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'The Summer - Get Fit, Lose Fat' Programme? Here's why I think you should be avoiding it like the plague and what you could do instead...

The Sun is finally out! Suddenly we are thrown into a change of clothes a change of outlook and a creeping feeling that we should be doing something about the fact that "Summer Time' demands a 'Summer body'.

This premise is something that, culturally, we have ingrained into our thinking and, like all short term plans, focuses our attention on the here and now. So much so, you only need to mention 'Summer Fitness and/or Diet' and the algorithms on your phone will kick in with a host of options you can try to lose weight, get fit, and often in minimal amounts of time. Amazing how our thoughts can transfer into sales so quickly!

May I urge you however to refrain from buying anything diet or fitness or 'summer ready' until you have at least read this blog post!

If you follow me on Social Media you'll be aware that I am not a fan of calorie counting or anything that pitches a number 'as standard' for your body. From heart rate monitoring to BMI - my years in this field has led me to question everything! And whilst the health and wellness industries have undoubtedly moved on, you will not be alone if you still feel bound by things like the calorie counting model that's been prevalent in our society since the 1920's. This is not helped by the listing of calories on every menu and every food product you can buy. If it's good enough for the government to persuade every pub and restaurant to put into print then surely it's still the gold standard?

It's not just the governments actions however that we have to question, respected doctors and professors are doing it too. Not by going with what the government says, but by providing what looks like a fantastically researched and credible alternative - but is it? From the BBC's, Dr Michael Mosely advertising a 200 calorie shake meal alternative (which looks and sounds to me very similar to the shake replacement meals of the 1980's and 90's) To The Zoe Team and Tim Spector turning the diet world on it's head in favour of...Well here's my beef - in favour of you? Or may be in favour of a multi-million pound business?

Who do we believe in all this? Not to mention the countless influencers/ads and sponsored posts all designed to give us the latest and greatest to get you looking & feeling your best this Summer....

Here's how you can unpack all of this......

There are some really interesting facts about how diet culture became a part of us. How did the concept of dieting, calorie counting, 'watching what we eat' become a part of our psyche?

It all started in around 1918 when Lulu Hunt Peters, an American medical doctor published her first book based on a calorie counting model - the same model you now see on every restaurant menu. Calories have existed, as a method for measuring the energy values of food, since the mid 19th century. Their accuracy was questioned even then - the idea that foods values & energy expenditure could be calculated for all using a calorimeter - a method of valuing energy via a vacuumed cylinder - was nonsensical. Human bodies do not live in a vacuum! We are highly sensitised creatures with multiple & very individual factors that can affect the way we metabolise food. It may be dressed up slightly differently now, but the principles are exactly the same. (1)

Pick a number - any number! For the diet industry has done so for over a 100 years without properly checking their facts! And there you have it - a calorie controlled diet. The use of which, has created an increasing problem of metabolic disease, brought on by poor food choices & a society that values inaccurate numbers over good wholesome food.

This doesn't make all calorie counting bad. Sometimes you need a measure to help find a middle ground, for medical purposes or, from scientific perspective to keep things equal. But when it comes to a study of one - ie - YOU, It's important to acknowledge that you are unique and that YOU and your body has history! Food - like fitness is more than just the physical, the measured unit, the standard practice or indeed the latest trend. You are about your history, your future, your environment, your emotions as well as your biology which will put you on your very own unique path. You have to way up what would happen if you follow one particular plan/product, compared to what might happen if you tried something else. Would the results be the same? Is there something particularly advantageous about this service? The Marketing '4 P's' come to mind here...Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Are you buying something because of right time, right place, or are you buying something because it's genuinely going to make a difference to your life?

But shouldn't we simply believe the Science?

When a programme, regime or product is backed up by science - there are key factors to take into consideration. The research will be on a certain population, The risks and criteria to which they are being studied can be very different to yours - the obvious example here is different age groups or indeed different sexes. I am often talking about how women are so under studied in comparison to men and that results could vary considerably because of this. Fasting diets for example are widely under researched in women and anyone reporting to know and understand the differences will be talking primarily from an anecdotal perspective.

Can you trust the advice being given when it's primarily based on self analysis? Do we really know if the results some one gets is because they are following a product/plan? Or could it be because of something else? The Placebo effect really is a thing - Could this be just as important a variable as the product itself?

Another factor to note is that often products or services based on research only compare to a control and not to other products, which is why a review or 'meta analysis' where studies are compared against each other are far more important to consider. Is the product you are using unique - or could you get equal benefits from another brand? I always remember asking a leading Exercise Physiologist which was the best protocol for doing interval training or 'HIITs - he said, having looked at pretty much all the studies out there, including conducting his own - "Just do intervals - doesn't matter the protocol, you've just got to do them"

It's a reminder to us all to think seriously of where a product comes from and the motives behind its' existence.

I am of course not demonising every diet and fitness plan out there! Quite the contrary! If something really works for you then you should absolutely be doing that. It's the motives that I question - Are they really in your best interest?

Which brings me back to why I started writing this post in the first place. Perspective is a wonderful thing and whilst warm weather and summer clothes get us thinking about how we look and feel now - how about we start thinking about how we might look and feel in 10, 20 or even 30 Summers time?

When you start to think about your Summer body when you are 10 or more years older - it becomes a bit more like the purchase of a car or even a house - this really is a future investment that you want to get right.

This is about researching on how a wellness product

is going to impact on you, not just for now but for life.

So here's what I think you should consider before you take the plunge...

  • Has something been researched & is that comparable to other products on the market ?

  • Who has conducted the research? Is it an independent source? And how has it been funded?

  • Has the research been compared to other studies - is there really just one way of doing something or could you shop around to get similar or even better results elsewhere?

  • You are a variable - Even if a product has been specifically tailored to your age/sex - what else plays a part? From Placebo to genetics, your emotions, motives and everything in between - what could change the results you get?

  • Ignore what everyone else is doing! It may have worked for them and there may be a 100 reasons why it could work for you too but there could also be102 reasons why it might not!

Want to find a place you can get started? Why not join my Masterclass this Tuesday, 7.20am. - Im teaching a Fundamental Pilates Flow class online, designed for everyone and which is as much about your mind as it is about your body You can book here.

Want to understand research and how to work out whats best for you? You can join my Sunrise Programme for just £97 which includes 4 carefully curated live classes a week & the lecture "Quite Possibly the Best Fitness Programme in the World" I'll also be doing a live update of this lecture in a few weeks time - look out for dates and events coming soon. You can join this workshop for just £35.

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