Why You Aren’t Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals and What You Need To Do About It

When it comes to losing weight from my experience people have good and honourable intentions. Intentions and grandiose plans aren’t always enough though for success. From short term detoxes to crash dieting there is a wealth of schemes to help you, but like most get quick rich schemes they are on the whole statistically more likely to fail than to be successful. Not all of us have a cast iron will 24/7 and most people will suffer from adherence issues. The key is though if you are going to take a measured approach then how do we maintain successful behaviours for our long term goals.

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Now I joke a lot of the time that when it comes to losing weight that fat loss diets always start on a Monday.

Why?

Perhaps the grind of the “work” week (whatever that means now) breaks down your adherence. Simply stuff is getting in the way of your success, be it fatigue, stress or the fact that that you are focussing on other things. Maybe you are rewarding yourself for a busy week by smashing a whole bar of milk chocolate, 2 bottles of red wine and half a block of cheese over the weekend. Either way you have decided that the diet starts on Monday. What we have here is typically not an issue with creating a calorie deficit, we have an issue with creating a consistent deficit. In essence we can’t maintain our adherence through 7 days consistently.

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Now if we look deeper at people when they are motivated to change when are you likely to fail?

A study has recently looked at this. When are people most likely to lapse and how are they lapsing. At this point it might be a good idea to compare this with your behaviours.

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In essence a lapse was a period of over eating or consumption of an undesirable food. Science and research sometimes gets a lot of criticism with people questioning it’s real world application. This study is the real world- we all screw up and what you might see here is a way to access your adherence to give you a greater chance of success.

 

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What you can see is that your lapses effect your maintenance of weight loss- which makes perfect sense. People on average lapsed 4 times a week mainly on the weekend evenings at home. That glass of wine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday might be catching up with you now hey!

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What’s the reality of this though when it comes to your plan?

Individualised strategies are important as one size does not fit all here. It highlights that willpower is not enough and is variable from person to person. What though can you do to be more successful at adhering to your diet?

  • Limit highly desirable foods at home. Perhaps keep your treats for when you aren’t at home?
  • Organise and plan your evening schedule to avoid eating calorific food. That may involve changing eating time or incorporating more balanced snacks at different points through the day (especially in the evening).
  • If you have balanced your intake throughout the day you earn yourself more flexibility later on in the day. If you had a fry up for breakfast and lasagna for lunch you may be coming up a bit short of calories later in the day which may leave you hungry.
  • Success is only achieved if you can stick to something. If your diet is extreme you will fail at some point as failure occurs when you don’t want to suffer.
  • Your lifestyle, who you eat with and where you are when you eat matters as you will have to fit your diet to your lifestyle. That could mean 3 square meals that could mean 5 small meals- either way try to experiment to see what works best for you.

 

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As a disclaimer the smarter stuff around carbs, fats and proteins does matter. At an initial level though adherence to a plan which has lower calories than you need is the most important factor. What you also have to consider is that with a few lapses it is tough to maintain a progressive calorie deficit and therefore fat loss.

How to we help with your adherence to balanced nutrition and exercise. At Results FAST it’s key that we keep you organised (by booking your training in), offering you flexibility (so it’s easier for you to fit your training in), provide you with positive messages and education (through our social media) and hopefully keeping it fun!

 

How to Get The Results You Want: Part One.

When you are at the start of your fitness journey and you type in to google “personal trainer Ware” or “gym in Ware” did you realize the path that you where undertaking. We often get asked by our clients at Results FAST simply….

“How do I get the results I want?”

It could have been a case of Christmas or New Year excess motivating you to make a change or it could be the fact that you want to challenge yourself in a different training environment. The big question is what is going to help you make that initial positive intention turn in to a well-oiled habit that fits regularly in to your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goals?

gym-23Goals are in effect of are a product of repetitive behaviors or habits. Habits in themselves are processes that become well practiced to the point that these behaviors become easy to perform. By their nature habits usually are developed because there is some form of reward which is deemed to be positive. This highlights why the sugary sweetness of chocolate can create a habitual behavior just as that early morning cup of caffeinated coffee can help you start the day just right.

No one wanted to be more successful at eating more sugar- it appears that this would be an easy habit to maintain.

Certain behaviors have a chemical reward and it makes their adherence easier. Over time the reward although still “rewarding” may not have the same effect but the behavior is well grooved and provides comfort as it becomes what you to daily. How does this relate to maintaining exercise and what is the positive reward?

There are a number of benefits from exercise which are well researched from enhanced mood, improved health, increased self-confidence being among them. Most people may have an outcome orientated goal such as losing weight.

However, this may be the first mistake… focusing on the result may not be the best way to work.

At Results FAST we often focus on process goals initially as opposed to say an outcome goal such as losing a specific amount of weight. For almost all our clients initially this is a target of between 8 and 12 sessions a month. Why is this effective? Well adherence is a process task orientated goal- it is focused on the present as opposed to a result which may happen over time. Task based goals are gratifying in the short term and build a consistent behavior in the long term which will help you achieve an outcome orientated goal.

In simple terms it’s about working on the process as opposed to the result.

gym-37Initially starting an exercise regime can be hard as initially there may be a period of adaptation which can leave you sore. Working through this point is vital to allow you to develop this behavior and often it is off putting for new exercisers and using a process or task related goal is more effective- science also proves this as it has been shown that outcome goals may weaken motivation where constant process goals which can be regularly achieved can help maintain consistent behavior.

When considering your goals, it’s important to define what they mean to you. Your perception of the overall target is important, but you have to make sure that you feel it is realistic. That is why process goals are a lot more self-motivating than outcome goals. A goal based around the repetition of simple, easy repeatable tasks will build your confidence, your self-belief and overall build your consistency of habit. It is also to highlight that at this point that success is important- each exercise session or logging of your food diary is important as it contributes to the overall goal.

When things go wrong this is usually a surrendering or weakening of self-confidence and you resort to prior behavior. This could be emotional eating, this could be eating when fatigued or just disorganization all it means is that belief or confidence in the overall goal has been surrendered and a behavior or habit that you perform usually is in competition with your new “positive” habit. Writing down your goal and making it is visible daily can be a powerful motivator as it reminds you of the positive path you are looking to pursue.

Individuals who write their goals down are 42% more likely to achieve them.

The simple task of recording your targets is good enough to improve your chance of success. This can also be a good motivator for times that you feel your self falling away from the habits that you know will make you successful.

What goes in to a fantastic plan though? How can you guarantee success?

If we are looking at things from an exercise point of view what do our personal training and gym clients say? Most importantly what is the difference between achievement of your goals and maybe not getting your approach right this time?

The things that seems to have a resonance with our membership (in a bit of a straw pole of our client trainees) are these factors in order.

  • Accountability

When I asked our clients what they thought helped them achieve their goals we got the following feedback.

“It’s the fact that you keep me organized and remind me to book my sessions in.”

“You make me feel a little guilty…. In a good way.”

“I know if my name is not in the diary you will call me…. So I got in there first.”

All these statements highlight that adherence can be built if there is an element of expectation. This expectation needs to be met and it’s a motivating factor for individual’s who care about achieving their target number of sessions for the week. This doesn’t highlight a fear of failure, but it instead indicates that being accountable to someone else can help maintain motivation. Show me someone who is not training regularly, and I will show you an individual who doesn’t have a strong goal as a motivating factor. That is fine, but it shows how the habit of exercise can be easily dropped if the individuals experience of it is negative or they feel hopeless in achieving their goals. As all of our clients work with a trainer it means the majority of them have goals which they share with their coach and in turn encourages adherence as they are accountable to the coaching team at Results FAST.

  • Flexibility

When asked about how someone has maintained their “diet” we have got the following comments:

“I just found a new normal- it was easier to be consistent once I knew what to do.”

“I worked on a few things and the rest just fell in to place.”

“I got organized.”

None of these points address food in itself. There was no magic bullet, no secret powder, macro ratio or “plan.” Each of these people found a flexible approach that bought them success. When it comes to nutrition we can achieve dietary success in a range of ways as human metabolism is very adaptable. It means that diets can vary greatly in foods but may be very similar in the results they bring. Having a flexible approach to nutrition and exercise and letting it become part of your lifestyle is important in long term success. Traditional dieting is closeting, short term in approach and often hard to maintain in social situations. In extreme cases they can result in poor relationships with food as well as socially. Having a good relationship with exercise and nutrition doesn’t mean leading an extreme lifestyle. It means knowing what works for you and having flexibility day to day so that it doesn’t dominate your life. Modern life is only getting busier and having flexible options around your exercise is important.

  • Expertise

“It’s all about eat less and do more isn’t it.” This is the leading statement that has been said by many a person. If this was the case we would all be walking round with six packs. Exercise and nutrition are more nuanced. As indicated before if we are all leading busier lives we want smarter more efficient solutions to exercise and nutrition therefore it helps if you work with an expert. Our clients highlight:

“You give me the best possible result for the spend of my time.”

“I only have 3 hours of training a week so I want to make the most of it.”

“All I have to do is turn up.”

We all have a lot of decisions to make in a day- if you have more decisions about how you should be exercising or eating for a specific goal it is another decision you have to make. It’s also a decision that you may make from perhaps a position of experience but not necessarily expertise. We aim to cut through the dogma for our clients. In simple terms:

“We work on the result, you work on the execution.”

This points back to my earlier references to goal adherence. When you as an exerciser are task orientated it allows your coach to be results orientated. To take that further as a personal trainer it allows us to adapt and change your programme as necessary. As we train people in small groups as well it can help your motivation seeing others who are working hard towards the same goal as you.

Creating the right environment for success is therefore important with the right blend of expertise, adherence and flexibility. What brings it all together though is personalisation. We all need expertise, adherence checks and flexibility but the cherry on the top is personalisation for where you are now. An individual who works 50 hours a week with an hour commute either way has different needs to a new mum who is only released from child care when her husband returns from home. What differs in these individuals from an Olympian. Well nothing really as they all have jobs and things they must do daily as well as various life pressures.

In summary, getting what you want is not just about a programme card or celebrity endorsed plan, it’s not about coconut oil or heavy squats. It’s about consistency, adherence, flexibility and creating an environment for success being led by the right expertise which is personalised to your needs. It’s what our small gym in Ware strives to create in our approaches and it’s these nuances that have helped us create a personal training centre with a difference.

The Trouble With HIIT

HIIT training or High Intensity Interval Training is dominating the mainstream media this January as a fix all to lose body fat for time poor individuals.

While training with intensity is a useful thing to do, to say it is the most effective way of training is a bit misleading- especially when you are looking to change your body composition.

HIIT in itself can fit nicely in to short bite size chunks this message of simplicity first is one that personally I like- it’s often better to do something rather than nothing. For people though who train regularly I want to investigate whether this is an efficient and effective way to train and if instagramable routines are the future.

Bring On The Science

Here’s the science bit…. When training there are three main energy systems we are challenging:

1. ATP-CP also termed Alactic System.

This systems provides immediate energy for about 10 seconds at maximal output.

2. Glycolytic also termed Anaerobic System.

This system provides a bridge between the ATP-CP system and the long term aerobic system. After 10 seconds of maximal effort this energy system kicks in. The primary fuel here is stored carbohydrates. At full tilt this system has about 2 minutes of work before lactic acid build up and other factors compromise performance.

3. Oxidative also termed Aerobic System.

This system is the default energy system of the body at rest and during recovery. It provides long term lower intensity energy. The aerobic system plays a role in all work and it’s role starts to build after 30 seconds of activity. Therefore a strong aerobic system maintains a strong power output for longer.

Why is this important?

Your training programme will challenge all of these energy systems but which ones you challenge is important for how you adapt and develop your fitness.

 

Cardio Confusion?

Training on a typical HIIT programme will work the ATP-CP system initially and then if your interval is sub 2 minutes the anaerobic system, after this the aerobic system kicks in to gear taking all the load (if you are going full tilt).

Most interval training proposes an interval of 30-60 seconds with a parallel recovery. In most routines I have watched the intensity level being worked at is no where near maximal (this is okay in certain situations and I’ll explain why in a bit). In this situation the perception is that the glycolytic system is being challenged but what is mainly taking the work load is the aerobic system.

The aerobic system will maintain work at sub-maximal workloads. This is okay if we are looking to develop a base level of fitness. This is why beginners see decent results from this type of training for about 6 weeks before their conditioning plateaus off as they adapt.

Most of these programmes tend to ignore one of the most important component of a workout… recovery.

 

Recover to Go Harder.

Basically, if recovery is inefficient you are not challenging the energy system you set out to train and all work becomes predominantly aerobic recovery.

Working out at high intensity is hard work- the longer you work without recovery then the lower the intensity. What we are trying to do is increase the amount of work done in a given time in order to facilitate all those cool adaptations in the body that mean your fitness is enhanced.

 

What Not To Do.

So how do we guarantee a result?

Unfortunately if you want to burn a lot of fat or get super fit one block of burpees for 4 minutes won’t cut it unless you are dieting yourself in to a hole. This January has seen the publication of the 1 minute workout (seriously)…. With the need for quicker fixes all the time it had to happen at some point though.

Truthfully, I can’t deny there may be good markers for health from short term interval work (the science is really patchy in truth) but the returns level out once you become adapted to this type of training.

 

How Do I Work Out Smart(er)?

What follows is a rough template of workouts I have used for a variety of clients from athletes to those looking to shape up. As the list goes down what you will notice is that the intensity decreases and the recovery time needed increases. As a side note we do not prioritize all energy systems at the same time. Training is about adaptation and specificity so making everything as hard as possible isn’t really working that smart You also need to do enough work at a given intensity to develop certain energy systems- this basically highlights that your one minute workout won’t cut it for energy systems development after 6 weeks. Just to also highlight one thing aerobic work can cause the same positive changes meaning HIIT is no more effective than performing aerobic work if you are a beginner.

 

1. Aerobic Steady

Emphasis Aerobic output- can be used as recovery from intense sessions.

Duration: 30-60minutes or more

Recovery: None

Number of Sessions: 1-3

Description of Exercise: Steady paced cardiovascular exercise or low level weights circuits

Intensity: Steady Pace

 

2. Aerobic Intervals

Emphasis Improving oxygen utilization of the muscles balancing speed and endurance.

Duration: 1-2 sets of 10-20 minutes.

Recovery: 5-10 minutes

Number of Sessions: 1-2 a week

Description of Exercise: Anything that can be paced rowing, air bike, ski-erg,

Intensity: Pacing is key- this type of session is based on resistance as opposed to speed. Your heart rate should sit at around 150bpm or around 65-80% of max (individuals vary though).

 

3. Intervaled Recovery

Emphasis: Fast twitch power output and resistance to fatigue increase oxidative recovery.

Duration: 8-15 sets of 2minutes.

Recovery: 1 minute “active” recovery.

Number of Sessions: 1-2 a week.

Description of Exercise: Complexes and Multi-joint lifts such as kettlebell swings twinned with a core or mobility exercise.

Intensity: Again around 150bpm/ 65-80% max with recovery down to sub- 130bpm.

 

4. Anaerobic Endurance

Emphasis: Power endurance.

Duration: 4- 6 interval sets of 4 to 8 minutes

Recovery: 2-4 minutes of low level recovery

Number of Sessions: 1-2 a week with at least 48 hours recovery between sessions

Description of Exercise: Multi-joint compound movements/ “full body”

Intensity: 90% maximum of your heart rate

 

5. Max Output

Emphasis: Maximal efforts so working the ATP-PC system. Typically the most risky for injury due to explosive nature

Duration: 10-20 sets of 10-30 seconds.

Recovery: 3-5 minutes of recovery between sets.

Number of Sessions: 1-2 a week with 48-72 hours between workouts.

Description: Generally, works better for task specific drills e.g. sprints, jumps and explosive throws.

Intensity: Maximal effort “explosive” in nature, speed shouldn’t be compromised by fatigue.

You may not perform all of these style of workouts in a week. Indeed this depends on the person you are working with and what you are trying to achieve and what energy systems you are trying to develop. When you consider things like the Tabata protocol and why it has become popular (20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds rest) is simply is that it is easier to perform that than grinding out 2-4 minutes at 90% of your maximum heart rate for 10 sets.

Does it matter for beginners? Well I guess something is better than nothing. However if you are stressed, tired and with a bad diet maximal sessions may not be beneficial for your health and steady aerobic work may be restorative and invigorating without burying you under more “stress.”

From an anecdotal point of view for a period my average client was the stressed out, time poor client averaging 2 or less hours of activity in a week. These individuals just aren’t in the position to do high intensity work.

 

A Note On Training For Body Composition.

Which one of these gives me a six pack though?

Well, they are all activity- that is great for creating a calorie deficit. They all will improve physicality so therefore you can work at a higher intensity to burn more calories. As a side note the maximal output has the lowest calorific yield for time spent. The other options will depend on relative intensity maintained as well as duration. Intensity does play a role in fat mobilization so stimulating adrenaline to cause fat breakdown requires intense work so the Intervaled Recovery method and the Anaerobic Endurance method are my favourite. That said the duration you can perform these well will be compromised by your anaerobic fitness (they are mentally the hardest as well).

Time should be spent also developing efficient aerobic pathways highlighting that there is a lot of value in steady state work as it can be performed more frequently for longer so for some individuals it may be more suitable for creating a calorie deficit and can be performed more regularly. This is definitely the case if you are managing fatigue, injuries or in general are a bit out of shape. Developing an efficient and effective aerobic base allows you to do more well in the future which is very important when you are looking to develop a progressive training approach.

The Week That Launches a Million Diets

Welcome to the new year (I obviously hope it was a happy one). Also a big welcome to our new gym website/ blog. We painstakingly rebuilt this whole caboodle before Christmas and while we may not be challenging Facebook or Wikipedia for content I hope that this provides an insight in to what we do at Results FAST. In turn the other website I run www.ianmellis.com I am going to use for more technical articles on programme design/ personal training stuff. This site is more a reflection therefore of the questions I get asked daily (sometimes repeatedly) at the gym and also will include a lot more current affairs articles.

So this week (if you look at the papers and TV schedule) there is a proliferation of diets on display. Some old, some new…. what remains consistent is the deluge of diets happens every year at the same time. If I see the slogan “new year/new you” I generally consider that the PR/ marketing team finished work in November. Anyway what was wrong with the old you in November? Did Christmas and the change of the year create an immeasurable shift in your self that you need to consider reinventing yourself as an Elle McPherson/ Gerard Butler body model? “Old you” didn’t like green juices and quinoa and also January is too cold for salad but it’s not going to stop you.

With the rise of social media and the dropping of attention levels (apparently 4 lines of text or 4 seconds of video before you click something else online) to the information provided short term solutions get a lot of attention. One such thing I saw the other day was apple cider vinegar mixed with grapefruit and himalayan sea salt. You’d be lucky to survive the first mouthful…. It may remove stubborn body fat…. but only because you can’t face eating anything after that concoction. The celebrity expert dominates the media this time of year. Celebrities are not training experts. Indeed they may work hard but they definitely shouldn’t be your first source for fitness and training information. What has happened in effect is the removal of the expert. Experts are boring because they know stuff and say ambiguous statements like “it depends.” We want answers goddamit and if it means I can juice it then great. Even better put it in an Instagram post because I couldn’t possibly handle words- I mean reading is so 1985.

If you are still reading this (thank you!) you are probably at the point of saying what’s my point here. Well to cut through the misinformation out there and give you an operating system of how to diet (if you need to). It’s not really Instagrammable and it’ll take more than 140 characters so Twitter is out the window. As for Facebook unless they pay for advertising you may not even see a post from a page you like- instead you will see Kurt*from Florida and his instaflex* system which all can be yours for £9.99 (and 15 subsequent payments of £2000).

*Kurt and instaflex are both made up- just like the results they promise.

Yes- I am going to explain the celebrity personal trainer secrets that only supermodels and bodybuilders know.

This statements generally run true for losing weight in the New Year. Just consider these points in relation to what you may be trying to achieve. Christmas often encompasses over eating and weight gain leading people to feel anxious and desperate. These are ideal people to sell things too as they “need” a solution.

Most solutions that work in the “long term” have the following in common.

  • You have to eat less than you need to lose weight.
  • The “best” diet is the one you stick to.
  • Whatever you do consistency and sustainability count.
  • Your friends do it? It doesn’t matter it may not be right for you.
  • Long term goals are not achieved with short term strategies (perhaps my favorite quote about nutrition and fitness (and possibly life)).
  • Don’t just remove negative behaviours, add positive behaviours. This creates a sense of achievement rather than than just removing a habitual behaviour.
  • There are no magic foods that are “super”, they will not make you lose weight.
  • There is no magic structure to how you eat.
  • There are no magic macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) ratios that work for everyone.

So how do you set yourself up for success. Tips vary and not all will be relevant to you but consider the following:

  • Understanding what’s in food can help you make better decisions.
  • Rough portion control is as effective as measuring everything you eat.
  • Plan your meals and create structure that you can adhere to.
  • Build activity to become a habitual behaviour.
  • If you need help consult a qualified professional.

At no point here have I mentioned superfoods, carbohydrate removal, low fat dieting, carbohydrate cycling or anything overtly technical. Why? If your goal is to lose weight you will need to eat less. As a general rule if you are overweight it probably isn’t because you have a week metabolism (it can be but it’s unlikely). The likelihood is that you have eaten more than you need to maintain your former weight.

While not being revolutionary the framework of what actually underpins success for a lot of the people who work with us. Often with diet the process works like this.

Person: I want to lose weight.

Trainer: Here have this list of foods to eat and eat only this.

Person: Sob

Providing an eating list of meal plan does not set you up for success. It may provide help but it’s not the full picture. The process around habit development and long term success is fairly nuanced- there are a lot of different things going on from person to person which one diet system does not guarantee success on. Most of the shelf diets focus solely on the what you do rather than allowing you to develop your own framework. Why? This is the hardest part surrounding a diet as habit formation is hard. Especially when it involves change.

Where to start then? Well I always suggest think of one goal- not necessarily the overall goal of lose weight but one with more of a time driven emphasis e.g. lose weight by a  holiday, lose weight so I can wear his dress/ pair of trousers. Once you have set this goal think about your current habits. What do you do regularly? What behaviours do you perceive as negative? What are you doing well? Where do you need help? From here find solutions- counter negative behaviours by adding a positive behaviour e.g. eat more green vegetables, regularly have a healthy breakfast etc. Add behaviours- don’t just punish yourself, this is what parents do to a naughty child and you are not a naughty child. You are an adult who knows better- create behaviours and structure that empower you, make the decisions around what you are going to do- after all these decisions are all positive as they result in an overall improvement in your health (which you may miss when it’s gone by the way).

Health changes by the way are a poor motivator for change when it comes to exercise and diet. Recently in a survey about undertaking a gym membership “changing room cleanliness” came a strong second “improve health” came seventh. What does this mean? People care about fluffy towels but not fluffy arteries? I’m not sure but getting switched on to health improvements will improve all aspects of your life. This is where I’ll rap this article up as it sort of brings things full circle. If your lifestyle is set up to improve your health rather than dieting to lose weight the overall message of positive behaviour change is stronger as you are looking to change things by doing things that are good for you. Diet has an implication of removal of the things you enjoy and has a negative undertone that you have been doing everything wrong. Perhaps make your new year goals around health improvements, tidy up your food intake by learning a bit more about food, up your activity level (I got a fitbit for Christmas and I enjoy playing around with it). Most of all pick some things to do, create structure and do your best to commit to them the best you can.