In today’s PT Intel personal trainer Kathleen Trotter discusses how to structure your life so that fitness and wellness is a pillar in your life, and not a fleeting once-in-a-while commitment. Besides being a personal trainer, Kathleen lives her advice, having completed 10 (count ’em!) marathons, an Ironman (well, Ironwoman to be more accurate) and 7 half Ironmans. You can also find her on Twitter.
Recently, a number of my clients have asked me if they should try the “Fast Diet.” My answer, “NO!”
I am not surprised the diet has peaked their interest. It is currently getting lots of media coverage. Plus, any diet book that states on its cover that followers can eat whatever they want…most of the time, is bound to get some attention.
Mosley and Spencer’s “Fast Diet” is based on the premise that you can lose weight if you fast two days per week and eat regularly on the other five days.
I understand why the Fast Diet could be compelling. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can feel overwhelming, frustrating, complicated and insurmountable. There is so much (often seemingly conflicting) information available. Eating healthy can seem simply “too much.” Fasting can seem like a challenging, but (relatively) simple solution.
I like that the Fast Diet can make weight loss seem within the realm of possibility, but my appreciation ends there. Adopting a healthier lifestyle and losing weight takes work, as well as a long term approach. Healthy living is a marathon, not a sprint. Unfortunately, there is no easy easy solution to weight loss. People who tell you that there is are trying to sell you something.
Since the causes of weight gain are multifaceted and vary from person to person, what causes weight loss will also vary person to person.
Fasting may help you to lose weight in the short term, but to make long-term changes you have to address the underlying habits, emotional triggers and addictions that precipitated the original weight gain.
Ditch cookie-cutter approaches to weight loss. Instead, pin-point the nutrition and exercise habits that you most need to improve on.
For example, many of my clients would lose weight if they cut out alcohol and fast food (providing they did not replace those calories with something else). If I wanted to lose weight (I don’t, but if I did), cutting out those things would do nothing for me because I don’t consume either. If I wanted to lose weight I would have to cut portions (I eat a lot, just of healthy food) and eliminate chocolate.
Tailor your healthy lifestyle plan to your current lifestyle habits!
Sure, there are some general statements that one can make about weight loss. For example, weight loss usually involves moving more and eating less of the wrong foods and more of the right foods. BUT, in order to move more and eat less long-term, each individual has to first figure out WHY he or she has been eating too much and/or being sedentary in the first place.
Most of us know (pretty much) what a healthy diet is. Unfortunately, knowing is often not enough. Our eating habits are tied to our emotions, our established habits, our lifestyle and our childhood eating patterns. To successfully lose weight long term you have to become mindful of your habits. Ask yourself, do you eat too much because you are bored, tired, sad, happy? Do you eat well when you are around people, but binge when you are alone? Do you have trigger foods that you absolutely can’t have in the house?
My advice, keep a journal for two weeks so you can become mindful of what and WHY you eat. Next, figure out if your diet follows the 80:20 rule. Is 80 per cent (90 per cent if you are trying to lose weight) of your diet healthy? When I ask most new clients this, their response is usually, “I eat by the 80/20 rule. I only cheat a couple times per week, but I am still not losing weight.”
When I analyze their journal I usually find one of two things:
- The high fat, high calorie, high salt foods, and/or the alcoholic beverages that they thought took up 20 per cent of their diet, actually takes up more like 30-40 per cent of their diet.
- They are eating an excess of moderately healthy foods and/or camouflaged healthy foods, like granola bars and juice, and considered them to be part of the 80 per cent. Go ahead, have some juice or a granola bar. I believe in everything in moderation, but don’t fool yourselves.
Granola bars and juice are full of empty calories and sugar. They should be considered part of your 20 per cent. Also, people often count high amounts of foods that are moderately healthy within their 80 per cent. Sure, a small handful of almonds is healthy, but once you have had four or five handfuls throughout the day, almonds should be counted as part of your 20 per cent since they are no longer being consumed in a healthy serving size. That type of snacking will make your diet imbalanced — how can you eat your 5-10 fruits and vegetables a day when you are filled with almonds?
The truth nobody wants to hear is, at least at first, you can’t just eat whatever you want. Most people who struggle with their weight — and even those who don’t — are often (at least in part) addicted to sugar and/or salt. So, if you eat what you want, you will eat sugar and/or salt, which simply reproduces your addiction. You have to gradually change your eating habits so that your taste buds evolve and you crave healthier foods.
I am always reticent to say anything negative about any diet or nutrition plan. I would never want to discourage anyone from taking steps towards being more aware of their nutritional habits, but if you want my advice, ditch any diet plan that promises easy, quick results.
Take the time to address your underlying physiological and emotional connection with food, and your established habits. Become mindful of what and why you eat. Only then will you be able to implement sustainable, lifelong lifestyle changes.