During some recent research, I have found that many people take so many pains and struggle to stick to diets, workout routines, etc. Instead of thinking it as a diet, think it as a lifestyle change, and take it slowly and one step at a time. I can show you how...

Make Your Own Exercise and Nutrition Plan


Start an exercise and nutrition plan the right way

There are a lot of people who have tried numerous ways to lose weight and to stick to an exercise and healthy eating plan. You may have tried all the fad diets, tried exercise machines and gadgets that promise to get you into shape without any effort, and have probably tried starving yourselves. You have tried everything but nothing seems to work.

I want to share with you some information that I used with Personal Training clients to get them started the right way and get them on track to sticking with exercise and healthy eating. It works because it focuses on why you want to lose weight, the habit formulation of exercising and eating right, the understanding of what your body already does and how small changes will make a big difference. Let’s dive into it and get you on the road to successful and consistent weight loss.


Ask yourself "whys"

Why do you want to start exercising and eating healthily? If it’s just because you want to look better or because you feel you should, then you have not asked yourself why enough times. When it comes to starting an exercise and nutrition plan, one of the first things to do is to nail down your real reason for doing it and associate a risk and reward to it. 

If your reason to get in shape is driven by what other people think, you will not follow through. Although this is probably a big reason for many people, it does not have any risk or reward, so has no powerful motivation. Basically, in your mind the risk is that other people are bothered by the way you look; and the reward is that other people will like the way you look. In both instances, there is nothing tangible as it is your perception of how others see you. In all honesty, it will not personally affect you either way, so will not motivate you to stick to your plan!

Your reason needs to carry some weight (no pun intended). There are obviously potential health risks associated with poor nutrition and lack of exercise, but we already know about those. The risks that will give you more motivation are things that matter to you personally and will be the answers to your real reason. Do you worry that your partner doesn't find you attractive anymore? Do you get shy in the summer or on holiday when everyone else is wearing practically nothing and you are covered up? Do you get fed up with not fitting into the clothes that you want to wear? Any of these things will give you the motivation to push on when you feel like giving up.

The rewards you will get will be personal too and are great things to get you fired up when things are tough. Generally feeling healthier, fitter, leaner and stronger is just the start of it. Having a better sex life, being more confident, wearing what you want when you want, not shying away from others because you think they look better than you. These are all benefits of a healthier lifestyle. It might sound like I am promising you the moon on a stick, but these things really happen when you exercise, lose weight and get into the shape you are aiming for.


Your first steps – make it easy

How things fall apart: Once you have your whys, you are all set to jump in and get started. 

  • You say to yourself "I need to eat salad, cut out crisps, biscuits and cakes for the next 10 weeks, and start running every day". So you start on Monday and do all of that. Perfect start and great efforts! 

  • Tuesday comes and you congratulate yourself for being so healthy by having a biscuit or two as a reward. You also feel that your legs are tight from the run yesterday and convince yourself that you should rest today so that you don't overdo it to start. You have kept up mostly with the diet, so you are doing OK. Good job! 

  • Wednesday comes and you have a full day of stuff to do. You eat on the go, so it’s probably not as healthy as you would like, but one day won’t matter. You get home after your full day and are too tired to even think about exercising, so you put on the telly and relax. You’ve had a hard day and you need a rest. You will start the diet again tomorrow and will definitely pick back up on the running!

What do you think happens on Thursday? How many times has this scenario happened to you? If this has happened to you before, what should you do differently to get off on the right foot this time? The answer is to prepare, go slowly, and take it one step at a time. Here is how to do it:

  • Diet: If you rush headlong into changing everything all at once, you are going to freak out and go back to your old habits very quickly. Start with a plan for the next 7 days and make it easily achievable. If there is ONE particular food that you know you should cut down on, cut down on it. If you have a pastry every day for breakfast, substitute it for 5 of the 7 days with porridge or fruit.

  • Exercise: If you currently do no exercise, get up 15 minutes earlier and add in a 15 minute walk each morning. If you are unable to leave the house at that time because of children, do a 15-minute yoga or stretching session. If you drive the kids to school but live within walking distance, walk them to school instead. There are loads of exercise, yoga, and stretching videos on YouTube but if you do not have access to it, then some light basic exercises (push ups, step ups, squats, etc.), stretching or a yoga DVD will suffice. Basically, anything that gets you moving for an additional 15 minutes each day will help you to start. (This could be DIY, gardening, sex, running around the park with the kids, etc.)


Find out what your body is already doing

Your calorie expenditure is not all dependent on exercise and healthy eating. Your body is quite amazing and incredibly efficient. It burns calories throughout the day, even at rest (This is called basal metabolic rate or BMR). It is possible for you to calculate how many calories you will burn each day, depending on your own personal body composition. To do this, you will need to get your body composition tested at your local gym or by a personal trainer. I appreciate that this is an additional step, but it is something that you will only need to do every 4-6 weeks, in order to track progression and make any necessary tweaks to your nutrition.

Understanding your BMR is the ultimate starting point in knowing how much you need to change your habits and how quickly you can expect to lose your desired amount of weight. Stick with me as here comes the science….

For example, if you are a 70Kg woman with 30% body-fat, your body composition will be 49Kg of fat-free weight and 21Kg of body-fat. Fat-free weight metabolises 28 calories per Kg, per day and fat metabolises just 9 calories per Kg, per day. Your BMR would, therefore, be 1,561 calories per day. This means that if you consume 1,561 calories each day, you will not gain or lose weight.

If, however, you decide to change your eating habits and consume just 1,261 calories per day, you have created a 300 calorie deficit each day or a 2,100 calorie deficit each week. That equates to about 3/5 pound of body-fat (3,500 calories in 1 pound of body fat). 300 calories per day would be the approximate equivalent to a duo chocolate bar or the difference between a Prawn Mayo sandwich (Sainsbury’s be good to yourself – 248 calories) and a pre-packed pasta salad (Sainsbury’s Cheese & Tomato Pasta Salad – 544 calories). It is the difference in these choices that will make it easy for you to shed the pounds.

Add on the calories you are burning through the additional 15 minutes of activity each day and you are already dropping 1 pound of body fat weekly with very little effort. As you get more comfortable and are able to increase the intensity of your exercising, you will be able to double this with a few small changes.


Plan and take action

Now that you understand that it doesn’t take much change to shed off some weight, you need to take action. You have taken a look at what you currently eat and have planned out some small changes. You have committed to add in an extra 15 minutes of activity each day and planned out what you would do. You are all set. All you need to do now is follow through on the plan you have made!

Make sure you have a reminder somewhere that you can see it and prepare everything throughout the 7 days. Do not leave it to chance. If you will be taking a walk in the morning, make sure your trackies and trainers are left out the night before. If you are substituting your morning pastry for some fruit, prepare it the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Whatever changes you are making, decide and prepare for it each evening for the coming day. Preparation is the key.


Review and reset

As you go through the first 7 days, it is important to note how you are doing, not necessarily with pen and paper, but mental notes if you prefer. How do you feel? Have you noticed bodily changes? Have you noticed a change in energy levels or in confidence? If you haven’t, then there is no need to worry. The idea of this first 7 days is to get into the habit of moving more and making slight changes to your eating habits. The changes you have made should be minimal and hardly noticeable. They should be easy.

Setting your aim for the next 7 days will depend on how you have done through the first 7 days. 

  • If you have found it difficult to change much in your nutrition or have not been able to make time to exercise, you need to find out why. Is it that your motivation is not strong enough? Is it because you prioritise other things over your health and wellbeing? If you find that lots of things get in the way of you making these small changes, you will need to ask yourself how important it is for you to lose weight and get in shape. If it is not that important, then I would recommend sticking to your BMR so that you do not add weight and just make healthier food choices to ensure your health does not suffer. If it is important, then try the same plan as your first 7 days but make it a priority to stick with the changes.

  • If you have been able to make the changes and have found it relatively easy, I would recommend increasing your activity intensity over the next 7 days so that you are getting your heart rate higher and trying to complete more in the same amount of time. If you are walking, increase the distance completed in 15 minutes. If you are doing bodyweight exercises, increase the number of repetitions you are doing each set. If you are doing yoga, then maybe add in 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises and shortening the yoga session to 10 minutes. For your nutrition, take a look at what other small changes you can make. Could you cut out the bag of crisps at lunch time? Could you have 3 sausages instead of 4 for dinner? Make these small changes once per week for the next four weeks.


The next stage

Once you have reviewed and reset your goals for the 4th time, increasing the intensity each time and making small changes to your eating habits, I would suggest going back to the gym or personal trainer to get your body composition tested again. The result will be a very helpful piece of information for you to move forward and to make the best decisions for your future plans. As your body changes, your BMR will also, so you can adapt your plan around that.

If the same 70Kg woman that we mentioned earlier was to drop to 65Kg and reduce her body-fat percentage to 25%, her new composition would be 16.25Kg body fat and 48.75Kg fat-free weight. (Notice that most of the weight lost was from body fat, not fat-free weight.) Her BMR would be 1,511.25, so small adjustments would need to be made to her nutrition if she wanted to stick with the 300 calorie deficit each day.

Taking these changes into consideration will enable you to tweak your plan and get the most benefit from it. It will get you to know your body and allow you to understand how it is changing and adapting to your new way of eating and exercising. Doing this every 4-6 weeks keeps you regularly updated with your progress.


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