Permission To Eat

How many times have you not eaten a meal or snack because you ate too much the day before or because you haven’t trained today or you’ve been really lazy?

So you skip a meal or eat the lowest calorie thing you can find to compensate.

Then later, when you’re either really hungry because you’ve not eaten or you really want to eat certain foods because you now feel bad and want comfort food, you eat all the foods you enjoy but which also make you feel bad because they are ‘naughty’.

Then the next day the cycle begins again.

Or you are sticking really closely to a low calorie diet and creating a 500 calorie a day deficit.  You do this for 30 days creating a 15,000 calorie deficit.  But it’s hard to stick to, you always crave your favourite foods.  You get to a weekend away, and you’ve been so so good recently so you think what the hell and eat anything and everything all weekend.  Now you have 5,000 calories a day for 3 days, which is the same amount of calories that you just spent a month creating a deficit of.

You’ve deprived yourself so much that you feel you have to have a blow out and the blow out almost cancels out the progress.

Both of those situations are linked to how we view food; good and bad foods, naughty foods, how we deserve or don’t deserve food, how some foods should be avoided or we need to earn higher calories foods.

The problem with thinking about and labeling food in this way is your emotions affect what you eat and what you eat affects how you feel.

In other words we need to not feel guilt when we eat certain foods or certain amounts and accept that food is something that we use for energy.  We can enjoy it and should enjoy it and yes, depending on the situation, we do also need to be aware of calorie values and how much or little we consume.

However labeling food does not help us, equally telling ourselves we much do a certain amount of activity to earn food is also damaging to our own self worth.

You need to eat a base number of calories every day for energy even if you stay in bed all day.  Telling yourself you do not deserve to eat certain foods because you’ve not trained much is equally as bad for your own self worth as feeling bad about eating certain foods.

In finding a way of eating and training that you enjoy and is sustainable removes the guilt and the urges to binge and allows you to feel happy with your diet and nutrition routine.

We need to give ourselves unconditional permission to eat.

 

 

 

 

Knowledge doesn’t equal application

Knowledge doesn’t equal application.

Several times over lockdown myself and my friend Jane have said to each other, why are we so much better at giving each other advice that dealing with the same situation ourselves?  It’s because when we look at other people’s problems we can approach them with a certain degree of dispassion that allows us to offer practical advice.  When we try and apply it to ourselves our emotions challenge the logic of said advice making it harder for us to follow.

Having knowledge on something is good, generally if you are approaching a situation you want to have at least a basic amount of knowledge.  Yet knowledge doesn’t take into account the surrounding factors which can cause complications and challenge even what we know to be correct.

So why is it important to acknowledge this?

By now if you read my blogs regularly you know how to lose weight.  You’ve heard the words calorie deficit many times.  Knowing a calorie deficit is required doesn’t make it easy to lose weight.  Exercise has lots of health benefits.  That knowledge doesn’t in turn make getting started with exercise easy.

Don’t get me wrong- knowledge is important.  Understanding why you are doing things and how they work is vital in making sustained changes.  But knowing in itself if only the first step.  You need to actually apply the knowledge for it to work.  It’s a bit like buying a load of lovely new gym kit.  That can be a great first step to getting yourself moving, but it is only beneficial if you do actually put it on and move.

So how do you get to the application stage?  I believe there are several points you need to reach:

  1. You need to have a reason, something that you feel strongly enough that it provides the motivation for you to start making changes.  For some people this might be push factors – the doctor says you must lose weight for your health or you must lower your blood pressure, other times it could be pull factors – a dress you’d like to fit into, you want to run a 10km.  Having a focus or goal can motivate you to apply your knowledge.
  2. You need to care about your reason.  Ever tried to do something that you didn’t really care about well?  It rarely turns out well, we need to care about what we are working towards – when you do something to please someone else or becasue you’re made to sticking to it becomes so much harder.
  3. You need to have a plan.  You’ve contemplated taking action enough to formulate a goal, a reason to make a change.  Now you need to plan how that change will be effective.  There’s rarely just one thing you can do to work towards a goal, yet sometimes the problem with having knowledge is it can be overwhelming in deciding what you should do.  Trying to do too much at once can be detrimental, so creating an action plan helps you implement knowledge with confidence.
  4. You need to have support to action your plan.  Maybe that’ a coach / PT – someone who can provide more direction and accountability, or perhaps it’s recruiting people around you to motivate you and hold you to account.
  5. You need to know progress isn’t linear.  You won’t see progress and change every week.  You won’t hit every target when you want to or expect to.  You will have weeks where you feel like you are going backwards.  That’s ok.
  6. You need to be flexible.  You might need to tweak or change your plan.  Knowing what you need to do and having a plan doesn’t mean than things can’t change- you might shift your own goal once you get started or you might find something isn’t quite working.  Flexibility will allow you a greater chance of creating change.
  7. You need to understand your own mindset.  If you accept that knowledge doesn’t equal application it’ also easy to understand that wanting to reach a goal doesn’t mean you will never sabotage yourself.  Understanding that you will have relapses, set backs and things won’t even go to plan but that doesn’t mean you are back to square one will help keep you on track.

If you’ve ever beaten yourself up because you aren’t where you want to be even though you know what you should be doing to get there stop.

Knowing and doing aren’t the same thing. Knowing is desirable.  Applying knowledge is a whole other skill set.

 

Diets DO Work

How many times have you heard the phrase diets don’t work?

I’ll be honest I’ve said this myself so many times.

Then last year I went to Martin MacDonald’s Nutrition Tour and he said something that turned my thinking on this totally on it’s head.  I’ll have to paraphrase because I don’t have the exact quote.

Diets do work, weight maintenance is what people fail at.

When we say diets don’t work, as fitness professionals we are saying it from a good place ,as a way of trying to protect clients, but it isn’t actually what we mean.  It’s a simplified statement to generalise what we mean.

Because the fact is diets do work.  Or at least they can if you follow them.

Firstly let me clarify here when we talk diet we generally mean a way of losing weight.  I’ve said previously in it’s most accurate term your diet is whatever you happen to eat, but as a society we hear diet and we think weigh loss effort.  That is how I’m going to use the word today.

I’ve also said before all diets, no matter how they are dressed up, work by creating a calories deficit in some way.  If you create a calorie deficit you will lose weight.  Some ways are healthier than others. Some ways are more likely to promote unhealthy relationships with food than others.  Some ways provide more education as to how you are losing weight than others and some pedal myths that you are in fact losing weight because of a pill or a shake or your food combinations instead of calorie control.  But, the fact remains you burn more calories than you consume you create weight loss.

Therefore diets do work.

I can say oohhh don’t do Herbal Life, Weight Watchers, Slimming World or whatever diet you want to put in place of that, but fundamentally if you do them and follow them you will lose weight.  It would be wrong of me to lie and say that is not the case.

So why do I and so many people say you shouldn’t follow a diet when they do work?

Because what we really mean when we say that diets don’t work is that diets, as opposed to educated lifestyle changes, work whilst you follow them.  When you stop following them and go back to previous eating habits they will stop working, and the issue with diets is that they are very often not sustainable in the long term or if they are sustainable they tie you into contracts with that brand.

Some diets are restrictive.  Anything very low calorie or which cuts out certain foods for no other reason than weight loss is hard to maintain forever.  Especially once you have lost the weight and the scale coming down every week no longer exists as motivation.  I’ll tell you from experience no matter how much you believe staying at your ideal weight will be motivation enough it really isn’t.  Therefore very restrictive diets are difficult to maintain long term and so if you don’t have the knowledge and acquired skills on how to maintain weight once you reach your goal it is the maintenance part you may struggle with, and this is often why we see people yoyo diet.

Other diets are certainly less restrictive and I do see that there is honestly no reason why once ready to maintain weight you could not continue with them.  The issue with these is they very often tie you into a product.  Weigh in groups for instance (Slimming World, Weight Watchers and so on).  You could continue to attend these and eat in this way quite comfortably to maintain but you must continue to buy into the method because there is a lack of education included to allow you to go alone.

Equally things like Herbal Life, these can be promoted by PTs who also provide education around nutrition.  But they integrate their products into that education, so you believe you not only need a protein shake and a herbal tea and a pre workout and a meal replacement shake to lose then maintain weight, but you need that particular brand.  I believe that psychologically if we have succeeded in losing weight on those products we will believe even more so that they are important to remaining on track.  This essentially means to maintain weight loss you are tied into a product for however long you maintain.  If you suddenly can’t afford that product, mentally it is a lot easier to then lose that maintenance.

So when a PT says diets don’t work what we really mean is the diet phase is really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

You want to lose 3 stone.  You think that that is the hard part and then keeping it off will be easy.  Nope, at 1lb a week allowing a few weeks where you lose nothing you can comfortably lose 3 stone in a year (less if you are very focused but actually you don’t want to be obsessed with losing weight).  Say you are 25 and live to 98, that is 1 year of weight loss and then another 72 keeping that weight off.  If you are successful at this the majority of your life is in the maintenance phase not the diet phase (obviously not taking into account life changes etc).

So when we say don’t diet, we mean diet if you wish to lose weight, but don’t follow a fad.  Learn about calories, get a coach,  not a diet plan (PTs can provide advice and education not diet plans unless they are qualified nutritionists), get an idea of how much energy you need to eat.  Then eat that food in a way that suits your lifestyle (by the way that could be paleo, via fasting or another method if you are also aware of your calorie consumption).  If you do that once you hit your goal you adjust your calories slightly and just continue as you were.  The key here is all the time you have eaten normally, in a way that really suits you – not in a special magical way that has helped you lose weight but requires a lot of thought every day / week or a lot of money.  The key is you’ll know why you lost weight and don’t attribute it to magical speed foods (yes Slimming World I’m looking at you) or a magical pill (there might well be a product out there you love that makes you feel great and that’s cool, use it, feel great but all the while know that product is not the reason for your weight loss).

A decent PT knows if they do their job well you won’t need them forever – if they try and make you reliant on them forever they pretty much just want your money.  We might retain clients for a long time because they feel the benefit of our support or thrive from the accountability, valid reasons to see a coach, but we want clients to understand where their results come from – not to mystify them so they remained chained to us.  Whether you chose to continue working with a coach or not you should be given the skills that if you went it alone you have knowledge and are empowered to do so.

Diets do work.  We struggle with maintenance.  That’s why dieting in a sustainable and suitable way paves the way to a greater chance of success with maintenance, and if you are currently dieting or thinking about starting a weight loss journey know both that and this.  Weight loss isn’t what you want.  What you want is to be able to maintain that once you reach the goal.  You don’t want it to be a short term thing so don’t look at short term options.

 

Why do people doubt the energy balance equation?

As a PT and group fitness instructor I frequently talk about the Energy Balance Equation.  How if you want to lose weight you must have more energy going out than in, if you want to gain weight it’s the opposite and to maintain you want them to be about equal.

It’s essentially the base of any nutrition knowledge, and the first thing anyone needs to get to grips with if they want to work on their nutrition.

Macros, meal timings, supplements.  They all have a place sure, but if you haven’t got your calories in v calories out in the right place what time you eat dinner, the amount of protein or fat you eat or whether you take BCAAs or won’t make much difference to your success.

Equally, people will say I had massive success with this way of eating / this method / this diet, and essentially behind each of these methods the fundamental reason for success is the individual found a way of controlling their calories in v. out that was appropriate to their goals and which suited their lifestyle.  It can be dressed up in many different ways but that fundamental lies behind every successful method of actively managing food intake.

So why are we so reluctant to believe this?

Almost universally, at some point of another, most people have chosen to believe that either the reason they are not reaching their goals or are reaching their weight management goals is something beyond calories.

No again, I’m not saying that other factors cannot help refine a diet.  If you are managing your energy balance well the types of food you get your energy from, when you eat, extra supplements can help you improve energy levels and performance.  They do this however building upon the foundation that is you eating the right amount of food for your gapl each day.

If you are over eating by 1,000 calories every day whether you eat those calories at 6 am or 6 pm makes no difference.  Whether the calories come from avacado and lettuce or Nutella on biscuits makes no difference.  Your body shape makes no difference, your genetic make up makes no difference.  You are eating too many calories for your goal.  Energy in v. energy out is like gravity- it’s a fact.

So why do we self sabotage on this so often?  Because actually, when it’s this simple, we all have the ability to successful manage our food intake in line with our goals.

I think  it comes down to two main reasons:

Firstly, people selling their ideas means that very often the calories truth is hidden behind a gimmik.

We buy into products or brands or books and theories that promise us results.  In order for those brands to stand out and or you to go to them specifically they need to have a selling point- the thing that makes their methods work.

For that they need to sell you lots of reasons beyond calories as to why their methods work.  You do their diet, you lose weight or gain weight and so accept that those methods must be the reason.  But behind all of these diets there is still always the energy balance equation, and whilst other factors can also provide benefit you still need that energy balance to be right.  What these brands don’t do is actively promote calories as the key.  They let is silently do the work in the background and let their ‘unique selling point’ take the credit.  Essentially they are like a really bad boss taking credit for what their team does as the ground work!

The second factor is our own emotional response.  It’s so much easier for us to think if i can get this one really sexy aspect of my diet right everything else will fall into place.  Why else do diet pills appeal to people – you take this one pill, make no other changes and you’ll see results.  We like that idea.  If I add this supplement that will make the difference.  Because accepting that actually we aren’t eating enough or are eating too much means we need to actually work and make real changes to what we eat.

We also often tend to over estimate (for people looking to gain weight) or under estimate (for people looking to lose weight) how much we eat in terns of calories I find.  That’s why tracking, whilst unsexy compared to intuitive eating, is useful.  Again though it’s harder work and seems very old school and boring next to I eat what my body tells me it wants.  Now i’m not saying doing that is a bad thing – but you have to know how to listen to your body to do that, and if you aren’t already getting the results you want I’d suggest you don’t yet know how to listen to your body.  The way to learn is unfortunately the very boring learn about calories in v. out until you find the right balance for you – once you’ve grasped that eating intuitively and not tracking becomes very possible because you do then have a better idea of your energy (by which I mean calories) levels.

We all want to think we are different.  That calories might be your issue but mine is my metabolism, mine is how I react to certain foods, my blood type and so on.  It might be to a certain degree – but that thing is in reality going to be such a small factor in comparison to your energy in v. out.  So for many of us is our issue is we are focusing on something that makes a 1% difference to our diet instead of focusing on something that can have a massive difference.  We then assume that because we aren’t seeing our desired results we need to delve even deeper into our biology and chemical makeup to see results.

The best way to get results is to stop bullshitting yourself.

Workout what you burn.

Workout what you consume.

Change those to get the result you want.

It’s boring.  It’s simple.

That’s why we always look for other answers.  We assume it’s so boring and simple and obvious it cannot be the key.

We literally cannot see the wood for the trees.

Vegan Chat

Something I’ve long thought would be useful to write about but have just not had the knowledge to is training whilst eating a vegan diet.  What are good meal ideas, energy boosters, what do you even eat at all to get enough calories when your training hard?  So I’ve teamed up with Les Mills instructor (and vegan) Ellie Radford to get some practical tips for and one who trains often and is either already vegan or considering the switch.

Ellie is a Human Biosciences student from Crosby, Liverpool studying in Manchester Metropolitan Uni. She’s also a part time fitness instructor and teach Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat.

Here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for just under 4 years! I went vegan in May 2016

Were you vegetarian before or did you go straight to vegan?

I was veggie before yeah. I was vegetarian for 10 months before I went full vegan, and I think that slow transition made it so much easier.

What made you make the decision?

Lots of things contributed! I always wanted to be veggie when I was younger but my mum always said no because all I ate was bacon and chicken nuggets haha! I wanted to be veggie because I didn’t like the idea of eating animals, so generally for ethics, but as I’ve grown up I’ve started to become conscious of the environmental impact too. Lots of my friends are also veggie or vegan, and one day I went to a vegetarian cafe with them. I literally didn’t like any food on the menu (fussy eater to THE MAX) but I ordered something and it tasted sooooo good. That was my first ever fully vegetarian tea and after that meal I realised I could actually do the whole veggie thing. Crazy, right? So yeah it was a whole bunch of reasons – ethics, environment, I started to think about eating more healthy (being veggie has definitely helped me with this), and ease due to friends being veggie or vegan.

Do you ever miss any foods?

Yes! When I first went vegetarian, whenever I got drunk I always ordered McDonald’s chicken nuggets haha. That’s why it’s a good idea to slowly cut meat out if you ever transition. I missed bacon a lot at first too. Now if my family is cooking it I still really appreciate the smell, but it’s been so long that I don’t miss the taste anymore.

What do you love about the vegan diet?

I love how good it makes me feel. I definitely noticed a big energy shift when I cut out animal products, but by cutting out products it meant I ate more veg so this isn’t necessarily due to meat being bad! Just a solid fact that we could all eat more fruit and veg, no matter what your lifestyle. I also love how accessible veganism is nowadays. I can eat in most places and that’s great! There’s been a huge growth since when I went vegan 4 years ago.

Are there any downsides / struggles?

Although veganism is becoming a lot more accessible, there could be more done. Food on the go is a big factor, but this is massively improving. Another big struggle is feeling like I have to justify to people why I follow a vegan lifestyle, and the fact that vegans get a bad rep in the media.

How do you find hitting your TDEE each day- is it hard? In other words- is it hard to eat enough?

It can be, especially being so into fitness I expend a lot of calories! Vegan food is very dense but low in calories, so you can get full pretty quickly. My tip for this is to eat little and often – spread little meals throughout the day instead of tackling 3 big ones.

What about protein?

This is always a big concern when a lot of people are considering veganism. Protein goals can be hard to meet if you’re eating lots of whole foods. Getting all your protein from beans and lentils is a bad idea – all that fibre is going to cause mega bloats and a very full tum! Still use these kinds of foods, but not for your whole protein intake. I get lots of my protein from meat substitutes such as soy products (tofu) mycoprotein (quorn style things) and seitan. Seitan is the holy Grail for vegans, but not a lot of people know about it! It’s made from an ingredient called vital wheat gluten and has a rubbery, meat-like texture. And the best part about it is it’s super protein dense – about 75g protein per 100g!

How are your energy levels for training?

As far as I know my levels are great. But I’ve never been into fitness as a non-vegan, as I only started working out 2 and a half years ago. Vegan fitness is all I know! I consume caffeine everyday and I eat a lot of food so that’s always good for energy haha.

Do you have any tips for people looking to start with a Vegan diet?

Take it slow! Lots of people rush into veganism, but that’s going to make it a whole lot harder to keep away from all the animal products. Start with one vegan day or meal per week, and then build it up.

Cut things out one step at a time, and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes. It’s hard at first, so making mistakes and tripping up is totally normal and human. It’s the fact that you’re trying at all which speaks volumes.

Be aware of the vitamins you’re going to be lacking. I take a daily multivitamin to take care of everything in one go, but B12 is the big one you need to watch for, as most of this vitamin is found in animal products. You can buy B12 vitamins from most supermarkets, and they’re included in most multivitamins, too.

Do you have any tips for maintaining energy levels when training?

“Quick snacks! When I’m training I go for snacks such as bananas, gelatine free jelly sweets, and donuts. Yes I said donuts. Vegan donuts!! Lots of supermarket donuts are accidentally vegan, such as Sainsbury’s and Co-op’s jam and custard donuts. These are an absolute lifesaver.”

Any secret amazing vegan foods?

I think my top two I’ve already mentioned in previous questions – seitan and donuts. Seitan for all your high protein needs, and donuts because when you’re vegan and finally realise you can eat basic supermarket donuts, it’s the best feeling in the world!

Some other things that are surprisingly vegan include hob nobs, Bourbons, lotus biscuits, Oreos, and peanut butter.

What are you Top hack / Tips

  1. Make sure you eat enough! It’s hard to not eat enough food when you’re vegan, so just try to keep on top of it.
  2. Be aware of any additional supplements you need to take. B12 is a biggie.
  3. One step at a time. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and just take it slow! Feel free to message me if you need help with anything!

So I think what I took away from my chat with Ellie is that actually the issues she has to think about in regard to energy levels with a Vegan diet are really not much different to the issues we all need to consider.

Whether you eat meat or not we all tend to have a quite polarised opinion on the subject but actually if you manage it well there’s no reason to struggle for energy or protein whilst eating a vegan diet, and it might not be for you, but if it is there’s plenty of support out there from people who are educated and working within the fitness industry and also have knowledge of how to eat well without eating animal products.

I think whatever our views on the subject understanding and talking about it and being open to one another’s viewpoints on the topic is helpful all round.

You can follow Ellie on Instagram at @ellieroseradford

Overwhelm

This year has been tough so far, I’ve been stressed an because of that I’ve found myself training less and eating chocolate like it’s the only food on the planet.  At first it was lack of time stopping me training.  I normally do most of my sessions on my lunch breaks at work but I’ve been busy and kept thinking if I just work through my lunch today I can catch up.  Of course I never did catch up but I have got myself completely out of the habit of training.  I normally eat chocolate quite frequently anyway, that’s fine, it fits into my diet perfectly well but as I’ve been more and more stressed I’ve turned to it more and more, it’s a comfort food thing I suppose.

The issue is eating well and training are anchors in my life.  When I am in my normal routine of a short training session most days and getting some good meals in me along side some chocolate I feel good, I feel capable of dealing with stress and juggling lots of roles.

So falling out of these habits because of stress kind of creates a never ending circle where I’m not doing the thing that prevents stress because I am stressed.  Not great, especially as I suffer from anxiety and so keeping track of the anchors that make you feel good is really important.  As an added stress on top of this is that because I’ve been eating more and training less I’ve also put on some weight, whilst I’m still not overweight or dramatically busier my clothes feel tighter and I feel less comfortable, this of course doesn’t help when you already don’t feel great.

None of this is uncommon, lots of people have these struggles.  They are perfectly valid, we lead high stress lives these days and it’s easy to end up a bit overwhelmed and a bit crap.

For me I always think it’s bonkers that you’re a fitness instructor, so you know exactly what you need to do to fix it, because you advise and support other people with this regularly, but that knowledge doesn’t always equate to making things easy.  I mean most of us know we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose weight, simple concept, not simple to do.  Most things in life are really quite simple at their core, it’s the application that is the thing that trips us up.

The thing is it’s ok to fall into a this cycle but you do need to be able to pull yourself back out of it too.

So how do you pull yourself out of a cycle where you are struggling with your training / nutrition?  Small changes, focusing on doing small simple things that you know will make you feel better over time.  I’m not talking bubble baths and face mask style self care, I’m talking doing the easy practical things that will make you feel more purposeful and on track.

My small things for this week are:

  • Track calories for the week to see where I’m actually at with food consumption
  • Drink 4 litres of water a day
  • Take my lunch break very day regardless and go down to the gym and train for 20 mins
  • Stretch every day
  • Get in at least one long walk this week

I’m not expecting at the end of the week for these things to have magically made me feel amazing, but I think that if I do these things I’ll feel better than I do right now and that is a step in the right direction.

 

Why Your Diet May Be Like The Gulf War

I remember one evening from my childhood, my nan and grandad were babysitting and we’d stayed up late to watch a Disney film (I want to say the Little Mermaid) and after the film the news came on.  The coverage was about the Gulf War.

I’d guess that meant this was around 1990 so I would have been around eight.  Eight year old me watched the news about this war (with a limited concept of what war meant that was basically confined to the two World Wars) and imagined bombs would soon start falling just like the Blitz.  What I vividly remember confusing me most however was what golf balls would have to do with a war.

This is what happens when you watch or listen to things where your understanding is limited and you put two and two together coming up with twelve.

It’s an extreme example, but in reality how many little misunderstandings over the years have crept into your brain and now exist, as ‘facts’ when they are actually not true at all.

Carbs are bad for you, eating carbs after 6pm will make you put on weight, fat is bad for you, lifting weights will make you bulky.

You think you understand how to eat and train to reach your goals, and on the whole you probably do, but perhaps there’s something in your head that you’ve just misunderstood, something that you are doing which you think is helping but is actually hindering your progress.

Often when having a chat with clients about their diet and setting some goals to work towards, the client will go away and make those changes but weeks later still be clinging onto an idea of something else they also should or shouldn’t be doing, largely because it has a mythical ‘fact’ status in their mind.

So perhaps they’ll have worked all week on hitting a calorie deficit and eating a certain amount of protein (agreed goals), but then even though they’ve done this be upset with themsleves because they don’t feel their macro split is exactly right (idea stuck in the head that precise macro splits are vitally important and not hitting that split means all the calorie deficit wins are pointless).

It takes time and effort to retrain yourself to not revert back to the misconceptions you have lived with for many years, but if you think about it my ridiculous misunderstanding of the word Gulf and Golf is no more ridiculous than some of the ideas we have developed over the years about how we should eat and move.

Are You Cheating Yourself?

How do you feel about Cheat Meals?

Generally the idea of a cheat meal fills people with joy, that meal where, after being good for however long, you can let go and eat whatever dirty foods you desire.

Most of us probably absent mindly refer to meals as cheat meals or cheat days when we don’t track or monitor what we are eating without really considering the problem with this way of thinking.

So what is the problem?

To clarify I don’t see a problem with eating the food.  I love a massive burger, pancakes covered in all the sauces and basically all and any type of cake.

The problem is with the ‘cheat’ mentality.

The issue is two fold.

Firstly – The issue it creates with your relationship with food.  The idea of good and bad foods and that when you eat ‘bad’ food you are being ‘bad’ and that you are only doing well if your sticking to your ‘clean’ diet.  This type of mentality will both make you a bit miserable and will make your food intake feel restrictive, ironically this is more likely to make you want to ‘cheat’ or binge.

Secondly, if you are trying to create a calorie deficit, eating a massive unaccounted for, cheat meal will effectively wipe out any calorie deficit you’ve managed to create that week.

Say you are trying to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day to create a deficit, that’s 3,500 calories a week.  Now say you’ve hit that every day Monday- Friday so you’ve hit a calorie deficit of 2,500 calories.  Then on Saturday you have your cheat meal.  You don’t track this because it’s your ‘cheat’.  Then you again hit your 500 calorie deficit on Sunday.  Yet you don’t see any progress, you don’t get why- you had a 3,000 calorie deficit last week and just one cheat meal.  Something is wrong with your body, there has to be.

Had you tracked your cheat meal you’d have realised you ate 2,500 calories in that meal (maybe even more).

In reality that week you hadn’t created a calorie deficit – your cheat meal meant you’d hit your TDEE instead.  Now the lack of progress makes more sense.  Essentially that cheat meal has sabotaged your progress.

Does that mean not having the food? Of course not, but you need to be aware of what your consuming at every meal.  That way you can have that takeaway on Saturday but know you are still in a calorie deficit – this is how you can start seeing results.

Once you accept that labeling a meal or day a ‘cheat’ doesn’t mean it has not calories or impact on your diet you can start to see results.

 

Slagging off Slimming World doesn’t help people

On Sunday I’ll be appearing on Ricky Long’s podcast talking about the fitness world in general.

One of the things we talk about is Slimming World, I myself did Slimming World before I became a fit pro and feel like I have a decent understanding of it from many angles because of this.

This wasn’t the focus of the podcast so I went into a lot less detail that I could have so I wanted to delve a bit deeper into a point here – it’s not enough as fitness professional to say what’s wrong with slimming clubs – we need to look at what we ourselves can do to help people who may otherwise have turned to such clubs

I did a podcast last year which you can listen to here, where I spoke about my own personal experience of Slimming World and what I think is wrong with the system.

Rather than rehashing that here I instead want to talk about something I’ve touched upon both here and in my upcoming podcast.

Slagging off Slimming World doesn’t help people.

When I needed help I went to Slimming World, I didn’t go to a PT – the idea intimidated me and didn’t feel accessible. All these perfectly nice people I know now would have intimidated me- me now would have intimidated me. I wouldn’t have gone to a fitness event or gym because I’d have felt like a fraud like I didn’t fit it.

Sliming clubs felt accessible for me. That’s why I took that route.

I eventually found training and with it learnt about nutrition and left Slimming World and am where I am now. BUT for that to happen took PTs and group ex instructors who didn’t criticise the route I’d chosen to take, they didn’t point out in distaste all the things that were wrong with Slimming World. They educated me within a framework that allowed me to see why Slimming World can work on a energy in / energy out basis and allowed me to come to the realisation that I didn’t need the club and see the faults for myself.

There weren’t Facebook groups back then for Slimming World but to be honest if there had been and some people had come into them and attacked what was, at the time, working for me I’d have probably defended Slimming World and I wouldn’t have felt like I wanted to go to those people for advice.

In short – as Fitness professionals I think we need to find a balance between exposing myths and educating people without making them feel stupid for trying to reach their goals. How I see this…

That PT thinks everything about Slimming World is stupid

I do Slimming World

So they must think I’m stupid

I’m not going to them to help

In attempting to help there’s a real danger we actually alienate without meaning to.

Now actually Slimming World can be successful in that it creates habits that lead to a calorie deficit. It’s not unsafe or faddy as diets go.

It doesn’t educate.

But you know what – I played rugby for a while, no idea of the rules I just ran at people.

Would I have been a better player if I knew more – yes. Did I still play? Yes.

I honestly don’t know how the best way to go about it is, but I feel like supporting and understanding peoples choices creates an environment of trust that might convince people away from Slimming World and into training and understanding basic nutrition more than simply laughing at the notion of syns, body magic and star weeks ever will.

Nutrition 101

This is a cut and paste from an email I received today from a PT (Ricky Long – check him out on Instagram @rickylong42) …


17 ways to lose body fat

– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend

You can create this calorie deficit in 2 ways.
– Food intake decreasing. Eat less mate.
– Exercise activity increase. Move more mate.

There are 1000’s of different training methods and dietary choices you can use to follow the above two principles.

The principle will not change

Calorie Deficit

How you achieve the deficit is where you have choice for your lifestyle.

Make it achievable

Make it safe. One method I champion to keep within calorie goals:

The original Handjob diet, by Ricky Long. 

I get emails regularly around the counting of macros.
– You do not need to count macros
– It’s a very accurate way of measuring your food
– It’s also time consuming and could potentially ruin your enjoyment of food.
– You can instead use the Hand Job Method measurement scale. Something I made up 5 years ago and named 6 months ago.
– Eat 1 handful protein
– Eat 2 handfuls veg
– Make the veg have 2 colours.
– Do this 3 times day
– One of those times add in a big carb, like rice, pasta, bread. Again just one handful
– If you feel tired you’ve eaten too much
– If you feel hungry you haven’t eaten enough
– Hand Job Diet established 2018, creator and author Ricky Long WTG – Weeker Trainer Guy


I have a lot of conversations with people about food.

So often people over concern themselves with macro splits, shakes and supplements, meal timings, how certain combinations of foods might affect the metabolism or hormones.  They often suspect the reason they can’t change their body composition is that they haven’t quite nailed one or more of these.

What they haven’t sorted is the bottom of the nutrition pyramid – Energy in v Energy out and they are either eating too much or too little in comparison to what they expend.

If you are an elite athlete, training for a comp or have very specific nutrition needs you may well need to concern yourself with more very precise details relating to your nutrition.

In actual reality for the majority of us who just want to be a bit smaller or even a bit bigger than we are you really just need to focus on the amount of calories you eat and that will largely do the job.

If you feel rubbish when you eat more carbs and less fat adjust that, if you feel good on a higher amount of protein do that, if you stay within your calorie goal the reality is for the vast majority of us the actual split isn’t too important (well eating enough protein is important – aim for 1-2g per kg of weight, the more active you are the closer to 2g you want to get, but not hitting this number in itself will not affect weight loss or gain).  If some protein shakes help you hit you calorie goal have them, if being Vegan, vegetarian, Intermittent fasting suit your life and help you hit your calorie goal then do them.

Essentially I’m saying as humans we have a tendency to assume our pain points (in this case nutrition and weight wise) must require very complicated solutions, when often the issue is we don’t do the basics very well and instead focus on the things that don’t really matter.

I’m not saying you will never want to look at the finer details in your diet.  I am saying that until you master the basics there just isn’t much point.  I’m also saying that unless you really want to spend your whole time calculating macro splits you really probably don’t need to.