Ways to Create a Calorie Deficit- Part Three – The Hand Job Diet

I spent much of December preaching that if you want to lose body fat you need to create a calorie deficit.  Then it occurred to me that’s fine as long as you know how to do that.  I’ve pretty much always gone by the school of thought that people know what thy should do it’s just hard to actually do it.   I have had lots of conversations recently however which have suggested that actually people are confused.  There are so many different fads around, plus products advertised like Skinny Coffee, Fat Loss shots, magic fat busing pills, ideas that you should only eat fruit before 11 or not carbs after 6 that a lot of people are genuinely confused.

So I decided this month I’d cover some ways you can create a calorie deficit.  So far I’ve covered Paleo and Intermittent Fasting.

Here’s what I see as the difference between a fad and these systems.  A fad requires you do things like cut out food groups completely, eat them in silly combinations, supplement what you eat with products that really just tend to act as a laxative.  They are plans that are not sustainable and are likely to cause binges at some point.

Paleo and Intermittent Fasting are simple systems of eating that help you control calories (obviously people have other reasons for doing them and they can have additional benefits on top of calorie control but for my purpose here I’m only thinking in terms of calorie deficits).  They have rules, yes,  and will not suit everyone, but they don’t require cutting out whole food groups, are safe and, if someone finds they suit their lifestyle, are perfectly sustainable long term.  They can also be done part time (as I do Paleo just four days a week) and still help create a calorie deficit.

Esssentially, if you want to create a new lifestyle habit the easiest way to do this is create a system that allows you to implement this habit into your life.

Now so far I have covered quite specific methods.  You can however create a calorie deficit with much more simple systems and today I want to cover ‘The Hand Job Diet’.

This method invented and named by a coach I’ve worked with a lot over recent years, Ricky Long.  Ricky favours training and eating to live, not being overly restrictive and not being a slave to counting calories and tracking macros when you don’t have to.

He recommends to client’s a simple method of having three meals a day consisting of:

  • One handful of protein
  • Two handfuls of veg (at least two colours)
  • Once a day add in one handful of a big carb such as rice, pasta, bread
  • Add in some snacks each day as need
  • If you feel hungry you need more food so consider adding in another meal
  • If you feel tired you have eaten too much

This allows for no restriction, you could snack on low calorie foods such as fruit but also allow some snacks to be your favourite foods (cake, chocolate, crisps).

You can adjust depending on results – so if you aren’t getting the results you want you may need to be honest about how many snacks you are having and how many calories each one contains.

It could also stop you craving certain foods as no food is off limits, thus reducing the urge to binge.

If your diet is not brilliant at the moment, these small changes will probably create a big difference and easily create a calorie deficit.

If you like food though, such relaxed rules may be hard to follow.  I’m the kind of person who needs some structure to my daily meals or I could just eat constantly for 8 hours each day, so again this won’t work for everyone but it is a way of creating a calorie deficit with minimal thinking or rules to follow.

I’ll repeat, the fundamental characteristic of all fat loss methods is creating a calorie deficit.  The Hand Job Diet is another way to manage portion control thus help keep you within a calorie deficit (without actually counting calories).

I have to credit Ricky Long on this method – if you like the idea and want to have a look into some of his other fitness and nutrition advice check him out on instagram @Rickylong42, Facebook (Ricky Long) or at his website here

 

 

Ways to Create a Calorie Deficit – Paleo

I’ve written before about my own nutrition and how I mainly eat a Paleo based diet.

I say Paleo based because I don’t follow Paleo eating at all in the strict sense or all the time and I adjust it to suit my own needs.

Essentially Paleo is eating what cavemen ate so basing your diet on meats, veg, nuts and seeds.   It’s high protein and fats and low in carbs and dairy free.   I eat largely like this with some exceptions (I include potatoes and often some chocolate milk after my classes in the evening).  This is largely because my job means I’m very active so it wouldn’t be sensible to stay low carb.  I try and do this 4 days a week with three days where I eat freely (although often along the same lines just with the addition of some bread and maybe pasta or rice and some sweet treats).  If there is a social occasion on one of the days I’d normally eat Paleo I just don’t do it for that period of the day / that meal.  Some months I just keep a check on my calories because that’s how the mood takes me.

So if I’m not strict about it that begs the question why do I bother.

Quite simply it is a way of keeping myself within my calorie requirements that suits my lifestyle and reduces the need for me to count calories.

I know I eat more at the weekend.  I’m not in the office and more likely to go out for food or get a takeaway and eat chocolate whilst I’m sat on the sofa etc.  By slightly reducing my calorie intake Monday – Thursday whilst still filling up on lots of protein I leave myself room for three more calorie dense days.  This happens without even thinking about what I’ve eaten and how many calories is in it.

My message here is Paleo is one method of eating – it can have many benefits (and equally some drawbacks depending on your activity levels and lifestyle) but whatever way you look at it, it is one way you can reach a calorie deficit.  So if you lose weight with it this isn’t because of a magic combination of food just a general reduction in your calorie intake.

For me personally it’s still the best way of eating most of the time as it reduces how often I think about food and encourages me to eat more homemade and less shop bought.  Sometimes the idea of banning certain foods (even though it’s just foods and not food groups and even though it’s only ever for a few days each week!) is bad for my mindset so I will have periods where I don’t follow this and just eat to a bog standard calorie deficit.  Not getting hung up on what foods you do or don’t eat is more beneficial to your long term health than cutting out bread to feel less bloated will ever be.

So it might suit you, it may not, but the habits of eating less processed foods and getting enough protein whilst keeping in a calorie deficit are all positives however you chose to eat.

Ten ways to get ‘fitter’ in 2019

  1. Work out how many calories you burn a day on average and eat this many (to maintain weight) or 20% less (to reduce weight)
  2. Swap one of your sugary snacks with a healthier replacement (e.g. a piece of fruit) each day. And yes I know fruit has some sugar in it but a banana over a Mars Bar will help you cut calories and provide less of a post sugar slump.
  3. Stop having cheat meals. Cheat meals create a restriction / binge / food as a reward mindset.  Eat whatever you want whenever you want within reason without viewing food as good and bad.
  4. Eat protein. Aim to eat 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Will help you feel satisfied without overeating.
  5. Drink at least 0.033 litres water per kg of your body weight each day (so if you weight 60kg drink two litres a day).  Fat loss, performance – hydration is so important to your health.
  6. Don’t exercise at all at the moment? Aim to complete a 30 minute session every week for a month, two 30 minutes sessions a week the next month and three 30 minutes sessions the following month. Boom = Exercise habit created.
  7. Increase your NEAT. However much you exercise aim to increase your non exercise movement by at least 10% each day (i.e. walk more)
  8. Get more sleep. Enough sleep every night will help with weight loss, stress, energy levels.
  9. Learn something new. Want to learn to do a handstand, swim, play netball? Practicing towards mastering a skill will get you moving without exercise being the main goal itself.
  10. Set yourself a challenge. Run in a race, do a Tough Mudder, compete in a swimathon. Setting a challenge can give you the incentive to get to your training sessions and maintain focus.

Two Last Things for 2018- 30 Day Challenges and Slimming World

I hadn’t planned to write this one but two things kept popping up on my Social Media over the weekend which I wanted to address.

Number One- 30 Day Challenges

No alcohol in January, no cake, no sugar – you get the drift.

Yes, if you can do this it’s amazing, and if you generally have good habits already in place this is totally achievable.

BUT

January is a shit month.

It’s cold, dark, everyone is skint and on a comedown from the excitement from Christmas.

Now take away something which you enjoy (and I assume you enjoy whatever you are thinking of giving up or it wouldn’t be a challenge) on top of that and you are just making January a little bit more tough for yourself.

Yes, of course the health benefits be good for you.

Chances are though at some point in January will power will crack and one drink or cake will spell the end of the challenge and possibly spur you to say ‘fuck it, i failed so i might as well have some more’.

I’m not saying not look to make improvements in this area but be kind to yourself about it.

If you have a drink every night aim for two nights a week where you don’t drink.  Aim to reduce your cake consumption by 50% of what it currently is.  Still beneficial, still challenging, still an achievement.

But here’s the thing- if you aim to do something 100% and slip up you see it as a failure.  If you aim to make small changes then you allow yourself some room to slip up without failing to reach your goal.

Changing your mindset as to how you make changes and view those changes will ultimately help you sustain them long term and build upon each win.  Making goals to change things more realistic will make you more likely to succeed and help you treat yourself a little kinder.

Number Two- Slimming World

I’ve seen lots of posts by Fitness Professionals talking about the negatives of Slimming World.

Now yes- some of the rules are absurd.

Yes – the education around nutrition is poor.

Yes- Some consultants actively discourage exercise (muscle gain doesn’t assist in the scales going down and they only go off weight).

Yes I would encourage people to see a nutrition coach or PT for advice instead of go to Slimming World.

BUT

I worry the demonising of the brand could alienate those who are Slimming World Members.

No it’s not the ideal.

But for some people Slimming World is a less intimidating option that booking in with a PT.

For some people they perhaps need to do that and build some confidence before they go to a gym.

I say this because this was me.

And knowing that PTs actively disliked Slimming World may have discouraged me from making that leap from a slimming club member to a gym goer.

Once I started working with a PT I quickly phased out Slimming World. I didn’t need someone to tell me to to, as I learnt more I was able to make the choice myself.

My point is whilst it isn’t the optimum of nutrition it also isn’t harmful.

It can teach some basic lessons in what to eat more of and what to eat in moderation, it can help you learn to manage your eating, it can act as a springboard.

That is it could act as a springboard if we encourage those Slimming World members we meet to use it as such.

Ultimately Slimming World creates a calorie deficit.  We encourage clients to create a calorie deficit.  Different methods, different education but same goal.

I’m not suggesting we celebrate Slimming World but we could instead educate people as to why some of their rules are a bit silly in slightly kinder words so as to not put people who do currently do Slimming World from also working with us.

 

 

‘Diets’

Tomorrow is the day where traditionally people go on ‘a diet’.

The word ‘Diet’ conjures up images of restriction, lettuce leaves, starving, no chocolate, cakes or sweets, cutting out carbs, cutting out fat … the list goes on.

What ‘Diet’ actually means is the sum of food consumed by a person – what we actually put in our mouth.

Some diets may be more health focused than others, some may promote weight loss and others weight gain, but we all have a ‘Diet’.

So if you were planning on starting a ‘Diet’ tomorrow – good news- you’re already on one and have been for the last 365 days!

So actually all you need to do is make some small improvements to that current diet to see weight loss.

If you have booked sessions with a trainer, signed up to a programme or plan (in person or online) then you know you will get the advice you need to do this sensibly.

If you are planning on making the changes yourself then don’t look to quick fix diets or plans that promise you a six pack in six weeks.

Work out how many calories you burn daily, take 20% off this and aim for that number of calories each day.  This will create safe and sustainable calorie deficit which will allow you to reduce body fat steadily.

You can eat whatever you want as long as you stick to that calorie allowance.  Perhaps you will want to make more sensible choices and eat less junk but overall the way to reduce body fat (which I am assuming is the goal) is to consume a little less than you burn.

Overtime you might want to start fine tuning what you eat, but to start just focusing on hitting a calorie deficit is a great habit which will make a huge difference to how you feel and one small change to your diet at a time will have a longer lasting effect on your health in 2019 than any quick fix fad diet.

The Scandal of the Mullerlight Yoghurt

Slimming World have changed Mullerlight yoghurts from a ‘free’ food to having 1 syn.  From what I can tell this has caused something of a shitstorm on social media.

If you aren’t familiar with Slimming World – in a nutshell, there are ‘free foods’ which you can eat as much as you wish of everyday and Healthy Extras (a small portion of foods providing calcium and fibre) which you eat each day on top of your free food. Everything else has a syn value – you can have 5- 15 syns a day.

The bonkers thing here?

Mullerlight yoghurt’s recipe has not changed (from what I have read). The yoghurt today provides the same number of calories, same amount of sugar etc. as it did yesterday – it’s just the Slimming World company have decided that people were eating too many of them because they were ‘free’.

They have also done it with Smash and tinned spaghetti by the way.  Again the nutritional values within these foods has not changed overnight.

So here is my issue with Slimming World.

This whole yoghurt fiasco demonstrates it perfectly.

The company doesn’t teach people how our energy system works. If you follow the plan you can lose weight – but it does little to educate you on how to eat well and be healthy, away from counting syns and eating lots and lots of jacket potatoes.

Background- Back in 2011 I was overweight- I did no exercise and I ate takeaways more than I ever cooked. Diets were started every Monday morning and abandoned on Monday evening. I eventually decided to go to Slimming World. It was practically a last ditch attempt before I gave in to being overweight forever.

Now I have plenty of positives to say about the experience – the people were lovely, for me getting weighted kept me accountable and at first the plan worked- I was generally eating better food than I had been and losing weight.

Fast forward six months.

I’d started a Zumba class at the same time as Slimming World. I’d enjoyed it. The confidence I gained from doing Zumba led me to venture into other classes and I was now doing Body Jam, Body Combat, Zumba, Yoga and Circuits on a weekly basis.  My shape changed (I got smaller) as a consequence- but my weight loss slowed.  The consultant suggested that sometimes you could do too much exercise. This was when alarm bells started going off in my head.  I’d started to educate myself more as I started to enjoy a healthier lifestyle and it felt a little like I was being encouraged to do less exercise to see bigger results on the scale.

Likewise there was little emphasis placed on the nutritional benefits of food. Generally having some good fats such as avocado with your breakfast would probably be seen by most as more beneficial than having a kitkat for breakfast. Yet 100g of avocado is around 10 syns whereas a Kitkat is 5.5.  It is therefore unsurprising that people on Slimming World choose to stick with processed foods over fresh but high in calorie foods in some instances.

I often say I lost 4.5 stone on Slimming World, but in truth the last couple of stone came off through simply making better choices and exercising. I’ve since stayed the same dress size but put 2 of those stone back on. I am now the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever been.

Accountability and support is vital when people want to live a healthier lifestyle but groups such as this focus purely on a number on a scale going down.  There is little emphasis on how calories work – how many you should eat, what they should generally be made up of to get a balanced lifestyle, how they provide you with fuel. There’s limited reasons for people to choose fresh over convenience foods and there’s no education as to why – just because Mullerlights are ‘free’, eating 20 will still derail your progress.  There’s not enough encouragement to get moving and some of the education around exercise in my experience was quite simply incorrect.

I understand the logic behind Slimming World changing these foods from ‘free’ to ‘syned’.  What they could have done however is educate people as to why even with ‘free’ foods you need to eat in moderation.  If they did that they would de- mystify their product however.  Like everything else Slimming World is just another method of creating a calorie deficit.

Not all calorie deficits are created equally however – and I don’t feel like Slimming World helps you understand how calories work, that free foods still have calories and over eating them will slow down weight loss. Equally, unlike a fitness professional say, who would celebrate changes to your physique over changes on the scale, Slimming World aren’t bothered by you dropping a dress size and looking amazing as you shape up via exercise.  They want you to earn stars so you stay hooked and kep paying them a weekly check in fee.

So essentially- if you currently do Slimming World, eat well, have been eating a Mullerlight a day and getting results guess what? You will continue to see those results going forward because the food itself has not changed.

But if this has made you question the sense of Slimming World-  all is not lost.  The good news is you can sign up for My Fitness Pal for free- work out how many calories you need a day, what deficit you want to aim for and track what you eat!

Things I’ve learnt over the last 18 months

  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 overtraining 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 backburner.

  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.

Fat Shaming – a Real Life Story

A couple weeks ago I was walking down the street at lunch time (on my way to buy an icecream… errrr… I mean an apple …) and a man called me fatty.  Literally. A stranger.  Just called me fat.

Now I’m not skinny but I’m not fat by any means. I’m quite strong and reasonably defined – but not overweight.

I am also apparently quite thin skinned because this throw away comment really ate away at me all day and knocked my confidence a lot.

I’d not had the best week food wise (and was on my way to get icecream) so it fed into all my negative perceptions of myself, because I already felt a little bit out of sorts.

I mulled it over several times in my head and with people before I felt better about it.  I wanted to write about it at the time but to be honest it actually knocked my confidence too much to commit it to paper.

A few weeks later and with some perspective, I want to make two observations about this comment.

First, for your own mental wellbeing learning when not to give a shit matters.  I lost so much of my day being upset about the opinion of someone I’ve never met.  More to the point it wasn’t even an accurate comment because I’m not fat – would I have been so upset if he’d have said today is Tuesday (when it was in fact Thursday), an equally inaccurate comment? Of course not.   Even more importantly – if I was fat his opinion on the subject still wouldn’t matter.

I’m healthy and fit – what anyone else thinks of my choices surrounding my body or lifestyle are irrelevant as long as I am happy with what I’m doing.

Second, setting aside point 1, we should all be careful with our words.  I’m almost positive that man thought nothing more of that throw away line.  I mean yes, it was unnecessary and mean, but he probably never gave it a second thought.  Yet it affected me for hours- knocked my confidence, bought up insecurities.  If he had thought about that would he have still said it? Perhaps… but I think he was probably just a dick to be honest.

What we say without thinking and see as insignificant may mean more to and affect the person we are talking to in a much bigger way.  That doesn’t mean we should never speak our mind- sometimes people get too easily offended- and we can’t be held responsible for how others interpret our words and their meaning.  But.  If we know something could be taken negatively (calling someone fat for instance- a pretty sure bet) and there isn’t an actual need to say it – why do it?  Even if you think it’s not a big deal- it could be to the person you are talking to.  It’s just spiteful.  Be a nice person not a prat.

So the next time someone decides to shout an insult at me in the street (I’m sure it will happen some people are just idiots) I shall ignore them and be happier for it knowing I’m more in control of my own feelings that I was just a few weeks ago.

So really the man did me a favour.

The Scales: My Arch Nemesis

Up until recently I have weighed myself weekly, every week, without fail, for about 19 years.

When you embark on a new regime and the scales show a downward trend consistently this is all fine. There comes a point when this stops however. Recently I have gained muscle – I know I have because I can see it. My body has got smaller / leaner/ however you want to articulate it- it has changed shape. My weight has gone up. This upset me. I complained. Quite a lot if I’m honest.

So I was advised to throw my scales in the bin. Weight is just your mass, it doesn’t take into account what amount of that mass is fat, muscle, water. It doesn’t reflect the hormonal changes of our body – women in particular are affected by our cycles and other things beyond our control (like werewolves only more vicious). It doesn’t affect how we look naked or in clothes or how strong / fit we are. I weigh 80kg now days – I am the same dress size as I was two years ago when I weighed 70kg.

I didn’t throw the scales away. Logic may be logical but 19 years of habit is hard to break. But I did hide them and commit to not weighing myself every week. That was about 3 weeks ago.

Mentally this is tough. What if I’m putting on weight? What if I have that illness where I look in the mirror and see someone thinner than I really am and so end up obese before I realise I’m doing something wrong? I know this isn’t logical but our relationship with our bodies is very often quite illogical.

Being successful with your fitness goals is as much about mentality as it is actually doing things. Right now i know I’m not ready to completely give up my scales – I’ve said I’ll maybe weight myself once a month or maybe every 6 weeks and look to cut down from there.