Why is it that you have days where your diet is ON POINT?
And days where you feel like destroying a box of chocolates?
You can have the most amazing diet plan written, perfect macros that allow you flexibility and options or a meal plan that fills you up and has you satisfied. You could have the perfect coach to have written this plan and be all ready for you to send in your first weekly check in or get your body fat done…
You’re going great for 6 days. Amazing! Nailed it! Fifteen days, even better!
Then you have to go out on the weekend. (You don’t touch the alcohol because you have a goal in mind!) Yes, you carve up the dance floor a bit. After all that counts as LISS (low intensity steady state cardio), right? And it’s your best friend’s birthday, BUT then you get home at midnight and have a 7 AM meeting the next day…
You wake up at 5:30 AM to get to work on time, avoid traffic and remove the bags from under your eyes. Because you are stressing about your meeting, you forgot to grab your meals you so delicately prepped all weekend.
That’s okay. You know there are some protein bars on your desk at work.
The meeting ends and it dragged on for 4 hours. You also forgot your gigantic 2 L water bottle and finally shovel a protein bar in your mouth… then another… because you’re 2 meals behind…
The work day comes to an end and you have managed to grab a crappy salad and had a few protein bars. You’re super low on carbs and tired. The thought of going to the gym right now is very unappealing so you decide to go home first and get a decent meal.
There is traffic. Loads of it. You’re stuck for over 60 mins on the way home. You run to the door starving and you demolish a huge bowl of oats and protein powder, caught up on some macros and feel better.
You sit down to get your work clothes off and you’re hungry again. Why? I just ate. Tells brain, “You have some more macros, I’ll just take them from dinner and I’ll feel better for the gym.” Proceeds to devour a whole pack of Oreos and half a tub of peanut butter.
You just completely blew out your macros and f*cked up your day. Why were you so ravenous? I had eaten at work. Why did I do this after 20 perfect days of my diet plan?
Because you forgot about so many other factors that affect cravings, happy hormones (dopamine and epinephrine), and so much more than just ‘getting in your macros’. So many psychological factors come into play with dieting or sticking to a meal plan.
When you’re feeling like you’re about to have a massive binge or fall off the deep end with your diet and/or you can’t understand why you may be feeling this way, I want you to PAUSE for a minute and CHECK YO SELF before you literally wreck yourself and your goals/mindset, and consistency.
Take a moment to go over the following and assess how you’re really feeling and if you have the below factors in check. I use a simple CHECK method with my clients on a regular basis.
Hunger & hydration
Energy levels and sleep
Consistency and meal timing
Keeping hormones and stress in check
And in more detail below:
Are they actually a real thing or is it simply your body’s way of telling you that you’re deficient in something? More likely than not, I feel it’s important to pay attention to cravings as they may be telling you what’s really underlying. Just because your mind says go YOLO on the Cadburys, it may actually mean you’re low in iron or magnesium both rice and cocoa products, or even sodium.
OR it may simply mean you’re female and your time of the month is coming around. Fact is that when you’re actually about to head down the monthly cycle, your body actually requires fewer carbohydrates and simple sugars, and more healthy fats for hormone regulation. So aim not to deprive yourself around this time, and nourish your body with wholesome foods rather than crappy band-aid craving crushers that will more than likely set you up for a few rough days.
Hunger and Hydration
Hunger and hydration are two very key factors when it comes to mood, energy, and in turn, cravings. Hunger can often be displaced, what I mean by this is often when clients are on high calories but hungry, there are often 2 things I will check for — water and fibre intake. If these two factors are low, hunger will ultimately rise. So assess if you’re “hungry” if you actually are, or if you have been surviving on a few sips of water for the past 10 hours. Like my above example, this client probably didn’t drink enough water the night prior to dancing to the biebs on repeat and also forgot their water at work = disaster waiting to happen.
Energy levels and sleep play a gigantic role in the effects of emotional eating. The role that dopamine and “feel good” hormones have, and links with reduced mindless eating, and reduced cravings is HUGE. That’s why it’s so vital to CHECK your sleep and energy levels if you’re finding yourself staring into the fridge at night after you have had your fifth meal for the day, not even hungry and wondering why you can find what you’re looking for. Go to bed, Dorothy. The yellow brick road is not the fridge light. You need some SLEEP, and if you’re not a big sleeper, 20-minute naps have been proven to improve energy levels and reduced mindless eating. If you think you’re hungry, try having a nap instead! OR try some gentle exercise to boost your endorphins! Not only that but sleeping more aids the release of growth hormone and testosterone production, which in turns results in better increase in lean muscle mass and overall body composition, so time to get your 8 hours and some gains!
Consistency and Meal Timing
Now, meal timing is a touchy subject as there will be those out there who preach intermittent fasting and those who preach 7 meals a day.
I’m here to tell you most of it are BS and studies have shown that the optimal meals per day are anywhere from 3 to 5. Also that eating more than 3 hours between meals won’t kill you, BUT it also has been shown that waiting more than 5 hours between meals has higher links with cravings, mindless eating and binge eating.
Eating too frequently say 6-8 meals a day can cause a lot of GI stress and also eating too frequently can often have you thinking about food non-stop which is also not ideal. I have found from research and clients that it’s case dependent anywhere in the 3-5 range of meals spaced 3-5 hours between tends to be the most compliable and have the best overall results with consistency.
Having huge gaps between meals especially when dieting is setting yourself up to inhale a burger at a McDonalds drive through. The key with meal timing is to be consistent. Whatever works for you, continue with it. If you are not hungry or minimally hungry on 4 meals a day spaced 4 hours apart, you go, Glen Coco.
LISTEN to your body. Keep a food journal, not just with food intakes but also around hunger, thirst, cravings, what you ate and relate it back. A good coach will also assess this even if you’re a flexible dieter. I believe in checking my client’s meal diary logs with numerous questions on hunger, energy levels, even bowel habits throughout the day. It’s not as simple as getting that chicken and broccoli every hour on the hour! (Imagine the smell. No, thank you.)
Stress & Hormones
The root of many problems — Ye old stress! Stress can manifest in a lot of ways: fatigue, poor focus, cravings, poor sleep and then in turn, results in mindless or emotional eating, almost your body’s way of saying “you will feel better after a row of bowl of Ben and Jerry’s” but then only to result in you actually feeling more stressed as you just went completely off your diet and now have another stress to add to your list of telling your coach what happened.
Been there? You’re not alone. But how do we solve this? It’s not easy I tell you that much! But the best thing to do is assess your stressors and your triggers. Write down a key set of things that stress you out regularly and learn how to better act in these situations relating to food. It’s a lot more complex than this on an individual client basis BUT for the most part, I will get clients to write down what happened after a binge of a mindless eating incident and then an action plan for the future rather than dwelling on the past.
E.g. When I argue with my boyfriend, I go wandering aimlessly to the fridge and grab a tub of ice cream and sit and watch the Kardashians wishing I was Kim and Kanye. Action plan – Leave the house, do not pass go, exit! OR pick up the phone. Phone a friend! These are two simple solutions that remove you from face-palming your fridge and avoiding this situation.
Keep the above in mind if you’re having one of “those” days where you’re feeling you’re either not feeling good in the gym or you’re about the eat the whole pantry! There are numerous factors that affect compliancy and results and these are some of the major ones that get overlooked when people can’t understand why they can’t be compliant and are constantly getting cravings or fatigue.
All of the above are a sign that something is off either mentally or physically and needs to be changed! So how do we fix this? It’s not a SIMPLE answer and it will be case dependent but I have applied some simple tips to avoid getting in said situations.
I created this little checklist so try to apply it if you’re having one of “those” days where you feeling you’re either not feeling good in the gym or you’re about the eat the whole pantry!
All of the above are a sign that something is off either mentally or physically and needs to be changed!
We don’t just get excessive cravings, mood swings, hunger or poor energy for no reason. It comes down to what we put in our bodies from food to fluids, and how we treat our bodies from hormones to sleep. Nutrition is more than just fat loss. Nutrition should be about your overall health.
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Your coach Alice Round