Healthy Eating Myths That Set You Up For Failure

Healthy eating is really fashionable at the moment, and as a result, everyone is trying to get in on the act.

The problem with that is there are now an overwhelming number of healthy eating rules that pretty convincing people (celebrities, bloggers, health coaches etc) swear by. But have you ever looked into how valid these rules are?

I’ve put together the 5 most common healthy eating rules that actually make you less healthy and more likely to gain weight.

You should give up sugar 100%

Sugar is the villain of the moment, and with  good reason too. When eaten to excess, it gets laid down as fat, and research has linked sugar consumption with diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Oh it rots your teeth and makes you look old before your time. But, just because going sugar-free is all the rage, doesn’t mean you should take it too literally. That’s because, try as you might, cutting out sugar in entirety is near impossible, seriously limits your diet and is actually not as healthy as you think.

For example, naturally sugary foods like fruits and root vegetables, that are often axed by sugar-free advocates, are also packed with good stuff your body needs, like fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.

Plus, the vast majority of people who decide to cut out all traces of sugar from their diet end up craving the stuff more than ever before and eventually find themselves caught in a cycle of being 100% sugar free one week, and bingeing on all the sugar they can find the next week. The end result? Yo-yo weight gain, which research has shown makes you more likely to be overweight than if you just eat a moderate diet and avoid the swinging from sugar-free to sugar monster.

You need to refuel with a shake after exercising

This is true if you exercise like an athlete and your goal is fitness.

Why?

Because hardcore exercising (that’s exercising for more than 90 minutes in one sitting) will deplete your glycogen stores and if you don’t replenish them, your body may start breaking down precious muscle to fuel its high energy needs. The sugar and carbs found in post workout drinks are perfect for quickly replenishing these stores. However, if your focus is weight loss, these drinks are a bad idea.

That’s because the key to losing weight is creating a calorie deficit – either through exercise or diet (or both).

If you burn off 350 calories during a 40 minute run and then come home and refuel with a 330ml protein/carb shake that contains around 350 kcals and then eat your normal meals later, guess what you’re doing? You’re cancelling out the calorie deficit created by that workout you just did. A better strategy for weight loss is to work out closer to mealtimes, then you can simply eat a protein-rich breakfast, lunch or dinner after you’ve finished exercising. Do this, and you’ll avoid accidentally consuming excess calories from your recovery drink AND your normal meals.

Cutting all carbs is the best way to lose weight

While cutting carbs will lead to weight loss, there are two main problems with this approach.

One: the brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose.. from… yes, you guessed it – carbs. Cut out all carbs and you won’t be as sharp or energised as normal. And while your brain will eventually switch over to using ketones if you stay carb free for long enough, the majority of people don’t. We cut out all carbs, crave them within a few days, cave in and have a carb feast, and then repeat the cycle again. The end result is no weight loss, and often more weight gain in the long term.

Two: Cutting all carbs, usually leads to a sizeable drop in calories (unless you increase fat and protein accordingly) and the long term effect of drastically cutting calories is that your body becomes more efficient at functioning on fewer calories. This means your metabolism slows down, and a slower metabolism equals a greater likelihood of gaining weight when you go back to eating carbs.

If it’s a clean food, you can have as much as you like

Avocados, nut butter, sweet potatoes. They’re all clean eating staples that are unprocessed, packed with lots of nutrients and taste pretty good. However, just because they’re nutritious doesn’t mean you can eat them all day every day without any impact on your waistline and heart health. Take sweet potatoes for example. As explained in this previous post, they have exactly the same amount of calories (90 kcals per 100g of baked flesh) and carbohydrate (21g per 100g of baked flesh) as white potatoes.

Similarly, as explained in this post on nut butters, peanut, cashew and all other nut butters are actually 50% fat, making them a very calorific option (especially if you like to eat half a jar in one sitting). And the sad truth is that when you consume excess calories on a regular basis, you will end up gaining weight.

Oh, and don’t forget that 5% of every spoon of nut butter is saturated fat – the type that may raise your risk of heart disease and strokes – so that’s another reason to take it easy with nut butters.

Eating lots of small meals is healthier and more slimming than eating 3 main meals

This myth is a classic that refuses to die. In fact, it’s one of the commonest eating mistakes I see among the women who come to me, claiming they just can’t lose weight. And once they go back to eating just 3 meals a day, guess what happens? The weight drops off and their cravings disappear.

There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that eating encourages the release of the fat-storing hormone insulin. About 2 hours after a meal, insulin levels drop and the body can then move back into a fat-burning state. But if you insist on eating every couple of hours, you never give your body a chance to stop making large amounts of insulin, which means you never shift out of fat-storing mode. (You can get more info about why eating lots of small meals a day is not a great idea from this previous post).

Got any healthy eating rules you’ve come across but are slightly suspicious of? Drop me a comment below and I’ll let you know my two cents!

 

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How to be a Healthy Eater When you Hate Healthy Food

We all know at least one reformed healthy eater – that smug friend who effortlessly switched from eating McDonald’s every single day, to living off kale juice and quinoa.

Engage them in conversation and you’ll discover that they love the healthy foods they used to hate, and they firmly believe that you too can enjoy eating healthily … if you stick with it long enough to let your taste buds adjust.

But if you’ve been eating natural wholefoods for weeks or even months and still hate every single mouthful, you may be starting to lose hope.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet, because believe it or not, it really is possible to turn healthy eating from a miserable experience to a pleasurable one. Here’s how:

 

One

Stop eating foods you don’t like the taste of

It’s commonsense, but you’d be surprised at how many new healthy eaters do this. Just because everyone says quinoa and chia seeds are good for you doesn’t mean you should eat them if you can’t stand them. The key to turning healthy eating into a lifestyle is to find healthy foods you enjoy.

If, for example, you’re struggling to find healthy carbs to replace your potato chip or white rice habit, do a little research into healthy versions of these foods. Go to a health food shop and look at the foods they have. Google the ones that catch your eye to see what people say they taste like. When you find a few that sound like your thing (at least in theory) buy a small portion and try them.

 

Two

Stop reading recipes like they’re stories and start actually making them

A classic mistake of people who say they ‘hate how healthy food tastes’ is not getting adventurous. No one can live on plain egg white omelettes, broiled chicken breast and lettuce leaves without going crazy. There are lots of amazing flavour combinations that don’t involve sugar and artificial flavourings, you just have to go into the kitchen and start mixing things up to discover what you enjoy. Stock up on fresh herbs, spices, fresh stock and natural fats (yes, that includes dairy and animal fats), as these are packed with flavour and really help transform bland meals.

 

Three

Stop making healthy versions of your favourite dishes if they don’t measure up

This is a contentious point, but it’s one I firmly stand by. Say, for example, you love pizza. When you dissect what it is you love about it, you may find you love the crispy outside of the base and fluffy but slightly doughy middle. You love the rich creaminess of the cheese and the way it complements the sweet, yet tangy flavour of the tomato sauce.  Making a pizza with a cauliflower base instead of bread, and creamed cashews instead of mozzarella simply isn’t going to cut it.

Why?

Because it doesn’t have the same flavours and textures that make you love pizza so much. Settling for this will just remind you of what you’re missing and make you resent your healthy lifestyle more. Why not allow yourself an actual pizza once in a while rather than cutting it out in totality. You’ll find you’ll be less resentful of eating healthily if you balance it with a less than healthy treat every so often.

 

Four

Don’t overhaul everything in one go

Perhaps you eat too much red meat, drink too much alcohol, eat way too much sugar and can’t stay away from processed snacks. Trying to get rid of all of these things in one fell swoop will most likely make you feel miserable because the change is too extreme. Instead, take it 3 weeks at a time. They say it takes 21 days to make and break a habit, so focus on 1 dietary change per 21 days. Once you’ve gotten used to life with the first change, you can then move onto the next and spend another 3 weeks on that.

 

Five

Indulge your cravings instead of fighting them

When you change your diet, your intake of specific nutrients changes. As a result of this, you may find you have really strong cravings for certain foods you’ve cut out. If this happens, don’t fight it, instead pay attention to what you’re craving so you get the nutrients your body is crying out for.

If you’re craving something sweet, don’t drink a glass of water and tell your stomach to ‘shut up’, instead, go and have something naturally sweet like fruit – you may just have low blood sugar (chromium and magnesium deficiencies can also cause sugar cravings, so consider supplementing with these). If you’re craving something savoury, eating a few nuts, olives or cubes of cheese will do much more for satisfying your craving than chewing a piece of gum.

By doing this, you’ll stop thinking of healthy eating as synonymous with deprivation.

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Teatox Petition Success! Detox Teas Just Became A Little Safer

Back in August 2016, I launched a petition to put a stop to a misleading practice favoured by detox tea manufacturers: using the laxative senna in their teas to create a false impression of weight loss.

After investigating the practice in this article, I discovered it was a pretty common worldwide despite healthcare professionals, medication regulators, pharmaceutical companies, eating disorder specialists and pharmacists all agreeing that laxatives do nothing for weight loss, increase the risk of scary health conditions (like heart, colon and muscle damage), create long term dependency on laxatives and normalise dangerous laxative misuse associated with eating disorders.

Well, after almost 3 months of campaigning, some amazing results have been achieved.

  1. Almost 29,000 signed the petition.
  2. Some fantastic media organisations covered the petition and helped raise its profile e.g. CosmoElite DailyDaily Mail and the Metro… to name a few!
  3. Bootea – a popular UK teatox maker – decided to start selling a laxative-free version of their teatox in their online store.
  4. Holland and Barrett – a key high street store selling Bootea teatoxes – agreed to start selling the laxative-free teatox in stores nationwide.
  5. Holland and Barrett held talks with Bootea and reached a decision to change the labelling on the packaging of original formula Bootea teatoxes (which is still available for those who wish to take laxative teas despite the risks and inefficacy), to make the risks clearer and also outline that people under the age of 18 should not take it.
  6. Slendertoxtea – one of the UK’s popular teatox makers, were also inspired by the petition and as a result they decided to stop using laxatives in their teatoxes.

The decision by Slendertoxtea

The Holland and Barrett decision!

It’s a great result (huge thanks for your support!) and one that hopefully paves the way for increased transparency within the diet industry.

But does this mean I’m now a fan of teatoxes?!

Errr…. no. Sorry, but I remain a firm believer that short cuts don’t work. If they did we’d all be drinking teatoxes and obesity rates would be falling, not increasing each year.

There’s only one way to get healthy and in shape, and that involves eating less junk, eating more natural wholefoods and doing more exercise. There are of course, scientifically validated tweaks and tricks for maximising the results you get from cleaning up your diet and exercising (like switching steady state exercise for HIIT), but they have little to do with drinking a cup of tea each day.

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How to Get Seriously Motivated to Lose Weight

weight loss motivation

Motivation.

It’s the one thing standing between starting your health and weight loss journey today instead of continuously putting it off until ‘Monday’.

But when the days start getting colder and shorter, the motivation you had during summer (when you had beach holidays to worry about) can quickly become a thing of the past.

Of course, the irony is, it’s usually those who are desperate to stop crash dieting every summer that fail to do the only thing needed to stay in great shape all year round: continue with healthy habits throughout autumn and winter.

So, if you’re determined to stay on course with losing weight and getting into shape (yes even through the festive season), here are 5 highly effective ways to stay motivated when everyone else is ‘treating’ themselves.

One

Get specific

Set out a specific goal you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by and what you’re going to do each day to get closer to that goal.

Write it down on a piece of paper and place that paper somewhere you’ll see it everyday. Then get a 30 day planner and each day before going to sleep, give yourself a tick if you achieved your goal for the day and a cross if you didn’t. It’s simple, but seeing crosses instead of ticks on that planner will soon drive the message home that you’ve got to follow through on your plan to hit your goal.

And that’s not just my opinion. A study on goal setting by the Dominican University found that Harvard graduate students who wrote down their goals accomplished much more than those who didn’t write down their goals.

 

Two

Recruit a buddy

It’s easy to bail on your workout plans when no one else knows about them or cares if you turn up. If you’ve failed time and time again to ‘start eating healthily’ or to ‘lose those 10 lbs’, ask yourself if you’ve been trying to do it all alone. Then ask yourself if you’re your own worst enemy where motivation is concerned. If the answer to either question is yes, it’s time to get an accountability partner. Team up with a friend, a colleague or join an online group.

But choose wisely!

You want a partner who will keep you on track and call you on your BS, not a co-conspirator who’ll encourage you to slack off 24/7. So don’t go for the woman in the office who keeps moaning about her weight while feasting on McDonalds, go for a partner who’s already showing signs that she’s serious about getting in shape and is looking to step things up a gear.

 

Three

Be realistic

There’s nothing more demotivating than trying your best and getting nowhere fast. And there’s no faster road to that feeling than setting a weight loss or body goal that’s completely unrealistic.

A few examples of unrealistic goals to avoid?

  • Dropping a dress size in less than 14 days (and expecting to keep it off long term)
  • Aiming to get the body of someone half your age
  • Trying to get a completely different body shape e.g. turn an hourglass figure into a ruler figure

Avoid the disappointment that usually leads to a month-long pity party with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s by making sure your goals can be achieved a) at all OR b) within the time frame you’ve given yourself.

 

Four

Eliminate temptation

I’m a tough crowd.  Ask any of my clients and they’ll tell you I don’t stand for self-sabotaging behaviour. But… they’ll also tell you that my approach gets them results that last.

The first rule I dish out? Get rid of temptation. You’re fooling yourself if you start a healthy eating journey with a freezer stocked with ice cream and a pantry full of sweets. I know you THINK you’ll be able to resist them, but when things get stressful, you’re feeling low, bored, upset or even happy, you’ll find yourself face deep in these treats, claiming you’ll ‘start for real tomorrow’.

That doesn’t mean that avoiding indulgent foods in totality is the best way to go. Instead, I encourage enjoying treats in moderation to ensure you can stick to your healthy eating habits. A fool-proof way of doing this without surrounding yourself with temptation is to buy a single serving of a particular treat when you feel like indulging. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and so is the temptation to carry on indulging.

 

Five

Stay off the scales

Getting in shape without daily weigh-ins may sound counter-intuitive, but this is a common cause of demotivation. That’s because your weight is affected by lots of things other than your fat levels, and let’s face it, when people say they’re ‘losing weight’, what they mean is ‘losing fat’.

Weight fluctuates with your hydration levels, menstrual cycle and even when you’re constipated. And while daily weigh-ins are encouraging when the figure on the scale is going down, a time will come when that figure inexplicably goes up… despite your hard work. And that’s when the ‘screw it’ mindset can take hold.

Avoid the torture that comes with weighing yourself every day. Instead weigh yourself weekly or less. And keep a pair of tight fitting jeans as a guide of your progress. The fit of those jeans week by week will be a MUCH clearer indication of your weight loss.

Got any motivation strategies you swear by? Share them below!

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3 Ways to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau

kick start stalled weight loss

You’ve been eating well, working out like a fiend and seeing great results.

Then, something strange happens.

The scale stops moving, your waistline stops shrinking and you’re completely confused because you’re still working as hard as ever before.

First things first… don’t panic. It’s annoying, but anyone wanting to drop a noticeable amount of weight will notice a slowing down of results after a few months. Your body isn’t conspiring against you and you’re not doing anything ‘wrong’, it’s actually a sign that your body is right on track.

That’s because the body is built to be efficient at using and storing energy. And when you cut your energy intake to lose weight, your body soon adjusts its daily energy-requiring processes so that it can function with less energy. If that isn’t annoying enough, something similar happens with exercise too.

When you first start a challenging workout you increase your overall energy expenditure and lose fat as a result. But, the body quickly adapts to become more efficient at performing that exercise and the result is you burn fewer calories from doing the very same the workout that used to blast fat (you can read studies on this phenomenon here).

That’s the bad news.

The good? I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeves that I regularly use to get my clients back on the road to weight loss success.

Here are 3 of the best:

One

Keep a food and activity diary

While the body’s energy conserving methods will eventually lead to a weight loss plateau, this often happens sooner than natural because of complacency. Yep, the vast majority of those on a weight loss mission start to slack off once they drop those first 10lbs. That’s an extra spoonful here, a missed workout there, and over the course of a month, that can bring your weight loss to a grinding halt.

Keep an accurate record of everything you eat, drink and do for 5-7 days and you’ll know if you fall into this category. If you do, you know exactly what you need to do.

If your diary reveals you’re still being as diligent as ever, take a look at the next two tactics for your plan of action.

Two

Eat more NOT less

When weight loss stalls, most people panic and drastically cut their calories. However, this just encourages the body to go into energy conserving mode as it thinks there’s a famine on.

To encourage your body to use more energy, rather than less, for daily activities you need to feed it. But there’s an art to this… which means you can’t just go on a feeding frenzy. To prevent weight gain, you want to increase your intake of calories from protein rather than fat and carbohydrate. That’s because protein is the food group that takes the most energy to digest. Specifically, up to 30% of the total calories in the protein you eat is used to digest it. For carbohydrates, that figure falls to 5-10%, and for fats, just 0-3% of calories eaten are used to digest it.

So while a calorie is a calorie, those from protein will stoke your metabolism more than those from fat or carbohydrates. But take care to not overeat because excess calories – protein or otherwise – will slow down fat loss. Instead start by raising your protein intake by just 15g per meal and then put tactic number three into action.

Three

Switch up your workouts

When your body gets efficient at a specific type of workout, it’s time to switch to one that uses a completely different set of muscles. By doing this, you have a few weeks to reap the maximum calorie burn from that exercise before your body becomes efficient at that workout and starts using less energy again.

The best way to tell if your new form of exercise is using new muscle groups? Morning after soreness. If you’re hurting in places you didn’t know existed, you’re on the right track.

And if you’re not already doing high intensity interval work (HIIT) make sure you add 3-4 sessions into your week. Studies, like this, have shown HIIT to trigger fat loss more easily than moderate intensity exercise AND it burns twice as many calories per minute and creates an after burn effect.

Want to discover exactly how to eat to drop those excess lbs? Why not grab your free ‘Eat right for your body type’ guide while it’s still available! Get 100% clear on what you should be eating to get your genetic body type into the best shape possible.

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best fruits weight loss

The Truth: Is Fruit Good or Bad for Weight Loss?

best fruits weight loss

Fruits are bad for weight loss because they’re carbs… and if you’re on a mission to lose weight, you’ve probably gotten the memo that too many carbs are bad news… right?

But hold on a minute.

What about the great nutritional reputation of fruits? They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.

Governments across the globe have spent decades trying to convince us we all need to be eating at least 5 portions a day… so fruits can’t be all that bad can they?

Thoroughly confused? You’re not alone.

So, let’s get things cleared up once and for all.

Here are 4 fool-proof steps to make sure you can enjoy fruit in your diet AND keep up your weight loss.

One

Fruits contain sugar – that’s why they taste so sweet. The more sugar it has per gram, the more likely it is to slow down weight loss. But, don’t worry yourself with how much sugar is in a fruit overall because the real measure of how much a fruit will mess up your fat loss (by giving you a massive calorie load and stimulating release of the fat-storing hormone insulin) is the amount of sugar it has per serving. This is something called its glycaemic load (GL).

Two

To keep things simple, if losing fat is your aim, keep one rule in mind: minimise high GL fruits and go for low GL ones instead.

Three

To tell if a fruit is likely to be low or high GL, don’t overthink things. Instead use the taste experience to guide you.

Fruits that don’t taste very sweet, like blackberries, plums or limes, are low GL.

Similarly, fruits that taste sweet but also taste very watery, like watermelon, apples and oranges, are low to medium GL (because all the water they have in them dilutes their high sugar content). This makes them OK to have in moderation for weight loss (think a single portion daily).

Fruits that taste very sweet and are quite meaty (less watery) are usually high GL. These are fruits like mangoes, bananas and grapes. There’s no need to avoid these fruits in totality, but if you are trying to lose weight, consume them as an occasional treat rather than as one of your regular 5 a day.

Four

If you don’t fancy playing a guessing game and just want to know the best fruits to eat to keep weight off, here are 12 of the best. All are low in calories and have a low glycaemic load:

  1. Lemons – 29 Kcals + 2.9g sugar per 100g
  2. Limes – 30 Kcals + 1.7g sugar per 100g
  3. Starfruit – 31 Kcals + 4g sugar per 100g
  4. Watermelon – 30 Kcals + 6g sugar per 100g
  5. Strawberries – 33 Kcals + 4.9g sugar per 100g
  6. Yellow grapefruit – 33 Kcals + 7g sugar per 100g
  7. Honeydew melon  – 36 Kcals + 8g sugar per 100g
  8. Red grapefruit – 40 Kcals + 7g sugar per 100g
  9. Blackberries – 43 Kcals + 4.9g sugar per 100g
  10. Peaches – 39 Kcals + 8g sugar per 100g
  11. Green apples 52Kcals + 10g sugar
  12. Blueberries – 57 Kcals +10g sugar per 100g

Want to discover exactly how much fruit and carbs you can get away with and still stay in great shape? Why not grab your free ‘Eat right for your body type’ guide while it’s still available! Get 100% clear on what you should be eating to get your genetic body type into the best shape possible.

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Why Eating Five Small Meals Can SLOW DOWN Weight Loss

small meals slow weight loss

You don’t have to go far to find a health expert who swears that eating 5 to 6 times a day is the best way to boost your metabolism, particularly if you aren’t a keen exerciser. It’s advice that’s based on the fact that the body uses energy to break down food, which means that the very act of eating burns calories…. right?

Not quite.

Those who swear by eating little and often fail to take into account two key things. But it’s these two things that on close inspection suggest that eating just 3 meals a day, with no snacking, is infinitely more effective for losing weight/fat and keeping it off.

 

Point number one

Snacking raises insulin, which puts the body into fat storing mode

The pancreas releases the hormone insulin every time you eat and if you cast your mind back to your high school biology lessons, you may recall that insulin’s main role is to get your body’s cells to absorb sugar (in the form of glucose) from the bloodstream.

This glucose is then used to provide the energy you need to go about your business BUT if you’ve eaten more than is needed for energy, excess glucose is taken to the liver and muscles for storage as… yes you guessed it… fat (and glycogen – a stored form of glucose).

Every time you eat, your insulin levels rise and this process is repeated, which means that by divvying up your 3 meals into 5 or 6, you’re constantly topping up your insulin levels and keeping your body storing instead of burning fat.

Of course, some foods, like sugary carbs (think cookies and chocolate) cause a bigger surge in insulin than others, like cheese, but the overall effect is that snacking (no matter how healthy the snack) raises insulin.

If you are hellbent on snacking, bear in mind that simple, processed carbohydrates (white bread, crisps etc) cause the biggest insulin spike, followed by complex carbohydrates (think wholegrains like quinoa or rye) and then pure protein (like plain chicken or egg whites). Finally, pure fat (like a spoon of olive oil) does not trigger insulin release at all. Simply put, if you’re going to snack without triggering fat storage, you’re best off opting for pure fat or plain protein… even though it’s going to taste pretty gross.

 

Point number two

Calories burned from eating relates to the total calories eaten

While the act of eating does indeed boost the metabolism, that rise in metabolism (known as thermogenesis) is due to energy being used to digest, absorb, transport and store the food eaten. This means that the amount of calories you burn from eating relates to how much food you eat each day, not how many times you eat. Simply put, if you eat 5 apples a day, the same amount of energy will be used digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the apples in your body whether you choose to eat all 5 in one sitting or if you opt to eat one apple every 3 hours.

And for any of you who’ve been shaking your head profusely while reading this post because you’ve followed a ‘eat little and often’ plan in the past and had success, there’s a reason for that.

If you go back and add up the calories you ate in all those small meals, you’re likely to find you were actually eating fewer calories daily while following that plan compared with when you ate 3 large meals a day… and that’s why you lost weight.

And if that isn’t proof enough for you, here come the studies…

This review, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, investigated the impact of meal frequency on calorie burn and found that “nibbling meal patterns failed to reveal significant benefits in respect of energy expenditure”. Furthermore, this small Dutch study, found no difference in diet-induced thermogenesis among men who ate 2 big meals daily compared with those who ate 7 smaller meals per day.

And it doesn’t stop there. There are a whole heap of similar studies that draw the same conclusion, which when considered alongside point number one (about insulin and fat storage) means one thing: If you’re trying to lose weight, sticking to just 3 meals a day is hands down the most effective way to go about it…plus who has time to prep 5 meals each day?!

If you’re looking for more science backed strategies for getting into great shape, don’t forget to grab your free ‘Eat right for your body type’ guide while it’s still available! Discover what you should be eating to get your genetic body type into the best shape possible.

 

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Are Intense Short-Term Fitness Plans As Bad As Crash Diets?

Do 30 day fitness programs create results that last?

We all know that if you crash diet, you’re 99.9% likely to gain back all the weight and more when you get back to eating normally (and if you didn’t know that… surprise!).

BUT what happens if you go on an intense fitness blitz for a few weeks and then stop?

Do you lose all the fat you shed and muscle gained or are those results yours for life – so long as you don’t go too far in the other direction? And what about your new found Olympic ability? Does that stick around long term?

This post was inspired by a piece I recently came across on a well known health site. However, on noticing that the ‘experts’ they brought in on the debate were actually just promoting their own short or long term fitness programs (the one who said short term plans are a great idea unsurprisingly had a 28 day program of his own, while the one who said long term plans are better owned a fitness studio – not exactly sound, impartial advice!), I was left with an overwhelming urge to do my own research and see if that piece (which will remain nameless… for now) was as full of BS as I suspected.

So, what does science say?

Actually, forget science for a minute. Have you ever done a programme like Insanity, 21 Day Fix or similar? I have and guarantee you will drop some serious pounds if you do it every day as outlined. BUT what you need to know before signing up is that your results will be better if:

One

You follow the specific food plan these programmes usually come with

If you missed my last post on if exercise or diet matters more for weight loss, take a look at it here to discover why following the recommended meal plan is more vital for maximum weight loss on these programmes than the workouts themselves!

Two

You aren’t a serious fitness pro on starting the programme

This is because as discussed in the aforementioned exercise versus diet post, the body acclimatises to exercise pretty quickly. Yep, human physiology and research, like this, suggests that while a new workout delivers great fat-burning results for the first couple of months, you’ll quickly hit a weight loss plateau even if you continue working out as hard. This means that while a lot of these programmes combine different styles of workout to keep your body challenged, if you’re already a workout pro, who has weight training, interval work, LISS and all the latest fitness strategies licked, you’re less likely to have the same metabolic and muscular jolt from these programmes as someone who usually exercises once a month.

So, will you lose weight from a short term fitness programme?

Yes, but how much depends on how much of a fitness and clean eating buff you are before starting the programme.

Now, onto what you really want to know: Will you keep your results when you stop exercising?

That depends.

Sorry to keep going on about my previous post, but, you’ll recall that in it I explained how most bodies can use up 10-30% of their daily energy expenditure during exercise. That means if you stop exercising and continue to eat exactly as advocated while you were on the programme, you’ll lose the calorie deficit created by the exercise and most probably stop losing weight BUT not gain weight.

However, if you stop the fitness programme and go back to eating whatever you want, when you want, you’ll most likely create a surplus intake of calories daily, which will lead to a return to your old weight.

And the story is similarly sad for your fitness levels. According to the American Council on Exercise, if you build your fitness up to a high level (high, but not quite pro athlete level) and then stop working out, you can maintain that fitness level for up to 3 months, however it’ll drop after that time.

But, it turns out that if improving your fitness levels is a goal, an intense short-term programme is probably the worst way to go about achieving this goal.

That’s because studies, like this small one published in PLoS ONE journal in 2014, suggest it takes longer to see an improvement in your fitness levels after a short term intense fitness plan, compared with a consistent long term training program. Specifically, the researchers found that when a group of healthy men and women with similar fitness levels completed 24 high intensity training session, those that did so during a 3-week crash course showed no improvement in their fitness levels (measured as VO2max) during the training period. But those that did their 24 workouts spread out over 8 weeks showed significant improvement in their fitness levels.

And that’s not the last of the bad news.

If building lean muscle is your goal, science suggests you get more bang for your buck by going slow and steady. That’s because to build lean muscle you’ve got to damage your muscle – during a strength training session – then give it time to repair (48 hours at least – although this varies between individuals), which is when it heals bigger and stronger.

That’s why you’ll notice pro trainers and body builders never work the same muscle group two days in a row!

If you’re doing the same workout daily for 30 days in a row, you’re potentially undercutting the lean muscle gain you could get by stretching it out a 60 day programme performed every other day. That doesn’t mean you can’t gain noticeable muscle on these programmes, it just means you’ve got to check out the workout plan before you sign up. If it rotates its strength training in a way that allows sufficient rest periods between working out different muscle groups, you’re good to go. If it gives you 1 or 2 generic workouts to repeat over and over again, you’re unlikely to make significant lean muscle gains during that period.

The final downer to be aware of from these programmes is the obvious risk of overuse injury, which can then put you out of action for the next month… making you pile all the weight back on.

So, the verdict?

Despite the negativity, I don’t think these challenges are bad news at all. They allow you to drop significant amounts of weight and can be great for kick-starting a healthier lifestyle. Just be warned that the promises of dropping 20lbs in 20 days aren’t always true… especially if you’re already pretty active and health conscious.

 

Sooo… how clued up are you when it comes to staying healthy and in shape? Do you get great results all on your own or do you suspect you may be missing a few juicy tricks for getting the body you want with less effort? That’s what the Body Brilliance Academy is all about! It’s the hot new digital community for smart women who want to get clear on how to get their healthiest bodies ever. Find out more here.

And speaking of getting smart about getting into shape…  Click here to grab my FREE ‘Eat Right For Your Body Type’ guide and discover the foods and style of eating that will help you get your healthiest body ever.

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diet or exercise best weight loss

Is Diet or Exercise More Important For Weight Loss?

You’ve probably gotten the memo by now: You need to eat sensibly AND do exercise to lose weight, keep it off and keep your body in peak condition.

It’s boring and annoying, but it’s a fact. Sorry!

However, on some days, even the most diligent among us can’t be bothered.

If you’re going through a “I just don’t care” phase, but still want to minimise the damage done to your waistline while you get over it (because you know you’ll care in a month’s time when none of your clothes fit), what’s the best strategy?

Is it worse to take a break from diligent exercising  or from healthy eating?

Here’s the science:

Study, after study has shown that those “You can’t out exercise a bad diet” quotes that have a nasty habit of popping up on your social media feeds the second you break out the chocolate are 100% true.

Yes, your diet has significantly more impact on your weight than exercise.

Take this study, published in the journal Current Biology, for example. It found that while adding exercise to your routine does initially help with weight loss, our bodies have a nasty habit of getting used to increased exercise quickly.

The result?

Don’t shoot the messenger, but that workout that’s currently melting fat like butter is likely to stop delivering the same killer results within a month or two.

Then, consider how our bodies use energy.

Once you understand what your body does with the bulk of the energy it gets from food, it quickly becomes clear that exercise cannot compensate for a poor diet.

Here’s why.

To keep your weight down, you need to use up the energy you consume from food each day.

There are 3 ways your body does this:

  1. By fuelling the basic processes that keep you alive – this is what determines your metabolism i.e. the energy your body uses when you’re at rest (called your basal metabolic rate)
  2. By breaking down food and converting it to a form that can be used for energy
  3. During physical activity

As this in-depth 2013 scientific paper explains, the bulk of the energy your body burns in a day (between 60 and 80%) is determined by your basal metabolic rate NOT by how much exercise you do. In fact, just 10-30% of daily energy expenditure is influenced by exercise ( 10% of your daily energy is used up by the body for digesting food). This means there’s a limit to how much weight you can lose through exercise, but there’s no limit to how much you can put on from eating too much.

Then there are the practicalities of diet versus exercise. Half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Core ice-cream has close to 1000 calories in it. While it’s easy to down half a tub of the creamy goodness while watching your favourite film, you’ll need to spend 90 minutes exercising at a moderate pace on a cross trainer to burn off the calories from that ice cream. When you think about it that way, it’s infinitely easier to give the ice cream a miss than drag yourself down to the gym and work out for an hour and a half.

Of course, this all relates purely to weight loss.

The benefits you get from exercise extend far beyond just keeping your weight down, and include lowering your risk of diseases like heart attacks, strokes and depression…. so don’t abandon exercise altogether.

Oh and if I’ve got you worried that you’re wasting your time working out to lose weight because your efforts stop paying off after a few weeks, don’t panic. There’s an easy way to keep reaping fat-burning benefits from your workouts in the long term.

Just drastically switch up your routine every 4 weeks. Don’t fall into the trap of finding one type of exercise you love and then sticking to it like glue. That’s when your body plateaus.

 

How clued up are you when it comes to staying healthy and in shape? Do you get great results or do you suspect you may be missing a few juicy tricks for getting the body you want with less effort? That’s what the Body Brilliance Academy is all about! It’s the hot new digital community for smart women who want to get clear on how to get their healthiest bodies ever. Find out more here.

And speaking of getting smart about getting into shape…  Click here to grab my FREE ‘Eat Right For Your Body Type’ guide and discover the foods and style of eating that will help you get your healthiest body ever.

 

 

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night eating weight gain

Can I Get Fat By Eating at Bedtime?

I’m sure you’ve heard it said before: “Don’t eat just before going to bed, you’ll just store it as fat.”

It’s probably the biggest health and weight loss faux pas out there and it comes from the common belief that sleeping is a very low-energy activity.

But is this true?

Errr…… no.

It’s a big health myth that we burn few calories during sleep. Research has shown the average metabolism drops by just 15% when we’re asleep and that’s because the bulk of the energy (calories) our bodies use each day goes towards powering the countless number of cellular processes that keep us alive and well – processes that happen 24 hours a day.  As this 2009 study into calorie use at night shows, both fat and carbs are burned during sleep – particularly during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, when the brain uses lots of energy to produce vivid dreams.

Another health myth that’s widely believed is that our bodies are like cars and the food we eat is like petrol. In other words, every morsel of food consumed fuels any physical activity done straight after. But in the case of many activities, like resistance training (lifting weights) and steady-state cardio, the metabolism is raised not only while exercising, but for hours afterwards. So although you don’t need to eat before bedtime, if you’ve been active during the day, physiology suggests that eating before bedtime won’t lead to weight gain.

On the flip side, however, some studies have shown a link between obesity and night-time eating. This 2015 study of almost 400 patients, for example, revealed that night-time snacking is a predictor of weight gain. But before you cry ‘I thought you just said eating at bedtime doesn’t cause weight gain!’ you should know that its findings (and that of others) indicate:

it’s not the act of eating at night that causes weight gain – it’s the consumption of excess calories in general.

If your body needs, say 2200kcals to carry out normal daily functions and you eat 2200 kcals every day, your body fat and weight (unless you’re building lean muscle) should stay more or less the same. But if you eat an extra 500 kcals on top of your 2200kcals every night, you’re likely to gain weight. However, if you always eat 1500 kcals during the day and eat another 700 kcals just before going to bed, you’re unlikely to gain weight because your overall calorie intake is matched to calorie expenditure.

When you don’t eat enough during the day, your body dips into glycogen or fat stores to provide the energy it needs. When you eventually get round to eating just before going to bed, some of those calories you’ve just consumed will be used for cellular processes during the night and any leftovers will go towards replenishing the fuel stores your body used up during the day. The net effect will be weight maintenance.

But that’s not where the story ends, as researchers say that your age and how long your night-time eating habit lasts both influence how likely you are to gain weight from nocturnal feasting. Take a look at this study. Its authors found that snacking before bedtime is less likely to cause weight gain in adults under 30 years of age or over 60.

The moral of the story?

Eating before bedtime is not the weight loss or weight maintenance catastrophe it’s made out to be, so breathe a sigh of relief the next time you find you’re still eating and bedtime is less than 20 minutes away. Just remember not to make a habit of night-time eating as it will eventually catch up with you.

Eat more during the day and/or ensure you have better balanced meals (high protein and fibre) that don’t leave you ravenous by bedtime. If you find that you always end up eating at night-time despite being well fed during the day, that may be a sign of emotional or compulsive eating. This type of bedtime eating often does lead to weight gain because it involves excess intake of calories on a regular basis. It’s an eating pattern that’s best addressed with the help of a medical professional because it signifies underlying stress or upset in your life that’s unlikely to resolve unless you acknowledge and tackle it.

And speaking of eating habits? Do you eat what you think is good for you or what you know is good for you? There’s a difference! Click here to grab my FREE ‘Eat Right For Your Body Type’ guide and discover the foods and style of eating that will help you get your healthiest body ever.

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