Just Do One Thing.

Just do one thing.

Right. That is it. No more.

You’ve given yourself a pep talk.

…which honestly, is harsh af, you guys are mean…

You’ve decided enough is enough. You’re not happy living on your couch, eating Doritos you’ve found between the seat cushions.

You’re going to get up tomorrow morning at 5am, drink a kale smoothie, and go for that 10 mile run. Then when you’re home, you’re going to meditate for 2 hours, home school your 6 year old kids to a post-graduate level, bake as a family (which you won’t eat, because Health) and then do all the jobs around the house you’ve been putting off since you moved in, like re-shingling the roof.

Mega. Productive.

Except it isn’t, because none of it gets done. 

The alarm goes off at 5, you bin that right off and go right back to the couch cushion Doritos and 3pm wine. 

Does this absolute shit show look like your plans?

Look… You’re not alone. You’re ambitious as hell. I totally respect that. 

You’re just trying to do too many things at once. We’ve all been guilty of this; hopped up on Big Plans.

Just do one thing. Pick one really small thing and then execute it relentlessly every day. 

Instead of getting up at 5am in lockdown (I’m a morning person and even I’m like “what’s the point?!”) focus instead on maybe making your bed once you’re up. 

Instead of the kale smoothie – unless you particularly like that – what about including a piece of fruit you enjoy at some point during your day?

You don’t have to be billy big balls to make progress. Nor do you have to wait until the end of the journey to feel proud of yourself. You’ll get about 80% of the benefits of training and nutrition in around 20% of the time. 

But you will have to make changes, and sometimes push through “discomfort” of some sort if you want to make changes, ya know? 

You’re at a cross roads, right now. I get that. you’ve tried to do it alone before – and maybe this will be the time that’s different. But if you’re interested in booking a call, and getting some support, let’s chat.

Want to stalk me on social media first? I get it. I’m on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Stop Trying To Make Things Easy

Lacing up running shoes

You may be lacking motivation for exercise during lockdown and I’ve got the solution:

Stop trying to make things easy. 

You can do hard things.

Do you think when we’re in the gym my programming for you is meant to feel easy?

I sure as hell don’t.

Sometimes I’ll start off by easing you into it.

Give you a grace period to wake up, warm up, shape up.

But that’s just lube for your attitude. 

I make every single session you do with me just 

A

Little 

Bit 

Harder

than you think you can manage.

That varies from day to day.

There are about a million factors which influence it, all of which we establish by having an honest coaching conversation. I can’t coach you if you won’t talk to me. That’s literally all I ask for from my Tribe.

On day one where you’re nervous and excited and uncertain about what on earth I’m asking you to do… that day, “just a little bit harder” might be getting you familiar with and using new language to talk about moving: squatting, deadlifting, words for muscles. 

By day 100 it might be that extra kilo on the bar.

Or that second off your rowing time.

But if your motivation to work out during lockdown has gone missing, consider that it might be that you’re trying to make life too easy for yourself.

That’s right: too easy.

Sure, there’s a time and a place for that. 

I actually pride myself on being pretty good at reading that in you guys and giving you the right balance that you need. 

Sometimes you do need to sack it off completely and go grab a coffee and use the hour productively meal planning or just taking an hour to not think about All The Things…

But don’t forget: You can do hard things. 

I know you can because I trained you to do it. 

It’s the thing that every member of The Tribe has in common, whether you’re in your 20s or in your 70s. You all take a deep breath in the face of whatever I’ve asked you to do, square your shoulders, and say, “I’ll give it a go”.

Right? Every single one of you has done that with me. 

You’ve just forgotten because we haven’t seen each other face to face in a minute for me to make you do the hard things.

Every single one of you has completed a Dark Place Workout where the only instruction I’ve given you is to be mindful of how you talk to yourself. 

The aim of those workouts is to train your mindset. 

To bulletproof you against hardship. 

To get you to lean into and embrace the suffering.

This is me giving you a pep talk right now. 

Unlike other people, you don’t need things to be easy to get them done. Things are hard because you’re lacking motivation? Good. That’s where we work best.

You don’t need motivation because you have discipline. Don’t feel like training today? Good. Do it anyway because those are the sessions that feel best when they’re over.

You decide when you’re successful. Not lockdown, not fleeting motivational bullshit. You move your needle. 

Book a call today.

First? Take Action. Motivation Will Follow.

Struggling with motivation? Here’s the little know strategy you can employ right now to find it again.

Woman with no motivation lays in bed

This week I have spoken to several people who have told me that their motivation to work out was rock bottom. 

Does this sound like you?

“How can I motivate myself during this horrendous time?”

“I haven’t worked out in a week”

“I have been letting lockdown control me”

And several others that were – frankly – deeply emotional insights into how you guys speak to yourselves on the daily… You ain’t nice.

Motivation is fickle and is never around when you need it. Since we’ve been out of the gym, it’s dropped off. For some of you, it’s down to almost zero.

Not totally zero though, because you’re still responding to my messages. 

You’re still communicating. That’s awesome because once that stops, it becomes a lot harder to pull things back on track.

People make this mistake all the time, they think that first they need to be motivated and then they can work out and it will feel effortless.

Forget motivation. You can’t rely on it. Even when it does turn up, it’s the arse end of the night when you’re lying in bed and can’t do anything anyway.

(That’s exactly why it turns up then… trust me, I was a psychologist)

Instead of waiting around for motivation to grab you, I’m going to tell you the secret that a lot of people don’t know.

First: Take action. Don’t wait for motivation – that comes second. 

Take Small Deliberate Action.

It shouldn’t be crazy. Starting small isn’t a compromise – it’s an essential component of building momentum. 

What’s the one thing you can do right now that’s so ridiculously easy that you think it’s not even worth doing? 

Can you find your daps and lay them out by your front door?

Can you stand up right now and do a squat? 

Can you bang out 5 push-ups against the kitchen sink?

Can you walk to the end of your garden and back?

Once you’ve done one thing, something, anything – no matter how small or insignificant it seems, you start to feel that little kindle of motivation returning. 

Don’t believe me? Try it. 

Pick just one thing that seems minor and do it right now. I’ll wait.

If you didn’t do it – the thing you picked was too hard.

You’ve got to meet yourself where you’re at right now and that might be literally standing up off the couch. 

It’s a start. That’s all we’re looking to do.

Take action first and motivation will follow. Need more help to get started? I can help, let’s chat.

Are you willing to tell me what you’re struggling with most at the moment? I’d really appreciate you filling out this questionnaire. It will only take 2 minutes and I’ll use it to write more content that is useful for you.

Overeating During The COVID-19 Quarantine

Empty supermarket shelves during covid-19

I’ve seen a bunch of content floating around the internet recently bemoaning the potential for weight gain during the lockdown we’re going through at the moment to isolate against COVID-19.

There are a few things I’d like to talk about.

You Might Have More Food Around

Wide selections of food availability can encourage you to eat more. Food diversity is a recognised factor in overeating. This is why so many successful dieters stick to a fairly limited range of food choices day in and day out. Avoiding having trigger foods at home right now might be a smart strategy.

Overeating calories will cause you to gain weight. So eating more calories than you need – coupled with the likelihood that you’re less active than usual because of the restriction on movement outside of the home – could mean that you’re gaining weight. 

That’s if you’re lucky enough to have food at home, and you didn’t leave the supermarket empty handed.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is a risk year round of eating more, not just due to the exceptional circumstances we all face at the moment. It’s a good idea to make mealtimes your sole focus – not watching TV or scrolling through your phone will you eat. 

It can help to have a set meal time, and not graze throughout the day. Consider sitting at a table, and make the meal an ‘event’ for the family during the day. Putting your utensils down while you chew can slow your eating down, so you digest more thoroughly and feel fuller. Here’s a link to more detail on how you can practice mindfulness in your mealtimes.

Food Proximity

You’re closer to your food than you would be normally – particularly if you’re working from home for the first time. Perhaps you may be dipping in and out of your fridge every time you get up from your work station and this sense of proximity can lead to snacking.

You might make healthy snacks visible and put away less optimal snacks out of sight. If possible, you could also move further away from your kitchen when you’re working. 

It’s An Emotional Time

Increased stress might lead to as much as an increase of 21% more food consumed for some people who relate to being emotional eaters

Whereas others may be skipping meals due to their emotional upset, and not realise. Then, later, they might make food choices which don’t align with their goals and values and increase their emotional state indirectly. 

You May Be Feeling Bored

Like the Grinch, you may just be eating because you’re bored. Finding a way to structure working from home, or to create a sense of purpose during your day can help. If you’re still working from home, trying to keep things as normal as possible can help. If you’re not able to work at the moment, some structure during the day can make a difference. It could be a new time to try learning a new skill or a hobby. Even getting ahead on planning meals could be a great step.

Regardless of whether you’re overeating or not, this is a difficult time for many people. You could be experiencing food shortages, or isolation from your loved ones. You are likely to have more pressing concerns at the moment than a few extra calories. Remember, you’re only ever one choice away from being back on track. If I can help you with your focus, you can book a call today and we can have a chat at a time that works for you.

Why Am I Not Losing Weight on My Diet?

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

You’re doing your absolute best on your diet, eating clean and abstaining from alcohol and chocolate – but by the time the weigh-in comes around, you aren’t seeing the results you wanted. You ask yourself, “Why am I not losing weight on my diet?”

You’re frustrated and confused – and I’ve got the answers. I’m going to tell you what you can do about it.

This Diet is Taking Too Long

Dropping body fat takes time. Often far more time than we expect – especially once we’re over 30, sadly. It might be that you’re expecting too much in the time frame. 

Be patient, know that the process isn’t linear, and you almost definitely don’t need to do anything drastic. 

If you’re still not moving the scale in a fortnight of adherence – and I am talking total compliance with the diet here – we might slightly increase your cardio (NEAT) but almost definitely patience will be all you need to see progress again. 

We want to keep your calories as high as possible for as long as possible because this makes it easier to be compliant so don’t go dropping too many calories too soon. If you’re truly at a plateau – 100% compliance and no movement on the scale for 4 weeks or so, then think about taking off maybe 100 calories from carbohydrates (around 25g) and readjusting to that.

Enjoy the Diet You’re On

My clients always start with a list of foods they love so there’s never anything in their diet that they don’t enjoy. Many times, we begin by adding more of something nutritious rather than taking something else out.

Finding a method that works for you is a massive win – so you can learn to love the process. The reality of the diet sets in around week 3 when it’s actually just doing a few things really well. It’s not big, grand or sexy. So finding a way that works for you right now is key; for some that might be intermittent fasting, or calorie cycling, or even ditching the alcohol completely

Fat Loss Not Weight Loss

Remember that you’re looking for fat loss – not weight loss. That scale weight is simply a reflection of your mass. I’ve trained a couple of women that have actually been happier with their physiques for adding a little bit of muscle, and that often means a heavier scale weight – but with a toned, lean body and none of the jiggle.

You can use other systems of measurement for this which might reflect your progress better than the scale; tape measurements as well as photographs are always a brilliant way to check your progress. This is especially true for people who have a challenging relationship with The Sad Step.

You’re Being Less Compliant With The Diet Than You Think

Lack of compliance is likely to be the number one reason you’re not reaching your goal, and from a coaching perspective, this is often the only metric that actually matters. If you’re jumping from programme to programme, coach to coach, and fad diet to fad diet – but then not sticking to it anyway, nothing will work. Doesn’t matter whether you’re on the carnivore diet or the vegan diet: nothing works unless you do. Pick something that seems suitable and be compliant with your diet. 

Tracking inaccuracies may happen by accident (I forgot to track the oil I cooked with) or “on purpose” I forgot to track the food I hoovered up off the kids plate after they were finished. It’s astonishing to me how many people want to lose weight but have no clue what they’re eating on a daily basis. If your goal is weight loss, this is the ultimate tool at your disposal: track everything you eat, at least for a short period of time.

You Lack Accountability in The Diet

Lacking accountability can be a problem for some people. Write your goals down in a journal or on Facebook and invite questions from friends and family. This will make them an actual real thing that you’re going to do. Review the goals mid-week and course correct if necessary. Evaluate your effort on Sunday – consider what worked well, as well as what might need adjustment for next week.  If you want, you can do this in the Facebook group with The Tribe

For ultimate accountability, and being supported every step of the way to your goals, you could consider getting a coach.

Some people do better with in person coaching, so you should go to your gym and ask to speak to some of the trainers there. I’m based in gyms in Llanelli, but fear not – if you’re not in Llanelli, there are other options.

Remote coaching, delivered over the internet works better for some people. You would consider this option if you have a difficult working schedule or perhaps don’t have the budget for face to face accountability just now. If you’re interested in that, you can set up a call with me, here.

Pre & Post Workout Nutrition

Photo by LYFE Fuel on Unsplash

Pre workout nutrition is anything that you eat prior to your work out. It includes real food as well as any supplements you might want to take. Its job is simply to give you enough energy for your training session. If you train in the afternoon or evening, you’ll probably have taken care of this through your normal daily eating.

Post workout nutrition is anything that you eat after you finish your work out. It could include a proper meal, or any convenient sources of protein or supplementation you choose to take. You may take care of those through your normal daily eating, or if you train at night, you might prefer to wait until breakfast tomorrow.

Do I Need Protein Immediately After Finishing A Workout?

The “anabolic window” which is sometimes reported to be as brief as 20 minutes refers to the period of time after the workout finishes. Traditionally, it has been considered optimal to have a protein shake after working out. The purpose is to replenishing glycogen and to stop the body using muscle as fuel.

In fact, the body would have to be fasted for about 72 hours for it to start using muscle as a fuel source. It makes no metabolic sense for your body to do this. Once your glycogen is used up (after an intense weights session, or following some endurance style exercise), the body will use body fat for fuel.

The window in which you should eat is actually more like 2 to 6 hours – so for most of us, training normally and eating normally is fine. No special workout nutrition needed. This might differ for athletes doing mega endurance events who might benefit from an intra workout hit of glucose like energy gels during a marathon, or doing a double day: training twice in the course of one day.

How much protein is best?

It’s though that around 20 to 40g of protein in the hour before and after you train is great. If you’re a smaller person, go towards the lower end of the scale. Whey protein sits lightly on the stomach, and unless you’re avoiding milk products it’ll be convenient, cheap and comfortable.

What about carbs and fats?

This mostly comes down to personal preference, particularly in a calorie deficit when the goal is weight loss. 

Making a choice about carbs comes down to whether you want quicker or slower releasing carbs. That depends when you’re eating compared with when you’re training.

Training within 30-45 minutes? Stick with something fast, like a banana. Your insulin levels will be spiked by anything you eat, including protein so you don’t need anything special for that. Carbs after you train can feel like a nice treat – some oats in your whey protein, or a piece of fruit after you’re finished can really pick your energy levels up nicely.

Fats are also personal preference, but anything that you eat with the fats will be slowed in digesting to the rate that your body digests the fat. That’s why higher fat meals make you feel fuller for longer. 

Everyone’s body is different. If you feel like a high fat meal makes you sluggish pre-training, you may prefer to save that spoonful of peanut butter for the post workout shake or rice cake.

Keep an open mind about experimenting and remember that we’re only talking about food – you don’t need to buying anything fancy or expensive!

Who Else Wants to Stop Excess Snacking?

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Maybe you’re a pro at planning balanced meals, but things go awry during the hours in between. Excess snacking can put you over your daily calorie requirements and fill you up with sugar and other ingredients you’re trying to avoid.

Lose weight and protect your health by changing the way you snack. Check out this list for ideas about how to snack less between meals and make smarter choices.

How to Snack Less Between Meals

  1. Be mindful. Are you surprised to find you’ve eaten half a cake when you really meant to have one slice? You’ll probably be satisfied with less food if you pay attention to each bite. Turn off the TV and chew slowly.
  2. Leave the table. It’s difficult to tell when dinner ends and snacking starts if you sit around nibbling leftovers on the kids’ plates. Clear the table and go for a walk.
  3. Have a hearty breakfast. Late night snacking could be a sign that you didn’t take in enough calories earlier in the day. Start with a nutritious breakfast that has enough nutrients to keep you feeling full.
  4. Drink up. Thirst and hunger are often confused. The next time you want to snack between meals, drink a glass of water to see if the craving goes away.
  5. Sleep well. Chronic fatigue can also make you want to eat, and when you do eat you’re more likely to make poor choices. Go to bed on time and take a nap if you need to catch up on your sleep.
  6. Chew gum. Sugar-free gum is an ideal snack. Satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy chewing without consuming any calories. Gum even helps to clean up bacteria in your mouth in between brushing and flossing.
  7. Keep a log. You may be snacking more than you think. Use your phone or a notebook to track what’s really going on.
  8. Identify trigger foods. Many of us have certain foods that lower our inhibitions and make it hard to stop eating once we start. Limit the availability of these foods in your home, and keep them for special occasions.
  9. Manage stress. Are you eating to cover up difficult emotions? This can be a tough one to manage, but identifying it is the first step. Notice when the cravings happen by keeping a note of them – and when you find a pattern in when you crave a snack you stand a much better chance of stopping.

How to Snack Healthier

  1. Reach for vegetables and fruits. Full of micronutrients and low on calories, these foods can aid digestion as they’re full of fibre. Recommended daily intake ranges from 5 a day to as much as 8 portions, but just including one more than you’re on now could be a great start. Use snacks to help you reach your target.
  2. Control portions. Most adults can indulge in any favourite treat as long as they keep the serving size reasonable. Learn to estimate by sight what serving sizes should be by using a measuring system for a little while.
  3. Create substitutes. This is recommended by one of the ladies that comes to the diet & nutrition class at the gym. She allows herself snacks that she’s baked at home herself – leveraging any laziness to her advantage!
  4. Stock up. Fill your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with nutrient-dense foods you love. Remove the barriers to healthy snacking by prepping fruit, or vegetables and leaving them pre-chopped and visible.
  5. Don’t watch adverts. Advertising tends to promote ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Psychologists call these “hyperpalatable foods” and they are commonly overeaten – it’s not your fault, and you’re certainly not the only one!
  6. Plan ahead. Vending machines and office staff rooms are full of foods that can derail your diet. Carry your own snacks or keep them in your desk at work. Pressure from colleagues can be a tough one to avoid, but this is one to work at mastering. Here’s a guide to meal prepping that can help.

Make your snacks work for you, keeping you full between meals and fuelling up your body. Watch your calories and eat nutrient-dense foods that don’t derail your fitness goals.

4 Simple Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Get started now.

The anticipation of new year is powerful. Once it gets here though, you won’t magically have more time. You’ll have the same limitations next week as you have right now.

Getting a few days of progress under your belt – even if it’s not “perfect” – is a hugely powerful position to be in.

Can’t join a gym yet? Do some body weight movements at home.

Can’t afford to buy new books yet? Visit your local library.

Do what you can with what you’ve got. Refine the process as you go.

Shorten the time frame from one year to one week.

Starting the year with the intention to work out every single day is awesome – but if you’re not working out all that often now, this might be a step too far.

Instead, try your new habit for 7 days. If you’re successful for the week, keep it going for another week – then another. Soon you’ll have a whole month.

But just narrow your attention. It’s too much to think about what you’ll be doing a year from now.

People ask personal trainers often, “how can I be more motivated?”

Motivation is great – to get you started. But it’s not a long term strategy. Instead, you need a long term plan. Properly diarised intentions, with steps on how you’ll actually execute your plans.

Motivation isn’t a long term strategy – but you can rely on it to give you a really great starting week.

Health is the goal – directly or indirectly.

This is one of things that we all know but as soon as we get a bee in our bonnets about some other exciting project, it’s often the thing we sacrifice to chase the shiny thing.

In February/March of 2019 I got flu.

Really bad, proper flu. Not the 2-day man flu your colleagues called in sick with last week. It was horrific and felt nothing like I expected it to feel.

I was in bed for a full week, I couldn’t stay awake for more than about 20 minutes at time. I also had a urine infection at the same time that was spiking my temperature and stopping me from actually standing up, and gastritis attacks that were making me violently, painfully sick.

Those of you who know me, know how I feel about being sick.

It was horrendous. I am also entirely self employed so if I don’t work, I earn no money at all. I was also as weak as a kitten for about 6 months after it, which – given that I’m a personal trainer that does mostly strength work – was kind of a disaster. I remember the first week back in the gym I couldn’t even unrack the 20kg plates for my clients!

My point is: your health isn’t optional.

It’s not glamorous or sexy – and if you’re younger than 30 reading this, you probably couldn’t give a shit.

But that’s why we eat right, train in the gym, and prioritise sleep. It’s for health. If you’ve not got that, we’ve got big problems, because you can’t do any of the other stuff that’s got you all amped up.

Track it all – even (especially) the “failures”.

You’re a busy person with a lot of stuff on your mind. You can’t be expected to remember stuff.

At least, that’s what I tell everyone about why I can’t remember anything.

If you have a written record somewhere – on your phone in the notes, or even better – in a dedicated lovely notebook – you’ll be able to stay on top on what works for you. Perhaps more importantly – what doesn’t work for you and why.  

This is important because it will allow you to observe your behaviour through the perspective of an outsider.

You’re a scientist collecting data about behaviours that serve you and don’t serve you. This removes any sense of ‘blame’ about mistakes, and instead subtly shifts your mindset into thinking about course corrections in a neutral way. It’s a small, but powerful shift in focus.

What time of day should I work out?

Photo by Abhiram Prakash from Pexels

Let’s make something very clear from the jump, shall we?

Whatever time you can find during your day to work out – take it.

It’s one thing to have a discussion about what’s optimal, and when your mood and returns will be peaked – but it’s another thing entirely to have a practical decision about actually getting to the gym and doing the work.

Working out in the morning.

This is my preference and the preference of most of my clients.

Working out in the morning doesn’t give you a chance to talk yourself out of training. When I was a teacher, I’d be looking forward to my evening session, and by the time we made it to lunch I was looking for excuses not to go. I’d spend the afternoon in a battle of should I/shouldn’t I? Total waste of mental energy.

For lots of people, working out might be the biggest barrier in their day. It might make them nervous to go, they may need some confidence to attend. If you’ve done the hardest thing in your day first, the rest of your day will be easier. If you’re a little nervous about the gym, the earlier you go, the quieter it is.

My 6am squad say that they’ve done the hardest part of their day and are home and showering by a little after 7am. Imagine rocking up to work knowing that you’ve done the hardest thing you said you were going to do already, and after work all your evening is your own. Pyjamas by 6pm? Yes please.

You will probably be training fasted – having eaten nothing yet that morning. This isn’t a problem, but if you’ve been training in the evening and now you’re trying out the mornings, you might need to adjust your expectations, especially with regard to strength.

Besides, once your feet are on the floor, you feel okay. Sure, that alarm is a little early but the boost to your productivity and mental focus for the rest of the day is worth it.

Working out in the evening.

If you just can’t bring yourself to train first thing, and you can only make it after work, you’ve got some benefits too.

You’ll have had a chance to properly wake up – and be well fuelled, on at least one and possibly two meals. That means you’re likely to be stronger, and more alert than the morning folks.

The gym is busier, often with instructor led classes at this time. This is a great opportunity to socialise with friends, get a trusted spotter, or even make the most of your membership with a group fitness class.

Evening workouts are usually a little less rushed – you’re not clock watching to get to work. You can take your time, and plan your post work out meal around your training – a really practical benefit.

There’s something quite cosy about getting showered after the gym, putting your sweaty kit in the wash and getting straight into pyjamas. I am mildly preoccupied with pyjamas.

However, exercising in the evening can mean a later night getting to bed. I always felt energised after a workout, and so I might go to sleep later if training after 6pm.

There’s research to support the idea of intentionally timing your most important behaviours. If this interests you, Daniel H. Pink wrote an excellent book, “When” about this, which discusses how highly important tasks shouldn’t be left until the afternoon as mood as well as cognitive function dips. There’s another book called “Eat That Frog” by Brain Tracy about tackling the most challenging aspects of your day straight away, and not waiting or warming up to them with other, lower value tasks.

To conclude; get your work out done. When you do it is less important than the fact that you’ve done it. Morning and evening people are likely to disagree about when the “best” time to workout is. Try both and see what works better for your lifestyle.

Nutrition Challenge: How to Manage Your Portion Sizes

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“You’re not leaving the table til you’ve cleared everything on your plate.”

How many times were we told this as children, engraining it into us that cleared plates were the goal?

Between this life time of conditioning, plus the ready abundance of hyper-palatable foods, and portion sizes from restaurants which have become bigger and bigger over the years, it’s no wonder that correct portion size can be a struggle.

The Diet & Nutrition club made a request last weekend that we talked about in class this week: how can I be sure that I’m eating an appropriately sized portion? A great question, and one that can be a tough habit to start.

Getting used to proper portion sizes can be difficult, and like lots of difficult things, it can take some practice to get used to.

Eat slowly

Credit to Rhian for this suggestion – something we know we should do, but can struggle with.

This is the easiest option in as far as it doesn’t require any special preparation or much change from how you currently manage your mealtimes. But full disclosure? I can’t actually get through a full meal mindfully, and I’ve been actively working on this for about 2 years now.

The idea is that whatever you’re going to eat, eat slowly and mindfully. Put your fork down as you chew, and take your time enjoying your meal. Eat to 80% full, and know that you can come back to your meal later if you still feel hungry after a break.

Eat your meals from smaller plates

This is pretty accessible for most of us; a great idea from Martyn this morning. Once we’ve decided what we’re making to eat, you simply dish it up on a smaller plate than you’d otherwise use.

This can make you feel like you’re having a big plateful when in reality – although your plate is full, it doesn’t mean more food than you want to consume. It can help with the feelings of being hard done by when on a diet, which leads me into this next point:

Bulking your portions with veggies

This is such a sensible suggestion by Lyndsey – because it simply involves swapping higher calorie items for things which have an awesome micronutrient profile, and usually are packed with fibre and goodness.

Taking some of your rice and swapping it for mixed salad, or steamed vegetables doesn’t detract from your enjoyment (I find that sometimes a 100% swap can do that).

Take one or two spoonfuls of rice, or pasta, or potatoes or whatever out, and mix in two of three spoonfuls of peas, carrots, lettuce, or any other veg you fancy. Keeping volume of food high but dropping calories.

Weigh and measure your portions

This could be anything from using rough visual estimates of your plate (half your plate veg, one quarter carbs, one quarter protein), to using a digital scale and accurately weighing and tracking to the gram.

Some form of portioning is appropriate but not everyone needs to or benefits from weighing their food. I really like it as a guide, particularly in the beginning, or while someone is learning what appropriate sizes are (the 40g portion sizing of cereal is a real eye opener, for example) but this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve got to keep doing forever.

As we go down the list, each of these requires more adjustment to how you’re approaching meal times, so picking just one and trying to apply it consistently is more important than trying to do everything. Remember the point is to improve – not to be perfect.