If you can, try to weigh yourself every day, at the same time, in the buff, before you have eaten or drank anything and after your morning wee. Log your weight each day. IT WILL GO UP AND DOWN! At the end of the week add all your weigh ins from the week together and divide by 7 – this will give you your average weight loss for the week.
There are so many factors that can influence how much you weigh each day that you need to understand weight loss is not a straight forward linear process. You will see an overall downward trend over time but it will have little fluctuations here and there which is TOTALLY NORMAL.
Things like how many carbs you have eaten, the type of carbs you have eaten, the workouts you have done, how hydrated you are, time of the month (ladies), are just a few of the things that can make your weight loss appear slightly distorted.
If you were to look at weight loss in graph form, it should look like the following:
If you’re being consistent with your calorie, protein and step goals you will see the scales go down. If you’re not then you’re doing something wrong. You have to accept and own this fact – calorie deficit is law.
Serious question, how do you spend your weekends? Do you have a million things to do? Do you work? Do you take time out for yourself?
As well as getting fit and healthy and looking at weight loss, I think it’s important to look at ourselves as a whole. We are not the number on the scales or the size of our clothes. We are not the job we have, nor are we the clothes that we were. We are more than numbers and stats. We are our passions and our goals and we need to remember to make time for these things.
Without passion, love and fun, what do we have? I would say, not a particularly fulfilling life. We need to tend to our passions and nurture the things that are important to us, these things help us to keep a healthy state of mind and look after our well-being.
Little challenge for today: I know many people lose their way with their own passions, hobbies, pass times etc. I want you to reconnect. What do you love to do that has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list? What did you used to enjoy doing that brought you relaxation and satisfaction?
Write a list.
Write it down. All the things you used to enjoy doing that were YOUR interests, and write down all the things you would LIKE to do that are YOUR interests. From this list, choose one activity that you can do today – even if just for 5 or 10 minutes – and go and do it. Don’t find an excuse not to do it, make a point of going and doing it JUST FOR YOU.
These are some of the go to things I always thing of when I think of getting some “down time” or “interest time” in:
Photography – I love nothing more than getting out into the fresh air with a camera and seeing the beauty there is all around.
Read a book – getting lost in a good book can take you are far away from your everyday life as you can get.
Draw or colour – get creative, let your artistic side out.
Play video games – again something to get lost in.
Do a puzzle – get your mind exercise in with sudoku or a crossword, try a jigsaw or a mind challenge game.
Watch a movie.
Go for a walk.
Make something – bake, craft etc.
Spa time – so this one might take a little more planning, and might be more of a treat than some of the others but hey, of you can do it, go for it.
Coffee at your favourite cafe – I love to do this on my own and just sit and watch the world go by (I very much enjoy time on my own so anything like this is a big win for me).
The list of things you can do is pretty much endless, as long as it something that you enjoy doing, that you feel good about doing, and that makes you feel better once you have indulged in it a little then it sounds like you’re on the right track. Different activities for different people and all that, it has to fit you.
Try and get some of this enjoyment time in as often as possible. Like I said above, even if it’s just 10 minutes that you can fit in, it’s better than nothing and you know you have done something that is just for you. You may feel guilty at first but please try not to, there is nothing to feel guilty about. By looking after yourself and your own needs you become more chilled and able to cope with the stresses and strains that come with life.
Look after you first, you can’t pour from and empty cup.
We’ve talked about food, daily activity, structured exercise and water. But what other things are important in looking after your health and well-being?
A huge one for me is SLEEP!
Humans are the only species that will actively fight the desire to sleep. We stay up to binge watch TV series, waste hours on social media, and stay out later than we should even when we know we need the sleep. Personally, I think it’s all to do with FOMO (fear of missing out), God forbid someone should have a conversation in the office tomorrow about a TV show that you were just too tired to stay up for….
Anyway, whatever the purpose for staying up, burning the candle at both ends etc there are some real detrimental effects on the human body from a lack of shut eye – here are a few:
Impaired cognition – I’m pretty sure when you’ve been short of sleep this is one of the most obvious effects; your memory is shot to sh*t. Your ability to retain information is less than great, shall we say, and your concentration is poor.
Disruption of our natural time clock (circadian rhythm) – disruption to this can lead to poor white blood cell health meaning weakened response to physical stress.
Higher levels of anxiety – with decreased sleep comes an increase in the brain’s anticipatory reactions, hello increased overall anxiety levels.
Higher levels of depression – a decrease in sleep causes a decrease in neurotransmitters; these neurotransmitters regulate mood.
Increased risk of injury – alongside the poor memory and cognitive function, an increased risk of injury can occur from disrupted concentration.
As far as very physical detrimental effects go, lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer.
Not getting enough hours of shut eye can also lead you to unhealthy cravings. Lack of sleep causes ghrelin (the hormones that make you feel hungry) levels to increase and leptin (the hormones that make you feel full) to decrease. When we’re tired we tend to go for the quick hunger or sugar fix to make us feel better and a bit more “alive”.
What can we do to help get the sleep that we so desperately need?
Getting more sleep takes practice – it might sound stupid but we have to train ourselves to sleep soundly and sleep hygiene habits are paramount to this:
Make a regular, relaxing bedtime routine – take a warm bath, read a book, light stretches; whatever works for you, having a regular night time routine helps the body recognise that it’s time for sleep.
Avoid screen time for around 2 hours before bed – the unnatural blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the natural production of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Make sure your bedroom is a pleasant sleep environment – a comfortable mattress and pillows, possibly having blackout blinds or curtains, ear plugs or white noise, and a comfortable temperature all help promote quality sleep.
Limit day time naps – naps don’t make up for inadequate nighttime sleep but a short 20-30 minute nap can improve mood, alertness and performance.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. A limit on alcohol is a good idea too as too much too close to bed time, though can help you get off to sleep, tend to disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
Exercise – it helps promote good quality sleep. Even just 10 minutes in the day can improve the quality of your nighttime sleep. Generally speaking, it’s best not to do any strenuous exercise close to bed time.
Steer clear of heavy, rich or fatty foods, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks right before bed. These things can trigger indigestion for some people and can lead to painful heartburn, disrupting sleep.
Get out into the natural light – exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Personally, I find sleep meditation apps and audio helpful to get off to sleep and often use a YouTube guide to play in the background when I first get into bed. These are also very helpful if you wake in the night and find that your mind goes into over-drive. Just make sure that you turn off auto-play if you plan on doing this!
It will take time to establish good quality sleep but as with everything else, if you put the effort in you will reap the rewards.
I want to have a look at exercise today and what the best exercise is for fat loss…
So, where are you right now? Are you brand new to exercise, never done it before and don’t know where to get started? Have you tried a few classes back in the day but not dipped your toe in the water for years? Does the thought of the gym terrify you? Have you done it all before but somehow fallen out of the habit?
Whatever your starting point – don’t worry. I promise you that this is not going to be a post all about how you must do X, Y, and Z each week. How you MUST attend the gym and how there are MUST do exercises to get you burning the most fat possible. That’s not what we’re about.
Remember when I said that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to your weight loss, fat loss and your habit change – the same goes for your exercise.
There is only ONE hard and fast rule to finding the nest exercise – finding the exercise that is right for YOU!
If you hate the idea of stepping foot in the gym and dread it even before you’ve left the house, guess what? Chances are you ARE NOT GOING TO STICK TO IT! What we need to do is take a look at where we are now, where we would like to be and work out what we do and do not enjoy. There are soooo many options to getting more active, the gym is definitely not the be all and end all. Here are some ideas of things you could do to start getting more active on a regular basis:
Jogging / running
YouTube Fitness Videos
Fitness Subscription Services (I write a personalised exercise program for clients)
Weight Lifting (this doesn’t mean getting hench. Ladies you WILL NOT get “bulky”)
Home Workout DVDs
There’s more than this but this just gives you an idea of some of the things you could try. You want to aim to do around 30 minutes designated exercise per day, 4-5 days per week.
Now, if all you’re going off are the numbers on the scales then this could affect those – if you start to exercise and all of a sudden you are increasing your muscle mass then the numbers may not change, or may very much slow down in terms of loss. What you should focus on at this point onward are your measurements and before and after photos.
If you have one pound of fat and one pound of muscle sitting side by side, you will see how compact and dense muscle is in comparison to fat. As long as you are sticking to your calorie deficit you will be losing fat. By making sure you are hitting your protein goal you are ensuring that you are maintaining your lean muscle mass which is what makes you look sexy!
Note here: Less fat and more muscle = “toned”appearance.
Take away from today – go and try some different types of exercise. Try different environments. Try the things that suit your lifestyle. Trial and error is great for discovering what we really want (as well as what we really don’t). Once you’ve worked it out you’re winning!
Yesterday we covered meal planning; today we’re going to take that one step further and look at prep.
I’m talking meal prep AND I am talking planning how to hit your activity goals prep.
First up, meal prep.
We spoke about making a weekly meal plan yesterday so that you know, in advance, what you’re going to be eating that week AND that you have planning it all to fit your calorie and protein goals. Now we can look at those meals that we have thought out and book in one or two meal prep sessions for the week.
Personally I love a meal prep session on a Sunday afternoon – nothing else much is really happening, my husband is home to be able to entertain our little girl (although she does enjoy helping if needs be). I take a couple of hours and batch make food. I will make up things like bolognese, curry, oven cooked chicken breasts etc I will cook up all in one go then separate them into storage containers of the correct serving size – some of these will freeze – bolognese, curry, sausage casserole and “saucy” type mains take absolutely no hurt in the freezer to use at the end of the week. Things like chicken breasts, I will cook enough for 3 days and store them in the fridge after cooking and cooling. Veggies I like to cook fresh but you could include them in the batch cooking if you’re going to use them in the next day or two. I tend to use microwave wholegrain rice for my meals that require it – 2 minutes in the microwave when you need it then weigh it out to serve. Pasta and jackets I would cook fresh but maybe have portions weighed out ready to go.
Basically, the more prep you can do in one or two short hours the easier your week will be. There is something incredibly satisfying about going to the fridge or freezer on an evening and just being able to take out what you need and heat it up to enjoy something delicious and home made!
Next, activity prep.
It might sound daft but if you make a plan to even do something as small as going for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break the following day you are more likely to go and actually do it! It may take no actual prep at all to make the plan, just know what and when you are going to do it. It may take a little organisation, maybe you have told yourself you will go swimming before work – lay all your clothes out, pack your bag, set your alarm – just make sure everything is ready to go. If you’re planning on going to the gym or a class after work, pack your bag, make sure you have your water bottle, headphones, activity tracker etc all ready just to pick up and take with you in the morning. Maybe your planning involves making sure you have some childcare so you can go out and do some uninterrupted “you-time” exercise – do it, call who you need to, arrange drop off and collection time and then set all your clothes and items out ready (including anything your little one might need while they are apart from you).
These aren’t difficult things to do. Obviously the food prep takes a fair bit more time than the activity prep HOWEVER by doing all of your meal prep in one or two sittings you will find that you have so much more free time during the week – the time that you would usually be making the evening meal, you’ve already done it. This also opens a window of time for you to be able to add some exercise into your day, I know everyone I have ever worked with or spoken to has, at some point, used the excuse “well, I just don’t have any time”. MAKE IT! Make the time, plan your activity, plan your meals and achieve your goals.
Prep, prep, prep. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it becomes common play. It can even become something you really enjoy that becomes part of your motivation to do more!
If you know what you’re going to be eating for breakfast. lunch and dinner then it makes it a whole lot easier to stick to better way of eating. If you can aim to get the majority of your protein quota in with your main meals then the rest of the calories can be used up with the thing you like.
You have a list of high protein foods on the Day 6 about macro-nutrients – you can use this to plan how much of which protein source you would like and what you would like to make with it. For example, you might want a spag bol for tea – it’s family friendly and easy to add extra veggies (fibre, vitamins and minerals) to. You can chose to either make it with lean beef mince (5% fat) or turkey mince.
You can add the recipes you make to MyFitnessPal and how many portions it makes so that each serving is exactly the same – remember we’re weighing everything as we make it.
What you can also do once you have made a weekly meal plan is make a weekly shopping list. By having a list of the things that you need you won’t be tempted to buy extras just because they are on special, you should find that your shopping trip is cheaper in the long run, and less wasteful as you’re only getting what you know you need and are going to eat.
And guess what – you can put those things that you WANT to eat into your meal planning too. Whether you know that you fancy a pasta bake one night, or you think a ready meal might be the easiest option for lunch one day, or you know you are going to want a chocolate bar during the week, fine, just make sure that it fits in with your plan.
Your meal plan MUST:
1 – Fit your daily protein goal as this is what we need to hit to maintain your muscle mass (give you that sexy “toned” appearance)
2 – Fit your calorie goal – we’re aiming to hit the same calorie goal every day, once your protein target has been hit you can make the rest of your calories up however you like from the carbs and fats. Be mindful that you will have less food in front of you if you choose to eat more fats. If you opt for a lot of carbs instead, choose whole-grains and vegetables – you can eat a whole load of vegetables making sure you feel full and don’t want to “pick” between meals and snacks.
Don’t get me wrong, this takes time and practice to get to the exact goals. Just know that every time you make a change for the better in your food consumption, you are making a change for the better for your health.
We are working on the long term, not the quick fix.
We’re on to day 7 and I want to know one thing; ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH?
Enough fibre that is! Today is all about why fibre is important and making sure that you get your daily quota!
Dietary fibre has a number of benefits when consumed in sufficient quantities including the prevention or relief of constipation, helping maintain a healthy weight, and lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
You’ve probably heard of dietary fibre being referred to as roughage. It includes the parts of plant foods which the body can’t digest or absorb – fibre isn’t digested by the body, instead it passes pretty much intact through the digestive system and out of the body.
There are two types of fibre:
Soluble – dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Soluble fibre can assist in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels and is found in oats, peas, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, apples, barley and psyllium.
Insoluble – promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and increase stool bulk. Insoluble fibre can be beneficial to those who struggle with irregular stools or constipation. Good sources of insoluble fibre are whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables.such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.
To ensure you receive the greatest health benefits, you should aim to eat a wide variety of high-fibre foods.
How much fibre do you need?
How much fibre we need varies depending on age and gender:
Men age 50 years or younger require 38 grams of fibre per day whereas those aged 51 or older are advised to consume 30 grams per day.
For women, it’s 25 grams for those aged 50 years or under, and for those aged 51 and over the recommended amount of fibre is 21 grams per day.
How can you get the required amount of fibre each day?
Start your day right – grab a bowl of high-fibre cereal (5 grams + per serving). Look for those with “whole grain”, “bran”, or “fibre” in the name. Alternatively you can add two or three table spoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favourite cereal.
Chose whole grains – Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another grain as the first ingredient and have at least 2g of dietary fibre per serving. Try things like brown rice, wild rice, whole-wheat pasta and bulgar wheat.
Get in the beans – legumes – beans, peas and lentils, are great sources of fibre. Add mixed beans to salads, kidney beans to mince meals etc.
Snack on fruit and veg – aim for five or more serving of fruit and vegetables per day, eating the skin too where possible. Not only will you bump up your fibre intake but you’ll get a load of vitamins and minerals in too.
Note: Though high-fibre foods are great for your health, adding too much too quickly can produce some negative effects including intestinal gas, bloating and cramping. To avoid this, increase fibre gradually over a few weeks.
And to round it all off and take us back to day one – make sure you are drinking plenty water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your poo soft and bulky. Oh, and you can track your fibre on MyFitnessPal too without having to add it all up yourself!
So there you go, a whole post on how to poo better. You’re welcome!
This one has a bit more body to it. We’re going to look at macro-nutrients or “macros”.
All food stuffs are made up of three macro-nutrient groups: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Each of these macro-nutrients are essential to the healthy function of our bodies. Let’s have a look at what each of them does and why we need them:
PROTEINS – Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body. They are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can also serve as a fuel source.
Here are a couple of lists to help you get your head around the foods that contain protein and how much they contain. Note: 3oz = 85g, 1oz = 28g, 1 cup = 237ml.
FATS – Fats are a type of nutrient that you get from your diet. It is essential to eat some fats, though it is also harmful to eat too many.
The fats you eat give your body energy that it needs to work properly. During exercise, your body uses calories from carbohydrates you have eaten. But after 20 minutes, exercise then depends on calories from fat to keep you going.
You also need fat to keep your skin and hair healthy. Fat also helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, the so-called fat-soluble vitamins. Fat also fills your fat cells and insulates your body to help keep you warm.
The fats your body gets from your food give your body essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acid. They are called “essential” because your body cannot make them itself, or work without them. Your body needs them for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting.
Fat has 9 calories per gram, more than 2 times the number of calories in carbohydrates and protein, which each have 4 calories per gram.
All fats are made up of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Fats are called saturated or unsaturated depending on how much of each type of fatty acid they contain.
CARBOHYDRATES – One of the primary functions of carbohydrates is to provide your body with energy with the majority of carbs being digested and broken down into glucose before entering the blood stream.
The glucose in the blood is taken up into the cells of the body and used to produce ATP (a fuel molecule) through cellular respiration. The cells then use ATP to power a variety of metabolic tasks.
ATP can be produced from several source, including dietary carbs and fats. If you eat a mix of these nutrients, the majority of your body’s cells will prefer to use carbs as their primary energy source.
Excess glucose can be stored for later use. This stored form of glucose is called glycogen and is found in the liver and muscle. In the liver, these molecules can be released into the blood to provide energy throughout the body and help maintain normal blood sugar levels between meals.
The glycogen stored in the muscles can only be used by the muscle cells; it is vital for use during long periods of high intensity exercise.
WHEN YOUR BODY HAS ALL OF THE GLUCOSE IT NEEDS AND YOUR GLYCOGEN STORES ARE FULL, YOUR BODY CAN CONVERT EXCESS CARBS INTO TRIGLYCERIDE MOLECULES AND STORE THEM AS FAT.
Glycogen stores are vital to ensure that the body has enough glucose for all of it’s functions.
Carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to weight loss but you do need to choose the right ones. Here’s a list of the best carbohydrate choices:
Vegetables: All of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
Whole fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.
Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
Whole grains: Choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
Now, using MyFitnessPal I would like you to set your macro goals. You do this by going into the menu -> Goals -> Calorie, Carbs, Protein and Fat Goals -> input your calories at your specific allowance, then toggle the macros to 40% Carbs, 30% Protein, and 30% Fat. Click the tick and that should be your new goals saved. You can monitor these goals throughout each day by clicking into the nutrition section of the diary.
Carbohydrates contain around 4 calories per gram, proteins are also 4 calories per gram, and fats contain 9 calories per gram.
Note: your nutritional goals will automatically adjust through the day if you have your fitness tracker linked to your MyFitnessPal account. Ideally, I would like to you stick to your original allowances and not use the burned calories that the app automatically applies. Eg. if your calorie goal is 1500 calories and your doing the 40/30/30 ratio of macros then you should be only consuming the 1500 calories through 600 calories from carbohydrates (600/4=150g), 450 calories from protein (450/4=112.5g), and 450 calories from fat (450/9=50g). Ignore the auto-adjustments.
The 80:20 rule is designed so that your eating habits are maintainable and avoid any binge behaviours. Basically, 80% of your daily food intake should be nutrient dense foods – whole foods that are unprocessed and are high in nutritional value (they provide you with all of the essential macro-nutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrates, as well as a multitude of vitamins and minerals) then the other 20% can be made up of what you like, as long as you stick to your calories – think a chocolate bar or a glass of wine, those types of things.
Notice how I refer to the foods; only by nutritional value – foods which are either high or low in nutrition. I don’t refer to foods as “clean” or not, or as “good” or “bad”, or even as “treats” – these terms affect how we feel about foods and how we feel after consuming them. There should be no guilt involved when it comes to eating – only understanding of what you are consuming.
There is more to tracking food than just the above which I will go into in tomorrow’s post but I am just trying to ease you in gently, making it small steps rather than overwhelming you from right away! By allowing yourself to have the thing that you like and enjoy in small servings you avoid the yoyo process of a strict diet. You aren’t restricting yourself to any extreme and so avoid that “fall off the wagon” moment, if you want a glass of wine with your evening meal you can have it, you just have to make sure it fits in with the rest of your day (in terms of calorie and macro consumption).
If you’ve been in the habit of eating ready made meals and this is a huge change for you then start out small. Say for example you start with breakfast; instead of Coco Pops try some porridge with milk and fruit, or maybe toast and a boiled egg. Just making small changes like this on a consistent basis quickly add up and you will see and feel improvements.
And remember, we’re weighing what we eat – example: even if the packaging say one slice of bread equals 100 calories, weigh it – all slices of bread in a loaf are not the same size and weight. Weigh it, log it in MyFitnessPal with the correct weight and you will be accurately recording your calorie intake.
According to research, people underestimate their calorie intake by up to one third.
ONE THIRD!! That’s a whole lot of calories that aren’t being accounted for.
It also makes it understandable as to why people who THINK they are eating the correct amount of calories for their weight loss aren’t actually losing any weight at all – they may be stuck at a certain weight or even gaining depending on how badly their intake is being incorrectly logged.
I’m not having a go here, I just need everyone to understand that you have to be accepting of everything you are consuming and know exactly how much you are having. It can be all too easy to forget about the caramel latte you had on the way to work, the couple of bourbon biscuits you sneaked into your gob in the tea room, the lashings of tomato sauce you had on that smoked bacon butty this morning… You get the picture.
It can also be super easy to incorrectly guestimate the weight of the foods you are eating and be WAY off. Say for example you have a roasted chicken breast, jacket potato and steam veg for your tea – great choices, lots of nutrient in this meal along with a variety of vitamins and minerals, fibre and satifying to boot BUT, how much have you had? How big was the chicken breast, was it cooked skin on or skin off, did you cook it in any oil or with any marinade? How big was the jacket potato, small, medium, or large, is your “medium” the same as someone else’s medium size. What were your steam veg? Did you have a pre-prepared pack? Did you eat a whole portion? Did you check what a recommended portion is? Have you just gone on MyFitnessPal and picked the options you WANT your food consumption to fit in to (Trust me, soooo many people do this; the only person you;re kidding is yourself). This isn’t even everything to consider and you can see there are already a list of things you need to be aware of.
If this is the case then what can we do to make sure we know what we are eating and that we are recording accurately?
It may sound super anal and a total faff to begin with but, the only way to really know exactly what you are eating is to WEIGH YOUR FOOD.
Ok, so I fully accept that I may have lost some of you at this point, and that’s ok, maybe you’re just not ready for the accountability it takes to make the changes you really need….
For those of you who are still here, well done. You accept that there’s a problem and that this is the solution. It’s not as much of a ball ache as it sounds and once you get into the habit of doing it, it becomes quicker and second nature to do so. All you need is a set of kitchen scales like these. Just remember if you are weighing your food raw or cooked and then select the correct option from MyFitnessPal when logging them.
You can do this to add recipes to MyFitnessPal too – just log all the weights of all the ingredients and then select how many portions it makes et voila, you have your portion calories (and macros – more about this at a later date).
Note: Links taking you to products are via amazon associates. I may earn a small commission should you purchase items following these links.