Calories are King

Nail the basics before you do anything else.

If you are trying to lose weight the fundamental thing you must do is create a calorie deficit. You can do all you want with macros, supplements and meal timings, but if you eat more calories than you burn you will not lose weight.

I’m not saying these other things do not matter, once you have the basics in place these elements of your diet can help you fine tune your results. But at a very basic level, however you decide to achieve it, you must be in a calorie deficit to see weight loss- even if everything else is spot on, if this isn’t in place it won’t happen. In reverse – if you have no idea what a macro is, have never bought a supplement and pay no attention to when you eat you can still lose weight focusing just on calories. It’s the foundation everything else is built on.

Why do we try and focus on the other elements in that case? I think it’s because they are more interesting. The idea of just adjusting when you eat or adding in some pills but other than that keeping your diet the same is appealing, more appealing than accepting you need to eat either less or different things (to eat the same quantity but reduce calories). I also think the existence of books that, in order to create an angle, sell a diet based on a rule revolving around fat / carbs / sugar or whatever confuses people, selling that angle as the reason for results and ignoring the sneaky fact that that spic rule essentially also creates a calorie deficit.

The overall message I want to make here is I’m not saying don’t look at other aspects to your diet, but don’t look a them instead of your calorie intake if you want to lose weight because you’re just making your own life harder than it needs to be.

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.

Dream Big; Reach for the Sky; Dream, Believe, Achieve; You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To and Other Pointless Quotes

Goals.

They are important right?  I mean if you are on Facebook or Instagram you get the idea of working towards your goals, knowing what your goal is, never losing sight of your goals thrust in your face daily.

I include me in that by the way.

I really do believe that having a goal that you really care about drastically increases your chances of adhering to your plans.  A goal is good, but it has to be one you are passionate about and that holds a genuine meaning for you so that it acts as your motivation.

Equally, saying to people don’t aim high, don’t set big goals would be limiting.  It’s cheesy to say if a goal doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough but there’s something to be said for aiming higher than you currently think you can reach, thinking big if you like to encourage you to progress.

But we need to be entirely honest.  Not all goals are achievable.

So whilst you should aim big, you should also be realistic.

Let’s say you want a BMI under 25.  According to the NHS 25 or above is overweight.  So perhaps that’s your goal.  On paper that sounds reasonable, a healthy goal.  Is it realistic?  For me, not massively.

I’m 5 foot 11.  To have a BMI of a healthy range I should apparently weigh 140-170lbs (10 stone to 12 stone 1lb).  I actually weigh 13 stone 7lbs at present.  I’m not overweight, I’m not fat.  But to reach what at first sounds like a very reasonable goal I’d need to lose a minimum of 1 1/2 stone, that’s a lot given i’m not actually unhealthy or overweight at the moment.  I weighed 10 stone a few years ago for a while.  I sort of had had that lolipop look and could only maintain it by eating very little and exercising a lot.  It wasn’t in any way enjoyable or sustainable.

So for me a BMI of 25 or less might sounds reasonable but it isn’t really realistic.  To do what I do for a job, to train a I enjoy training and to keep as busy as I do I need fuel.  Naturally i sit around my current weight, happily, without restriction, with chocolate and alcohol.  So that reasonable sounding goal isn’t actually realistic.

You need to make a goal work for you. So it needs to be personal yes, it’s good for it to be big sometimes, but it also needs to be achievable or it serves about as much benefit as not having  goal – in fact probably less because it could have a negative effect on you if it makes you feel like you’ve failed.

Sometimes we can ignore the Social Media motivational quotes and be safe, boring and sensible with our goals and still get results.

Diets DO Work

How many times have you heard the phrase diets don’t work?

I’ll be honest I’ve said this myself so many times.

Then last year I went to Martin MacDonald’s Nutrition Tour and he said something that turned my thinking on this totally on it’s head.  I’ll have to paraphrase because I don’t have the exact quote.

Diets do work, weight maintenance is what people fail at.

When we say diets don’t work, as fitness professionals we are saying it from a good place ,as a way of trying to protect clients, but it isn’t actually what we mean.  It’s a simplified statement to generalise what we mean.

Because the fact is diets do work.  Or at least they can if you follow them.

Firstly let me clarify here when we talk diet we generally mean a way of losing weight.  I’ve said previously in it’s most accurate term your diet is whatever you happen to eat, but as a society we hear diet and we think weigh loss effort.  That is how I’m going to use the word today.

I’ve also said before all diets, no matter how they are dressed up, work by creating a calories deficit in some way.  If you create a calorie deficit you will lose weight.  Some ways are healthier than others. Some ways are more likely to promote unhealthy relationships with food than others.  Some ways provide more education as to how you are losing weight than others and some pedal myths that you are in fact losing weight because of a pill or a shake or your food combinations instead of calorie control.  But, the fact remains you burn more calories than you consume you create weight loss.

Therefore diets do work.

I can say oohhh don’t do Herbal Life, Weight Watchers, Slimming World or whatever diet you want to put in place of that, but fundamentally if you do them and follow them you will lose weight.  It would be wrong of me to lie and say that is not the case.

So why do I and so many people say you shouldn’t follow a diet when they do work?

Because what we really mean when we say that diets don’t work is that diets, as opposed to educated lifestyle changes, work whilst you follow them.  When you stop following them and go back to previous eating habits they will stop working, and the issue with diets is that they are very often not sustainable in the long term or if they are sustainable they tie you into contracts with that brand.

Some diets are restrictive.  Anything very low calorie or which cuts out certain foods for no other reason than weight loss is hard to maintain forever.  Especially once you have lost the weight and the scale coming down every week no longer exists as motivation.  I’ll tell you from experience no matter how much you believe staying at your ideal weight will be motivation enough it really isn’t.  Therefore very restrictive diets are difficult to maintain long term and so if you don’t have the knowledge and acquired skills on how to maintain weight once you reach your goal it is the maintenance part you may struggle with, and this is often why we see people yoyo diet.

Other diets are certainly less restrictive and I do see that there is honestly no reason why once ready to maintain weight you could not continue with them.  The issue with these is they very often tie you into a product.  Weigh in groups for instance (Slimming World, Weight Watchers and so on).  You could continue to attend these and eat in this way quite comfortably to maintain but you must continue to buy into the method because there is a lack of education included to allow you to go alone.

Equally things like Herbal Life, these can be promoted by PTs who also provide education around nutrition.  But they integrate their products into that education, so you believe you not only need a protein shake and a herbal tea and a pre workout and a meal replacement shake to lose then maintain weight, but you need that particular brand.  I believe that psychologically if we have succeeded in losing weight on those products we will believe even more so that they are important to remaining on track.  This essentially means to maintain weight loss you are tied into a product for however long you maintain.  If you suddenly can’t afford that product, mentally it is a lot easier to then lose that maintenance.

So when a PT says diets don’t work what we really mean is the diet phase is really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

You want to lose 3 stone.  You think that that is the hard part and then keeping it off will be easy.  Nope, at 1lb a week allowing a few weeks where you lose nothing you can comfortably lose 3 stone in a year (less if you are very focused but actually you don’t want to be obsessed with losing weight).  Say you are 25 and live to 98, that is 1 year of weight loss and then another 72 keeping that weight off.  If you are successful at this the majority of your life is in the maintenance phase not the diet phase (obviously not taking into account life changes etc).

So when we say don’t diet, we mean diet if you wish to lose weight, but don’t follow a fad.  Learn about calories, get a coach,  not a diet plan (PTs can provide advice and education not diet plans unless they are qualified nutritionists), get an idea of how much energy you need to eat.  Then eat that food in a way that suits your lifestyle (by the way that could be paleo, via fasting or another method if you are also aware of your calorie consumption).  If you do that once you hit your goal you adjust your calories slightly and just continue as you were.  The key here is all the time you have eaten normally, in a way that really suits you – not in a special magical way that has helped you lose weight but requires a lot of thought every day / week or a lot of money.  The key is you’ll know why you lost weight and don’t attribute it to magical speed foods (yes Slimming World I’m looking at you) or a magical pill (there might well be a product out there you love that makes you feel great and that’s cool, use it, feel great but all the while know that product is not the reason for your weight loss).

A decent PT knows if they do their job well you won’t need them forever – if they try and make you reliant on them forever they pretty much just want your money.  We might retain clients for a long time because they feel the benefit of our support or thrive from the accountability, valid reasons to see a coach, but we want clients to understand where their results come from – not to mystify them so they remained chained to us.  Whether you chose to continue working with a coach or not you should be given the skills that if you went it alone you have knowledge and are empowered to do so.

Diets do work.  We struggle with maintenance.  That’s why dieting in a sustainable and suitable way paves the way to a greater chance of success with maintenance, and if you are currently dieting or thinking about starting a weight loss journey know both that and this.  Weight loss isn’t what you want.  What you want is to be able to maintain that once you reach the goal.  You don’t want it to be a short term thing so don’t look at short term options.

 

Why do people doubt the energy balance equation?

As a PT and group fitness instructor I frequently talk about the Energy Balance Equation.  How if you want to lose weight you must have more energy going out than in, if you want to gain weight it’s the opposite and to maintain you want them to be about equal.

It’s essentially the base of any nutrition knowledge, and the first thing anyone needs to get to grips with if they want to work on their nutrition.

Macros, meal timings, supplements.  They all have a place sure, but if you haven’t got your calories in v calories out in the right place what time you eat dinner, the amount of protein or fat you eat or whether you take BCAAs or won’t make much difference to your success.

Equally, people will say I had massive success with this way of eating / this method / this diet, and essentially behind each of these methods the fundamental reason for success is the individual found a way of controlling their calories in v. out that was appropriate to their goals and which suited their lifestyle.  It can be dressed up in many different ways but that fundamental lies behind every successful method of actively managing food intake.

So why are we so reluctant to believe this?

Almost universally, at some point of another, most people have chosen to believe that either the reason they are not reaching their goals or are reaching their weight management goals is something beyond calories.

No again, I’m not saying that other factors cannot help refine a diet.  If you are managing your energy balance well the types of food you get your energy from, when you eat, extra supplements can help you improve energy levels and performance.  They do this however building upon the foundation that is you eating the right amount of food for your gapl each day.

If you are over eating by 1,000 calories every day whether you eat those calories at 6 am or 6 pm makes no difference.  Whether the calories come from avacado and lettuce or Nutella on biscuits makes no difference.  Your body shape makes no difference, your genetic make up makes no difference.  You are eating too many calories for your goal.  Energy in v. energy out is like gravity- it’s a fact.

So why do we self sabotage on this so often?  Because actually, when it’s this simple, we all have the ability to successful manage our food intake in line with our goals.

I think  it comes down to two main reasons:

Firstly, people selling their ideas means that very often the calories truth is hidden behind a gimmik.

We buy into products or brands or books and theories that promise us results.  In order for those brands to stand out and or you to go to them specifically they need to have a selling point- the thing that makes their methods work.

For that they need to sell you lots of reasons beyond calories as to why their methods work.  You do their diet, you lose weight or gain weight and so accept that those methods must be the reason.  But behind all of these diets there is still always the energy balance equation, and whilst other factors can also provide benefit you still need that energy balance to be right.  What these brands don’t do is actively promote calories as the key.  They let is silently do the work in the background and let their ‘unique selling point’ take the credit.  Essentially they are like a really bad boss taking credit for what their team does as the ground work!

The second factor is our own emotional response.  It’s so much easier for us to think if i can get this one really sexy aspect of my diet right everything else will fall into place.  Why else do diet pills appeal to people – you take this one pill, make no other changes and you’ll see results.  We like that idea.  If I add this supplement that will make the difference.  Because accepting that actually we aren’t eating enough or are eating too much means we need to actually work and make real changes to what we eat.

We also often tend to over estimate (for people looking to gain weight) or under estimate (for people looking to lose weight) how much we eat in terns of calories I find.  That’s why tracking, whilst unsexy compared to intuitive eating, is useful.  Again though it’s harder work and seems very old school and boring next to I eat what my body tells me it wants.  Now i’m not saying doing that is a bad thing – but you have to know how to listen to your body to do that, and if you aren’t already getting the results you want I’d suggest you don’t yet know how to listen to your body.  The way to learn is unfortunately the very boring learn about calories in v. out until you find the right balance for you – once you’ve grasped that eating intuitively and not tracking becomes very possible because you do then have a better idea of your energy (by which I mean calories) levels.

We all want to think we are different.  That calories might be your issue but mine is my metabolism, mine is how I react to certain foods, my blood type and so on.  It might be to a certain degree – but that thing is in reality going to be such a small factor in comparison to your energy in v. out.  So for many of us is our issue is we are focusing on something that makes a 1% difference to our diet instead of focusing on something that can have a massive difference.  We then assume that because we aren’t seeing our desired results we need to delve even deeper into our biology and chemical makeup to see results.

The best way to get results is to stop bullshitting yourself.

Workout what you burn.

Workout what you consume.

Change those to get the result you want.

It’s boring.  It’s simple.

That’s why we always look for other answers.  We assume it’s so boring and simple and obvious it cannot be the key.

We literally cannot see the wood for the trees.

Jump 4.2 – Week 2

Today I’m entering week 3 of Jump 4.2.

Yesterday I finished two weeks of eating a Paleo based diet and having spent last week reviewing my TDEE I am about to embark on a week where I track my calorie intake to help me see where I am food intake wise and hat I need to change to stay on track.

I do feel quite comfortable on a Paleo based diet and have in the past done 4 days on / 3 days off for long periods of time, so for me fourteen days wasn’t too tough, although weekends are still tough when you are used to being able to relax your diet a bit and social occasions require thought and planning if you want to stay on track.

The reward for sticking to it however was worth it.  Yes I’ve lost  little weight (around 4kg but my weight fluctuates a lot anyway so this number doesn’t mean lots) and my body fat went down whilst muscle mass increased (according to my scales I would add so again take that as you will depending on how you feel about scales).

More importantly for me I feel better- less bloated, more energetic and like I’m fully back in the habit of eating homemade, fresh food over processed foods.  I think you can see a difference around my waist and I feel like my skin looks brighter.

Today I’ve had toast with my breakfast (which also contained plenty of protein and veg) and a really nice slice of homemade coffee and walnut cake courtesy of a colleague, my lunch has still essentially been chicken and veg.  Mentally I’ve noticed how much I’ve enjoyed adding foods back into my diet without feeling guilt, instead focusing on how much I’ve enjoyed what I’ve eaten today.

Training wise I’ve largely stuck to my normal training routine, although where I’ve had time I have tried out some of the sessions (I’ve done three so far), and these have been challenging but fun.  I like the fact they have all taken less than an hour to complete and that each one has a clear focus and is easily adaptable to your own current fitness levels and equipment availability.

There is also a strong mindset focus each week and this week the focus has been on morning routines.  I have long felt I need to work more on my morning routine as I often feel rushed in the morning.  This week has made me realise that in order to get my shit together in the mornings I need to get a better night time routine to help me get to bed earlier ad get a good night sleep so I’m less desperate to snooze come morning.

A week with a trip to Edinburgh and being away from home over the weekend wasn’t the best week to get into regular night and morning routines but this week I am making it my one goal to really develop a more positive morning routine.

The thing I like most about this programme so far is being able to read through the downloads and listen to the audios and videos when it suits me rather than having to be in a particular place at a set time.

All in all I’ve enjoyed the first fortnight and am looking forward to week 3, and to keep me accountable I will update you again next week!

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.

Ways to Measure Fitness Success … That Aren’t Connected To Your Weight

Because the scales don’t tell the full story.  If you only judge success by that number going up or down you could end up unmotivated and losing momentum.  I’ve been 10 stone and a size 12, now I’m 13.5 stone and a size 12 , proof that your weight doesn’t tell the full story…

  1. Progress Photos – Take monthly photos of yourself in the same clothes to compare / track changes in your body shape and size.
  2. Take Measurements – Take measurements of your waist, chest, arms and legs every month to keep track of inches lost.
  3. Body composition – Rather than weight and depending on what facilities you have available you could track body fat / muscle composition. Remember these machines are a lot like scales and the method they use for calculating data is not accurate but they could illustrate trends of body fat reducing / muscle increasing which indicate progress.
  4. The Jeans Test – Find a pair of jeans (or any trousers) that currently just about fit. Try them on at regular intervals and note the changes in how they fit – as you reduce body fat they should become looser (note this doesn’t always work as you may find you get leaner but your body shape changes and jeans fitting in general becomes a problem!)
  5. Testings / Tracking Data – So far I’ve focussed on the physical appearance and getting smaller. How about getting FITTER?  Record your current scores on a few key exercises (make them ones you do so if you weight train your scores for 5×5 deadlift / 5×5 squat / 5 x 5 overhead press, if you’re a runner your time for a 2km run and so on- make them relevant).  Every 6-8 weeks do these tests again and look for improvements – have you got faster, can you lift heavier, did it feel easier?
  6. Train for an Event – Pick something that you couldn’t currently do (or it would be a massive challenge) e.g. Run a 10k race. Sign up for that event and train towards it.  You complete it then you know you’ve improved your fitness levels.
  7. Have a Health MOT – If you’re a member of a gym like Nuffield (others offer similar too) you may have access to free health checks. Here they will check and record various health indicators.  You can normally get one once every few months and they can be a good indicator of improvement are a few visits.
  8. Keep a Habit Diary – Log what you’ve done for your fitness has your nutrition been good, did you train, what other positive health choices have you made? This is a great indication over time of the habits you have created and positive changes made. Fitness isn’t merely fat loss and PBs, it’s about creating a positive, happy and sustainably healthy you.
  9. Take note of everyday activity levels – How hard is it to currently climb the stairs at work instead of taking the lift? Or run for the bus?  Or walk to the shops?  Make a note and then compare how those tasks feel after a month of two of training, then in 6 months, again in twelve.  If every day activities get easier you know you’re getting fitter.
  10. Listen to compliments – Have people started commenting on how good you look or how well you’re doing in class? These compliments are a good indication that changes are happening!

Things I’ve Learnt – Re-Blog

I wrote this six months ago- all still remarkably true and relevant.

  1. You aren’t perfect.

I think I’m like most people in that when I start something new I want to be 100% perfect or I feel like I’ve failed and need to start again.  But it’s impossible to never have slip ups on a long term plan.  Getting out of the cycle of deciding a whole week was a write off become of a bad day or bad meal was one of the biggest factors to starting to see results.

  1. Day 30 (or 60 or 100 or 200) is harder than day 1.

People always talk about Day 1- and in some ways Day 1 is tough, it’s the starting something new, the first step in making changes. But by the same token, Day 1 is exciting – it’s the start of something new, when you feel all positive and hopeful.  Sticking to something once the novelty wear off or once results start to slow is the real challenge.

  1. Consistency and steady progress is boring.

Everyone loves a Facebook status or Instagram post where they can show their before and after pictures demonstrating dramatic results.  Realistically though long lasting changes take time and progress isn’t always immediately apparent.

  1. The loudest people in the gym often don’t have a clue.

When I started venturing into the free weight section alone I used to feel so inferior.  All these people claiming space and equipment and confidently broadcasting their strengths and opinions on how things should be done.  I tend to assume that if someone is loud and forward with their opinion they must know their shit- and yeah, some do.  Get comfortable in the environment and take time to look and you will see however that many do not!  Go in, do your own thing with confidence and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in terms of training or weights.

  1. You need to eat more.

I used to try and keep my calorie intake low – the bigger the calorie deficit the better.  Really, this makes you tired, makes training harder and will eventually stop you getting results.  Stick to a sensible calorie deficit and results will come and will be easier to maintain.

  1. There is no such thing as an ideal diet.

And by ideal I mean those diets you see advertised in magazines- ‘Eat all the cake and still lose weight’ ‘Drink all the Gin and still lose weight’.  We would all like that magic diet which would allow us to eat as much of our favourite foods as often as we like and still loose 10lbs per week.  Essentially, though, if you look at them, all these diets still involve some form of restriction – eat low calorie meals through the day and allow yourself cake everyday in moderation (i.e. a small slice).  You therefore have to accept that you can eat what you want within reason but if you also want to stay within a calorie allowance and hit your Macros you will need to balance that out with sensible options for other meals. I have 4 pretty strict days to allow me the freedom to have 3 pretty relaxed days and stay within my goals.  That means for 4 days a week I sometimes have to say no to things I want in return for that relaxed weekend.

  1. Some days will be shit.

Not all training sessions will be fun, not all will bring PBs, sometimes you will feel like you have made no progress.  If every session was a great session they would just be your normal sessions.  Accept that even a tough session will bring benefits to you and don’t sweat it.

  1. Rest is important

When you start it feels like you will get more results if you keep on going and do as much as you can.  Rest allows your body to recover and prevents over training though and in the long term will improve your results.

  1. You can’t do everything.

It’s tempting to try and master as many things as possible.  Realistically though unless you are naturally talented at something the chances are you will need to devote time to things to master them.  Therefore trying to win a Strongman competition whilst also training for a marathon is probably not going to work.  Pick your thing and focus on that.  I wanted to run a second marathon but with teaching classes around my full time job I had to accept that finding time to fit the training in would not be possible and as I didn’t want to take a break from teaching I put that aim on the back burner.

  1. Weight is a bad indicator of progress.

Muscle weighs more than fat, your body is full of water blah blah blah.  At first you may be able to monitor your weight- eventually you will need to go off clothes size or pictures if you don’t want to feel completely demotivated.