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.

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.

Nutrition Challenge: I’ve Got a Sweet Tooth!

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Each week on a Saturday I run a diet and nutrition class in the gym I work at. Each Sunday I put up a question box on instagram stories to encourage people to make requests for the following Saturday’s topic.

People every week identify that they have a sweet tooth, and consider this a barrier to them losing weight. Of my own in-person clients, over 50% of women consider themselves to have a sweet tooth when asked in a survey.

High sugar foods alone aren’t the problem though, it’s the combination of sugar with fats which make foods super delicious and difficult to say no to. A highly engineered result we call “hyper-paletable foods”.

So, if you can’t resist the Halloween treats in the supermarket this week, or you are drawn to the snack baskets in your house – you’re not alone and you’re not to blame. These foods are manufactured to be almost impossible to resist. Pretty sneaky.

Even people who have got very healthy relationships with food have a hard time saying no to certain “trigger foods”. These are different for everyone, but they’re almost always highly processed, high sugar, high fat, high salt – and highly available.

Food manufacturers have revealed Big 5 stimuli stacking elements of foods.

  1. Calorie dense – often high in sugar, fat & salt
  2. Intense flavours – often combining flavours in ways that psychologists call “supernormal stimuli
  3. Immediately delicious – the big flavours pack and immediate punch
  4. Easy to eat – this relates to the texture and ‘mouth feel’ of foods which don’t need to be heavily chewed
  5. Melts in the mouth – these foods disappear quickly from the mouth, making it hard to eat slowly, and very easy to eat more than you intended to. Specifically, these manufactured foods should be broken down in no more than 10 chews. Compared with around 25 chews per mouthful of whole foods.

These Big 5 components are what food manufactorers look for when designing foods for marketability and they are even more important than how foods actually taste!

Clearly, the solution to overeating these foods shouldn’t rely on willpower alone. There are some things you can do to stop overeating these hyperpaletable foods.

  • Observe as you chew how things feel and taste in your mouth. How long it takes to chew and swallow the foods, and do you feel satisfied after eating it? These things might influence whether we keep eating.
  • Pay attention to the less healthy foods that you buy and consider cutting down on the variety. By allowing yourself some ‘treats’ it can help adherence to a calorie controlled diet and by limiting your choices, that can take some of the temptation out of the picture.
  • Pay attention to the craving. This is likely to have been triggered by something – and it can help to keep a note book on your observations for a week or two to get to the bottom of what’s causing them.

Common triggers include:

Thoughts and feelings: thinking of food as a reward, or something that you’ve earned. Feeling bored, lonely or sad. Food can be something you’re using to fill the void.

Times of day: lots of my in-person clients recognise this one – so much so, that the “2pm twix” had become a running joke. These snacks are part of your routine.

Social settings: it’s my colleague’s birthday, and there are cakes in the staffroom again. It’s happy hour and I always have a bag of crisps with my pint.

Places: your parents’ house, a dark movie theatre, or the automated way you order at a familiar restaurant can all be triggers to eat without really thinking about it.

Once you’ve spotted the pattern, we can put other behaviours in place instead – behaviours which support your goals instead of sabotaging them. Then it’s a case of practicing.

You might not get it right first time – and the act of practicing can take a while, but you are able to make those changes that you want in your life.

If you’d like me to help you, fill out the form below and let’s have a chat.

The Outrageous Benefits of Eating Mindfully

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“How soon after exercise should I consume my protein shake?”

“What percentage of my calories should come from fats?”

“What about ketones?!”

These questions come from well intentioned people who just want to lose some weight. They are – understandably – baffled by the amount of information about the “right way” to lose body fat and spend a great deal of time worrying about what they should be eating.

There’s a step you can take before changing anything in your diet.

Something that’s so monumentally simple and straight forward it almost seems not worth bothering with.

Eating slowly.

Whatever you’re having to eat, eat it slowly. Chew it thoroughly. Put your knife & fork down while you chew, and really be mindful about the flavours, textures and temperatures of your food.

Sure, there are way more complicated things you can be doing. But why start with something complex when you are able to get results with something more simple?

Slow down, pay attention, and stop when you’re no longer hungry.

This works for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives your body a chance to feel physically full.
  2. You feel psychologically more satisfied with what you’ve had and feel less deprived.

If you’re prone to digestive issues such as bloating or stomach cramps after eating, this can help some people. Physiologically, it stops you taking great big bites of food and gulping it down – because when you eat more slowly, you chew more thoroughly and that digestive process is helped along. This too has a psychological effect by making you feel sluggish or out of shape.

Eating should be a response to internal hunger cues – not because it’s a certain time of day, or Karen has brought snacks to the break room (again?! Damn it, Karen!)

Slowing down your eating can help you with your appetite awareness, helping you to tune into when you’re feeling hungry and when you’re getting full. This ability to listen to those internal cues are the start of the intuitive eating that could make up the rest of your life.

When it comes to binge eating, slowing down can help you to recognise what’s happening. It allows you to pause and catch hold of the panic which can accompany an episode. It can also allow you to become aware of the triggers that lead to binge eating, and help you to interrupt these patterns and feel more in control of your decisions.

It works even in circumstances where we might not have control over what we eat. How we eat is something that’s always in our control and doesn’t need any fancy diet foods or equipment.

Like everything, eating more slowly can be measured on a continuum.

At its most basic level, take one breath before you eat. Allow yourself to pause and savour the smells and colours of your meal. Feel gratitude for the food, and giving thanks to the people who were involved in making it is a really nice way to do this. Continue – one pause and one breath at a time.  

Try to move the needle by eating without distractions. Put your phone away, don’t eat in front of the TV and make sure you eat at a table where possible. This is an opportunity to put down your fork, take a sip of water, or speak to your dining companions if you have company.

Remember this is a practice that takes time and can be refined. Honestly, this is something that I still really struggle with. I sometimes ask whoever I’m eating with to remind me to slow down.

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All Diets Work: an infographic

And what’s more, they all work the same way: by limiting calories.

The only factor that actually contributes to whether or not you lose fat is if you’re in a calorie deficit.

There are a ton of ways you can make this work in your life, but actually it all comes down to 3 things:

  1. You eat fewer calories than you expend. You diet.
  2. You expend more calories than you eat. You exercise.
  3. A combination of these things. Through diet & exercise.

That’s it. Astonishing, isn’t it?

Regardless of which diet you choose to use, that’s how it works. That’s their magic formula: calorie restriction.

They might restrict your calories in different ways though:

  1. By limiting what sorts of foods you can choose to eat.
  2. By limiting what times of the day you can eat.
  3. By limiting how much food you can eat.
  4. By limiting choices about what you eat by making choices for you.

I made an infographic to help clarify this.

If you found this useful, just leave me a comment to let me know that you liked it. Or better still, stick your best e-mail in the box below to jump on the mailing list to get exclusive offers, first looks at new launches and much more!

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