Breakfast: bound out of bed, motivation level 100 – let’s start the day off right with a wholesome bowl of oats and fruit. Winning.
Lunch: none of your sugar-filled meal deals for me, thanks. Smugly tuck into your packed lunch instead – homemade veggie burger with salad #health #lunchgoals
Snack: had planned to grab veggies and humous but this meeting has run over… No time to chop up carrots! OK I’ll grab ONE of the biscuits in the conference room to keep me going, just this once. *meeting drags on, self-restraint disappears, Hob Nob-induced food coma ensues*
Dinner: work SUCKED today. Haven’t got the energy to cook. Deliveroo, bring me a burger, that’ll make me feel better
Dessert: I need something sweet. I should have some fruit… But I have ice cream in the freezer… Eh, I’ve already messed up with the biscuits and burger. Ice cream it is. Start again tomorrow.
And then: may as well make the most of an impromptu cheat day, right… Hello Doritos. And helloooo wine!
Sound familiar? Maybe you have a different trigger that causes you to veer off track, but whatever it is, we ALL have those days where, despite our best intentions, we don’t stick to the meal plan that best aligns with our fitness goals. While it’s (definitely!) more than OK to treat yourself from time to time, it becomes a problem when it happens too regularly and prevents you from seeing progress.
So, how do you stay on track consistently, even if you have a hectic and unpredictable schedule?
The key is to prepare. It may be one of those overused Instagram #fitspo quotes, but the saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” absolutely holds true when it comes to optimising your nutrition. It’s really easy to tell yourself that you’ll buy a healthy salad for lunch, but when it hits 12PM and you’re stood in the queue at Pret with your stomach growling, all of a sudden those calorie-laden cookies are going to look very tempting. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a healthy packed lunch ready and waiting in your bag, then you’re one step ahead.
Obviously, packing your own food isn’t always possible – maybe you have a client lunch to attend, or you’re heading out for a friend’s birthday. But that doesn’t mean that what you eat is entirely out of your control. Have a game plan in mind. Check out the menu beforehand and see what options you have – and never be worried about asking the waiter to swap out certain parts of your dish for healthier alternatives.
The saying “out of mind, out of sight” definitely applies here. If you’re surrounded by unhealthy foods, or foods that you know you have a tendency to overeat, then you’re making it unnecessarily harder for yourself to stay on track. Try to surround yourself with healthy foods, so that if hunger strikes unexpectedly, you have something nutritious to reach for.
And while we’re on the subject of unhealthy foods…
Getting smart about your nutrition means wisening up on the tactics that the food industry use. Although they’d love us to think that they truly care about our health, the reality is that they care mostly about their bottom line, i.e. they want us to buy as much of their product as possible. This means making producing hyper-palatable foods that our taste buds just can’t get enough of. They’re scientifically engineered to be as more-ish as possible. Think about Pringles and their famous slogan, “Once you pop, you can’t stop”. They’re perfectly engineered to make our taste buds cry out for more, meaning that it really does become hard to stop.
Sugary foods are often what tempt people to veer off plan. Food companies invest colossal amounts of money in making sure that their products reach a “bliss point”, a term coined to describe the perfect amount of sweetness. Not too much, not too little. Just the right amount to keep us coming back for more. And more. And more…
Equip yourself with knowledge – learn what is in your food and what it provides your body with. If you’re working towards a specific goal, then do your research and find out what you need to be giving your body and why.
If you go off-track, there is no need to then sabotage the rest of your day. In the little scenario we painted at the top of the blog, going off-track at work with some biscuits led to a “screw it” attitude, where all resolve to eat healthily was abandoned and a small treat was used as an excuse to have a full-blown cheat day. If you have a nutrition plan that requires you to be in a deficit, exceeding your calorie goal by 400 calories is not ideal, but not the end of the world. If however you then use it as an excuse to completely overindulge because “the day is ruined anyway”, you might overeat by 1,000 plus calories. The former, you can offset by eating sensibly the rest of the week. The latter might derail any progress you would have made that week.
There is obviously nothing wrong with having treats from time to time, BUT if every stressful day ends with you reaching for them – especially if this then makes you more likely to reach for other treats – then you’re going to struggle to achieve your goals
Having a goal and following a meal plan does NOT mean waving goodbye to the foods you love – absolutely not. It simply means being aware of how to fit them into your life in such a way that aligns with your goals. Educate yourself – or ask your PT to explain – how many calories you need to be eating to achieve your objective, find out how many calories are in your chosen treat, and figure out when you can fit it into your day of eating.
If you have a really restrictive meal plan, then it’s almost inevitable that when you do “allow” yourself treats, you’ll go overboard. Instead, try to adopt an attitude of balance and incorporate foods you enjoy in sensible portions.
As a short-term exercise to increase awareness around your intake, tracking your calories can really help to keep yourself accountable. If you have a weight loss goal, then the key to achieving it is to maintain a moderate calorie balance (i.e. consume fewer calories than you burn every day).
Learning about your body’s optimal calorie intake and the calories in the foods you eat can serve as a real eye-opener into your dietary habits and how small tweaks might be able to help you drive towards your long-term goals.
If you’re hitting your calorie target but find that you’re still hungry, then check your macros. What percentage of your calories come from protein? Protein is super important for a whole host of reasons, most notably building and maintaining muscle and one thing it is great for is satiety. It helps to keep you fuller for longer, which is especially important if you’re following a meal plan that requires you to be in a slight calorie deficit. You can find out more about macros here.
Our bodies are absolutely incredible, but it does have its flaws. One of these is that thirst cues can sometimes be mistaken for hunger cues, meaning that we might reach for food when actually, all we needed was extra hydration. Given that generally speaking, we’re quite rubbish at hitting our 2-litre-per-day target anyway, often times we snack when our bodies actually need water. More specifically, we may crave something salty when we actually need water, because (oddly enough), our thirst and appetite for sodium share a lot of the same neural mechanisms.
Tracking your calories can help you stay accountable to yourself, but you can also stay accountable to the people around you. One way of doing this is sharing your goal with friends or colleagues that you trust – they can help to keep you motivated. If you’re working with a personal trainer, then send them photos of your meals and snacks. Tell a friend about your goals. If you have a training buddy, then message each other what you’re planning to eat – having a shared goal and someone to lean on for support can make it much easier to stick to a plan.
One thing that can really help is to plan out and track your day’s intake in advance – this avoids a situation where you accidentally overeat and over-consume calories.
It’s also important to note that, beyond hampering the physical progress you make in the gym, struggling to find balance in the way you eat can have a really detrimental impact on your emotional well-being. We’ll delve into this in a later blog on emotional eating, common triggers and how to avoid ending up in that all-too-familiar binge-restrict cycle.
Everything in this blog ties back to planning – whether that’s preparing healthy snacks in advance, checking out menus when you’re heading out, or tracking your intake for the day ahead to help keep you on track. So, if there’s one thing that we’d like you to take away from this blog it’s that to achieve your goal – whether it’s weight loss, weight gain or something else entirely – planning is an absolute must. Winging it or relying on intuition or guesstimating will only get you so far.
Need support with your nutrition and/or training plan? Chat to a Grow trainer today. Email us at email@example.com