The thing about Fatloss is that its an ongoing process, forever. It does not last for 12 weeks, or the lenght of a Meal Plan or one of these "Body Transformation" Programs. We all fluctuate in weight, fat %, water retention etc all the time. How much depends on our lifestyle and how we eat and exercise
I don't do Meal Plans for clients as a rule. Mostly because i believe Meal Plans should only be created and delivered by real Dietitians. So its not that i am totally against Meal Plans, but they certainly have a limted value. And i am sure they are effective in serious medical situations. A Meal Plan may get someone thinking the right way, they may help someone drop weight quickly. But after that there has to be a sustainable program built into a persons life to continue to live a balanced life. You cannot keep getting someone to write meal plans for you forever, its just not sustainable.
I am a Nutrition Coach, much like a Personal Trainer, S&C Coach or Sports Coach, which i am all (jack of all........), its really about cajoling people into making better choices. Yes, thats actually what sports coaching is about believe it or not. Yes its good to have a plan, but i Coach to leave a person, athlete or team to be fully in control of what happens when i'm not there to help.
Success for me is;
Nutrition - When somebody tells you they are enjoying their food much more and they have lost the guilt for having the odd bag of chips or few pints. They are living a balanced life and making conscious choices with food so those social occasions are so much more enjoyable. They also appreciate food and enjoy their meals more, that is critical.
S&C Coach/Personal Training - Well as much as it may not be great business, when a person does not need to come into me much more than once a month or every 6 weeks (or even never again) for a check-in and i am simply programming for them, then i have succeeded. I have educated them and given them the tools to look after themselves to a large degree. They may still rely on me to stay up to date with science and adjust their programs for novelty and stimulation, but largely they can do it themselves. Its an Irish thing to withhold information and keep "secrets" but i see that as ancient impalement upon us as a nation. I have old clients who occasionally show me what they are doing just to give a once over, and they know exactly what they are doing. Well they know enough anyway. Like me as a coach, they have their principals, they have their fundamentals and they work off that. That's actually something i am very proud of. I imparted enough information and delivered it well enough for them to grasp and indeed grow an appreciation for it.
Team Sports - Is when you have people out on a field who take control in times of crisis or pressure and essentially you become a Half time consultant to the team. When a team is at that point, you have succeeded as a coach. All you need to do then is manipulate training and the message to maintain motivation, pick the team and basically facilitate the players.
None of these happen over night.
So in Nutrition, how does one learn to empower themselves and build habits to live a sustainable healthy life where you have a positive relationship with food. What simple solutions can i give to people to achieve this Nutritional Utopian state of mind?
Here are 6 suggestions. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but master some of these and you will see significant change after 4-6 weeks and beyond. If you did nothing but 1 & 2, you are absolutely going to see change.
1. Eat Slowly
This is no.1 because it may well be the most powerful habit that anyone can build. Eating slowly is more important than;
Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your digestive system to say its full.
One simple approach is to time your 3 main meals for maybe 3 days. then try and add 5 mins to each. By adding 5 minutes you will have to slow your eating. This is a central habit to changing nutritional habits and indeed losing fat if that is what you desire.
Some simple tips to help with this are;
The benfits are;
2. Eat to 80% Full
Eating to 80% Full is not a new concept. The people of Okinawa, Japan have a saying "Hara Hachi Bu" which translated to English means "eat to 8 parts full". The people of Okinawa live between 6 & 10 years longer than any Western Country. Now this may not be the only reason, but its a good starting point. Their diet also puts an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes (soy foods) and fish. They also have been practicing modern forms of "Mindfulness" for years thru Tai Chi. Essentially if you were to be brutally honest about our culture here in Western Europe and parts of Japan the difference is, they want to live as long as possible, we want to live as fast as possible.
Modern Science can tell us that it takes around 20 minutes for our digestive system to work correctly and send the right signals to our brain about being full. So between anecdotal evidence of long life living and science we can start to form a reasoning as to why 80% full works, because 80% is actually probably 100%, we just do not know it yet.
A nice little approach here might be to divide your plate in 2. Eat slowly as we discussed above. However when you finish one half, sit back and really think about your satiety. Are you full? How Full are you? Are you 3/4's full? Are you nearly full? Maybe you should wrap it up and wait for later?
I will discuss more below, but that is being really conscious of what you are doing. Its a modern problem, we are very unconscious of what we are doing as we go around living. Food is the most apparent. Food is just shoved into as a necessity. We need to re-centralize it.
But finding out what 80% full is takes practice, it does not happen straight away. Its about half way between "i have eaten way too much and i can't get off the couch" to "i'm starving and i'm going to kill somebody".
Other tips to go with this;
3. Be Conscience of what you are eating
One of the most common things one will hear said is "just going to grab a sandwich". Its easy, in a pack and not going to delay you too much. But what if i told you that that sandwich was probably the limit of the amount of starchy carbs (the bread) that you should eat for a day. Starchy carbs slow our digestive system. Some are definitely good for us, but not too much. So when i look at some peoples food diaries they are often in-taking 5-8 starch portions a day. This is huge. Its extremely common in the irish diet. Typical day for many;
So, to avoid this we need to become conscious of what we are eating. Look and think about what you are eating. Its all connected to slowing down.
What is on my plate?
Do i taste it?
Do i even like it?
Is this plate balanced with Carbs, proteins, fats?
Is it too much?
Is that the 4th day in a row i have had mince? I need variety.
Change is not always easy and its always slow. But thats fine. If you ask yourself some of these questions you will find your own answers. When you find your own answers, you learn better.
4. Think in Behaviors as opposed to outcomes
We all have goals, we all have things we would like to do. I have had discussions with clients over the recent past where they have had a clear goal (an outcome they desired). That would be something like "fitting into a bikini" or being "slim and lighter for my sisters wedding". Or maybe i want to run a 10KM race. To do any of them we have to create some behaviors that will help us reach those outcomes. But they have to be realistic. You are not going to lose 20KG in 8 weeks. You won't run a 10KM in 4 weeks if you never ran for distance before.
However you can break down your outcome goal into small behaviors that you work on every day.
Eating slowly and eating to 80% full are 2 excellent choices for fatloss, but also for long term healthy living. Master those in this fashion, starting with slowing down, and you will make significant changes. Allow 2-3 weeks with each behavior as well. You will fall off the horse, you will forget. Just get up again. Take your time. In 6 weeks you may have a completely different outlook on life, and food.
A behavior is something you;
You cannot control the outcome, but you can control the behavior.
Instead of "i'm going to lose 5 KG for the wedding" - say, "I'm going to slow down and enjoy my food every day, and i will exercise 4 times a week"
5. Is hunger a signal or a noise? Listen hard
To survive and live we need to eat. We all accept that.
But do we always need to eat when we think we do? Well going by obesity levels of course we don't.
Sometimes we get food signals, but sometimes these signals are only noise. It may come from emotions, feeling of rewards deserved, or smell, habits, offers from friends or family. Anywhere, the signal to eat could come from anywhere, at any time. Walking past a bakery, walking into your mothers kitchen, getting a coffee - that muffin like!
We feel we need food, we think we need food, other people think we need food, the environment we are in screams food.
A great tip i got from Precision Nutrition Coaching was, if you hear the word "should", then that is probably noise.
"I should eat lunch now as its 1pm, but i am not really hungry" - Well then delay lunch, if you can. Or eat a little and leave some for 3pm break or after work.
Other people heading to lunch is the noise. Observe this first, so you notice people leaving. Try to recognize this noise, name this noise (as in describe it). People may ask "are you coming for lunch?". But you still have the choice. If you are not hungry and you say "no thanks, i am not hungry yet" then you have taken control.
"Awareness leads to change. We prevent bad decisions before they happen." (Precision Nutrition 2017)
6. Do the Opposite
This is actually alot more than a Nutritional tip, take this one around with you everywhere. If something is not working, how about trying the complete opposite?
If your team is losing and you are a drills based coach, why not try and do everything thru games?
If you are struggling to lose weight by training 6 days a week, maybe reduce to 3. See what happens?
Or if you are not eating breakfast, why not start?
If you eat 3 square meals a day but still struggle with weight, maybe spread it out over 5-6 smaller meals.
If you want to get healthy and fit, get accountable. That may only be to yourself, or your wife, or even better your kids (they will not let you off the hook). It does not have to be a PT. That's doing the opposite.
This is actually so beautifully simple, but can be very effective. Its not always going to give you the answers, but it narrows down the possibilities.
1. Leong SL, Madden C, Gray A, Waters D, Horwath C. Faster self-reported speed of eating is related to higher body mass index in a nationwide survey of middle-aged women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(8):1192–1197.
2. Lemmens SG, Martens EA, Born JM, Martens MJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Staggered meal consumption facilitates appetite control without affecting postprandial energy intake. J Nutr. 2011;141(3):482-488