Surf the wave

When it comes to dieting reducing your calories through reducing portion sizes, or omitting a snack or meal (to create an energy deficit; the only way fat loss will occur!) is an easy way to achieve this.

Yet there will be something to consider during your dieting periods. Hunger!
Along with emotional eating and boredom, hunger is another test you will encounter on your health drive.

Not only is it one of the most powerful diet disruptors but it is also the most misunderstood.

The concept of stress eating and boredom eating are very straight forward. Stress levels are high, we eat something (usually fun food) and it temporarily makes us feel better. And boredom eating fills a void / gives us something to do during periods of downtime. Simple.

But hunger is a different animal. Our body brings about feelings of hunger (due to elevated levels of a hormone Ghrelin).

The common misconception is that as we go longer and longer without food our hunger levels increase.

So it makes sense to ‘flatten the curve’ by eating something. The hunger sensation is notable so we look to remedy this by eating something asap. This urgency sees us bypass mindfulness over what we choose to supress this pang! Making it hard to keep to our targets for our diet.

But, what actually happens (and this is prudent to recall during periods of hunger) is that our hunger levels come in waves.

You have condition these waves to peak and trough with your eating habits overs time. So you will feel hungry at the time you usually have a meal/snack.

So if you are cutting out a meal or snack to reduce your calories. Know that during the time where you would have had this meal/snack you will feel hungry. This is the peak/crest of the wave.

It’s your job to ride the wave, embrace the sensation, accept it and surf the hunger wave. The wave will die down/pass.

Dieting is much like surfing, you have to appreciate the waves if you want to be good at it.

If you would like to know how to reduce the intensity of these hunger wave check out my blog. How optimising ‘protein density’ can help you maintain muscle and stay full whilst dieting.

Confirmation danger

I’m going to talk to you about Dave.

Following the decadence that is this time of year Dave has been considering doing something to get in better shape in the new year.

As part of his new health and fitness drive Dave wants to lose a few pounds. So he makes a decision to try a diet that one of his work colleagues is doing.

He checks progress on the scales every morning. If he has lost weight he pats himself on the back and considers the diet a success. If he has gained weight he writes it off as a normal fluctuation and forgets about it.

For weeks he lives under the illusion that the diet is working. He tells himself ‘it must be the fact that he’s started exercising and that all the muscle he’s developed is offsetting the weight loss’. Because he knows muscle weighs more than fat.

More weeks pass and even though his weight remains constant. He’s not seeing any changes to his body but he tells himself he just needs to double down on what he’s doing.

More time passes. Dave still hasn’t seen any movement on the scales and his clothes are still just as tight.

‘It must be more muscle growth and water retention’ he tells himself.

Sound familiar? I hope not!

What’s happened is that Dave has fallen victim of a confirmation bias. Albeit a harmless one, but it has been costly to him as he’s wasted a lot of time.

The confirmation bias is the mother of all misconceptions. it’s the tendency to interpret new information so it becomes compatible with our existing beliefs.

We filter out any new information that contradicts our existing views disconfirming evidence. It is a dangerous practice; ceasing to acknowledge that facts exist because they are ignored!

Yet, we do exactly that! What human beings are best at is interpreting new information so our prior conclusions remain intact. Hiding the presence of disconfirming evidence.

It is incumbent on you to fight the confirmation bias. So whenever observations contradict your theory take them seriously do not merely brush them aside! Lean into them, test your beliefs.

And do it sooner rather than later as the brain does a very good job of forgetting disconfirming evidence after a short time!

The more certain you judge your belief to be, the more active you should be in looking for contradictions!

Dealing in absolutes

Dealing in absolutes isn’t a good idea. When we use terminology such as good or bad or ‘always’ and ‘never’ it creates a false dichotomy.


Which is an informal fallacy based on a premise. That erroneously limits what options are available. The source of the fallacy lies not in an invalid form of inference but in a false premise.


And limiting options is not a good thing. Especially when it comes to methods of improving your health.


You may have asked ‘is this good for me?’


And the answer will likely be – it comes down to the amount!


One doughnut will not make you unhealthy just the same as one salad will not make you healthy.


We as human beings always look to simplify things. But when it comes to sleep, stress, food and exercise it’s not applicable.


To simplify and state that all stress is bad would be ignorant. As a certain amount of stress is beneficial to us (the amount depends on the individual).


To say that sugar is bad and you should never have it would be extreme and irrelevant. As it offers benefits both physiologically and psychologically.


Claiming that only sleep under certain conditions is good, also erroneous.


When we strive for these extremes and perfections only to fall short it can quite often be damaging. That’s why I propose you don’t!


Instead of being inconsistently perfect with your diet, exercise, stress, and sleep. Aim for being consistently alright. That is when you’ll start to notice improvement.


To do this, rather than thinking in switches (‘on’ or ‘off’) think in dials (1-10). It adds flexibility and sustainability when gauging the health practices in your life.

Peanuts

I’m going to share with you a story from when I was working in a Health Club.


I was delivering a seminar and afterwards a couple came to speak to me. They told me they had tried every fad diet and product that I had slammed in my talk. And they still were struggling with fat loss. I could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, they were desperate, at the end of their tether. We spoke briefly and they booked in for a consultation the following week.

When we met they brought with them their food diaries which I had asked for. As I reviewed their diaries I had to refrain from laughing at the bickering between them. As I went through one persons food diary the other would throw in dispersions and judgements. ‘I don’t know why you eat that crap’, ‘I told you not to eat that!’


What was confusing to me was that on reviewing their diaries, their diets looked pretty good. They were far from the best I had ever seen but far from the worst. The judgements and condescension from their partner were definitely unwarranted. It wasn’t evident understand why they were in the predicament they were.


My train of thought went to recording inaccuracy, which is very common. People underestimate their true calorie intake by astonishing percentages. I’m talking about possibly 45 percent! Depending on factors like age, sex and body composition.


I asked them in a polite way if they had recorded everything. And how accurate they thought they had been. It looked like they were very thorough. because things like takeaways and alcohol had were on there (plus the amount). Which some people tend to omit out of fear of judgement. There were even some corrections to amounts in their recording.


At this point it was a case of delving a little deeper into where things were going array. As the calories they were consuming were at an amount where they should be losing weight. I went through in detail each of the foods on their diaries to confirm amounts. And then we made a breakthrough.


I identified on both their lists a bag of peanuts. I knew the energy content of a bag of peanuts and confirmed with them it was just a bag. To throw more confusion into the mix they told me that sometimes they didn’t finish the bag. Befuddled by their congruence with what they had told me I sat there perplexed. Until a thought popped into my head.


‘Trust but verify’.


Maybe it was my assumption that had caused my confusion?!I loaded up on my phone images of different bags of peanuts. To my amazement they pointed at the bag they had been ‘snacking’ on was a kilo bag! Yep 4,300 calories per bag!


The reason for which was because they had heard that nuts were a ‘healthy’ snack. So they worked on the premise that it would be healthy to have a lot.
I explained that whilst nuts are a good source of nutrients it was the amount that was the issue.

Unless you are a heavyweight boxer or artic explorer it was unlikely you would need that much energy. Especially with their sedentary lifestyle. From here it was a simple switch to a small bag of peanuts. The most straight forward resolution I’ve ever made to improving someone’s health.


This simple change to their diet saw her close to 5 stone, and him nearly the same. But more importantly it has hugely improved the quality of their lives. They are more active, they have more energy and yes they still enjoy the odd peanut 🙂

Immediate gratification

I know the process of exercise doesn’t feel good, in fact, it’s quite the opposite at the time. Being hot, sweaty, uncomfortable it’s quite an ordeal.

The same goes for food choices, it’s effort to cook a meal that will be better for you than a takeaway.

And getting to bed at a reasonable time rather than staying up for some more down time is tough.

Putting time aside to journal or meditate is also a challenge. Because at the back of your mind you know you’ve got a lot on your plate and you could be tackling some of that.

Doing these things gives us a short lived sense of achievement. From knowing that we’ve done something good for our health, but it’s negligible.

Everything else in our lives we get immediate gratification from. A take away meal or fast food gives us a big wave of dopamine. A cigarette gives us a nicotine hit, an alcoholic beverage gives us a buzz. Ordering something online arrives next day (sometimes the same day, thanks Mr Bezos)

It’s hard because we live in a world that caters for immediate gratification. Yet, these acute immediate gratifications are short lived. And some even come with remorse!

They’re very easy to fall into the habit of doing. When you’re busy with work and kids you might not be prepared to eat that well. Also, eating the stuff that’s not so great for you feels good when you’re stressed (thanks alot dopamine).

It’s easy not to go to the gym because ‘you haven’t got time’ or ‘you’re not feeling up for it’

It’s easy to watch another episode and stay up late because your day hasn’t included any time for you. It’s been all work, work, work.

With exercise, sleep, your diet, stress management there isn’t an clear or immediate feel-good association. Only the pat on the back you give yourself.

This immediate gratification is what you are fighting against in order to make a change.

Not giving into the things that feel good now but doing the things that will pay off later. Delayed gratification. The gratification that comes from achieving confidence from looking and feeling good. That feeling of being stronger, healthier, energised takes a bit of time.

But, imagine waking up every day feeling good, happy with what you see in the mirror. Thinking ‘you know what I’m going to change my social media profile pic to not just a headshot’.

‘I’m going to get those jeans from that store’.

This gratification will not be short lived! This will be with you for the foreseeable future, long-term happiness.

The blame game

The big mindset switch for me, the thing that has helped me the most, was from when I was studying psychology.


It was something that resonated with me and has been so important in my perspective of life. Thinking about it today it’s almost like a secret that I’m so glad came to hear about.


This secret, this Bastian of power is taking responsibility. No longer believing that other things were to blame. It was down to me. Thinking this was flipped the narrative and meant I took charge of my life.


I believe that no matter what happens to me I created it on some level. I am responsible for it. It it’s not there because of my physical actions it’s there because of my mental action. Thoughts of things which I’ve attracted.


And here is why you might want to adopt this belief system, because the alternative is scary! Let me explain. If you’re not in control of your life, you’re not responsible. If you blame others or circumstances, you’ve got a big problem! Because you have no power to change it. You are impotent.


But with the belief system I’m proposing to you. the belief that you are not a victim of circumstance. If you believe that whatever has happened is down to you generating it on some level. Then if you don’t like it you can change it!


Do you see where I’m going with this? My point being that I’m not trying to make you feel culpable. But I’m empower you, so if you don’t like how things are going you know you can change them.


In victim mode the following things or circumstances are responsible for your health:


Carbs

Thyroid/slow metabolism

Big bones

Lack of time

Body type


When you take control /responsibility what you’ll see is that your poor health and fitness is down to:


Lack of self control

Unaware of energy balance

Overestimating your calorie expenditure

Rewarding yourself with food

Poor food choices

Poor stress coping mechanisms


Now I know it’s easy to play the blame game. I’ve been there. The universe, him, her, this, that and everything else but myself, was to blame for why I wasn’t where I wanted to be.


But once you take responsibility for everything, good or bad. You can take credit for the wins. But you must also take responsibility when it doesn’t go your way. Knowing that you can change it!


You are 100% in control of your health and fitness!

Baptism of fire

I remember when I first started in a Health Club many years ago and I had a consultation with a new client.


When I asked him about his goals I was a little taken back by what happened next.


He went to his bag and out from it he pulled a copy of Men’s Health magazine. He held the magazine and pointed to the bronzed Adonis on the front cover.


‘I want this guy’s body’ he said.


In my head I was thinking ‘this is something one would do in a barbers’.


This was one of my first consultations and turned out to be quite the baptism of fire. The rest of the consultation was spent managing expectations and understanding why he wanted this man’s body.


I mean the chap on the cover looked great and I could see the appeal. In my teens I would have had copies of these magazines and trying to emulate the model on the cover. Thinking this is what I need to look like.
Needless to say I never came close (partly because the info in the magazines was so confusing). Partly because of what I’m about to tell you next.
His goal, although endearing, didn’t make sense. He wanted to look like someone else!


I had to the explain to the portly, middle aged gentleman sitting in front of me. The professional model on the front cover had spent years training and nourishing himself to achieve that physique. It was his job to look like that.
Also the model would take extra steps in the months leading up to the shoot. Lighting, tanning, makeup and airbrushing would do the rest.


I told him that ‘the guy on the cover doesn’t even look like the guy on the cover!’


I explained to the gentleman that it would be prudent to focus on himself and getting his body to the best it can be. And we agreed on goals that were going to make him feel good about his body, improve his confidence and health.


This instance wasn’t a one off. I noticed more and more guys were proposing the same thing in consultations. And I know why. It’s because we are constantly subjected to these images of physical perfection. Magazines, advertisements, commercials etc. And we compare and contrast. We look at other people’s chapter twenty and compare it to our chapter one. This seldom feels good and it seems so far removed and unobtainable we become apathetic.


Now, if you didn’t already know; comparison is the thief of joy! So don’t do that! It’s not going to help. Yes you can appreciate the time and effort these people have devoted, but that is all.


When setting your goals concentrate on improving yourself. Becoming a better version of you, then put your energy into the small steps to achieve that. Things like:


*Eating better, without dieting or feeling deprived.

*Being active, no matter what shape you’re in now.

*Ditching the food rules, dropping the fad diets, and conflicting advice. *Building fitness into your life, without it taking over.

*Achieving and maintaining your goals, even when life gets busy.


Which will see you:


*Losing the weight/fat you haven’t been able to shed for years.

*Building physical strength and confidence in your body.

*Gaining mental confidence, no longer hiding your gifts and talents.

*Letting go of food confusion, learning what to do, how to do it.

*Getting off the diet roller coaster once and for all, and never looking back.


So, stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing yourself to your previous self.

What alchemy is this?!

You see your co worker, friend or family member at meal times and they seem to have a lot of food on their plate.

This isn’t the first time you’ve noticed. You ask yourself ‘how do they eat so much and stay slim?’


It feels like you’ve got hardly anything on your plate but you’re stuck in XL clothing. Nothing you’re doing is going to get you back into your suits. And now you’ve had to bite the bullet and buy the next size up.


All sorts of reasons come into your head to make sense of what is happening.


Maybe they have one of those fast metabolisms?!


‘Their meal seems to be low in carbs maybe that’s it?!’


You want to put an end to your curiosity but a thought stops you:


I couldn’t possible ask them how they are eating so much and stay so slim that would be rude.


So you there you are, left in wonderment.


Let me explain what is going on and put you out of your misery and confusion.


This is the majesty of energy balance at work.

That person has an equal amount of energy coming in as they do going out. Over the long term.


What you are seeing is a snap shot of that persons day, one food serving. You don’t get to see what they do for the rest of the day.


Unbeknown to you that big meal that you saw them eat could be the only meal they are consuming all day (calories in).


Unbeknown to you they could be a super active person through the day. They might also exercise in the morning a bit more in the evening (calories out).


In answer to your question; their energy intake matches their energy output over the long term. Calories in match calories out.


Your body is very comfortable in this position and won’t try and convince you to move from this point. Only when you start changing your weight will your body push back and convince you to stop.


The most important thing to take from this is; if you are trying to lose weight but it doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s because your calorie intake is matching your calorie output.


So what you need to do is tip the energy balance scales in your favour. To see you expending more calories than you are consuming. This is what is known as an energy deficit and is the mechanism that every weight loss diet works on. Every single one. It’s only the methods to get you to achieve this that differ from diet to diet.


When looking to lose weight you need a starting point! And you want to keep it as simple as possible. You need to know your energy requirements for weight loss (a daily or weekly target).

Then you need to record what your energy intake is. (Don’t say I’ll tot it up in my head, you are not rain man, plus you’ll be way out). Use something simple like a tracker (MyFitnessPal).


Sticking to this will see you achieve weight loss, but that’s only one half of having a healthy diet. The other is making sure that 80% of the energy/calories you are consuming are from nutrient dense foods.


Stick with this and it won’t be long before you might get someone plucking up the courage to ask you;


‘How do you eat so much and stay so slim?’


If you need more help with this get your copy of my Guide to Vitality.

Danger on the climb down

I read a fascinating article yesterday about mountain climbers. It was the Headline that caught my attention;

Mount Everest record-holder says — ‘it’s the trek down that kills people!

Veteran Everest climber Kami Rita Sherpa — (who holds the world record for Everest summits with 24 to his name). Said all Everest climbers should focus on making sure they have enough energy to get back down the mountain.

And that’s the thing, most people don’t even consider the journey down. All their attention is on clambering up 8849 meters of rock reaching the summit and celebrating.

Which is the same when people are working on a weight loss goal, when they manage to meet their goal weight they fail with keeping it off!

Most people don’t even contemplate the part where it comes to maintaining their new shape. (That’s if they get there).

Which is why so many people rebound hard to a wosre postion than which they started. That’s because they only tackled the diet aspect of their lifestyle and not the other aspects which have an effect on their diet.

They are hanging by a thread. Until the other factors that haven’t been addressed (stress, poor recovery, poor sleep, inactivity) start to make an impact. Then the diet gives way, which sees the weight rebound.

Your weight management is an indicator that those other factors in your life are in a good place (excluding smokers). So it is prudent that those things are addressed as well as your diet.

Rather than all the attention put on your diet, getting to a certain weight, falling down the mountain and ending up in a mess at the bottom.

If you are in need of a Sherpa to guide you on the health and fitness terrain click here.

How to stay motivated

The most common questions I get asked are revolve around motivation;


‘how do you keep it going’,


‘how do you stay motivated’,


‘how do you get to the gym X amount of times a week’,


‘how are you so consistent with your sleep?’,


‘how do you maintain you physique?’.


The answer is…


…I have a plan! In my diary, everything is in there. My workouts, my meal times and my sleep.


Before I did this everything was so hap hazard and off the cuff. I was finding time instead of making time for the things essential to health and fitness.

That’s where the consistency comes from, having a routine! This structure and organisation omits the reliance on motivation. It’s overridden! My sleep regime, my exercise sessions etc. become a matter of course.


This plan for my lifestyle is one I can stick to and that I enjoy. because I have factored in the salient things and I do them day in day out, excellent health is the outcome.


By making time for the important things it makes motivation redundant. I do them regardless. Sometimes my motivation is high to do these things and sometimes it is low.


Because motivation is fickle, but routine and habit is consistent! And being consistent with your regime is how you achieve optimal health.


Another thing to consider is to make sure that your regime is realistic and enjoyable. Because if it is not, it is going to be difficult to stick to. And then you start bringing motivation into the equation. Motivation is what you don’t want to be reliant on/use.


Don’t get me wrong the times I’m motivated I embrace it and take full advantage of it. I’ll push myself a little harder, be more accurate with tasks and my productivity will be higher! But it’s not the foundation or the deciding factor in my actions.


The most important questions I ask my clients are ‘how often can you assign to this?’ ‘How many times a week can you exercise?’ ‘What’s a realistic bedtime for you?’ ‘What foods do you enjoy eating’ and ‘how many meal times do you prefer in a day?’
Because the best plan for your health and fitness is one that you can stick to! (And obviously one that gets you results).


Yes there are exercises that are going to be optimal for improving body composition. And to ensure that they are getting what their body requires for optimal function. And a few adjustments may have to be made. But you have got to be able to stick to it and enjoy it. And there in lies the secret sauce, adherence! It is the same with diet, if I tell you it’s chicken and broccoli for the rest of your days, you’re going to say ‘Andrew, kindly f*%k off!’.


This is why food plans are stupid. You’ve cultivated your diet over years and you eat at convenient times. To completely overhaul your diet is ludicrous! You won’t last very long before you throw in the towel and you are back with the diet you had before. But a nutrition plan well, that’s your diet tweaked to ensure you are getting the macronutrients inside of the meals you like.


I have had friends tell me that they had done a certain personal trainer’s, (let’s call him Joe) diet plan. And they lasted only a couple of weeks. Because ‘prepping like a boss’ (making meals for the week and putting them in Tupperware). And ‘eating clean’ is miles away from their normal diet. No wonder only 10% of the people that buy his plan complete it!


So when you’re thinking about sleep, stress management tactics, exercise and diet. Think about what you enjoy doing and you won’t need motivation!