I’ve just recorded my latest podcast.
This is all about my thoughts on recent conversations surrounding fitness.
I’ve just recorded my latest podcast.
This is all about my thoughts on recent conversations surrounding fitness.
Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?
Up until a few years ago I did – I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years, in fact honestly I’d make the same resolutions year after year which I never kept.
These days I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions as such. Here’s why:
January is a shit time to make drastic changes
It’s cold, dark and everyone is depressed and skint after Christmas. It’s a rubbish time to decide to suddenly make drastic and often restrictive changes to your life. Result is you feel miserable two days in and give up. Planning to give up chocolate on January 1st when you probably have a shed load of left over chocolate in your cupboards is practically setting yourself up for failure. Deciding not to drink in the most miserable month of the year so you’re left sitting on the sofa instead of going out to catch up with friends is going to become unappealing quickly.
Resolutions tend to be negative
Generally we say things like I’m going to give up… sugar, wine, chocolate, smoking. It’s something we are NOT going to do anymore. This means we feel like we are depriving ourselves. Depriving yourself is rarely a long-term plan for success.
Resolutions tend to be vague
I want to lose weight, I want to get fit, I want to earn more money. They are goals / outcomes we’d like to reach yes, but they aren’t very specific and how and when they will be achieved isn’t always clear. How often do you make vague plans with a friend to ‘catch up soon’ only for that catch up to not happen? It’s not because we don’t want to catch up it’s just because we’ve been too vague for anything to actually happen. Resolutions can be a lot like that.
Resolutions end up leaving you feeling worse about yourself
If you don’t succeed then you feel like a failure. Yet if you set something too restrictive and ambitious you’re unlikely to stick to it and so you’re essentially setting yourself up to feel shit.
Negatives out the way – I fully believe in improving things – here’s what I think is better than making New Year’s Resolutions and why:
Change when you are ready
There’s a popular saying that if you’ve thought about it you’re ready. Right now, 2 days before New Year Day – if you’re thinking about stopping drinking fizzy drinks – stop. Right now. Why wait until Wednesday? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st.
If on January 1￼ you don’t feel ready to make a change but do a couple of weeks into the year start then, or in February or August or October, you haven’t got to wait until 2021 if you miss 1st January this year.
New Year’s Resolutions have the idea of starting at midnight on 1￼ January – change can however happen at any time. How often do you think I’ll start my diet on Monday and eat a weeks worth of food over the weekend knowing restriction is coming- you ‘could’ start a diet on Thursday (well we ‘could’ not call it a diet at all but that’s another blog altogether). Generally change that happens when you’re ready as opposed to an imposed time tends to be more effective.
Choosing to make positive changes
Positive changes are easier to put in place than ‘I won’t’ type changes. I will drink more water, I will eat vegetables with every meal, I will walk 10,000 steps a day. These are things you are going to do – so you do them and you’ve created a change. You might have also eaten ten chocolate bars but you’ve still eaten vegetables with every meal, the change has still happened. Positive changes make us feel better and so we are more likely to stick to them.
Goal setting over resolutions
I don’t make resolutions any more but I have sat down and done some goal setting for 2020. I have decided what I want to achieve, these are specific goals so they aren’t things like ‘I want to get fitter’ they are set things I’d like to get done, some will be quick and relatively easy others less so. Along with these goals I have made detailed plans of what I have to do to reach these specific goals and planned out realistic timescales for taking these actions. I’ve asked for feedback from people more experienced than me on these plans and discussed goals that include other people with them so we are on the same page. I know what I need to do personally and professionally in 2020 and how I plan to do it. I’ve got more chance of reaching these goals than if I left I chance.
Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time specific. If you goal ticks all these things you’re more likely to be able to reach it.
Commit to creating habits / systems instead
If you want lose weight you could think of it as working towards creating habits that in turn help work towards weight loss. Make drinking more water, creating a calorie deficit and training three times a week a habit and you will achieve your goal but you also find it is something that starts to fit into your everyday life as opposed to something you have to work towards constantly. The benefit of this is you can pick one small thing to work on then once that has become a habit work on something else, building change gradually.
Re-framing how you think
Take a non fitness resolution (because it isn’t always about weight!) ‘I want to get over my ex and for them to see me looking happy.’
You could re-frame this thought process to what would make you happy? Seeing your friends more perhaps? So instead of I want to get over my ex you could say I want to go out and do something fun with my friends once a week / fortnight / month (commitment depending here). Instead of focusing on becoming happy or getting over someone you could just commit to doing something that has the potential to make you happy and allow feeling happy and getting over them to happen naturally – all the time your still succeeding in your actual goal of getting out and socialising. It sounds very self help book but when you start to habitually re-frame your thoughts, you start to find it easier to make changes.
I’ve made lots of changes to the way I approach things in recent years– old habits die hard admittedly but by looking at making changes in a more positive light you can create a you that you are happier with without setting a single resolution on New Years Day!
January 1st is the day where traditionally people go on ‘a diet’.
The word ‘Diet’ conjures up images of restriction, lettuce leaves, starving, no chocolate, cakes or sweets, cutting out carbs, cutting out fat … the list goes on.
What ‘Diet’ actually means is the sum of food consumed by a person – what we actually put in our mouth.
Some diets may be more health focused than others, some may promote weight loss and others weight gain, but we all have a ‘Diet’.
So if you were planning on starting a ‘Diet’ in 2020 – good news- you’re already on one and have been for the last 365 days!
So actually all you need to do is make some small improvements to that current diet to see weight loss.
If you have booked sessions with a trainer, signed up to a programme or plan (in person or online) then you know you will get the advice you need to do this sensibly.
If you are planning on making the changes yourself then don’t look to quick fix diets or plans that promise you a six pack in six weeks.
Work out how many calories you burn daily, take 20% off this and aim for that number of calories each day. This will create safe and sustainable calorie deficit which will allow you to reduce body fat steadily.
You can eat whatever you want as long as you stick to that calorie allowance. Perhaps you will want to make more sensible choices and eat less junk but overall the way to reduce body fat (which I am assuming is the goal) is to consume a little less than you burn.
Overtime you might want to start fine tuning what you eat, but to start just focusing on hitting a calorie deficit is a great habit which will make a huge difference to how you feel and one small change to your diet at a time will have a longer lasting effect on your health in 2020 than any quick fix fad diet.
I’ve written previously about the fitness programme for group exercise instructors and enthusiasts which I’m involved in and have also completed myself, Jump 4.2. For six weeks across November and December Jump 4.2 is holding shorter 6 week Christmas Shred (the Christmas JUMPer shred- get it?). So given that I think it’s always tough to stay on track with your training and nutrition at this time of year (I work in an office with never ending mince pies, chocolate and meals out over Christmas I thought it would be great to try and do the Shred alongside everyone taking part.
We started last week (well we technically started on 11th November when everyone got access to their learning platforms and lots of videos to watch introducing the Shred, how everything would work and covering some basics on training, nutrition and goals.
Week 1 then commenced with some ‘testing’ exercises to do (in other words some key exercises to do and record where we currently are with them) which I mixed in with my normal training for that week, calculating how many calories I should be aiming for (now I normally use an online calorie counter so calculating using the traditional calculation method was an eye opener as I came out with a lower amount than the calculators provide) and adjusting how many calories I was eating to fit in with this new target. There was also some mindset videos to work through focusing on being productive with your time. That’s going to come in useful over the next few weeks as I try and fit up to five workouts into my week at what is (as I suspect it is for most of us) one of the most hectic periods of the year.
Already after one week I feel good. It’s always rejuvenating to refocus and I’m looking forward to getting some tough training sessions in, seeing if I improve with any of my weights (I’m not that competitive so this is something I struggle with normally) and hopefully using the accountability of the group to keep my mince pie consumption to normal person levels (note to self a whole box of mince pies and a family sized yule log is not a small daily snack even if it is Christmas!).
I’m going to keep you up to date over the next six weeks, partly to keep my self accountable and partly to hopefully inspire some of you to stay focused whilst still enjoying Christmas.
If you have any questions about what I’m doing or think you might be interested in taking part in Jump 4.2 in January let me know and we can have a chat about it.
Recently I’ve heard a few people say they would prefer not to count calories and instead want to try Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating is almost an anti diet movement, believing people should eat when they are hungry and what they feel their body needs. It follows a ten point plan which includes respecting your hunger, not labeling food good or bad and not using food as an emotional crux.
There is actually very little about intuitive eating that I disagree with, it largely encourages people to have a healthy relationship with all foods and not starve themselves.
My issue with Intuitive Eating is this.
Unless you have already mastered tracking calories you will struggle to reach your goal eating intuitively.
I can see the appeal. If you’ve always struggled to stick to a certain number of calories the idea of eating what you ‘feel like’ you need is appealing. Let’s be realistic here though. If you were able to do this you’d probably already be at your goal (here I’m assuming it’s some form of fat loss).
If you’re not at your goal, which here I’m going to assume is fat loss, you are probably currently eating more calories than you burn. If you were not you’d be losing fat and not looking for an alternative way of eating.
So what you need to do is learn how to track, then stay within your calorie goal for a sustained period of time.
Now once you have mastered this and done this for a fair while chances are you will be able to eat intuitively. You’ll start to get an idea of how much you need to eat each day to be at the right energy level for you and be able to track less and still stay on track.
But until you reach this stage eating intuitively is likely to be much the same as eating as you currently do, with a limited idea of how much you are actually eating and no way of educating yourself on how to make the changes you need to make.
Think of it like driving a car. Now when you drive you probably get in the car and just go- everything happens automatically without even thinking. But that wasn’t the case when you first started to learn – you followed rules and checklists.
Think of your job, how you were in the first few weeks or even years of doing it compared to now. As you become more skilled in something you can react more instinctively, but to begin with you need to learn that trade.
So if you want to eat intuitively and reach a specific goal, you really need to qualify to do that by first learning how to track and understand calories.
With so may diets, fads and myths out there so many of us are almost conditioned to believe that to eat well you must be following a specific diet plan, eating specific foods at specific times or cutting out certain foods. When faced with simple tips to allow you to eat well, maintain, gain or lose fat sensibly these ideas often seem so simple they couldn’t possibly be true.
Thankfully times are changing, fitness and health professionals have more platforms available to reach people and help reshape people’s ideas relating to food, health and body image. This includes the idea that no everyone who wants to watch what they eat is doing so to lose weight- they could be doing so for health reasons, to have more energy or for performance related reasons.
If you do want or even need to lose weight there are of course specific things to focus on, which I have detailed numerous times before and probably will many times again in the future. Here though I want to focus on how we can eat for our general well being.
Taking a look at some of the accepted food guidelines from around the world this article from George Hamlyn Williams discusses whether they are guidelines we would benefit from listening to or better off ignoring. None are faddy, all could be easily incorporated into day to day eating with a focus on health over appearance.
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.