So those of you who orbit in the instagram fitness/nutrition universe along with me may have noted the recent controversy surrounding ‘The Carnivore Diet’.
Yup, that’s right, a diet advocating essentially only eating meat (and possibly eggs).
Now you don’t need to be a genius to work out that ANY DIET advocating extremes of ONLY EATING ONE THING or cutting out other major food groups is problematic.
The Nerdy Nutrition Science Bit – why eating only meat is ridiculous
Why? Because we humans need a variety of not only the major building blocks for our bodies, macronutrients – protein, healthy fats and carbs, but we also need the smaller stuff in smaller amounts, micronutrients – all the little vitamins, minerals, things like iron or selenium or Vitamin A etc (see books The Food Medic by Hazel Wallace, Jr Doctor or ReNourish by Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist).
A picture of optimum health involves a balanced plate, as advocated by Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert – which means eating a rainbow, the easiest way of achieving your micronutrient goals – focus on different coloured fruits and veggies! – and a balance of the macronutrients – palm size of protein, thumb of healthy fat, firstful of carbs (ideally things like wholegrains – brown rice, quinoa etc).
The carnivore diet cannot provide you with these micronutrients, which include antioxidants and phytochemicals, the stuff in certain fruits and veggies which helps influence your epigenome to avoid cancer and other serious health issues.
The carnivore diet is also not providing people with complex carbohydrates, the main nutrient our brains use for energy, not to mention key to the production of seratonin (tryptophan can’t synthesize to make seratonin without carbs people!), often known as the happy hormone, and often considered to be lacking in people with depression.
The carnivore diet is also missing fibre, key for the internal digestive system and weight management, and a critical part of a healthy diet.
“Mrs X tried the carnivore diet and within weeks her cancer was cured!”
“I tried the carnivore diet and my psoriasis cleared right up – nothing worked for years before that!”
“I tried everything to lose weight but only the carnivore diet worked!”
So let’s look at anecdoctal evidence. Someone says something worked for them and people rush out and try it because we all want an easy mircale that provides perfect health – it’s too boring to acknowledge we have it well within our power to exercise, eat balanced meals and control lifestyle factors like stress and sleep!
Anecdotal evidence is an issue because:
They cannot positively know what caused the change without having tested it logically and systematically against everything else: this would mean only having one variable, for an experimental period of time, and keeping everything else EXACTLY THE SAME. Then doing the same to test other factors. To establish ONE THING as a root cause / cure, you need to eliminate the confusion of other factors. So if their sleep, stress, diet, job, commute, anything changed within that period, it has the potential to skew results. How do you KNOW the diet changed things? You can’t reliably separate it from other variables. You also ideally need a control group, and a group which has variables tested to see how patterns emerge, and whether correlations exist at all.
Even if you do test out variables as systematically as possible using the scientific method, you are a sample size of ONE. This is NOT ENOUGH to establish something as true for the rest of humanity. Sample size is key! 1,2,10, 20… they’re all pretty small groups when you think about it!
Additionally, we’re emotionally and cognitively biased towards people we know, so if our best friend says ‘OMG I tried this and it worked for me!’ we’re much more likely to not be questioning and critical and just take things as true, which is an issue!
On a slightly separate note, I find it so frustrating when people say they’ve tried ‘everything’ but just can’t lose weight – this usually means every fad diet, and therefore it’s no wonder! They’re not healthy, they’re not sustainable, they encourage deprivation-binge cycles and disordered approaches to eating, and typically once they’re over people return to their ‘old’ ways without ever wondering if their ‘old’ ways were this issue in the first place! Their version of trying everything doesn’t usually include the unsexy but simple and EFFECTIVE balanced eating, movement, and moderation with treats.
The final thing I wanted to touch on in this post is trolling. Rhiannon Lambert is a highly educated, highly qualified professional, and she came out on social media to denounce this diet (quite rightly!) because it’s making dangerous false promises, not to mention encouraging unhealthy eating habits.
The trolling she received was not ‘healthy debate’ or ‘offering an alternative perspective’. It was personal. It was vindictive. It was unnacceptable. I know that ‘keyboard warriors’ are supposedly emboldened by being hidden behind a screen to say things they’d never say to someone’s face, I know technology ‘de-personalises’ things – but that’s no excuse, not in a million years, to troll, attack, bully and dissect an individual, full stop.
Further, in this case Rhiannon was RIGHT and putting forward a highly qualified professional opinion (although note even people who are WRONG deserve to be treated with respect and dignity!) backed up by PLENTYYYYY of scientific evidence.
If you want to debate in a healthy way, don’t shout, don’t troll, don’t attack. Harness legitimate evidence (so in this Carnivore Diet situation, studies – although there aren’t any credible ones that support it, so you’ll have a hard time), reason logically and calmly, and while being adversarial is okay in THEORETICAL terms – argue with VIEWPOINTS, attack VIEWPOINTS, not people.
Plenty of other nutritionists have come out with exactly the same view, but Rhiannon’s public profile makes her a target for abuse and it’s totally unacceptable.
Are we done now…?
I hope this cleared up a few points on the Carnivore Diet, and why I 100% believe you shouldn’t be following ANY fad diets – as ever, I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I take my views and everything I’ve written above from my nutritionist who is INSANELY qualified, from other nutritionists, from my personal studies and from scientific journals.
I hope this also highlights why you need to be smart about ‘anecdotal evidence’ and recognise it’s actually just a story and doesn’t prove anything!
And finally, it shouldn’t need to be said, but it seems that it really does in today’s day & age – trolling, bullying and harassing people is just not on kids.
Sending tonnes of love to you all, and to Rhiannon, and here’s hoping that we can share and spread POSITIVITY and arm ourselves with facts and information! Positing new ideas, theories, hypotheses is TOTALLY OKAY but before citing anything as true we need to DO THE RESEARCH!
Louise Thompson was initially best known for her role in pseudo-reality TV show, Made in Chelsea, but now arguably she’s equally well known for her abs so impressive you could grate cheese on them! The pocket rocket is also one of the founders of Pocket Sport, a luxe fitness clothing brand.
Louise never looked unhealthy but admits to having all kinds of issues, not least with her relationship with alcohol. Subjected to public scrutiny in the extreme, she ended up suffering with anxiety and having very poor self-image.
Her brand new book Live Well with Louise documents her journey, from struggling with body image and unhealthy habits to transforming her mindset, ditching the booze binges and loving workouts and healthy food.
It also contains recipes, and workout routines (approved by her PT boyfriend Ryan Libbey (also of MIC fame!), of course!)
So… what’s the low-down? Yet another unqualified celebrity book, or worth a read?
What could have been just another celebrity offering diet advice is actually a relatable, down-to-earth account of an unhealthy relationship with health, to a total transformation which yes, while it’s very aesthetic and ‘abs-y’ also conveys the important message that health, taking care of your body, good nutrition and MOVEMENT can be cool… and that binge-drinking and hangxiety are actually not all they’re cracked up to be.
While your average girl or guy can’t relate to being a celeb, I personally relate SO HARD to Louise’s use of alcohol for confidence, and going a bit too hard in my teens to early twenties.
Louise’s transformation from non-stop ‘ragers’ as she calls them where she’d drink so much she’d black out, to a healthier focus on fitness and health with the occassional social red wine with friends and family at dinner parties or with a cracking Sunday roast is something all of us who went to uni, damaged our livers and need a kick up the butt in terms of healthy living can relate and aspire to!
Here I was dubious – on opening the book I thought here we go, another book by a non-nutritionist purporting to give dietary advice… But she doesn’t! She openly states she’s not a nutritionist but openly shares what has worked for her. She goes by what I feel is a very simple and similar philosophy to my Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. Louise advocates filling half your plate with veggies (rainbow, variety, you got this!), quarter with complex carbs (ideally without the beneficial fibre stripped out, so rather than white bread and rice go for wholegrains, legumes, brown rice, sweet potato…) and a quarter with lean protein.
YES PEOPLE, LOUISE THOMPSON EATS CARBS AND STILL HAS A STUNNING, LEAN PHYSIQUE. I am so happy to see celebrities endorsing healthy, balanced meals and helping combat the media myth that carbs are bad. (See my stance on carbsand why they’re essential here!)
Louise’s recipes are surprisingly varied, and there are tonnes of them!
It’s not a slim and flimsy book with a couple of dinner ideas – it’s jam-packed with tasty, balanced meals, and YES it includes desserts and dinner party appropriate dishes!
The recipes are easy to follow, and the photography is gorgeous.
I did feel this section could have been more extensive, but the circuits are decent with beginner, intermediate and advanced options, and approved by her PT boyf.
Louise breaks down each move for anyone who’s new to exercising, with clear photographs and descriptions of how to execute the movement, and tips for upping the intensity if it gets too easy.
All in all, while there aren’t loads of options, her 11 minute ab blast is great, and then she offers 3 circuits – easy, medium, and hard – which are enough to get you started, and you can always use her book as a base to create your own.
Best of all, they’re do-able from home, no gym or super-fancy equipment required!
Definitely worth it for Louise’s personal story, and the recipes… and I do love her ab routine, so I’d say it’s worth the (affordable and fairly small!) investment.
I don’t know about you, but I’m an obsessive reader. This applies to fiction for fun, but also non-fiction, articles, blogs…
If I want to learn about something, I trawl through EVERYTHING I can find on the topic. It’s a little bit weird and obsessive, actually…!
And this can be a really useful (if nerdy) habit, especially if you want to learn how to do or achieve something.
I think education and research is so important and it pays to be well informed! But if, for example, your wellness goals are as follows:
Get healthier by exercising 3 times a week and improving my body composition
Meditate or do yoga or something for stress relief.
They’re great goals to have! Doing some reading about nutrition is going to be key, and if you’re new to exercise, you’ll want ideas for what to do, how to train, how to do it safely… and if you want to reduce your stress levels but don’t know how, have always thought meditation and yoga were a bit woo woo until recently til they became in vogue, you’ll want to do some reading around that too… which type of meditation, how do I do it, how do I know if it’s helping, does it really work, where is my nearest yoga class…?
I’m not for a second advocating skipping your due diligence! But there does come a point where people fall into blackholes of reading about their goals instead of getting up off the sofa and doing it!
It’s almost like we think by READING about the best foods to eat, or the BEST ab exercises, that will give us the results.
Sadly, it won’t.
So as I say – be informed, please do! – but know when to stop.
Staring at articles about celebrity diets and training programmes and how to optimise your training and best butt exercises will not make your dream health (and bonus improved body!) goals any better.
Reading about relaxation, fancy breathing and meditation techniques, or fun buzzfeed things on ’10 things you’ll know if you’re a yogi…’ will not make you less stressed.
You need to do the work darlings.
I have fallen into this trap SO MANY TIMES! I spent money on more nutrition programmes and coaches, read EVERYTHING, stalked celebrity height and body weight stats and how they achieved their results, googled everything to do with nutrition and fitness… It wasn’t until I’d fully healed my eating disorders, seen a Harley Street nutritionist, spent some time in therapy and done a whole lot of soul-searching that I stopped obsessing and started focusing on what I was doing.
Stop worrying about the pros, about what is ‘optimal’. Chances are, you’re not an Olympic athlete.
Regular physical activity, and healthy balanced nutrition will get you where you need to be if your goal is fat loss, for example.
People read about bro splits vs full body days vs intermittent fasting… basically, it’s about finding what works for you, and even IF a study says something else is ‘optimal’ if it doesn’t suit you, you won’t stick at it, so it’s not really optimal for you is it?
I hope this makes sense – I just see so many people get either overwhelmed with information, or get sucked into this idea of perfection by reading everything under the sun rather than making small, sustainable changes.
PS. if your goals are fitness and health based, these are the essentials on this site to browse, and from there just get going!
I doubt there’s anyone out there who hasn’t experienced that 3pm ‘must have a snack’ feeling, or who has had [insert meal here] but then absolutely *must* have something sweet to finish the meal… you catch my drift!
What NOT to do
Now I am 100% not for crash diets and depriving yourself. You guys know what I’m about by now. But for optimum health (and the side-effect bonus you get with that – aesthetic goals!), you need to get back in touch with your body: more specifically, learn to better read your hunger signals.
I am not about tracking macros or calories (I get that some people, especially competitors, find this okay, but personally as an ex-ED sufferer, it’s not good for me, and also for many people I’d argue it takes the joy out of food – but you do you!)
I am not about prescribing set cookie-cutter advice, e.g. “everyone should intermittent fast!”, “everyone should go keto!”, “everyone should go paleo!”
Simply following the 80/20, or 90/10 % rule. The majority? Foods which are as WHOLE and natural as possible (i.e. not processed, in their natural form – this way their chemical compounds and nutritional value is optimal for utilisation by the body, in general terms), and for that other cheeky 20%-10%? Don’t worry, be happy. Have a little bit of what you fancy. My 10-20% tends to be pizza, champagne, and occassionally a chocolate brownie (maybe with some rum, salted caramel or hazelnut icecream involved!)
Learn the ideal portion sizes
Generally speaking, with a little give and take because, y’know… life (!), each of your 3 daily meals should consist of:
1 fistful of complex carbs (think grains – these are great! But white potato, sweet potato, brown rice are all absolutely fine!)
1 palm-size of lean protein (chicken, red meat [ideally only once a week!], tuna, prawns, cod, turkey, you name it!)
1 thumb size of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, fish oils like salmon)
This is your baseline. It’s not something to panic over, but it is a guideline that if you follow broadly, will help you ditch diets and embrace not only healthier living, but a better, more energised body (and over time, if you are carrying excess body fat, if you stick to this and move a moderate amount, you’ll lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way!)
What kind of hunger am I feeling? Is it in my stomach? That kind of growling, urgent, physical feeling, that’s a bodily sensation and not attached to the idea of a specific food? Then yes, I should probably eat something.
Am I craving something specific i.e. ‘ooh I really fancy a biscuit!’? Was I hungry before I saw that office email about cake in the kitchen? Am I assuming I’m hungry because it’s a particular time of day (e.g. 3pm, so therefore I just assume I’m having an afternoon slump despite the lack of any physical symptoms)? Is there ANY SENSATION AT ALL in my stomach? No? It sounds like this is mental or emotional hunger. I don’t really need to eat.
If you’re still not sure, ask yourself this:
Would I just as willingly eat an apple/some carrot sticks/ some celery?
If you’re physically hungry, these things will sound fine! If you’re emotionally hungry, chances are you only want a bit of cake, or something “nice”…
In these instances, I think it’s beneficial to avoid snacking. To be clear: there is NOTHING WRONG with eating when you’re TRULY HUNGRY. But one step to optimising our nutrition is avoiding those emotional hunger snacks which are usually sugar-laden-processed-not-that-great-for-us-pick-me-ups.
Is there an alternative to never eating when I’m emotionally hungry?
Of course! You can do whatever you want! Sometimes, if you really fancy it and someone’s brought a rainbow Hummingbird Cake into the office, as long as you don’t do it on a weekly basis, just eat it and enjoy! Life’s too short. This isn’t about a ‘punishing’ or restrictive regime. This is about sustainable solutions and tuning in with your body.
If you’re really struggling mentally and want to snack, replace it. Some great options are:
Carrot sticks and hummus
Celery and almond butter
2 ryvita with cream cheese & a handful of cherry tomatoes
A handful of nuts, a handful of sunflower/pumpkin seeds & a handful of blueberries sprinkled with cinnamon
A bio-live yoghurt with added raspberries, blueberries or goji berries
So you’re feeling emotionally hungry… how do you ‘overcome’ the craving?
I like to go through the questions above as a mental checklist. Be really honest with yourself. It’s totally okay if to begin with you struggle to recognise if it’s physical or emotional hungry – after years of eating disorders and alcohol binges it took me years to get back in touch with my body and properly re-set!
Think about the food you’re craving – cheesecake, or whatever it may be. Decide now if this is when you want to use your 20% treats. IT IS NO BAD THING IF YOU DO! THERE IS NO GUILT HERE! Just be honest with yourself if now is truly a mindful treat time, or if you’d rather have a glass of wine, or pizza, or brownie with friends at the weekend, or tomorrow on a solo lunch break with your favourite magazine when you can enjoy it.
If it’s mindful treat time, ENJOY IT. Eat it mindfully. Savour it. Don’t scarf it down at your desk and barely notice it!
However, if you decide this ISN’T one of those 20% treat times and you don’t actually need it… If you are truly hungry, try swapping it for one of the ideas above, or your own healthier upgrade. Imagine how you’ll feel after eating something that nourishes your body rather than spiking your blood sugar.
If it’s emotional hunger, sit with the feeling for a moment. Identify how you’re recognising it. Identify your reasons. Either say it aloud if you can, or if you share an office and don’t want to sound mad (!), write it down.
“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m bored”
“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’m stressed”
“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I’ve gotten into the habit of always wanting chocolate with my coffee at 3pm”
“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because someone just emailed that there’s birthday cake in the kitchen and now I just have to go and see what type it is…!”
“I’m emotionally/mentally hungry because I don’t want to be hungry later!” (my fave excuse!)
Once you’ve identified your why, sit with the feeling. Breathe deeply into your belly. Try and wait for the impulse to pass. (This gets easier and happens more quickly with time! I literally rarely have to exert willpower here now, it’s just a habit!)
If you’re still struggling, think about the healthy alternatives listed. Think about their positive impact on the body – maybe the antioxidants in the blueberries which help fight free radicals, reducing your likelihood of getting cancer. And think about how good they taste with cinnamon. Focus on how great healthy food can taste – and eat a half snack serving, as we’re trying to train ourselves out of eating for the sake of it, but it’s totally cool if the reflex takes a while to beat.
I hope some of these tips help you re-tune your brain into your body… we’ve been so conditioned by the media and our pesky emotions that often, especially in our culture, food becomes something we scoff mindlessly for the hell of it, and we’re usually not chowing down on kale…!
The key is to address our habits by recognising them, and what drives them, to ensure we don’t obssess and still treat ourselves (remember – 80/20 or 90/10%!) and to adapt accordingly.
No-one is perfect. Literally, nobody. But we can all feel our best if we take care of ourselves, and this is a maybe controversial tool, but a super helpful one to get to a point where we can eat what we want, when we want because we’re eating intuitively – in tune with our bodies’ actual needs, rather than steered by media messaging and emotional binge-prompts.
*As ever, the usual disclaimer applies – I’m not a nutritionist, please remember there’s no one-size-fits-all and consult a medical health professional and ACTUAL nutritionist for personalised, tailored advice. Do your own research, don’t mindlessly believe cowboys (or girls in my case haha!) on the internet – anyone with a computer can blither on about something… be safe and street-smart, and don’t trust stuff without question – even best-intentioned pieces (like this one!) can make mistakes. But I am essentially adapting advice I’ve received from my nutritionist, with my own spin on what works in my experience, and I am studying a Professional Diploma in Nutritional Therapy, so while I won’t become a nutritionist, I’ll have a qualification enabling me to better advise in a more official capacity.*
We’ve all been there – survived the dodgy hangovers over a weekend (and maybe even the questionable hungover food choices!) – and then dragged ourselves into the office on Monday not feeling fantastic. The hangover is gone, of course (thank goodness!) but you’re left with a kind of buzzy anxious lethargy and a feeling that is just generally less than fresh.
As I’ve gotten older, and really optimised my fitness and nutrition, I’ve become more and more aware of my body – and one of the consequences of this is that when I drink, I feel it EVERYWHERE. It changes my mood (alcohol is a depressant, technically – we’ve all heard of ‘hangxiety’ and ‘beer fear’, right?) and makes me on edge for days afterwards, more anxious, more emotional… it makes me feel less energised, depleted, malnourished… after all, if you’ve been sick with a hangover you’ve essentially poisoned your body. Alcohol is a toxin, albeit a socially acceptable (and often delicious!) one.
So here is my diary of a Monday where as much as I’d love to do a wellness retreat and shut off from the world and just do yin yoga in my living room to feel like myself again, I had to come back to the office, as we all eventually must… here’s how I renourish and replenish my neglected body after a weekend of poor decisions and over indulgence!
(This diary is from last week – Monday 18th June!)
My post-Sunday-hangover routine to replenish on Monday
After sleeping most of Sunday with a hangover after a Summer Drinks thing with friends (great night, but I’m too old for this now!) getting up at 6.30 is PAINFUL. But now I’ve rehydrated (I spent my hangover day drinking all the water and coconut water under the sun!) I know I need to sweat out the anxiety and boost my mood, flush out the last of the rubbish in my system (on an actual hangover day sweating it out is dangerous as you’re already dehydrated! It’s best to leave it until the day post-hangover!)
Dress (sportswear laid out the night before of course!), tongue scrape, clean teeth, splash face 10 times with cold water, drink 1 pint of water and 1 black coffee (I shouldn’t, but I need it to get to my workout!)
Short walk outside in the sun, then on the train into city.
A sweaty KOBOX class gets out all of my nervous energy, boosts my mood (although I notice it’s not quite as good a post-class high as normal – damn hangxiety!)
Class is finished (I have to skip the cool down to make it to work on time!), I’ve had a cold shower where I stretch (rag doll, yogic squat and quad stretches to get the hamstrings, hip flexors and quads since we just did leg day!) while the conditioner is in. I get dressed quickly and leave with wet hair, but not before I’ve downed my fiery ginger shot – ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper.
I start work with a green kiwi, spinach, banana and celery smoothie for breakfast and keep sipping warm water, cold water, green tea and peppermint tea throughout the day.
A vegetable soup for lunch with some pulses in it replenishes some of those missing nutrients!
I have an antioxidant and activated charcoal shot (research seems limited on if charcoal has any benefits to be honest, it’s just a health w*nky trend, but I want it for the lemon and the antioxidants!)
Keeping on with that water and green tea and peppermint tea too!
Carrot sticks and hummus and a bowlful of spinach, rocket, broccoli, watercress and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds top up my micronutrients and phytochemicals, plus adding extra antioxidants.
I try not to work too late this evening and manage to escape early around 7… yay!
I arrive home via the shops where I’ve picked up brown rice, fresh vegetables and some chicken. I literally have it all plain – steamed veggies, grilled chicken and boiled brown rice. Very simple, but it actually feels super light and comforting and exactly what my body needs. I’m starting to feel more like myself. I huddle up under a blanked on the sofa to relax and watch TV (nothing stressful or strenuous!) after dinner. A handful of blueberries and some fresh mint leaves make a nice sweet treat for dessert to go with another episode of The Big Bang Theory, plus it doubles as an antioxidant boost!
In bed to read for 10 minutes and then off to sleep!
& that’s a wrap!
Obviously this is super clean, high veggies and low everything else intake of food for the day, and certainly not something I do every day… this is how I like to try to replenish and bring myself back to life after an OTT weekend when I’m feeling post-alcohol-anxious! It’s probably worth emphasising that this isn’t a guilt thing or a diet thing, it’s literally eating things that make me feel nourished and fresh and energised again, and make my body start to feel good… basically a systems reboot! It’s certainly NOT a punishment. It actually feels amazing!
How do you get yourself back to your glowy, energised self on a Monday after being floored by too many toxins and poor nutrition choices? Any tips? Share below!
So this week an email landed in my inbox from Rhiannon Lambert (her Rhitrition newsletter has all kinds of interesting nutrition nerdy news and tips so do subscribe!) linking me to an article in The Independent about Meghan Markle’s favourite smoothie. But the article misses out another favourite recipe of Meghan’s that she mentions in an interview with The Chalkboard, so scroll down to unearth this extra little royal gem!
It’s no secret that this gorgeous, smart, soon-to-be-royal was a fan of all things wellness before she took up with the Prince… and all fairytales need to feature magic and potions somewhere, right?!
Rhiannon Lambert, as I’m sure you all already know if you’ve been around this blog/insta a while, is an amazing Harley Street nutritionist (info on her book here) and in the article mentioned above, she breaks down the health benefits of the ingredients to Meghan’s go-to smoothie. The recipe Meghan claimed she uses can also be found in this article in Hello Magazine, but Rhiannon highlights how the protein powder could be improved to a healthier one, so I’m going to share a take on the smoothie that’s more in line with these Harley Street guidelines ❤
With the Royal Wedding coming up, I thought I’d experiment and give you a recipe made with these ingredients that you can blend up in time for the celebrations along with the bonus extra the Independent missed out… who knows, maybe we’ll get Meghan’s glow if we drink enough of it 😉
On my recent insta poll a lot of you said you want to hear about my full weekly routine, so here it is (extended to 10 days for better insight)… but first:
Pleeeease note that I am NOT a nutritionist, doctor or dietician and so can’t advise you on your diet. Please don’t copy what I eat because we’re all individual, and advice must come from qualified professionals. This is for inspo and curiosity only! Nothing here is sponsored – all stuff I’m buying or using! I haven’t included guess-timated weights of food or macros as I tend to eat intuitively. I thought about recording them for you but I don’t think it’s helpful as it just encourages people to copy another person’s diet, which as we’ve discussed is not good!
WORKOUT: 4.6k run outdoors (casual pace, not working for speed, distance or time. Find me on Strava!)
Breakfast – some granola from the office (medium serving) and water
The water isn’t a ‘health’ thing, it’s just that I can’t stomach milk, and don’t like alternatives particularly… sometimes I’ll include oat or coconut milk in a shake, but otherwise I just go with water for porridge etc! Sounds weird but I prefer it.
Lunch: plaice with courgette and red rice & quinoa mix
Dinner: tuna and green pesto with wholegrain brown rice, sprinkling of cheese. Cocoa orange nakd bar for dessert.
Confession booth: I had some very stressful family stuff happening in the evening, and so ended up having a vodka and soda water which isn’t great to do when you’re stressed, but I made myself calm down first and then had it as a little treat. Then the Boy brought me home a mini bottle of prosecco (approx. 2 glasses) as a treat as he knew I was upset so I had that too! Oops! Normally this wouldn’t be a ‘confession’ type thing – moderation is fine, but as I’m on a cut it’s a bit of a deviation, and alcohol messes up your body metabolising fat and affects nutrient absorption so it’s not great… but these things happen, hey ho! Tomorrow is another day.
I know I’m working until at least 9pm tonight and I’m not sure how the day will go & can’t count on lunchtime, so I set my alarm for 6.15, 6.20, 6.30am and get myself up and into city for a Kobox class. They’re 50 minutes, pretty ‘HIIT’ in style. Today was a core workout with Jacob and it was AMAZING. [There’s a full review of Kobox here if you’re keen!]
Breakfast: Blueberry Brawler Shake made of blueberries, coconut water, choc vegan protein.
I‘m in a rush to make it from class ending at 9.10 to work for 9.30 so I grab a Kobox shake (any excuse!) which they have ready and waiting for me when class is over… winner! I opt for the ‘Blueberry brawler’ – blueberries, coconut water and usually it’s vanilla protein but I request they swap this for chocolate vegan… try it, it’ll change your life!
Lunch: Hake with broccoli, kale, mango and a small serving of white rice.
I’m spoilt because work has fantastic healthy options at lunch time, so you can eat well and cheaply. In fairness though, this is the kind of thing I’d make at home too and it’s so quick to prep and pop in a lunchbox.
I’m not a big snacker to be honest and on my summer shred my standard position is to eliminate snacking, but today I have to do some pro bono legal work in the evening until approx. 9pm so I know I won’t get dinner until I’m home around 10pm… so I’m keen for something to tide me over!
Dinner: turkey steaks, mashed [white] potato, sugar snap peas and four bean salad with sweetcorn. Cocoa orange nakd bar for desert.
I actually finish work earlier than planned so am home by 21:10, and I decided to cook this kind of ‘bro-food’ ish meal with a twist.
WORKOUT:none. I have coffee with a friend before work, a work thing at lunch and then have to leave for Somerset to see family this evening so there genuinely is no time. Plus I’m super sore from Grace’s lower body workout (see above!) earlier in the week so I’m letting my poor glutes and hamstrings recover!
(I’d tried to have avo on sourdough this morning but Curator’s Coffee Gallery (love this place!) on Margaret Street were out of avo, so after two of their INCREDIBLE black filter coffees with a friend, I had to rush to the city and grab something quick at work that wouldn’t take too long to eat. Don’t like strawberry yoghurt but they were out of raspberry and I’d planned to get a fruit salad but protein balls were just quicker. Next time though!)
Lunch: beef burger in a bun with green salad leaves. Followed by a double espresso over ice with added cold water for ‘dessert’
I’m having lunch with a colleague today who wants to try the office terrace BBQ… and once outside I just can’t opt for a veggie skewer, I want the beef! While I say yes to the bun (bread isn’t the devil, people!) I don’t like sauces or dressings anyway so I skip those, and I don’t have cous-cous salad or potatoes with it as the bread is enough for white carbs, although with hindsight I’d have preferred a naked burger with cous-cous as the bread isn’t great quality. But in general… what do you know, cut friendly and indulgent… you can still do this and not miss out! Pouring a double espresso over ice is a nice way to have an iced coffee without the milk (which I hate anyway!) or the added sugars and syrups which I not only don’t like but are unnecessary for my cut. Bonus! (I add cold water to make it a long drink though… it’s a hot day, don’t want to dehydrate!)
Dinner: Mexican-style spicy chicken, aubergine and mixed peppers, smashed avo & brown rice
Slip-up!: 1 vodka soda water, 1 prosecco
I was determined not to drink alcohol tonight but the weather is SO SUNNY and I don’t have to leave for Somerset for an hour or so after work as we drive down late to avoid traffic (don’t worry I wasn’t driving!) so I cave in and spend an hour on the terrace in the sun with colleagues… and a couple of cheeky drinks.
WORKOUT:just a dog-walk with the family.
We’re in Somerset for the day to see family (approx. 3 hours drive from London) so while I’d brought my kit to go for a run up Glastonbury Tor, I decide to spend all the time we have with family rather than disappear off for a workout. We manage to see The Boy’s mum, my dad, and my mum (all of whom live in different bits of Somerset at least 30 mins apart each) before driving back to London that evening so it’s a lot to fit in!
Breakfast: 2 slices of fruit bread toast
One of the hard things about staying with family is less control over what you eat, especially if you don’t want to make a big deal about a cut. Often I plead not hungry, but obviously you don’t want to not eat at all! So sometimes you gotta roll with it. Don’t stress. S’all good! This is where #balance and a healthy mindset is important… once I’d have obsessed but now although it niggles initially, I shrug it off and enjoy.
Lunch: Tomato, spinach, rocket, watercress and stilton salad with a couple of pieces of hot wholemeal baguette + Slice of apple & cinnamon cake made by my -mama-in-law
Luckily the Glastonbury family lunches like this are always perfect, although I do accept a slice of cake The Boy’s mama has made… because it looks amazing, because their European influence means they’re kind of feeders hehe, but also she’s health conscious too so I know it’s all natural and made with love, so why not? Treats like this are far more worth it than a mindless chocolate binge at 3pm at work because everyone else is doing it! The cake is epic btw.
Dinner: Halloumi-courgette-mint cakes with broccoli & spinach. I steal 4 of The Boy’s skinny fries too, haha!
We decide to have dinner out so before we head back to London we swing by The Red Lion, Babcary for where I waitressed in my youth from pre-A-Levels to university summers (and had many a lock-in party and woke up hungover on the sofa the next day far too often…!) The food is some of the best in the South West pub scene (more actual gastro/restaurant style though – fab quality, menu is better now than it was when I worked there for sure!), but it has lost a bit of it’s charm as it used to be more of a local and now they have the B&B guesthouses and things it feels a bit more like a resort. Beautiful village though and the food is fantastic. Also if you’re having a break but feeling nostalgic for the city, they do serve cocktails and espresso martinis worthy of London 😉
WORKOUT:6km outdoor run in 36 mins (early afternoon) & a gentle walk with The Boy in the evening for some LISS + an at-home 20 minute yoga, stretch & foam roll session.
I was aiming for a faster 5k but it was so hot and the pavements and parks were so busy I had to weave a lot. Also strava (the app I use to track my runs) doesn’t update you through headphones how far you’re running so unless you keep looking it’s easy to overshoot distance (I may go back to Nike run… thoughts?!)
The Boy has his chest day at the gym while I’m still sleeping and gets home craving protein so he generously whips up enough of this for me too. He improvises this as we’ve made it quite a few times so it doesn’t match the book to the letter, but even he is a convert to this recipe book (review here) and as it’s by the Harley Street nutritionist who looks after his fave snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, I think he’s more willing to listen haha! #celebrityendorsement (you can buy ReNourish here)
Lunch: roast beef, 1 Yorkshire pudding, greens (spinach, dark green cabbage & kale), carrots, parsnips, 3 white roast potatoes (NO GRAVY BECAUSE I HATE IT!)
Dinner: stir fried prawns and mixed veg, dash of soy sauce.
Evening treat: 1 gin & slimline tonic (it’s so sunny and it’s the weekend so I indulge, despite being conscious that I’ve been a bit lax with the alcohol recently. Considering an 8 week alcohol break for the duration of the rest of the cut… but we’ll deal with that on Monday! Tomorrow starts another week…!)
WORKOUT: Grace Fit Uk’s Home Guide (although I do it at the gym as it saves faffing with a tonne of equipment!) full body workout, approx. 38 minutes. Extra abs (ab bikes, leg raises, plank, commandos, Russian twists, weighted sit-ups) + 3 sets of x10 burpees to finish.
Now the weather is nicer I also add on a 30 min walk daily Mon-Fri by not taking the train near me and walking 15 mins in the morning to the tube and 15 mins home at night from an earlier tube stop for extra steps.
Breakfast: 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: salmon, broccoli, kale, a few chickpeas and sprinkling of mango
WORKOUT: fast (for me!) 5k [treadmill]- I get a PB of 26 mins 31 secs &the daily commute walk I mentioned above – 30 mins total (15 before work, 15 after)
For short distance treadmill runs I try to always run just above my comfort zone (comfortable level for me treadmill wise is approx. 10-10.5k/h). So I start at 12k/h (a mind game I play haha to make the push pace feel easier!) for about 1km and then settle into 11k/h. I increase to 11.5k/h for my power track, then gradually up to 12, then 12.5k/h, 13k/h which is really working me hard…! And I finish the last 1/2km on 13.5k/h and am grateful when I hit 5km distance to be able to press the ‘stop’ button!!!!
Breakfast: same as yesterday – 1 slice sourdough, 1/2 smashed avocado, chili flakes, drizzle of olive oil
Lunch: vegan salad (rocket, quinoa, sweetcorn, spinach & mixed leaves, black olives, kidney beans, grated carrot, red pepper, sprinkle of walnuts and coriander, red pepper, celery, samphire)… plus a pack of Coconut & macadamia protein balls (not vegan – contain whey) by The Protein Ball Co.
Dinner: my fave quick brown rice Bolognese – its basically 5% fat lean beef mince, small serve of brown rice, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, lots of spinach, dash of Worcestershire sauce & paprika, pink Himalayan rock salt & black pepper (the Worcestershire & spices are the key secret ingredients that make all the difference!) + 1 paleo bar [coconut & macadamia nut] for dessert/snack as I’m weirdly still hungry an hour later and know I have fasted kobox in the morning…
WORKOUT: Kobox – lower body, 50 mins. Plus the extra 30 min LISS commute walk as per yesterday.
I’ve waxed lyrical about Kobox before and above, but just to say – Jacob has now been added to my list of fave instructors haha, think he has the best playlists in the place! Today the workout was fun but felt hard, because my legs were DOMSy from Monday and yesterday’s workouts… it was good to be challenged, but tomorrow is definitely going to be a rest day to let my muscles recover 🙂 As I mentioned before, now it’s spring/summery I walk 15 mins to a further train stop in the morning and 15 mins back in the evening – brisk pace to ensure extra LISS. It’s a nice way to warm up and wind down for the day!
Breakfast: Peanut Uppercut Shake made of chocolate protein (I ask to add an extra scoop today!), almond milk, banana and peanut butter.
Lunch: Mackerel with courgette, yellow peppers, tomato salsa and spinach & mixed leaf salad
By late afternoon I’m STARVING – haven’t had a hunger pang like this in a while! I wonder if it’s because I’ve not had many carbs today looking back at breakfast and lunch, or just because my workouts have been relatively intense… either way, I decide to eat but I need to be quick and don’t have anything prepared, so a bag of popchips it is! Not super nutritious but a fairly low kcal and so theoretically cut friendly option!
Dinner: (White) jacket potato with tuna, stilton and sun-dried tomato (no mayo because I hate it!), spinach & rocket.
I get home and I’m pretty knackered and sore from the last 3 days worth of workouts, and I just want to lie on the sofa so I want the quickest possible meal (and one I can leave out for The Boy to reheat for himself because he’s working much later than me this evening!) I recommend, if you’re a cheese lover, using blue cheese rather than cheddar as you don’t need as large a serving and you actually get more flavour, so you can avoidaccidentally over-indulging on the fat (fat isn’t bad per se but cheese isn’t full of the ‘good fats like salmon, nuts and avo – bear in mind dairy has a lot of benefits though!) I also state ‘white’ potato here for clarity because a few years ago I was obsessed that white potato is bad and sweet potato was fine – NOT SO! My nutritionist explained to me they both have benefits and neither is better or worse, the profiles are just slightly different (sweet potato has more vitamin A for example!)
And that was 10 days of my workouts and meals!
I don’t typically make it a practice to weigh myself but I have been documenting it for the cut, and at the end of the 10 days I am down just over 2lbs, just over 1kg.
My abs are starting to peek back through, especially for ‘morning abs’ which is fun – while aesthetics aren’t the sole or even main reason I train, obviously cutting is designed to tweak your aesthetic and as long as you don’t fixate, it’s fine to play around – just make sure you’re healthy and check in with your doctor and ideally see a nutritionist!
Disclaimer: I started my summer shred recently, inspired by Grace, so please note my nutrition is going to be either a little more on point than it would if I was cruising at maintenance, and/or a little more critical of my ‘treats’ and slip-ups than I normally would be! (For healthy fat loss tips see this post, and feel free to follow and join me on #gettingshreddyforsummer on instagram here!)
While I mention that I have a nutritionist in this post, I say it in a loose sense – I don’t go regularly, I have the occasional check up. This isn’t a meal plan she’s given me or anything!
A note on my daily drinks whether I’m cutting or bulking or maintaining, I don’t drink anything during the day other than tonnes of tap water, lots of peppermint tea, a couple of green teas, 1-2 black coffees a day. I only drink water based drinks really! And then there’s the alcohol which is all openly declared above… *sigh* Always the toughie to resist, especially in nice weather!
What I learned from this week
It’s so interesting for me to write all this down and actually look at my picture for the
week instead of viewing it daily. It makes me realise maybe I’m too dependent on protein balls or nakd bars or similar for a quick fix haha (although they’re an all natural company, I feel like real food where possible is always good rather than faster options!) I can see I eat quite a bit of seafood which is good and I’m happy with, and occasionally get caught off-guard if I’m rushing, so maybe some fresh fruit and nuts saved in the office for emergencies would help… Also you can see my diary commentary increases as the week goes on but then resets on the second Monday when I’ve relaxed over the weekend and feel refreshed and ready for a stronger start – obviously I get busier as the week progresses so I have to think more about my choices, whereas earlier in the week it’s just simple logs of what I eat, no muss no fuss. Just noticed as well that Friday was a bad day with 4 servings of caffeinated coffee, although it’s calorie free broadly as I don’t add anything to it, for health reasons I shouldn’t be stressing my body with so many stimulants so I need to watch the cheeky pre-work coffees and maybe just take a single espresso over ice with extra water for a treat. Plus the alcohol thing… would be best relegated to just 1 or 2 over Saturday and Sunday, not just for cut reasons but for general health reasons as alcohol isn’t fabulous for you in addition to being packed with nutritionally-empty calories! The best alcoholic drink from a cut perspective is something like vodka soda, with soda water being calorie free, vodka being 50kcal (compared with diet tonic which contains approx. 15g carbs per 200ml). While I don’t advocate calorie counting for food (NUTRIENTS NOT NUMBERS woop woop!) it’s important to be aware of it with alcohol as your body basically derives no nutritional benefit from it – genuinely empty calories (not saying have zero unless you want to teetotal – it’s fine to have treats, but I’m just talking about being aware as it’s easy to drink a few days worth of your recommended food intake if you’re not careful!)
So guys, hope that answers the questions! I’ll do a similar post if people find it helpful for when I’m not cutting / #gettingshreddyforsummer so you can see what that’s like.
I’ve been 100% honest above and recorded my alcohol/extra snack slip ups even though I didn’t want any on my shred and certainly not during the week – all to show you that WE ALL DO IT and it’s fine, it won’t totally derail you, just get back on the bandwagon the next day! Also visiting family in Somerset with family meant I didn’t have as much control over food, so this is a good illustration of attempting to stay on a cut and dealing with family meals, but also sometimes saying you know what – eat the damn cake & hang out with family instead of going for a workout, life’s too short.
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving
Clean eating: what is it?
The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.
And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?
Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).
But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.
Clean eating: the backlash
Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.
People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health.
This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.
And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.
Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.
My two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language – words have power, but also have (& need) context!
I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.
I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.
It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.
Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.
You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).
Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.
Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.
So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!
Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.
Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.
What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.
Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here) in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…
Are you affected by anything in this post?
If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).
Tired of those generic ‘how to stay fit & healthy and juggle your office job’ posts which say things like ‘meal prep’ and ‘plan’ and ‘tupperware’ and ‘get off the bus or tube one stop earlier?’
I’ve seen loads of them, and although having worked in various jobs (post-graduation office jobs I’ve juggled with my fitness interest have included account management for an online start up that IPOd, marketing for a real estate (mostly) company The Crown Estate, and paralegalling at a city firm, now trainee at another city firm… blah blah blah, but basically I’ve done a mix and various hours and environments and office cultures!) I feel pretty au fait with managing my time – I am almost 27, I’ve had a while to nail this – but I’m ALWAYS keen to learn more, get new tips and see how other people do it.
However, I’m usually disappointed. Telling me to invest in Tupperware isn’t my definition of helpful.
So I figured, what can I write that contributes in a concrete way? There are some generic tips I’ve kind of dismissed above that anyone can give, and to be fair they’re always worth stating. But I think I have a few more I can add in the context of my fitness journey, so apologies in advance for the long post, but I hope some of it is vaguely helpful!
This post is long but covers:
Resisting office treat temptation
Finding motivation when you’re busy
Top tips to make it easier on yourself
Maintaining a healthy mindset
So grab a cup of tea and have a scroll!
Assess the time you have available
If you work a 9-5 or 6ish job, you have significantly larger chunks of time than those in, say, certain aspects of finance who might work beyond 10pm most nights.
This isn’t a judgement thing – however many ‘free’ hours we have in a day, it never feels enough. I get it. I’ve done 9-5s, 9-7s, 7-10+s in various contexts… and then if you have kids, god bless you I don’t know how you do juggle them with a job, so I appreciate that’s a multiplier of a million in terms of toughness and finding a slot to workout.
But ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself.
Where can you carve out the time that is REALISTIC?
If, like me, you hate mornings, you might be able to squeeze in the odd morning session (I managed to get up at 5.30am for a week to go to Kobox but I had just started my new job so didn’t have late nights at the office and after that week, I wasn’t gonna carry on doing that!) but you won’t stick to it long term.
If you can rarely leave the office before 9pm and have an hour commute home, you probably won’t be an evening exerciser either.
If you have a job where the culture dictates your desk presence during the day, or clients do, you may not be able to do a lunch session. If you have flexibility with work not picking up til the afternoon or your manager/supervisor/colleagues not minding, then maybe there’s your window.
It’s not easy. I appreciate that. But if you’re feeling screwed for all of the above reasons, then I think, personally, the solution is to do workouts for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, and then snatch a couple more 40 minute workouts where you can during the week (even if you only manage one – that’s 3 workouts across your whole week, which I think should be a healthy minimum!) – force yourself up for one or two mornings, or snatch a lunch time here or take advantage of the one day you can leave work at 7.30pm.
I like to workout about 4 times during the average week – I’m lucky that I can usually squeeze in an evening one (my fiancé works long hours too so it’s fine to be super late home) but usually at least once a week I’ll do a morning one.
That frees me up to either fully rest at the weekend or if I’m on a roll or fancy it I can do 2 more workouts Sat and Sun taking my total to 6.
On a fabulously motivated week where I manage the time then sure, I’ll do 6 workouts a week because I love to. Some weeks I only manage 3 and if I’m particularly slammed, I drop to 2. I tend to feel I don’t have time but I MAKE THEM A PRIORITY. There is no way you can’t carve out a little time for 2 workouts if it matters to you. If it doesn’t… that’s totally okay, don’t do them! Family stresses, serious work crises, bereavements, there are so many legit reasons for the gym to be shunted off your priority list. But I assume you’re reading this to try and fit more in, so that’s why I’m hammering home the point about planning and prioritising and making time. But…
YOU DON’T NEED TO WORKOUT 6 TIMES A WEEK TO BE HEALTHY. I’d say 2 minimum, 3 ideal and any more than that do it because you love it.
My number varies according to my busy-ness, work, laziness, illness, social comittments… but I feel 2 is the absolute minimum as I have a desk job. We need to MOVE to be healthy and while a week of no workouts won’t kill, I think habits are key. Which brings us to…
Let’s talk about habits…
If you can have a habitual routine (workouts Mon, Weds, Fri mornings) it makes life easier as it feels less negotiable – you can just do it. This isn’t always possible but a baseline default habit can be SO HELPFUL! Deviate when essential, but if you can have a routine that you stick to automatically, it simplifies things SO MUCH. One to strive for, but also not beat yourself up about if you can’t quite manage it – some jobs are so erratic (or babies or toddlers!) that you’ll just have to seize the moment when it presents itself. Not much you can do. But if you’re 20 something, child free and only working 40 hours a week… no excuses!
Don’t drink diet drinks, fizzy drinks or juices when thirsty – always go for water, herbal tea, and only have these as a TREAT.
Don’t take sugar in tea/coffee – not because it’s ‘bad’ but because it’s added to so many things – save it for a REAL nice sweet treat – that Sunday slice of cheesecake or that Friday champagne cocktail or that flapjack on your department’s weekly bake-off day.
Make it a habit to always take the stairs, and to at the very least go for an hour’s walk at weekends (take the kids or the partner, no excuses!)
Try to at least, if you can’t do that because of work/kids/travel, form some sensible habits that lay groundwork… make it feel compulsory to workout twice a week (unless injured).
These are all pretty generic but I guess the key is re-programming your defaults to a healthier setting. Nothing is BANNED. It’s just about ENJOYING indulgence and recognising it for what it is – indulgence – rather than accidentally consuming excess sugar, empty calories, and skipping workouts because you’re in one of *those* spirals…
The BIGGEST TOP TIP I can give on habits is this one too – sounds cheesy but it’s critical. WE ALL HAVE DAYS EVEN IF WE LOOOOOVE FITNESS where after work we’re like fuck it, CBA to workout. Have a Person (I can’t say buddy, sorry) you can speak to. Mine is my fiancé. I’ll call him (best) or whatsapp if he’s too busy at work and be like I can’t be bothered. He knows me well enough to tell if I’ve trained too much or too little, if work stress would be best alleviated by a workout or a rest day, and so can encourage me to train where it’s best, or let me off the hook where relevant so if I do rest, it’s guilt free.
Because while this is about how to fit in training and healthy eating, it’s not healthy to obsess about it and push yourself too hard. Exercise releases cortisol so adds stress to the body, in addition to all its health benefits, so some days rest may be what you need. Don’t get sucked into the marketing speak of ‘go hard or go home’ ‘never miss a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday…’
Admittedly, if your partner isn’t super into fitness or wouldn’t be very good at that, then they’re not the best choice. Try a friend. Or get on instagram and join the fitness community there and find a buddy. I’m happy to do it for you (only if I don’t get too many requests!) although the only thing there is someone you know well in your daily life is best for the reasons I describe above with my fiancé.
Some communities you can join on insta are #bbg or #kaylasarmy (where I first got into the fitness community online), #GFG, #tiu / #ToneItUp, or #queenteam.
Planning Planning Planning & Booking classes… should I pay & schedule to force myself to go?
Not always, but I’ve found this to be a fab method at times. The key is to know if it will force you to go when you’re feeling a bit bleh, which is good… or if you might have an unforeseen work crisis that prevents you going and makes you feel unfit AND rubbish AND you’ve just lost your money/credits for booking into the bargain.
Your body adapts to what you do, so while variety is good to keep it interesting and jolt yourself out of plateaus, if you’re looking for set results you need to be consistent over time. (Does that make sense? Basically, there’s a time and a place for changing things up, sure… but you need to stick to something first to get the results, give your body a chance to make the adaptations). So try (for example) 12 weeks of something before you switch, if that makes sense (that’s not a set in stone number, just a suggestion of an extended period where you might be able to commit to a programme and get results)
The other thing about variety is it’s all well and good but it’s wise to know what you’re doing when you get to the gym. Don’t go and improvise – if I ever do this I have mediocre workouts at best as I feel a bit aimless. Have a plan. Even if you draw it up in notes on your phone en route!
And then some mini motivation tips:
These (above) are the big ‘lifestyle’ things that can sound a bit tough to implement but I really recommend trying to get these down for a month or two and it will get easier as it stops being something to try to do and starts being something you do automatically (although don’t beat yourself up for low motivation days – they happen to all of us! That’s what the Person under tip 2 is for).
I think if you can really think about and master some of the above, you’re well on your way to making fitness and health a priority that holds its own against the competing demands of your life. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t smash it every week. But equally the idea of creating the habits and mindsets above is to help you set a fairly constant standard… you’re allowed peaks and troughs like any human being, but that’s your baseline!
Now here are some smaller things that may or may not help you fine tune this regime!
Outfit planning: I like to lay out my fave lulus and choose pretty sports bras etc. the night before, especially if I know I’ve been struggling to feel excited about gym. Sounds stupid, but it helps me.
THEJUSTDOITMETHOD: if all else fails, I swear by a power lip (usually red – fave lipsticks are chanel, dior and Charlotte Tilbury), shot an espresso, put your hair in a messy bun, blast out some gangster rap and JUST GO. You won’t regret it*
(*subject to the usual exceptions – injury etc. Be sensible. Don’t force yourself if its clearly unhealthy!)
The controversial insta scroll: I have a policy of only following people on insta who make me feel empowered and motivated, so a cheeky scroll usually does wonders for my motivation. However, I know social increasingly gets linked with poor mental health. If you feel bad about yourself for going on it, I’d suggest unfollowing anyone who makes you feel that way, and/or considering deleting it altogether.
Make it a date: with friends, the bf/gf, culture is weirdly centred around pub dates, coffee dates and wine bar dates. Find some likeminded friends (see community recommendations above for ways to find some on social media if you don’t have any) and go to a class together then have a smoothie to catch up, instead of necking ten G&Ts in the pub…! Or go for a run in your neighbourhood together. Or drive out of the city and hike together. I love and fairly regularly do all of these options.
Just 20 mins: If you really can’t face it, tell yourself you’ll just do 20 mins. That’s all you have to do. Chances are, 15 mins in you’ll have broken through the block an really enjoy it, and stay for 30, or 40, or 45, or an hour. (I love 40-55 min workouts. I rarely do a full hour these days!)
If in doubt, sweat at home: If making the gym is proving impossible, there are tonnes of workouts online, on youtube, on fitness blender, on this site where you can get a sweat on quickly at home! Any movement is better than none and it doesn’t take loads of fancy equipment. I prefer to go to the gym or a class but if I really really can’t, then 100 burpees, 50 press ups, and playing with my kettlebell at home will get my heart rate going rather than lying like a vegetable on the sofa…!
Resisting office temptation: This is a tough one right? Sweets, cake, doughnuts abound – team birthdays, celebrations… how to stay on track?
My policy is simple. I mindfully assess whether I really want it. 9/10 times my body actually doesn’t want the sugar bombs! Do I really want it? No. Then I say no as a matter of policy. A simple ‘no thanks I’m not hungry’ will do.
Do I want it? Maybe 1/10 times there’s a little sliver of red velvet cake… and maybe I do want it. So I have it!
It’s about working out if you’re eating for the sake of it, boredom, or to appease someone else – those aren’t reasons to indulge! But if it will actually SATISFY YOU then do it! Remember, a simple 80/20 rule. It’s not ‘bad’ to have a treat… unless you’re overindulging and damaging your health by doing it daily!
Read this post if you want comfort food but need some healthy swap suggestions as stress eating isn’t good for anyone!
Lunch habits: a protein and fibre rich lunch will keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking mindlessly! Include complex carbs, lean protein and lots of veggies. Meal prep can help with this, or check out salad bars like Vital Ingredient for good options. Obviously you can vary things and you don’t need to worry about it too much – but making mindful lunch choices can stop that 3pm slump which half the time is because we’re not nourishing ourselves properly, and half the time is a psychosomatic myth so people have an excuse to grab a daily Twix and tell themselves they need it!
Working out should be because you want to take care of yourself, not to punish yourself or burn off food or force yourself into a certain body shape. We all have aesthetic goals and preferences, sure, but try to view food and exercise as fuel and training, not dieting and it’s unnecessarily hard-work twin!
Also, I get that its tough in this day and age – we’re all so busy! But unless you’re super gross, you always clean your teeth without fail, or shower. They’re non-negotiables for health and hygiene.
You need to view some degree of movement as a non-negotiable like this too, for your health and wellbeing. Magazines have done a good job of making us feel you only do it to lose weight. I really want to kick against this, and make people see it’s a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, one of the most underutilised tools for avoiding all kinds of illnesses, both mental and physical. So EDUCATE YOURSELF and change your mindset – I’m so glad I have!
Shredded by science – for the actual facts (fully backed up scientific study-based nerdery here!) about training and nutrition
Chessie King – influencer and body confidence activist @chessiekingg
Zanna Van Dijk – PT, environmental guru, fitness influencer @zannavandijk
Tally Rye – PT tackling diet culture and looking to change the fitness industry @tallyrye
These are just some examples of sources of good quality information above, and inspiration below (obviously there’s a crossover there, but in terms of science, evidence and qualification, the top 3 are amazing). The other three are just great, healthy, inspiring girls who won’t give you body hangups and are changing diet culture and helping women across the world.
So, sorry for the essay, but I hope that helps! I’ve tried to address all the things I find help me, all the stuff I’ve learned over my “fitness journey” (cringe!) and answer all the questions I get on the regular.
Over the course of, for want of a better phrase (!), my ‘health and fitness journey’ *mini cringe*, my outlook has changed a lot.
Ironically, I discovered that the influence slogans were true – trust the process, fall in love with the process, and you’ll get better aesthetic results.
I didn’t believe it when I first started either.
However, as I have become happier with my body, fitter, stronger, admittedly my goals have shifted towards process-driven ones (to be able to do an unassisted pull up, to improve my boxing technique, to be able to do plyo push-ups) which is a much healthier place to be instead of obsessing over body size.
I’m glad to be in a healthy physical and mental space, and to be trying to share that message more, instead of feeding the ‘must get skinny’ toxicity that still runs through society in a big way.
HOWEVER it does mean that talking about fat loss for me is difficult. How do I do it without promoting orthorexia (we can’t say clean eating anymore) or implying that fat is bad?
A poll on my Instagram lately indicated that loads of you are still super interested in fat
loss so I wanted to address it as a topic in a healthy, balanced, sustainable way. Because I think it is possible (though perhaps tough!) to change your body composition and lose some fat in a body positive way… it all depends on your mindset.
As always, bear in mind that while I’ve had a successful weight loss journey to a place where I’m happy, that followed times of being underweight and bulimia before my excessive weight gain, and while I’m recovered and I have been active in the online wellness and health community for over 5 years, I am not a nutritionist or doctor. The only qualification I’ve done is a group exercise instructor REPS level 2 course where the nutrition content is minimal. My knowledge is from personal interest and research only, and so you can use it as a jumping off point to conduct research yourself, but you can’t rely on me for personal advice. Ok? 🙂
Fat Loss: how do we do it healthily?
You may or may not have heard the saying ‘you can’t out train a bad diet.’
This is totally true.
So if you really want to alter your body composition (i.e. lose some fat) then you need to address your nutrition first and foremost.
This can be a bit of a minefield as I think it is CRITICAL that you do this in a way that isn’t detrimental to your health (which is where so many people go wrong – fad diets encouraging cutting food groups, for example, are not sustainable long term and deprive your body of vital nutrients).
The way I have approached fat loss that I feel is most physically AND mentally beneficial is:
NO CALORIE OR MACRO COUNTING (however I know some people without ED backgrounds can count numbers and not obsess, and I acknowledge that maybe the reason I can eat healthily and intuitively is because I know a lot about the nutritional contents of food because I HAVE calorie counted and macro counted in the past!)
But DO address portion sizes! If you’re sedentary in your day job like me, you don’t need insane plates of food! I like to make 2/3 – 1/2 of my plate veggies (mostly greens!) and then a palm size of lean protein and hand-size of complex carbohydrates.
Spend a week (or ideally two) keeping a food diary which includes WHAT you ate, but also how you feel mood-wise (before and after eating. It can help you learn the difference between ACTUAL physical hunger, emotional hunger and psychological hunger, and assists you in cutting out ‘mindless’ eating.
Give up alcohol for a while. I think this gives you the mental space to assess your relationship with food and your body and confidence, as well as being an easy way to trim out non-nutritious food. I had a 6 month period without alcohol because its essentially of no nutritional benefit, it’s a depressant, and it makes you less aware of the choices you’re making. I’m not suggesting you quit for half a year! I’d say do a 2 week break and then introduce it back in a mindful way – have a drink as an indulgent treat, but stick to one or two and savour them.
Once you’ve mastered streamlining what goes into your body (think 80-90% foods that are top quality fuel – nutrient dense, natural, whole foods, try to limit processed food as much as possible and avoid additives – extra sugar and all kinds of stuff gets added in to things you’d least expect! – and 20-10% treats, because this is about sustainability long term – no food is bad, no food is out of bounds, but you need to get out of a binge-restrict mindset).
Mentally reset: leaning down safely
Once you’ve worked on your dietary approach, you need to check in with yourself about how and why you’re losing weight. You shouldn’t embark on any regime without consulting a GP or medical health professional, particularly if your goal is solely aesthetic – there are a range of health problems that can come from being underweight including loss of bone density, osteoporosis and infertility as well as heart problems, so have a think about why you want to lose weight.
Regularly mentally check yourself that you still love and appreciate your body for what it is and can do NOW.
Realise that losing weight isn’t inherently good or bad; it won’t ‘fix’ your life, and if you have self-esteem issues, for example, a perfect physique (what is perfect anyway?!) won’t solve those problems.
Every time you’re thinking about fat loss, try to tune in to how you feel emotionally. Are you anxious, stressed, self-loathing? These might be signs you need to take a break from this goal and talk to someone. Or are you happy, enjoying being full of energy, with a nice bonus of preferring some of your aesthetic changes, without obsessing about it? Then you’re in a good place.
The fat loss formula
Essentially, to assist your nutritional changes, you want to up your energy expenditure.
DON’T FALL INTO THE TRAP of thinking you need to ‘burn off’ eating food.
DO try to find physical activity you enjoy, and build up slowly.
Low intensity steady state training (brisk incline walking, swimming, cycling) may burn fewer calories overall but its technically most effective for fat loss as to use fat stores as fuel rather than stored glycogen in the body, you need oxygen available to do this. So while anaerobic exercise like HIIT burns more calories in the same time technically, less of this will come from stored fat.
When thinking about a workout schedule, here are some key tips:
Be realistic. Don’t aim to train 6 days a week for an hour if you hate the gym and have a mad work schedule. 6 days is overkill even if you love training, probably… overtraining can be counterproductive.
Try to pick exercise you enjoy. Basically, consistency is key. Don’t think about ‘I have to just do this for 10 weeks to get my dream body then I can stop woohoo!’ We’re talking LIFESTYLE CHANGES people, because otherwise once you hit your goal, you won’t stay there for long.
Variety helps you stop getting bored. It can also be used if after 6 months of training you hit a plateau and need to re-set and boost results.
SET PROCESS DRIVEN GOALS TO USE AS A FOCUS INSTEAD OF FAT LOSS. It will help you melt the fat off anyway! Examples might be to be able to do your first high box jump or pull up, to do 20 on your toes press ups, to run 2k, 5k, 10k, to go to a boxing class and not feel like death at the end…! Anything that means you’re working on something outside of the fat loss thing. Think about strength, agility, flexibility.
So what kind of training is optimum for fat loss?
The goal here is to lose fat without exercising solely thinking about that, right? I’d say DON’T WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BECAUSE IF YOU HATE THAT KIND OF TRAINING, YOU WON’T STICK TO IT. And if you can’t stick to it (i.e. see yourself being happy to do something similar for pretty much the rest of your life, obviously amounts will vary, but still…) then the benefits won’t stick.
Personally, I think balanced training is the way to go.
Increase your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is energy you burn while not ‘exercising’, so taking the stairs, extra walking, that kind of thing, falls into this category. Do as much of this as possible – for health reasons as much as anything! I ALWAYS take the escalator at a walk / jog, climb stairs if I have the option, and add a 45 minute walk in to my weekend.
HIIT is a great way to exercise if you’re time poor. They say it’s great for revving the metabolism and torching calories in a short session. Just be careful not to overtrain in this way as it’s touch on joints where it’s super high impact and the central nervous system. If you’re a beginner I’d do some simple weight lifting first instead to make sure you’ve got the form and stability.
Plyometrics – often used with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) uses explosive, often jump-type movements, really rocking those fast-twich muscle fibres. As above with HIIT, while this is super effective and efficient, it can be tough on the body so don’t over do it.
LISS (low intensity steady state) – the bread and butter that you should try to get in as much of as you sensibly can.
How do I train these days? I’m not saying copy this, but this schedule works for me:
Most of my LISS is NEAT to be fair – weekend walks, climbing stairs. Sometimes I’ll do rowing, cycling or a high incline walk at the gym once a week.
HIIT / plyometrics – for my biggest weightloss period I used Kayla Itsines BBG programme which is basically this which involved 28 mins of this three times a week. Now I do boxing style workouts with my PT or at Kobox 1-3 times a week for 50 minutes.
Don’t start at max capacity. If you currently do nothing, schedule 1 high intensity and 2 low intensity sessions a week.
If you do some, up it a little.
But all of this goes hand in hand with checking in with yourself mentally (how do you feel? Are you feeling drained, stressed, desperate to lose some fat? You may need to stop, reassess and do some work on your mindset. I’d recommend Mel Well’s The Goddess Revolution here. Or are you feeling empowered and starting to enjoy the process more and care less about the fat? That’s the ideal!)
Consistency is key
This is probably the most important thing to remember. Consistency with both nutrition and training is the way you see changes in your body. Slow, steady progress means your results are likely healthier, and sustainable long-term.
Structure can be super helpful if you’re a beginner. I guide my own training now, but following Kayla’s programme in the past was perfect as it was basically three 28 minute workouts that fit around work.
I hope this dive into trying to do fat loss in a body positive way was helpful.
As I said, I’m just a former group exercise instructor and fitness fangirl who loves to connect with people who have similar health and wellness interest. My tips aren’t a substitute for qualified advice.
Just try to remember that our bodies are here for the long haul (our whole lives!) in fact. Don’t sacrifice health and happiness to weigh 5% less people.
However, that said, you don’t need to feel bad for having aesthetic goals. While it’s not why I train now, I LOVED feeling on top form training hard last summer and seeing my abs and myself get leaner (although not my leanest!) whilst also getting stronger.
I’m looking at further study soon because I want to feel more able to advise and share information from a place that’s safe and sensible to do so. If you might be interested in coaching in future if this becomes available, let me know.