Every day, I get lots of messages from ladies who are extremely confused by all the crazy nutrition-related information floating around. I completely understand how it is to feel overwhelmed as I, myself have been there.
Today, I would like to share with you how I view food, and how I came to these conclusions. I hope that a glimpse of my journey will help you avoid common mistakes and misconceptions - and ultimately, achieve your results in the healthiest, most efficient way possible.
The start of my journey
The photo below is me in 2015 vs 2019!
In 2015 I had never tracked my calories or macros and frankly had no real idea what macros even were. Instead, I tried to follow a “clean” eating approach, ultimately categorising foods as “good” or “bad”. In addition to eating “clean”, I also assumed that my portions should be tiny in order to achieve a ‘toned’ look. Eat less and do more right? For example, at one point my sole focus was on hitting precisely 1200 calories a day - with no consideration of where those calories came from, or whether I should have been tweaking that number. I was also your typical cardio bunny and believed I needed to exercise as much as possible to reach my dream physique.
This wasn’t a great space to be in, neither physically nor mentally. This cycle left me underrating and restricting myself of any food I classified as ‘bad’. If I steered from this, I would feel the need to “punish” myself by doing endless amounts of cardio (as lifting weights would make me bulky, right?), or simply trying to eat less the following day to compensate...which again resulted in overeating. On weekends especially, I found myself eating disproportionately large amounts of food, compensating for constantly feeling tired and experiencing cravings.
As a result of all this, between undereating, not consuming enough protein and not optimising my training to my goals, I was seeing little to no changes in my physique. This cycle continued until I chose to educate myself.
Finding my way
Upon realising there has to be another way to tackle nutrition, I started experimenting with different approaches to find a method that was sustainable for my body and goals. By this point, I was familiar with the concept of tracking. However, I found it quite overwhelming, and also found myself obsessing over it. I found most of my days were spent on my fitness pal obsessing over the 5g of fat I had left.
Consequently, I started creating meal guides for myself each week, incorporating flexible options and swaps. I educated myself on identifying foods that had similar macronutrient breakdowns. In addition, to preserve my sanity, I allowed myself one untracked meal each week. At the time, it worked wonders for me - I felt in control and happy!
But then, I began to travel a lot - which meant I had to become even more flexible!
Following a meal guide was becoming increasingly difficult, as I was often eating out or on the run. This is when I decided to have another go at tracking!
At this point I found that I no longer had an emotional connection over food and slowly, I realised I no longer had an obsessive nature with tracking. I set myself calories and macros in which I aimed to hit and I filled them with mostly nutritious foods and some treats along the way.
I still chose to have my one untracked meal a week and really enjoy having this flexibility especially with social outings. This became easy, as I no longer viewed food as good and bad. Make no mistake - I acknowledged that a dense cake or cookie are treats and not something I would include every single day. However, 2-3 times a week in moderation? Absolutely!
The realisation: finding my sweet spot
Today, I can confidently say I found an approach that works for me, and found peace with nutrition.
By now, I’ve been tracking for years and unless I have a specific goal I am wanting to achieve I track around 80% of the time and am quite flexible the other 20%. If I’m going out to have a few drinks or feel like having a big calorie dense meal, I choose not to track it, food is to be enjoyed and I enjoy it.
As I’ve been tracking for so long, I have become very skilled in “guesstimating” the nutritional content of my plate. Even without weighing/tracking my meals, I know when I overeat and I know when I under eat - as well as how to tackle each of these situations.
I feel in control, and at the same time completely free. It’s a very happy place to be, and I want you to get there, too!
Getting comfortable with nutrition and creating your own, flexible plan can take a while! To help you succeed, we have created the BBR Food Journal, which is an ultimate tool to mastering the 80/20 approach. Now, you can track your favourite foods, including BBR Meal Guide items, our macro-friendly recipes, and even select treats and takeaway items, right from the BBR app - and see how your intake aligns with your daily targets, including calories, macros and fibre. There’s no better way to learn about nutrition than by practising your skills in creating and combining meals, and we hope you enjoy the Food Journal as much as we do! Flexibility has helped me adhere and maintain my results whilst enjoying the foods I love!
Top lessons I’ve learned
When it comes to your health and fitness journey, as long as your expectations meet your efforts - you won’t be disappointed! I want to teach you how to obtain control over this and make sure you’re approaching every step and hurdle with purpose.
Undoubtedly, understanding the principles of nutrition and training tailored to your goals required tremendous effort - however, by putting it in initially, you will save so much time and stress in the future while remaining flexible and happy with your choices! These things don’t happen overnight, and as you can see above, it took me several years to come to the point of confidence and peace. It’s taken me a long time to understand what my body responds best to, as well as acknowledge my emotions and improve my relationship with food. After all, it’s easy to access information on losing weight - but not so much how, when and why to do it correctly (or whether it’s the right goal for you at all), or maintain meaningful progress sustainably.
So, let me share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way!
Lesson #1: Understand your goals
At the start of my fitness journey, I had a vague idea of achieving a “toned” look, and thought that I needed to engage in lots of cardio-based training to attain it. Oh my, was I wrong! What I actually needed was to build more lean muscle - which required resistance training, taking it easy with cardio and nourishing my body adequately. Building muscle takes years - so the sooner you come to this realisation, the sooner you’ll be able to start working on your dream physique correctly!
All BBR Programs are structured to incorporate a variety of training methods and help you achieve the desired results efficiently! This is what our amazing client Hayley has to say after following the BBR approach for just 4 weeks:
Hayley says: “I know my body composition has changed like no tomorrow. I'm feeling leaner, more defined and I have been getting compliments at the gym on how tight my stomach and upper body are starting to look. I was always happy aiming to look skinny. But now I want to look cut and toned and juicy. Most of all my image of myself and my confidence has skyrocketed and I couldn’t be happier!”
Lesson #2: Less is more
I was once someone who believed that if I spend hours at the gym each day, I’ll achieve the results faster. However, overtraining and excessive cardio does the opposite, especially long-term!
Increasing activity is a valuable tool at certain stages of your journey - for instance, when you’re going through a “cut”. However, overdoing it frantically will get you into a vicious circle of having to pile more and more on top and/or keep reducing your intake, which is not an effective or sustainable strategy!
Likewise, if your goal is building lean muscle, hitting the gym every single day and overworking your muscles isn’t helpful! Rest and recovery is where the actual muscle hypertrophy happens, so make sure you’re accounting for this in your training schedule.
Lesson #3: Calories matter
No matter what approach to nutrition you’re using, the calories you consume should align with your goal - otherwise you won’t achieve it!
For instance, if fat loss is your goal, the calories you consume over the week should average out to your daily targets. As you can see on the diagram below, starving yourself for most of the week and then overeating on some days isn’t the most effective way to achieve this! Instead, stay consistent and treat yourself responsibly, and you’ll reach your goal much faster while feeling satisfied and in control.
Lesson #4: Sources of calories matter, too
There’s much more to achieving your goal than just seeing the measurements move in the right direction. For overall health and wellbeing, it’s extremely important to follow a balanced diet, including:
- Enough energy for training and daily activities
- Generous protein allowance for muscle repair, recovery and fullness
- Sufficient amount of carbohydrates for energy and cognitive functioning
- Healthy fats for absorbing vitamins, maintaining cell membranes and balancing out our hormones
In other words, you want to make sure that your energy needs are met by following a balanced macronutrient split derived from a variety of predominantly wholesome, nutritious foods!
Lesson #5: View food as nourishment
It all makes sense if you don’t view food as your enemy!
Don’t spend an ounce of your energy fighting cravings or feeling sluggish due to obviously insufficient intake!
Instead, acknowledge a simple fact: you need to nourish your body appropriately to remain happy, healthy and full of energy. I can’t stress this enough - there are no “good” or “bad” foods! It’s all about finding balance, consuming a variety of tasty foods in appropriate volumes, and assuming full control of what goes in your body without obsessing over it.
Lesson #6: Restricting yourself is not the answer
And neither is punishing yourself for “slip-ups”!
No one is perfect - and perfectionism probably kills more progress than anything else.
I too have been victimised by the all or nothing approach. I have restrictively dieted down for shows and in turn experienced an epic post comp blow out. All this did is made me feel restricted, out of control and like I have failed.
The cure for this is to let fitness fit your lifestyle! Don't take away everything you love and enjoy doing. Yes, a level of discipline is required to achieve your goals - but learn to find a sweet spot where you’re still enjoying life to its fullest. The all or nothing approach is NOT required to achieve the results you are after! Remember: consistency and adherence always win. Don't let yourself feel restricted. Think long term!
Lesson #7: Trial and error win the race
Although there are general guidelines and principles that work for everyone, it really pays off to go beyond that and make the subtle tweaks that work best for your lifestyle, goals and physique.
Some of the questions to ask yourself when planning your journey:
- What is your number one goal for the next few months?
- Does training early in the morning, late in the evening or anywhere in between aligns best with your lifestyle?
- How much of a nutritional modification (e.g. calorie deficit/surplus) can you sustain without feeling extremely uncomfortable?
- How many days a week you can train?
- What are some parts of your routine that can’t be sacrificed, and what can be negotiated?
Don’t be afraid to try various approaches and see what works for you. Always listen to your body, track progress, and remember - there are no “mistakes” in this, just learning curves!
Lesson #8: Be patient
We all want progress, like, yesterday, and often get unreasonably frustrated when something isn’t working straight away. Truth is, it takes a lot of work to sustainably and dramatically change your physique and mindset, so don’t look for quick fixes!
Keep chipping at it day by day, whilst focusing on non-scale victories. Stay consistent, put in the work, and you will see amazing results - there is just no other way!