Real health #22 Is perfectionism preventing reaching your health goals?

Today I wanted to talk about perfectionism. It’s day 22 of this 30 day Real Health January series and I am proud of myself for writing and sharing an article every day so far! But today I had a lot to do so I missed my morning writing window. It’s now 9pm and I very nearly didn’t post anything because it is late and I don’t have time to write something as in depth as I usually do. Then I realised that this is perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head and the false belief that I should do everything well or not bother at all. This is definitely a trap that myself and the women I have coached have fallen into on our journeys to better health. The idea that if we can’t follow the a diet perfectly and we don’t have time for the perfect exercise routine then why even try?

The truth is that you don’t have to be perfect to reach your health goals. No matter whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your fitness, balance your hormones or get your period back, it’s what you do majority of the time that counts. For those of you with perfectionistic tendencies, even if 90% of your actions are aligned with your goals you will focus on the 10% that you did “wrong”. This can lead to negative self-talk, beating yourself up, self-sabotaging behaviour and often giving up all together. You can find yourself spinning in circles, constantly starting new diet plans or fitness regimes with the hope that this time it will work. At the start you feel super motivated and follow the program to the letter, but as soon as life starts to get in the way you quickly lose motivation and end up back where you started. Then you feel frustrated because you never see results you are looking for. I don’t mean to criticise, I am saying this from experience!

Perfection and procrastination go hand in hand. Know the feeling of spending weeks researching the perfect way to eat or the specific combination of exercises to achieve your dream body? Often perfectionists can get stuck in this phase, over-thinking and over-analysing to the point of paralysis. What is the anti-dote to this procrastination? It is to just start. Even if you’re not sure it will work, start making healthier choices for yourself. Make some simple changes that feel achievable for you right now and don’t worry about the details. Eat some more vegetables. Move your body more. Spend time relaxing. Try to get to bed early. You don’t have to do everything at once. Be kind and compassionate with yourself and be your own cheerleader. If you eat healthily all week, don’t obsess over the takeaway you had on Saturday night. Focus on the positive changes you have made and give yourself the freedom to “slip-up”. If your healthy habits get in the way of you living your life, they aren’t going to be sustainable long term. Life will always get in the way.

Yes you can enjoy souvlaki and cake and reach your health goals!

And not only can perfectionism prevent you reaching your health goals but it can actually be harmful to your health. Perfectionism has been linked with anxiety and depression as you are constantly comparing yourself to an exceptionally high or even impossible standard and feeling like you don’t measure up. You feel like you are constantly being judged by others as well as by the negative chatter in your head. Living with this harsh inner-critic and feeling like you are never good enough can be totally exhausting! Perfectionism can lead to insomnia, fatigue, stress and burn out just to name a few. Overcoming perfectionism, or at least learning to recognise and manage it is a key step on the road to becoming your healthiest self.

Letting go of perfectionism is something that I really focus on in my health coaching programs. Often women come to be expecting a detailed meal plan setting out exactly what to eat to lose weight or to fix their hormones. But what I aim to do is put you in charge, giving you the resources and a structure then guiding you to listen to your own body and your intuition when it comes to how to eat and move your body. You really don’t have to be perfect, it can be easy and natural to find your ideal, healthy body once you have the basic knowledge and set off in the right direction. I can teach you about the power of certain foods and how to build your plate and set up your day for maximum success but at the end of the day it is you that is in charge. Consistency and compassion for yourself are the keys to success, NOT being perfect.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experience with perfectionism and reaching your health goals.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

Other posts you might like

computer stress

Real health #21 A new perspective on insomnia. How to get a good nights’ sleep

Insomnia.. where do I start?! It’s crazy that something as natural as sleep seems to be slowly getting more and more difficult for us humans. Insomnia rates in the UK were already high at 1 in 6 but, according to the Guardian, since the start of the COVID19 pandemic this has increased to 1 in 4. There are so many articles out there giving tips on how to wind down at night and get a good nights’ sleep. I even wrote a post last year about dealing with sleep disturbances and how to create a calming evening routine to help you fall asleep fast. I still think this is very relevant and definitely a good place to start for anyone struggling with insomnia. But something that I have been thinking about lately is that getting a good nights’ sleep actually starts in the morning.

What do I mean by this? I mean that if you are spending all day in high-alert stress mode, an evening routine can only do so much. Sure it will help you to relax and calm down but for some people it isn’t enough. Especially for those who have been struggling with insomnia for a long time, or for those who are struggling with early waking insomnia where you might have no problem falling asleep but can’t seem to stay asleep. This was exactly the problem I had, I would always fall asleep within minutes of getting into bed as I was so exhausted. But no matter how tired I was I would wake up between 2 and 4am and lie awake for hours on end, feeling tired and wired. Or if I did sleep through the night, my sleep would be so restless and unrefreshing that I’d still feel like a zombie the next day. If you are currently going through this, I totally understand how frustrating it can be but trust me, it can get better!

So back to how getting a good nights’ sleep starts in the morning. The way we start our day and how we think and act during the day is extremely important for being able to relax and sleep at night. Nowadays we have so many things in our lives that cause stress, whether we realise it or not. This includes obvious things like a stressful, high-pressure job, financial worries, family or relationship issues but it also could be “normal” day to day things like the news, technology and social media, excessive productivity or too much caffeine. We have so much information at our fingertips and it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Emails, notifications, news alerts all come directly to our phones meaning that we are switched on at all times. There is always something to respond to, something new to read, listen to or do.

With technology helping us, the pace of life and work is so much faster. We can achieve so much more in a day than in the past when if you wanted to speak to someone you had to call them or send a fax. And if you needed information you had to walk to the file room to search for it rather than a quick search on an online data base. These things are great but what is it doing to our minds now that we can easily send 10 emails in an hour whilst simultaneously searching for an answer on Google the minute a question pops into our heads? We are thinking so much faster but less deeply. We are becoming like machines. The phrase “continuous partial attention” was developed by Linda Stone over 20 years ago for this state of being hyper-connected and constantly scanning for something to respond to. She explains really well in her article the difference between simple multi-tasking, with comes from a desire to be more productive, and continuous partial attention which is driven by a fear of missing out.

Continious partial attention damages our ability to concentrate on one thing and in the long term it puts you in fight or flight mode, increasing stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline that can affect your ability to sleep. Especially if you are a hard worker or a perfectionist, you can easily fall into the trap of doing too much. Maybe you are jumping from one productive activity to the next without taking a breath in between or juggling multiple activities at once. It could be work tasks like trying to write a report whilst responding to emails but also more fun things like listening to podcasts and reading articles. These tasks need a lot of focus and uses a huge amount of brain power to focus on multiple things at once, putting us into a state of high-alert.

If you feel like you are constantly in vigilant mode and struggle to concentrate on a task without your brain wandering and seeking other activities or distractions.. this could be you! Maybe you feel this constant sense of urgency, like you have to rush all of your tasks for no reason. Maybe you have a heaviness in your chest, your breathing is shallow or you find yourself holding your breath. Maybe you feel like if you’re not productive you are losing time. If you spend your day in this non-stop whirlwind of doing, is it any wonder why it’s difficult to fall asleep at night? You might be reading this and thinking you don’t have this problem but you still can’t sleep, and maybe that’s true and this isn’t the message for you. But I am sure I’m not the only one who was living this way.

In my experience, a huge key in overcoming insomnia and getting a good nights’ sleep is slowing down. This means moving more slowly throughout your day, starting from how you wake up in the morning. If this feels relevant for you and you want my advice, I’ll leave you with my top tips for how to overcome insomnia and get a good nights’ sleep:

  • Let your body and mind wake up gently with a calming morning routine. Try to leave your phone alone for the first hour of the day and let the news, emails and any other tasks wait.
  • MEDITATE. I can’t stress this one enough. You don’t need to do anything fancy, just set a timer for 5-20 minutes and sit quietly. If you can’t do it, great, that’s a good sign that you need it! With regular practice you can train your brain to settle, relax and focus.
  • Block out times in your calendar for tasks and try to focus on one thing at a time and not multi-task unless it’s for very simple tasks. Turn off your notifications and keep your phone away from you as every interruption and distraction adds stress to your system. You can set times during the day to check in rather than being available at all times.
  • Take your time and notice if the need to rush comes up. Value your health and happiness over productivity. You might actually find you get more done as your mind will be clearer when you are more relaxed
  • Plan regular breaks throughout your day to check in with how you’re feeling, connect with your breath and maybe go outside or move your body to let go of any built up tension
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and feel inspired to give these tips a go. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to hear from you.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #18 Masculine vs. feminine energy a balanced approach to weight loss

Think about the last time you tried to lose weight? Did you have a structured meal plan, count calories or track macros? Did you think that carbs were the devil or “the fat you eat is the fat you wear”? Did you stick to a regimented workout plan from a coach or personal trainer and never miss a day no matter how tired you were? Did you have an expectation to lose Xlbs in 12 weeks and feel disappointed with anything less than that? How did these strategies work for you? My guess is if you’re reading this article it probably didn’t work out so well!

The thing that these strategies have in common is that they are all a masculine energy approach to weight loss. Masculine energy is great, we all need a dose of it in our lives. It is logical and rational, it gives us structure and helps to build discipline. All excellent things! The problem with masculine energy approach to weight loss though is that it forces us into this micro-managing mindset where we believe that controlling every aspect of our lifestyle will get us the results that we want. All that calculating and measuring is tiresome and you need a lot of motivation and will power to keep it up long term. Not only that but our bodies hate to be restricted and deprived and it won’t be long before they fight back with increased hunger and cravings. This is why most diets fail and you end up gaining the weight back, plus some.

So if these are masculine energy approaches, what does a feminine energy approach to weight loss look like? Feminine energy is that flowing, surrendering quality that brings beauty and mystery into our lives. When it comes to weight loss, a feminine approach is much more intuitive. Rather than relying on external factors to determine how much to eat and how to move your body, you turn inwards and listen to your own body, learning to work with it rather than against it. No more rules or restrictions but instead a flexible approach that is adapted to your needs and preferences. Rather than being your own bootcamp trainer you take on a caring, nurturing approach, having compassion and acceptance for yourself rather than criticism and shaming. Understanding that health is about more than just weight loss and being open to seeing all of the holistic improvements in your health rather than being focused only on the number on the scale.

So how can you start to implement a feminine energy approach to weight loss?

Feminine energy approach to diet

  • Intuitive eating is the foundation of the feminine energy approach to weight loss. Learning to tune into your hunger and fullness cues is key! Trusting yourself to know when you are physically hungry and allowing yourself to eat until you feel fully satiated rather than stopping because you should or because you have eaten your allotted calories for the day.
  • Tuning into your cravings and understanding what your body is trying to tell you. We have cravings for a reason, whether it is a physical or an emotional need. Choosing the right foods and the way you build your plate plays a big role in how satiated you feel – something I dive into with my health coaching clients.
  • Understanding that you are human, not a robot! Developing understanding of why you act the way you do and not expecting perfection. Always plan for failure and have a plan B so that you don’t panic and completely give up when you can’t prepare your meals yourself. You want a weight loss plan that fits in with your life so that you don’t have to worry about social situations, events, travelling etc.

Feminine energy approach to movement

  • Make movement a part of your daily life rather than separating out your “workouts”. We are designed to be active and we feel good when we move. The active couch potato model of sitting down all day then going hard-core with high intensity exercise for an hour is not aligned with how our bodies work and can cause excess stress and even weight gain long term.
  • Move your body in ways that you genuinely enjoy rather than forcing yourself to do something for the results. Some of my favourites are walking, dancing and yoga but you can try anything that is fun for you. See exercise as a pleasure and a way to connect with and enjoy being in your body, remember that it’s the only one you’ll get so you might as well make the most of it.
  • Listen to your energy levels and be flexible with your routine. Skipping a day of exercise is not going to harm your weight loss efforts and might actually be just what you need. Pushing yourself to the extreme is a recipe for burn out, hormonal imbalance and even weight gain as it is a physical stress on your body even if it does feel good in the moment. Rest and relaxation is a necessary part of weight loss too and might actually improve your results.

Feminine energy approach to mindset

  • Start with a 30-60 minute morning routine every day. Set yourself up for a positive day by connecting with your body and setting your intentions first thing. Ask yourself what you need to let go of and what you need to support your energy levels for the day ahead.
  • Keep a journal of the changes you are making and how they make you feel. Do more of the things that make you feel energised and happy and less of those which cause tension in your mind and body. You want weight loss to feel as easy and natural as possible so that it is sustainable long term. If a habit feels obsessive or restrictive, ask yourself how you could do things differently.
  • For the ladies, track your menstrual cycle and start to sync your lifestyle to your natural rhythms. Our hunger levels, energy levels and performance change from week to week. Learning to ride this wave will stop the pattern of falling off the wagon every month when “shark week” comes around. This is another thing I dive deeper into with my health coaching clients!

And above all, remember that all bodies are different and focus on YOUR PROGRESS rather than comparing to others. A huge part of feminine energy is surrender and acceptance of what is. Building healthy habits so you can look and feel like the best version of yourself but knowing when to stop pushing and how to find your balance.

Over to you…

So those are my tips on how to adopt a feminine energy approach to weight loss. I hope you found it interesting and have some ideas to implement yourself. Let me know your thoughts and experiences below.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on your health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.
caffeine and health

Real health #17 Is coffee healthy? Caffeine and health

Caffeine.. one addiction I just can’t seem to shake! I go through periods of giving it up and feeling great then after a bad night or two of sleep I am tempted to go back. I know it’s not good for me, now I am aware of the effects I can feel the stress hormones coursing through my veins even after just one cup of coffee and as someone who has struggled a lot with sleep it is really not a good idea to be drinking coffee. But the love affair continues…

One of the first things I recommend to my health coaching clients is to cut down on caffeine if they are drinking a lot. Ideally, I’d suggest anyone with hormonal imbalance or fatigue to go completely caffeine-free but I totally understand this isn’t always realistic. So I generally suggest sticking to 1 cup of coffee a day (and I don’t mean huge Starbucks size coffee, just a normal cup). Why? There are many ways that caffeine affects both our hormonal and overall health:

1. Caffeine and stress

Caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. This can make us feel good in the moment as we feel energised, motivated and happier and it can also boost our physical and mental performance. But we’re not designed to live with our nervous system in this stressed state, even if we don’t feel stressed as such that “pumped up” feeling that we are addicted to is stressful for our bodies. Caffeine can also speed up our thoughts, making our minds race and can lead to anxiety and keep us stuck in a loop of worry and negative thoughts, especially if we are already in a stressful situation or have an over-active inner critic.

2. How caffeine affects your sleep

Whether we like it or not, caffeine does affect our quality of sleep.  For most people, stopping drinking coffee around midday is enough time for your body to process the caffeine before you go to bed. But for some people even drinking caffeine in the morning can impact their sleep many hours later. Depending on how sensitive you are, you might notice that caffeine causes you to go to bed later wake up during the night, or maybe your sleep feels less refreshing. If you have been consuming caffeine daily for many years, you might not even notice the effect it is having on your sleep. If you are struggling with insomnia or fatigue, try going caffeine free for a week or two, if this feels impossible it’s probably a sign that it could be just what you need!

3. Effects of caffeine on blood sugar

One of the effects of caffeine stimulating the adrenal glands is a spike in blood sugar as it causes stored glycogen from our muscles to be converted to glucose and pumped into the blood for us to use as energy. Coffee is known for it’s appetite suppressing effects and is often used by dieters to curb cravings. It works in the moment but often leads to increased hunger and cravings later in the day. Especially if we consume caffeine on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, this can cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash an hour or 2 later when we crave.. guess what.. more caffeine and/or sugar. This results in a blood sugar rollercoaster which can leave us feeling exhausted and wrecked by the end of the day.  Often when people try to quit drinking coffee they notice more cravings for sugary foods and this is why!

4. Caffeine affects digestion and absorption

As well as  affecting our cravings, coffee can also impact the way we absorb nutrients. For example, caffeine has been shown to reduce absorption of vitamin D and calcium which are both necessary for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It is also not recommended to consume tea or coffee within an hour of taking an iron supplement as caffeine reduces absorption of this key mineral for energy and vitality. Women are more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia because we lose blood each month during our period and those who drink coffee regularly are even more at risk. And if that wasn’t enough, as caffeine is a diuretic (it causes you to pee more), it can lead to flushing out water soluble nutrients such as vitamins B and C as well as causing dehydration.

5. Caffeine and masculine energy

The balance of masculine and feminine energy is important for all humans but especially women who are trying to balance their hormones. I will write a whole post on this topic but for now I’ll summarise by saying that masculine energy is the “doing” associated with productivity, activity, busyness and logical thinking and feminine energy is the “being” associated with creativity, softness, surrender and going with the flow. In today’s Western world we so often focused on productivity and work is at the centre of our lives. It’s very normal for us to get up, get ready, have our coffee and start work. I think of caffeine as a way to get myself to do things I don’t feel like doing such as working when I’m tired and need to rest or doing a boring task when really I want to do something fun or creative. In this sense coffee and caffeine can be used as a way for us to suppress our bodies needs and remain in our masculine energy rather than taking the rest and relaxation we need.

How to consume caffeine in a healthy way

That being said, coffee and caffeine can also be a source of pleasure and a social activity. Right now I am living in Greece and the culture revolves around coffee. And I am British so I can help but love a good cup of tea and a chat. If you can’t imagine giving up coffee and tea, try to wait least 30 minutes after a meal rather than drinking it on an empty stomach or with food as this will help to minimise the impacts on stress hormones, blood sugar and nutrient absorption. But for those healing from insomnia, fatigue or hormonal imbalance I recommend choosing decaf, at least most of the time and not becoming reliant on that boost from caffeine to get through the day. As well as decaf coffee and and black tea, lower caffeine alternatives include:

  • Green tea (has some caffeine but also lots of anti-oxidants)
  • Cacao/cocoa (still stimulating but easier on the adrenals)
  • Herbal teas (mostly caffeine free)
  • Chicory coffee (caffeine free coffee alternative)

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article on caffeine and health. Let me know your thoughts below on whether coffee is healthy and how easy you would find to cut down or give it up.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on your health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

why diets don't work

Real health #15 The epidemic of burn out and adrenal fatigue

Long before COVID19, there was already another epidemic silently over-taking the world. Adrenal fatigue aka burn out or the “21st century stress syndrome” is a condition which probably affects millions of people but often goes undiagnosed or untreated because it is just seen as normal in our busy society. Have you ever felt totally exhausted, overwhelmed and like you just can’t handle the stresses of life? Maybe you have experienced it already. Burn out is a phrase people often use lightly but it can actually be pretty serious and have a huge impact on your life and health.

Adrenal fatigue or burn out is the effect of being too stressed over a long period of time. Our nervous systems are only supposed cope with a certain amount of stress and pressure and usually for only a short duration. Our fight or flight responses are designed to give us a quick burst of stress hormones to help us to get out of a dangerous situation and then to relax and go back to baseline once the danger has passed. These days we are constantly bombarded with stressors, from news alerts direct to our phone to high-pressure jobs which demand us to be switched on and ready to respond for most of the day. Our adrenal glands are constantly pumping out cortisol and adrenalin to help us to cope and survive the day. Combine this with too much caffeine, unhealthy habits and poor self-care and you have a recipe for burn out.

I shared my own experiences with adrenal fatigue and insomnia in a previous post. It really is something that is close to my heart as it had a huge impact on my life. I couldn’t sleep, I was experiencing all sorts of weird physical symptoms and I had nearly constant brain fog. I was able to push through and keep up my job, studies and some form of a social life but everything felt like so much effort. On the outside I probably seemed like I had it altogether but I looked completely exhausted and inside I felt drained. Even fun things became a chore and I just wanted to hide away. Luckily I was able to get myself out of the hole and now I want to help others who are struggling with the same thing as I know it’s such a dark place to be.

How to recognise burn out or adrenal fatigue

Often the symptoms of burn out start gradually. You hit snooze a couple of extra times in the morning, you feel more tired throughout the day and you start to lose interest and motivation for your work or your daily activities. Over time it can gradually get worse to the point where you don’t feel like yourself anymore. Some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Feeling tired even after a good nights sleep
  • Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep (insomnia)
  • Low energy and lethargy
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies
  • Feeling heavy and achy, especially in your legs
  • Not wanting to socialise and preferring to be alone
  • Blood sugar issues, craving sweets and crashing an hour after a high carbohydrate meal
  • Craving salty foods more than usual
  • Relying more on coffee and tea to get through the day
  • Feeling zoned out or “brain fog”

What to do if you have burn out or adrenal fatigue

The most important thing to do first is to identify your stressors. Take some time to reflect on all areas of life including work, family, relationships, hobbies, diet, exercise and creative projects. Make two lists, one of the things that steal your energy and the other of things that boost your energy. Once you have your lists, you can make a plan for how you will decrease the “energy stealers” and how you will increase the “energy boosters” in your life. Some things will be harder than others but start with a few of the low-hanging fruit and notice the impact it has on your overall wellbeing. Then move onto the more challenging things on the list.

Energy stealersEnergy boosters
Working 2 hours overtime a dayTaking a full hour lunch break
Responding to email notifications immediately 5 minutes of deep breathing
Drinking coffee in the afternoonDrinking more water
Speaking on the phone with X friendGoing to a dance class

Another really important thing is planning and organizing. Being reactive and responsive is one thing that keeps us constantly on alert. Maybe you work in the emergency services where you have to be ready to respond at all times, but if you work in an office job, feeling like you have to react and respond to every phone call or email right away could be contributing to your stress and feelings of burn out. If you can, try turning off your email notifications and setting a couple of windows throughout the day to go in and check your inbox. Use your calendar to block out time windows for specific tasks and try to stay focused. Being interrupted and distracted by multi-tasking uses up a lot of brain power! Keeping a task list with both to-do today and a “later list” can be helpful for prioritizing so that you don’t spend your day fire-fighting small tasks and can actually get something done which helps you to feel accomplished.

Next up is getting true rest and downtime. You might think you are resting and relaxing when you are watching TV or Youtube videos but your brain is still being active and stimulated. If you are suffering from burn out, you want to try to get yourself into a deep relaxation state at least once a day, more if you can. You can do this by lying down and listening to relaxing music or a guided meditation, sitting outside or going for a slow, mindful walk, taking the time to stretch out your body or having a bubble bath. These things might feel difficult, especially if you are in the stressed phase of adrenal fatigue where you are stuck on high alert mode. It might feel challenging to sit and do nothing, you might feel like you are wasting time and you should be doing something productive, you might feel agitated and restless in your body or your thoughts might start to go crazy once you let go of busyness and find stillness. All of these are signs that you need to stick at it!

Let yourself feel the agitation and notice any thoughts and resistance that comes up. Stay with the feelings and wait until the dust settles. If you are feeling physically restless, yoga or moving your body to music can be a great way to release some of that trapped energy and soothe your nervous system enough that you are able to let go and allow yourself to be still and relaxed. You’ll know you are there once you start to feel your body melt and your mind drift. You want to be in that almost-sleep brain state where you aren’t actively thinking or planning and thoughts can drift in and out of your mind. This is such a healing state to be in for anyone with burn out as the parasympathetic nervous system state is engaged and the adrenals are able to rest and recharge.

Taking time to relax a few times throughout the day is like emptying your “stress cup”. Imagine your stress capacity being a glass and every stressor throughout the day adds a drop or a splash of water to the cup. Once the cup is full and starts to overflow, you are going to be experiencing a state of stress or over-whelm. Taking breaks to breath deeply, go outside or just to be with yourself is like emptying out a bit of that water to give you more space in your cup i.e. more capacity to deal with stress. The idea is to keep the level as low as possible, either by reducing the inputs (stressors) or increasing the outputs (relaxing activities). If you can reach the end of the day with your cup half empty then you are on the right path to healing your adrenals and recovering from burn out. Having a solid morning routine including yoga, breathwork and meditation can also be a way to strengthen your nervous system and increase the capacity of your stress-cup over time.

Over to you…

So those are my thoughts on adrenal fatigue and tips on how to recover. Let me know in the comments below your experiences with burn out and how it has affected your life.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #14 The power of a morning routine for mental health

Imagine this scenario… you wake up at 7.45am, 15 minutes before you need to start work, you rush to have a shower and get dressed, switch the TV onto the news channel, make yourself a coffee then turn your laptop on and start working through the 200 new emails in your inbox. Or maybe you wake up, lie in bed for half an hour scrolling social media then jump into your car and join the hour long traffic jam via the Starbucks drive through. By 10am you are feeling ravenous so you grab a chocolate bar or pastry that you can eat at your desk and maybe another coffee to keep you going for a couple of hours. How do you think you will feel by the time your lunch break arrives? Probably frazzled, ravenous and irritable! How we start our morning can set the tone for our entire day.

Now think about an alternative scenario… you set your alarm for 7am so you have an hour to spare until you start work. You take a few deep breaths before getting out of bed then go and brew your coffee or tea, pour it into your favourite mug and take 15 minutes to sit and enjoy it slowly, taking some time to tune into your body and how you are feeling, maybe making a to do list or writing in your journal or chatting with your partner or kids. You have your shower, playing some music in the background, and get dressed for the day. You still have a bit of time before work to prepare yourself a healthy, filling breakfast before switching on your laptop or heading out to work. At 10am you are ready for a break, so you go outside for some fresh air or a 10-minute walk and grab a piece of fruit for a little boost on the way. How do you think you would feel after a morning like that? Probably much more energetic and positive!

Ok I’ll stop with the Bridget Jones references now, but you get the idea. I know it might seem idealistic, but I’m not talking about creating a picture-perfect Instagram worthy artsy morning routine every day. I am talking about some really simple changes that you can implement into your life which have huge results. If taking an hour for yourself in the morning is unrealistic, even half an hour or 20 minutes can be enough to totally shift your mindset for the day ahead. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of the first scenario. We lead such busy lives these days that we can feel like we don’t have time for a slow morning routine, or we are so exhausted that even getting up 20 minutes early feels impossible. The reason I am writing this post today is because this morning I was in such a rush to go out for an appointment I totally skipped my morning routine and now I am feeling it!

The morning is such a precious time of the day for you to start building your energy. You wake up after a nights’ sleep replenishing your “energy credit” for the day. From there on it’s your choice how you prioritise where and how you spend that energy. Every action you take either depletes or builds on your energy reserves. There are some things we can’t avoid but why not preserve our energy where we can? Slowing down, being mindful and avoiding information overload from the TV, phone and the internet during the first part of our day can help to reduce some of the “mini-stresses” which deplete our energy before the day has even begun. And adding in activities that boost your energy reserves like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises can help us to feel energised and motivated for the day ahead.

I’ve used the idea of creating an energy bubble with my health coaching clients and it really works. If you have a busy and stressful day ahead, you hate your job or you are dealing with difficult people, taking time for yourself in the morning can really help you to raise your energy and mood and things become much easier to handle. It might seem selfish to put your own needs and self-care at the top of your to-do list for the day, but I am telling you now that if you want to be your most energetic and happy self, you need to do just that. I’m not saying to focus on yourself at the expense of everyone and everything else. But I am saying that you need to prioritise a few things that keep you feeling good in order to show up at your best for the other demands of your life.

So, today’s challenge is to spend some time thinking about the things that you genuinely enjoy that leave you feeling energised and alive.

I’ve listed some examples below that fall into 4 categories: physical, sensual, creative and spiritual. Feel free to use these as inspiration to create your own list. Try to fit at least one thing from your list into your morning routine each day and notice the impact on your energy and mood and you never know, once that becomes a habit you might be tempted to add more!

PhysicalSensualCreativeSpiritual
Walking
Stretching/yoga
Dancing
Fresh air/sun
Mindful shower
Upbeat music
Drawing
Writing
Playing music
Journaling
Prayer
Meditation

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article on the power of a morning routine. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts favourite morning routine ideas in the comments below.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

benefits of journaling for mental health

Real health #10 The benefits of journaling for mental health

Yesterday I ordered a pack of 6 of my favourite A5 bound notebooks that I use to write my journal and it got me thinking about the benefits of journaling for mental health. I have been journaling on and off for over 10 years and in the last 3 it has become part of my routine that I can’t do without. My journal is like my therapist, friend, co-worker, spiritual guide all in one. I use my journal to keep track of the highs and lows of my life, to work through struggles with my work, relationships, family or inner life and to dig deep into what is under the surface of my conscious thoughts. My journal is there when there are things on my mind that I can’t say out loud to anyone and it is there when I don’t even know what is on my mind. Journaling is what finally helped me to overcome disordered eating and move on with my life.

Some of the benefits of journaling for mental health include better processing of difficult emotions, management of stress and anxiety, increased clarity and direction for your life and cultivating gratitude, mindfulness and present awareness. I’d recommend to anyone to start a journal, even if you think your life is boring or you have nothing to write. Trust me there is always something! Don’t let the fact that you “aren’t good” at writing stop you from starting a journal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Nor does it have to be interesting to anyone but yourself or even be legible. Just the act of getting things down on paper can be extremely therapeutic, even if you never look at it again or decide to rip it up or burn it afterwards as a sign of letting go.

Journaling techniques for mental health

There are many journaling techniques you can use if you’re not sure where to start. In her book Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth, therapist and author Kathleen Adams describes ways to use a journal to work through past and present relationship issues, find your creative expression and get to know yourself on a deeper level. Some of the techniques she includes are:

  • Stepping stones (journaling prompts)
  • Dialogues (with people, situations, feelings)
  • Captured moments (descriptive writing)
  • Free association (mind mapping and lists)
  • Stream of consciousness (letting your unconscious speak)

You can experiment with different ways of using your journal depending on the outcome that you want. If you want to record the moments of your life, maybe a big travelling adventure, your child growing up or a special occasion you want to remember, you can use captured moments to engage with the present moment and capture everything you feel with all of your senses. Writing in this way helps you to be present and mindful and to let your creativity flow. If you’re feeling stuck in some area of your life, you can use free association techniques such as mind mapping or list making to get creative and seek innovative solutions. Or if you are feeling numb and disconnected, you can use stream of consciousness writing and see what comes up.

Written dialogues can help you to see the perspective of someone you are currently in, or have previously had conflict with or to see the positives in what seems like a dire situation. Journaling dialogues are a good way to process and let go of past hurts, even with people who are no longer in your life. The technique that has helped me the most is stepping stones or journaling prompts. Sometimes all it takes is for you to ask to right question for you to find the solutions you are looking for. Journaling about my disordered eating patterns led me down the path of asking questions about my self-worth, my values in life and discovering hidden shame, anger, disappointment and fear that were underlying my behaviours.

Journaling also helped me to understand why I was struggling with insomnia. Using the mind mapping technique was a way to uncover some underlying worries and situations which were affecting my sleep. Some of the things that came up were obvious such as work stress, drinking coffee and feeling physically uncomfortable but through this journaling technique I also had some realisations that I hadn’t thought of before including being stuck in the victim mentality, worrying about not being productive if I didn’t get enough sleep, comparing myself to others and getting jealous of their ability to sleep (any fellow insomniacs will understand this one!) and suppressing my anger. Understanding these things helped me to overcome my insomnia and start to finally recover my energy levels.

How to start journaling for mental health

Starting a journal practice is easy because there are no rules! All you need is a notepad and pen of choice, some spare time and the motivation to explore. You can choose a dated journal or a blank notebook, lined or plain paper, pocket sized or A4. You can write in ballpoint pen, coloured pencils, fountain pen and ink or a mix of them all. You can write in prose, bullet points, poetry and add doodles and sketches to the page if you feel like it. You don’t need to worry about writing neatly, spelling correctly or perfect grammar. In fact, the less you censor yourself the better when it comes to journaling. Just sit down, set an intention for your journal session, choose a technique and write until you don’t feel like writing anymore. This can be five minutes or an hour. You can include journaling in your daily routine or you can write when the mood strikes. Really it is up to you to find whatever feels good and feels like you.

Some days you might feel stuck or just a few words and others you might write pages and pages with the words seeming to flow out from nowhere. Whatever happens, try not to judge yourself and just let the process unfold. You can create an atmosphere by clearing out your writing space, maybe lighting a candle or playing some music to set the mood. Start by closing your eyes and taking a few slow, deep breaths to centre yourself and focus your attention on your intention, whether that is to explore a certain topic, vent out some trapped emotion or to reflect on the day. Start to write and if you get stuck, try taking a break to read back what you have written and take a few more deep breaths. Once your journaling session feels complete, close your notepad and store it somewhere safe. Having a ritual with a clear start and end gives your journaling practice that touch of magic and mystery that we all need a bit of in our lives these days.

Your challenge for day 10 is to think about how you could include journaling into your routine and maybe get yourself a journal and start your own practice.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on the benefits of journaling for mental health and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on how to have fun on your journey to health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #9 How to enjoy exercise and healthy eating and make getting healthy fun

A quick, lazy post today as it’s Saturday and we have been out all day enjoying nature, it’s getting late and I am tired and hungry. We drove down to Saronida this afternoon and went for a walk on the beach even though it was pretty cloudy and windy but we just needed to get out of Athens and get some fresh air. This lockdown has been loooong and even though we managed to get out for a hike and to see some friends over Christmas it is really starting to drag now and there’s still no end in sight.

Anyway, I thought that today is as good a day as any to remind you to have fun as you work towards your health and weight loss goals, in case you forgot! Wherever you are on your health journey, whether you are just starting out changing your lifestyle or you have been focusing on health and fitness for years, don’t forget that the purpose of improving your health is to enjoy your life more. Getting healthy really doesn’t have to be a chore. If you hate your diet and your workout routine feels like hell, try something different. If you hate yoga and meditation, you have to don’t do it! There isn’t one road to health so experiment and find what works for you.

I used to believe that controlling everything from restricting the foods on my plate to sticking to the same, high intensity workout regime was what I needed to do if I wanted to reach my health goals. I never really thought about whether I actually enjoyed it or not it was just something I had to endure. Nowadays my approach is definitely more fun! I practice yoga because I love it. I dance because I love it. And I eat in a way that I genuinely enjoy. If I’m not enjoying something and my body is sending me a hell no signal, I listen rather than push through it. Of course I still challenge myself.. right now me and my boyfriend are working up to running 5km in 30 minutes (well I am as it’s already easy for him) but if we had planned a run and I am feeling exhausted on the day, I won’t feel like a failure if I skip it.

I always recommend to focus on building healthy, sustainable habits that you enjoy rather than a quick fix to lose weight where you also lose your sanity. Even if your goal is to lose weight, focus on health first and your body will find it’s happy place but focus on weight loss alone and you just might lose health in the process. Remember that health doesn’t always equal weight loss. On that note, here are a few of my tips on how to enjoy eating healthy food and how to make fitness fun..

How to enjoy eating healthy food

  • Get creative and take the effort to make your plate look pretty, even if you’re eating alone
  • Have plenty of variety in your diet (unless you’re the type of person who genuinely loves eating the same things on repeat)
  • Try out a new food or recipe at least once a week, more if you have the time and the energy
  • Get your family involved and share your healthy meals with them so that you don’t feel left out
  • Don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself of all treats, remember the 80:20 rule!
  • Remind yourself that your taste buds adjust over time and you will genuinely start to crave healthy foods

Fun ways to improve your fitness

  • Try out a dance class, learn salsa, street dance or ballet
  • Experiment with gymnastics, acro-yoga or rock climbing
  • Get fit with friends, join a running group, cycling club or try out group exercise classes (as long as you can social distance)
  • Mix things up, if you normally exercise in the gym then get outdoors or vice versa
  • Listen to music or a fun podcast as you walk
  • Try out a yoga or fitness challenge at home to keep you motivated

And finally, remember that even though things might feel difficult and impossible to enjoy at the beginning, it does get easier! Once you start to eat healthier foods on a regular basis, your taste buds will change over time to the point where you actually enjoy and even crave them. As you improve your fitness you will start to enjoy moving your body more and more. Keep things simple, have fun and be kind to yourself.

Your challenge for today is to reflect on your own “health regime” and ask yourself whether you genuinely enjoy the things you are doing. If not, how could you make it more fun?

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on how to enjoy exercise and healthy eating and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on how to have fun on your journey to health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #8 Benefits of yoga for health and how to start a home yoga practice

The benefits of yoga for health are endless! Of course, as a yoga teacher I am pretty biased but I honestly think that starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. In this article I want to share the top benefits of yoga for health that I have experienced over the last 10 years of practicing yoga.

Benefits of yoga on the body

The practice of yoga has so many health benefits for people of all ages. A daily yoga practice, even if it is just 10 minutes, is a great way to get your body moving, get your blood flowing, loosen up your joints, improve your flexibility and strength. Physical health benefits of yoga include:

  • Better cardio-vascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. Like any other type of exercise that gets your body moving, the health benefits of yoga include improved cardio-vascular fitness. Unlike many other types of exercise, yoga is low intensity and not stressful on the joints so it is a great way for those new to exercise to start out. Vinyasa and other types of “flow” yoga can be especially good for improving your fitness.

  • Lowered blood pressure. Practicing yoga regular can help to lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are certain yoga postures which specifically help to lower blood pressure including standing forward fold, downward facing dog and legs up the wall pose. Practicing yoga daily along with a healthy diet can lead to huge improvement in your blood pressure readings.

  • Reduced muscular tension from prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Now more than ever we are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and phones. Especially with COVID19 restrictions, many of us are working from home and sitting for long periods of time. Yoga helps to counter-balance habitual tension in the neck, shoulders and hips creating a sense of ease and wellbeing in your body.

  • Improved flexibility, balance and joint health. One of the most well-known benefits of yoga for physical health is improved flexibility. Remember you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga but practicing yoga will help to improve your flexibility! Yoga practice improves mobility in all of the main joints in the body including the spine, knees, hips and wrists, helping you to stay fit and mobile as you get older and improving your quality of life.

  • Stronger, more toned muscles. Many fitness enthusiasts see yoga as “not challenging enough” but then you get them on the mat and watch them struggle! A yoga practice can be a full body workout where you are challenging and all of your muscles in a holistic, functional way. Of course, the intensity of a physical yoga practice varies a lot but practicing yoga can definitely be a great way to strengthen and tone your upper body, core thighs and glutes.

  • Improved sleep quality. Yoga helps to calm and relax both the body and mind which can help you to get a better nights sleep. Practicing yoga in the morning helps you to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day and sleep more soundly at night. a gentle bedtime yoga practice is also an excellent way to wind down, let go of the stress of the day and prepare your body for sleep. Better sleep has all sorts of health benefits including better blood sugar control, improved energy levels and lowered inflammation.

Benefits of yoga on mental health

As well as the physical health benefits of yoga, there are also many mental health benefits of yoga. In today’s busy world, most of us feel some level of pressure, tension and stress on a daily basis and cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are also on the rise. The benefits of yoga for mental health include:

  • Reduced anxiety and stress levels. Getting yourself onto your yoga mat to take some time for yourself and close out the outside world is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Unfortunately life will happen and no matter how we try to reduce the external stressors in our life the past pace and pressures of modern society will always cause us some level of stress but practicing yoga helps to reduce this stress and the anxiety that going with it.

  • Improved nervous system health. Because of the high levels of stress, adrenal fatigue and burn out are becoming more and more common. If you have a stressful job or busy family life, drink a lot of caffeine or spend excessive time on the internet or social media it’s highly likely that your nervous system could do with some attention. Yoga practice, especially breathwork and meditation but also physical asana practice is a great way to nurture your adrenals, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and and strengthen your capacity to deal with the stress of daily life.

  • Feelings of calm and wellbeing. Regular yoga practice helps you to tune into your body, notice habitual patterns of tension and gripping and learn to let go into deep states of relaxation. Often we hold on tightly to life, feeling like we need to control every little thing but yoga invites us to surrender to the flow and accept what is, creating a sense of peace and wellbeing in your body and mind

  • Improved self-awareness. I wrote an article on yoga and self-awareness recently but I think improving self-awareness is a key benefit of yoga for mental health. Yoga helps you to listen to your thoughts and feeling and over time to become aware of patterns that may be hurting you or holding you back in life. Through practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to rewire these patterns, changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you approach life.

  • Greater connection with others. Yoga classes have been an amazing sense of community for me over the years. From the huge gym classes I took when I started out my practice to the intimate group in my teacher trainings, I have always found yoga to be a gateway to deep connection with others. I’m not sure if it’s because people who are more emotionally open and vulnerable are drawn to yoga or whether it is yoga that cracks people wide open but either way, I’ve always found this sense of connection and community amongst yogis. For those interested in embarking on a spiritual path, yoga is also a great way to connect with your surroundings, higher self and something greater.

How to start a home yoga practice

I started practicing yoga by going to face to face classes and I always recommend this as the best route for beginner yogis. But a home yoga practice is a great way to complement teacher led classes and deepen your practice. The way that I started my home yoga practice and still continue to learn more about yoga is through reading yoga books. You can find books on the foundations of yoga, yoga philosophy and history, yoga anatomy and physiology and meditation and pranayama (breathwork). Some of my favourite yoga book recommendations are:

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
Yoga for Women by Bobby Clennell
Light on Life/Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Thrive through Yoga: A 21 day journey by Nicola Jane Hobbs

These yoga books will give you different perspectives and techniques and highlight the health benefits of yoga. They will talk you through the basics of connecting with your breath, quietening your mind and learning the alignment of the asana which will form the foundation of your home yoga practice.

Also with the internet and social media it is now easier than ever to find information and learn how to do things at home. There are endless yoga tutorials on Youtube from beginners foundation classes to crazy advanced ashtanga sequences. Whatever level you are at, you can find an online class to suit you. Some of my favourite online yoga teachers are Yoga with Adriene, Yoga Upload, The Mindful Movement and Cat Meffan. You can check out my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga as I am planning to upload more guided yoga classes this year!

I am also offering 3 online yoga classes a week during the COVID19 pandemic.

Yoga for Absolute Beginners – Tuesday 1pm UK/3pm Greece

Yoga for Beginners/Intermediate – Thursday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

Yoga for Women – Sunday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

You can find out more information and sign up for classes here.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on the health benefits of yoga and how your yoga practice has affected your physical and mental health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

oats nutrition label

Real health #5 Is counting calories for weight loss a good idea?

Today’s topic in this Real Health January series is counting your calories, specifically whether counting calories to lose weight is a good strategy. I’m sure most people these days are aware of the idea of calorie counting and might be familiar with calorie counting apps like My Fitness Pal and Chronometer. But to quickly cover the basics, a calorie is a unit of energy commonly used to describe the amount of energy in a food. This energy comes from three macro-nutrient groups: carbohydrates and proteins which have 4 calories per gram and fats which have 9 calories per gram. You can find the amount of calories (kcal) on the nutrition label of most foods. Usually the label will also have the recommended guideline daily amount for a typical adult, like the one below for porridge oats.

There are many “macro calculator” websites where you input your age, gender, height, current weight and how much weight you want to lose and it will tell you how many calories you should aim to eat per day to reach your weight loss goals. You can then count calories in the food that you eat and try to stay in the recommended range. Sounds simple. But is counting calories to lose weight a good idea? And is there another way?

The benefits of counting calories for weight loss

It is true that calorie counting has been linked with successful weight loss in multiple scientific studies. In order to lose weight, you need to be in an energy deficit (i.e. burning more calories than you take in through food) and counting your calories can be a good way to make sure you are doing this. Calorie counting can be a helpful tool for anyone who has absolutely no idea how much they should be eating to become familiar with the portion sizes they need to eat to lose weight. Over time counting calories can be a good way to learn more about the nutritional values of different foods and which foods are more satisfying for the amount of calories they supply. For example, a 500ml bottle of coke which doesn’t fill you up at all has more calories than the bowl of porridge shown above!

There is also a concept called “if it fits your macros” in the fitness world which means that you can eat whatever you like and still reach your weight loss goals, as long as you eat within the recommended calories and macro-nutrient ranges. This makes the calorie counting approach very appealing to anyone who doesn’t want to give up treats and other foods they like or follow any specific diet rules. It allows for flexibility in the types of foods you eat which for some people is a very freeing approach to weight loss. This is similar to the idea of Weight Watchers or Slimming World where every food has a points value and you can eat whatever you like as long as you stay within your points allowance for the day.

The problems with counting calories for weight loss

Even though counting calories for weight loss can be successful, personally it’s not a method I recommend for several reasons:

1. My training is in public health nutrition so for me, health always comes above weight loss with my clients. Counting calories focuses only on the amount of energy in foods and doesn’t consider the nutritional value. As well as calories and macro-nutrients, we need micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to maintain strong healthy body including a well functioning metabolism and immune system, strong bones and teeth and healthy skin, hair and nails. It’s better to eat a higher number of calories in whole foods than it is to eat a low number of calories in processed junk foods. You could eat 1000 calories a day in only chocolate cake and lose weight but that wouldn’t be healthy or sustainable in the long term!

2. Calorie counting apps and nutrition labels are not 100% accurate. The information is based on laboratory tests that have an accuracy of +/- 10% which means that if you count calories to precisely 2000 per day, in reality you could be eating anywhere from 1800 to 2200 calories which is a huge range and could have a massive impact on your goals! The same goes for calorie and macro-nutrient calculators, they aren’t tailored to your individual body but are based on averages and statistics. So just because a calculator tells you to eat 1500 calories per day to lose 2lbs per week, it doesn’t mean that will happen for you which can be pretty frustrating.

3. Counting calories for weight loss is a very rigid approach. Usually you will aim for the same calorie target each day which doesn’t fit with the constantly changing, flexible way our bodies work. Your calorie needs can change from day to day depending on many factors including how much activity you did, how much sleep you got or how much stress you are under. For women, our calorie needs can also shift cyclically with our hormonal rhythms (see my posts on how to eat with your cycle). Counting calories encourages us to over ride our natural hunger cues and can lead to eating when you’re not hungry just because you “have calories left” or not going to bed hungry because you “ate your calories for the day”.

4. Counting calories and macros can easily become an addictive or obsessive behaviour. Research has linked use of calorie counting apps and fitness trackers with the onset and maintenance of disordered eating behaviours. Whilst it might seem harmless, and it can be if it is a short term measure to learn about nutrition, tracking food and counting calories is a slippery slope and can become compulsive and controlling. As I shared recently in my post on letting go of the over-controller, it’s much better for our overall health to be flexible and intuitive rather than rigid and focused on numbers.

Alternatives to counting calories for weight loss

So if you’ve decided counting your calories isn’t for you but you still want to lose weight, what are your options? I’m not going to tell you that you can eat as much as you like of whatever you want and still lose weight because that’s not realistic. Unless you are a competitive athlete who needs ridiculous amounts of calories to fuel yourself..

But you don’t have to rely on calorie counting apps either to reach your goals. One option is intuitive eating. I can write a whole separate post on this but the basic idea is that of really tuning into your body’s hunger and fullness signals and cravings and learning to eat mindfully. Often we eat whilst on the computer or on the go without really paying attention to our food. Or we eat for emotional reasons or boredom rather than true hunger. Learning to eat intuitively helps to improve your relationship with food and be able to enjoy a wide range of foods without following specific diet rules.

The alternative to calories counting and intuitive eating is to follow a restricted diet. By this I mean any diet which limits the types of foods you eat. Ever wondered why there are sooo many different diet books out there all claiming to offer you the solution to your weight loss woes? Well that’s because there is no one true diet to follow that is perfect for all humans. These diets work because by limiting the types of foods you eat, they automatically limit the amount of calories you consume. Some examples:

  • Whole foods or Paleo diet (limits processed foods)
  • Keto or Atkins diet (limits carbohydrates)
  • Vegan or plant-based diet (limits animal products)
  • Starch solution (limits fats)

Honestly I think all of these diets can work and if you experiment and find one that suits your tastes and lifestyle you can find weight loss success. Personally I have always leaned towards intuitive eating and a more plant-based diet as it suits my tastes and ethical values but for someone who really craves animal-based foods and prefers to eat smaller portions, they are unlikely to last long on a diet that focuses on high volume plant-based foods. I think it’s much better to let go of dogma and realise that we are all different. As I always say, listening to your body and working with it rather than against it is much more likely to lead you to health and happiness than constantly fighting and controlling yourself with force.

Your challenge for today is to reflect on diets or weight loss methods you have tried in the past. What worked and what didn’t? Think about what might be the best approach for you and your specific preferences, tastes and lifestyle.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your experience with counting calories and whether you think it’s a good way to lose weight.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like