Sensible Nutrition Advice? Who Wants That!

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.

Read the article here

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

Working out how to train?

Working out what to eat?

I don’t think so.

For me it’s accepting that you will never be perfect.

You decide to start something – training for an event, looking to drop a dress size, whatever it may be.  You have your plan in place and you’re committed to doing it.  Day one does well, so does day two, then day three something comes up and you can’t eat what you planned or miss a training session and suddenly it all feels like it’s unravelling.  Fast forward a week later and you’ve completely dropped your plan and feel like you need to start again.

It’s so easy to fall into this trap.

It’s why so many people don’t reach the goals they set themselves.

A lot of us are very bad at accepting that one slip up doesn’t really matter.

I’ll admit this is something I’ve always been bad for.  I’d start the week ready to have a totally perfect week and get to Friday upset with myself that it hadn’t happened.

Then I learnt (OK I had drummed into me) that PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST.

BUT.

A couple of not perfect things in an otherwise positive week won’t derail my progress.

Now, I get if you are on show prep or similar and a few days out then a slip up could make a massive difference.  But if you want to feel good on the beach in a couple of month times and go over your calorie goal one day in a week it really isn’t going to matter that much.

As people we tend to focus on the negative over the positive.  So there could be 9 great things about our week and one bad thing and you can almost bet your life we will spend more time thinking about that one negative.

So how do you get the results you want?

You accept that things don’t have to always go to plan for progress to happen.  If in a week you miss one training session but have two really good ones, those two good ones haven’t been cancelled out by missing the third.  If you’ve eaten everything you planned most days but on Tuesday had a cake, that cake hasn’t cancelled out all the nutritious stuff you’ve also fed your body.  If the last month felt really really positive but this week you’ve felt a bit off that doesn’t cancel out last month.

In the same way people say one healthy meal won’t make you slimmer or one exercise session won’t make you fit.  Well nor will the cake make you fat or missing that gym session and going to the pub mean you’re back to square one.

Find your goal. Make your plan. Then stick to it?

Nope.

How about:

Find your goal. Make your plan. Do it as best you can and when life gets in the way don’t start again just keep going and do what you can.

Not as catchy so probably won’t catch on but might mean you’re a little more likely to hit those aims.

Social Media, Mental Health and Living Your Best Life

Social Media isn’t reality, did you know that?

It feels like recently there has been a lot of acknowledgement that people tend to post a ‘best of’ of their lives of Instagram and Facebook- nights out, impressive meals, pretty hotels etc. and that can sometimes make us feel bad about our own lives; that we are perhaps not exciting enough, successful enough, interesting enough.

More people now, possibly in response to this, post more mundane / normal things on Social Media (if you want to know what I’ve eaten at any given time check my Instagram stories and there will be a not very attractive meal that may or may not have some nutritional value to it but to be honest is likely to involve cake, because I’m a fitness instructor and like to fuel my body with foods that provide it with value but I also really really like cake).  That’s good right- fewer perfect lives and more normality will make people feel less disheartened?

But actually does it?  Is my account any different from someone living their best life?  I would say my social media is reasonably warts and all, I post the days I eat the food I planned but I equally post the unplanned cake and chocolate.  I post pictures on nights or days out but my Twitter account, which is basically a tool for complaining to Northern Rail about their ever worsening service, demonstrates that my daily commute is far from glamorous and my days are simply long most of the time.  Yet even I unwittingly self ‘airbrush’ my own life.  In what ways?  Well, obviously not everything I do or eat gets posted, so I might not specifically hold back certain things and post others, but what I do post can’t totally reflect my day or who I’ve seen / spoken to or how I feel (I’m a historian by degree and we will tell you that all historical accounts are subjective so this isn’t something new with the advent of Facebook).  If I’m feeling a bit anxious or down for whatever reason I’m a lot less likely to post anything, so it’s not that I always feel OK and sarcastic as my accounts may suggest, just that my response to not feeling on top form is to withdraw a little rather than tell the world.  So even if you follow people who are pretty open and honest you still don’t see everything.

This make me sound like I’m not keen on Social Media but that isn’t the case at all.  I use many forms frequently and find the positives outweigh the negatives for me personally most days.  But nothing is cut and dry.

Social Media allows fitness professionals to talk to people openly beyond the clients in their gym and there are many excellent fitness professionals, both well known on Social Media and those only known more locally, who provide great insights to people for free.  This can potentially then encourage someone to go and seek out more advice and make huge strides in their fitness journey.  Equally, advice and posts could be misunderstood or someone could take advice that was meant for a different demographic to them and not get the results they want.  So positives yes, but we also need to be careful about what we say and promote.

Social Media can connect people who would otherwise not have met and provide opportunities to get advice and mentorship from such people and allows businesses to connect with clients on a more human level.  Equally it can cause debates and misunderstandings as people don’t know each other to understand why they have those opinions or view points because their situations are different. It often appears easier to argue with someone you never have to see and that can create an environment where people feel more able to say things they wouldn’t in person.

Social Media has opened up conversations around mental health.  Now I’m still a little dubious about this.  I like how people feel more comfortable talking about it.  I am less keen on how sometimes when people do post things about their own mental health they can be met with well meaning but not necessarily helpful reactions.  It’s tough to know whats really going on behind even the most honest of status.  I think being aware of the emotions of the people we talk to daily is a better way to show support to others.  Watching out for the signs that suggest that someone is maybe a bit stressed or anxious is possibly going to be more helpful on a realistic level.  However well meaning, we aren’t doctors or health care professionals and whilst listening to people express their feelings on Social Media can help both break down barriers and make the person in question feel heard / better understood, it also encourages us to offer advice – which might end up being helpful but equally could not be. Our feedback could end up being harmful to the person posting. Nonetheless the reduction in stigma surrounding mental health issues is a positive thing.

Social Media can help keep you motivated.  I know of many social media accounts which responsibly promote building a healthy mindset and teach hacks and systems which allow you to approach life’s challenges and which don’t try and fix whether you are ‘happy’ or not (if you are interested I can direct you to some people). Equally however there are well meaning posts that show a happy picture and a quote about only wanting to deal with positive vibes.  Those posts are probably normally quite personal to that individual and reflect what they are feeling at that moment and are not a dig at others.  Yet I sometimes feel they could have a negative effect on people who maybe at that point do not feel positive.  Because let’s acknowledge that depression means you don’t always feel positive but that this doesn’t mean you are a ‘negative’ person.  In reality we all have days when we don’t feel 100% positive and that doesn’t make us negative people.  Sometimes we don’t need to be told to be more positive we just need to be able to vent or have a rant and clear out our mind / work though our thoughts. When we post on social media we don’t always think how our words could be interpreted by others, nor can we be held responsible for how someone else takes our words of course – this is just another one of the double edged swords of the medium.

Like real life, Social Media isn’t all great and isn’t all bad – it’s messy and can be viewed differently day by day.  So in reality how we respond to anything whether it be something showing someone’s ‘best life’ or someone posting something real and honest is going to depend on how we feel ourselves that day and on any given day the same post could be viewed as inspirational and motivational or equally something which makes you feel a bit shit. That’s our internal reflection of what we see more than what is actually posted.

So yes, sometimes accounts may only show the best bits, but I think all accounts however honest and real can affect people in different ways regardless iof intention.

How do we deal with that, because for a lot of us, Social Media is a part of life and just dropping out isn’t necessarily an option we want?

Well in part I think just acknowledging that Social Media is always a life through a filter or a censored opinion – even when we think it’s totally real- it’s just not possible to be 100% real via a computer / phone or photo, even when you try. I go back to history as my example, as a historian all sources are tainted by subjectiveness – be they propaganda materials or diaries and personal testimony.  

Some people are more honest and open in how they use Social Media though so you could look to pick people to follow who match with your values and make you feel better / empowered rather than crap – people who will talk to you, respond to questions with honest answers.  If there are people on your feed on any site who make you feel rubbish you can remove them or mute them (because you may not be able to remove your mums neighbour three doors down without causing awkwardness in the supermarket).

If we choose to use Social Media for positive it can be a great addition to our life, it just needs to be something that we are aware of how it affects us and react accordingly to that. That means breaks when needed and setting boundaries that work for us (because everyone’s limit will be different).

Beyond that, I believe working on our own emotions and head space is a really important thing. How we train, eat, feel can be impacted by Social Media only so much when we are in the best place we can be at the time. How often does a post trigger you into a mood on a bad day but on a good day you’d find the same thing funny? That is why when I don’t feel so great I spend less time talking on Social Media. It is also why I haven’t just invested time and money into my physical well being but I also work with a trainer on my mindset as well – our wellness is a much more rounded package than just our bodies.

For me systems and creating habits in the real world, which help me respond differently to triggers than I used to is the key to then feeling healthy towards what I see on Social Media (and beyond).

This blog started as one thing and then sort of meandered elsewhere so apologies for the random nature of what has essentially been a mind dump on how I feel about Social Media and mental health, but as I said I have systems in place that help me process my own thoughts and sometimes this blog ends up being one of them … so here it is a very public social media style way of considering social media.

Also – sometimes we just do nice things and want to post them for people to see. So as reflective as I have been sometimes we really just had a nice holiday and want to share!

Would love to hear your thoughts – whether you agree of disagree!

Fitness Professionals – A Reaction to the Last 24 Hours in my World

If you aren’t a Les Mills instructor you will not be aware of the changes made to the way payments are taken for the materials and education that allow you to teach Les Mills programmes.  To bring you up to speed quickly, in a nutshell people aren’t happy about having the autonomy to pay for what they want when they want taken away from them.  People who teach multiple programmes are not happy that they are now paying more than they used to.  The details of this change affect me but are not really what I want to write about today.

When these sort issues arise in general people take to Facebook to debate them.  I say debate but quite often there is little real debate.  I will normally have an opinion, and I’m happy to express it.  It may be different to the opinion of others, even those I’m close to – I will still express it.  However I also am happy to consider different views, and sometimes my initial view will change based on what other people have expressed as I consider things from angles that I hadn’t originally considered (this is debate).  Sometimes it feels like what actually happens is everyone expresses their view and simply insists anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.  When both the customer and provider do this it creates a situation that becomes harder and harder to resolve.  I sometimes think that people think that listening and acknowledging the validity in an opposing view weakens their own position so they instead aggressively defend their standpoint generating a greater negative response from people (whereas I have also seen some brilliant examples of the opposite over the last 24 hours where listening to people’s concerns has generated much more positive reactions from people who are upset – none of this is black and white).  When we are passionate about something and think it is a good thing we can sometimes be blindsided to the negatives that others may see.  I also believe, by the way, that there is a view that a debate such as the ones over the last 24 hours is always a negative thing unless everyone is pro the change being discussed.  Actually if we viewed not agreeing with each other in a less negative way debates can be extremely healthy, as can being allowed to express your standpoint.  Within my close circle I’ll frequently discuss opposing opinions on topics and we manage to do so without falling out and labeling each other as  negative.

Ultimately this has got me thinking about how we work together as fitness professionals.  It’s a weird situation.  Other fitness professionals are our colleagues in some senses but not in other senses.  I have an office job by day and the people I work with are colleagues, it’s very clear cut – we all work for the same company and have to follow the same rules etc.  If something changes it tends to affect most people in a similar way.  Fitness professionals are self employed / contractors / their own businesses (how we define ourselves if a personal choice).  We may work at the same gyms but we all negotiate our own terms, potentially compete for classes, have different degrees of reliance on different fitness roles (main source of income could be PT, classes, other jobs entirely) so how we view changes will be very different for everyone.  It makes an already quite competitive market feel more competitive.

It seems an odd idea expecting people who in some ways compete to also work together at the same time.  For me it’s become the most positive way to progress your fitness career however.

I work in various ways with a number of different fitness professionals, some in my local eco system (where there is more argument you are competing for the same customers), others in different parts of the country all together.  I also talk regularly with instructors from all over the UK, who I sometimes have different opinions to but am able to discuss them without falling out!  This has made the fitness world so much nicer for me.  Some things are still frustrating of course, but there is a support network, places where you can ask questions or vent about annoyances without being attacked by people who do not agree.  I’ve found new work opportunities through networking and looking at how I can work with people rather than compete against them.  I’ve learnt things because I’ve opened myself up to different people and they’ve helped me with things they are good at rather than guarding their knowledge and I’ve tried to do the same.

A few years ago there was a movement for a fitness union to fight stagnant pay, which struggled because essentially, as was pointed out at the time, if you don’t teach for the current rate there will always be someone else who will – basically the same argument that as we are all self employed we cannot work together at the same time.  This isn’t true.  Of course any partnerships need to be beneficial to both parties (and I mean that as individuals and our partnerships with providers such as Les Mill and gyms) and we need to be aware of what we offer against what we take (again both sides too- including gyms and providers).  In a busy market however, with every changing trends, I think we need to reconsider how we work with other fitness professionals, possibly gyms and providers also need to consider how they work with non staff member fitness professionals also.

For me personally, I’m happy where I am currently at.  My professional connections within the fitness sector are growing stronger and are all positive relationships where I don’t feel I am competing and I feel I can make a difference.  The changes in fees, well it’s not ideal as it makes keeping three programmes I don’t physically have classes in financially no longer viable – but there you go, a potentially difficult head over heart choice made for me so good in a way!  Perhaps Les Mills will listen to the feedback and adapt the new system to assist those with multiple programmes, if they don’t then instructors have the same choice as me and Les Mills can equally make the choice on how to work with those instructors.  What I do know is knee jerk reactions are normal and to be expected and debates are hard not to be drawn into but a) debates don’t need to be seen as a bad thing and b) we will get more done if we try and hep each other.

 

Good Foods V. Bad Foods

How often do you think about food in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

You have a 2,000 calories to eat in a day.

You eat 2,000 calories of pizza and chocolate.

You eat 2,000 calories of oats, chicken, salad, fish, rice, vegetables, fruit and nuts.

Either way you’ve eaten 2,000 calories.

So really there are no good or bad foods.

There are foods.

Now that isn’t to say you’d feel the same after eating nothing but pizza and chocolate than if you’d eaten the same number of calories from a variety of largely unprocessed foods.

Generally your body will probably react more positively to the unprocessed foods.

But sometimes you’ll feel better for picking the pizza!

Overtime a diet of nothing but pizza would probably start to make you feel pretty bloated and lethargic.

There was a man who lost weight by eating nothing but McDonalds for 30 days.  He was still in a calorie deficit.  Another experiment involving McDonalds, Supersize Me (which had a a different focus and was designed to shine a spotlight on the American Fast Food Industry) highlighted how aside from weight solely eating this type of food affected the participants cholesterol, sex drive, skin, mood and so on.

The point is you aren’t likely to eat nothing but McDonalds.

Nor are you likely to never eat it EVER. AGAIN.

A happy diet isn’t that polarised.

Some days you’ll eat chicken and brocoli from a Tupperware box.  Sometimes you’ll eat fried chicken from a bucket.

There’s that saying you’ll see on memes about this being called balance.

Also realistically.

Most people struggle because they haven’t got to grips with energy in v. energy out.

They eat too much or not enough.

It isn’t that they aren’t eating the right sort of foods.

If you have this down 100% then looking at what you eat and the specific nutrients in those foods could enhance how you feel.  If you want to compete in a show or top-level sport you perhaps need to do this.

For the rest of us (and I include me in that) just hitting those calorie goals (and protein goals if you want to go one further) will be enough to make us feel pretty good and bring results.

So actually from this logic there are no good or bad foods.