I haven't done a healthy eating and exercise update for a while and with lockdown I think we have all been a bit tempted by homemade cakes, wine or a G&T or two. So inevitably a few pounds might have been gained here and there. I started off well with plans to exercise at least twice a week and daily walks. Then the sun arrived, and my sun lounger was more tempting and the rose wine at 5 pm became an excellent idea. But with lockdown easing and normality slowly returning I thought it was time for me to get back to some sort of healthy lifestyle!
Remember, it is important to live a life too. To incorporate an 80/20 approach. And to not beat yourself up about the occasional slip up or not doing enough exercise. Stress is one of the biggest causes of weight gain! So first of all relax (yeah I know, not easy). Then the next thing to focus on is a CALORIE DEFICIT. How ever you measure your food intake (logging calories, writing a diary, or just using common sense and portion control) you will not lose fat unless you are consuming less calories than you burn off. So any of the fad diets work on this principle - keto, slimming world, low gluten, gluten free, healthy eating - they only work because they put you are in a calorie deficit.
For this post I am really highlighting the importance of small, sustainable changes and not a sudden effort to cut calories, stop eating carbs, give up alcohol and exercise five times a week.
When I did Joe Wicks / The Body Coach SSS Plan way back I was really successful and lost a stone and about 18 inches. I really needed to lose it, being small, it shows on me! But make no mistake - getting a meal plan and an exercise plan - can be really helpful and mean we don't have to think too much about it all. But I was still in a calorie deficit, that is how the plan works. Joe has been criticised for not promoting this but he has very clearly said he doesn't agree with fastidiously counting calories forever, that daily life and socialising with friends is just as important. Don't say no to the birthday cake! Just say no to cake every day. What Joe is teaching you is how to gauge your portion sizes so that when you eventually come off a 'plan' you have a good idea of how to cook healthy meals and what the right portion is for you (in line with your maintenance calories).
So knowing what I know now, would I have still done The Body Coach plan? Probably but who knows!? What I do believe now is that EDUCATION, MINDSET AND A CALORIE DEFICIT are the priorities. And for this I really think that James Smith (the James Smith Academy) is excellent (I met James Smith at his first seminar back in 2017 - see photo below)!
Now James is not everyone's cup of tea, He is very 'sweary' but he says it as it is. You must be in a CALORIE F'ING DEFICIT (CFD) to lose fat. He doesn't swear so much in his academy though and his book is a fabulous resource for educating yourself - James Smith Not a Diet Book: Take Control, Gain Confidence, Change Your Life.
Start with your calories
James Smith has a free Macro Calculator, start here! Work out how many calories you need daily/weekly to lose fat. Then log your food intake for a while until you eventually move towards a more intuitive way of eating. There is no need to have 'cheat days' you can consume your calories over a week - so if you go over one day, go under another. The best apps for logging calories are: MyFitnessPal or Nutracheck.
Include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Cook from scratch if you can, avoid processed food. Have protein with every meal or snack. Don't ban any foods or food groups, just eat in moderation and within your calorie goal.
Then, move more
Move more, but don't obsess over it. Getting out for a walk is just as good as a run or a gym session. It just depends what your goals are. If you want to become a body builder or have ripped abs then weight lifting is good. If you are menopausal then strength training is really good for hormonal imbalances. If your goal is to run a marathon then obviously you need to train for it. Running isn't actually that good for us (it can damage our knees, we are more prone to injury from running and during menopause the stress it puts on the body isn't great for weight gain around the middle) - but if you enjoy it then do it. If you don't then don't force yourself to go out for a run - it is no better at helping you lose weight than any other method of moving more.
Weight loss, fat loss ... starts in the kitchen. If you are not in a calorie deficit then no amount of exercise will make any difference whatsoever.
James and his friend Diran really promote NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) basically everything you do as you go about your daily life. Walking to the shops, walking up and down the escalator instead of standing still, cooking, cleaning, housework) - just move more and up your NEAT. Then add exercise in as a bonus because you want to and you enjoy it and you have time for it. Start with a short walk, even 10 minutes is better than nothing.
Don't use MFP (My Fitness Pal) to calculate your calories for you. It sets them too low and you only need to be in a small deficit. Only use the free James Smith Macro Calculator or similar. But you should use MFP or Nutracheck (my preference), to log your calories until you know what your portion sizes should be. The other good method is the Hand Size Portion Control if you don't want to log calories at all. But if you really do have a lot of weight to lose then it is far better to count calories until you are confident to move onto the hand size portions. The Nutracheck app has a very efficient bar code scanner option.
So that is exercise and calorie deficit sorted, almost the easy bit - but what about mindset?
And remember the importance of mindset, sleep and controlling stress
Getting in the right mindset for weight loss is the biggest challenge and where we are most likely to fall down.
You have to want to do it - enough to say no to wine every night, or pudding every day or lazing in bed on a Sunday morning when really a walk might be a better idea.
Our mind is very very powerful and we come up with every excuse possible to sabotage our efforts, just this one glass of wine won't hurt. Surely cake doesn't add that many calories. I have failed in the past so why will this make any difference. It is my hormones, you always gain weight in midlife, there is no point in trying. I eat healthily and have lots of fresh vegetables, why am I not losing weight?
If you are in a calorie deficit and you move more, you will lose weight. Yep even despite the hormones. If you can sort out your mindset, if you prioritise sleep and you control your stress levels.
This is something that James Smith talks about a lot in his book, his free online videos and in his academy. He says it like it is but he also explains the science behind it and why it isn't just our hormones.
But he also explains that abs are not the be all and end all. And that we do need to have a life too. That 'being on a plan' or 'being on a diet' shouldn't rule us.
And don't forget a walk in the fresh air, even a short one, is also so good for our mental health. I really felt the benefit of doing this during lockdown when everyone was at home and I needed a bit of quiet time for myself. And a daily dose of fresh air really helps sleep too.
Not enough time?
This is my go to excuse, especially during lockdown with everyone at home and needing to cater for different likes and dislikes in my family. But it is just an excuse and I am well aware of that. Cooking a quick healthy meal doesn't need to be complicated. Getting out for a ten minute walk isn't that hard! Is it?!
I learnt a lot about quick healthy and simple cooking when I did my Menu & Mind Course earlier in the year and I am still a member of the support group.
Could supplements help?
There are a few supplements that I feel have a really beneficial effect in midlife and are essential, magnesium for example is a really good one for better sleep and relaxation. I also take a probiotic every day and have been trying one from ProVen recently. The other supplement I'd like to look into in more detail is Turmeric for its many health benefits including weight control.
I was recently asked how all this translates into real life - what do I do every day to stay slim and healthy? You can read more on my blog post my weight loss tips and healthy eating ideas.
The important bits ...
Hope that helps! I don't always get it right and I do often have to reset and remind myself of the basics too - which this blog post will help with.
Outfit details: top from Asquith, leggings from Mama Life London, trainers from Vionic.
See this post for 'everything you need to see results in your fitness journey'
Need help controlling stress - read these blog posts
How to be kind to yourself and how aromatherapy could help and
Let go of stress, relax more and try out Pilates at the Zen Den
My new exercise routine - doing nothing!
Need some healthy eating ideas and mindset advice - read this blog post
Meal plan, healthy eating and tackling our mindset around health and fitness
Still can't lose weight? Read this blog post
Weight Loss | What should I do if I can't lose weight?
Want to read more about the supplements I take in midlife?
What supplements do I take in midlife?
Or visit my Health & Fitness section for lots of useful posts.
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
Subscribe below to receive regular updates by email:
Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
Join my mailing list (above) for regular updates and don’t forget to look at my social media pages too..