Big Things VS Small Things

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I have been chatting to a lot of people recently about their health and fitness goals during my PT consultations and just random conversations here and there. Once people find out I’m a Personal Trainer, they’re keen to get my opinion on all sorts of things to do with their fitness (I get all the dietary confessions too!) About 99% of the time it’s people that want to lose some bodyfat.

I’m noticing a trend with the sorts of questions I’m asked and the things I’m hearing. Here are some recent examples:

“Should I be taking ‘XYZ’ Fat Burner? The guy at the supplement store said I should be.”
“I was told by a nutritionist that I should eat grated carrots as they have a lower GI than whole carrots.” (Me – seriously ????!!!!!)
“I think I know why I’ve put on weight, I’ve been having a bit of skim milk in my coffee and I used to have it black”.
“I don’t use fish oil because It’s adding in extra fat to my diet.” (instead of looking at overall fat/carb/calorie intake).

Here’s my issue with the sorts of statements like these. They are what I would consider small ticket items, very low down on the priority list of things that will make a difference to your results.

When looking at your overall picture, it’s important to get all the BIG things in place first, before you start nitpicking and looking at all the little things.

  1.  Are you regularly weight training
  2.  Is your weight training program structured, progressive and periodised to ensure continual improvements over time
  3.  Is your nutrition sorted – whether it be counting macros or not. IE: Are you getting enough protein, and the appropriate amount of carbohydrates, fats and fibre in your diet (in a small calorie surplus for gaining muscle, in a small calorie deficit to lose body fat)
  4.  Are you sabotaging your results with blow outs on the weekends
  5.  Are you staying hydrated
  6.  Do you include any form of cardio in your plan
  7.  Are you logging and keeping track of what you are doing
  8.  Are you consistent with all of the above
  9.  Are you training intensely and with enough volume
  10.  Have you given yourself enough time to see results (not just one week!)

These are the sorts of things I look at first when troubleshooting someone’s lack of progress. Believe me, it’s not anything to do with the fact that you ate whole carrots instead of grated carrots! Or because you put a little bit of skim milk in your coffee.

Makes sense right? We’re not going to worry about 10 calories worth of skim milk, when you’re blowing out on the weekends with hundreds of extra calories worth of alcohol or food.

Now that’s not to say that small things when all added up won’t make a difference (except for the GI content of grated carrots, I think it’s safe to say we can forget that one).  Because they will. But they have to be legitimate, and not some outlandish claim that you heard some bro science dude say to your boyfriend once upon a time. And you wouldn’t even bother to look at the small things unless you have the big things in place first.

Here’s some examples of the smaller things I might look at when results have stalled and we’re sure that we have all those big things in place.

  1.  Are you contributing to extra calories from things you think might be calorie free or are you having too many licks/bites/tastes
  2.  Are you using foods that make you feel satiated and therefore prevent you from engaging in any mindless licks/bites/tastes (eg I might suggest you make slow cooked creamy porridge instead of minute oats nuked briefly in the microwave)
  3.  Are you measuring your 40g oats, not just measuring half a cup (because that can vary greatly with the actual weight). Although depending on your goals, I would often put this one higher up on the list of things to look at
  4.  Are you making sure you expend some extra energy during the day when possible (taking stairs instead of elevators, etc especially if you have a sedentary job)
  5.  Is your intensity really where it should be – really hitting that 100% effort (where applicable) and not just a perceived 100% effort
  6.  Considering supplements such as creatine for improved gym performance (yes this one in the big scheme of things, is still a small thing too)
  7.  Are you cutting your cucumber into perfectly shaped 2mm thick slices, because if they are 5mm slices it will slow your metabolism

    (Hahaha, okay just joking about the cucumber!)

These are just some examples, and there are many more things we can look at. But take a look at your overall plan, get these big things in place, give yourself enough time to see results, and as they say, don’t sweat the small stuff!


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