Unsuccessful Fat Loss

All too often, we (the media, ill-educated ‘fitness professionals’, and probably your favourite health bloggers) target incredibly specific aspects of nutrition, deeming them responsible for ineffective fat loss.

Consider the image below:

reasons_meme

How many times have you heard someone blame one of the above reasons (other than number one) for their inability to lose weight?

The truth is, gluten isn’t making you fat. Sugar, likewise, cannot be solely responsible for weight gain (unless of course you’re eating in a calorie surplus, and 100% of those calories are obtained from sugar alone).

Nine times out of ten, if a member of the general public ‘cuts out gluten’ or ‘goes sugar-free’, they will lose weight. Why? Because they are simultaneously (and subconsciously) cutting out a huge portion of their usually stodge-ridden diet, and likely replacing it with a less calorie-dense alternative. Does this mean that gluten/sugar were directly responsible for making them fat? No, no, no. But the daily cakes, sweets, take outs that contain gluten/sugar (which the subject has now renounced)?  Now we’re talking.

Demonising specific food groups, in itself, demonstrates a lack of awareness on the subject, and it’s a practice that instils unnecessary scaremongering relating to certain aspects of nutrition.

Likewise, blaming basic bodily/hormonal functions for poor weight loss is (in the vast majority of general population cases) just plain stupid. Sally down the road isn’t overweight because she’s insulin-resistant, and your colleague Jeff isn’t piling on the pounds because he skipped breakfast, and his body is subsequently operating in ‘starvation mode’.

Let’s look at the reality…

What Sally didn’t tell you about her diet, is that she spends her afternoon snacking on ‘just a few’ biscuits in the office, which easily total 400 calories every day. Over the course of her five-day work week, that’s an extra 2000 calories. Consider that figure per month – a hefty 8000 cals on biscuits alone. But they were just a ‘little snack’, right?

Jeff, on the other hand, forgot to mention that he makes up for his lack of breakfast by ‘treating’ himself to a sausage roll from the bakery in the afternoon. And we all know that sausage roll tastes better served up with a full fat cola.

Both Sally and Jeff are, of course, completely metaphorical in this instance. But, I hope you can start to understand my point: people are all too quick to seek a ‘reason’ for being overweight, in order to excuse themselves.

Fat loss comes down to consumption and expenditure. We’ve been over this before (if you missed it, read more about the energy balance equation here).

The more you eat, the more calories your body takes in. If an increase in consumption is not met with an increase in expenditure, the energy balance is somewhat out of whack. In simple terms, the excess of calories will be stored as fat.

So, what’s the point in going over the same ol’ nonsense again, Char?

My point is this… We NEED to stop targeting specific food groups, hormones and everything in between, and get to the facts on fat loss. As fitness professionals, it’s our duty to address false claims, marketing ploys and downright stupid theories on the human body.

So, my message is the same as always…

  • If you want to lose weight, stop eating like an ass.
  • Consume good, wholesome foods: a varied, naturally colourful, fresh dietary intake.
  • Base your meals around lean, high quality protein sources.
  • Eat treats to maintain your sanity, in whatever way works for you. Personally, I advocate little and often, as I feel this is the most realistic and reliable approach.
  • Move. Every damn day. However you want. Just move.

One day, it’ll start to sink in. Promise.

Peace xoxox

Juice Cleanses, Bone Broths, Skinny Teas: The Myths, Debunked

This morning, our work group chat went offfff. Someone shared an image that had been posted on Instagram, promoting juice cleanses and bone broths as a photoshoot diet strategy. Enough is enough. It’s time to call out the bullsh*t.

Firstly, I want to address the issue of social media itself. Our social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc) can be incredibly informative. However, with the rise of influencer marketing, we have to be aware that not everything we see is 100% truthful. In reality, I’d estimate that about 70% of the ‘health and fitness’ related content over Instagram is factually inaccurate.

Why? Money. It’s amazing what some individuals will do/say/promote in return for a little cash. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this is some people’s livelihood, but come on… Let’s retain a little bit of integrity. Kudos to the influencers that only work with brands they genuinely believe in, you guys are the real MVP. However, far too many people are willing to promote ‘fad’ products, which have little-to-no value to the consumer.

On that note, let’s get to the nitty gritty. We’ve been here before. It’s a conversation that’s all too familiar for me now, and hopefully, it’s getting that way for you too.

Here it is: a single ‘weight-loss’ product is not an adequate diet strategy.

A juice cleanse is not a sustainable way to lose weight.

Bone broth is not the reason you dropped some body fat.

‘Skinny tea/coffee’ DOES NOT MAKE YOU SKINNY.

So, you want to go on that juice cleanse which is advertised to help you ‘drop 10kg in 5 days’… Firstly, let’s just point out that it’s physically impossible to drop 10kg of body fat in three days. Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll drop some water weight.
  • You will lose a small percentage of body fat.

But… continue reading for the important stuff.

A juice diet, bone broth cleanse, or skinny coffee regime will not, itself, stimulate a reduction in body fat. Despite some very clever marketing strategies, none of these products have a mystical effect on your internal state. They will not ‘flush out’ your gut, or promote an increased metabolic rate.

The real reason you’ll drop some body fat? Because you switched up an excessively calorie dense diet (which made you overweight in the first place) for lower calorie liquid alternatives. Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking… Ah, so liquid must be important to lose weight then? Nope! Wrong again. The fact that these ‘weight loss’ products are liquid is totally irrelevant.

So, what does this all boil down to? Calorie deficit. This topic must be somewhat fresh in your minds, remember my post ‘Calories and Fat Loss’ a couple of weeks ago? Same same. But I’ll say it again (and seemingly again and again after that).

Fat loss occurs through a caloric deficit. Fat loss does not occur because you had your fruit and vegetables in liquid form. Fat loss does not occur because you drank animal broth. Fat loss does not occur because you consume skinny coffee. Expend more than you ingest, and you will lose weight. That’s just science.

Don’t be a sucker for consumer marketing.

Peace xoxox

Calories and Fat Loss

How many times have you heard a statement along the following lines?

  • ‘I need to lose weight, I’m going to cut out bread’.
  • ‘Ooh, no chocolate for me, that’s fattening’.

These statements are wildly outdated. Not only that, they’re damn right wrong.

So you want to lose weight? Let’s break it down. When it comes to fat loss, it’s about establishing the correct energy balance to align with your goals.

If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, consider the following:

‘Energy in’ = calories.

‘Energy out’ = energy expenditure (through tasks such as living, moving etc).

  • If energy in is equal to energy out, weight remains the same.
  • If energy in is greater than energy out, weight will be gained.
  • If energy in is lower than energy out, weight will be lost.

Energy-Balance-Diagram

So, as you can see from the picture above, fat loss boils down to calories in vs. calories out. In this sense, whether you decide to obtain your calories from chocolate or lean meat/vegetables is neither here nor there. Obviously, there is a logical approach to fat loss (which basically just consists of not being a moron), but whatever approach you take, calories remain as calories. Now, this is not me suggesting that you shouldn’t consume good, wholesome foods. Let me explain…

Your body does not have a magical trigger system to identify the calories obtained from ‘naughty’ (hate that label) foods, to immediately store them as fat.

Evidently, some foods (typically those which are also ‘hyper-palatable’ – v yummy and totally desirable) are more dense in calories. This means you can eat a much lesser volume, whilst still consuming a relatively high caloric intake. Other food groups (often classified as ‘healthy’ – think lean meats, veggies etc) are not nearly as hefty in calories. What does that mean? You can eat a whole lotta volume and still keep the calories low. In other words, you get a lot more bang for ya buck.

What am I getting at? I want to debunk the idea that certain foods are deemed to be ‘off limits’ when trying to shift some fat. Why? Primarily because I bloody love chocolate. No one should have to live without chocolate. Or pizza. Gal likes her food yo.

So no, dieting doesn’t have to mean absolute avoidance of all hyper-palatable foods. In fact, I’d personally argue the complete opposite. In my experience, the inclusion of more calorie dense foods, often identified as ‘treats’ in this context, can be highly valuable.

For me, and most of the clients I’ve worked with, a small, regular ‘naughty treat’ (for want of a more appropriate label) acts to maintain sanity. Look at the bigger picture: if a small bar of chocolate is going to stop you craving a big dirty binge, then surely that chocolate bar can be identified as a pivotal part of your progress?

It’s about establishing a balance that will keep you on track in moving towards your ultimate long-term goal, but also maintain your sanity in the short term. So, perhaps rather than searching for a single identifiable food source as the cause of your weight gain, why not look at the bigger picture?

Consider your nutrition as a whole. Chocolate or bread will not halt your progress. Weight gain will not occur unless there is a surplus of calories. So, providing you are able to establish a calorie deficit (through either moving more or eating less), then you will lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

In fact, it’s as simple as this:

Use your brain.

Don’t be a moron.

Eat your protein.

Don’t be scared of bread.

Your body loves micronutrients.

Don’t be a moron.

That’s pretty much it.

Peace xoxox

Review: Ivy Park

Let’s be honest… If you haven’t heard of Ivy Park by now, you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. So when the opportunity arose to review some items from the collection (stocked by JD Women), I just couldn’t say no.

The brand, co-founded by none other than Queen Bey (yep, the Beyonce), aims to take you from the street, to the gym and back again – in allllll sorts of style. We’re talking lux activewear, at high street prices. The best part? There’s no scrimping on quality either.

img_3111img_3129img_3252

The Leggings:

Any gym girl knows what she wants when it comes to a pair of leggings:

  • A thick-but-stretchy material, which SURE AS HELL ain’t see-through.
  • The squat-proof guarantee: when we drop it down low, do the leggings stay up? Don’t want to be giving any onlookers a cheeky (pardon the pun) peep at your peach.
  • A chunky waistband, because it’s most flattering, and also contributes to extra stay-uppiness.

Check, check, check – these leggings have got it all. Whilst the waistband doesn’t have a tie adjustment for extra peace of mind, they’re reliable enough at staying up on their own, because of the resilient, almost scuba-like material. SO GOOD.

They’ve even got a pair of built in undies – seamless of course, so no VPL issues. What more could you ask for!? I mean, really…

img_3225img_3126img_3146

The Top:

An oversized fit, teamed with drop armholes and a statement print. It gives off the kind of gym-chic vibe as seen on your Instagram girl crush (you have those too, right?).

This piece (along with most of the collection, when I think about it) is all about the little details. The tape trim gives just the right amount of sass, and a monochrome colour scheme is always a winner in my eyes.

img_3200

img_3172img_3278

As a whole, the brand suggests a pairing of ‘technical innovation’ and ‘fashion led design’ throughout their collections; a very fair claim, I’d say!

I’ll definitely be buying some gym clothing from their collection (and you probably should too), stocked both in store and online at JD Women.

img_3116

img_3114

‘Quick Fixes’ to Weight Loss

I bet that title caught your attention, hey?

Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you may have guessed what’s coming… Despite what you see on tv, or read in the media, there simply aren’t any quick fixes to weight loss.

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful models and Instagram celebs who promote these products; it’s amazing what some people will do to get a little cash in their pocket.

Trust me, these girls didn’t get abs like that by drinking three cups of detox tea per day. A strong, healthy body is the result of hard work, effort and determination. If you want to reduce body fat, you’ve got to put in the work. It’s that simple.

Here’s a list of key words that you may want to be wary of:

Cleanse: ‘purify your digestive system, with our three day juice cleanse’.

Hahahaha – nope. Consuming only juice is not a healthy or sustainable way to reduce body fat. Whilst your overall bodyweight is likely to drop whilst on a juice diet, this will primarily be water weight. It’s impossible to lose 10lbs of actual body fat in three days, despite what some very clever marketing campaigns will lead you to believe. Not to mention that reducing micronutrient-dense fruits and veggies to a juice depletes them of much of their fibre content – the very thing your gut loves about them in the first place… Work that one out.

Detox: ‘a miracle tea which will help you shift stubborn belly fat’.

Really!? No… Just no. If you believe these ludicrous statements, you’re the ideal target consumer for large corporations, who seek to make money through marketing ‘wonder’ products, which absolutely DO NOT WORK. Yes, a detox tea will have you sitting on the loo more than usual – so, again, you’ll shed a few pounds of water weight. But REALITY CHECK: your ‘stubborn belly fat’ (or any other fat for that matter) ain’t gonna shift as the result of a cuppa. Get to the gym, lift some weights and/or smash a short, high intensity cardio session. Done.

Low-Fat/Fat-Free: I’ve talked about this a lot before (check out my rant here), but it’s a fact that some people just can’t get their heads around. We’ve been driven to believe that fat is the root of all evil in the nutrition world, because people equate the word directly to body fat. However, fat will not make you fat. Fats are an essential macronutrient, which the body needs in order to function efficiently. Products stripped of their fat content are nearly always full of sugar and artificial ingredients, in order to compensate for the lack of fat(which is actually much more useful to our bodies than a whole load of chemicals), and make them as tasty as possible.

Protein: *WARNING* – just because a product is advertised as ‘high protein’, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy! There are too many ‘health food’ products on the market which are ridden with sugar and packed full of preservatives. The only way to find out is to always read the label, thoroughly. You know my rule by now, if you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what the ingredient is, you probably don’t want to put it into your body.

So there you have it. Nothing can replace discipline. Stop searching for a quick result, and instead focus on the bigger picture.

‘Fitness’ is all-encompassing. There is no set destination, no end date. This is a lifestyle, and when you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul. But trust me when I say, you’ll learn to love it.

 

Working Out When Sick

Exercise is fab; there’s no denying it. We all know that by now (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade). However, in this post, I want to address the flip side of the coin, and identify why exercise isn’t always the right thing to do… Specifically, when you’re ill.

For a regular gym-goer, like myself, it’s hard to avoid the media-driven ‘no-excuses’ mentality towards fitness. It’s more than likely that your home page on Instagram is riddled with inspirational quotes, workout videos, and a whole load of perfectly formed bodies (not that you should be comparing yourself to those anyway…). The struggle is very much real: trust me, I get it.

But despite what we are conditioned to believe, it’s important to realise that exercise isn’t always the solution. Yep, I really did just say that – shocker, I know. Now, I want to make sure my message here is very clear: I am not, in any way, trying to discourage you from working out. My point is that there is no shame in skipping a workout if you are feeling genuinely unwell.

sick-woman-in-bed-with-a-cold

Rest may just be exactly what the Doctor ordered… Here’s why:

During strenuous exercise, the body undergoes hormonal changes, and is placed under significant stress. Blood pressure is elevated, heart rate will increase, and breathing becomes quicker and deeper. These adjustments place a physical strain upon the throat and lungs, pushing the body outside of its comfort zone.

In usual circumstances, these reactions contribute to improving our overall fitness. However, when you’re unwell, your immune system becomes weakened whilst fighting to overcome the illness. Therefore, the excess stress that exercise places upon the body will only operate to inhibit, and thereby elongate, the recovery process.

So there we have it: it’s critical that you allow your body the time it needs to recover, before engaging in anything arduous.

I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: please don’t read this post selectively and assume that I’m promoting a reduction in activity levels… In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Exercise is the most incredible, uplifting activity, and I can’t recommend it enough. Your task as an individual is to determine those times when you are genuinely unwell, and then allow your body the rest it needs. If it’s just a little sniffle teamed with a lack of motivation, get up, get out, and smash a workout… I promise you’ll feel better after!

Recipe – Iced Coffee Protein Smoothie

You wake up in the morning ready for your daily caffeine fix, and all you can think about is heading to the local coffee shop to grab yourself a sweet, creamy iced coffee.

A Frappucino doesn’t sound too bad for you, right? Wrong! The traditional recipe is full of refined sugar and artificial flavourings; just not what your body needs to fuel your day.

What you really need is a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats (for more information on this, see How to Fuel Your Body in the Morning). Who knew it’s possible to achieve this combination in a homemade Iced Coffee Protein Smoothie!?

With a little organisation, you can stock your cupboards with fresh and nutritious ingredients and satisfy your cravings the healthy way. So many people say that they ‘don’t have time’ to eat breakfast, but with this recipe, that’s not an excuse – it takes less than 5 minutes to make!

So next time you’re feeling tempted by a shop-bought, ice cold sweet treat and you’re just not ready to surrender your morning caffeine fix, why not try making this simple recipe at home instead? It’s SO much better than the original, and full of goodness that your body will thank you for.

IMG_6941

The Recipe

Vegan

Gluten free

Dairy free

Refined sugar free

IMG_6956

Ingredients (Always use organic products where possible):

  • One small cup of double strength coffee, cooled
  • ½ cup of natural dairy free milk. I use Rude Health almond milk because it’s delicious and free from chemicals
  • Two frozen bananas
  • Two scoops of protein powder. I use unflavoured Pulsin Soya Protein because it’s completely natural, but a vanilla or chocolate protein would work equally well
  • Two heaped teaspoons of nut butter. I use Meridian cashew nut butter
  • Two heaped teaspoons of raw cacao powder. I use Organic Traditions
  • ½ teaspoon ground vanilla seeds or pure vanilla extract (without ethanol)
  • One/two cups of ice, depending on how slushy you like your smoothie
  • If you prefer your smoothie extra sweet, you can add two medjool dates

IMG_6953

Preparation – The Night Before:

  • Brew the coffee and leave to cool, before storing overnight in the fridge
  • Peel the bananas and chop into chunks, before placing in the freezer in a tupperware

Creation – In the Morning:

  • Remove banana chunks from the freezer and place in the blender, along with cooled coffee
  • Add all remaining ingredients to the mixture
  • Blend until smooth
  • Enjoy!

IMG_6955

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s really versatile. Here, I’ve served mine as a smoothie bowl, topped with crushed pistachios, but you can also bottle it and take it on the go – perfect for those busy mornings.