Don't rely willpower!
There was a study made over twenty years ago by Brian Wankink on the sustainability of food packaging. During the study, he accidentally made a discovery.
They were giving moviegoers bags of popcorn to see if they ate more from large packets. They ran out of large packets so had to use much smaller one’s (110-calories). What they found was that people with four small bags at half as much as those with the large 440-calorie bags. The participants also said they would pay 20 percent more if snack companies sold them in smaller packets. So, Wansink had discovered that you could make more money by selling less food! Brian Wansink is a multiple author and has done over 1,200 studies on eating behaviours.
What is clear is that we are totally at the mercy of our environment.
What does this mean?
We don’t know as much as we thought we did about our eating habits. We make hundreds of decisions each day, all based on things in our environment and different cues. In another study by Wansink, they gave 2 out of 4 participants a bowl of soup that (unknown to them) was refilling automatically. These two participants ate over 70% more, yet did not say they felt fuller. The take home here is, we eat with our eyes and not how hungry your stomach feels!
The visibility of foods and utensils has a heavy influence on how we eat. Studies show that the bigger your plate, the more you eat. If you can see a food nearby you are more likely to eat it thank if it’s 6-feet away or more (again another study shows this).
Where you eat, in which room, how you set the dinner table, what you can hear, TV on or off. All of these things will have influence on how you eat and your habits surrounding food.
When you start to look at these factors instead of relying on willpower, you can begin to setup your environment to work for you and thus create more consistent, healthier eating habits.
We talk about “motivation” being our driving factor constantly and yes, motivation is key when trying to kickstart your health journey.
That boost of excitement that causes you to...
✔️Run to the nearest mall to grab a new pair of gym shoes and a few cute workout outfits
✔️Stock your fridge with the freshest ingredients to prepare all of the new healthy meals you found on fitness blogs and Pinterest (guilty!)
✔️Purchase a fancy, shmancy fitness planner to document all of your workouts and track your calories...
Basically just leaving you feeling super excited for what’s to come and the badass results you’re going to get
Then, reality hits...
It hits quickly, without warning.
Maybe you had a shitty, long day at work.
Maybe you had a fight with your significant other.
Maybe you went a wee bit overboard on indulgent food and drinks over the weekend and you’re feeling sluggish and bummed.
Whatever the reason may be, you lose your “exercise mojo” and the realities of life make it difficult to get your workout in.
Listen, it’s freaking awesome to feel enthused and sparked to start a new program, but keep in mind that motivation can be affected by SO many things.
So here is my challenge for YOU: focus on building healthy habits rather than relying solely on motivation to help you reach your fitness goals; habits that you can follow-habits that will just become a part of your daily routine.
This is this key to long-term success.
This is the way to stick to your fitness/nutrition plan even when your motivation level is low and you just don’t feel like doing the damn thing!
Stop guessing & start progressing....
It's no wonder I get asked this question a lot as there are so many bits of conflicting and varied information out there. Let's start with the RNI (recommendations) for adults aged 19-50 (not including pregnant or breastfeeding women)
Adults will get a lot more protein than the RNI per day (men approx 88g/women 64g). This is where most of the confusion lies. These figures are the amount you need to survive and function and not based on your goals or activity levels. Generally, the quality and source of protein in most peoples diets is poor.
There was a recent 'protein summit' in Washington, D.C. where over 40 nutrition scientists gathered to discuss protein and human health. Although the summit was sponsored by animal-based food industry groups, it did produce an independent report that was published in the 'American Journal of Clinical Nutrition'. (1)
Based on all the research presented at the summit it was agreed that you could actually aim to consume up to twice the RDA (American daily guidelines which are pretty much the same as ours)
This is about 15% to 25% of daily calories from protein, depending on your sex, age or activity levels.
The debate goes on...and on...and on...
All I can do is tell you from experience what I've found to work with clients.
If you want to lose body fat and keep or increase lean muscle. Here are my simple guidelines.
Keep things simple but be consistent!
Stop guessing & start progressing...✌️
1. You DON'T have to get washboard abs
You get overloaded with images of men and ladies with 6-packs and washboard abs. For most people this isn't realistic and it doesn't necessarily mean you're 'healthy'. Be realistic and set yourself up for success not failure. Looking at your overall health and not getting obsessed with achieving chiseled abs or a perfectly sculpted butt will help you to lose weight. Although it may be aesthetically pleasing, there are so many more benefits of exercising and losing pounds. Improving heart health, bone density, posture and mental well-being are just a few!
2. You DON'T need to do endless cardio
You may think that losing weight means endless hours on the treadmill but it doesn't. In fact if you only do long bouts of cardio it can have the opposite effect and your body starts to conserve energy (calories). By mixing things up a bit with 'high-intensity interval training' and weight training, your body will become a more efficient fat -burner. Your metabolic rate will increase, burning more calories at rest and muscle is more metabolically active helping to burn even more calories.
3. You DON'T need any specific products
There are endless gadgets, fitness and weight loss products out there promising quick and easy ways to shed the pounds. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is! There is no short-cut or easy option out there and you are just waisting your hard eared money. Improving your daily habits, eating better consistently and keeping active are what's important, so keep focused on this. In the end it comes down to burning more calories than you consume. Variation is key to both keeping the body guessing and to keep up your interest and enjoyment. Try new things, experiment and have some fun!
4. You DON'T have to give-up fruit
Some of the popular 'diets' out there get you to severely restrict or ban fruits all together. Fruits contain fructose (natural sugar) and the body deals with this differently to processed sugars. Because of the high levels of water and fibre, the body digests fructose slower, impacting on blood sugar levels much less. Another advantage of fibrous fruit is that it slows down carbohydrate absorption and helps to lower cholesterol. So eating fruit can actually be an advantage when it comes to losing weight.
5. You DON'T have to go gluten-free
There has been a lot of publicity about gluten-free diets over the last few years. Some promote going gluten-free as the best way to lose weight but this is just not true. Yes, if you have an intolerance (celiac disease) or gluten sensitivity then it is a healthier way to eat. If you do have either celiac disease or a sensitivity, it affects the function of the immune system by damaging the intestines and adversely effects gut health. Gluten on it's own doesn't constitute an unhealthy diet, it's your overall intake and food choices that needs to be improved.
6. You DON'T have to skip meals
Trying to cut calorie intake by skipping meals regularly is one of the worst things you can do. This is a sure-fire way to feel hungry which leads to poor food choices like unhealthy snacks and overeating. You will also feel irritable, tired and have poor concentration levels. Space out your food and snacks over the day (5 times per day is a popular way but find what works for you). Go for nutrient-dense high-fibre, quality foods in the right portion sizes (veggies make great snacks).
7. You DON'T have to go 'fat-free'
If you consistently go for the 'fat-free' options or totally cut out butter or other fats then you could be left feeling hungry. Studies have shown that those who include healthy fats in their diets feel less hungry and are more likely to stay on track. Instead of going for fat-free versions of your favourite foods, try eating these foods in moderation and the right portion size. Eating better quality, minimally processed foods in the correct portion sizes is the best way to lose weight long-term. Most of the foods that have had the fat reduced or removed have sugary substitutes instead (so could actually be working against you).
8. You DON'T have to eat silly amounts of protein
Protein is important for your overall intake but eating more and more won't help you lose weight. A target of approx 1g per pound of body weight is a starting point. Your body-type and activity level will dictate if you need slightly more or less. An even easier way to get the right amount of protein is to use your hand-size as a guide; 2 palm-sized portions for a man and 1 for a woman (per meal). There are 4 calories of energy per gram in protein (the same as carbohydrate) so be aware of this. Essentially the body doesn't know if it's getting calories from protein, carbs or fats. Check what goes into a lot of the 'high-protein' foods as they can have a high sugar intake (some protein bars have more sugar than a chocolate bar).
Stop guessing & start progressing...
Recently there has been studies that suggest eating breakfast may not be as important for weight loss as we thought. In my opinion eating a healthy breakfast will give you energy, nutrients and curb cravings which leads to better food choices for the rest of the day.
Here are 7 of the most common breakfast choices that will not be helping your waistline (and 7 healthier alternatives!)
1. High street speciality coffee
It is becoming more and more popular to have a speciality coffee as a substitute for breakfast. This is especially true for city workers and commuters. Something like a regular 'frappuccino' or 'macchiato' has up to 7-8 teaspoons of sugar (depending on add-ons) and way over 300 cals. Don't be fooled by some of the 'healthier' options as well. Some of the 'tea lattes' can have up to 14 spoons of sugar. Thats more than a large bowl of sugary cereal! These drinks lead to an almighty sugar spike and then crash, leaving you feeling hungry and increasing cravings for more sugar!
Healthy alternative: Go for a small rather than a large or super-large. Skip the added whipped creams, syrups and sprinkles. Choose soy or almond milk if you like them.
Juices can be lower in calories and have as many vitamins as a traditional smoothie but they can also contain more natural sugar than a can of coke. These natural sugars cause a quicker insulin spike than when you get the sugar from whole foods. Also they tend to lack fibre so won't fill you up so by mid-morning you are feeling really hungry.
Healthier alternative: Stop juicing everything in your blender and eat whole fruits. Or have fresh fruits in Greek yogurt or a higher protein breakfast.
3. Pancakes and waffles made with refined flour
Starting your day with pancakes and waffles made with refined flour isn't the best approach for weight loss. They don't contain much protein or fibre that will help make you feel full. Bagels and muffins also fall into this category. An egg-based breakfast or something higher in protein has been shown to be more effective than a carb-heavy breakfast for shifting belly fat.
Healthy alternative: If you really must have some pancakes or waffles then try using a whole grain flour. You could also try having a small portion as part of a more healthier breakfast.
4. Flavoured yogurt
Some yogurts could now be classed as junk food because of the amount of added sugars. As well as 5-7 spoonfuls of added sugar, these flavoured yogurts can contain artificial thickeners and other nasty's.
Healthier alternative: Get plain Greek yogurt that is high in protein and flavour yourself with fruits, nuts and seeds.
5. Store-bought smoothies
The smoothie has a reputation for being a health food and If done properly they certainly can be. However, the store bought or high street versions can be anything but healthy. With clever marketing and packaging you can be easily duped into thinking you have the holy grail of health food in the palm of your hand. Having looked at some of these off-the-shelf smoothies I can tell you that some have more calories than a burger and fries! Some also contain over 15 spoonfuls of sugar in a large bottle. Even some smoothies that have natural sugars can contain as much as fizzy drinks, so be mindful of that.
Healthy alternative: Make your own 'Super-shake' with healthy protein like Greek yogurt and add fruits, veggies, healthy fats (no added sugars).
6. Cold 'whole grain' or 'high-fibre' cereals
Whole grains and high fibre foods are of course important. Again, be aware of other stuff they put into the mix as they may not be of good quality. There will be hidden sugars in a lot of these cereals as well as a low carb to fibre ratio. Look for 3 grams of fibre per 30 grams of carbs.
Healthier options: Try plain whole oats, oat-bran or original shredded wheat.
7. Breakfast rolls
We are all a sucker for a good old bacon and egg roll sometimes but they could be adding a lot of low quality extra calories to your day. The problem with these breakfast rolls or sandwiches is that they will contain low-quality carbs and not enough protein. For example you may have a bacon and egg in a white bap. This will usually only have one egg, be made with low quality bread full of sugars and additives and fall short of your protein targets.
Healthier option: Homemade whole-grain English muffin with lean bacon and two eggs. You could also try whole-grain bread or wraps.
Stop guessing & start progressing...✌
Have you heard about Apple Cider Vinegar?
I have had a few people ask me what I think about it and what it claims to do for your health. So, I have researched it and looked for studies that back-up the things being said.
Apple cider vinegar has been touted to cure-all, purify blood and help you lose weight. However, just like a lot of these new 'super-foods' some claims are over-hyped and exaggerated. That doesn't mean that you should chuck yours away, as there are some potential benefits.
Firstly, let's look at three of the things that ACV can't do that you may have been told it can.
Now let's look at some benefits that are backed-up by science.
How much ACV to take.
Stop guessing & start progressing...
My favourite thing about this time of year is the inspiration I get from all the amazing food that's in season.
Here are 10 superfoods that you should be using in the kitchen this autumn!
Be Happy, Be Healthy...Nick
Ok so pumpkins are part of the 'winter squash' family but it deserves a little mention of its own. This halloween decoration is also a superfood packed with carotenoids, fibre, vitamins B, C, E, iron, potassium and folate. You could use pumpkin for soups, muffins, flavoured rice and cous cous.
2. Winter Squashes
As with the pumpkin, winter squash is full of nutritious goodness and carotenoids which may give protection against heart disease and cancers. Probably the most well known is the butternut squash but there are a huge variety of these autumn veggies for you to try. Think of tagine, risotto or roasted when you come to cook them.
This one is a bit controversial but I love sprouts! Sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable the same as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are high in anti-oxidants thought to reduce the risks of diseases. Don't over cook these until they're all mushy, sauté with some bite, add garlic, onions, ginger or chestnuts.
4. Sweet Potato
Like all these foods listed you can get them all year round. However if you get them locally and when truly in season you will get the best out of them. Sweet potatoes are what I like to call a 'smart' carb and contain vitamin A, C, calcium and potassium. As well as the usual mash or wedges, try using them in curries, soups or even as a dip.
This little beauty has a whopping 40% of your recommended intake of vitamin C and is packed full of anti-oxidants. Pomegranate makes a great snack on its own, sprinkled in salads or yogurt and it goes great with salty cheese.
The humble pear has to be one of my favourite fruits and are a great source of vitamin C and copper. Pears are a good choice if you want to increase your fibre intake. Getting enough fibre aids digestion, improves gut health, controlling blood sugar, helps weight management and improves skin health. You could blitz them in smoothies, slice on yogurt or toss in salads. Check out my'pear & halloumi'
These nutty, sweet, white root veggies contain high amounts of potassium and are very versatile. Potassium helps to balance the negative affects of salt and lower blood pressure. As well as making good mash they work well in soups and stews. Roast some off and use them as a handy snack.
This may be an obvious one but apples most certainly a food you should be eating ("an apple a day...") Eating plenty of these during the autumn will give your anti-oxidants a big boost. Make sure you eat the skin as this contains the most nutrition, much more than the flesh alone. I put apples in smoothies, salads or healthier gluten-free crumble.
The grapefruit is a good choice to start eating during the autumn months. It is high in vitamin C and can give your immune system a real boost. Some studies suggest this fruit can help lower stress levels and lower cholesterol levels. Great on it's own but goes well with cumin and coriander.
I was actually surprised when I researched the health benefits of dates (yes those little brown things your nan would try and feed you!). As well as being a good source of protein, potassium and fibre, they contain 23 types of amino acids and 15 different minerals. You can use dates as a binder or natural sweetener. Eat dates sparingly because they are high in fructose (sugar).
Fat loss is still the most common goal for people I work with. There has never been so much nutritious food available, gyms, trainers etc. There is probably too much information out there, that's half the problem. So I am going to give you 20 things that have been scientifically-backed and proven to work!
Be Happy, Be Healthy,
Author, Nick Lower
Welcome to my blog!