YouDon’t Need to be Crazy

What you see on social media in terms of fitness content is massively distorted.

Most people who post things about their training are fitness professionals, obviously they are doing it to try and help people.

But when they ae in the gym training every day, well it can create the impression that you need to be in the gym training everyday.

Now it’s not practical firstly, PTs who work in fitness free time are firstly going to have more ability to train every day. They are literally in gyms every day. Fitting something in is easier when that happens. Also if you teach classes, well you are going to do some exercise on those days and get paid for it, so.

For the clients of said PTs life is very different. You don’t have the same incentive to work out every day, probably less easy access to equipment and to be honest you probably don’t have the same desire to train that much, and to be honest, that’s ok.

I used to train every day, more than once most days, teach 14 classes a week minimum, run. Now to be honest I go to the gym maybe 4 times a week, run a couple of times (when I’m not laid up with the cough!) and teach twice. I couldn’t post hardcore videos of me training daily if I wanted to!

My routine now if far more realistic for someone who has an office job for 40 plus hours a week. I don’t want to kill myself trying to do everything anymore.  Want to go home, put my pyjamas on and watch Only Fools and Horses sometimes.

When you judging your own progress, how hard your working compared to other people you see online it’s useful to remember that most of those have an invested interest in training as much as they do- they get paid to do it in some form or another, it’s their passion, and that’s great.

You don’t need to be all in like that to get results though, to be fit and healthy or lose a few pounds.  You can make some changes and do a bit more and enjoy it but not be doing absolutely crazy shit every single day.

Does this apply to you?

People are different. Even if you share a lot of similar circumstances with someone, you aren’t going to be exactly the same.

In fitness though things tend to get generalised.

Being overweight is unhealthy in one camp, being over weight is fine in another for instance. Now in reality some people who are overweight will be healthy and active and happy as they are which is fine. There will be others however, for whom their weight does affect their health and wellbeing.

BMI is pointless and potentially dangerous. To be fair, I don’t know that many people in the healthy range of BMI even when they are super lean and fit so I’d tend to agree. However, I get why doctors use it, in some situations and for some people monitoring a BMI will have its uses.

A workout that is designed for a specific type of person (the busy mum, a group fitness instructor) could work for a large percentage of that group but won’t absolutely suit everyone who falls under that umbrella.

We can say if you’re in a calorie deficit you will lose wight, but of course there will be a small percentage of people who do have medical issues that mean this isn’t true.

The fact is it’s really hard to talk about things and take into account every single potential caveat. PTs know that there will be exceptions, but when for the vast majority of people or a group of people something holds true it makes sense to talk to the majority rather than the exceptions.  People who are the exceptions tend to know they are and will know to follow their individual advice from their GP, PT and so on.

What isn’t helpful online is people refuting general facts because of specific anomalies.  This can make people question solid advice that could help them because someone’s aunty Pat who is on some medicine that causes weight gain couldn’t lose weight even on a low calorie diet.

It’s useful to remember that not everything in the world of fitness or nutrition will apply to you. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad, just not something that would be of benefit for you to consider or incorporate.  Sometimes you need to use your own knowledge or recruit the help of a PT you trust to work out what would be useful for you and what to disregard.   


Fad diets are bad. Everyone agrees on that right? What is a fad diet though?

Same with exercise. Everyone scoffs at people jumping on the latest trend. It’s a fad it won’t last. How do we decide what’s a fad type training method and what’s a ‘good’ training method.

The definition of fad is something that people have an intense enthusiasm for, short lived, a craze. Generally in terms of diets and training we think of fads as things that offer quick fixes, magic results, do xyz and all your problems will disappear in weeks, you can do really simple things like add in a drink and still eat everything you normally do and the magic drink will fix everything and so on. It might be the idea that you can do just one type of exercises and change nothing else and suddenly drop 5 dress sizes.

Again here, much like Slimming World from my last pos, what PTs have issue with, is not always that specific fad in isolation. It’s the idea it is a magi fix.

There are fads that we out and out despise of course. Any magic slimming pill or skinny tea for intense. Literally a way to steal people’s money.

But some ‘fads’ could be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and could have some benefits. Certain supplements incorporated into a good routine will add benefit. Our issue is that on their own they’ll do f’ all, and you need to understand that.

I happen to think that Herbal Life’s protein powder is actually one of the tastier ones out there (expensive though so I’ll stick with My Protein thanks), but it doesn’t do anything more than any other protein powder will. If you think it will it’s a fad. I’m partial to a hot water with lemon when I wake up, but that’s because it’s part of my morning routine which sets me up for the day, 5 minutes first thing sat and drinking it is calming and means I start the day not rushing around. It doesn’t act as a magic detox or anything. If I thought it did that would be a fad. Pilates, a current trend, is an excellent addition to anyone’s week. Is it the only form of exercise we should ever do? No. If you think it is we are entering fad territory.

What I’m saying is the reason I think we (PTs) dislike these fads is not always that the thing itself is bad. It’s the lack of understanding of why you might decide to do it. If you do something that could be seen as ‘faddy’ for a reason that benefits you and you understand it, it isn’t a fad. If you do something because you think it will fix a problem without any real knowledge of how it might do that it is. It always comes back to education, understanding and knowledge.

Let’s think about running. I like (well after the event anyway, rarely during) running. Some people think running is terrible for you. Now if I ran because I believed it was the only way to lose weight and so I should run for 20 minutes every day, that’s a pretty unhealthy mindset surrounding running, it’s factually incorrect, I’m unlikely to stick to it and you could argue it’s a bit faddy. Actually I run a couple of times a week because I like being outside, it’s my time to switch off and maybe listen to an audio book or music, I always feel better afterwards. Sometimes I run for a long time, sometimes 10 minutes. I often stop for a coffee and cake during a long run, because I like coffee and cake and runs should be enjoyable. It’s not a magic fix but it has benefits for me personally that I value. Same exercise, two different viewpoints of it, the exercise is the same for both outlooks – what is different is how it is perceived, in terms of purposes and perceived outcomes.

What people selling a specific product or brand want you to believe is their product will change everything. A PT wants to you to understand that sustainable progress comes from a mixture of things, forming habits, understanding how your body works and what it needs, working out what works for you around your lifestyle. It doesn’t require buying into any specific concept or product and if one thing doesn’t work for a client, a PT will look at what else might instead.

We need to keep coming back to the point that no one way of doing things is better than another, the key is making an informed decision on what you do and why.

Slimming World and Us

Why do people hate on Slimming World and the like so much? Obviously I can’t talk for other PTs but here’s my take on the matter.

Now if you’ve followed this blog or my podcast for a while you’ll have heard me go into detail about my thoughts on Slimming World. I was a member, I lost weight on it and then I ran into some problems once I lost weight in terms of the Slimming World outlook and my increasing knowledge of nutrition and fitness.

I wouldn’t recommend joining to people, but equally I wouldn’t discourage someone who decided it was good for them.

Ultimately, it’s not unsafe. Done right, it encourages cooking from scratch, eating dense filling foods and limiting pre package items. It can create good habits.

So why do so many PTs have an issue with it? Education in a nutshell.

Essentially, Slimming World followed sensibly creates a calorie deficit, so you’ll lose weight. But it dresses the calorie deficit up in a cloak of free foods, syns, speed foods and HEXA /HEX B foods. You have to follow the diet book and the app and keep going to the meetings to stay on track. Whereas in reality to hit a calorie deficit you don’t need to do any of those things. You just need to stick within a certain number of calories. That can be tracked for free. You just have to understand what you are tracking. A good PT will teach you this to the point you do not need them to track. Slimming World doesn’t.

That makes sense- if you stopped needing Slimming World after a point where would they make money? A good PT holds more value than simply helping you see a drop in the scale, so we see no fear in simplifying concepts so they don’t seem mysterious.

The big issue I found with Slimming World was they discouraged exercise (or my group did). I was actively advised that if i trained less i might see a bigger drop on the scales. Horrible advice from someone with no qualifications in nutrition or training and potentially damaging to a persons body image and relationship with their weight. Now as a PT I know how important it is to stress how many ways there are to measure progress beyond the scales. Not to mention the health benefits of being more active beyond weight. It also saddens me how many women in these groups decided to wait until they lost weight to exercise because they didn’t feel confident and how this mindset was effectively rubber stamped by Slimming World. When I think how starting to exercise when I was at my biggest and the confidence and sense of achievement I gained from that spurred me on more to lose weight that a brand could actively discourage this is quite sad.

Again, this comes down to knowledge and education. Dressing up NEAT as a magic formula and creating myths surrounding exercise makes people more dependent on a formula which requires continued membership to a brand, instead of educating people and empowering them to eventually not need you anymore.

I get why people decide to join these groups. When I think about some areas of fitness from a new person’s perspective it looks intimidating. Slimming World and the like in contrast seem quite inclusive. The group I joined was full of lovely people and really quite welcoming. That’s why I very much think it’s our job as fitness professionals to not consistently bash these brands but understand what they offer and we do not, how can we make gyms as welcoming as a slimming club? It isn’t enough for us to just know why Slimming World doesn’t work anymore it’s about making our own services as accessible and welcoming.

And if you follow Slimming World or similar. There’s genuinely nothing wrong with that and they way you eat now on that plan can be largely kept in place if you decided to start moving away from Slimming World. As I say, There isn’t anything terribly bad about the concept, it would just be a massive benefit if you understand how and why so you are no longer beholden to a membership.

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.


Monday morning. New week. Here’s some reminders if you are looking to get fitter, slimmer, healthier.

  1. Aim to exercise 2-3 times. Block out 5 times in your diary, if you miss a couple no harm, if you make all 5 appointments with yourself you’ve over achieved.
  2. Try and add an extra 10 minutes walk into each day this week to increase your steps a little.
  3. Drink a glass of water once every hour.
  4. Track what you eat in MyFitnessPal, see where you are in comparison to your calorie goal.
  5. If you aren’t in a calorie deficit try and reduce your intake by 200-500 calories a day.
  6. Hit five portions of fruit and veg a day. Try to mix it up, eat a range of colours.
  7. Eat 1.5 x your body weight (in kg) in protein a day.
  8. Struggle to get to sleep? Try drinking your last coffee at midday.
  9. Stretch. For a few minutes day, when you’re watching TV or at the very least once this week.
  10. Identify one thing you struggle with and decide on one small change you can make to improve.

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.