It may sound very strange for a Personal Trainer and Nutritional Consultant to say NOT diet and exercise, but think about it – do athletes diet and exercise, or eat and train? I think you will find it is the latter. So if you too what to aim for optimal health and vitality and gain a great body along the way, then I suggest it is maybe time to adjust the mindset.
We will look at both food and training here, with a slant towards weight loss on the food side to help provide motivation for those wanting to become leaner.
Let’s start with the bad news that if a theoretical ‘perfect diet’ existed (I think we are quite a way at agreeing to what that would exactly be) it would quite likely NOT work for YOU! Or me, for that matter. It could be the most wonderful, nutritionally balanced eating method ever devised but if a) you do not follow it or b) you do not like the suggested food then it is never going to work to you.
Similar to exercise/training, what will work for you to eat and lose weight is very specific to you. I am not talking things like blood type, or body shape – both of which are sometimes used to suggest what we should and should not eat. Instead what I am referring to is that in order to make long-term changes you need to find something that both fits in with your life, but also includes food you do not dislike eating. Maybe obvious, but how often do square pegs try to fit in in round holes. Ie we have all have heard of vegetarians who have struggled with the Atkins diet, or maybe someone who has like many people a bit of a sweet tooth attempt to cut out fruit on something like the Harcombe Diet and then fail miserably a little down the line and gorge on the much less healthy refined sugar of chocolate and cakes.
I would like to say as a professional, I have a firm idea of what constitutes a generally good plan, however, even for someone who works within the industry it can get confusing, For example last year I was advised two different ways of eating by other professionals at events I attended – both very convincing when preached to by the converted, but both cannot be correct (or can they – more to that later). I am sure you would get good weight loss with both of the plans initially, as whilst not counting calories they both cut out big portions of food groups. However, personally both plans would make me miserable if I thought I had to eat like that forever.
That is the thing, I personally know that I could not and do not want to cut out all carbohydrates like one professional suggested and others support. I do however like to make good choices of fruit and veg that release energy slowly – especially when combined with other food groups and provide me with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants). Plus choose more fiber dense wholemeal options of grains (as I do not believe I have any grain intolerance), that do not spike the blood sugar in the same way is their white cousins. Nor for that matter, do I wish to cut out dairy as well like the course I went on suggested. Although, as I said before I am sure both methods would make you leaner if you are able to change to eat like that for life.
So, are either of the above correct or not? The answer is they are not currently correct for ME, but maybe they appeal to you? That is the key – finding something that works for you whilst getting all the required nutrients. The two I have mentioned would both feel too restrictive for me, therefore feel like a ‘diet’ which we want to move away from rather than feeling like a way of ‘eating’.
My own thought there is no magic want to wave and give a plan that will help you become leaner. It is very prescriptive – I would first need to know how, when and how much you currently eat, what you like and dislike, how much you are prepared to cook and most importantly what you are prepared to change and make a way of life without becoming burdened by it. It is about making healthy choices, and having the opportunity (ie not being too restrictive) and knowledge to make the choice along with maintaining correct portion sizes, staying active throughout the day and getting enough sleep. Plus getting others involved can be very valuable too.
There is a general principle that any decent plan follows that is avoid processed food (although some would count milk that is not directly from the cow as being processed), but then it kind of comes down to what would suit you. There are of course tips and tricks you can use to help you as well, some of which I have listed below.
On the training, rather than exercise thought pattern go for a fitness goal (see September’s blog for more ideas) and you are likely to see even better results and gain better fitness along the way. The thought of training for something allows us to focus, rather than allowing things to become stale. Keeping a fitness diary is great way to help keep track of your changes and help spur you along when you are having a bad day.