Two things I have learned after 16 years of training people for weight loss, 1) there is more than one way to skin a cat and 2) one size does not fit all.
I read blogs and articles written by other trainers on a weekly basis and many of them have such a strong belief in one particular nutritional strategy that they declare any other methods as being hopeless and a big waste of time and effort. As tempting as it is to rant about the negative effects of some nutritional strategies I’m not going to for two reasons. 1) because I would like to keep things positive and focus on what we should be doing and not what we shouldn’t be doing and 2) there are success stories for every diet out there so writing them off completely is not entirely fair. Of course we can argue that some methods are far healthier than others but the simple fact is that if somebody reduces their bodyfat down to a healthy range they will have significantly reduced their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression…….. the list goes on. Forget about vanity for a moment, trying to control our bodyweight (bodyfat) is important if we want to live long, healthy lives and set good examples to our children.
I have my own personal preference when it comes to nutrition which happens to be ‘The Caveman Diet’, or Paleo, as it is also known. Eating this way 80% of the time suits me because: it makes it very difficult to consume processed foods; it encourages me to eat an abundance of fruit and vegetables; it keeps my protein levels high so I can train regularly, build and maintain muscle mass; and I also get a great range of healthy fats from eating plenty of olives, avocados, nuts and seeds. However, if your vegetarian, don’t like fruit and vegetables, or you’re an endurance athlete that needs a lot of carbohydrate, then the ‘Caveman Diet’ probably isn’t the best nutritional strategy for you.
There are lots of very specific pieces of healthy eating advice that I could write that have worked for my clients in the past but they are specific to those clients. Remember one size does not fit all. For example some trainers state you must have five meals a day to keep your metabolism elevated and yes, there is some research that supports this and have advised some of my clients in the past to do this but again, that’s not for everyone. If that does not fit in with your lifestyle then don’t stress about it, just have three meals if that suits you. The important thing is to find an eating pattern that you honestly believe you can sustain at least 80% of the time, that promotes a balance of protein, carbs and fats, vitamins and minerals and is very limited in processed food.
So here are my top tips that I have chosen carefully so that they can hopefully fit in with your own nutritional preferences, whatever they are.
1. Regularly take physical measurements
Regular assessment is essential to measure progress. Good coaches and trainers regularly take their clients physical measurements such as body fat percentage, or waist and hip circumference. The assessment method you choose must obviously be relevant to your goal. If your trying to gain muscle and drop body fat then the scales alone won’t give you enough information but combined with a waist measurement, they will indicate whether your making good progress or not. You could even take before and after pictures to make comparisons. The results of these assessments will determine what happens next and will strengthen your motivation if the result is good. If you’re not making good progress then you will have to re-evaluate what you are eating and make some tweaks.
2. Goal set
Decide what you want to achieve and write it down. Even better, use the SMART acronym. It takes some practice but it will help make you more successful. Structure your goals so they are:
For example a SMART goal for someone, might be to lose two stone of body fat in six months. You should then break that goal down into how much you will lose in a month, and down even further into how much you will lose in a week. So in this case that would be 1-2lbs a week, which is far less intimating than thinking about two stone. Plus you will have success every single week if you lose the 1-2lbs, if not you can address the reasons why you have not been successful there and then, rather than waiting six months to find out you have made no progress.
3. Create a calorie deficit
Whatever diet you’re following: slimming world, weight watchers, zone diet etc, the one thing they all have in common is that they aim to create a calorie deficit.
Have that in mind, when you carry out your assessments. If you have managed to reduce your bodyfat then you know that over that week you have managed to created a calorie deficit (burnt off more calories than you have consumed). If you have not reduced bodyfat that week and your weight is the same then you have balanced your calorie intake with your calorie expenditure. I don’t recommend you count calories, but if you have a week where you have stayed the same or even gained some bodyfat then just think about the previous week and try work out where you could have cut back a little more and take action the following week.
Remember any processed food is going to be calorie dense, which includes bread and pasta so you might want to avoid those foods as much as you can until you have reached your goal!
4. Pay your debts
This is a method that has worked well for me in the past if I have ever fallen off the wagon and binged on chocolate! If you ever do something similar just add up the calories you consumed then add an additional workout to your normal weekly regime making sure you burn off those additional calories.
For example, there are 280 calories in a mars bar. If I ‘accidentally’ ate one today and it wasn’t planned, instead of stressing about it I could just go for an easy 30 minute jog and the mars bar would be burnt off! In an ideal world I wouldn’t eat the mars bar in the first place but it’s not an ideal world and sometimes they force their way in!!
5. Reward yourself
Behaviour change is bloody hard, whether its giving up smoking, becoming more active or eating a healthier diet. So when you manage to make a positive change or resist a temptation to give in, give yourself a pat on the back. Brag about it on Facebook if it makes you feel better, yes its attention seeking but so what, if it helps you stay motivated then do it. As the old saying goes though ‘Don’t reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog’. If you drop a dress size and you can afford to, go and buy yourself a new wardrobe addition to celebrate the occasion. Or for you gentleman with new smaller waist bands, you might like to buy yourself a new pair of jeans. Not skinny ones though, maintain masculinity at all times please!!
If you would like a more personalised strategy for improving your nutrition then message firstname.lastname@example.org.