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.
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.
This Saturday the nutrition class asked if we could talk about
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
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
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
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.
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.
Calorie dense – often high in sugar, fat & salt
Intense flavours – often combining flavours in ways that psychologists call “supernormal stimuli“
Immediately delicious – the big flavours pack and immediate punch
Easy to eat – this relates to the texture and ‘mouth feel’ of foods which don’t need to be heavily chewed
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.
It’s no secret that I have struggled with meal planning.
In times of high stress, it’s always the first thing to get binned off for me.
In fact, you could probably take a pretty good inventory of my current stress level at any given time by opening my fridge and seeing how out of date any fresh food is – or if there’s any in there at all.
It’s an embarrassing thing for a personal trainer and nutrition coach to admit.
I sometimes feel like this is something I should have cracked 100% by now.
I remember telling my mother that one of the interventions that I use with clients when they’re feeling overwhelmed with their diets is the simple question, “have you got any proper food at home right now?”
She looked at me like I was daft.
People pay you for that?!
But I know that it’s not as straight forward as it sounds. That loads of people struggle with their food. Probably more than they struggle with their training.
Myself included. Which is why I can say with confidence that if you struggle with this too – it’s not your fault. It’s a common issue.
When clients tell me that they are struggling, we’ll actually solve the problem. I’ll stop their training session to go with them to do a quick food shop.
It’s a problem we can make progress on pretty simply.
You see, nothing needs to be perfect to be good.
You don’t need a perfect training plan. You don’t need a perfect diet. You just need one that works for you.
Meal planning – like literally everything – works on a continuum.
On the one hand, you put absolutely no thought whatsoever into what you’ll be eating next, let alone the rest of the day, or the rest of the week. The decision about what to eat doesn’t occur to you until you’re already hungry and might involve grabbing something from a fast food drive-through because right now you’re ravenous.
On the other hand, you might spend one whole morning out of your weekend food shopping, writing family menus for the week, and batch cooking food to store in little labelled tupperware pots. You leave nothing to chance. Nothing passes your lips without it being weighed, measured, and tracked in MyFitnessPal.
Between these two extremes though, there is so much room for progress.
It could mean browsing the restaurant menu before you arrive and making a choice before you get to be screaming hungry.
It might mean ordering a side salad as well as your regular meal. When this gets easy, maybe order it instead of your chips.
It might mean prepping your breakfasts for the week in advance and just winging it for the other meals.
It might mean including steam bags of veg that you can tolerate and mixing them through each time you cook rice. Don’t worry about the variety of veg for now, and don’t worry about not cooking everything with dirt on that takes a month to peel.
This is about removing barriers and doing just a little bit better. These choices can really add up, but individually they don’t take a great deal of planning or effort.
This week, I am working on an old classic for me: I want to eat at home more often than I eat out. I am such a lazy cook that I’ll buy a Subway on my way into Tesco.
I want to know what you’re going to do this week – what 1 change you can make that isn’t going to take a heap of effort – to move the needle just a tiny bit on that continuum.
One of the most overlooked parts of meal prep for the week is how you actually sit down and execute your plan. People ignore this when they set their intentions for the week because they feel confused and overwhelmed about how it can fit into their lives.
That’s why I am taking all the confusion out of how you take action! It’s much simpler than you might think.
Step 1: Have a plan.
Start with a meal planner. I have one of these stuck to my fridge that I bought from Wilko but here’s a simple one you can download. It’s not fancy – download this and print it off.
Step 2: Plan when you aren’t going to cook that week.
I find starting with known meals out, birthdays, or other celebrations is a good one. So if you know you have your anniversary meal on Tuesday night and you’ll be working late on Thursday, and will be ordering a takeaway to your office – put those things in first.
This can help you to keep these things in mind so that you don’t over eat that day, and can help you to look forward to those special events.
Step 3: Protein inventory.
Go into your kitchen, and figure out what you’ve already got by way of proteins.
Proteins usually come from animals and animal products but for vegetarians and vegans you’re looking at things like Quorn, tempeh and legumes.
Start with things in your fridge because they’re going to have a shorter date than the stuff in your freezer. The use by date is a massive stressor in my cooking life, and we’ll have to make sure these items are eaten first so we don’t waste food.
I had an awesome tip yesterday from my in person client, Clare: when you’re putting your shopping away, write the day it needs to be eaten by on the product in a sharpie. I think this is simple and so useful. Far easier to connect with than a date.
Step 4: What proteins do you need to buy?
Here’s a downloadable cheat sheet to help you figure out what else you like. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one of the problems I have when I sit down to do this task is that I get a total mind blank on what foods I’ve ever eaten in my whole life and enjoyed.
Have a look at that – go through it with a highlighter, or a sharpie, and highlight the stuff you enjoy, or would be curious to try – or cross out anything that you know you don’t like, or are allergic to.
Step 5: The smart move! Reusing proteins.
Where can you cook raw ingredients and use them more than once? So if you know you’re cooking up 1kg of mince beef for pasta bolognese, after it’s cooked, take half of it and add kidney beans and spices to turn that into chilli for the next day. I am definitely a lazier cook than you so any time I can cook once and eat twice, I am up for that!
This take a little bit of thought and if it’s too challenging for where you’re at with your cooking right now, don’t worry about it. An easier alternative is just to cook loads of one thing, and portion it into Tupperware to freeze.
Step 6: Adding carbs and veg.
The cheat sheet from before includes carb and vegetable sources, but all we’re doing really is adding these in quantities which support our diet goals. And the great news is that you can’t get this wrong! Just pick whatever you enjoy eating.
Looking to lose weight – add more veg than carbs to keep calories lower.
Looking to gain weight – be a bit more generous with your carbs to increase your calories overall.
Carbs are things like potatoes, rice, pasta, cous cous (sounds pretentious but really it’s ridiculously easy to make so it’s good with me), quinoa, oats, noodles, wraps…
Vegetables – there’s no difference between fresh and frozen really so the choice is one of budget and convenience.
I particularly like frozen fruit – things like pineapple, mango and berries which can be really expensive bought fresh, prone to going off before you can use them, and often only in season for a short while. These are awesome in a smoothie.
Like re-using our ingredients in different meals (beef becomes bolognese and also chilli), think about repeating one meal a day or even cycling between 2 meals.
So for example, breakfast A could be eggs, and breakfast B could be a protein smoothie. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday could be A, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday could be B.
This can sometimes be prepared ahead of time but even if it isn’t, it takes away a lot of the thinking needed – which I find is the part of the process which gets tiring.
If you used the resources, I’d love to know about it! Please leave a comment to tell me if you found this useful.
Getting organised with food is probably the biggest barrier for most people, and there’s no one way to get this exactly right.
It’s a continuous process, and we’re all just doing out best not to eat like knobheads all of the time.