NUTRITION

Perception VS Reality

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So this is a topic that I know is going to stir up some strong opinions, and you may strongly disagree with me and that is ok! In fact if you do that’s great because that’s the start of a discussion and I would love to hear your input! So if you have a point you want to get across feel free to get in touch with me!

So body image is something that I know many of us struggle with, and I say us because I also struggle with body image, believe it or not, in body building body dysmorphia is rife, I’d go as far as to say that dysmorphia is probably at the core of the sport and made worse by it. Many of us are driven by a desire to be better and push ourselves to a limit, to be the best possible version of ourselves and this sometimes stems from the fact we are never “big” enough “ripped” enough, because of how we see ourselves. Hell in the sport the use of illegal steroids and performance enhancing drugs are rampant because of this desire to achieve a “perfect” physique that doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t it exist? Simple, because no matter how much we progress or achieve it will never be good enough, in our eyes.

This is made even worse by the fact we subject ourselves to the opinion of judges on stage, who if we lose, because nothing short of first is acceptable to many, affirms our worst fear, that our bodies aren’t good enough, and thus a vicious cycle begins, of comparing yourself to your competition, who you will always see as bigger, more aesthetic and more shredded than you, even if perhaps they aren’t.

And thus your perception begins to become your reality.

I bring up body building or at least what my experience of body building, because you can transfer many of the same pressures present there, to those of most people in everyday walks of life, we are always comparing ourselves to those around us and the ideals that the media presents us with, wether for a bloke it being the “thor” physique in a marvel film, or a fragrance ad showing a man in “peak” getting attention from women, or for the ladies constantly being shown airbrushed models on social media, with the best lighting and angels highlighting what for most will be an unachievable physique. Is it no wonder then that people have started taking drastic measures to achieve an impossible ideal that we will NEVER be happy with?

Social media has a lot to answer for as it has poured fuel on the fire, putting all these pressures even more in out face. You can’t go on Instagram without being bombarded with “influencer” models promoting USELESS skinny teas/coffees or weight loss shakes (that they don’t actually take themselves) or showing off a cosmetic company responsible for their lips/teeth/ and smooth skin or worse yet illegal fat burners (with serious health risks) and tanners, that make young women feel that they NEED to look like them and that is how they will do it. we are surrounded by it, which puts insane pressure on us to look a certain way.

In my own experience I realised I had body dysmorphia last year, but it wasn’t down the usual paths and to the few that I have told about this, they have dismissed it as my narcissism (unfairly in my opinion). I read an article last year about how young men were taking steroids to achieve the “love island physique”. This annoyed me, because from what I’ve seen of the love island guys the last few years those physiques are nothing spectacular, and what I mean is that those physiques are definitely achievable WITHOUT steroids. That is where it occurred to me, my mind-set came to that because I compete, I push my body way beyond those love islanders and so to me, they are nothing special because I compare myself to much higher standard, having competed against world champions and winning competitions myself, BUT for the VAST majority of men out there who DON’T compete the guys on love island are the peak to them! and they want to do whatever they can to achieve that look fast! the higher standard I hold myself accountable to caused me to see the competing physique as the norm, so anything short of that to me was sub-par, not good enough, so much so that when I was with a partner (this part maybe TMI) I was scared to take my top off because I wasn’t as “ripped” as show day, and I was stunned when she asked me if I was joking because she thought I still looked amazing. See how my perception wasn’t the reality?

Another moment was when my coach, was encouraging me to compete alongside him, and at first I couldn’t imagine stepping on stage with him as I see myself as very small compared to him, but if I walk into my gym no one would think I’m small, again my perception isn’t the reality.

This is true for most people! How we see ourselves is probably not how most of the world sees us, we have a nasty habit of only seeing the worst version of ourselves. I’m confronted on almost a daily basis with women, who look amazing, but feel terrible about how they look, or young men obsessed with achieving big muscles fast, because of how they think they are supposed to look.

Now this may sound a bit hypocritical coming from me, after admitting my own dysmorphia, but I honestly believe our focus should be on how we feel mentally and physically. If we feel epic inside, then it is my firm belief that this will reflect on the outside.

Healthy body image to me, is just that a HEALTHY body, it’s not this swing to accept all body types as this has led to an extreme response that has begun normalising being overweight and in some cases glamourizing obesity, perhaps part of a society that is afraid to hurt any one’s feelings, even if it ultimately costs that person their health!

We often hear people talk about “healthy body image”, but forget the key word there “health”. The one thing that should be at the forefront of peoples focus. There is a reason for phrases such as “health is wealth” or when all seems lost and “you still have your health” because that should be our most prized asset, if we are at our best! We can do our best, achieve the best and ultimately feel the best we can.

We as a society seem to focus so much on how others see us, that we allow that to colour how we see ourselves, and the image we present to other people.

I admit fully that how I see myself externally is not how others have told me they see me, and the recognition of this fact has allowed me to renew my focus on BEING healthy as opposed to LOOKING it, and would you like to know the results of that? I have received more compliments from people since then than I did before. By focusing on being healthy automatically I look healthier and people notice that fact, and the best thing is I’m not doing it for them.

Remember the images, we see online and in the media aren’t real life, they are an idealistic fantasy. It is extremely tough but if we focus on how we feel internally we can try to block out how the external affects us.

Feel your best and you will look your best, it’s a pretty simple concept really and one I feel we could all benefit from. It’s something I have focused on massively since I took a year or two away from competing and I personally feel much better, I’m actually stronger and fitter!

Ultimately we should focus on being the best version of ourselves and not what we think society wants us to be. Is it really worth it paying serious money in teas with laxative just to drop a few lbs, because you think it will make you skinny? Is it worth risking your health injecting harmful chemicals into your system to strip off body fat and increase muscle mass?

Beauty is subjective, and we can’t all be beautiful to everyone, or even liked by everyone. This is harsh truth but it is one we must accept, in order to truly accept ourselves and be who we are meant to be.

Remember to health back into healthy body image! Focus on feeling great and if you need help with that feel free to contact me either via the site or on social media! I’m here for that reason!

In my opinion a healthy body is a beautiful body! be your best and forget the rest, don’t let your perception ruin your reality.

Lose a stone in a week/month?

The truth behind rapid weight loss, is not a convenient one or one that may of us want to hear, but unless you are obese losing anywhere near that amount is near impossible and certainly not without its cons!

Firstly, I should probably start by making something clear, and that is fat loss and weight loss are NOT one in the same, they often go hand in hand but they are NOT the same.

Why do I say this? well quite simply fat is lost through a calorie deficit, it is the ONLY way to lose fat, and this rule applies the same no matter what diet is, be it keto, intermittent fasting, paleo or whatever diet you happen to be following. As I have written many times 1lb of fat = 3500 calories, and so you need to burn and be in a net deficit of that by the end of a week to lose even 1lb of fat. If you aren’t then quiet simply by the end of the week, you won’t have lost even 1lb!

So the question is? How did I lose a stone then? Or at least how did I lose 3-4lbs in the week? Simple answer water, you lost water, that’s all! Honestly a simple tweak in your diet, the time of month for ladies or even the time of day you weigh yourself can create a massive change in your weight.

If you have gone keto, or a low carb variant of the diet the vast majority weight you will have lost is simply water, and honestly this won’t necessarily reflect much on inches lost! This is due to how carbohydrates trigger water retention. 1g of carb can trigger 2.7-4g of water retention so 300g of carbs eaten in a day could potentially add 1.2 kilos of water to your weight!

For women hormones also play a big role in water retention, this can cause a fluctuation in weight sometimes by up to 6lbs! a similar fluctuation in weight can also be caused just taking your weight at different times of the day. I weigh significantly more during the evening hours compared to what I do first thing in the morning when my stomach is empty.

So why do we see people claiming that they have lost a stone in a week? Well as I said before, a person who is obese is carrying a lot of excess weight around, this means that that extra weight requires significantly more energy to move around, in the same way that lifting a light dumbbell takes little energy compared to a heavy one, a lighter person will use less energy than a heavier person, just to move around. This often means that as soon as they begin a diet, their calories deficit can be in the extremes! But a lot of their weight loss will be be water, but also significant amount of fat as well.

An interesting anecdote, is a former work colleague of mine was recently told by the docs they really needed to lose weight, as it was now a medical issue, and within his first week of dieting and exercise he has lost 1 stone 5lbs. Simply from a change in diet and being more active! It is important to note though this weight loss will slow down, as the water weight drops and the body settles into burning more fat.

A great diagram I am borrowing from Layne Norton PhD actually highlight quite well the relationship between weight loss and fat loss

So as you can see in the diagram above although the “weight loss” is greater with keto, the level of body fat lost (which is what we really want) is the same at just below 200g a day, and with the starvation that water weight lost and overall weight loss is MUCH great, so too is the loss of protein (muscle mass) which we want to keep. Which highlights the significant drawback of the starvation diet. Yes, you will lose fat, but you are forcing your body to consume what it needs as well to ensure your health.

The other drawback of extremely rapid weight loss is the creation of loose skin, this is where your body loses fat and water at such a rate and your measurements decrease so quickly that the collagen in your skin can’t keep up, resulting in stretch marks or loose excess skin. Again a friend of mine recently messaged me about what he can do to get rid of his excess skin as has now become very self-conscious about it. This is a man who went from being extremely overweight to now looking great in his clothes, but extremely conscious of the fact he has hanging skin around his mid-section, and the ONLY way for him to deal with this now? Surgery to get a tummy tuck.

Ideally we should aim for a maximum of 2lbs of weight loss a week, at maximum but it would recommend aiming for around 1lb of consistent fat loss, as this generally is far more sustainable, and healthier for you.

So what was the point of this rambling blog post? Well firstly it was to answer the question can you lose a stone in a month or even a week? Well YES!... depending on what diet approaches you take, how consistent you weigh yourself and for the ladies what time of month you weigh yourself can all affect how much weight you lose… But should you? Probably not! Most of the weight you lose remember will be water, and if you lose too much weight too fast you will end up with other problems such as excess skin and stretch marks, as well as risk losing muscle that we should be aiming to keep.

So what is my advice? Don’t look for fast weight loss, look for sustainable weight loss… in fact forget weight as a concept and go by measurements focus on the loss of inches as weight is a cruel numbers game that is going to play with your head, and measurements are far more consistent.

I have helped people lose tons of weight one girl lost 110lbs in 10 months! But honestly. I’m more impressed with the inches my clients lose, as that is the most accurate barometer of success.

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The Countdown Begins....

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So you set the date! For what? It doesn’t matter, it could be a wedding, a holiday, any special event the point is you have put it in the diary, its circled and you have now made a commitment. There is NO getting out of it anymore.

Setting a date is one of the most powerful weapons and motivators to get people to start their health and fitness journey and actually take it seriously, but why? The answer is simple, the clock is now ticking. You now feel the hands of time moving and NOT in your favour, because every day, hour, minute and second now brings you closer to your event.

However, this is not a bad thing, because this means you have a clear focus on your goal! Let me tell you from experience there are few things more driven than a bride hell bent on looking perfect and fitting into her dress on her special day!

When a date is set, a person tends to do things that perhaps they normally wouldn’t, they start to look more closely at their nutrition they take their training more seriously, all because they want to look good and feel great for whatever it was they have planned! Walking on the beach shirtless or in a bikini is a great example and one that I can personally relate to (shirtless, not the bikini)

We have an increased sense of determination, when it comes to what we eat, and may ask ourselves “do I really want this donut” or “do I really want that extra slice of pizza” when normally we may not have even thought twice about it. To be honest we start doing things, that perhaps we should ALWAYS have been doing, and this is why setting the date is so useful its often the kick up the backside most of us need.

Setting the date is so powerful, and it’s something many of us in the body building world do, except we call it “prep”. Prep is the process by which we have spent an “off season” building up our bodies mass, and there are many ways of doing this, some being better and more effective than others, but we do this up until we select our first competition of the season. As SOON as this is done, the clock begins ticking for us again. In this part of the process we change our diets towards the goal and focus our efforts on burning of the fat, perhaps by changing elements of our training but definitely by changing how we diet, and in some cases we will put our bodies through hell to ensure that come show day, we will look at our physical peak (even if we may not feel it) all to win that trophy. Interestingly, the process for a body builder (whatever category) and they laymen is very similar, the major difference is the level of intensity or extremeness that you are going to push yourself. Remember that when a body builder competes they are going against other people doing the same things, so they will push their bodies to the limit and beyond to achieve their goal, but does Simon from accounting want to do the same thing, if he is just wanting to look and feel better on the beach, hell no! he is only “competing” with himself, so he may do a lot of the same processes as the body builder but not to the same degree! What I mean is the rules of burning fat will be the same, calorie deficit and being more active, incorporating the structures to achieve a physique we are happy with.

The “date” is another way of creating a focus or motivation to inspire us to make a change to our lifestyle, to achieve something that will ultimately make us feel good about ourselves.

Often one of the first questions I ask my clients after they tell me their goal, is if there is a time frame. I do this because firstly it tells me if there is an underlying motivation behind their goal, but also helps me workout if their goal is even realistic. If a client’s goal is to lose 2 stone in say 12 weeks? Well yes that is achievable its hard but it can be done! If however their goal is to say lose 7 stone in 8 weeks, well that is unrealistic and the client needs to be made aware of the reality of what they are asking, (you would be amazed at how much some people underestimate the work needed).  Here setting the date takes on another useful albeit sometimes a cruel tool, it can highlight the reality of what the individual is wanting to achieve. Any goal in health and fitness (to an extent) is fairly achievable given an adequate time frame, but if your goal is unrealistic it can be a double edged sword, it can make you realise the reality of what you want to achieve, and understand the true level of commitment it will take to achieving your goal. A good example is that in weight loss aiming for 1-2lbs a week is about the maximum you should aim for consistently so 4-8 lbs over a month is health going. The problem is that when confronted with the scale of the task at hand some people are put off by the amount of hard work and rather than get started, will either give up, or continue to look for a quick and easy solution (which doesn’t exist or at least isn’t permanent). In truth setting the date actually reveals the kind of person you are deep down and this realisation can often be an uncomfortable truth to realise for some, and others a challenge that they relish.

I love setting the date as to me it creates a challenge and my own nature is very competitive and I found personally there is no better opponent than myself, however there is one serious problem with the “date” approach, and that is when it arrives, whether or not you meet your goal is almost irrelevant at this point. If you started and were consistent in your approach you may not have achieved the goal but you will sure as hell be a lot better than when you started! And people WILL have noticed! The problem now comes AFTER, the big “what now” with out that date, that focus and motivation can easily disappear if you let it. You can easily find reasons to go back to your old ways and slip back into your old self, and therein lies the problem.

The “date” should only be a means of getting started and personally I use them a lot but when you achieve your goal, you need to ask yourself a hard question “do I want to go back?”, if the answer is yes... then why did you begin in the first place…truly? You wouldn’t have started if you were honestly happy back then and if the answer is no, well guess what you have just laid an EXCELLENT foundation to work from! From this point on your life has changed you have proven you can get it done! Or make serious progress to a goal when you put your mind to it! and now you continue on this route of self-improvement.

Setting the date is a great start! But it is not the end of the journey, at least not on ROUTE 1

Sugar Isn't The Villain Here

So recently ive been on a bit of a roll blogging about carbohydrates, and this post is no different. Today we are dicsussing wether sugar deserves the bad reputation it has received in recent years through the media, and since sugar is a form of carbohydrate it is certainly worth discussing.

So is sugar really the villian that the media has portrayed to us in recent years? Is really that extra doughnut? Or slice of cake that is making you fat? Does all that sugar in a can of coke really make a difference?


Well here is the seriously interesting thing, and it’s that when you look at the data on sugar consumption and not the sensationalist media headlines, it has actually dropped since the 2000's, yet obesity has continued to rise unabated.

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

So why is this? Well, each year the US economic research centre releases a summary of food consumption patterns and it summarised:

"According to the loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans are consuming more calories per day than they did 40 years ago. In 1970, Americans consumed an estimated 2,039 calories per person per day; whereas in 2010, they consumed an estimated 2,536 calories (after adjusting for plate waste, spoilage, and other food losses).

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Of this 497-calorie increase, grains (mainly refined grains) accounted for 171 calories; added fats & oils, 225 calories; added sugar & sweeteners, 34 calories; fruit and vegetables, 10 calories; dairy, 27 calories; and meats, eggs, and nuts, 19 calories".

So we're eating about 500 more calories per day than the 1970's - that's equivalent to about a pound of fat per week, given that 1lb of fat is = to 3500 kcal, and 500 kcal x 7 days = 3500 kcal.

We're eating more refined grains (like cakes, buns and things containing flour etc) - easy to overeat as they have a very low satiety.

We're eating more fats and oils - the biggest increase in calorie intake, which are very calorie dense (fats containing 9 kcal per gram) and not very satiating (sorry keto fans).

So what about added sugar intake? A tiny 34 calorie increase in the last 40 years. THIRTY FOUR CALORIES!

Basically the issue here, is simply the calories, obesity is primarily linked to calorie excess, Fat containing 9 kcal per gram and Carbs (including sugar) 4 kcal per gram & Protein 4 kcal per gram. ANY of these eaten in excess, will lead to weight gain and all the associated health problems with it. The graphs above highlight this that its the increase in calories that have continued the trend of increased obesity, and that is what we need to focus on.

But, "Added sugar consumption is unhealthy" i hear you say, “that’s what the media tells me! That’s what Jamie Oliver and Davina Mccall tell me”.

Well, science also disagrees with that claim. A summary of the the clinical research to date on added sugar consumption and health found:

"We conclude that added sugars consumed in the normal forms in which humans consume them, at amounts typical of the human diet and for the time period studied in randomized controlled trials, do not result in adverse health consequences".

Which is basically a fancy way of saying: unless your  diet consists solely of coke, and haribo you should be ok.

Well… fair enough your dentist won’t love you, but you should be ok otherwise.




THE LIE ABOUT CARBS

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If you were unlucky enough to watch the abomination ‘THE TRUTH ABOUT CARBS’ on the BBC or on it's Iplayer, then it's time to set the record straight.

Dr Maassarani is a GP who thinks "Beige carbs" are somehow uniquely fattening. As has been covered elsewhere recently, GP's get next to no nutritional training, unfortunately. Not to be discouraged by a lack of training in the field of nutrition our Doc goes on to claim that: Most of the starch and sugar in these beige and white carbs are broken down into glucose for energy, and if you eat too much, the glucose is stored as fat.

Firstly, glucose is rarely, if ever, stored directly as body fat. Sorry Doc, that's just basic physiology. Suffice to say if you eat too much of anything- a calorie surplus -then you gain fat. Be that carbs, fat or protein. Carbs are not unique in this effect; yes Mr. Wicks, even those "healthy fats" can make you fat. But what's worse for our intrepid Doc is that he even lumps potatoes and rice into the beige claim!

Secondly, whilst there are studies that show that one person may have a differing sensitivity to carbs compared to the next person, which may alter the effectiveness and efficiency of their desired results, the overlying rule remains, calories in vs calories out; weight loss and weight gain goals are dictated by this principle. Further understanding how your body reacts to certain macro nutrients will certainly enhance the speed and effectiveness of your diet to you're desired results, but potatoes aren't why you put on weight, eating too much and not moving enough was.

So here are a few things to consider about carbohydrates, that refute a lot of what was said in the documentary:

1. White potatoes have one of the highest satiety scores of all foods -this means they keep you feeling full- good if your goal is weight loss, as this means less snacking, less likely to go over you're calories limits.

2. 127m Japanese and 1.3 BILLION Indian citizens may dispute his claim that "beige" rice (a staple of their national diets) is somehow the cause of all our weight gain woes, those nations having some of the lowest obesity rates on the planet! So why were his patients successful by eating more "green carbs" and omitting their usual beige fare? They ate fewer calories, plain and simple. Green vegetables are considered “free food” as they have very few calories and are often a negative calorie food when we consider the energy needed to digest them is more than they often provide us with.

Research also shows that low carb diets result in a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake, even if you're not monitoring your diet intake, this basically means that:


1. You're limiting one whole food group, so you have less choice. Less food variety a lower
calorie intake.
2. You eat more protein, upping protein intake reduces hunger = lower calorie intake.
3. By opting for "green carbs" over those supposedly nasty "beige carbs" you eat more vegetables, which are fibre rich and also contribute to feelings of fullness a lower calorie intake.
Clue: It's not carbs it's too much food (calories), period.