Prior to reading this article make sure you check out part one ‘Ditch the Diet’ where I explain the need to approach your fat loss as a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Having detailed in the previous article the importance of including a balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat in your diet, I want to show you how to put this information into play.
A question that is commonly debated in the fitness industry is which diet approach is the best – low carb and high protein? The blood type diet? Intermittent fasting?
The answer is simple, the best diet approach is the one you can stick to for a lifetime. You may have a specific goal for your fat loss, perhaps a holiday or a wedding coming up. If you are working hard to sculpt your body you hardly want all of your efforts to be lost in a matter of months after the event when you no longer have a goal in place to keep you motivated. The ideal outcome is to lose the weight and keep it off. This is impossible if you are adhering to a diet and training plan you can’t see yourself continuing a year from now. Think about it, if you train 5 days a week and put yourself on an aggressive diet plan the reality of sticking to that is low. The minute you start slacking on your workouts or adding in the odd treat here and there, the weight will pile back on with a vengeance.
To lose weight and keep it off you will need to make changes to your lifestyle long term. The best place to start is by mapping out your current lifestyle and highlighting the areas you feel you need to improve. Get a notebook and write down every item that passes your lips for three days. Try and write down two weekdays and either a Saturday or Sunday, whichever day you feel you consume the most calories. It is important your record is both accurate and representative of your normal dietary intake, so do not alter your normal eating habits in any way and record as precisely as possible every single item that you consume (this includes water, vitamins, sauces/dressings etc). When recording each meal include a brief description of how you feel so you can see if your eating is triggered by a mood or if any foods disagree with you. If you change your eating habits in any way, then you cannot accurately analyse your typical diet and make the necessary changes. This may seem like a lot of effort but remember, it is only three days which could help improve your diet for a lifetime.
I would also strongly advise tracking your daily step count. Fitbit’s have become increasingly popular and now offer a variety of straps, including silver and gold so you won’t have to compromise on style. Track your current steps for three days while you are tracking your food and take a note of what you hit at the end of each day.
After completing both these tasks you will have gathered enough information to completely overhaul your lifestyle. Take a close look at your diet record, identify each food item with either ‘c’ for carb, ‘p’ for protein or ‘f’ for fat. If you are unsure google it, as it’s important you have a clear understanding of what the food you’re eating contains. What you will be wanting to look for is how much of each macronutrient is included in your current diet. In a healthy individual with no dietary requirements protein should make up majority of the diet, with carbohydrates at either the same amount or slightly less or more depending on your body’s carbohydrate tolerance. Fats should be included daily in smaller amounts than your carbs and protein. With this in mind, take a look at your food diary and identify what changes you will need to make to get this balance. You will then need to circle the foods you’ve written down that you really enjoy and want to keep in your diet, e.g. crisps, alcohol, chocolate. You can by all means include this in your diet, in moderation. You will need to identify if your indulging is a choice or if it is triggered by emotion such as anxiety or boredom, if so work on bridging that relationship.
Lastly you look at your daily activity over those three days. I usually recommend clients start by increasing their current step count by roughly 1000 steps daily, you will be surprised how quickly this can aid your fat loss efforts. If you have been going to the gym alongside this, reflect on how many days a week you have been going and how much effort you put into each session.
Now this is where the change begins!
Based on the information you collected you can start building your personalised training and nutrition protocols. Every week make a rough note of your meals for the day so you can do your food shop in advance and prepare any meals you will need to grab in a rush. Write down what day/days you will be including your meal out and treats so you don’t end up over indulging every day. Write down which days you will be going to the gym and make sure you have a program to follow when you get in there. Don’t forget to keep hitting your step target daily!
While this all may come across as insanely structured and prepared, if you put in the effort for the first couple of months it will eventually become second nature to you. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off track, that’s expected occasionally. Just brush yourself off and keep trying until it becomes easy. Set and review these protocols every four weeks until you feel you are happy with your results and the methods used to get there, from there on it will be a matter of tweaking your food and exercise selection to keep things fun and varied!
Best of luck on your fitness journey and feel free to contact me via my Instagram @susie_orr if you need any help.