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.

Pre & Post Workout Nutrition

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

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

Do I Need Protein Immediately After Finishing A Workout?

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

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

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

How much protein is best?

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

What about carbs and fats?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrition Challenge: How to Manage Your Portion Sizes

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

Eat slowly

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

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

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

Eat your meals from smaller plates

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

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

Bulking your portions with veggies

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

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

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

Weigh and measure your portions

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

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

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

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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Trigger foods

Photo by Aliona Gumeniuk on Unsplash

What are they?

A trigger food is something that you eat (or drink) and struggle to control yourself. Once you start eating it, you find it difficult to stop and as a result you’re prone to eating more of it than you wanted to. With trigger foods, it’s common to eat more than you intended, or want to. It’s also common to eat trigger foods past the point of comfort – physical and emotional. 

For you this might be a particular brand of chocolate, or a flavour of crisps that you just can’t keep your hands off. But usually, it’s not just any chocolate, or just any flavour of crisps. They are quite specific. 

Why does it matter?

We care about trigger foods because we care about self sabotaging our goals. It can feel like you’re making progress with your diet and then you’re scuppered by these particularly tasty morsels, and things go off the rails. It’s not easy to make progress with your diet at the best of times, but if you believe that these foods cause you to lose control it can be especially challenging when they are introduced into your environment.

The overeating can have a negative impact on diet because through overeating you’re likely going to push yourself into a calorie surplus where you won’t lose body fat. But possibly more important is the impact on self control and therefore self talk – which has much longer lasting effects than one afternoon binging on Pringles. 

Six things you can do to manage trigger foods

1. Don’t eat the thing at all.

This might be the right choice for you under certain circumstances. For example, a zero tolerance to alcohol might be a good idea if you’re regularly drinking too much and it’s having a negative effect on your life. The benefit of this option is that you can start saying “no thanks, I don’t eat/ drink [the trigger food]” and sometimes just saying this can take the choice out of the decision. That’s really powerful, since often the thing that fatigues your self control is considering each time you’re offered what decision you want to make in the moment.

2. Buy them pre portioned.

This is really useful for crisps in particular. Rather than buying a single large ‘grab bag’ and relying on self control to stop after you’ve had a few – buy a multipack of pre-portioned crisps. You’ve got the same amount of food, but because you’d have to get back up and go to the cupboard to fetch bags 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 you’re likely to stop before you’ve eaten the same number of calories. 

3. Buy an alternative which you aren’t excited about.

Not all snacks are created equally. Finding a version of your trigger food which is okay but not great can be a natural way to self regulate. For example, if your trigger is a big bar of Galaxy chocolate – you could try buying an alternative brand, or even a supermarket own brand which you find less tasty. That way you can have some chocolate but you’re unlikely to go mad and eat it all in one go. 

4. Buy the absolute best best version – pay full price, savour it and practice 80% full.

The opposite strategy to the one above. Buy the most delicious, palatable top of the range snack you want. Pay full price for it and don’t buy it on offer. Sit down, savour it and give it your full attention. Then practice eating to 80% full, meaning you pay attention to how full you are while eating and eat slowly enough to take the edge off your hunger, and not stuff yourself full. As soon as you stop savouring the food, stop eating. This sounds simple, but takes a great deal of awareness and is very challenging. 

5. Put your fork down while you eat.

Another super difficult behaviour which on the face of it seems incredibly simple. We’re all so used to eating while busy – doing other things, rushing our food to get back to our work or whatever we were doing before it that this one is a challenge. While your mouth is full, put your fork down. Chew and savour your food, be aware of the flavours, temperatures and textures. Chew thoroughly before swallowing. It sounds simple but this is something I can’t do for an entire meal.

6. Practice self control like training a muscle.

Finally, the belief that “I just can’t control myself around [trigger foods] is just something that you’re telling yourself. You absolutely can control yourself, and it might just take practice. Control is a behaviour like anything else, and it might take a little practice to get to a standard that you’re happy with – but you won’t get there by telling yourself you can’t, and then never trying.

Start your practice with something easier – foods that you don’t especially like – and know that you can finish the meal later. You can just delay starting your snack for a minute, or five – and build your time up. 

Beginner’s Guide: Calorie Counting

I bang on all the time about how you don’t need to be low carb, or low fat, or IF, or any magic type of diet to help you to lose weight – you just need a calorie deficit from foods you can tolerate & some time.

But I realised this week some of you might not know how to calculate your calorie deficit. So this post is going to show you how. This is exactly the method I use when I calculate your deficit. You don’t have to pay some website to calculate your macros. You don’t have to pay a diet club to weigh you in each week. This is going to be enough to get you started.

To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. That means you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs at your current weight & activity level. Go to a website to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and tell it your age, height, weight, etc. The one I use for myself and my clients is this one: https://tdeecalculator.net/

No matter how active you are, tell it that you’re sedentary because once you start estimating your activity level the equations start to get a little bit off kilter. Ignore the bit about body fat. The next page it takes you to will give you your maintenance calories for the day and the week. This is mega useful – write this number down.

If your goal is to lose weight, roughly 1lb of body fat will ‘cost you’ 3500 calories. You can achieve this over 7 days by a 500 calorie deficit each day. This will yield a weekly loss of around 1lb, or 0.5kg. So take that daily maintenance number, minus 500 calories off it – and that’s your jumping off point for your diet.

“Is there any reason I shouldn’t diet more aggressively?”

No. Fast weight loss isn’t a problem. No research supports the idea that you’ll gain this weight back more quickly than a less aggressive deficit. Provided you can adhere to your calories, you’re golden. Keep in mind, the more aggressive your deficit, the harder it will be to comply with your diet. The idea is that you can actually stick to the deficit you set.

That number isn’t exact. The equations we use to calculate weight loss aren’t perfect, and the human body isn’t perfect at converting energy from foods, and the labelling of calories on the foods you eat aren’t perfect either – so the calories are a starting point that we tinker from. 

“Can I be in less than a 500 calorie deficit and lose weight?”

Yes, it will just be slower. For some people a 500 calorie deficit will be too much. A deficit is a deficit. Find a level that you can manage, and adjust your expectations accordingly. If you can be in a 250 calorie deficit every day, you’ll lose around 0.5lbs a week. 

“I have been in a deficit and I haven’t lost weight.”

There are all sorts of reasons why the scale might not reflect your weight loss:

  • You’ve eaten later than usual the night before weighing.
  • You’ve weighed earlier in the day.
  • You need to use the toilet.
  • It’s the time of the month.
  • You’ve eaten more salt, or processed foods, or carbs than usual.
  • You lifted heavy weights.
  • You’ve not slept well.
  • You need to be more patient.

All kinds of reasons. But if you actually are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. You can track your calories in an app. I use a free app called MyFitnessPal & this is great for dieters of all levels because until you can look at a meal and know from experience how many calories are in it, this can help you to keep track of those calories.

A final tip for you and it’s a game changer – you can see your calories as a weekly total, rather than a daily total. This allows you to save calories up for events, or pay calories back over several days if you’ve gone over one day. This perspective can give you some freedom over your planning, and it can give you some peace of mind – you don’t need to be perfect every single day. Just keep an eye on your weekly totals.

Hiring a personal trainer seeming like an expensive indulgence?

Making the decision to hire a personal trainer, or coach, might seem like an expensive choice. After all, there’s so much information available online for free, why would you pay for something that you could probably figure out yourself? You can figure out your own training stimulus, right? It can’t be that hard. A few push movements, a few pull movements. Throw in a few squats for good measure and job done, right?

It isn’t an indulgence to put your health first. You are worth your own best efforts. And if that still seems too selfish, your family, or the other humans around you depend on you. If there are others who look to you in any way for support, you have a moral obligation to be fit and healthy to be the most useful to them as you can be. You can also bank on your own health not being a problem or issue for you and yours to manage. And if there’s no one relying on you, and you’re only looking after yourself – then arguably it’s even more important that you can back yourself and your health as much as possible.  That’s not an expense, it’s an investment.  You’re worth investing in.

Sure, maybe you enjoy reading through programming textbooks, or blogs for ideas on how to properly and safely tax your muscles, or properly load your joints. Maybe you enjoy hours of YouTube analysis to make sure you can deadlift with perfect form without risking your back… but maybe you don’t, and would rather pay a professional to take that burden off your already busy, too-full hands.

If you wanted to learn to drive, you’d pay a driving instructor, even though someone in your family could probably do the job. If you wanted to pass an exam, sure you could just read the textbook from the library – but you’d do a better job with a professional teacher. You can feed yourself, but are you a chef?

You can probably do an okay job of the gym too – but how’s that worked out for you before? Stop and start, with some small progress? You go through the same routine week in week out? It’s definitely better than not going, but what if you made an investment in yourself, in your health, in your goals – for yourself, and for the people around you – even for a short time –  and see how it works out?

Perfect is bunk and it’s destroying your progress

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!

How many times have you started a diet or training regime only to have it fall to pieces a few weeks in? How many times have you started over – knowing that this time, you probably won’t succeed in reaching your goals?

It is absolutely staggering that the majority of people are unhappy with the way they look – and look at others with an attitude of “if only I looked like that, then I could be happy” and then expect this negative outlook to give them the ability to love their bodies enough to nourish them properly and train hard. So many people feel this way. It is a serious, serious problem – and I’m saying that with 10 years experience as an academic psychologist. This attitude is toxic and it will seriously impede your progress towards your goals!

You don’t have to have 100% dietary compliance in order to reach your goals. But what you do have to do is consistently steer yourself towards those goals. Fallen off the wagon and over indulged? Doesn’t matter. Your goals haven’t changed. Get back on track. You can correct your progress literally with the next thing you put in your mouth. This is actually really liberating – you can adjust your sails and be back on track before you know it.

Do not wait for tomorrow. Do not wait for Monday. Do not wait for new year. Your goals are important – simply make your next choice one that gets you a step closer to where you want to be.

Ask yourself: do I still want this?

If the answer to that is yes, then keep working towards it. If you can’t stop thinking about your goal, don’t stop working for it. You are worthy of your own efforts! You know that in order to lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (that means that you have to eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain fat). It’s no mystery. You don’t need a magic pill. What you do need is a reality check:

  • This will take longer than you want it to. Do it anyway.
  • This will not be a linear process – you may not lose weight every week, even when your dietary compliance is 100%. It simply doesn’t work like that.
  • When it doesn’t go your way, quitting will not speed it up. Chucking it all in the fuck it bucket will just set your progress back. Good enough is good enough. Just keep plugging away!

This is difficult because it’s not glamourous. There’s no potion, or wrap, or detox cleanse that will help you with this. Many of you reading this will be nodding, thinking “yes, I know it’s about CICO and there are no shortcuts”. However, you may underestimate the level of patience that success requires. You must keep trying even when your body doesn’t yet show changes. You must keep trying even when hot cross buns come into the supermarket – and you love you some hot cross buns. You must keep trying even when it’s cold, and wet, and you don’t want to train because you’re tired.

Dig deep. You will get there. It’s a process, and change takes time.

New Year’s Resolutioners: Keep Turning Up!

You’re almost three weeks into your dietary change. You’ve been prepping meals, and counting calories and macros for nearly 3 weeks. And you’re maybe hitting a wall. Maybe you’ve even had to restart and are fighting to keep these positive new changes in place.

You might have read about how it takes 30 days of a new behaviour for it to become habit. This is bullshit. Don’t set yourself up to fail with this absurdly short window with which you want to make behavioural changes. The actual research literature in this area suggests far longer time periods must pass, with daily repetitions, before you can start to consider behaviours to have become habitual.

I want to talk to you about something you’ve probably been trying to convince yourself of: the power of sticking to your resolutions, aka Keep Turning Up!

You are writing the story of your life. You are the hero of your own story. Write a story that you are proud to tell. So when you’ve promised yourself that you’ll make it to the gym after work, get that kit packed up, and schedule time for it. Even when you maybe don’t feel like it. Forget that, actually. You should go especially when you don’t feel like it! You’ll be so glad afterwards that you went and you’re riding that endorphin wave! Driving home with your music on, and your hair all sweaty. You’ll be so proud of yourself.

Don’t have a goal of running a marathon if you’re only just starting out. Give yourself a nudge towards success by creating stepping stones on your journey; I resolve to eat one piece of fruit tomorrow, or I will cook with one vegetable at each meal. Resolve to get to the gym and move your body for at least 30 minutes. You have to nudge yourself to success through incremental changes, that you can consistently apply, and gradually build on. That’s how good dietary and training habits are formed – not enormous landslide changes all at once. You can’t expect those to stick, the jump is too great. Instead, change something manageable and keep that one thing under control. Stick with that for a while before adding in anything else. Sure, it’s not a sexy, grand way to change your life – but this method is far more successful for most people.

You can think of it as the architecture of success. You’re now creating a framework that will scaffold your future behaviours, so build a good solid foundation! Believe it or not, you have a huge amount of control over your health and fitness related behaviours: You can always choose to give 100% best effort, and live your best life. Practice making good decisions now, and you’ll be able to draw on those memories of times you were successful to strengthen your will and enhance your resolve in the future.

Next, I want you to comment and tell me what your self nudge is going to be today! Keep it small enough to manage, remember. This is a promise you’re making to yourself.

Do something to get your closer to your goals today! Don’t wait!

This time of year is peculiar. Christmas has passed, New Years hasn’t yet arrived. You’re knocking around the house in a post-Christmas slump, filled with mince pies and confusion, not really sure what day it is because none of your days have any structure.

Maybe each night you go to bed and resolve that tomorrow will be different. You’ll go for that bracing walk to blow your cobwebs away. You’ll clear out the cupboards of all those left over festive snacks. Heck, while we’re thinking about it, maybe we’ll even join a gym. Yes, in fact that sounds like a marvellous idea, and at midnight – when you really can’t do anything at all about that idea – it seems splendid, the world is your oyster! You fall asleep feeling entirely pleased with yourself, and committed to your new brilliant idea.

However, in the morning, when you could do something towards that goal, you choose not to. You stay in your dressing gown, drinking coffee after coffee and putting it all off.

Stop. This is a pivotal point.

You feel motivated late at night because there is no cost to feeling that way. You can be gung ho about all sorts of ideas (joining the gym, writing that novel, exploring Iceland on a nomadic photographic backpacking trip) because you can’t do anything about that right now. It’s a fantasy. It’s safe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging those ideas. It’s a safe place and time to figure which goals are important to you.

After that your behaviour needs to change a bit if you’re to actually achieve those goals.

Decide something that you can do right now – today – to get you one step closer to that goal. Let’s say your goal is to drop some fat after the holidays, right? I’m guessing a lot of folks feel that way. Set yourself a SMART target. You’ve probably heard about these before in other areas of your life, but they are absolute gold.

A SMART target is one which is:

  • Specific: So, instead of losing some weight, be specific about how much weight. 10lbs, 25lbs, 100lbs.
  • Measurable: You need to be able to keep track of your progress so that if things are going well, you know about it and if they aren’t you can adjust your sails a little. Some internet gurus say not to weigh yourself. “Stay off the sad step!” they implore. I’ll write more about this soon, but really, having some way of checking that you’re progressing towards your goals is obvious. Get a reliable, digital bathroom scale and write your weight down each week.
  • Attainable: This is about having small steps and doing something every day to get your closer to where you want to be. If you currently are taking absolutely no exercise whatsoever, living on a diet of chocolate and mince pies and have a debilitating knee injury, it is not an attainable goal to run the London marathon in the next 2 weeks. An attainable goal is about setting yourself up for small wins. Breaking your goal down into manageable steps, and working on those consistently.
  • Realistic: Give yourself the tools you need to succeed. If that’s a dietary related goal, get a set of kitchen scales and some tupperware. If it’s a fitness goal, spring for those new trainers you’ve been drooling over. This isn’t a bribe, or a frivolous indulgence. Your goals matter – you are important. Treat yourself and your goals the way you would support your best friend, or child, if they came to you with the same goals. If your kid wanted to join a karate class, or a football team – you’d get them the kit, and drive them to the matches wouldn’t you? Do yourself a solid and extend yourself the same courtesy.
  • Time bound: Having a time frame to work to isn’t to make you bust your hump for some arbitrary date in the future. It’s so that you give yourself check-points along the journey and give yourself opportunities to adjust your behaviour if your performance isn’t coming along the way you’d like. It’s to help keep your eye on the ball as you progress. For example, let’s say you want to lose 25lbs by your friend’s wedding which is 20 weeks from now. You have an idea of how much you need to lose each week to get you to that point: 1.25lbs per week. You know how hard you have to hit that diet to achieve that goal. If you had only 10 weeks to lose the same amount of weight, you’d need to lose 2.5lbs – and you’d have to hit that diet in a more aggressive way, and be far stricter with your nutrition and exercise to achieve it.

So… what do you do next? I want you to write down those late night flashes of brilliance. The things you’re inspired to do once you’re already in bed. In the morning, I want you to convert it to a SMART target and get serious about it. You can comment below if you need help to do this. Then, do one thing, something to help get you a little bit closer to it. I want to hear what it is so drop me a comment – because I know we could move mountains, if we had a good enough plan! Get after it!