Let’s talk nutrition – it’s such a huge focus for me when working with people, because honestly, if you’re looking to make changes to your body with a fitness regime ONLY, I’ll tell you now, you are going to be HIGHLY disappointed.
When coaching a new client that either wants to lose weight or change body composition, the first thing I ask them to do is to keep a food diary. Now, most people aren’t really that honest with the process of keeping a food diary – once you start writing everything down your behaviours may start to change or you don’t tell the whole truth – but either way it’s an awesome exercise to create mindful habits when it comes to understanding what goes into your body.
Nutrition is two fold – you eat to nourish your body (and I definitely try to make this the focus) and you eat to change your body (whether that is losing weight, bulking up or reshaping). If we focus on the first and do everything right elsewhere (such as in the gym and being mindful of our food) the second will come.
I often get asked why I don’t ask people to count calories to lose weight. I’ve seen it time and time again, people have come to me after losing weight successfully in the past with this method (Light and Easy, 12WBT, restricted diets of 1000 – 1200 calories per day), but go on to regain the weight as soon as they start eating normally again, as it simply is not a sustainable way of eating. They keep trying the same program again, but aren’t as successful the second or third attempt and the reason for this is simple. The more you put your body into calorie deficit, the worse off your metabolism will become and that’s why it becomes harder to lose weight the next time you try.
We get told all the time that all calories are created equally, but I strongly disagree with this and the results that I’ve seen and continue to see with clients and online members makes me disagree even more with this statement.
So should you count calories to change body composition and maintain it? NO!!
What about Counting Macros?
So what about counting macros? Well yes, but also no. While I don’t suggest focusing on counting calories, I do recommend you learn about eating complete meals and learning what foods contain proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Calculating every bite for an extended period of time takes away from the enjoyment of eating and also creates a pretty obsessive mindset which doesn’t sit well with me at all – counting macros definitely doesn’t represent “health” – so don’t get confused by all the bodybuilders and fitness competitors and what they’re doing – they’re training for events and I’ve spoken so many times that high performance is definitely not reflective of “health” so there is no need to be so obsessive when looking to trim down or create lean, long muscles.
Most of the people I train are looking for strong, fit bodies, less wobbly parts and some nice tone and going to the nth degree with this is not healthy and can create some pretty obsessive behaviours and the wrong mindset. I cringe when I see personal trainers going down the path of creating “bikini bodies” with counting macros, as I truly worry about the long term affects of this – both in mind and body.
I do however suggest focusing on complete meals and including protein at EVERY meal.
It will help you change your body composition (when you exercise as well!) from carrying extra fat to carrying lean muscle, which burns more calories at rest and you will start to see more tone in your muscles.
I get lots of questions asking for macro breakdowns, calories and serving sizes on my recipes, which I can understand, but my message is pretty simple; eat well, have small portions, don’t rely on carbohydrates and focus on protein and lots of vegetables serves. Do this for the majority of the time and you can allow yourself a portioned sized treat once or twice a week – go for it without the guilt or notions of “failing” or claiming you were “bad”
What about Carbohydrates?
Don’t be scared of Carbs, just make sure you vary your sources. Most people I work with will know that I have a low starch approach. This does not mean eliminating carbohydrates entirely or letting your body go into a complete state of ketosis – it means limiting to one or two starchy serves of food a day and NOT relying on grains for these carbohydrate serves (depending on where you are at with body composition).
But I am Eating Right, Why am I not Losing Weight or Seeing Changes?
Can you put on weight even though you are eating “healthy”? The answer is YES! If you are eating really well, you can still put on weight if your portion sizes are too big and if your exercise levels are too low. To avoid this, I suggest snacking and having smaller meals. I also suggest not eating too late at night and substituting food for other activities as a “reward” for milestones.
Let’s Talk Cheat Meals and Carbohydrate Cycling
Most diets or weight loss systems, talk about cheat meals and carbohydrate cycling. This is where you are allowed 1 meal a week of anything you like or to up your carbohydrate intake for a few days after a period of restriction to boost your metabolism. I don’t include these in my sample meal plans, but most of the time it happens naturally with “life” and can be very good in aiding changing composition as your body doesn’t adapt and never goes into starvation mode. Just make sure that one meal doesn’t turn into an entire weekend or week – that is where the damage is done!
That said, cheat meals would be preferable without refined sugars or saturated fats – there are so many options today to get your sweet fix or carbohydrate boost, without using refined processed products – a treat that is made from whole foods is definitely the way to go, but it’s about changing the mindset and removing the guilt from food.
Life is too short to spend so much time counting calories and stressing about food.
Restricting yourself from having something sweet or treating yourself will eventually lead to a binge outbreak or overeating. For every period of severe restriction there is an equal and opposite period of binge eating – so portion size, treat yourself and eat well the majority of the time.
Tips For Sculpting Your Body and Changing Composition (with a Focus on Health and Wellness!)
- Ensure each meal you have is portion sized – DO NOT over eat and focus on unprocessed, whole foods.
- Eat protein with every meal. The rule of thumb is that for each main meal, the portion of protein should be about the size of your open palm, and for snacks, about the size of half your palm
- Have a maximum of 1 – 2 starch serves a day. Make these early in the day and preferably vary the sources of carbohydrates in your diet. (Don’t rely on wheat based products for these serves – think brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, bananas for your carb/starch serve)
- Drink lots of water. Eliminate juices and soft drinks
- Exercise at least 3 times per week – include HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training to boost your metabolic rate) and one longer slow fat burning workout per week.
- A portion sized treat once or twice a week will not have a negative effect on your weight loss goals
- Focus on gut healing nutrients such as bone broth, Gelatin and foods that contain pre and probiotics such as Kimchi, Kefir, Sauerkraut etc
Meal preparation goes a long way and always be prepared with snacks at the very least. Learn to make the right choices on a consistent basis and it will become second nature.
Respect your body enough to fuel it with the right energy to keep it working properly for as long as possible.
Nourished Body – Healthy Mind
P.S On a personal note, I am fitter, healthier and leaner now than when I was training 25 – 30 hours a week as an athlete because of this way of eating and training. I’ve been through the body image, starvation/binge roller coaster, but am proud to say that through focusing on “health” I am in better shape than ever. This way of eating is sustainable, your body won’t go into stress response and you avoid the yo – yo effect. In my 28 Day Kick-Start and Membership Program I include recipes and meal plans to get you started on changing your body composition with a health and wellness approach. People that have lost weight or toned up on the program have commented on how sustainable this way of eating is and how they haven’t looked back – so come and join the community – I’d love to help if I can.
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