At my latest consultation with running coach Gaz Brown of GetRunning I had to admit two things I didn’t really want to say out loud but the way Gaz sets up his training programme there’s nowhere to hide.
I felt very guilty when I rocked up to his office empty handed. By that I mean I hadn’t filled out a food diary for two weeks. Naughty naughty. And what happened when I stopped filling out the food diary is that I stopped holding myself accountable for what I was putting into my mouth. If I didn’t write it down the calories didn’t count, right?
It didn’t help that in the midst of that I attended conference which revolved around food where temptations included sausage rolls, custard squares and donuts.
During this time I had, however, turned up for all the training sessions but I was tired and to be honest felt like I’d hit what I could only describe as a motivational hump. This usually happens when I’m out of routine and don’t have healthy food at my fingertips. What I’ve discovered since being on food journey is that when I unhealthily it kills inspiration because it makes me feel sluggish. It’s amazing how much more energy you have when you add vegetables to your diet!
So for the past two weeks I’ve been dragging my body out on runs and to the circuit class. I say “drag” because that’s what it feels like when one is sluggish. Have you ever seen a slug move quickly? I haven’t. I admit to Gaz that I’ve been feeling “uninspired”. And feeling uninspired has not encouraged best behaviour.
My man, who initially joined me on the healthy eating regime, has reached his weight loss goal and isn’t quite so strict on himself. I’ve found it hard not to partake in wine and cheese at home when he’s enjoying a glass or two of red with blue cheese slathered generously onto crackers.
“Every time I see people slipping up it is purely environment,” says Gaz. “And that was what I said would be your biggest risk – your man going back to normal eating. If he was still eating well you would have lost more by now. I’d put money on it.”
I certainly don’t want to blame others for what I put in my gob but I agree it’s harder to abstain when others around you are indulging. But I confess it’s not just that. I’ve also had a couple of “emergency” McDonald’s meals in the past week too.
“Hmmmm.” Gaz raises his eyebrows.
Both times I was starving and my busy schedule only allowed for “fast” food I say, justifying the choice. It was fast food or no food and I chose the latter.
“The big thing here is making sure you keep on track,” says Gaz. “Are you still doing your clean Mondays?”
“Because they are what tends to kick people back into shape,” says Gaz. “Whenever anyone is falling off the wagon a bit I just talk them back into the clean Mondays because it just starts your week off properly. You’ve got to stick to your guns. We’ve got to keep getting results. We’ve got to get you to a half marathon. You don’t want to get an injury. To stay away from injury you’ve got to keep that weight coming off. You’ve got to get stronger. You’ve got to have everything coming into line otherwise niggles come in.”
Gaz “doesn’t want to see me fall off the wagon”!
“There’s a lot to be said for the affect of the mind on food. How we treat and understand food,” he says.
Gaz draws a ladder on a piece of paper. “Now tell me, what is something that you really enjoy and you see as a treat? A bit of an indulgence that you know is bad for you but you like. But have quite often and it’s hard to stop having it. Would it be wine or cheese?”
“It would have to be red wine.”
“Okay, so visualise red wine at the top of the ladder. And every time you think about red wine it gives you happy thoughts. You like the taste of it, you like where it sits. Now think of something at the bottom of the ladder that you know is bad for you and that you don’t like to associate your eating with. You’ve had it before but you know it is really bad for you, so I would say McDonalds?”
“Yep, McDonalds or a pie.”
“So that is something that you say, I need to avoid that at all costs. It’s at the bottom of my food ladder,” he says.
So far so good.
“So what you’ve now got to do is visualise in your head and think ‘red wine, tastes nice’ and then think of the bottom of the ladder and McDonalds and think ‘that’s not good for me’. Now when you have those urges for red wine, take that red wine and put it at the bottom of the ladder visually in your head beside McDonalds. Now how do you think about red wine when it’s at the bottom?”
“Oh no! I don’t like where this is going.”
“How does it feel to the mind and body?”
“It means it’s bad for me and I can’t justify it in my brain as much.”
“That’s right. And the reality is they are quite closely related. Wine has got 46 grams equivalent of sugar in it, it has a similar reaction to the body because it’s high calorie food and it changes your habit of eating,” he says. “So each time you go to have a glass of red wine, think of the ladder and it sitting at the bottom. You can have a bit but don’t associate it with the good feelings at the top of the ladder.”
“Mmm, speaking of changing your habit of eating, I find I often eat more when I drink wine.”
“That is because it’s mucking around with your blood sugar levels, insulin and stuff. So then you start craving,” Gaz says. “So I want you to play around with that in your mind and every time you are going to have something that is not so good for you, think ‘where does that sit on my ladder?’ Put it down the bottom and you will be less likely to touch it. I do it myself. It works a treat. My soft spot is probably chocolate. And don’t get me wrong. I don’t eat much of it¬ – probably six pieces a week but I started changing where I put it on the ladder and I put it down next to sugar. And sugar to me is nasty because I know how bad it is for the body. In reality it is the same stuff. But now I associate my feelings and emotions towards it as the bottom of the ladder, not the top where I justify it. Because often you put it at the top ladder and say ‘oh, I deserve that, it tastes good’. But if you keep putting it to the bottom it curbs those cravings.”
It’s good to know Gaz is human too and the approach makes sense.
His advice is to stick to whole foods and bring it back to the basics.
“It is as much for the mind as it is for the body,” he says. “At least if you know you keep all your foods whole you know where it’s coming from. As soon as anything is packaged you know that they’ve mucked around with the content of the produce to get it to that point.”
At my weigh-in, I’m incredibly the lightest I’ve ever been at 69.3kg. There’s only a few hundred grams in it but Gaz assures me this is good. I feel inspiration surge through me again.
“We’re looking for that gradual decrease. Sure, you’ve had a little hiccup along the way a couple times but that’s got you encourage to make sure you’re keeping on track,” he says. “That’s why the clean Mondays work really well because Monday rolls around and you are back on track again.”
Gaz’s Clean Monday guide
Meal 1 – Green drink after run mixed only with water. He recommends Good Green Stuff. No coffee.
Meal 2 – Scrambled eggs with spinach only (no bread).
Meal 3 – Chicken or tuna salad with avocado.
Meal 4 – Clean Lean Protein Shake.
Meal 5 – Fish served with salad or vegetables.