Skip to main content

The little details are costing your big goals - but not how you might expect.

 I was recently asked a really interesting nutrition question, which  is great, because I love big chewy questions, and it brought up a discussion of a common issue I encounter with my personal training clients. 

It goes like this.

Most of the questions people ask me about health and fitness, are not simple questions. The simple questions are the sort of thing you pick up at school, or can quickly google for a solid consensus, so it makes sense that those aren't brought to me.

The questions people ask are always the tricky ones, the contested issues, the ones where my short answer is "well... yes, and... no".

Sometimes it's because the answer is disputed, or there's not enough empirical evidence to support a definitive answer. Sometimes it's because the answer is population dependent; what's good for a pro athlete isn't necessarily right for an office worker who exercises for fun and to ward off heart attacks.

And sometimes the topic is derived from a gym myth which requires a lot of unpicking to find the truth in it.

Much of the time, the topic isn't relevant to the individual asking it. 

The thing about fitness, is that the basics are fairly simple. Good coaches don't "sell" information, they provide accountability, support, guidance - in other words, you employ a person, not a human search engine. 

But the fitness industry also includes a lot of businesses that want to sell on a grand scale, and to make that product seem worthwhile, they need to make out that they have insight and knowledge that you (and their competitors) don't. They want to sell you the "secret to a flat belly" or whatever. So they need to make it seem more complicated.

Let's take weight loss as an example. The "secret" to weight loss is caloric deficit. There are a number of ways you can approach this, there are ways to make it fit your lifestyle, ways to adjust your mindset, but ultimately the laws of thermodynamics apply. 

Maintaining a caloric deficit consistently is challenging, and when people aren't getting the results they want, it's more comfortable to look for a reason other than "you just aren't consistently in a deficit". And this is where people start worrying about carb intake, or meal timing and generally looking into the minutiae of nutrition, because somehow, that feels like a more hopeful prospect that "eat less, move more".

A good coach's response should be "why are you struggling to maintain your deficit? What barriers do we need to remove for you?" but on a large scale it makes better business to sell an idea about how eating fruit only between 2 and 3 pm will make a difference.

Anyway, the point of this blog was to talk about simplicity, so let's cut the coaching talk and look at one thing that's going to help you figure out what serves you. It's an awesome concept I encountered when I was doing my Precision Nutrition certification and it goes like this:

"Don't mow the lawn while your house is on fire."

What even does that mean? It means focus on the big rocks. Build your fitness from the foundations up. It's tempting to focus on small things that seem easy to implement, but you might not be seeing the wood for the trees.

You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you are scrutinising the pros and cons of 2 different ways to build biceps, but you're rushing your sets and not using full range of motion.

You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you don't eat after 8pm to promote weight loss, but having seconds of dessert at 7pm.

You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you don't eat fruit because it "makes you fat", but you are in a caloric excess from your other food groups.

You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you're downing BCAAs for muscle growth at the gym, but not getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night.

You're mowing the lawn while your house is on fire if you are taking a high intensity fitness class twice a week, but not doing any other kind of activity.

There's no shame in any of this. We've all done it, it's pretty much a rite of passage. I'm just suggesting you take a deep breath, take a step back and look at what's really important.

Take care of the big stuff. Fitness for good health in the general population is simple:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Eat mostly fresh, minimally processed foods
  • Do exercise that you love 
  • Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
  • Sleep well
  • Manage your stress
  • Hydrate
And until you are doing all those things, all the time, don't sweat the small stuff.


Want to train with me? Click a link to apply:

I offer online personal training to people with chronic pain and movement dysfunction.

Semi private online training for mums.

I also offer in-person training for:

  • Correcting movement dysfunction
  • Seniors
  • Pre/postnatal
  • Strength training and powerlifting

in Somerset UK.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Managing Fibromyalgia flares

I've written before about living with EDS and Fibromyalgia ,  much of my personal fitness and health practices are geared around managing those conditions and keeping me as well as I can be. When managing a chronic health condition, particularly one that involves fatigue and potential flare ups, pacing, good nutrition, good sleep and generally taking care of yourself is always the first priority. Ideally we want to have as few flares as possible. But sometimes they still happen, and when they do, it's good to have a strategy in place. And I'm going to be talking in fairly general terms, because while EDS and Fibro are my personal experience, there is so little understanding of the mechanisms behind these conditions, that most strategies are going to be applicable to a number of conditions where crashes of exhaustion and pain are a feature. So what is a flare? A flare is a period where someone with chronic illness suffers increased symptoms for a short while. The

What's the deal with yoga and hypermobility?

I wanted to address a question today that keeps coming up on various hypermobility and EDS forums that I frequent. It comes up so often in fact that I feel like I have to write this all up in one place, to save me 1000s of key strokes of individual responses and distil some of my opinions and thought processes on the matter. It always goes like this. Someone asks a question like "I've just been diagnosed with hypermobility, I've been told I can't do yoga anymore..." The responses are always a mixture of "yes, my doctor/physio told me yoga was the worst thing I could do for my hypermobility" and "I do yoga and it's been the best thing for my hypermobility". So what gives? Well, I'm firmly in the "yoga is useful" camp, and I have to disclose that. I'm a yoga practitioner of around 20 years and a perinatal yoga teacher , as well as a personal trainer and bendy person. While I have the deepest respect for the medic

Step away from the scale. Why weigh ins and weight loss don't match.

I have a persistant bugbear when it comes to health coaching, and it's this issue of "weight". People are often talking about "losing weight", the number on the scale becomes a focus. "If only I could just get under 65kg" they say. Or worse I see advertised "buy this supplement and you can lose 20kg in a fortnight". I've found myself frequently sitting with a weight-focussed client and asking "if you were 2 dress sizes smaller, fit and toned, but you weighed the same as you do now, could you be happy with that?" You might be surprised how challenging a question that can be. For many people, particularly those who have struggled with weight loss, that number is the absolute key. They can wake up, feeling energised and full of life, slip into those jeans that used to live hopefully in the bottom of the drawer, check themselves in the mirror and love what they see... then they step on the scales, see the number is half a kilo

Is being polite sabotaging your weight loss?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the barriers that make it hard for people to stick to healthy habits, or even take them up in the first place. My personal training clients are a lovely bunch, and one thing I can certainly say is that none of them have come to me completely uninformed about healthy eating. Most people have done some homework before they get to the point of hiring me, and while I always go over the basics (never assume anything) I know that when I tell them stuff like this, it's not new information to them: Eat less to lose weight Eat protein with every meal Eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day Consume high sugar and fat treats rarely and in moderate portions Drink water with every meal or snack Exercise regularly That's not rocket science, so why are so many people still struggling with it? Is it because "the rules" are more complicated? Are they missing the "weird trick" (spoiler alert, there are no weird tricks

Running with wolves

When I started trying to reverse my post-baby weight gain , I spent several months, probably a year or so really floundering. I was exercising, hard. I didn't feel like I was overeating, but I wasn't losing weight. In fact sometimes I was gaining more and I couldn't figure out why. Often I get personal training clients coming to me with the same problem. They eat wholesome foods with few treats, they exercise hard several times a week, but there's no weight loss. The answer to this problem is a staple for a PT or nutrition coach. It's about activity levels. If I sit on the sofa all day, I burn through just under 2000 calories. If I do a 30 minute HIIT workout, I burn about 200 more. But if I spend my day doing housework, walking to town to do errands and generally being on my feet, I burn 3000 calories or more. It's not the workouts, it's the activity or NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis if you feel fancy). So how do you keep up your NEAT or