How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All

August 23, 2016

fitness writer bodybuilding dieting

How good are you at handling your finances? Bear with me. This does have something to do with health and fitness!

I recently had a massive communication breakthrough about bodybuilding. So big, so rewarding, that I whooped when I heard about its success. In fact, I am claiming it as one of my finest moments in linguistic creativity. OK, OK – it was with my Dad. Dad has never really understood the dieting side of bodybuilding (despite seeing me diet through numerous “preps” in years gone by). But apparently, something I said to him recently FINALLY made sense to him.

What did I say? I simply compared dieting for fat loss to budgeting for financial savings.

We were talking about flexible dieting.

“It’s not that a bodybuilder CAN’T eat anything,” I said. “It just that they have a small budget to play with. So imagine that you only had £10 spend that day. You COULD buy some slightly-overpriced thing for £6.99 that you don’t really “need”, but then you wouldn’t have much cash left for the rest of the day. Plus you’d probably get home and think…”oh…is that all I got for my money? It looked better in the shop!” Or you could spend £1, £1, £1, £1 (etc) throughout the day. Then get home and think “wow! I managed to buy tons with my £10!”

Apparently this made sense to Dad.

I explained “going out to eat whilst dieting” like this:

“It’s not that they COULDN’T have the dessert, Dad. But it might make more sense to come out and just eat a main. That way, they still get to socialise, but no harm done to their “budget”. It would be like inviting someone out for a shopping day when they are saving up hard to buy a house. They can still come out! But they might say “I can come, but I really can’t spend more than £5 today because I’m saving up for the house deposit.” It’s not the going out shopping for the day that’s the problem. It’s how much they spend whilst they’re out.”

Losing Weight Or Saving Money: Why You Only Really Have A Few Options (Sorry!)

On a roll, I also used the finance/budget analogy with another member of my family recently. This person is keen to lose a bit of weight, but doesn’t want to do the meal plan/12-week transformation thing. She’s been there and done that, and doesn’t fancy the backlash (I don’t blame her).

This person is very good at managing her finances. Knowing this, I explained that there really are only a few ways to lose a bit of weight. And they are the same as being successful at managing money.

If you want to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. That’s the bottom line. The law of thermodynamics is key. You have to consume less than you expend, or expend more than you consume.

If you want to save money, you have to create a financial excess. You have to spend less than you earn, or earn more than you spend.

Your options are:

1) Track your food/drink as you go along and stop when you’ve reached your spend limit (track your money as you spend it, or track your calories/macros in myfitnesspal or whatever you use)

Pros: this will help you work out where you are “overspending”
Cons: if you want to “save”, you’ll have to stop when you hit your target, which might be partway through the month/day if you are “spending” more than you thought

2) Pre-plan what you’re going to eat/spend and work to it (a financial budget, or a calorie/macro budget). This can be as rigid as a meal plan/precise spending plan, or as flexible as eating to macro targets/spending within various “categories”.

Pros: it will be very precise and you will likely “save” (or “lose” in the case of weight) quickly and accurately
Cons: it might seem boring and restrictive, depending on your mindset and personality

3) Wing it and hope for the best. This only works if you are a person who naturally doesn’t spend much money, or who earns so much you could never get into debt. (The weight loss equivalent is someone who naturally undereats, isn’t interested in food, or is so incredibly active that your calorie burn is through the roof).

Pros: if you’re one of the lucky ones, this will work for you. Until your lifestyle, income, or habits change!
Cons: it doesn’t teach you anything about finance (or nutrition) and you might be left wondering WTF when things eventually change.

Have my amazing analogies (!) helped something “click” in your brain? Funnily enough, the above conversation actually helped ME wrap my head around budgeting! I realised that if I can track my nutrition, I can track my spending. I’ve already made plenty of savings and changed some of my spending behaviour!

Do you reckon your success at nutrition/money could be transferrable skills?

How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fat loss dieting and the art of not-doing

May 13, 2014

In a philosophical moment during this morning’s dog walk, I took to musing on the different challenges of dieting and training (the two-pronged attack of bodybuilding prep). I don’t know about you, but I find training easy. Well, not easy (if it was easy I’d step things up a gear!) Training’s hard, but it’s not difficult. I love it. I never have to be persuaded to go and train, even when I’m tired, hungry, or feeling depleted towards the end of a prep contest diet.

The dieting side of the deal is another matter, though (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this).

Why, then, when it’s so easy to do the hard task of tough training sessions day after day, does it often feel so very difficult to diet for fat loss?

It can’t be the physical challenge. At least, I don’t think so. Yes, dieting can hurt, but so can training! I don’t know about you, but my training causes me far more physical pain than the uncomfortable feeling of body fat giving up its grip and saying sayonara.

It could be that it’s so relentless, of course. There’s no off-switch when you’re dieting for body recomposition. It’s 24/7 (apart from the bit when you’re asleep). It’s a constant string of good decisions and correct choices, morning, noon and night, Monday to Sunday. No days off. BIt tiring, to be honest! Back when I was an endurance athlete, I’d eat well before training but quite honestly the rest of the time was either a free-for-all (when I consciously needed to put on bodyfat for Channel swimming) or a case of not really thinking about it much.

Bodybuilding nutrition is a whole different kettle of…er…tilapia.

But I don’t think that’s the reason behind the diet being the challenge. After all, those of us who are drawn to, and succeed at, physique sports and competitive bodybuilding, tend to be pretty good at routine, monotony, and schedules. Once we’re in the groove, we’re off and running.

I think the problem with successful dieting for fat loss is that it’s the art of not-doing.

It’s always easier to actually do something, isn’t it? Take this supplement! Add this exercise to your routine! Try this new form of cardio! Drink more water!

But dieting is precisely… nothing. You can’t do more to do less. You just have to… do less. And sit with it. You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, and knowing there’s nothing you can actually do to change it. And that’s a challenge, isn’t it? When things get tough, we naturally want to do something. Do more. Be proactive. Try something.

To diet down successfully, you need to get your head around the fact that there’s nothing to do. And that’s the point.

What do you think? Have I got to the bottom of it – is dieting really the art of not-doing?

Fat loss dieting and the art of not-doing is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks out?)

March 5, 2013

It’s been a while since I talked about training, prep or this year’s competitions, so here’s an update.

I’m currently either 20 or 22 weeks out, depending on which show I do. Sorry to be vague and cryptic but I’m not 100% sure yet, and I won’t be revealing the show til a lot nearer the time anyway (although those of you with the various federations’ calendars at hand will be able to work it out fairly easily!)

I’m still working with Vicky Bradley and everything is going really well, I’m very happy with progress and excited to see how things turn out.

I’ve been under Vicky’s small but surprisingly muscular lats for nearly seven weeks now. I’m onto my second lot of training sessions with her – the first block focused on my bigger lifts, great technique, lower reps (very low for me!), working out just how much weigh I can handle and getting some more muscle on me. This new block of training is bringing in work which will bring more balance and shape to my physique.

Progress is being made: not only do I look and feel better, but I’m getting stronger, and the stats are there in black and white. In six weeks I’m down:

3.6kgs
We think about 4.5% body fat from Vicky’s calipering.
2.3cms hips
6cms waist (!)
5cms chest/back

The only thing which hasn’t budged is arm measurement, although body fat/skinfold has come down.

This is from about 3 weeks ago…
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This is from last Sunday at a BNBF club/meet at Body Bionics Gym
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As is this….
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I’m in the gym four days a week:
Saturday – deadlifts, hamstrings, glutes, back and calves
Sunday – chest and triceps
Tuesday – back and shoulders
Wednesday – squats, quads and calves

And doing posing practice, stretching, foam rolling and postural/remedial work a couple of times a week at home. No cardio (other than two fast dog walks of about 45 mins every day).

Eating (I can’t really call it dieting yet!) is simple and enjoyable. Lots of meat, fish, eggs and veg, good fats and veg (including spuds). The plan is to slowly bring bodyfat down to a reasonable “year round” level, teaching me and my body good, sustainable habits along the way. Never mind the comp, this is about finding habits and routines which work for me and can then work for me all year round. Then, from there, we’ll worry about “prep diet”. But the idea is that, by then, there won’t be a huge amount to lose anyway.

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How about you – how’s your training going? 🙂

Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks out?) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


What I learned from the Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar

February 17, 2013

A few weeks ago, I went up to Stoke to attend a
seminar led by Phil Learney, PT/trainer/coach who currently works at UP Fitness. The topic of Phil’s two-day seminar was Fat Loss and Performance, and I went along in the interests of personal development and general interest (I think everyone else there was a coach or PT of some sort).

It was a fascinating weekend and I learned so much (and also had my thoughts and ideas on some things clarified or confirmed). I admit it was all quite full-on for my non-PT-brain but I think I more or less kept up 😉 Phil is a really great presenter/lecturer and made sure the content was tailored to the group and everyone’s questions were answered.

I thought I’d write a short round-up of the things which really stood out for me, or were new to me, or have particularly stayed with me now it’s been a few weeks since the seminar. It’s going to be a bit of a brain-dump, but I’m happy to try and answer questions in the comments, or you can find Phil on Facebook and Twitter, he’s very good at answering questions. (He also has a very good blog which covers a lot of the points below in greater detail).

The seminar covered body types and assessment (of clients), nutrition, specific protocols including carb cycling, carb backloading and fasting, optimal feeding patterns, hydration, health (from the inside out), training protocols, contest prep and tons more!

Here’s what I took away from it…

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”
“Only a fool never changes his mind”
– Body type assessment using somatotypes and phenotypes (I think this was kind of “client assessment 101” for most of the people in the room but it was a fascinating start for me!) (I am totes a mesomorph… of course.. what’s that? You too? 😉 )
– “We aren’t what we eat; we’re what we digest” – the importance of food quality, gut health, digestion
– The importance of protein turnover (the balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown) – the more we break down during training, the more we have to synthesize to maintain an anabolic environment
– Leucine! We should look to take in 3.2g leucine (minimum) per protein serving. Phil then showed a fascinating table, demonstrating how much we’d have to take in of a few different protein sources, in order to get 3.2g leucine. 230g chicken (237 kcals/53g protein), 190g steak (375 kcals/54g pro)… 1070g (yes, more than a kilo!) pork (1223 kcals/224g protein). There’s a reason why bodybuilders eat chicken and steak! And I’m glad I’ve never liked pork…
– The importance of kidney health, what poor kidney health means for the rest of the body/its functions, and how we can boost renal function
– The massive importance of fluids and electrolytes (something I know I’m guilty of ignoring – but not any more – a review of elete electrolyte drops to come on the blog!)
– Endocrine (hormone) manipulation and macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) intake and why this is so important/beneficial (hugely interesting to me as a natural bodybuilder)
– In fact everything Phil said about the endocrine system, the “master hormone” (insulin), leptin, ghrelin, the thyroid hormones and how they all relate to creating/maintaining anabolic growth was great.
“We build, or we break” – referring to everything we do in training/nutrition for physique/strength/performance sports being either anabolic (regenerative) or catabolic (degenerative).
– A lightbulb moment was when Phil said something which most attendees probably thought very simple and basic: he pointed out that achieving a lean and muscular physique, particularly for natural females, is more about retaining (and fiercely guarding!) the muscle we have got (especially as we diet down) rather than constantly thinking about building more. He likened it to finances: you could say you want to earn £10K more next year. Why not spend £10K less? Same outcome, different outlook.
– It’s about preservation – decreasing catabolism – as well as growth/anabolism…
“Why diets can’t work”… a look at why the “calories in vs calories out” model really misses the point, and discussing what happens to key hormones when we restrict calories. “A report in the April 2007 issue of the American Psychologist showed up to 66% of individuals following the caloric model of weight loss end up fatter two years later than they were when they started the diet. Any other model, in any other discipline, with a failure rate this high would have been discarded long ago and labelled as useless.”
– An in-depth look at various nutritional protocols with a view to stabilising insuling for optimal hormone management (and the male and female responses to each)
– A look at advanced nutritional strategies including carb cycling, food rotation, refeeds/”cheat meals” and when/how/why you might employ these
– On training, the discussion about absolute strength and the force equation was really interesting to me (and reinforced what I already know about my woeful lack of power and acceleration!)
– The practical work we did – on glute activation, hip/glute mobility, squat and bench technique and force/acceleration were an eye-opener and have really added a great deal to my own sessions.

What I learned from the Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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