I've had a few conversations this week with friends and clients who are working to reach their fitness goals but for various reasons struggle with food tracking and fitting in exercise to their routine. Part of my job as a Personal Trainer is to find solutions that fit my clients (and not the other way around!), so when I come across situations like this I often spend a fair bit of time thinking "How can we make this work?". For any fitness or weight loss regime one of the most important points is finding a strategy that fits with your lifestyle, and sometimes this can take more than one attempt with a client. I always say to my new clients "we might not find the exact right strategy for you straight away, but I have various options to try and we will find one that works". So, here's a few suggestions that I came up with which you also can try...
When it comes to weight loss, nutrition is by far and away the biggest factor in losing weight. Some people put it as high as 80% in terms of how important it is. If you get the nutrition right most of the time you will see results. For successful weight loss I usually recommend tracking what you eat and most of my clients on a weight loss plan will have a daily calorie target that I calculate specifically for them. Then they log their food intake each day (usually using My Fitness Pal) so they know if they're on track or not. If you don't track your food intake, how can you know if you're eating less than you need and therefore creating a calorie deficit? (which is what we need for fat loss to occur).
But if calorie counting isn't your thing then what other options are there? Here's a couple of suggestions...
1. Intermittent fasting. This is a bit of a current trend in the fitness industry, but it can actually work very well and isn't as scary as it sounds! It is based on the concept that you assign yourself a "window" each day during which you eat food, and outwith that window you fast (i.e. don't eat). The window that you assign can be designed to fit you and your routine, and if you stick to this window then you will usually find you automatically eat less calories. Some people will actually cut a meal out each day, for some people this isn't necessary. So for example, you may choose a 16:8 window, i.e. you will only eat during 8 hours of the day and fast for 16. That could mean having breakfast at 9am and dinner at 5pm, with lunch somewhere in between. Or you may prefer to skip breakfast (yes, this is okay if you're not a breakfast person and not hungry!) and eat between 12-8pm. During the fasting period your body will dip into it's fat reserves, plus you'll be consuming fewer calories anyway. It can be a really useful strategy in your weight-loss plan.
2. Reducing the carbohydrates in your diet. This is also a popular way to lose weight, and if done properly can be effective. I never recommend eliminating carbs altogether from a diet as carbohydrates are actually very important to your body - they provide you with energy, fuel for your brain and also fibre in your diet. Plus, almost all foods contain carbs in some shape or form so to actually cut them out totally is actually pretty difficult! However carbs are easy to overeat on, and like anything else in your diet if you eat more than your body needs it will store it as fat. Most of my clients are busy mum's and don't have time to prepare separate meals for themselves , so there are a couple of ways to reduce your carbs without having to go down the separate meal-prep route. You can cut carbs out of one meal a day, whichever one works best for you. For some people that might be dinner - remove your carbs from this meal and make sure you have a good helping of protein. Replace the carbs with some nice green veggies, so you'll still feel nice and full plus you'll be getting lots of vitamins. The extra protein will fill you up too. I used to have a carb-free lunch sometimes, and I actually felt I had more energy in the afternoon and avoided that post-lunch energy slump feeling! Or, in a similar vein reduce the carbs in each meal and replace it with veggies. That way the whole family will still eat the same meal and you can just make a small adjustment to yours. Plus the kids might even have some of the veggies too!
3. Plan ahead with your meals - simple but effective! Just planning ahead for a few days can make a massive difference. If you come in from work hungry have something quick and healthy available so that you avoid the temptation to make less healthy choices. Slow cookers and freezers are great for this.
4. Get a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day. You don't need an expensive one, just a cheap one will do! If exercise isn't an option for whatever reason then a pedometer is a good alternative. By increasing your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.) you can burn more calories. You can even make it into a competition between friends, colleagues or family members - great for a bit of motivation!
Hope you've found these tips useful - feel free to share with your friends! If you have any tips of your own I'd love to hear them, please put any comments below!
Exercise For Mum's was created by PT mum Susan Flintoff. Susan is a busy working mum of two who specialises in helping other busy mum's fit health and fitness back into their lives, and hopes to inspire them to be the best mum they can be!!