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Even ten thousand steps a day didn’t compensate up for Ray’s portion size


Ray Foley with Nutritionist Karen Coghlan

Ray Foley with Nutritionist Karen Coghlan

Ray Foley with Nutritionist Karen Coghlan

IN last week’s article, I discussed the importance of reviewing and assessing Ray’s current eating habits so I could pinpoint what changes needed to be made to fix his diet.

And by fix, I mean firstly to remove nutrient deficiencies and secondly to properly control energy balance, so he can start to both feel and look his best.

This week we look at some of the reasons why the results of Ray’s past attempts to lose weight have not stuck, or have re-stuck if you will.

Diet Defined

Diet is a dreaded word that has somehow become a dirty one. I often ask people – ‘what is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of going on a diet?’

The answers I get most frequently are – restriction, deprivation, and starvation.

Which is fair enough, because that is exactly what (fad) diets do. They give a restricted list of foods that you cannot eat, you feel deprived of tasty food you enjoy to eat, and you are starved due to the extreme slashing of calories.

The dieting industry is looking for repeat business and because of this diets lead us to believe that we must endure and we must suffer to lose weight. And we must feel miserable.

It’s very hard to continue living while your primary focus is denial – and so dieters fall off the wagon, regain all their lost weight and at some point start another diet.

So let’s redefine the word “diet” in our own heads. According to the dictionary, it simply means “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”.

The key word here is habitual – something we do regularly. Not something that we should do for a short time while we undergo a “12-week body transformation”.

If you radically overhaul your diet in the short-term to lose weight, and then revert back to your old ways, then it is only a matter of time before the old weight returns.

Our diet should be varied and balanced, cover all the essential nutrients, properly control energy balance, and leave us feeling and looking our best.

If we need to lose fat, then we simply make small tweaks to our current diet so that we eat slightly less to put us in a calorie deficit, without

drastically changing the type of foods we eat.

Fact or Fiction

Social media has empowered many of us to find a voice – but it has also made it harder to tell what’s true and what some people simply wish us to believe.

The more pseudo the science then the more widespread it seems to be shared. The more people see it and read it then the more they will believe it.

Just because something was shared on Facebook does not make it credible.

Vulnerable people are led to believe that they must eat certain foods (or restrict foods – the Paleo diet for example) in order to burn fat, just because some internet guru said so.

Most of us have good intentions to make changes so we can lead healthier, longer lives. Pseudoscience interferes with this and encourages unhealthy behaviours, which can lead to psychological distress.

Eating a varied balanced diet in adequate portions that are conducive towards our goals is a simple yet highly unsexy concept.

It’s also one that is hard to get a person to buy into, which is ironic, since you don’t have to “buy” anything extra.

There are no shakes to buy, no pills to pop, and no super foods that cost a super small fortune to buy.

I told Ray to clear his mind of what he perceives as healthy and explained to him that there are no magic fat burning foods. However, what there is, are nutrient dense foods that we should focus on in our diet.

My aim is to empower Ray and to teach him why he should be making certain decisions about food. If Ray understands why he should be eating certain things then he is more likely to act on it.

Going Gung-Ho

When people embark on a new diet regime, they go hell for leather and follow a strict set of dietary rules, for a while at least.

The typical dieter’s mentality is to go all out, and strive to get their diet just perfect. It’s akin to a religion, taking vows to abstain from food.

With such drastic measures come drastic results, but they are short lived.

Ray’s previous mentality has been - well I’ve got great results after four weeks so now I can take the foot off the accelerator.

However, not only is the accelerator released, but the brakes are put on, and then he goes into reverse.

The diet goes from all to nothing. And the results go from being evident to unnoticeable faster than you can say hot fudge sundae.

After four weeks of food restriction and feeling miserable, people usually make up for their lost time with the foods they have been deprived on and binge eat. This is not healthy.

The big secret to successful dieting is that there is no secret. Create a small calorie deficit to lose fat, while eating a variety of foods to cover all your essential nutrients, including occasional treats.

Do this consistently and the results will come. It’s not always easy, but it’s that simple.

Driver for Fat Loss

Ray was on holidays for the last week, so his plan to kick-start his new healthy lifestyle was to clock up as many steps as possible using his Fitbit while away.

The aim was 10,000 steps a day, which he achieved and even exceeded some days. But alas, he arrived home, and had lost no weight.

When it comes to exercising to burn off calories, people often overestimate the calories exercised off and underestimate the calories that were eaten.

Which is why some people will ironically end up putting weight on when they take up running.

The primary driver for fat loss is diet, not exercise.

Sure, exercise can supplement and accelerate fat loss, but not if calories are “eaten back” after exercise.

Exercise should be seen as a privilege. It should never be viewed as a punishment for eating a slice of cake or used to replace a lack of effort in your diet.

Trading exercise for food or food for exercise is an unhealthy mindset to have and it represents a dysfunctional relationship with food.

Instead, focus on your nutrition, and use exercise to inject something positive into your life, such as increased fitness, stronger bones, better mobility, and an overall healthier happier life.

Next week I’ll be asking Ray to show me his grocery receipts to I can examine the contents of his shopping trolley!


Karen is a personal trainer and runs online nutrition programmes. See

www.thenutcoach.com or email karen@thenutcoach.com