lines just with the addition of some bread and maybe pasta or rice and some sweet treats).  If there is a social occasion on one of the days I’d normally eat Paleo I just don’t do it for that period of the day / that meal.  Some months I just keep a check on my calories because that’s how the mood takes me.

So if I’m not strict about it that begs the question why do I bother.

Quite simply it is a way of keeping myself within my calorie requirements that suits my lifestyle and reduces the need for me to count calories.

I know I eat more at the weekend.  I’m not in the office and more likely to go out for food or get a takeaway and eat chocolate whilst I’m sat on the sofa etc.  By slightly reducing my calorie intake Monday – Thursday whilst still filling up on lots of protein I leave myself room for three more calorie dense days.  This happens without even thinking about what I’ve eaten and how many calories is in it.

My message here is Paleo is one method of eating – it can have many benefits (and equally some drawbacks depending on your activity levels and lifestyle) but whatever way you look at it, it is one way you can reach a calorie deficit.  So if you lose weight with it this isn’t because of a magic combination of food just a general reduction in your calorie intake.

For me personally it’s still the best way of eating most of the time as it reduces how often I think about food and encourages me to eat more homemade and less shop bought.  Sometimes the idea of banning certain foods (even though it’s just foods and not food groups and even though it’s only ever for a few days each week!) is bad for my mindset so I will have periods where I don’t follow this and just eat to a bog standard calorie deficit.  Not getting hung up on what foods you do or don’t eat is more beneficial to your long term health than cutting out bread to feel less bloated will ever be.

So it might suit you, it may not, but the habits of eating less processed foods and getting enough protein whilst keeping in a calorie deficit are all positives however you chose to eat.

How Paleo Eating Can Help With Weight Loss

5 reasons why eating a Paleo based diet can help you lose weight:

  • Protein

The Paleo diet encourages the eating of protein rich foods which helps control your appetite meaning you naturally eat fewer calories than you normally would.

  • Low Carb

Eliminating carbs such as bread, rice, pasta can reduce the number of calories consumed each day without really trying as these tend to be quite high calorie foods.  Yet you aren’t removing carbs from your diet completely as you continue to eat potatoes and veg – so hanger isn’t an issue!

  • Removes Processed Foods

Sticking to a Paleo diet tends to mean making most of your meals from scratch as you want to avoid many of the foods found in pre packaged meals.  Homemade food is likely to be lower in calories and contain more nutrients than a ready meal, and be more filling at that; so you will consume fewer calories and still feel more satisfied so less likely to snack later (thus keeping your calories lower than you might have with shop processed meals).

  • Reduces Sugar Intake

Processed sugar can add lots of calories to your daily intake (apart from the health issues too much sugar can cause).  Limiting your sugar intake to fruits and vegetables can help reduce your daily calorie intake.

  • No Calorie Counting / Eat When You’re Hungry

To lose weight you need to hit a safe calorie deficit – all of the above ‘rules’ to Paleo allow you to do this naturally – without having to painstakingly count every calorie every day.  By sticking to Paleo principles, if you’re hungry you can have an extra snack or meal without worrying you’ve gone over your calories budget and if you can eat when you’re hungry you are much less liekly to binge eat all the cake.  You may want to track at first to get the hang of how much you need to eat each day but after a while it will become second nature.

You don’t even need to eat Paleo all the time.  I follow the 80/20 rule and try and have 4 Paleo days a week adding a little bread and sugar into my diet on the other 3 days.  This still allows me to hit a calorie deficit most weeks without too much effort.

 

Systems

The week before last I hit a bit of a slump – my training and nutrition has slipped and I was eating far too many calories and not nearly enough fresh food. Hello sugar!

When this happens I find the easiest way for me to reset is to have a week of no ‘rules’ but decent food and for me the simplest way to do this is order in some meal prep.

I’d love to be able to afford to buy meal prep every week but it’s a bit beyond my budget however for a week to take away stress, add variety without having the stress of cooking it’s a really good idea.

I used PerfectPrep. They deliver nationally (UK) and I got 14 meals for £72. They were delivered Tuesday and lasted me until the end of Sunday (on Wednesday and Thursday I had 3 meals).

I added in my own breakfasts and snacks and by the end of the week with zero effort or proper planning I’d hit my calorie target and my protein targets for the week. I felt better and this week have eased back into my normal eating habits feeling like my mind has re-see itself.

Have a system that allows you to eat well but accept that sometimes you will need to mix things up for a bit and having some back up plans, like I had here, allows you to re-set without just saying sod it and eating everything and anything you can lay your hands on.

My Personal 10 Commandments for a Healthy Life

  1. Aim to hit a 20% calorie deficit across the week. Find a system for doing this and stick to it- don’t be swayed by new fads. My system is to eat to Paleo principles (not strict Paleo) 4 days a week and then allow myself three days where I can enjoy treats (read cake).
  2. Start your calorie week on a Friday. You are more likely to have a calorie surpluss at the weekend – this allows you Monday to Thursday to pull back and still hit that 20% weekly calorie deficit if that does happen and stops you feeeling like you are being overly restricted.
  3. Eat at least 2g protein per kg body weight every day (for me 160g). This will make you feel full, help your body recover from training and means Carbs and Fat will look after themselves.
  4. Drink 3.5 litres water a day (this is based on based on 30ml water per kg of body weight plus 500 ml for every hour of exercise – I just average out based on my normal training week).
  5. Drink a max of 3 coffees per day.
  6. Take a multi vitamin and fish oil supplement every day.
  7. Have a little bit of dark chocolate each day when on your period if you suffer with cramps (magnesium can help relax muscles reducing cramps, and sugar can boost your serotonin levels which can drop – hence feeling like you want to cry). I believe Kale can also help reduce cramping but for some reason doesn’t hold the same appeal as chocolate!
  8. Train in a way that suits your life and your week. I don’t lift as heavy as many and my sessions are shorter than most people I know – but they fit into my working life allowing me to stay consistent enough to see results. If it’s going to be tough one week to fit in your training – adjust your plans to feel successful.
  9. Stretch every day.
  10. Get up 30 minutes early and develop a morning routine that helps set you up for the day. I like to get some day light, drink a large glass of water and read a chapter of a book (as I don’t get much ‘me’ time during the rest of he day).

Credit – Ricky Long, who bullied me into most of these things – but they work!

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