"Ben, I heard that low fat diets are fuelling the obesity epidemic. What do you think?"
Grab a coffee, get comfortable and let me explain why that is bullshit. Answered with 50% science, 49% sarcasm and 1% pizza delivery.
A couple of months ago I bought a new hoover (or vacuum, depending on where you are in the world).
The previous one was big and cumbersome so it was kept in a cupboard. The sexy new one is lightweight, cordless and clips on the wall in the kitchen. You can take it off the clip, hoover something up and put it back in a few seconds flat.
Ever since I bought this hoover, I probably clean five times as much as I did previously....
Why? It is in plain view and requires a lot less effort to use.
This is an example of how your environment can help dictate your behaviours.
Nothing has changed about me. The only thing that has changed is how easy it is for me to clean up.
Why am I talking to you about my hoover? I hear you ask.
This is an example that if something takes more effort you are less likely to do it.
- You are more likely to binge on cookies when you keep a stash in the cupboard than if you have to leave your house to buy some.
- If you keep sweets on your office desk, you are more likely to pick on them throughout the day than if you had to get up and walk to fetch them from a cupboard.
- If you pick a gym that is close to your house, you may be less likely to skip your workout than if it requires a long drive.
- Likewise, if your favourite fast food establishment is on your route home, you can guarantee you are more likely to go in there than if it requires a special journey.
- When you had a long day at work, you will often pick the quickest thing to eat regardless of what it is. Fuck making that healthy 60 minute recipe you wanted to try, you have a pizza that will be ready in 15 minutes flat with no effort required.
The moral of the story is, humans will quite often gravitate towards the easy option.
If all of your healthy meal ideas are labour intensive and all of the convenient food you have in your house is junk food, good luck sticking to that.
Your environment can significantly impact your choices, whether you realise it or not.
Do yourself a solid and stack the odds in your favour.
Simple example meal plan for 1500 calories;
Lunch: Chicken salad
Dinner: Fish and potatoes
Simple example meal plan for 2500 calories;
Lunch: Chicken salad
Dinner: Fish and potatoes
This is just to demonstrate how useless verbal food diaries are when quantities aren't involved.
"I don't know why I am not losing weight. I eat really healthily". That's cool and all but how big are your portions? A chicken salad can be super low calorie or very high calorie depending on the portion size and what additions and dressings are being used.
Healthy food won't make you lose weight if you are ingesting too many calories.
If your diet is great quality but you aren't getting the results you expect, you need to pay more attention to quantity as well.
A friend of mine gave me some "protein chocolate".
From what I can gather, it has slightly more protein than a regular chocolate bar and swaps some sugar for sugar alcohols.
So, if you would like a chocolate bar that doesn't taste as good as regular chocolate but is just as calorific, costs three times as much and makes you feel like you are going to shit yourself, I strongly recommend them.
12 years ago, I was starting my very first personal training course ready to embark on a career in the fitness industry.
Feeling reflective, I thought I would give you a list of 20 things I have learned from having over a decade of hands on experience in various commercial gyms.
If you would like more context on any of them, just ask and I will expand....
Starvation mode is one of the most prevalent comforting lies in the fitness industry.
"You aren't losing weight because you are actually eating too little. You need to eat more."
It is easy to hook people in because;...
1) Eating less food sucks. Giving someone an excuse to eat more is something they would happily bite your hand off for (pun intended).
2) Calories in and out are notoriously hard to track accurately. Do you really know how many calories were in that restaurant meal? Do you really know how many calories you burn at your day job? No, not with 100% certainty.
If I am spending too much money and my bank balance is taking a hammering, being told I need to save more and spend less might be uncomfortable to hear but it is true.
As comforting as the lie may be, sometimes you need to hear the painful truth.
A different kind of transformation Tuesday.
There are two things I would like to illustrate here.
1) An image of a fitness model on Instagram isn't necessarily an accurate representation of how they look in real life. Don't beat yourself up by idolising an image of someone....
2) It is very possible to have a good physique without it being obvious that you even lift weights when you are wearing loose clothes. This is especially true for natural athletes.
I have lost count of the number of times someone has seen me in real life and commented that I am not as big as they expected me to be.
The point is, Instagram is commonly smoke and mirrors. You see the best photos of people with perfect posing, perfect lighting and sometimes with photo editing.
If you compare how you look on a daily basis to that temporary photo staged under ideal conditions it is inevitable that you might feel a little bit worse about yourself.
As much as I like Halo Top ice cream, I have strong reservations about this marketing.
I think reduced calorie desserts can be really valuable tools. If someone is on low calories, having treats like this could help dietary adherence.
When I am dieting for photo shoots, I definitely eat my fair share of them....
But, here is my fear;
I suspect that this plays to binge eating behaviour.
One of the most valuable habits I have tried to learn when dieting is the ability to control portions myself rather than gravitating towards the tempting tendency to always finish the tub or packet of whatever I am eating.
I have nothing against the product as such, I like it, I just don't feel comfortable with this marketing angle.
I strongly encourage anyone who is trying to control their calories to work on their self restraint and be able to have just one serving of whatever food without feeling an uncontrollable desire to scoff the lot.
Low fat diets used to be all the rage but nowadays people are embarking on ultra high fat diets.
People used to "stoke their metabolic furnace" by eating extremely frequently but now fasting is the new holy grail.
Apparently carbs after 6pm used to make you fat but now people are carb backloading for better body composition and eating them all at night....
This serves as evidence of one thing.
If a happy middle ground does exist, you can trust the health and fitness industry to completely miss it.
A guy in the gym asked me what my secret to growing big arms was.
He asked me how many times per week I trained, what exercises I did and for what rep and set brackets.
Perplexed, he said; "I train in a similar way to you for as many hours per week. Why are your arms so much bigger than mine?"...
Me: "You said you have only been training for a year. I have been doing this a decade."
The biggest 'secrets' to success in the gym aren't magical rep ranges or exercise hacks, they are doing things consistently for a fucking long period of time.
You have 20lbs of weight to lose.
You can follow a programme that claims you can do it in one year or you can follow a programme that claims you can do it in one month.
All things being equal, we would all pick the fast one and anyone who claims otherwise is a filthy liar. Why would you opt for the slower programme if you can get quicker results?...
Become a millionaire in 20 years or 1 year? 1 year please. Keep your fucking 20 year option. I don't have time to wait.
This is the premise of why weight loss solutions are often over hyped. As consumers we want shit fast. They just cater to consumer needs and as consumers we are not patient people.
The problem with fast weight loss solutions is not the fast weight loss (which is actually fine in a lot of circumstances).
The problem is what they don't tell you.
Yes, you can do it in one month but your level of sacrifice to achieve that goal will be through the roof, your diet will be more restrictive and you will likely adopt habits which are harder to maintain that weight loss than if you had been more sensible.
Likewise, the people I know who became millionaire's quickly often had zero social life whilst they grafted their nuts off trying to achieve something epic.
You can be attracted to shiny things if you want. Just be aware that they will often require a lot of extra cost and your expectations should be aligned accordingly.
If you are a fan of low calorie ice cream products, these two have finally hit the UK.
Available in Tesco now (in various flavours) I haven't tried either brand yet so can't give feedback. Be prepared to sell your internal organs if you develop a liking to them though as these are both currently £5 a tub.
Verbal food diaries suck.
Trusting them is one of the worst mistakes a personal trainer can make if their client's goal is weight loss.
This image I made last year is just one easy example....
"I don't know why I don't lose weight. Today I have only eaten a chicken salad!"
This verbal food diary is useless. You don't know how big the portion is, what ingredients the dish was made with (did it have extra dressings, extra oils etc? Was the chicken grilled or battered and deep fried?).
The point is, when someone claims they aren't eating a lot, this is usually based on their own perception of what they eat which means pretty much zero.
The perception of how much food someone eats often does not correlate with how many calories they actually ate. You might think you ate healthily or your meal was small but the caloric content might say otherwise.