Expert v. The Internet

Today I read a post on a weight loss Facebook group. The person posting was disappointed because they had ‘only’ lost 10lbs in 5 weeks. They did note their clothes fit better.

I don’t tend to comment on these things but today felt I had to, not to go into lots of detail and be all preachy but just to remind them that a) they had actually seen a good weight loss in those 5 weeks and even better, could see it in how their clothes fit which is a far better way of monitoring progress and that b) many of the other comments offering advice, whilst well meaning, were not helpful.

There were suggestions that the person posting may be in starvation mode and that’s why they were not losing more weight, that they should have a cheat meal or cheat day to ‘reset their metabolism’. I’m not writing this to make fun of those comments, the people making them were trying to help, but ultimately they were passing on false information to someone who was looking for advice to follow.

The internet is brilliant for researching information on topics you need help with, but be mindful of where you look for your information. If you are looking to improve you fitness or reach your goals check the people you are listening to are qualified to help you so you don’t end up trying to follow guidance which isn’t factually correct.

90% Effective

Episode 9 of series 11 was a corker as we all got excited about a vaccine that could be 90% effective.

Good news. Except the UK has 10 million doses with 30 millions on order which, as apparently each person would need two doses, would be enough to immunise 20 million people. There’s 66.7 million people in the UK. Now I’ve never been great at maths but that doesn’t sound like it’s going to be quite enough to solve the problem to me, but Boris isn’t known for cocking things up is he so I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. Either that or he’s counting on Marcus Rashford to come up with some kind of solution, which to be honest sounds more likely. Or maybe clapping for those who don’t get the vaccine will work?

So if only 30% of the country will be able to get the vaccine how will they decide who those people are? Here’s a few options for Hancock and co. to consider:

🔘 You could win one with the People’s Postcode lottery

🔘 You could buy one on TicketMaster, with a presale for all paid up members of the Conservative Party to make it as ‘fair’ as possible

🔘 Regional Egg and Spoon races (socially distanced obviously) with vaccines for the winners

🔘 Everyone called Malcolm, Steve or Vera could automatically qualify

🔘 They could put golden vaccine tickets in chocolate bars aka Charlie and the Chocolate factory with the winners getting a vaccine (odds are I’d be a winner here)

🔘 You could collect 5 special tokens from the Sun like one of those £10 holidays (subject to availability)

🔘 Everyone who supports Manchester United or Liverpool could automatically qualify (this would cover a wide selection of the country)

🔘 They could sell them in the special buy section of Aldi

🔘 They could vaccinate the vulnerable and front line medical staff first of course but that seems a bit too boring and sensible so I just can’t see it

2020 Continues

Despite Lockdown 2.0 being released in the first few episodes of series 11 it hasn’t had the response from critics that the Government perhaps hoped for, largely because the plot feels a lot like Lockdown 1.0 and there isn’t enough originality to inspire the public this time round, but also because they’ve shut all the cinemas so we can’t actually go and see it.

Some notable changes from Lockdown 1.0 have included more people and businesses being fined as more people resist the restrictions, with at least a couple of gyms refusing to shut their doors.

Meanwhile students in Manchester tore down fences that were put up overnight in an apparent effort to cage them in. I can’t help but think that this could be a clue from the writers that student uprisings could be more of a plot focus on coming episodes.

Rishi, possibly in an attempt to redeem himself extended furlough until March – which largely just made a lot of people suspect we are going to be stuck in lockdown until then. The big Christmas finale to series 12 is starting to look a little doubtful.

The big focus of series 11 so far though has been the U.S elections. Despite the fact that many British people couldn’t explain our own political system we’ve all become experts on the American voting system (which appears quite frankly bonkers) in the last few days.

Unlike the UK the votes aren’t counted as quickly as possible in a church or school hall with results announced within hours of polling stations closing (largely because step aerobics will start at 10am the next day whether that counting is complete or not). There are no people dressed as a panda or other random character standing on a stage as the results are called out and we don’t take to the street with weapons claiming fraud because our team is losing.

Trump, a long standing comedy character, has performed predictably well, portraying a narcissistic crazy man with startling accuracy. You know it’s bad when news channels cut away from a live statement during an election stating that everything he says is absolute bollocks.

In the latest episode we see Biden win the presidency meaning we can look forward to lots of crazy Tweets from Trump, a legal battle, possibly the first every squater in the White House as Trump refuses to leave office.

Series 11 looks like it could be a surprising series with more twists than we expected.

Lockdown 2: Return of the Lockdown

Series 11 of 2020 kicked off today picking up where series ten’s cliff hanger left off.

BoJo had just announced that we must act now and have a second lockdown.

So we are acting now by waiting until Thursday.

This means you are safe to go out for food or to the gym tomorrow but on Thursday those things become far too risky.

The Government absolutely could not afford to pay 80% of the wages of those whose places of work are forced to close last week, when it was just the North affected, but now the South is going to also be closed they have found a bit of spare change down the back of the sofa and furlough at 80% is back.

It’s absolutely only until 2nd December, except Gove (not a new character, just one so bad we try to avoid thinking about him unless we can avoid it) has let slip that that’s probably another one of those lie things that Boris is so keen on.

So we now get ready for the premiere of Lockdown 2 ‘Return of the Lockdown’ on Thursday. Hopes are not high for another box office hit to honest.

Goals

Do you know what I think we are all guilty of sometimes?  Not being clear enough on our fitness goals.

By this I don’t mean training without a specific goal.  I mean having a goal but not being clear on what that goal means and what you can expect from it

For instance – do you want to train for performance?  This might also lead to you being able to reach an aestetic goal at the same time, but at other times training to reach a performance goal may mean you cannot also attain to or maintain a certain size / weight.  You need to eat adequately to assist your training and this in turn could also affect your physique.  Aspiring to both drastically change your shape and also hit a physical peak could lead to frustrating disapoitnment in yourself (equally trying to become a body builder and a marathon runner at the same time will probably end in tears).

Do you want to lose weight / get leaner / whatever you want to call it?  Realistically to do this you need to eat less and move more.  This might not be compatible with also aiming for a specific training goal, like lifting more, if you are drastically limiting your energy intake.  Have you ever tried going harder in training sessions when you’re also eating less than normal?  It’s not massive amounts of fun.

I have long said about myself that my training goal is largely mindset orienated.  I train to feel good, it helps my mental health and acts as an anchor.  Equally I enjoy eating and try not to be restrictive with my diet.  For this I also have to accept that I’m not going to be super lean or be breaking any training records any time soon.  Training has a point and that’s to kee me fit, healthy and to make me feel good.  I can quite happily stick to light weights and not feel bad about myself. 

If I wanted to change that, lose some weight or improve the amount I lift I’d also have to seriously reconsider how I approach my diet and how I train.  I’ve done that before and it can, I’ve found, have a negeative effect on my mindset and how I feel about training.  In trying to focus on multiple things it has a negative impact on the thing most important to me.

Essentially, we need to be aware that we can’t do everything.  Of course, there will be knock on effects, you may well find that as you train for an event or to hit a certain PB you also find your body changes and you’re really pleased with that.  But if you’re goal is one specific thing try honestly focusing on that one thing – not getting distracted by trying to do everything at once.       

Laying the Foundations

When people want to make changes to their diet in order to lose or even gain weight they are often tempted to focus on supplements and shakes, when they eat certain food groups or even food at all and their very specific macro splits.

I get why this is the case – it’s really tempting for us to think that making a small change to meal timings or taking a tablet / shake and keeping the rest of our diet and routine the same is the ideal. Maximum results for minimal change.

In reality however what people are doing when they do this is focusing on the top end of the nutrition pyramid without building a solid foundation.

The foundation of your pyramid needs to be your calorie intake. You can take the right supplements, drink enough water, eat at the best times but if you’re eating too much or too little you won’t achieve your desired results. You need to eat enough to have the energy to be as active as you need to be whilst also not finding yourself in a surplus (unless you want to gain weight) and hitting a deficit if you’re goal is to lose. How you do this to begin with is almost irrelevant. If you eat nothing but chocolate but burn more calories than you’ve consumed over time you will lose weight. You won’t be getting a good range of nutrients, you’ll probably be tired and hungry but you would lose weight.

Only once you get your calorie intake right for your goal is it worthwhile starting to look further up the pyramid. How much of your calories comes from protein, carbs and fat; your micro nutrients; when you do and don’t eat and what you eat at that times and what supplements you add to your day all have their part to play in how you feel and how you perform, but they will not provide you with effective results if you have not first got your calorie foundation firmly in place.

We are bombarded daily with adverts for teas, and pills and other ‘magic’ potions; with ideas of when our body best burns calories and other tricks that will help us magically lose weight. These are of course attractive because we all want to get results fast and effectively, but nailing the basics and making them habit is ultimately the most effective (and dare I say cheapest) way of getting results.

A Neat National Fitness Day

Last Wednesday was National Fitness Day. This is a day where to be honest, people who exercise anyway post about the exercise they’ve done and gyms perhaps use it for promotion purposes. Does it actually make people exercise who wouldn’t normally though?

One thing Lockdown highlighted however is, as vital as exercise is for physical and mental health, your non exercise activity is also important for achieving results.

During lockdown I did some form of exercise most days. What also happened however is my step count reduced dramatically. From walking everywhere everyday I went to not really walking anywhere (lets face it we couldn’t actually go anywhere). The reduction in steps had a dramatic effect on my body even though I was still training in some form or another- fact is I just wasn’t burning as many calories a day because overall, away from exercise, I was moving less.

When we want to lose weight we generally think the most important thing to do is to do more exercise. Adding training of some form into your life is of course incredibly beneficial, but equally it can feel daunting and it can also take a while to create this type of habit. The quickest and easiest thing anyone looking to reduce body weight (lose weight) aside creating a calorie deficit is to just move more.

Going out for a walk at lunch time, making part of your commute a walk, walking whilst on the phone – all those little bits of extra movement make a far greater impact on your results than you think they will. When you think about it- an hour of planned exercise a day is 1/24 of your day, so what you do in the other 96% of your day can make all the difference.

So if you missed National Fitness Day that doesn’t really matter, same if you missed the gym today- just move a bit more each day as a starting point.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating and the anti diet movement.

I’m a bit torn by this.

On the one hand I want to support the idea of eating what you want, not feeling guilt for eating certain foods or certain amounts of food and listening to your own body.

But I also think if you want to make a change – specifically lose or put on weight – you need to know what you are eating.

Because really, if you don’t currently track what you eat you are kind of eating intuitively.  So if you aren’t where you want to be that intuition isn’t quite working right now.

I’m not saying track everything forever, but getting an idea of where you are at and learning what the right amount of calories feels like will allow you to eat with more freedom going forward.

I think of it a bit like learning to drive or staring a new job.  When you first start something new you really think; you are aware of what you are doing and when, maybe following notes or using reminders, you never do something without checking or on auto pilot.  Once you have been doing it for a while you gain confidence, you know how to do things and don’t need to constantly check, tasks are done instinctively and sometimes you ‘just know’.

When you see someone experienced do something well but making it look effortless you can normally bet they were not like that at the start.  They went through a learning process and what might now be done without thinking almost definitely took a lot of concentration to begin with.

So I think listening to your body and eating what it wants is a great concept, taking away some of the negative feelings that can be associated with diets, but if you also want to achieve a certain result the fact is you still need to effectively manipulate your calorie intake and that takes knowledge, of where you are at and where you need to be.

Intuitive eating can be a thing, but your intuition needs to be in the right place first.

I literally cannot be bothered

Yesterday I wrote about how education on weight management is needed, but beyond that people need motivation, in fact no… they need accountability.  I said I’d write more about that today and I wanted to keep this as a separate blog because I want to write about me.

Honestly, right now I’m my best example of this argument.  I know about calories, macro splits, supplements.  I know how to train, what I need to do to stay looking a certain way (I’m trying really hard not to say certain weight).   Not only do I know all this but to be honest normally I enjoy the training and the way I eat so it’s not even hard work.

But right now I’m nowhere near that.  I’m at least two clothes sizes bigger, nothing at all fits, I avoid looking at myself side ways in the mirror because I am extremely wide right now and I just do not feel good in myself.  I cannot be bothered to train, have lost all motivation (heat does not help, nor does not yet being back teaching) and whilst I eat pretty well still I’m eating a lot more chocolate whilst doing a lot less activity.

The fact is I am well educated on fitness and nutrition.  This is not a lack of knowledge or access to the right foods or access to places to train.  It’s not even a lack of goal or motivation.  I will be teaching again soon, I have purpose / reason to get going again I’m just struggling to pout it into effect.

Oddly I trained and ate well all through lockdown.  I used my training sessions as a away to structure my day and keep feeling positive.  I ate well and again used meal times as a way of keeping my day structured.  Ironically the opening up of things and my return to the office almost very day (thus getting back to reality and routine) caused me to lose that training and eating routine I’d built.  I’m finding myself tired at the end of the day so deciding not to train, busy during the day so skipping lunch when I would normally have trained and pretty much comfort eating chocolate.

Literally as I’m writing this I’m saying to myself but you know what to do about this.  There is nothing about education being needed here.  This is literally just about making myself do it.  Nobody else can make me feel better about myself, I have to get back to doing what I’ve always previously just done as habit.  Equally though it made me think about what I was saying yesterday.

I completely stand by my argument that what is needed to tackle obesity is education.  Not a list of lower calorie food options but genuine understanding of the energy balance that can help people, because then you could have that McDonalds and know it’s still OK and still work towards losing weight.

But still knowing doesn’t mean applying and sometimes what we also need is accountability and support.  How many people continue to go to a PT for years and years?  For many people it’s the accountability that is worth paying for those sessions, doesn’t matter that they may know they could go and train alone.

If you know what you should be doing and still aren’t that’s OK, most of us struggle with this at least some of the time.  Best thing to do is work out what will make you get started again.  Who can hold you accountable?  Who can offer support?  Maybe that’s a PT, maybe it’s booking onto a class to make you go, maybe it’s signing up for an event (hard right now).  Sometimes it’s just telling people of your intentions, like I am here.

 

 

The Contradiction of the Dine Out Scheme and a Fight Against Obesity

You know there are lots of different types of people in the world?  People who have different struggles, some people struggle to lose weight, others to put it on.  Some people watch what they eat whether they struggle with managing their weight or not and others find they don’t need to.  Away from our physical self we all work in different industries and have different personal situations.

So I struggle to understand why so many people in the fitness industry keep comparing and contrasting the Governments intentions to tackle obesity and the Dine Out 50% Scheme.

The economy has been hit hard, in particular the hospitality sector.  The 50% scheme and the lower VAT rate are designed to stimulate an area of the economy that is on the edge of a disaster that will have far reaching effects on us all as jobs are lost and windows along high streets start getting boarded up (I mean we’ll just ignore the fact here that the Government found the money to fund this but it took a footballer campaigning to find the funds to feed kids who would otherwise go without during the school holidays).  Maybe it does encourage people to go and eat out more, but you know that when you go to a restaurant you don’t have to pick the fattiest, highest calorie thing on the menu right?  I mean – I don’t follow this rule when I go for a meal but… I could … I do have that autonomy of choice.

That’s the thing for me.  Those campaigns to stop BOGOFs and cheap deals on ‘junk’ food.  Why can I not pick for myself what I put in my mouth?  Does it take the Government making it more costly for me to eat less junk food to achieve that?  Will that work long term?  Or would me making informed decisions about what I eat be better in the long term.  I frequently get laughed at for how much I eat (and particular how much cake) but actually, most of the time (OK not so much in lockdown with no classes to teach) I’m actually easily within my TDEE even with all the cake, on occasions I am not I can say no to food if I think it’s right for me to do so, I don’t need Whitehall to tell me.

So the Government’s current scheme has a purpose and that purpose isn’t related to people’s health – it’s related to the economy, and as much as I don’t like this government (albeit I’ll admit to a  slight inappropriate crush on Rishi, although most people would look good if they’re almost always stood next to Boris) and think their messages are becoming increasingly confusing and contradictory, this policy is designed to get people going back to restaurants and pubs, to contrast it directly to issues of obesity is far to simplistic and takes away the ownership we need to take over our own bodies.

So onto the campaign against obesity.  I’ve not read too much about this as reading the news at the moment makes me incredibly aggy and to be honest I probably don’t need to be triggered any further.  From the Government website it seems to largely involve banning adverts for ‘naughty’ foods, reducing BOGOFs and GPs being able to prescribe weight loss programmes to people – this appears to be both via an NHS specific weight management plan but also being able to sign post them to Weight Watchers and Slimming World.

It’s the Slimming Clubs that seem to be the ultimate trigger to many fitness professionals here.  I’ve written previously that whilst I wouldn’t encourage someone to join one, I don’t think they are the devil incarnate that they get made out to be in our industry.  At the end of the day they promote a safe and healthy calorie deficit, they just do it in a sneaky way where the customer isn’t actually aware that’s what is happening and in a way that sadly doesn’t really promote moving as part of a healthy lifestyle.

To tackle obesity what is really needed is two tier.  Firstly education.  Banning adverts and offers doesn’t educate.  It’s taking the scissors away from someone rather than explaining that they are sharp so if they use them they need to be careful.  Sending them to a Slimming Club could help but not educate.  I would hope the NHS weight management plan would be the first port of call for most referrals and more educational however.

Secondly however, as I’ll write more about tomorrow, knowing and doing are just not the same thing.  It does’t matter what you know about calories or the benefit of exercise, most of us need accountability, reasons to make the effort.  For em the Governments shortsightedness comes not from Weight Watchers but not following through to this point.

Here is where we in the fitness industry can really come into a useful position, offering services that provide that accountability and support to people.  I’ve said so many times previously though, that means less talking down on other ways of losing weight (like slimming clubs) and understanding why they are popular options with many.  I’ll tell you know, because I’ve been overweight and I went to a slimming club before a gym, because sometime gyms and the people in them seem scary.  We need to show understanding of how people looking to lose weight feel and provide services that help rather than put people off.

The other issue here is cost.  It’s often said that one problem is it’s cheaper to live off junk than fresh food.  I think that is both true an untrue.  You can find very cheap fruit and veg if you know where to look, but often you need to go to certain chains of supermarkets to get the value products, these might be out of town superstores, now if you can’t drive then you are limited to the more expensive local shops.  Socio economic factors definitely come into play in everything going on right now.  How was lockdown or you?  Will have depended on where you lived, who with, access to gardens and parks.  What will have been an idyllic summer for some would have been months cooped up alone indoors for others.  Whilst we can argue that people coming to us as PTs or coaches would be more effective for them in terms of weight management and health, three sessions with a PT a week in going to cost at least £90 a week, a gym membership at least £20 a week.  A weight in at Weight Watchers costs around a fiver.

Ultimately we need to stop over simplifying complex issues, try and look beyond our own point of view and accept that in a very complex world right now where there are economic, social and health issues vying for attention with a still ongoing pandemic that not every decision or policy is always going to sit well or make sense against another.  We need to think more on a micro scale of what we can do to improve the situation rather than getting bogged down in what Boris is cocking up this week.