Diets Don’t Work

Diets don’t work.

How often have you heard people say that.

It isn’t technically true though.

Let’s assume the diet is to lose weight (diets can be for other reasons but this is the most common).

If you stay in a calorie deficit then you will lose weight and by definition your diet will have worked.

So what do people mean when they say diets don’t work?

Generally they mean that restrictive diets, that cut out food groups or require very low calorie levels are difficult to sustain for long periods of time.  This means that you might well see good results whilst you are sticking to it, but you inevitably won’t be able to stick to it for long and when you stop you will see the weight come back on.  This is generally what we mean when we talk about yo-yo dieting, a cycle of losing and regaining weight as we jump on a diet and then stop following it.

A diet in reality though is just a term for what you eat.  If you never think about your food intake and eat whatever you fancy, that is still your diet, and if you aren’t bothered about gaining or losing weight then this type of diet works.

So if you decided to modify your habits and food intake in a sensible and manageable way, that felt easy enough and not restrictive. If you accepted that sometimes you would eat more but in general you just started sticking to a few new habits. If you had a calorie target based on your TDEE that kept you in a small calorie deficit, looked at eating more protein, more vegetables, drinking more water, moving just a little bit more. That, is a diet.  The difference is, it’s a sustainable diet. You might see slower steadier results but you would find it easier to keep it up, like, forever.

So diets can work, that’s a simple fact.

But for them to be effective long terms they need to suit your lifestyle, they need to work around your life rather than dictating how your live. That allows them to be maintained long term.

What people mean is fad diets or restrictive diets don’t work and we shouldn’t let click bait headlines put us off from following sensible advice to work towards our goals.

Not Losing Weight?

You’re tracking calories but not losing weight. Why?

  1. You aren’t logging everything. Sauces, the odd biscuit, left overs, these all have calories too.
  2. You’re underestimating your portion sizes. Apps like MyFitnessPal will bring up various portion sizes when you search and what you’re eating may be more than this amount.
  3. You’re free pouring things. Again this comes back to portion size, you could be roughly working out your portion but underestimating it. That one bowl of cereal your tracking could in reality be more like 2.5 bowls to MyFitnessPal
  4. You don’t log your drinks. Alcohol, coffee shop coffees, these can have more calories than a full on meal at times so if you aren’t logging them your stats aren’t acurate.
  5. You have cheat meals. Calling something a cheat mean doesn’t mean it’s calorie free, it does mean you’re more likely to go over board and consume way more calories than you think.
  6. Your eating your ‘exercise’ calories. Your watch is telling you you’ve burnt 500 calories so you’re adding an extra 500 calories to your daily allowance.
  7. Your picking the ‘best’ version of a food in MyFitnessPal. Be honest, when you search a food on MFP you will see some questionable entries. As tempting as it might be to go with that really low one to make your data look better the food doesn’t have fewer calories in real life because you’ve done this.
  8. You track daily rather than across a week and scrap a day if it’s ‘bad’. It’s what we do over time that matters not one really good or really bad day. If you stop tracking on days where you know you’re going to end up ‘over’ calories and then start again the next day you won’t see you’re true picture of how you did over the week.
  9. Food on other people’s plate doesn’t count. In my head I live by this rule but it is of course bollocks
  10. Your calorie goal isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s too low and restrictive so you keep ending up ‘binging’. Maybe it was right for you but you’ve lost weight and now it’s just a bit too high or you’ve changed your activity level and it needs adjusting.

The thing to remember is that if you are eating less than you are burning on a regular basis your weight will reduce. Regardless of what you track, if this isn’t happening you are going wrong somewhere with tracking. We all under or over estimate our food intake at times but if you are serious about creating change you need to have an honest look at your habits and see where you are cutting corners and look to rectify those little habits.

The Easter Hangover

Have you left the Easter weekend feeing like you over did it? Be it too much chocolate of the Egg variety or too much alcohol or maybe a bit of both (I’ll be honest, unlike normal me, I’ve had little chocolate this weekend but did wake up Sunday swearing to never drink again).

There can be a real temptation the day after a heavy weekend, or even just night, when you feel like you’ve over indulged and ruined your diet, to go all out healthy the next day. You know the one. i will eat nothing but leaves and drink nothing but water and run 50 miles each morning and meditate and lift heavy things and sleep for 12 hours a day and I will do this for the rest of my life to atone for the 500 extra calories I’ve convinced ruined my life over the weekend.

This in itself makes us feel worse in reality. We won’t stick to it for more than 23 minutes and then come 10 am when we’ve succumbed to a biscuit with a cup of tea we are kicking ourselves again at our obvious lack of willpower.

The fact of the matter is if you ate chocolate until you were sick or stayed up until 5am and spent yesterday in bed you might not feel very smug today. Smug is a bit of a dull feeling though and in actual fact if you just get back to normal today and eat your normal amount of food, drink plenty of fluids, train as you normally would, get some steps in you’ll actually feel pretty much back to normal by the time you go to bed. Maybe a little bit of extra fresh air would be beneficial if you do feel particularly rubbish.

Extremes rarely work. You have to have a very particular mindset to be comfortable sticking to very strict regimes for long periods of time and even if you are able to, it will often be at the cost of doing things you’ll enjoy. Balance, as so many PTs will say, is key. The problem is when we feel rubbish about ourselves our brains tell us that really strict will probably bring quicker results and when we feel rubbish that’s appealing. It actually takes quite a lot of willpower to override that little voice in your brain and just try and get back on with trying to be a bit sensible when you feel like that.

If you can today though, just try to be normal and not beat yourself up about any over indulgences.

5 Fitness Facts

  1. If you don’t train at all at the moment exercising once a week is a 100% improvement, start there and build up.
  2. To get stronger you need to progressively overload the muscles and that doesn’t just have to be by adding weight. You can increase reps, number of sets, length of workout, adjust tempos, reduce rest periods (increase intensity) or change training frequency.
  3. What you do outside the gym matters more. Walking, moving about and your general daily activity will burn more calories than the most intense hour in the gym.
  4. To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. If you aren’t no amount of supplements, protein shakes or specific meal timings will help. They are tools to fine tune a diet, having tools but no base material to work with is pointless.
  5. Chocolate, crisps and takeaways aren’t bad for you. Whilst less nutritionally valuable, if you are within your calorie target, eating them won’t affect your progress and mentally will probably help you stay on track.

Monday Hungry

I’m always hungry on a Monday morning. I tend to have the same breakfast at least Monday to Thursday (apart from the occasional post HIIT class McDonalds on a Wednesday) but for some reason on a Monday morning my stomach always feels more empty.

Maybe it’s because I’ll generally eat bigger meals over the weekend and so come Monday my stomach feels like it has to readjust to the reduction in food.  I probably tend to eat more carbs over the weekend so perhaps that contributes to that change in feeling full too.

Maybe it’s because I try to be a bit stricter in the week to give myself leeway over the weekend so mentally Monday is a harder adjustment.

I always try and drink plenty of water over the weekend and I probably get more seep so theoretically I should enter Monday feeling full rather than hungry but I just never do.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

The number of calories your body uses at rest will broadly depend on your size (weight and height), so if you are shorter, you will probably find that your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will be lower than your taller friends.

That means that the number of calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight will be lower, lower still if you want to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you are quite inactive that number could be around the 1500 calories a day range just to maintain weight (whereas for me I’m looking at around 2,500-3,000 calories to maintain).

So why does that make it harder? Well think about your average dinner, you’re probably looking at 500 calories, with perhaps 400 calories for lunch and 300 calories for breakfast.  Now if you’re tall and need to eat 2,000 calories to be in a deficit you would still have around 800 calories for snacks.  That’s enough food to feel easily full, have a high calorie treat or whatever.

What if your target to hit a calorie deficit is 1400? You have 200 calories spare, maybe enough for a couple of pieces of fruit. You essentially have less leeway to play with, battle cravings with, enjoy the foods you love with than your taller counterpart does. It’s a bit like giving two people the same shopping list but one person £100 and the other person £50 and asking them to both buy everything on the list.  The person with less money will find it a bit harder and have to be more careful.

This means smaller people might then find it more restrictive to diet, and when things become restrictive or you feel like you’re hungry all the time then you’re less likely to stick with a calorie deficit and see results.

So how do you tackle that? Well in part there are things you can do surrounding food.  Looking to fill up on more dense, low calorie foods (lots of vegetables) at main meals can help keep you full but lower the calories used, which would free up more calories to snack with.  You might find methods such as intermittent fasting which limit your window of eating help, meaning you have less time to eat the allotted number of calories (this might help mentally), even just switching breakfast for a protein shake could free up some calories for the rest of the day. 

It’s also a good idea to look at your activity levels.  You may be able to increase your NEAT and therefore increase your TDEE to allow you to increase the number of calories you need to eat each day.

If you are looking to lose weight and you have used a TDEE calculator and it suggests a super low target, it’s worth chatting to a PT or fitness professional and thinking about what tactics you can utilise to maximise your chance of hitting your goal.

2023 Goals

If you’re looking to make changes or set yourself some challenges for 2023, it isn’t enough to just want things to change, you need to work out what actions you need to take to make those changes happen.

Here’s a podcast all about goals, what, why and how…

Christmas Day Food Survival

Christmas Day Food Survival Guide

You’re going to eat a drink a lot so just say fuck it and eat like a dick (this is my preferred strategy) … But if you want some tips…

– I like to go for a short run first thing – Wakes me up, fresh air and then I really enjoy breakfast

– Have a decent breakfast – I’m a fan of something like a bacon buttie (with Bucks Fizz) – will fill you up until the main event

– Christmas Dinner is actually a pretty nutritious event – enjoy it!

– ALL THE CHOCOLATE now look if there’s one day a year not to enter it all into MFP this is it – but if you want to show restraint get a bowl, fill it and limit yourself to that

– Cheese and biscuits – Again if you must be careful stick to one plate – go for the stronger cheeses as you don’t tend to need as much of these to be satisfied

– Think about having some water as well as all the alcohol to stay hydrated!

But when all is said an done remember it’s one day a year when you hopefully get to spend it with people you care about, don’t spend all the time thinking about your diet – all that fitness stuff will still be there in a few day!

Diet Tips for Travelling In The Festive Season

Diet Tips for Travelling In The Festive Season

If you find yourself travelling to see friends and family over the festive period you might also find yourself eating more calories than normal as you end up grabbing food and drink on trains, at stations and airports.

Here’s a few tips for damage limitation whilst travelling:

1. If you can, eat your nearest main meal (breakfast / lunch / dinner) at home before you travel, that way you’ll be less likely to need to grab fast food on vour journey

2. If you do need to eat on the go and are travelling by train buy your snacks at a supermarket near or in the station rather than at the fast food outlets – you’ll find it easier to pick up something lower in calories (perhaps some ready cooked chicken and a salad). This is also likely to be cheaper than buying food on the actual train.

3. If you’re at an airport consider somewhere like Costa where you can normally get a bacon roll – protein and carbs, filling but not as high in calories as a burger from the pub.

4. Meal deals are great for your purse but not always for your waistline – don’t buy the chocolate or crisps to go with your sandwich just because it’s more cost effective. If you fancy them fine, but if you’re only picking them up because you may as well reconsider (or buy them and give them to someone else – a little random act of kindness)

5. Coffee calories add up. If you’re going on a long trip and are likely to have multiple coffees consider switching from high calorie lattes, mocha etc to an Americano

Surviving the Christmas Party – Fitness Edition

Surviving the Christmas Party – Fitness Edition

1. Will there be food? Find out what’s on offer beforehand so you can pick (if there’s the option to pick) or plan the calories into your week to stay on track

2. Can you eat beforehand? Depending on what food will be available eating before you go might stop the kebab munchies on the way home

3. Skip breakfast. A hard one for me as I LOOOOVE breakfast but if you know you’ll eat a lot later maybe having brunch or skipping breakfast will help you stay within your calorie goal for the day

5. Think about your drinks. Now if you don’t go out often I’d highly suggest just having fun and drinking whatever the fuck you want. But if you’ve lots of parties and are worried about the calories in all the alcohol consider favouring a gin and tonic / Vodka and lime over creamy cocktails which tend to be higher in calories

6. The hangover. Often it’s the next day where you really go overboard on your calories. If you know you go overboard when hungover consider pacing yourself on the night. Perhaps having a glass of water in between each drink and having a glass of water before bed to keep yourself hydrated.