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.

Nutrition Challenge: Alcohol

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This Saturday the nutrition class asked if we could talk about alcohol.

It gets over consumed, particularly this time of year, with so many social events going on. You don’t want to turn down the invitation to come over for a glass of wine – because you don’t want to turn down the company of your friends and family. You don’t want to miss out on those memories, and that’s completely understandable.

But the concern is when you start over consuming alcohol – and that looks different for everyone. Perhaps the 2 or 3 glasses a night to take the edge off makes you feel a little apprehensive. Or maybe you’re strictly tee total all week, but once Friday night hits, you’re more of a binge drinker.

Alcohol can be tricky but not impossible to include in a healthy diet. The main issues are that it stimulates appetite, usually leads to you making less than desirable choices because your judgement is impaired, and definitely will be making it harder for you to enter the deepest stages of sleep.

Like anything, I think the solution lies in what we can do to move the needle just a little bit. You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely – that might not be the right option for you. Instead could you drink 2 glasses instead of 3? Could you include a soft drink in-between alcoholic drinks? Or could you sip the drink so it lasts longer?

Like so many things we do nutritionally, noticing where you’re at right now is the first step. Studies suggest that our own estimations of our alcohol consumption is often under reported. Alcohol is about making trades – it’s one factor which can affect physical performance, health and fitness and it’s linked with others. But giving up the weekend happy hour with your colleagues, or the beers with the rugby may or may not be worth it for you. You’re an adult and you know what’s best for your body.

It might make it harder to get to the gym on Saturday morning if you’ve been out on Friday night. It could make it harder to say no to food which isn’t in line with your goals that night and the next day. It is also likely to make it harder to sleep well and wake up rested.


There’s no best answer because the research on booze isn’t super clear, just like what counts as “moderate” consumption is unclear. Instead of a right answer, let’s try finding an answer that’s right for you.

Figure out your current drinking habits by keeping an accurate record for the next week or two. We’re just collecting data, and this is just for you to look at – no judgement, and no need to share it with anyone.

Review your data, and consider whether it’s what you expected. Are you drinking more or less than you thought you were? Is your drinking slow, social and savoured or do you tend to be alone, and slamming it back? Can you spot any triggers – such as always drinking after a particular shift in work? Does alcohol actually enrich your life, or does it cause you stress and unnecessary worry? And is your drinking okay, but all the other behaviours that come with it (eating choices, smoking, texting toxic people, possible drug use) could do with being looked at?

Notice how alcohol feels in your body. This is such an astonishingly simple test. “Does this feel good?” was the question that allowed us to figure out that my husband was actually allergic to alcohol!

Aside from the physical test, does it put you in a good place emotionally, mindset and general perspective? Remember, alcohol is a depressant. That’s why people use it to take the edge off a difficult day. Do you like who you are when you’re drinking?

You’re a grown up, and you’re in charge of what you put in your own body. What you say yes and no to, as well as what you’re prepared to say yes and no to – is your choice. But it can be a useful exercise to make drinking alcohol mindful again: Delay having that drink by 10 minutes, when you do choose it – savour it, and keep the quality high. Ditch the firewater for the good stuff, remember, it’s going in your body so quality matters.

If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, it might be worth talking to your doctor or other healthcare professional about your consumption, habits and choices.

Nutrition Challenge: I’ve Got a Sweet Tooth!

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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.

You’re Not Too Busy

You’ve moved house. You’ve got a new job. And holy smokes, you just realised you have a family!

How can you fit your gym routine around your life that you’ve only just realised is hectic?!

OK first of all – you don’t have a “gym routine”. You have a commitment to your health. That’s not frivolous, or shallow, or vain. You’re working on being the healthiest version of you possible because there are people in your life who love you – and they are trusting you to keep yourself as healthy as possible. You have a responsibility. It’s not selfish – your health is held on trust for all those who adore you.

Secondly; all that shit that’s keeping you busy? Almost all of it is not temporary. Your busy life is permanent – and the vast majority of the things you’re dealing with, you’re going to be continuing to deal with for the foreseeable future. So making anything fit into your lifestyle needs to be carefully planned and considered.

All the reasons why you’re too busy to train are all the reasons why you should be training regularly.

Your family need your focus – so get in the gym early, get yourself sorted out, and go home to be with them. You can’t pour from an empty vessel so being energised and strong ready to play around with your kids and be present and comfortable with your husband or wife – that needs to happen first.

Your work keeps you busy – so being strong and focused and healthy would only benefit your professional commitments, right?

You can’t find the time – so work out early in the morning with a trainer that can accommodate you (me!) or late at night when the gym is empty. These “anti social” time slots are great because the facilities are quiet and you can get your work out done without interruptions.

Here are some of the things you can do to make exercise fit into your life:

Have a plan to follow.

This doesn’t have to mean hiring a personal trainer; there are lots of options. You could get remote support from an online coach. You could follow a programme you have downloaded online or access via an app. If you’re into it, you could even write your own plan. But don’t hop around from programme to programme too much. More important than the specific exercises that you’ll be doing is having a plan of when you’re going to fit training into your week.

Early morning exercise.

“I don’t want to get out of my warm bed to train at 6am” you cry, as though everyone else is sleeping in horribly uncomfortable beds and 6am happens at some other time of day for the rest of us. If you’re genuinely stuck at finding 30 minutes in your day to work on your health, you’re almost definitely wasting a lot of time, and time can be found for most people if you’re looking for it.

Workout during lunch.

One of my clients always uses her lunch hour to walk. She goes around her workplace, clocking up several miles a week and remains focused on that as a priority. This is super smart because walking is awesome exercise, obviously – but even better, if you’re on the move, your terrible colleagues can’t find you and give you stupid shit to do.

Walking.

One of my favourite methods of the time poor is a quick walk around the block. Doing this once every hour, or before & after meals can be an easy way to prompt a positive habit that doesn’t take very long. If you have a dog, this becomes even more fun – and your dog will love you for it.

Exercising at home.

There are bodyweight programmes that you can follow online, on YouTube, or even my own 60 day core challenge if you need more structure and support. There are fitness DVDs to suit all abilities – you can even get your family joining in with you.

Working out with a group.

One of the most popular options among my guys is working out in a small group. The Tribe – as we call it – look forward to these sessions because it becomes a social event as well as a health consideration, you see one another progress and it’s a chance to support each other. This might be in a structured setting like a gym, or in an outdoors event like a running club, or even a team sport in your area.

Doing something is better than nothing. If you’re looking for a way to make exercise part of your life, please don’t wait for conditions to be perfect. Think about it – when was the last time you weren’t busy?

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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