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.

Nutrition Challenge: Alcohol

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

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!

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.

Staying Full on a Diet

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

This morning’s workshop on nutrition was requested by a member who had been dieting for a while, but struggled to feel full on the foods she was choosing. When she started to feel hungry, she’d overeat and that made it difficult for her to achieve her weight loss goals.

The request came in last week. As I always do, I took a week to think about the problem and start to suggest some solutions. The ideas I had seemed to be grouped into two camps; those relating directly to food choices, and those which did not.

Stuff that isn’t about food

Indirectly, much of the content of last’ week’s article on mindful and emotional eating seemed to apply – particularly with regard to not eating while distracted, such as while watching TV or on your phone.

Increasingly, people feel pressured to eat lunch at their desks and take a working lunch. I’d encourage you to avoid that if at all possible. Your work is almost definitely not so indispensable that you can’t spare 10 minutes to walk away from it for a snack and a break!

*If your job actually is life and death then obviously don’t bin it off for a sandwich and a prolonged bathroom break. Don’t be a dick.

Actually planning meals, and becoming organised with cooking helps. It also helps to know when you’re getting to eat next, so you don’t eat like an arsehole out of hunger because you don’t know when the next meal will be coming & you’re panicking. 

Remember when you were a kid, and you’d be told “don’t eat that now, you’ll spoil your tea” – same principle applies. Except now you’re the responsible adult… but also the hungry and impatient kid.

Noticing when you get physically hungry during the day and planning a snack for that time can be a great strategy for some. I’ve had a few clients talk about the 2pm chocolate bar fix, or the bag of nuts on the bus ride home that could – if they weren’t careful – spoil their deficit for the day. 

Rely on diet drinks, and zero calorie pop to satisfy that sweet craving instead. Some people may also feel fuller and less hungry by selecting a fizzy, carbonated drink. There is absolutely no reason why you should be avoiding aspartame, no matter what your colleagues told you.

Last week, we talked about the good old Precision Nutrition strategy of eating to 80% full, and putting down your fork as you chew. An incredibly difficult, albeit super simple, target. Even managing this for one meal a day can make a huge difference to how much you appreciate your meals. 

The actual food choices

Regarding the food itself, last week we talked about drinking a big glass of water before and during the meal to feel fuller & help your food digest more easily. 

This week I’d add that avoiding heavily processed foods can help feelings of fullness. This is one that I have relied on in the past, and it’s related to the point about getting organised and preparing food. If you aren’t prepared the chances are you’re going to end up with something processed, which probably won’t fill you, and will probably cost more than you want to be spending. These foods get expensive quickly and are of variable quality. It’s not the end of the world now and again, but it better suits your diet, and your pocket, if you can be a little bit better prepared.

Selecting a lean source of protein at every meal will be a good start, as protein helps you to feel fuller for longer – it’s highly “satiating”. If you’d like a list of possible protein sources, check out this infographic I made, about the bang for your buck you get with different protein sources. 

Finally, adding volume to your meals by adding as many vegetables as possible – a low calorie, high fibre option which makes it seem like you’re eating loads of food, even when the calories remain low. 

For more tips on managing your diet, like my Facebook page, join our free Facebook group and download my free e-book to help you with exactly this issue.

Emotional Eating

“I can’t stop emotionally eating!”

If this is you, you aren’t alone. Around 60% of my clients list this as a “major challenge”, with over 50% saying they have “intense cravings” and “snack when not hungry”.

This doesn’t just mean when things are negative either. Celebrations and social events are emotional too. 

The goal is simply to notice and name each time these episodes of emotional eating happen. 

  • Sunday evenings when getting ready for a new work week
  • Each time you make arrangements to see certain friends or family members
  • Communicating with your ex about the kids

The first step in regaining control is becoming aware of when the behaviour happens. Identifying the trigger means you can disrupt automatic behaviours and make different choices.

Sitting there at the end of your meal, bloated, thinking “how on earth did I let this happen again?!” is not uncommon, and you definitely aren’t alone. 

But what can you do to make sure next time you’re more in control of your choices?

Get to the root of the craving.

First comes the urge, then comes the eating behaviour. Finally, the reward is the big hit of dopamine you get for eating the food you wanted. But the more often you give in to the behaviours, the stronger that craving can become.

So – we notice and name to find the trigger. 

This is often something in the environment, such as sights, smells, tastes, locations or the company you’re in. If we track when and where these urges occur, we can adjust our environment and disrupt the cycle. 

Keeping a cravings journal might be as simple as keeping a document on your phone. Each time you feel the urge, you open up the document and record the follwing:

  1. What are you craving? Specific foods, or certain flavours or textures.
  2. Where are you? Location is important, but also other environmental cues like smells or visual information – adverts, billboards, etc.
  3. What are you doing? Driving, watching TV, working on something repetitive?
  4. What are you feeling physically? Actually hungry, shaky, tense, lightheaded?
  5. What are you feeling emotionally? Anxious, rushed, upset?
  6. What are you thinking? “I’ve already messed up the diet, I might as well go for it now!”
  7. Who is around you? Be specific about the people.

What. Where. Task. Body. Heart. Mind. Who.

You can keep a journal like this for a few days, or a few weeks. There are almost always patterns to how you’re feeling before you start craving. Once you’ve found the pattern, here are some things you can do to combat them:

  1. Put it into a time out. Notice the urge, sit with it for 5 minutes without taking any action. This is about making an active choice, rather than mindlessly hoovering up delicious things in your immediate area. Your choice is more likely to be rational rather than reactionary. Consider whether you’re actually hungry – I like to do this by checking “would I eat ham, jacket potato and a big salad now?” if the answer is yes, I’m probably hungry. If I answer no – I do just want that ice cream, I might be procrastinating, bored, stressed, or otherwise emotional – and that’s okay. I still might choose to have it. But then it will be a choice – and then I’m less likely to feel bad about it afterwards.
  2. Do something else which doesn’t involve chewing. Walk around the block, go wash your hands, spend 10 minutes cleaning up, or delete the random photos out of your phone for a while. By doing something engaging for a little while, you might chase that urge away. This is because your cravings are almost always psychological rather than physical and most feelings are pretty fleeting. If you’re actually hungry, the craving will still be there in 15 minutes. If you aren’t, it will probably have gone by then. You’re just trying to occupy yourself for a short period – a little buffer to divert your attention.
  3. Try fasting. This won’t be right for everyone, and it shouldn’t be something you consider if you have any health issues. But it can be useful to feel real hunger, and to learn to listen to your body’s actual physical hunger pangs. Lots of people treat hunger as an emergency – and one that requires immediate attention and action: it isn’t an emergency to be hungry for a short while. You will find that hunger comes and goes in waves – usually in relation to external cues like mealtimes, socialising or environmental stimuli. You’ll get hungry, you’ll get a chance to really feel it and then it will fade. It can be quite empowering to know that you won’t collapse and the sky doesn’t fall in if you don’t eat for a few hours.
  4. Eat right during the day. It’s way more common to overeat during the evenings rather than during the day time, possibly because you’re restricting what you eat during the daytime, or making less filling choices. Protein and fibre from low calorie veggies help to fill you up, and can help you to feel fuller for longer. So if you’re prone to wanting a little extra something after your evening meal, it might be that what you’ve eaten during the day could do with a look. Nourishing your body throughout the day with lean protein and high fibre can quieten that evening voice that encourages you to go on the hunt for “something nice”.
  5. Have the snack. There are several strategies you can use if you still want the snack. 
    1. You could have a rule that whatever you want, you have to make yourself. Want cake? OK, you can have it, but it’s got to be home made. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.
    2. You could have a rule that you can have the snack, but it’s got to be bought immediately before eating from a shop that’s over 15 minutes away, or that you walk to. You don’t keep it in the house. Remember the importance of your environment. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.
    3. You could have a rule that you can have the chocolate, but it’s got to be super expensive, premium chocolate – like £5 a bar – and then savour every piece. You’re less likely to wolf it down, and less likely to do this every day. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.

Get the idea? You want to put some buffers in between the urge and the behaviour to make sure you really want to do it rather than doing it mindlessly, or before you’ve really considered if this is what you want.

If you still feel like you need some help with what to eat, you can jump over onto the free e-book I have, which has plenty of ideas on how to structure your meals for the week, the day, and by macronutrient. It’s super easy to follow, and it’s FREE.

Give Yourself Permission To Grow

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

“I’m not the sort of person who…”

Fill in the blank. 

“…is good at maths.”

“…is comfortable with public speaking.”

“…is into exercise.”

As adults, who we are can sometimes feel set in stone and too established to change. We have made a decision about who we are – and who we are not – and we live our lives within that decision, avoiding the things we’ve decided we’re no good at, or don’t enjoy, and keeping a closed mind to new possibilities. 

I want to talk about identity, and how – if you so choose – you can change your identity and pivot into new areas which interest you.

You aren’t hostage to the person you were at school, hating cross country and being sullen.

You no longer have to be the unhappy shell you were while you were while with your ex. 

You don’t have to be the person other people think you are. You don’t have to do any of these things if you don’t want to. 

Before I was self employed, I was a psychology lecturer for 12 years. For loads of that time, I was really overweight. I was outspoken and dismissive about how “running and jumping” were for people who couldn’t amuse themselves with a good book, and I felt really connected to the identity of being someone who values intellectual pursuits over physical ones.

When I started going to the gym, I didn’t tell anyone about it because it didn’t fit with the way I had presented my values. This created stress and internal conflict because I had this wonderful thing I was part of and I couldn’t tell people about – it was changing my idea of who I was. The more I came to value training and the benefits I was getting, the more it threatened my identity of the cerebral psychologist – someone living so much in their own head, that they even taught you about yours! 

It wasn’t until I left teaching and chased after this full time that I realised that identity that you create for yourself is something that you can change whenever you want to.

You are not your job title, or the role in your family, or other label, and that’s absolutely fine.

Good. Awesome, in fact.

It frees you to attach to far deeper values: I am kind, I put family first, I am non-judgemental – these signature strengths you already possess which make you wonderfully and uniquely you.

It also absolves you of having to endure an identity which may no longer fit you properly, or that restricts you. Maybe there are qualities you want to develop – like a wish list – qualities that you want to work on. 

The first step in developing your wish list qualities?

Invest in those qualities. If you want to develop your creative side, write or draw or crochet. If you want to improve your knowledge on a subject, enrol on a course. If you want to work on your business, hire a mentor.

Invest in the behaviours that you value. Invest in your happiness, your health, and invest in your life. Back yourself the way a true friend would, and give yourself permission to grow.

Your Diet Isn’t Your Identity

”Yeah, I’m doing keto and I’ve lost 8lbs.”

1. If you’re only “doing keto” during the week, and you’re increasing carbs on weekends, you’re almost certainly not in ketosis. You’re just in a perpetual state of feeling shitty, never working through that rough patch and making it out the other side.

2. Even if you are in ketosis, you definitely aren’t after the weekend because about 30g of carbs will knock you out of being a fat burning keto ninja back to being a regular mortal like the rest of us.

I’m not going to hate on keto: Keto works. All diets will work.

Let me expand.

You don’t need to be in ketosis to lose weight. And being keto only helps you lose weight because you’ve cut out an entire macronutrient group making it way easier to be in a calorie deficit.

It’s the calorie deficit that matters, not the carbs. But if keto works for you, great. If you find it easier to skip carbs than count calories, that’s cool with me. Just don’t think that because you don’t count calories that calories don’t count. They still matter.

Your diet isn’t religion, don’t allow yourself to be drawn into arguments about what’s best or which diet is the one true way.

Which brings me to a bigger issue: your diet isn’t your identity. Don’t get too attached to any one method (keto, paleo, weight watchers, slimming world, Atkins etc) – stay focused on the principles. These are what matter most rather than the methods you might use to get the result you want. 

There are lots of methods you can use to achieve your weight loss goal. Methods are the route through to your goal. Some methods will work better for you than others. Others will work for you for a time, and then other methods need to be found. Stay flexible – these choices are unimportant.

All diets work and they all work the same way: they create a calorie deficit. An energy imbalance. The question is which one is right for you and your lifestyle and preferences at this point in your journey. 

Cast a vote for the sort of person you want to be.

Today I want to talk about where you spend your money and time. Whether that’s on the things that support your vision of who you want to become, or take you further from it.

Do you invest in a gym membership that you never use, because that casts a vote for the you that you want to become – but you’ve not yet found a way to make it fit in with your current lifestyle? Do you begrudge paying for great quality fresh ingredients, because you don’t yet see that as an investment in your health? Maybe all that you need is a perspective shift.

Next time you consider sacking off the gym, or not hitting checkout on those new headphones… new trainers… or new bike – think about whether this supports your goal of who you want to be. Every decision you make every day is a vote for your identity. Make them deliberate choices for the person that you’re trying to grow into.

1. Keep this decision at the front of your mind.

If you’re trying to start a couch to 5k programme, keep your running shoes by your front door where you’ll see them every morning. If you’re trying to drink more water, keep a big bottle on your desk and keep topping it up. Don’t hide things away out of your sight where you might forget about them. Keep the fruit bowl full and on the counter where you’ll pass it every time you walk into the kitchen. Join the gym which is on your way home from work. Maybe think about getting an accountability partner to meet you at the gym, or just text you to ask if you’ve been.

2. Make sure it’s desirable.

Making something an attractive prospect in terms of fitness can be tough in the beginning when you don’t yet know what you enjoy. Some ways you can achieve this is to join a gym which offers classes as part of your membership. This way you can hand over your training for that hour to the fitness instructor, and you don’t have to think of something yourself to do. Over time you’ll learn which movements have a low barrier to entry for you, and a higher barrier to entry for you. For example, I never have to talk myself into a rowing workout, or deadlifts, or a bike ride – but I often have to talk myself into a run. That way when motivation is low – just go do your low barrier movements.

3. Make it super easy.

Ideally, you want to make the habit so simple that you can start it – and finish it in less than 2 minutes. This likely means doing something on a smaller scale than you might want until it has become second nature. It might be something like just putting on your running shoes – don’t worry about running the couch to 5k, just lace up and then see how you feel. Lacing up is the whole goal. If you want to eat more veggies in your diet, get the ones which are already prepped and take almost no work. It’s more expensive to do it this way, of course, but if it’s the difference between you getting your broccoli for the day, provided it’s within your budget – go for it. We can think about making it cheap once it’s easy.

4. Make it gratifying.

A satisfying behaviour is one you’re more likely to repeat, so find ways to reward yourself. For example, if I attend the gym 3 times this week, I’ll get a new workout shirt. Or if I complete the couch to 5k programme, I’ll get myself some new trainers. Eventually, the behaviour itself will become the reward but in the beginning, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Spend time reflecting on how completing the behaviour made you feel, possibly even write it down somewhere and formally consider that as part of your practice.

Another tip for developing habits that contribute to the sort of person you want to be is to track the behaviour in a habit tracker. There are all sorts of apps and stuff for this, but the easiest way to start is to put a tick on a calendar on the days when you perform your habit. Now after only the second day, you’ve got a streak going and the only thing you’re trying to do is not break this streak.

When I was a teacher my students would use this app called Forest to help them study. They turned the app on when they started to study and it started to grow a virtual tree. The longer they studied, the more elaborate and beautiful the tree grew. The more episodes of studying they performed, they’d grow more trees. They’d come to class, and be comparing the size of their little virtual forests, and they’d get quite competitive. Each of them knew how many hours their classmates had studied the day before, and many of them studied so long that the app even planted some real world trees – and they loved that!

It’s not a perfect system, but it is a system to get started – and often that’s all we need. 

Many of the ideas discussed in this article come from James Clear’s excellent book “Atomic Habits”. For a more in depth look at how to start a good habit, and how to break a bad one, it’s definitely worth checking out.