It's that time of year when for some reason it becomes harder than normal to keep on top of your Nutrition. Apart from the darker evenings, shorter days & chillier climate, all of which can make you reach for the warming comfort foods, the onset of the festive party season means a constant overload of eating & drinking super high calorie treats.
**HEALTH WARNING** weekends can seriously sabotage your fat loss plans!!
For many people on a fat loss journey, its the weekend overeating (and over-boozing) that prevents them from seeing the RESULTS they work hard for Monday to Friday. It's something I see over and over again. Individuals killing it in the gym and managing their eating during the normal working week and then Friday night comes and BOOM. For a lot of people it's become so routine now its a habit.
The common theme;
"Every Friday around 5pm, as I waited for the bus after work, I’d start to salivate. The end of the work week means red wine, pizza, a giant bag of crisps, and a movie. It's my Friday ritual. Friday night, is eat whatever I want, the highlight of my week. My job is stressful so fast food and booze is my way of unwinding. Friday is a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend. a big breakfast on Saturday, and big lunches afterwards. Either out on Saturday night for drinks and a big meal. Or stay home for a takeout and movie on the couch. Then its Sunday brunch, perhaps coffee & cake during a Sunday walk. And, naturally, winter weekends is a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday"
Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday. Sound familiar?
We aren't talking about compulsive bingeing here. This kind of overeating is a routine, stress-fuelled, social habit. In most cases, your social circle supports it, even encourages it - 'its just what people do at the weekends'.
The problem is, that after a while, weekend overeating starts to bite you in the ass.
As every overeater knows, the over indulgence comes with consequences.
By Monday you feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, and mentally, you feel crap, guilty and angry for eating it all. And while a little weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can easily sabotage your goals.
Aside from the obvious extra body fat or poor performance in the gym, there’s all the other associated health related side effects. Your joints hurt because of inflammation from junk food. You’re too heavy to train properly. Or you lie awake in bed with food sweats or get a shitty sleep because of the overdose of sugar, saturated fats & alcohol. The problem is, like any habit, the cycle can be hard to break. Training harder in the gym the Monday after a social weekend isn't the answer. Nor is drastically cutting your calories as you begin another new diet on Monday as the starvation attempt almost always leads to an even bigger blowout the following weekend. The more the binge-diet cycle continues; the further the health and fitness goals remain out of reach.
How do you break free of the weekend overeating cycle?
Are your weekday eating patterns affecting your weekend behaviour?
Do you have a healthy, unemotional relationship with food?
Here are the 5 strategies to help ditch the 5:2 habit (and hopefully the weight) for good.
Strategy #1: Instead of trying to be perfect - start to live with balance.
Aim for “consistently good” instead of “perfect”.
By trying to follow the “perfect” diet and super strict meal plans Monday to Friday and constantly stressing about screwing things up, by the time you get to the weekend, you're mentally exhausted with it all and the willpower gives out. You’re so fed up of restrictive eating you can’t wait to eat ALL THE food you actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge! For most people trapped in this vicious cycle, there are only two options in their mind: perfect or crap. So the distorted logic of “It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge plate of fries.” If you take “perfect” off the table, things change. You feel empowered because there are now other options. Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of fries, there’s:
“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger so ill sub the fires for a green salad.”
Always aim for “good enough”. Don't separate weekdays from weekends, instead make every day an opportunity to consider your health and fitness goals, what you're in the mood for, which healthy options are available, etc. Remember: The consistently good method you stick to is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
Strategy #2: Let go of rigid food rules.
Food rules tell you:
* what you can and can’t eat,
* when you can or can’t eat it,
* how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
* how much you can or can’t have.
These rules take up an awful lot of mental headspace. They also set you up for failure… aka “the Fucked It Effect”. Here’s how the Fucked It Effect works.
If #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No bread with the soup; won’t touch a sandwich; no toast with your eggs. Then Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You try and hold out but you give in and grab a slice. You've fucked it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and miserable, guilty after effects.That normally means you let go all night. Maybe all weekend. Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.
Ditch the rules and let your healthy lifestyle be your guide. Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or weekend brunch. Remember every choice has a consequence and don't let it spiral out of control.
Strategy #3: Don't allow yourself Cheat Days.
Monday through Saturday is all about sticking to your diet. But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week. You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas. Go wild all day long, eating all the stuff you don’t allow yourself during the week. As evening nears, you start to freak out. So you eat (and maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality, diet starts again. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.
Some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means crack on. But ill be honest, for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory. Instead, don't exclude anything and make good choices all week. You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on. Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because you’re satisfied from dinner. Either way, you're on control of your daily calorie intake. What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues. No matter what day of the week it is. And whatever you choose is going to be key to how you look & feel.
Strategy #4: Own your choices.
There is no “good” and “bad” food. Sins aren't for adults. Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions. Instead owning your choices, and letting your adult values and health principles guide you when you sit down to eat. By making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome, based on your past experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m okay I understand that.” In the end, own your choices: But don’t try and justify them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behaviour. Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes. It’s your call.
Strategy #5: Stop justifying your behaviour.
Weekends present all sorts of justifications for eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods. And trust me, Ive heard them all!
* You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
* You were travelling. Or maybe you were at home.
* You had to work. Or you were bored.
* You had a family/social. Or maybe you were home alone.
We can all try to rationalise our beehive with excises. Busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. The explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalisations are a convenient way of helping us make sense of — and perpetuate — our overeating.
Stop justifying your behaviour or blaming something or someone else, and ask yourself why you are really overeating. On the odd occasion, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal. But instead of justifying it, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on in your head at that moment. Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy? If you do this you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s the key, your opportunity to change overeating behaviour — and do something to address those emotions instead of bingeing.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
There is no perfect time to eat better, or to live a healthier lifestyle Not tomorrow; not on Monday. Not after Christmas. Life is always a busy, there will always be an excuse. All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now. Ask yourself: How’s that weekend overeating working for you?
If you’re loving all your junk-food nights out or gut-punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with the results, keep going. But if you’re fed up with how you look, how you feel and the vicious cycle it could be time to make a change. Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What does it lead to? What does it add to your life? How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
Often weekend overeating is self-medication for stress, stimulation and novelty, and a way to connect socially with friends/family.
To reset your mindset and break the cycle of weekend overeating, try:
* aiming for “good enough” instead of “perfect”,
* letting go of your food rules,
* giving up the idea of Cheat Days or Cheat Meals - carte blanche permission to eat everything,
* own your choices, and/or
* quitting the rationalisation/justification for your behaviour.
If you do over eat, park it and move on. Don’t try to compensate. Just get back to your normal.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym or on the treadmill, nor do you need to kamikaze your way through a whole jar of peanut butter. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best. Sometimes it helps to put someone else in control for a while.
You are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit — like overeating on the weekend — is challenging. And just like your fat loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. Its a lifetime journey. It helps to have someone who will support and encourage you - a friend, a partner, or your trainer who will listen to you and keep you accountable. Good luck, I know you can do this.
Okay. So you've started a new 'diet', or bought a new online Body Transformation programme.
And you're delighted because you've lost 4lbs in the first week. Maybe don't start the celebrations quite yet! Just because you're 'losing weight' doesn't mean that you're losing the RIGHT kind of weight....
When it comes to losing weight, there is no doubt about it that diet & nutrition are the most important factors. I agree. However, there's a problem when you lose weight from diet alone or diet & cardio only.
When people say to me they want to 'lose weight and tone up', what they really mean is that they want to lose body fat and make their body look leaner & tighter. Yes, eating in a calorie deficit WILL help you lose weight, and you will lose fat too, but the problem is not ALL the weight you lose will come from fat...the chances are some of it will be water, some of it will be daily weight fluctuations from other factors, and some of it will be muscle too :(
Trust me you do not want to lose lean muscle when dieting.
Why? Because muscle helps you maintain a faster metabolism, helps you lose more fat, allows you to eat more daily calories AND helps us achieve the tighter, leaner looking body that you're after.
One of the biggest confusions with new clients (especially FEMALE clients) is the conflict in their head between wanting to look leaner, slimmer, smaller, tighter, more toned whilst NOT gaining weight or getting bulky!
So, you want to lose fat and look toned but not gain any muscle? Really?
If you diet alone and DON'T lift weights or strength train, then yes, you will get lighter on the scales, BUT you will probably still look wobbly, i.e. skinny fat, you'll take a lot longer to lose the fat, you'll be starving hangry and you'll lose whatever lean muscle you have in the process. That's why chasing a certain weight loss on the scales as your primary goal is NOT the answer.
Lifting weights, as well as eating in a calorie deficit, is much more beneficial in the long term. As not only will you LOSE body fat (hooray) you will also maintain the muscle you already have (hooray) AND if youre lucky you will also build some new muscle while you're losing fat (hooray). Okay, so the number on the scale might not drop as quickly as if you starve yourself for 3 days (which also causes more damage to you & your hormones in the long run) just get your head around this and trust me you will end up losing MORE fat from any weight that you do lose, and you'll have an easier time getting rid of the stubborn fat you are desperate to see the back of, plus you'll stay leaner for the long term and not just lose weight on the scales for the 2 weeks that you're on the diet/detox/beachbodynonsense/pishbodytransfiormation... am I making sense yet?
Listen, I totally know that this is a hard pill to swallow.
I understand that the idea of GAINING anything in your head if you are female (it was the same for me too before I knew better) is like the devil talking.
I also can appreciate that the idea of 'building' muscle conjures up images in your mind of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bikini, we are conditioned to want to lose/drop/diet and not gain/build/grow...but you won't turn into a power lifter or a body builder just because you lift weights. You don't even need to lift massively heavy weights to get the benefit - dumbbells & kettle bells work well too! What matters is that you are challenging your muscles when you train and your focus is on getting progressively stronger, by either using more weight, or increasing reps over time, which is a good sign that your body is getting stronger and you are developing lean muscle.
Will you get BIG. No, you'll drop in clothes sizes and inches.
Will you look manly. Of course you won't
If your friends or partner thinks you'll start to grow a beard because you lift weights - do me a favour and slap him/them from me.
My friend doesn't lift and she's lost more weight than me? Her loss. She might lose more pounds from not lifting but more of that will come from muscle. If you are lifting you might lose less weight overall, but thats because you're adding muscle AND losing fat, and in 6 months time you will thank me for it.
Take home message. You can't convert fat to muscle. If you're losing weight fast and by diet alone, its likely to be doing more bad than good to your long term health. There is no magic pill/tea or shake that can burn fat. If you're in a consistent calorie deficit you will lose weight. Lifting will help you maintain lean muscle and look leaner & tighter and lose more fat from the weight you do end up losing. WIN WIN. Please don't be afraid of weights, and stop focusing on the number on the scales as your progress measure. On that note, I'm off to the gym...
I hope that by now, after the first two Nutrition Workshops in the series you are beginning to understand the simple basic rules of PROGRESS Mode, in that;
To LOSE weight (i.e. fat) you need to be in a consistent calorie deficit. This might mean that from time to time you will feel hungry. And guess what? Thats Okay!
To GAIN weight (i.e. muscle) you need to be in a consistent calorie surplus. Which means that sometimes you will feel full and you still need to eat, even if you're not hungry. And guess what? Thats totally fine!
If you are in FAT LOSS MODE then your focus should be to eat LOW CALORIE, NUTRIENT DENSE whole foods. Why? Because they provide essential nutrients & vitamins to fuel your body to move & train, its the most effective way to blunt hunger, they can be created into tasty meals which satisfy you & prevent cravings for sugar & shit, and they will fill you up, whilst remaining in a calorie deficit. This can include, but is not limited to: Oats (yes, I did say CARBS, because you can eat carbohydrate and lose fat!), Green Soup (CARBS), Strawberries/Blueberries (FRUIT also CARBS), Fish (PROTEIN), Poultry (PROTEIN), Eggs (PROTEIN), Greek Yoghurt (PROTEIN), Cottage Cheese (PROTEIN), Spinach/Broccoli (GREENS).
If you are in trying to GAIN more lean muscle mode then you should eat HIGH CALORIE and not very filling foods so that you can eat more, without feeling like you're going to explode and maintain your calorie surplus. This can include, but is not limited to: Avocado (FATS), Nut Butter (FATS), Quality Red Meats (PROTEIN), Rice (CARBS), Granola (CARBS), Full Fat Milk/Yoghurt (FAT).
Thats not to say that these lists are exhaustive, or that you can/can't eat things in the other camp. One of the reasons I avoid giving clients prescriptive Nutrition plans where I tell you exactly what to eat is because rather than tell you what to do, I prefer to help you to understand HOW it works and that whatever is 'best' for the individual largely depends on you then individual, because despite what social media might have you believe ONE SIZE definitely doesn't fit all. There isn't really a RIGHT or WRONG way, some people choose to eat meat, others are vegan. And thats cool. There are no BAD or CLEAN foods - be careful with health food halos, that would have you believe that because you bought it in a Wholefoods store and its organic/gluten free/vegan its also healthy and calorie free. Nope.
Take home message here? Stick to the basic principals for whatever MODE you're in. You can eat carbs and fruit if you're trying to lose fat as long as you maintain a consistent CALORIE DEFICIT. Protein sources and fats fit well on both sides. Finally, its not fancy. Its not magic nor does it guarantee FAST results (or Jessica Enis abs in a week) in 7 days. But it is realistic and sustainable. And it works.
More to come...
e**The 5 BEST Exercises for RAPID & EFFECTIVE Fat Loss**
1. Track your daily calories.
2. Track your daily calories.
3. Track your daily calories.
Surprised? Disappointed? If you were expecting quick fix exercises I apologise. But heres the truth : its important that you understand that REAL progress takes a TON of effort (by you), time and patience. There is NO 21 day fix. There is no pill or potion that will burn fat or dissolve fat from your chosen areas and keep it off for life. There is NO fast track to success. And anyone who tells you or sells you that there is, is not being truthful.
NOTE: There are rare occasions when rapid fat loss methods might have a time and a place within a well designed nutrition plan. But these are not long term solutions or sustainable plans and I wouldn't recommend this for anyone with a history of dieting. disordered or emotional eating. They are not a quick fix, and at some point you need to switch to something that you can sustain and follow so that you can continue to make progress and maintain your weight in the long term.
In the Nutrition workshops we have been discussing about how tracking your nutrition (via MyFitnessPal) along with consistency & accountability is essential if you are in PROGRESS (i.e. Fat Loss or muscle gain) Mode or Maintenance Mode. Why? Because fitness & health is a life long process. No matter how lean or strong you are, there is always room for some improvement, more to learn and an option for a better you.
Thinking that you will be happy & fulfilled when you reach a certain weight or size is not practical. And its not how it works. Happiness isn't attached to a number on the scales. If you don't love or like who you are right now, it won't suddenly be different when you're xx kg lighter/lose the belly/reduce the cellulite.
Instead, get ready for a journey of ups & downs, highs & lows. The long haul. Because when you start the process to a Fitter, Healthier, Leaner & Stronger you, you're in it for life. And enjoy it! If you hate every second or can't wait to finish the 'diet' you aren't going to last.
So, what am I saying here. Whats the take home message?
Don't look for a quick fix. And don't sign up for a rapid results guaranteed programme.
Instead, identify your goal, commit to CHANGE, be prepared to put the effort in, consistently and be patient. And I promise you will see the RESULTS.
More coming ......
This is a tough time of year for Nutrition & Training, with the darker nights, colder weather, less daylight hours and the run up to Christmas starting to become real, its very easy to fall into the trap of winter hibernation, comfort foods, and big jumpers to cover a multitude of sins. Convincing yourself that you'll "start again in January' or 'there's little point in joining a gym or embarking on better nutrition plan now with Christmas approaching' is totally the WRONG mentality. There is EVERY reason to pay attention to what you eat & drink and how much you move over the next few weeks, summer bodies are built in the winter and with the wrong mindset you could easily gain a whole bunch of weight over winter that will be tough to shift come Spring when you finally strip off the winter coats and the shock reality of how little time you have before the summer holiday dawns!
We have such an all or nothing mentality when it comes to our health & fitness, its a repetitive annual cycle - spend the spring and early summer panic dieting and then eat your body weight in stodge over the winter. I'm here to help you break the cycle.
In the first of a series of mini nutrition workshops taking place on Saturday mornings for G5 members, we talked about (1) the cycle of the Extreme Dieter and the damage that this can cause to both your physical wellbeing and mental health, (2) identifying the difference between the progress, maintenance and regression modes and (3) the different body compositions depending on the ratio of lean muscle to body fat.
The 7 day cycle of an Extreme Dieter:
Saturday - Clothes shopping, nothing fits. Fuck this, I'm fat. Time to make a change.
Sunday - Tomorrow I'm back ON IT. Strict diet & training five days a week. No cheats.
Monday - Eats healthy breakfast. Manages a whole day without chocolate. Goes to the gym. Yes! Im all over this. I can do this.
Wednesday - PMT, feeling rubbish. I need chocolate/wine/cake/pizza*. I deserve it after the day Ive had at work.
Thursday - I fucked it. I shouldn't have eaten all that crap yesterday. Ive really screwed up. Feel rubbish.
Friday - I quit. I've already failed this week, might as well give up until next week and start again then. Orders takeout. Drinks the wine.
Saturday - Clothes shopping, nothing fits. Fuck this, I'm fat. Time to make a change.
Okay, so it might be a little tongue in cheek but this is EXACTLY why I'm dead against an 'all out' mindset when it comes to diet and training. Extreme diets always start strong and with the best intentions. They begin with a surge of motivation to change, a strict diet thats difficult to maintain and relentless visits to the gym. Initially, results usually happen quite quickly. But this kind of cycle also creates an issue. Instead of creating a positive adaption, it creates a mindset that extreme is the only way you can achieve the results you want and then, when you want to indulge or go off plan, you are overcome with a sense of failure. Plus because you've been overly rigid & strict with your diet, you can't stop eating, you can't stop and have an all out binge. You reinforce the 'I'm a failure' mindset because you're out of control, you feel like a lost cause so you end up 'fuck it, I quit'.
For some people, this is an all too familiar pattern, I know Ive been there, the same old cycle every time you try to make a change. But I want to tell you that it doesn't need to be like this. Nutrition isn't all-in or all-out. It's not a 7 day challenge or you fail or a short term quick fix.
The key to breaking this cycle is C O N S I S T E N C Y not rigidity.
You don't need to be perfect. In fact in my 20+ years working with fat loss clients, the more you try to be 100%, the less likely you are to succeed in the long term, the more likely you are to become a yo-yo dieter. . Think 80/20. For good. Not Mon to Thu healthy, Fri to Sun binge.
You do need to be patient.
Long term results take time & effort.
You will need to work hard.
It won't always be easy.
Never give up. Commit yourself to your goal.
Don't think you've failed if you eat a donut. No-one got fat eating a donut and no one got skinny eating a salad. You are only ever one bite away from being back on track.
PROGRESS - MAINTENANCE - REGRESSING : Which MODE are you?
Are you in PROGRESS mode (you are unhappy with how you feel and/or look, you're probably overweight and want to feel fitter, leaner & healthier) or MAINTENANCE mode (you're not looking to lose weight, or get specifically leaner right now, nor looking to maximise performance goals or strength) Or are you REGRESSING (you're gaining weight, you feel like you're going backwards not forwards and you're unhappy with how you feel & your health). Its important that you take some time to self reflect and identify where you are right now, without this is hards to make a plan.
If you're in PROGRESS mode, you need to understand that your health, your body & your goals are ultimately YOUR number 1 responsibility. You follow carefully MEASURED STRATEGIES. This is your check list:
1. You've done a self evaluation of where you are now.
2. You know where you want to be or have a specific training /performance goal in mind.
3. You have a plan/path to follow to get there.
4, You are accountable, to both yourself and your coach, you track or monitor your journey, regularly assess your progress, remain flexible & make adjustments where you need to.
My definition of MAINTENANCE is being in a place where you're pretty comfortable with how you look and feel, you're not actively looking to drop weight, get leaner or build muscle, nor do you have a specific performance goal that youre working towards. Your nutrition is habit based and a conscious lifestyle that you can maintain with little effort. That said its important to understand that being in maintenance is NOT A BAD THING, just because you're not looking to maximise results, doesn't mean you're not making progress, a lot of my own progress has happened whilst in maintenance (as opposed to when following a specific diet or performance plan) and you can still make progress whilst in this mode. Discipline is still invaluable in maintenance though, even though you can be a little more relaxed from time to time. Your strategies are HABIT & MINDFULNESS based. Here is your check list:
1. You follow a plan for both your training & nutrition.
2. You are accountable to yourself and you coach but you can be more relaxed, you know your body & what you need to do.
3.You regularly check your own progress based on how you feel, look, measurements and perform in training. 4.You avoid regressing.
Believe it or not, many people struggle or fail; when it comes to MAINTENANCE as opposed to when working towards progress with a specific nutrition or training plan. Both phases are imprint. You can't always be in PROGRESS mode, but equally you need to ensure you don't regress in maintenance.
Take home point here... know where you are and stick to the plan.