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Take Your Time – Eat Slowly

The typical day:

Wake up in the morning, race down the stairs, grab a coffee and run out the door with your piece of fruit or some breakfast on the go and eat on the commute to work. Busy day at work, so you grab a sandwich or your lunch you managed to prepare the night before, eating it at your desk while responding to emails, answering calls or eating it on the run between meetings.

Get home in the evening, pop the dinner on the plate and eat it off your lap while catching up on something you recorded on sky. All meals eaten in under 5 minutes.

The ‘perfect day’:

Wake up in the morning, stroll down the stairs, sit down and have your breakfast at the kitchen table, relaxing and potentially even enjoying the food that you’re eating. 20 or so minutes pass and after you have finished breakfast and had that mug of coffee, off you go to work. Lunchtime arrives, and you take your prepared lunch and get out of the office or at the very least away from the desk. The phone is left in the drawer and again you enjoy meal 2 away from the stress of the work environment. After the commute home, you sit down to dinner that you either prepped at the weekend or cooked fresh that evening. Eating at a leisurely pace you don’t even manage to finish your entire plate because for some reason you are fuller than you normally are. The leftovers are popped in the fridge for a snack or to use for lunch tomorrow.

Which day is better? The second day. Which is more likely? The ‘typical day’.

A typical question I get asked is “so what difference does it even make how fast I eat my food? It’s all the same at the end of the day. It’s just fuel to keep me going”. Yes, it is fuel, but no it is not all the same. Eating slowly, acknowledging and even enjoying the food that you are eating has legitimate benefits. I don’t claim to be an expert on this but from my studies and research on the topic (as well as a little common sense!) it is well worth taking some time to enjoy your food.

Why?

1. You recognise when you are full.

Being able to sense satisfaction and knowing when to stop eating is the easiest form of portion control. It is a great way for people trying to reduce their daily calorie intake. Generally, it takes in the region of 20 minutes for the brain to send out those signals of fullness. For example, if you eat a 500-calorie meal in 5 minutes then you still think you are hungry, so you will go back for seconds and end up eating close to 700-800 calories. However, if you ate the 500-calorie meal in approx. 20 minutes, firstly you are more like to enjoy it as you have not inhaled it and secondly you will feel fuller by the end of it, therefore not going back for seconds. Slow and steady wins the race in this case!!

2. Improves digestion.

If we eat too fast, then we don’t give our stomach enough time to go through the steps our body needs to digest our food. It is not being processed properly and then along comes the indigestion and other GI problems. Chew the food, don’t inhale it!! If it is on your plate, it is your food, so it will still be there in 5, 10 or 15 minutes!

3. Portion control.

Simply, eating slowly means eating less. It doesn’t feel like you are restricting your intake and starving yourself on your new ‘diet’. All you have done is slowed down. For those of you that are quick eaters the drawbacks can include weight gain and disordered eating. Definitive research has also confirmed that fast eaters do tend to gain more weight over time than slow eaters.

So, how do I slow down?

  1. Put those utensils down between bites.
  2. Eat in an environment where you’re not surrounded by TV’s, iPads, phones, laptops etc
  3. Use smaller plates, knives and forks. Might look silly but it is a legitimate option to help you slow down (probably a bit easier if you are a parent to small children!)
  4. Simply chew the food for longer or for some of you, simply start chewing.

Clearly not everyone is able to have the perfect day scenario every day. Life gets in the way, routines are broken due to work and family commitments. However, a conscious effort to slow down as many meals as possible over the course of the week can create a better relationship with food. For anyone looking to control their intake or shed a few pounds, then slow down. It is better than feeling like you are depriving yourself of food. You might even grow to enjoy it.

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Nutrition chat with Crossfit Perpetua Coach James Rankin

Back in July 2018, I ran another iteration of the group nutrition challenge in Perpetua Crossfit Dublin where over a 4 week period we dialed in the nutrition of a group of 30 members and also 1 coach. That coach was James Rankin.

James has been coaching in Perpetua for the past year after moving down from Derry where he had been coaching previously. He took part in the month long process where we focused on the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle i.e. a well balanced plate of food, the importance of sleep, hydration, mobility and exercise along with many other areas that all mashed together make up a healthy lifestyle.

For those of you that know James and follow him on Instagram (jamessrankinn), you will know that he is partial to a picture of his food and his love of beetroot is second to none!! That aside, while he eats healthy for the most part and certainly knows how to fuel performance, he took part in the challenge as there is always room for improvement, whether it is in food choices, portion control, weekend binges or even sleep, hydration or mobility work.

After the challenge finished James had dropped over 2.5% body fat while gaining lean muscle and dropped over two inches off of his waist and hips measures. Balance and consistency in both nutrition and training trumps everything.

So after the final measures I sat down and had a quick chat with him on why he took part as well as what he took from the 4 weeks. It is short and sweet but when the answers are straight forward there is no need fill it out with a load of bulls**t!

 

Why did you take part in the Nutrition Challenge James?

In my opinion, having some accountability is super important. Regardless of what level you are at answering to somebody and knowing they are checking in with you can be the focus you need.

As a coach, how do you feel nutrition impacts the progress of your clients and the members of Perpetua that you work with daily?

I place a huge amount of value on the basics of nutrition and it is something that I go over with them time and time again. Getting the basics right is the foundation for progress. The hour that they spend in the gym everyday can only do so much. The rest i.e. their nutrition will dictate their results, or at the very least the pace at which they see their progress.

When working on plans with people, what do you focus on?

Simply put…. finding a plan that is sustainable. One that allows you to enjoy your food and be creative.

What was the biggest takeaway from the 4 weeks that we worked together?

That regardless of how well I think I am eating, there is always room for improvement. This is why nutrition is important for any and all levels, from beginner all the way through to Crossfit Games athletes.

If you had to sum up the nutrition challenge in one sentence for me what would you say?

Fun with a main focus on finding a sustainable way to eat that can be repeated after the challenge finishes!

 

As we discussed, it doesn’t matter what level you are at, everyone has room to improve. If you are looking to join a gym, get fit and are down around the IFSC in Dublin then contact James (jamesrankin@crossfitperpetua.com) and get started on your fitness journey! The man knows how to coach!!

 

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My Journey

From 120kg accountant to health and nutrition fanatic.

My journey from a career in accountancy to a career in food and nutrition is surprisingly straight forward. In 2011 I had an encounter with a guy on a night out in Cork City. I mentioned that I had seen him in the gym a few times to which he responded “There’s no chance you were ever in the gym”. Little did I know that this guy would plant the seed that would eventually lead to the creation of Parallel Nutrition!
Fast forward to the end of 2012. I had completed my degree in Finance, my MSc in Corporate Finance and had the grand intention of making it big in London or New York, eventually earning for my 1st million! However, I had finally begun to get fit again.

After that run in with my ‘friend’ I had caught the exercise bug. Whether it was out of being embarrassed in front of my friends or wanting to prove this guy wrong I began to regularly go to the gym and start to look after myself again. The interest in training grew, getting fit, eating better and improving my general health slowly became a bigger focus. I moved to Dublin in September 2012 and began work in PwC and trained every morning or evening or sometimes both while continuing my studies and eventually qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.
Towards the end of my 4-year stint I was now at the stage where I had shed 35kgs, was training 5-7 sessions per week and was also meal prepping religiously every Sunday to stay on top of the busy schedule during the week. I had started meal prepping for a couple of friends, when one suggested I should pursue it as a business as I might be onto something. So, I had a quick scan of the industry to see what was out there and was the demand there. While all of this was going on I had also began studying to obtain my certification with Precision Nutrition so that I could better understand how to now guide other people towards their health and nutrition goals, whether big or small. Slowly but surely the meal preparation and delivery grew and I decided that after 4 years, having qualified as an accountant, that I was going to take the leap and dive head first into making something that had begun with “There’s no chance you were ever in the gym” into a fully-fledged business where not only am I providing advice and guidance on how to achieve your goals, I am also able to provide the food to help you stay on track. From something that began as an interest in getting fitter, shedding a few pounds and showing this guy that I do look after myself, I discovered something that I am incredibly passionate about, always looking to learn more about and constantly striving to improve both my health and fitness. This passion was something that had been missing for a few years and so Parallel Nutrition was born.

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Why you should set goals

Goals range from small to large, short term to long term, work goals, family goals, educational goals, fitness goals, the list is endless. Sometimes you don’t even realise that you have set a goal, big or small e.g. I will get this report finished by 11am, I will meal prep for the next 4 days tonight, I will finish my degree and qualify as a doctor/vet/nurse/accountant (me in a previous life!!). Goals are what you reach for and are oftentimes what get you through every day.

If you are setting goals without realising it then why should I even bother sitting down and writing out some specific goals? Here is why you should:

 

  1. Goal setting allows you to develop a clear plan: Without a clear plan you may not know what you want to achieve and will therefore struggle to accomplish them. If you set a clear plan you create direction. If you create direction you can put in place actions to get you moving along the path towards accomplishing the goal. Whether long term or short term having a clear plan will allow you to reach your goal faster.

 

  1. Helps to figure out what you should prioritise: To put it simply, prioritising reduces time wasting. After you have set your end goal, you should then look at the steps that are needed to reach the goal. If you identify the steps that are needed as well as some of the potential roadblocks, this allows you to prioritise the actions that you must implement. Prioritising will identify distractions e.g. television, food, internet, training the wrong areas based on your goal etc. If you have set your goal and created the plan you are now aware of these distractions and can focus on actions and activities that will add value and reduce time taken to reach that goal.

 

  1. Increases ability to identify strengths and weaknesses: By setting that goal, you can identify where you need to work most to achieve that goal. If you struggle with a specific movement in the gym e.g. overhead squat and you have the strength to hold that bar overhead but cannot get into the correct position to squat, there is a good chance that mobility is a weakness. So if you have set a goal of a 50kg overhead squat and you are already strong enough (the strength) but mobility lets you down (the weakness), you are now in a position to prioritise mobility going forward and you can now develop a clear plan as to how improve your mobility e.g. focusing on mobility work for 20 minutes a day everyday while maintaining strength, so that in 6 weeks’ time you will be able to test that overhead squat and measure the progress. This identification of strengths and weaknesses can be applied to any area of your life and is a great tool to help you dial in on areas that need more work. The areas that need extra work will be the reason you are able to achieve your final goal quicker.

 

It is also important to be aware of the disadvantages that can be associated with setting goals e.g. additional pressure (by a workplace colleague, family member or yourself) to reach a goal, which may not be attainable. There can also be the sense of failure attached to not reaching that goal. Setting an unrealistic goal that you will never reach will generally lead to you not setting another goal as there was no sense of satisfaction and no reward. Therefore, it is important to keep it realistic, set reachable goals, bask in the glory of attaining the goal and then set the next goal. If you feel like the goal was met too easily then make it slightly harder. Refine it, reduce the target time, increase the target weight, increase the number of days you must exercise, increase your target sales number etc.

 

How do I figure out whether the goal I have set is reachable? One of the most effective tools I have come across is the very simple SMART model. Below is a quick breakdown of what the SMART model entails:

S – Specific: The more specific you are, the more likely you are to reach the goal. I want to earn loads of money vs I want to earn €10,000 per month for the next 20 years by developing a new app. The first goal is not specific, the second goal is.

M – Measurable: Break it down into small elements. By having measurable elements in place to track progress, you will be able to see if you are on track, if adjustments are needed, if you are ahead of schedule. If you are not able to measure progress, how do you know if you will be able to reach that goal. I would like to be healthy is a goal but how do you measure if you are on track. To make it measurable you state, ‘I would like to be healthy so to do this I will eat 3 different vegetables every day for the next 4 weeks.’ This is measurable as in 4 weeks’ time you can check if you have done so by looking at your food diary or checking your calendar to see how many days you have marked as successful days where you have eaten 3 vegetables.

A – Attainable: If the goal is completely out of reach and you have put in all the necessary work, then it can be very demoralising. Avoid that disappointment by setting an achievable goal. You can still aim big but have goals along the way that lead you to the overall goal. Establish a reasonable timeframe to achieve the goal. If you are systematic and continue to progress, the small goals that you attain will eventually add up to that one overall goal. However, if you are unrealistic at the start and set that bar a little too high, with too short a timeframe then it is likely to lead to disappointment. Disappointment which is avoidable if you set attainable/achievable targets.

R – Realistic: Set high goals, goals that will push you and make you work, but they still need to be realistic. Make sure that the goals you set are to ultimately realise your dream, whether work, sporting or family. Set a goal that requires work, that motivates you. If it is too easy, then there is no motivation to get it done.

T – Time bound: The best way to set a goal is to set a time frame or deadline for when you need to get it done by. This is likely to give you the sense of urgency that you require to achieve the goal. Break it down into stages. If you have a 1-year goal, set mini goals for 6 months, 3 months, 1 month even 1 week. This allows you to progress along the stages that are required to reach that 1-year goal.

 

When you are setting your goal remember the following:

  • Write the goal down.
  • Use positive language when setting the goal.
  • Be as detailed as possible.
  • Make sure that you have it on display in a place that you will see it every day.

 

Challenge yourself when setting your goals but make sure that at some stage, through hard work and consistency you can reach that goal, whether it is 1 day, 1 week, 1 year or 20 years from now.