I asked my friend, and personal trainer Tom Gallon to write a guest blog post about nutrition. Tom knows ALL of the stuff and has been a huge support to me as I start my career as a PT.
Hi, my name is Tom Gallon. I’m a Health, Fitness and Wellbeing Coach with over 15 years’ experience working with individuals and groups. In short, I help people and it’s something I believe strongly in. After becoming one of the most successful Personal Trainers in the Virgin Active Company and advisor to Head of Fitness for Virgin Active Europe, I left the company to help build Results Inc. Gym, a company dedicated to helping its members improve their fitness. Together with the founding partners I helped build this single gym into 3 facilities and over 500 sessions delivered per week!
Alongside my qualifications and experience in Movement and Nutrition coaching, I also have a background in Counselling and Education. Working in various settings including Hospices, Mental Health Charities and Alternative Education centres (for young people who cannot access typical education due to exclusion or criminal pathways).
Away from my professional life. I have played for the England National Lacrosse team (captaining the team to a European championship). Completed numerous unsupported treks and am a keen winter climber and alpinist. By far my proudest act is being a loving father of Lucy, the near geriatric rescue dog…opinions differ as to who owns who.
Here’s Tom’s sensible person’s guide to nutrition. Enjoy.
Macro counting, Calorie counting, Intermittent fasting, High fat – low carb, Low fat – high carb, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Dukan, Paleo, Keto, Carb back-loading, High protein, Whole food, Points based, Raw, Liquid, Detox. Have I missed any out?
What three things do all of the above have in common?
- They are names of ‘Diets’.
- They are as confusing as a sloth in space.
- They really only exist because lots of us would like to improve the way we eat.
I ALMOST FORGOT, there’s one more thing they all have in common…
They all adhere to the same simple principles of nutrition.
Yup, seriously, there’s lots of icing on the cake (what an awful pun to use) and lots of details and nuances but scrape all those away, and you will find that all the above diets revolve around the same set of basic principles. They just go about those principles in different ways.
So breathe a sigh of relief, if you are trying or would like to improve your nutrition and keep trying new things and then falling off the wagon don’t worry, it’s not that you haven’t ‘Found the answer’, you haven’t failed.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you have been distracted by all the fluffy super cool details that you haven’t come across the basics. And the basics can be frighteningly effective!
Read on for the slightly anticlimactic, but extremely effective:
“Sensible person’s guide to eating a little better than they did before and being really happy with that.”
(…I know, the name needs work…)
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to bullet point this guide and at the bottom of each bullet point there’s an action. Something you can do right away, to explore the point I’ve made for yourself.
- Point 1: Be patient. The health and fitness industry bandy around these ridiculous testimonials and ‘progress shots’ of people that have radically changed their nutrition and lost seemingly impossible amounts of body fat or changed some other aspect of their health. These results might very well be genuine, but they are the tip of the iceberg. You don’t think that EVERY person that buys a new car, buys a Rolls Royce…do you? Diet marketing can be the same, it’s designed to make you think EVERYONE gets the Rolls. Sadly, that just isn’t the case. Average and healthy weight loss is usually around 600g per week (That’s 2.4 kgs a month…and that’s WITH everything running perfectly, which we know it never does).
Action: How long have you stuck at a single ‘style’ of nutrition to help you improve your health? If you can’t stick to that style for at least 3 months, find a new, more manageable method because when it comes to Nutritional Health the tortoise ALWAYS wins.
- Point 2: You need to get your head around being hungry. Ok, that’s a bit blunt but I didn’t want to sugar-coat it for you (eeeeshk that’s another AWFUL pun!). We have slowly been waging a war on hunger and it’s to our detriment. Before I go any further, I’m talking about being ‘Hungry’ NOT Starving. Starving is a very real threat to not only our health but also our lives but let’s face it, if you are reading this on a device connected to the internet and live in the developed Western World you have never been STARVING. I once did a 72 hour fast and I wouldn’t consider that starving (don’t worry that’s not the action point!). Yet how many of us have used the phrase ‘I’m starving’?! Being Hungry for periods of time actually has some really positive effects on the body, not to mention helping you lose body fat if that’s what you are after. Hunger is not our enemy, Starvation is and the two are very different so make friends with hunger, it’s not that scary, honest.
Action: Play with your Hunger; pick a part of the day and commit to holding out and not eating until you get to ‘just past hungry’ before deciding to eat then just eat a normal amount. If you feel the need to overeat you may have pushed it a little far.
- Point 3: Slow…down. Mindful eating has gained a lot of traction recently and for good reason, its one of the most important aspects of learning to eat in a healthy ‘style’, if not THE most important. Don’t worry, you don’t meditate over each mouthful. Instead just try to slow down when you eat and take notice of the sensations that food gives you. WHY? Well there’s a few reasons but here are the superstars:
- You have a surprisingly accurate calorie counter inbuilt into your body, it’s called your appetite. By slowing down you give that calorie counter a chance to do its job, and by being a little more mindful you’ll learn to recognise when enough is enough.
- You can find out what you REALLY enjoy and not just what you are told you enjoy. Huh? ‘Told you enjoy’? Yup, the food marketing industry does a great job of spoon feeding you (and again with the puns) images and messages about how tasty certain things are and over time we stop thinking for ourselves and just start listening to the messages. When we slow down and actually pay attention to how something REALLY tastes the effects might surprise you. Full disclosure, I used to love a certain fast food chains burgers…the problem was they were AWFULLY unhealthy. When I was learning to eat mindfully, I committed not to, ‘not eating these burgers’ but instead, to just eat them mindfully. I started to realise that actually, I really didn’t like them that much and now can’t touch them! If you’d have asked me beforehand, I’d have said “no way…these burgers (yup plural) are my treat! So you are just going to have to trust me on this one and refer back to point 1…be patient.
Action: Pick one meal a day and set a timer, allow the meal to last over 15 minutes and then record how you feel and whether you enjoyed said meal.
- Point 4: Don’t take on too much. This guide could (and does) go on and on and on but it’s important to take little bites at a time (last one I promise). And really lock down one or two elements before moving on, just like learning anything new.
Action: Spend a few weeks just doing the above. Even when it feels like you aren’t doing enough, trust your inner tortoise, it knows its stuff.
I’d love to hear whether you found this useful, please feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or reflections on the above.
PS. You can also follow Tom on Instagram. (Edge of the Herd)
PPS. This is Lucy.