As 2014 gets underway already a large proportion of New Year resolutions will be in tatters and in the kitchen bin, but why is it that this happens year in year out? In very simple terms people’s decisional balance was either not correct or not strong enough.
Decisional balance and losing weight
When we make any decision in our day to day lives the psychologists Janis and Mann hypothesise that we make a decisional balance. This basically means we weigh up the pros and cons. If the pros out-weight the cons sufficiently we take the plunge if not we maintain the status quo. Consider crossing the road; we check the traffic and decide is it safe to cross. If there is no traffic coming the pros for crossing outweigh the cons and so we cross. Now if there is a car coming this has added some cons to the equation. If it is far enough away the pros are we should get across before it, the cons are we might misjudge the speed or perhaps the driver will speed up. We balance this against how important (or what the pros are) for us to get across the road. There are also a whole host of other factors we are accounting for too long to list here, but you get the gist. Everything you undertake you go through this process but at a sub-conscious level. If you had to do this consciously you brain would be so busy even speech would become a problem. Most actions we take on a day to day basis are sub-consciously controlled. The same is true for deciding to lose weight, we effectively get a checklist out in the sub-conscious brain and start recording our pros and cons for losing weight. The pros and cons for losing weight will be different for everyone but if the pros out-weight the cons sufficiently we decide we’ll lose weight.
When do we know losing weight is the right decision?
My research has highlighted that an individual needs a certain amount of pros before they will successfully lose weight. On the LEAN Man System this is assessed using psychometric testing to ensure an individual really is ready to lose weight. Again my research has highlighted that just because people say they want to lose weight doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to lose weight. The other thing about the decisional balance is that there needs to be sufficient difference between the pros and cons. What I mean by this is that the pros must outnumber the cons sufficiently and also have a stronger pull than the cons. Again on the LEAN Man System I can measure this and in fact these tests decide if I am willing to take a client on; it would be unethical to take on a client you know is bound to fail. So how do you work out where your pros and cons are for weight loss at the moment? Take an A4 sheet and write down everything that you think would be favourable (pros) if you were to lose weight. There is no right or wrong here as this is your list and must reflect your thoughts and not the opinions of others. When you have finally exhausted that list turn over the page (or cover it up) and on a fresh sheet of A4 paper now record all the negatives you perceive to trying to lose weight (all the cons). When you have finally run out of ideas compare the two lists. If your pros really out-weigh the cons you are ready to go. If however your lists are quite close in length you can start to look at your cons list and get really critical. Ask yourself how true some of your cons really are, it often helps to get someone else to look at your cons and question you as to whether they are accurate/true, very often rather than cons they can be excuses. If you are able to identify these then you are half-way to solving your problem as you can start to invalidate the excuses. This type of critical approach very often helps people strengthen their decisional balance in favour of weight loss.
You can use this process for anything you are considering doing, perhaps joining the gym or starting a running programme, going to aerobics classes. By critically analysing your decisional balance you will not only know where you are at but also you may be able to shift yourself in a positive direction.
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The one thing that has become very apparent to me over the past few days of delivering the advanced nutrition course is that there is a lot of misinformation available about nutrition. Some of the least reliable sources are the media and it would appear quite a few personal trainers (PT’s) working in the leisure industry.
Be under no illusion a lot of personal trainers have no better knowledge of nutrition than their clients. A newly qualified PT will have completed somewhere between one to three days nutrition training. Their knowledge is very superficial and even the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) acknowledges that PT’s are not qualified to give specific nutrition advice and should only be offering general advice about healthy eating. That doesn’t stop some trainers giving prescriptive dietary advice and also recommending that clients take various supplements. The saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” couldn’t be more accurate than in this circumstance. People read one article from a health magazine or go to a seminar given by somebody with no nutritional training and suddenly this is being preached to anyone who cares to listen. You see this in the media all the time with nutrition articles written by individuals with no true understanding of what they are writing.
Nutrition is Poorly regulated
Nutrition is very poorly regulated across the spectrum ranging from food labelling, the food industry and nutritional education. Personal trainers are NOT registered nutritionists (RNutr) and should really work with a registered nutritionist or dietitian if their client needs prescriptive dietary advice. Don’t get me wrong some PT’s have good nutrition knowledge which has come from peer reviewed sources. Unfortunately these are the exception rather than the rule.
We tend to turn to GP’s when it comes to advice about overweight and obesity but the fact of the matter is they are not much better trained in nutrition than a lot of PT’s. Also effective weight management needs a lot of input and support from the coach and/or councillor. This is something most GP’s are not in a position to provide. So this New Year if you have resolved to improve your diet and make some lifestyle changes please make sure that the person offering you advice is properly qualified to do so – beware the quacks because there are plenty of these out there.
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Is the diet you are about to embark on just another FAD? This checklist will help you decide. As the checklist comes from a peer reviewed scientific journal this is a more reliable test than any gimmicks you may find in the media.
FAD Diet Checklist
You can work your way through the checklist and if your new diet ticks three or more boxes then it qualifies as a FAD diet.
- Does your diet promise of rapid weight loss (quick solution)?
- Is there any elements of ritual and sacrifice, do you have to give up specific foods or perhaps eat certain foods at certain times? Examples would be:
- Ritual = Grapefruit daily
- Sacrifice = No added sugar
- Are there claims for some type of magical food or food combinations? The authors may claim that these burn off fat quicker or stop you storing fat as an example.
- Are there any unlimited foods of any type?
- Do you have to stick to rigid menus or monotonous food choices; so consistently eating the same meals/foods?
- Does the diet refer to Jargon and scientific half-truths? Maybe claiming that “research has shown” or “our studies found”.
- Is there a lack of relevant scientific evidence? Be careful with this as books and articles will often refer to studies that are not relevant, making claims that this supports the way the diet claims to work.
- Lack of acknowledgement of physical activity needs. If there is no discussion about general activity and/or exercise then beware.
Medical Journal of Australia (2001), 175: 637 – 640
Read through each point and be really honest with your answers. It will be tempting to not tick a box because you really want to believe that this diet is the magic cure for weight loss that you have been looking for. In my experience, and more recent science supports this view, most dietary regimes tend to fall into the FAD category. So stop playing around with gimmicks and start making some lifestyle adjustments.
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In yesterday’s post I looked at two simple adjustments you may need to make in order to achieve your long-term weight loss goals. This post will consider what the make-up of macronutrients (protein, fat & carbohydrate) should look like within your overall energy intake.
Protein and weight loss
I won’t labour the point here as my post of a few days ago explains this in more detail (protein and why it’s important for weight loss). To summarise this post, protein is very satiating (makes you feel full) and also burns more kcal than any other macronutrient when being digested.
Lipids and weight loss
You’ll note I am using the correct terminology here as fats are one type of lipid. This is a mistake that is commonly made. I will talk about fats so as not to cause further confusion; I just wanted to highlight this inaccuracy. Fats are not the bad guy as you need these in your diet. If you look at the much promoted Mediterranean diet this is actually forty percent fat and very good for you. The predominant fat in the Mediterranean diet is mono-unsaturated these can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds. The interesting fat from a health perspective is omega-3 as this has many health giving properties. The correct level of fats in the diet is very beneficial for health, fitness and weight loss. Do not get drawn into the marketing hype around ‘Low-Fat Foods’ these are not always healthy options. They sometimes have more kcal than the original product and can be very high in sugar. You really do need to check the labels with these products and don’t get caught out by the per serving banners as sometimes there are four or five servings in one packet.
Carbohydrate and weight loss
Carbohydrates (CHO) are really important in any weight loss regime. Again there has been a lot of hype around lows CHO diets, most of which has no scientific evidence to support it. What you are looking for is low glycaemic index (GI) CHO; this means they give you a nice steady rise in your blood sugar and this slowly reduces over time. For a full explanation of glycaemic index go to www.glycemicindex.com this site is maintained by the University of Sydney in Australia. Apart from explaining how GI works there is a really useful searchable database where you can check the GI of any food you may be interested in. Be careful with this however as some foods are low GI because they have a high fat content, so you can’t just assume because it’s low GI it is a healthy option. As a general rule of thumb most vegetables tend to be low GI and some fruits.
This is a very quick whistle stop view of the macronutrients. You can find plenty of posts on my website that have looked at each of the macronutrients in more detail. As a general rule of thumb with your diet the nearer you can get it to natural and raw the better it will be. I hope you have a great 2014 with plenty of good health and happiness.
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Happy New Year and let’s make 2014 the year of the new lifestyle and not the new diet. The previous year (2013) will hopefully be remembered as the day the scientific community and hopefully the rest of the population woke up to the fact that “diets don’t work”. So I thought it might be helpful in this first post of 2014 to list some things that you can do, that not only work but are sustainable for life. In other words make your diet a lifestyle choice.
Eat More to Lose Weight
This sounds completely bonkers and totally counter-intuitive but I would say that 95% of clients that work with me for weight loss are not eating enough. You do need a calorie deficit to lose weight but if this is too big your body just thinks it’s being starved. In this situation it will break down muscle for energy, conserve your fat stores and deplete your glycogen stores (muscle fuel). The most significant thing that also happens is that your metabolism will slow down in an attempt to conserve energy; all of these work against long-term fat loss. So you need to be eating sufficient to produce a kcal deficit but not too much that you push your body into starvation mode. To get a ball park figure for your energy requirements multiply your bodyweight in kg by 25. This will give you an estimate of your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is how many kcal’s you burn at rest (lying on a bed) if you do nothing all day. To get an approximation of your overall energy requirements multiply your BMR by 1.5 if you are not that active. If you are active then you need to decide which of the following factors is most applicable to you: 1.6 is moderately active (active 3/5 times/week up to about an hour each time); Take this up to 1.9 if you are very active (active 6/7 days a week for an hour or more). This is only an approximate calculation but it will give you a feel for your overall level of kcal requirement. On the LEAN Man System I calculate this accurately so I am always working on an accurate level of activity. Once you know what this figure is you need to be consuming between 500 to 700kcal less per day. Any more than this and you will slip into starvation mode.
Be properly hydrated to aid your weight loss and improve your diet
Proper hydration is important for good health and very beneficial for efficient fat loss. If you have calculated your overall energy requirements (using the formula above) you can quickly calculate your overall fluid requirements. Basically for every 1000kcal you need you need 1L of water. So if your energy requirements were 2,500kcal you would need 2.5L of water per day. Now this sounds a lot but you will get between 40 to 50% of this from food itself. The more fruit and vegetables you eat the greater the quantity of water from food. The balance of your water needs to come from liquids consumed. Tea and coffee will contribute to your total intake although you do need to account for their diuretic effect (how much water they make you lose). As a rule of thumb if your pee is somewhere between clear and light straw coloured during the day you are most probably consuming enough. However it won’t do you any harm to drink a bit more as there are numerous benefits to being well hydrated and it is quite difficult to drink too much. Within the context of this post it is not possible to go into all the benefits of proper hydration and how these assist with weight loss, suffice to say being hydrated is important.
So there you have it, make sure you are eating enough, but not too much and make sure you are properly hydrated. These are simple to follow tips but this is the type of thing I get clients on the LEAN Man System to apply to their everyday lives. I have an 85% success rate so I must be doing something right. If you would like to sign up to the LEAN Man System take a look at the page that explains how this works. Perhaps you would like a one off dietary analysis with some advice to help you on your way. In that case have you considered getting a LEAN Report? Finally if you would like some free nutrition and weight loss tips simply complete the form below to receive seven FREE videos.
Tomorrow I will post some more specific tips about what foods to include as part of your daily nutritional intake.
Congratulations, if you’re reading this you must have survived Xmas day and you are now nursing the mother of all hangovers. But exactly what should you be doing now, to get rid of the hangover and continue the festivities?
Hangover cures and old wives tales
So let’s consider some of the options open to you and consider whether they are liable to be effective? Now you might have the munchies (starving hungry) at this point and this is because of the effect that alcohol has on your brain and the appetite centre in particular. You will be craving something highly calorific and so a fry up seems like a great idea. Your hunger is due to reduced blood sugar levels but about the worst thing you can eat at this point is fried and fatty food. The alcohol will have temporarily damaged the villi in you digestive system and your liver is already working overtime trying to get rid of the alcohol. It will be doing this as a priority as alcohol is toxic to the body. The last thing it needs right now is a whole bunch of fat that it will have to package up for delivery around the body; so fatty food is a none starter. OK, well what about hair-of-the-dog (more alcohol), this will work temporarily but all you are really doing is giving your liver more work and delaying the inevitable hangover. Why not try exercise; after all you can sweat out the alcohol can’t you? Again this is about the worst idea going. You are already dehydrated due to the diuretic effect of the alcohol; this is why your head is pounding. People will swear that this works but physiologically all that happens is the exercise produces endorphins and these are natural pain killers so the aches and pains temporarily subside. You have now further dehydrated yourself so you can look forward to further headaches later. So some typical approaches are really not effective.
What is the best approach to treating the Hangover?
The answer is quite simple really, first off you need to properly hydrate this will help ease the headache. In terms of what to eat, well a honey sandwich using white bread fits the bill; just don’t put any butter in this. This works because the honey and white bread are both high glycaemic index and this ensures that your blood sugar gets elevated promptly, thus ensuring the brain gets its prerequisite glucose. The honey is a combination of fructose and glucose sugars. Fructose is metabolised initially in the liver and as the liver is working hard getting rid of the alcohol this will help fuel its efforts. Depending on how over the top you went with the alcohol (total units consumed) you might consider taking a zinc supplement. The enzyme that breaks down alcohol is called alcohol dehydrogenase and this is made in the body using zinc. So if you have being practicing your drinking skills for a few days you may have depleted your zinc stores substantially.
It’s not all bad news however as Harvard School of Public Health recently stated that: “Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones”. This is moderate drinking however so keeping to within the recommended guidelines for daily units. My guess is that if you are nursing a hangover you cannot consider your consumption moderate, Oh well perhaps you’ll go easy next Xmas (or maybe not)?
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With the big day about to dawn we are all gearing up for the calorie fest that is Xmas. The average person will consume in the region of 6000 calories on Xmas day. Some will manage considerably more. So when you decide after clearing up the dishes that it is time to go for a walk to work off that meal then you better have an expedition in mind.
This number of calories is the amount a tour de France cyclist approximately uses in a day. So you could get out your stationary bike but if you start cycling at 2pm then be prepared to carry on cycling until approximately 9:15pm and make sure you have the bike set to a strenuous level. So that doesn’t sound too appealing, well perhaps it’s snowing outside and you at least live in Scotland or further north ideally. You can now go for a day’s trek as this is the amount of calories an artic explorer expends in one day on the ice. Unfortunately it is unlikely the temperature will be low enough so you will have to stay out a bit longer. So far neither is sounding too practical but help is at hand as a professional athlete will expend this amount of calories to get them through a days training. So quickly get on the internet and Google Mo Farah’s training diary. You would need at least ten hours & twenty minutes of jogging and you are home free. Bottom line is you won’t be burning this lot off in one day. We are most probably looking at a weeks’ worth of exercise here based on 500kcal a day, and that is just to return you to energy balance.
If the calorie figure sounds a bit surreal and you can’t get your head round that then try a few food equivalents. This level of calorie intake (6000 kcal) is the equivalent of 42 bananas or 23.5 hamburgers. If you have more of a fancy for spicy food then you could have three 300g chicken Kormas, three chicken tikka curries, three naan breads and 24 onion bhajis.
Interestingly, it is not really the Xmas dinner that does the damage as far as the calories go, it’s all the other food based activities that go with the day. This might include the fry-up or bacon butties in the morning, smoked salmon and champagne if you’re a bit more upmarket. The overconsumption of wine, champagne and beer throughout the day will heavily ramp up the calorie count. To this we can add the nuts, dried fruit, chocolate selection boxes and sundry party snacks. Finally towards the end of the day out come the cold turkey, crispy bread, pickles and any other variation on this theme. But hey it’s Xmas and we have the New Year resolution to lose weight and get fit to take care of this so it shouldn’t really be a problem after all.
If you decide this is the way to go then consider getting a LEAN Report to set you up nutritionally for the year. If you don’t think you can lose the weight on your own then sign up for ‘The LEAN Man System’ and I will work closely with you to help you achieve your weight loss goal. The LEAN system will set you up with lifestyle changes that not only work but are sustainable in the long-term.
If you would just like some hints and tips based around nutrition and weight loss then sign up for the FREE seven video series by completing the simple form included below. I look forward to working with you in the future and I hope you and your family have a very happy Christmas.
The BBC website recently ran an article looking at what the ideal plate of food might look like. Much as this is an exercise to make a point, to my mind the final plate doesn’t look that appetising (See below).
Picture Courtesy of the BBC Science website.
The point about this plate is that it fulfils all your nutritional needs in terms of the five food groups. By making sure we have sufficient of each of these in our daily diet our body is able to grow, repair, reproduce and avoid illness. Provided we are eating these foods in suitable quantities for our individual requirements we should also avoid weight gain and any health problems associated with this.
If you now compare this to a traditional Christmas dinner we are able to get a number of similar benefits from this. If we include brussel sprouts, carrots and peas, ideally steamed, then we are getting vegetables high in vitamins, minerals and fibre; these can be fresh or frozen. The turkey is a relatively low fat source of protein so that is quite good (but don’t eat the skin – high in calories). Potatoes are a good source of starch but this tends to be off-set the minute we start roasting them and pouring on the Goose fat (courtesy of Nigella). So you could have boiled or steamed potatoes but it’s not really a Christmas dinner without roasties. As a source of dairy and calcium there is milk in your Yorkshire pudding (if you include these) but again the fat content becomes an issue. You could always get round this by using condensed milk on your Christmas pudding, again hugely calorific (but nice). So we have some good and some bad in this meal. We can eat nuts through the day to get monounsaturated fat and also some omega-3 essential fats but these are hugely calorific so be careful. The red wine has some antioxidant qualities but unfortunately the alcohol is toxic to our body and again this is hugely calorific. Chocolate (especially dark chocolate high in cocoa) is a good source of antioxidants but now you have to consider the calories and fat content again. So it would appear that our Christmas day traditional food intake is a case of the good, the bad and the hugely calorific. I think the best strategy at this point is not to worry too much and enjoy the day. Just relaxing with friends and family and not worrying about work and the woes of the world will have major benefits in terms of stress relief. Stress causes as many problems as poor diet so for one day this year (at least) have a stress free and happy Christmas. A little of what you fancy is always a good lifestyle policy in my book.
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It might sound nuts but new research suggests that nuts might be useful as part of a weight loss regime. A researcher at Purdue University, Dr Mattes thinks that nuts have several things that lend themselves to weight loss.
Nuts are high protein foods and we know that this has a high satiety value. This satiating ability means you feel full quite quickly. The fibre content of nuts further enhances their satiating value. There is some literature that suggests that unsaturated fats are also very satiating and nuts are full of this. Just to round things off they are also crunchy. The mechanical effort of crunching and chewing foods sends satiety cues to the brain. So if you put all these factors together nuts have a great ability to dampen down our appetite.
Kcal and weight loss
This does however present something of a paradox because one of the problems with eating large quantities of nuts is that they are highly calorific. Weight loss always boils down to kcal in versus kcal expended, so how can something so calorific be useful for weight loss? Dr. Mattes hypothesises that snacking on nuts makes it likely that you will eat less, later in the same day. Some studies have shown that as much as three-quarters of the calories from nuts are accounted for when you calculate the decreased consumption later in the day. The other contributory factor is that nuts have very tough cellular walls. Because of this quality they are resistant to digestion and in a paper published in ‘The Journal of Nutrition’ (2008) Dr. Mattes calculated that as much as one-fifth of the fat in nuts never gets absorbed by the body
Nuts and Health
So not only are nuts a possible weight loss aid but further research highlights the benefits to health. In ‘The New England Journal of Medicine’ (2013) last month, data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and Nurses’ Health Study which between them have followed approximately 119,000 women and men for the past few decades suggests a correlation between nut consumption and health. Both these studies have amassed a large amount of data on dietary intake. This data has analysed links between causes of death and diet amongst the 27,429 people who have died since the commencement of the study. In these studies consumption of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts and walnuts reduces the risks of certain diseases. Participants were less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease. What is more their overall death rate from any disease was lower. In terms of the number of participants eating nuts seven or more times a week they were twenty percent less likely to die during the period from 1980 to 2010. If you add to this the benefits of consuming good sources of omega-3 which is also found in nuts then it would appear you would be nuts not to start snacking on nuts straightaway.
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Christmas can be a stressful time but a bit of forward planning, good nutrition and some exercise can ease a lot of this stress. Nutrition can have an important role when it comes to relieving stress and in particular reducing blood pressure. Exercise has equally been demonstrated to assist with stress and reduce blood pressure.
Nutrition and Blood Pressure
There are a number of easy steps you can take to help reduce your blood pressure. First look closely at your overall caffeine intake. When I say caffeine I don’t just mean coffee either. You have to look at your tea intake, your use of cola and energy drinks and chocolate. These all contain caffeine and just cutting these out of your diet will lower your blood pressure. You could start using decaffeinated versions and if you want to try this make sure your coffee is decaffeinated using a steamed process. Chemically decaffeinated beverages have been investigated for their carcinogenic effect. If you are a big caffeine consumer then slowly reduce your intake as you are likely to get withdrawal symptoms from caffeine and these can be severe. The next thing to look at is your salt/sodium intake. The quickest way to reduce this is to cut out processed and tinned food. Try preparing meals from scratch and don’t add salt when cooking. Also some people will add salt to a meal before even tasting it so try to avoid that habit. Food will taste a bit bland at first but if you persevere your taste buds will adapt. Finally ensure you are well hydrated this will not only help your overall energy levels but insures all your metabolic processes are running efficiently.
The final part of the puzzle is to try and get active regularly. Exercise has been demonstrated to be very effective at not only relieving stress but reducing blood pressure; so plan in thirty minutes of exercise/activity every day. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in one block you might want to plan in three ten minute sessions. This is equally effective and if you find things are getting on top of you a quick ten minute burst of activity may be just the tonic you need to recharge the batteries.
All the above will certainly help reduce both your stress levels and blood pressure. A bit like the saying “a dog is not just for Xmas” these actions are exactly the same. These are “not just for Xmas, but for life”. Do someone a favour and give them this prescription for Xmas it might help them enjoy the festive season and will definitely keep the doctor away.
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