Archive for August, 2011

Nutritional Success: how to stick to a healthy eating plan

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

One of many observations I’ve made since I started training people back in 2007 is that adherence to a diet or healthy eating plan can be the most difficult challenge to overcome when attempting to transform the body.

The 21st century is a good time to be in the fitness industry because of the vast amount of information surrounding training and nutrition that is accessible to anyone and everyone. Generally, most of my clients have the right idea when it comes to improving their eating habits and I just need to ‘fine tune’ things…But ‘sticking with it’ is a different matter. Time and time again I have had hard working clients that really push themselves in the gym, yet fail to conform to the eating habits that we (myself and the client) established in our first consultation.  Of course I have tried many different techniques in an attempt to increase nutrition adherence; punishment through exercises, positive reinforcement, food diary checking and other ineffective strategies. The result was maybe the client would ‘stick with it’ for an extra week or two before returning to old habits.

Thankfully, in 2008 I discovered Dr John Berardi (pictured) and his Precision Nutrition system.

In fact, thankful is an understatement. I want to point out at this juncture that I am not professionally affiliated with the Precision Nutrition System and receive no reward or money for mentioning it; however I am a BIG advocate of it because of the system’s simplicity and the fact that it leads to great results! I won’t give you the full rundown on the Precision Nutrition System, instead you can check it out here; however, I am obligated to mention it because my technique for achieving nutritional adherence is the one that John outlines in his book.

A Game of Noughts and Crosses
What makes the difference when it comes to adherence is ownership and measurability. So here is what to do:

Set two or three healthy eating habits such as;  eat foods with less than 10g of fat per 100g, eat a piece of  fruit with each meal, or no starchy carbohydrates in the last meal of the day. Remember to make the habits specific to you and your needs/goals – the above are just an example.

On your phone, a piece of paper or computer put down either a ‘O’ or a ‘X’ for each meal that you eat. The ‘O’ represents you ‘sticking with it’ and the ‘X’ represents you breaking the habit.

Here is an example of what a good week will look like:

Monday -  OOOOO
Tuesday -  OOOOO
Wednesday – OOOOO
Thursday – OOOOO
Friday – OOOOX
Saturday – OOOOX
Sunday – OOOOO

From the above example we can see that the habits have not been adhered to twice during the week, giving a score of 94%. That kind of percentage will definitely allow desired results to be achieved quickly. Needless to say, the higher the percentage the better the transformation; however, if the percentage drops below 80% then there will be a real slow struggle.

Thanks to Dr John Berardi’s book, the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ is a technique I have used with the majority of my clients to great success. I discovered that my time spent discussing nutrition with my clients was dramatically reduced because at the start of each week they would tell me their percentage (from the previous week) and they would know what had to be improved or maintained. As I alluded to, this method provides individuals with a sense of ownership and is very easy to measure. If my clients have less than 80% then it’s a very short conversation; however, if they’re nailing the nutrition and have high adherence I’ll introduce one more ‘healthy habit’. Similar to training, progress is the aim.

Of course, I also use this method when making changes to my nutritional regime and I find it just as effective as my clients because I love that fact that there is an opportunity to increase my percentage each week (I’m aiming for 95% this week and have stuck with the same three habits for the past four weeks).

My advice to someone who has a history of ‘yo-yo’ dieting is to come up with two healthy habits and play ‘Noughts and Crosses’. If the adherence percentage goes above 85% then introduce a new habit, and so on.

For the readers out there that need; meal plans, preparation guides, support, a huge online community and a profound understanding of nutrition then look no further…

3 Movements for Desk Jockeys

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Technology is great. Computers, internet, mobile phones and all the other cool gadgets that allow communication and information sharing has shaped the way we live today. The only problem is that when I say shaped, I mean it quite literally. Nowadays it is uncommon to see a desk without a computer and there is a large chunk of the population that spend the majority of their working day desk-bound. Beyond the  IT industry, many of us spend hours each night updating facebook, instant messaging, blogging, emailing, or that other thing that the internet is popular for…I’m not going to put forward the message that everyone should spend less time at their desks, instead you will find three movements below that I highly recommend to anyone who finds themselves at a desk (or indeed driving) for over an hour every day. These movements cover flexibility, mobility and strength.

Healthy movement is something quite close to my heart because I know the value of what good posture and technique can do for; strength, power, injury resistance and fat burning. Each year I feel it is my duty as a fitness and health professional to post an article with the theme of posture and improved movement. That’s why in 2009 and 2010 I posted articles that address the above issue from a different angle and I would encourage you to give them a brief read to gain additional knowledge in the area.

Practical Help For The Desk Jockey
First and foremost, in the seated position the hips are stuck in flexion. That is why the first movement I recommend is hip extension, or more specifically a hip flexors stretch.

Movement 1: A version of the hip flexors stretch

 

Flexibility isn’t the only issue when considering all the desk jockeys out there – strength is too! I’m not talking about deadlifting twice your bodyweight or banging out 20+ chin ups (though that would be impressive), I’m talking about the strength of the shoulder stabilizers. The image in my post “The Age of the Hunchback” shows exactly the kind of posture (an almighty hunch) that is likely to happen when exposed to long periods at a desk. To combat this there are a few things to consider which include; stretching the pec minor and the upper traps, strengthening the lower traps and strengthening the external rotators. SCAPULA WALL SLIDES! Using this movement will tick all the right boxes and is one way to combat the lack of shoulder strength (stability). Here’s the video again in case you missed it in the 2009 post:

Now that hip flexibility and shoulder mobility/stability has been addressed, can you think of another key to maintaining a preferable posture while you surf the world wide web? Yes! You guessed it – the “core”. This article outlines four great movements for building an effective core, but the main thing to remember is that the upright position is most desirable when in front of a desk. That means sit ups are ‘out’ and movements like rollouts are ‘in’.

 

Of course there are many different movements out there that can also help the desk-bound among us; however, the movements above are the most basic and essential movements that are very easy to implement into your routine.

Taking Out The Guesswork
Implement the movements above anyway you see fit or try a tri-set at the end of your regular workout:

Hip flexors stretch 2 x 30seconds e/side
Scap wall slides        2 x 15
Rollout variation    2 x 8
(Repeat until all sets are completed)

That said, don’t let these movements be restricted to the gym. I’ve been known to stretch while working and I would encourage you to do the same. Just ignore the inquisitive looks by your colleagues.

Point to Remember
The technology we are exposed to now is fantastic and has help shaped the world today – just don’t let it shape you!