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Nutrition for the night shift

Lets have a moment of appreciation for the heroes out there working the night shift. If you do nothing more today be grateful for those working in our vital and emergency services, the factory late shift, those sorting your mail and driving deliveries through the night so your normal day can run smoothly. Because of need and demand many work through the night or at hours which we regard as odd.

getting ready for the night shift, nutrition, food, diet and wellness

Anyone working outside of 6am to 6pm will have noticed ill effects of working against the bodies natural clock and in many jobs its not an active choice. Hospitals don’t close at 6pm and babies don’t just arrive during normal working hours. There are many working late and working through the night in service to support us and the demands we have of modern life.

You wont be surprised to hear, especially if you are one of them, the ill effects this can have impacting more than just your ability to sleep and feel rested. Shift workers are more likely to have long standing health issues, more likely to report ill health and sadly are more likely than non-shift workers to be obese. Persistent lack of quality sleep has been linked to chronic conditions such as obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease [1].

Working nights can also cause a storm of other issues related to diet and nutrition, not least messing with appetite, digestion and ultimately impacting your weight and well-being. No one wants their job to make them unwell and shift worker or not people want to have control of their diet and nutrition to maintain a healthy weight and body composition.

So what can you do?

night shift nutrition changes

Before the shift

Eat well before the start of your shift – Sounds obvious but if you have a physical job or one where you’ll be on your feet most of the night you should shoot for the best start possible. A reasonably sized meal containing some protein, veggies, some carbs to preference is a pretty decent meal. Could be something like chicken, veg and rice, as a really simple example. The goal is to feel satisfied by the meal but not overly full. You would do well to avoid hard to digest meals, those high fat and spicy foods for this meal.

During the shift

Stay hydrated – This isn’t just because its obviously a good thing for general health. The reason for night workers to stay as well hydrated as possible is in order to remain alert mentally. Dehydration can reduce mental and physical performance, which can obviously impact your work output but could also start to erode your reasoning around food and snack choices as the night wears on.

Eat small meals – Two key reasons for this recommendation are to ensure your meals don’t induce drowsiness but also to control your intake. If you are rushed during the shift you can feel under pressure to wolf something down, better thats a small meal than a bunch of shitty snacks.

Again base these mini meals around lean proteins, veggies and fruits. Add carbs and fats to preference but go easy on the quantities. A chicken salad, a fruit salad, hummus with vegetable crudites or a wrap are all great examples.

lets avoid these night shift woes, avoid caffeine and stay well

Lets avoid this!

Use caffeine sparingly – Nothing wrong with a coffee or a strong cup of tea but try not to rely on it to keep you awake for every shift. Sure every now and then we can use these stimulants to pick us up and grind through a tough night but doing so every shift is not ideal.

Eat for a reason – One of the biggest problems with working nights is that your resistance and will power can be eroded by your bodies natural defense mechanism. It doesn’t want to be awake at night and it regards this as a stress. But you are just getting through a shift not having to flee from danger in the middle of the night.

Avoid eating from boredom or during your breaks to kill time. If you have had a decent meal before and have small meals planned during you typically want to avoid snacking. If you feel compelled to do so can you do something else? Talk with colleagues, a quick walk or perhaps other tasks.

Avoid snacking for pick me ups – Don’t turn to snacks to get a burst of energy because often this is followed by a dip in energy or how you feel afterwards. So just like caffeine you get a good bust of energy or alertness but you will suffer later. When that happens you either choose to continue the cycle or feel rubbish. So lets fuel for the shift, not the next 20 minutes.

Be prepared – Meal prepping is a great tactic in general to stick to a diet and get the right nutrients to fuel yourself. It can be even more helpful when your will power is going to be compromised or you will be susceptible to increased cravings for high fat and sugar foods.

Have those small meals ready or know when you are getting them from. When you have food in your bag its no guarantee you wont cave into the doughnuts that Betty brought in as a ‘treat’, but being prepared puts you into a better position tell her to stick those sugar bombs where the sun doesn’t shine.

After the shift

You are done and can think of nothing more than falling head first into your bed after downing a packet of M&M’s and a bottle of Coke. Lets not do that.

We appreciated you heroes at the beginning of the article, now its time to appreciate your efforts and be kind to yourself, let your body recover and don’t put it under even more stress. You should be focused on recovery.

time to recover, get some sleep post shift, get some rest

A light meal – Depending on your hunger levels and the calories consumed during the night you might benefit from a light meal before getting some rest. What you have at this point is largely going to be down to what you can tolerate making and again meal prep could save you here, having something in the fridge ready to go.

I say ‘light’ because you don’t want to feel full and heavy going to bed. And you might also conclude that you ate enough during the night with your pre-shift meal and light meals, that you don’t need anything. Simple guideline, don’t smash a load of calories from nutrient poor food and don’t over eat, if you aren’t hungry don’t eat.

Sleep – Yeah good one Ash. But I have been there and I know the temptation to “push on through the day”, “get some life admin done” and its “day time anyway”. This isn’t wise, you need to be thinking and playing the long game. Aim to sleep if you can! How you manage this is largely dependent on when your next night shift is and how stimulated you are.

I could probably write a whole article on this alone but we are focusing on nutrition. I mention sleep because unless you actually get some you could be sabotaging all the good work you did controlling your diet.

Don’t sedate – Limit the use of sedatives post shift, such as alcohol or sleeping pills. It can be super tempting to do this in the hope that sleep comes quicker and easier. Problem is that although alcohol can promote the onset of sleep it is also associated with disrupted sleep, poor sleep quality and early waking.

Exercise – Getting some exercise post shift, moving around a little (not intense sessions) can be used to promote more restful sleep and de-stress from the night. Also being fitter in general might help you with your work, feeling less fatigued and less physically at your limit during the night.

night shift nutrition - thumbs up lets do this

Thats a lot of stuff!

Yes it is. There is a lot to think about there and honestly don’t try and do that all at once, it will be carnage, very few people (read NONE) can implement all those changes at once. But lucky for you I deliberately put them into the order above.

Its a timeline around the key phases of course but within each I’ve prioritised. If your night time nutrition is a complete mess and you regularly chomp down a Mars bar, chug countless coffees and then struggle to sleep once you’re done, just start at the beginning.

Get a good feed before the shift as advised above and think about staying hydrated during. This sets you up to snack less, need stimulants less and eventually get to bed and rest.

Once you get those habits working for you (think weeks not days), then start to add another habit in and build from there. Ultimately you need to get to a point where you are managing your diet and health to the point that you are best protected from the effects of the night shift. Its not easy and I don’t envy you but I hope this helps.

Ash

[I was previously a night shift worker in IT, working over night on call and evening implementation shifts. I suffered many night shifts sitting on my backside, often alone, drinking Redbull and snacking on biscuits. Thankfully this is a thing of the past for me, but had I followed the advice above I would have been in better health, suffered less problems related to stress and fatigue from pushing through the night]

Nerd note Wont the body adjust? The body can adjust but typically shift works are not maintaining the same schedule and instead constantly switch between night and day patterns. This disrupts the production of a hormone called Melatonin responsible for promoting sleep, increasing when its dark and decreasing as it becomes light (you may have heard of it because many sleep related drugs are based around it)

Reference 1. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/health-survey-for-england-2013

Getting back on track

That time of the week again? Motivation deserted you? The will to carry on doing what your goals require long since waned? Roger that!

But what now, you waiting for Monday or wondering how you will get back on track, doing what you said you would?

I like many others have posted about this before, short little things, tough love, empathy, “Monday restarts” and “Friday remember your goals”. And I’ll keep doing that because they are reminders, little nudges and me raising my hand saying “yup, me too!”.

But wouldn’t you like to need these less? Should we stop thinking about being “on track”, winning all the time. Or maybe this is just the cycle of things and accepting this means you can roll between what you consider “on it” and “not ideal”.

Oh yeah right, effortlessly eating ice cream one minute and putting it down the next, hitting our training and macros. That easy right?

Getting back to training and marcos

Actually yes! But its a learned skill, and you probably dont have it right now.

You have been conditioned to believe in being on track, crushing your goals or being a complete failure and needing something new and shinney to kick start you back into action. Wait until the New Year comes. Ffs you will be bombarded with resolution tips, diets for 2019 and whatever other B$ the Daily Mail and Metro haul out to cajole or guilt you into action.

Scroll around on Instagram for long enough and you’ll find some shredded dude telling you how he is eating ice cream every day and is ripped year round. Yeah not that! That’s more B$, but you might notice they call it flexible dieting.

At its heart flexible dieting really acknowledges that people enjoy foods, drinks and activities which dont always serve their goals. How flexible in your approach you are determines how long or how close you get to ideal.

Everyone struggles

An ideal approach rarely works for normal people, with jobs, families, kids. You know a life!

Almost no one has the discipline or situation to stick to a strict diet, allowing themselves no break, calories in check, hitting their macros every day without fail. Arguably they probably shouldn’t either because this brings its own issues, often mental health ones (thats for another day).

But for us mortals, your first lesson is understanding that everyone struggles! No one gets it right every day and any diet plan that expects super strict adherence all the time for success isn’t one that works long term.

The reasons for struggling are many and varied, I dont know what struggles you have, how many responsibilities you have to juggle but I do know with almost certainty there is something. You have responsibilities, external factors, you have a vice, you have a trigger, you have something or many things which move you away from ideal.

busy person juggling life

Everyone loves something that isnt helping them

Ice cream, cheese, bread, chocolate, sweets, wine, beer? Everyone has a vice that trips them up when dieting. They enjoy that food or drink, they cannot moderate their consumption of it. There is a lot to talk about here (beyond the scope of this article) exploring why these things, why you reach for them, whats the reason you cannot moderate and the responses will be individual.

Whats not unique though is that we all have something we like to consume that takes us away from ideal.

man thinking of vices

What are the lovely successful people doing?

Whilst there are plenty of people struggling and restarting regularly, amongst them there is a new breed who know themselves and accept themselves a little more. They seem to be in decent shape (not the ripped ice cream dude, he has issues or is a liar) and you don’t hear them talking about starting a new diet, restarting on Monday or getting back on track. Instead they seem to have their shit together, what are they doing?

You know the kind right? They have a biscuit with their coffee and the occasional chocolate bar, they don’t worry about a bit of cake at work or going for a couple of beers. Most likely they are active but not exclusively.

Whether they do it consciously or its via a set of habits they learnt through life they are keeping their calories in check. Fast metabolism or highly active, all just factors in that equation or labels you use! However you cut it, over time, they dont consume more calories than their body demands to meet its basic needs and additional activity requirements.

Over the weeks and months they are regulating their intake, adjusting up or down based on meals or snacks consumed. It might be consciously skipping the bread at dinner because they had a decent lunch, or subconsciously eating a smaller portion. They may be well tuned into their bodies hunger and satiety cues, they might eat very similar things in similar amounts day in day out.

They aren’t spending time stressing about staying on track or thinking about when they are going to “get back to it”. Nope, its just part of daily life. However they got it, they have the skills and awareness, the mindfulness or the ability to intuitively know how to adjust continually. B$tards!

How do I learn this shit?

Before you disappear off and sack it all off, you can learn this stuff. Whatever those people who are succeeding have, it can be learned. They might have got it naturally but its 100% available to everyone with a little work, honesty and discipline.

yeah we can learn this

The missing pieces for you will be among the following, could be all of them or just a few

Mindful eating

Alright, what the actual f? You want me to think about what I’m eating, be present when eating and avoid distractions. All so I can be in better control, have more knowledge and make better decisions? Yup that!

Practically start by slowing down, observing how you feel when you eat and perhaps giving yourself 10 minutes between deciding to eat and actually starting. We aren’t trying to get all zen, rather you need to know and observe what you are doing.

eating mindfully, mindful eating

Stopping when you are full

I know you love your mum and she said “finish your dinner and clear your plate”. But your mum whilst well intentioned was full of shit, she didn’t realise that you would apply this principle to your plate, your kids plate and hoover up all the leftovers.

So lets start fresh here, when you feel full STOP eating. Leave the rest, box it up for tomorrows lunch, or just let it go. If its a waste today, make less tomorrow!

Feeling full is your bodies way of saying “alright man, enough now, we are busy processing that and anything else you shovel in is getting dumped on your arse”.

Moderating your intake around what you already ate today, not when its time to eat again

Quick its “lunch time”, we need to eat! But do you really need to eat? Are you actually hungry? What if you didn’t eat and had a later lunch or perhaps just dinner. Its not as bonkers as it sounds, how about we agree that you don’t eat unless you are hungry regardless of the time of day?

Oh sorry you “have to attend that client dinner”, “its an important social event”?! No drama, you’ll learn to plan better and moderate your intake in preparation for future eating events, rather than spending your day rumbling from one feed to the next.

clock watching to eat, eating to a schedule

Saying “no” sometimes

Its not, no cake ever. Its not, no more chocolate fatty. You need to reframe this as no cake “today” (because you already ate, have an event coming up) or perhaps you are full. Maybe it doesn’t actually look that good anyway.

When we say “no” indefinitely our brain doesn’t like it and immediately starts craving what you said it couldn’t have anymore. Stop trying to fight that and instead acknowledge that you will eat cake again, crush a chocolate bar and probably smash a few beers from time to time.

Get educated about the principles

There is only so much I can convey in one article, and this wont solve everything for you. You have to take some responsibility for your current state and apply some discipline long term. This is why an investment in the basic principles of nutrition are pretty handy. No you dont need to learn about the krebs cycle or denovo-lipogenesis!

But if you need to lose weight you need a calorie deficit, eating a good amount of protein daily and getting plenty of veggies in will probably help!

You will probably have to get “back on track” and “restart monday” a few more times, but investing in learning some skills, adjusting some habits will help long term. It wont happen tomorrow and there is no quick fix but imagine being that chick who has their shit together, being that guy who seems to maintain his weight whatever the circumstances.

lets do this, we can do this

I’m not eating that much

Honesty time! Do you really know what you are eating, how much and how many beers you had last week? Its super common for people to believe they know what they are eating and in what quantities but if you aren’t making progress on your weight loss (or gain) goals perhaps you are missing a trick, or those 5 beers last Thursday night?!

And this is where you get it twisted, “I just don’t understand, I’m not eating that much but I’m not losing any weight”.

tracking what you eat - idk

So you don’t understand, thats fine you are here to learn. But in that statement is one phrase with so much wrong with it

“I’m not eating that much”

Lets cut the b$ here, you are eating what you are eating and the calories in that food and drink are contributing to your energy intake. So whether its a lot of food or not, no one cares, its the calorie content of that food that matters. That determines the “how much”. And if you aren’t losing weight as you’d like, then its too many calories.

Fortunately there is an answer, a way forward, although many might not like it. And at this point you might cut and run. I’m sure you would prefer to hear that I’ve got this great method, which is super easy and will take 2 minutes of your day, right? Uh oh, no can do people. You want something, you are going to have to work for it. You are here because you want to make better progress, you are here because what you are doing today isn’t working, you are asking questions because you are unhappy with where you are today. You aren’t happy with your body, the way you feel or how you look naked.

So if you are ready to accept that, whiling to own this problem, and whiling to invest a little time and effort I’ll guide you by first breaking down that phrase;

tracking what you eat - I'm not eating that much

First up its around the wrong way, you are thinking in terms of the things you are “NOT” eating, where as you’d be better off accounting for and knowing what you are eating. So we need to turn the “I’m not eating….” into “I am eating……”. We need, what you are doing, what food you are shoveling down daily. And ideally everything, the licks, bites, slurps and nibbles. Without knowing this we cant begin having a discussion around how your diet, your intake and consumption is contributing to your current physical (and mental) state.

Second what does “that much” even mean? Well that’s an interpretation of your intake based on what you think, or perhaps would like it to be (but we will get there in a minute). We care about how much and we need some facts. If you’ve captured what, and also in what quantities we are golden, we can actually quantify the “how much”.

how much are we eating

The hidden part of that statement? I’m not eating that much and I don’t really want to tell you about the extra butter I put on my croissant, the 5 beers I had this weekend and it was a small coffee honestly! Ultimately I don’t care if you want to hide things away, but make no mistake nothing is free, not the calories and not the results you want. So if you ate it we need to record it!

tracking writing it down

But its not all shaming and calling you out, its pretty instructive too because you can be unknowingly consuming more thank you think. Is it 1 or 2? Or is 4 or 5? The how much you think isn’t always enough. You might discover that the 1 or 2 you tell me about turns out to be 2 or 3. Yeah no big deal right? Well depends on how often that occurs, because if its everyday we could be talking about 200 Kcal every single day. That potentially is the difference between successfully losing weight and failing to make any in roads on your goal.

So is it too much intake, too many calories? Well the act of recording alone doesn’t tell you that, but this is quite simple to answer. Its too many calories if your measurements aren’t changing as you would like. If your weight isn’t going down, your waist not shrinking or your body-fat reducing then its “too much”. But if we have the moving parts of this problem we can take some action. If you recorded what you ate, how much of it and didn’t lie, then there is hope.

Still with me?

Excellent, I like your style, you see some sense and aren’t worried about investing a little time and effort in your goals. Perfect! Lets go…

What follows is a hierarchy of approaches to capture or track and hence know what you are eating on a daily basis

1 – Strap a goPro to your head!

It sounds stupid but in this way we capture every single morsel of food and drink you shove down your pipe. I’m sure there is someone special enough to carry this off, and if thats you get in touch (I’ll coach you for free!). For the rest of us lets move on.

gopro food tracking

2 – Weighing and measuring.

Oh yes you read that right, weight and measure what you eat if its not obvious from the packet. Scales, a set of cups, tea and tablespoons are your friend. Its a little neurotic and works just fine at home, although you can get micro scales you could potentially take to a restaurant with you, yup! This requires you to decide beforehand what you are eating and in what quantities. Obviously you can see this gets rid of the “what” and “how much” question, assuming you stick to it.

3 – Tracking using an app on your phone

This is probably the most practical approach to tracking your daily intake. It requires some investment up front but typically gets easier with time because you can save meals, copy from day to day and you’ll just quicker. I prefer MyFitnessPal but there are others (e.g. ‘Lose it, lose it’, MyMacros).

In MFP we can set our calorie goal (dont let MFP do this for you), use their extensive database to locate and log food. One diet saver is that you can record as you go and if you blow through most of you calories early in the day its possible to adjust for the evening.

MyfitnessPal logging

This is a brilliant example of how tracking educates you, keeps you honest about “how much” and probably throws a few surprises about what your favorite meals are packing calorie wise.

4 – Pictures of what you eat and drink

This works quite well if you are sharing this information with someone else but of course isn’t particularly accurate, doesn’t help with knowing the calorie content. I like this when we need to build awareness because the very act of snapping your meal or snack slows you down.

5 – Piece of paper or a form

If you aren’t keen on spending more time on your phone and typically eat your meals in a small number of places simply using a form or piece of paper to record what you eat can be helpful. You can then checkout the calorie content later, share with a coach or just review for some easy wins (e.g. dropping the bag of crisps from lunch)

These all have different levels of accuracy, but each can be suitable depending on you, your circumstances, access to technology or a coach.

When not to do it? – not everyone wants to track their food and of course not everyone wants results. I could say if you want the results you’ll do the necessary process and steps to get there and I’d be right. BUT, there are some cases where tracking isn’t appropriate and going with a habit based diet change approach is far more suitable.

Access to technology or ability to use it aside, if you have in the past had problems with food dependency, addiction or some sort of disordered eating then you should be careful about tracking food intake because it could very well lead you down the rabbit hole again. This is a word of caution and I’d happily discuss more on a 1 to 1 basis but there isn’t a “general” set of guidelines for moving forward.

How to do it? – the next article and associated video will you practical guidance and actual examples of how to track using MyFitnessPal – (watch this space!).

Do I need to do this forever? – nope. Tracking primarily builds awareness and educates you on what your diet looks like on any given day. From this you can make better choices which get you to your goals.

I’d highly recommend committing to it for at least 4 weeks though initially. This is more than enough time to see what you are eating but its also sufficient time to experiment with how to fit tracking into your life. Perhaps you like to plan out your day first, record everything at night or input as you go. The better you can integrate it into daily life the more useful the tool is.

As for when you can stop. The easiest answer is when you reach your goals but honestly once you start using it as a tool you can put it down and pick it up. So perhaps you haven’t got the capacity to track in detail or you just need a diet break.

Once learnt you can return to tracking pretty easily.

Surviving the ‘all you can eat’ buffet

“I’m going to an all you can eat buffet, help”

all you can eat - worries

If you are following a diet and have a calorie deficit to adhere to lets get this straight. You CANNOT eat all you want, end of! It doesn’t matter how you dress this up, eating all you can eat in one sitting is a sure fire way to fuck up your diet and put your progress back a few steps. You could without trying very hard eat 1000 kcal more than you really need in one sitting and go over your calorie allowance for the day. If you have a modest deficit that could be 2 or 3 days you need to claw back.

As I always say with these things, you can do what you want! Go pig out if you like, go back for seconds, or thirds BUT realise this ; it will impact your progress, you have to accept those consequences.

And what if the buffet is 3 times a day, 7 days a week, you are on holiday all inclusive?! Unlimited access to food is a massive potential saboteur of your diet. Now if you are on holiday, arguably you shouldn’t really be focused on a diet but you worked hard to get where you are, so perhaps you want to do as little damage as possible. Respect!

all you can eat - losing control

So what you gonna do?

Picture the scene, tables upon tables of food laid out and you can pick what you want in quantities only limited to the amount you can cram onto your plate. But fear not if you didn’t get your fill first time around you can go back for seconds, thirds until the buffet closes. The starters, main course, salads, bread and other extras all begging to be eaten and the first counter you walk past is dessert. Pudding ffs!

Now even if I wasn’t thinking about controlling the amount of buffet I inhale I’m stuck by paralysis, there is so much choice and so much abundance. This is a very new phenomena in human history because not only is there more than you can eat right now, it’ll be there for dinner and tomorrows lunch too.

We humans are not built for this sort of gluttony. You need help!

So unless you are planning on eating like a Victorian aristocrat lets see what sensible decisions you could make

Do a lap of the buffet before deciding what you want to eat

I do this anyway because I naturally procrastinate over food selection but this is my number 1 tip for when you arrive at the buffet. Spend a minute or two to lap the buffet counters and get a feel for whats on offer today. As you go scout out your favorites, things you definitely don’t want to miss out on today, perhaps your favorite dish is served. Also decide what you can happily let go today, especially in preference to your favorites.

all you can eat - lap the buffet

Have a plan of attack because then you don’t fill your plate with average choices and then discover your favorite dish, and just HAVE TO squeeze some of that on too! I also like to think of this being analogous to reading the menu in a restaurant, typically you’d spend more than a few seconds deciding and it gives you time to make better choices.

This is the process we taught our kids whilst away on holiday and they got a pretty good at making decent choices in the face of so much abundance and choice. They didn’t just grab some fries and a sausage because there was so much else on offer, but without a lap of the room first they just zero in less than 10% of whats on offer. And it works for adults as well because you guys are just as susceptible to this subconscious decision making.

Build a plate of veggies and protein

No buffet is complete without a salad bar and I highly recommend you start building your plate around vegetables, salad or otherwise. Get some green stuff on your plate, high volume but low calorie veggies. Then add some protein, and see what space you are left with. On holiday recently this was my primary action and it worked really well, as typically there isn’t a lot of room left for anything else. Plus you get a great looking plate of food, packed with nutrients and the all important protein.

all you can eat - building a plate

Go for the smaller plate

Always when given a choice pick up the smaller plate, its an instant moderator of your portion size. No one wants to be that guy with his food piled high and spilling over the edges as he hunts for a table, so build a normal looking plate of food. Going for a smaller plate dictates how much you can take first time around, this slows you down and gives your body time to decide if it needs seconds or thirds.

Go easy on the first pass

Go for mostly veggies, no sauces and zero calorie bevies . You are not an ancient hunter gatherer, you are not competing with the other diners to get your fill first to ensure your survival, so park that mentality. Its more likely you are holidaying with your family and friends, you have time and are not coming from a period of fasting or famine. So ffs please go easy on the first plate.

Remember mostly veggies, some protein and a little of what you like. Steer clear of thick sauces and consider having zero calorie drinks, saving your calories for food!

The same guidelines apply as would if you were following your diet at home on any normal day. I’m assuming here you don’t eat buffet style 7 days a week of course, but avoiding drinking your calories and the skipping calorie dense sauces and foods are top tips everywhere.

Sit facing away from the buffet

This is not as bonkers as it sounds. Focusing on the plate of food in front of you gives your brain a fighting chance. Out of sight and out of mind and by doing this you avoid seeing what everyone else is eating and piling on their plate. You are keeping temptation at bay. If you did a lap of the counters first you shouldn’t feel like you’ve “missed out” on something anyway, but there is always a chance.

(I confess I didn’t do this, mainly because I was trying to monitor and understand peoples approach to the buffet! Research…)

Going back later

You can have some more if you want, but whats the rush and hustle. Just eat what you need, you have lots of time to sample everything at another meal or later in the week.

Consider this, its about 9am and you had a big meal last night including some wine and a dessert. You didn’t really do a great deal beyond sitting around, chewing the fat and going to bed. Now breakfast is served and once again its into battle, full cooked breakfast, pastries, cheese board, fruit and juices. Seriously ffs do you need to eat another full on meal?

just coffee for breakfast

The all you can eat buffet is a veritable delight or complete disaster when it comes to your body composition and health. I like to think of these buffets as “the option” to eat all you want, not a mandatory mission – “I paid for this I’m getting my fill”.

This is the very attitude you want to avoid, because you will over eat and likely feel like shit afterwards.

Alternatively you can enjoy the event because you can put together a delightful mix of dishes in serving sizes suitable for you. Fancy 3 different things, brilliant then have a third of a portion of each. Only like the look of the moussaka this evening, great ONLY have that and a salad.

Its the flexibility that is brilliant and potentially a saboteur, but either way don’t be approaching this eating experience with a mentality of “getting the most out of it”. You’ll get what you aimed for and a lot more you didn’t!

 

100 days of nutrition change

You can change a lot in 100 days, make radical changes, but you can also make small but permanent in roads. This was really the goal of documenting the journey, to show everyday folk what deliberate and consistent change looks like.

Change that sticks and gives confidence to carry on, rather than yo-yo back to old habits and to start looking for new hacks. The glitz and glamour of body transformation, achieving low body fat and getting ripped isn’t what most folk want. Generally they want to be in shape, look good naked and ultimately feel in control of how they look and feel.

We already know that an average plan or basic change done consistently will yield better results than an ideal plan followed sporadically and without commitment. And so this is where I am after 100 days. I never set out to do this for 100 days, just started and thought I’ll see where we get to. And whilst I want to communicate an exciting journey I didn’t become ripped and achieve sub-10% body fat.

I did however implement sustainable practices I teach my clients and documented each and every day on Instagram. Sometimes that was very boring and sometimes it was insightful or documented a break through. This blog is a quick tour of what I achieved and learnt about myself in that time (Note – I’m still documenting post 100 days, follow along @ashwjarvis)

Stats & figures – everything I tracked is down, so its hard to complain.
Weight down 2.7kg to 84.4kg (I dont remember weighing this little in the last 10 years)
Waist down 5cm to 92cm
Hip caliper pinch down from 20mm to 18mm
100 days of Instagram daily accountability posts

Learning to maintain – this is easily one of things I underestimated when it came to my diet attempts and weight loss protocols. I’ve lost weight and fat before but never really maintained that state for the long term and its very very apparent that this is because I couldn’t live in calorie maintenance. I was either in a deficit or I was over eating and re-gaining.

In the last 100 days however I’ve spent probably half at maintenance calories and this has been a massive break through personally. Living at maintenance calories requires some attention but not tracking everything once you have learnt the calorie content of most of the foods you eat. I’ve regularly spent weekends at maintenance and when lifes usual troubles came along for a few weeks I tracked and ate maintenance calories. And guess what? I maintain my weight!

Diet experiments – another break through for me personally was realising that you can ramp up and down your diet phases pretty quickly. You dont have to consistently hit a calorie deficit for months on end. In fact you can use aggressive calorie deficits over a short time frame, followed by periods of eating at maintenance. This means that rather than dieting for 100 days, realistically I was dieting for less than half of that time.

Accountability – the blogging daily was a real game changer, giving me daily accountability to you guys. Even if you didnt give a shit I agonised over missing a post and so I didn’t. A few of my friends told me they were watching, following and most importantly learning. This was very empowering and definitely enforces what I encourage people to do; get a gym partner, lose weight with a friend, follow a group challenge. Its odd how we struggle with being accountable to ourselves yet we care more about what other people think of our progress, our attempts, successes and failures.

Just getting started – I can do better and there is more to come. Progress doesn’t have to end after a period of time, or when you reach an arbitrary goal and so it is with this journey. I didn’t plan a certain number of days or even a certain kg weight loss goal or end position. I know visibly I’m not done yet and my measurements indicate I can certainly lose a decent amount more fat. Do I want to be ripped? Nah not really! Would I like some more definition? Yes. A few less kilos will get me some more pullups too and make running more efficient. So lots of reasons to cracking on.

I’m nearing the best shape I’ve been in for 10 years. Still got a decent amount of muscle on me and at a lower body fat. More importantly though I’m not surprised I got here with the steps I followed and although I might have been able to go a bit quicker, the progress might not have stuck so well. I’ve even surprised myself with my habit adherence and whilst there is more to do and more fruit to harvest whatever I implemented has stuck so far.

So what next? Right now I’m doing a fairly aggressive 3 week diet before my holiday. I’ve NEVER done anything for going on holiday before and its a rather pointless and arbitrary time frame for me, but I’m going to give it solid attention. I’m keeping with the aggressive calorie deficit, high protein and well summarised as eating as little as possible. I’ll likely have a 1 or 2 day refeed depending on how I’m progressing. I’m tempted to have a punt at a longer 36 hour fast but not precious over this method right now. One thing for sure I wont be compromising my basic habits and will get straight back to maintenance when I come off the diet phase.

And I’ll be sure to keep you all informed of the good, bad and ugly.