Since qualifying and beginning my life as a PT and coach in 2012, I've seen and tried out so many variables of training and nutrition on both myself and my clients. One thing I can 100% say is - not one person is genetically the same and as a result there is not one ideal food/ training plan that will suit everyone equally.
This brings us to my first key to success - individuality. 'But what about Paleo, IIFYM, Slimming World, they all worked for my friends?' The reasons 'fad diets' manage to get such hype is down to the fact that if you have 'X' amount of people that try it out, out of these 'X' amount, there's a good chance the Genetic make up of a portion of these people will allow for positive results, these are then the poster kids for this 'diet' and all of a sudden it's the 'next big thing'.
When a new client walks into my gym, my approach is based on a number of key concepts rather than specific diet plans. After questions based on family history, lifestyle, food diaries, Bio Signature readings etc. I can then look at what some of the underlying causes for weight gain (for example) might be. Do they hold weight in their hips and around their scapula? Ok, maybe they're over doing it on the carbohydrates, let's just check their food diary... Yep, they like to start their day on coco pops and finish it with a comforting bowl of ice cream, not to mention the slice of cake they indulge in with an afternoon cup of tea. Or is it that they feel lean all over, but they just can't get that pouch of fat off from around their belly no matter what 'diet' they've tried? Questions surrounding their work/life balance, sleep, abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, painkillers, sugars, relationship issues, the list goes on, could bring up some answers that raise alarm bells for me. The client more than likely isn't dealing with stress very well specifically the hormone cortisol. Noting this we would look at a plan implementing changes beginning with their lifestyle, then food and then some supplement changes to help address the initial complaint of excess body fat. Maybe this persons Questionnaire tells me they've tried a higher fat based diet and it really wasn't for them, but they've seen better results physically and mentally on a higher carbohydrate based diet. The list of alternative possibilities goes on, but the point remains the same - we are all individual and as such shouldn't be treated the same when coming to a professional for help.
Now just like the concepts I have, I also have scientific facts and studies to help back me up when I start with a client. Generally an overweight client will suffer somewhat from all of the above, having built up a big resistance to carbohydrates from over doing carb consumption for too long, which in turn leads them to have over abused their adrenals and therefor they have those problems we talked about when dealing with stress. With these guys and gals I would tend to minimise carbohydrate consumption, not necessarily long term, but initially to build up a tolerance for your newly parted macros. In these cases I have a very clear idea what would work for each of them, but what they will individually adhere to is a different story. Small changes work best for some, whilst others feel this is a waist of time given their 'all or nothing attitude', but as long as we are certain they're not setting themselves up for failure, we will be happy with either.
To follow on from the above points, I will now talk more about my second key to success - consistency.
I want to introduce to you a client I have just finished up with and also comparatively some others I have dealt with in the past. This client who we shall name Jenny for today's purposes, is a retired Irish National Rugby player, left with two shoulder surgeries and a hip of an 80 year old at the age of 50, who has just finished a 3 month focused training and nutrition plan, in the lead up to a photo shoot celebrating her 50th year on this planet *hip hip hooray!*. One thing I heard from said client was 'I thought this would be harder?' After hearing horror stories of 'cuts' and 'starve yourself diets' she was quickly relieved to find out that was not what I had in store for her. To cut a long story short, what helped Jenny lose over 6% body fat (starting above 23% and dropping to 17%) in this space of time was of course... Consistency! For the first four weeks or so, we saw a big change - as we all tend to. The second four week period was the brain breaker, things slow down a touch and it is where most fail. Now we're into the final four weeks, our body has just said 'ahh I get it now, shift that fat!!'. Giving your body a significant amount of time to realise what it is you want from it, is a hugely over looked principle that most short sighted humans do not see. Without the perseverance of a bull who's seeing red, Jenny would not have made such fantastic changes.
Now you're all probably thinking, that '3 month transformation' is a fad diet as such. It might have a similar label, but really all that this was, was a time period of consistency and focus on eating well and training hard. We did not starve Jenny, she ate very well the whole time, increasing carbohydrates as time went on - good things come to those who wait :). What we are now left with is somebody who has built up some very good habits, dropped a tonne of weight, who can now be more flexible with their food choices, is overall happier and healthier and because she never felt hard done by, is still, post photo shoot doing exactly as she had done before (minus a nice cheat night).
The same goes for all aspects of life, be it sport, work, hobbies. A friends individual approach to that new golf swing or a certain jiu jitsu fighters individual amazing style, may in fact just be amazing for his or her body types. Try what works best for you and your body and consistently grow from strength to strength in this area.
A related topic in which I must note, is that of 'process vs goal'. Most of the time for me, people come in search of that bombshell body, but in the end really find that the true benefit in making these positive changes come in the form of heightened energy levels, improved sleep, less brain fog and a higher sense of well being. So many people are focused on the end goal and not the process - or in other words, six pack for holidays vs sustainable lifestyle / sustainable physique. I know from experience that the elusive six-pack does not equal happiness as a stand-alone measure, whilst your improved quality of life during the process is where contentment truly lies. This process vs goal attitude will be another blog post to come.
So to take away and reiterate what I have said above, no two people are the same and no quick fix is going to help you make those changes that you really want deep down. Figure out what works for you both positively towards your goals but also something you know you will adhere to. Then make sure to stick to this new lifestyle avoiding the opportunity for a quick fix / quick break alternative.
Yours in health and wellbeing,