Do you ever feel like your efforts to be healthy aren’t bringing the expected fat loss results Perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of the ‘In Denial Diet’ and are continuing with underlying behaviour which is significantly hindering your progress. Take a moment to read some of the typical traits below and see if they ring any familiar bells…
Recently we were chatting to a chap in a coffee shop about Paleo and how we eat. He was intrigued and began detailing his own efforts to keep fit and healthy but mentioned how he never seemed to shift the weight around his middle. He was extremely keen to fill us in on the number of miles he cycled each week and when we asked him a few questions about his nutrition on the face of it, it all seemed pretty healthy. Eggs for breakfast, salads, lots of protein and vegetables – trying to avoid the bread and cut back on coffee, yet his body composition didn’t seem to respond. He had considered that perhaps he wasn’t eating enough protein; we agreed this could be a factor. It was only upon asking “Do you drink alcohol?” that we finally got somewhere. The conversation went like this…
FF “Do you drink alcohol?”
Chap “I knew you were going to ask that…er yes, but red wine is good for you isn’t it?”
FF “That depends, how much do you drink?”
Chap “A couple of glasses…”
FF “How often and what size?”
Chap [Looks sheepish]
FF “Do you drink alcohol everyday?”
Chap “Yes but it’s healthy isn’t it? In moderation?”
FF “That depends, the health benefits decline after two small glasses”
Chap “Well yes but who stops there! No I definitely think it’s the cheese I eat with the wine…”
So amongst these great efforts he was drinking alcohol every day and probably relaxing his healthy nutrition principles once the booze took effect. What we found interesting here is that this chap clearly knew the half bottle of wine he finally admitted to consuming daily probably wasn’t doing him any favours, however, he had taken to adapting every other aspect of his nutrition and lifestyle rather than addressing this underlying problem.
Most of us are a little guilty of this from time to time. It’s easy to do, we develop certain nutrition and lifestyle habits that we know may not be doing us any good, and are probably to blame for our lack of results, but we’re loathed to let go of them to the point of denying their actual existence, even to ourselves! What’s really crazy about this situation is often people go round and round in circles trying to super-optimise other aspects of their health or exercising even more in order to compensate and if caught out will just plead ignorant to the ill effects these habits maybe reinforcing.
If you’re struggling to get results then listed below are just a few, common In-Denial Diets we see regularly that might resonate with you, as well as some Fitter Food steps to help you overcome them.
The ’80:20 That’s 60:40′ Diet
An astounding number of people often think they can get away with being healthy in the week and ease back to old habits at the weekend. Whilst it’s great to relax your nutrition from time to time there’s a difference between kicking back a little and face planting into a Domino’s stuffed crust, topped with garlic bread and a side of Ben & Jerry’s (that’s the guys) or sinking a pint of prosecco (that’s the gals) and curing the aftermath with a greasy sausage sandwich (both!) If you do a little basic arithmetic you’ll soon realise that Fri-Sun is actually 40% of your week and in such time you can easily undo all those healthy efforts you made from Mon-Thurs.
If you are currently looking to heal a serious health issue or really kick-start a fat loss phase we usually recommend sticking 90-100% to Paleo principles for a while and then switching to more of a 80:20 approach when you reach your maintenance phase.
Many people say they are following 80:20 but it’s always worth doing a rough calculation to check, it’s easy to let a few too many snacks or ‘free’ meals creep into your weekly intake. If you add up the total number of meals and snacks you consume across a week (usually it’s between 3-5 a day so between 21-28 a week) you can easily calculate the number of ‘free meals” and snacks your approach allows for. For example if you eat three meals a day and you’re following 90:10 principles and that’s one “free” meal or snack a week. If you’re following more 80:20 that’s three ‘free’ meals or snacks a week.
The ‘Little Pickers Wear Bigger Knickers’ Diet
Totally holding our hands up to this one! Sometimes at meal times it looks like a little mouse has visited our kitchen with a bit of cake nibbled here, a bite taken out of a burger there and a leg missing off the roast chicken by the time it reaches the table. The issue with this sort of picking is it involves rather unconscious eating, we sneak and chomp away the food quickly and have tendency to forget that we ever took these mouthfuls but they can easily lead to an excess of calories.
Many people quietly justify this nibbling habit as ‘not counting’ but of course in reality it all counts. Always try and make a conscious effort to eat food only when you’re sat at the table AND from your own plate (boyfriends everywhere cry “hallelujah” no more chip theft!) This is actually the healthiest way to eat as it ensures all our digestive enzymes, stomach acid and hormones are ready and waiting for the food and will digest and metabolise the food more efficiently. It allows you to really know how much you’ve eaten and be honest about your food intake.
The ‘Excessive Moderation’ Diet
This is where we’d probably put our coffee shop chap. We’re saturated with information these days about what is good for us, often accompanied by that well-known clause ‘in moderation.’ We’ve all become experts in this field and mastered how to blissfully ignore the moderation part. We just happily keep telling ourselves dark chocolate contains flavonoids that improve cardiovascular health, red wine contains resveratrol which has an anti-aging effect, coffee improves cognitive function and before we know it we’re dunking a large slab of Green & Blacks into our 4th latte because we’re slightly drunk after an ‘anti-aging’ pit stop on the way home!
It’s all very exciting to discover the health benefits of life’s pleasure foods but it’s because they offer so much delight that they can easily be overindulged upon. It might be worth double-checking if you have started implementing your own version of moderation. Keeping a food diary across 7 days is a really useful exercise to do here and you may be surprised at just how often moderation turns into excess.
We also recommend every now and then trialing short periods of abstinence from each of these. Most of them encourage the release pleasure chemicals in the brain, that’s why we love them so much. The issue with this is that if we increase the amount and frequency of these foods too much our bodies become adapted to effect, and this means we need to consume a greater dose to elicit the same pleasure response. However, if we consume them in small amounts and infrequently a small serving will gives us a greater sense of pleasure.
We provide suggestions in our Fitter Food book as to what counts as a moderate serving of chocolate, coffee and alcohol so that you enjoy these without compromising your body composition and health. You can purchase a copy here.