The blogs below are written in an informal style about serious, and not so serious, topics, mostly nutrition related, but also training, physiology and anything related to health, behaviour change or living life to the full. I can be opinionated so bear this in mind when reading. Enjoy.


Summer and Why food plans don't always work.

Ooooowhee, summer is coming. How do I know this? No, it isn’t the fact that I need to mow the lawns more often. Nor is it the fact that the mornings are lighter, and the days are longer. It is the barrage of fitspo advertising asking me if I am summer ready? I thought I was. I even shaved my legs on Tuesday on the off chance I may be wearing shorts soon. No, it appears now is the time to get my ‘summer body’, and I also need to spring clean my pantry if I want a ‘summer body’. Wait! What??!! I need to have a summer body!?

Honestly, stuff like this just gives me the s&%^ts. Why do we have to have a summer body? What is a summer body? I can only assume it involves a thigh gap, flat abs, tight butt, and, ermm, other stuff (I don’t really know, I am making wild assumptions here). We have ONE body, and yes it does change with the seasons, but really, we have the same body ALL YEAR. This kind of fitspo marketing preys on body insecurity, and that makes me hot under the hoody (I am still wearing non-summer clothes…. because it is cold). This marketing ploy plants the seed that a) we need to look different in summer, and b) you currently don’t, and that makes me a little cross.

Summer pretty much takes care of body composition changes in itself. The foods are different and more varied. The climate makes incidental activity more attractive and it increases; it is much easier walking, biking and anything else when it is warm and dry. Salads and fresh fruit are readily available and much cheaper because they are in season. Our moods improve because we have more Vitamin D from increased sun exposure, and we are more social and more active. We generally feel pretty good, until we are told we aren’t.

Back to the fitspo. Sign up for your summer body, get a 6-week training plan, healthy recipes and a nutritional plan to help you achieve your best summer body yet. OK, so about these recipes, do I have the facilities and capabilities to make them? Will I be able to afford the ingredients with my budget? A nutrition plan? Fascinating. As a nutritionist I only give out nutrition plans in acute situations, e.g. player x is not going to make a NZ squad if they don’t do Y. I don’t do food plans and here is why - they might work short-term, they don’t work long-term.

It’s true. Not only do they not work, but if you are getting a food plan then it should be costing you a small fortune. Why? Because they take hours, and I mean several hours, to design if you are doing them correctly, and they should take several hours every week. Any good food plan should fluctuate the intakes of nutrients (big and small) relative to what you are doing in a day, things like work, training, etc. In addition to this, the intensity of training will affect what you need as well as the timing of what you are eating. Add to this the fact that any good food plan should easily fit into your day-to-day life. No, you should not be making yourself different dinners to your family. No, you should not be buying foods you are unfamiliar with or don’t know how to cook (you can’t afford it anyway because you have just spent a small fortune on your food plan). No, you should not be eating the same plan for weeks on end. Every food plan should contain the appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals, pre- and probiotic foods and energy to ensure you are healthy. Variety is the spice of life, and eating the same stuff for weeks on end? Where is the joy? Add to this the fact that the more varied your diet, the greater the diversity of your gut microflora. Then let’s add to this that your food plan should change as your weight or body composition does. When your weight changes so too do your energy requirements. When your training changes so should your nutrition. Wait, what? Your food plan doesn’t do that? See where I am going with this.

So, you are following your plan but any potential nutritional deficits are covered because your food plan is supplemented with shakes, multvits, and other pills and potions? What if I told you a normal, healthy diet doesn’t need to be supplemented with anything? It is true, assuming of course you have no medical conditions that require medication or supplements. I am oh so skeptical of anyone who tries to sell something in addition to their professional advice. I don’t trust their motivation, and neither should you. But hey, pills, shakes, and special stuff is sexy, right? It must be making a difference because I just spent hundreds of dollars on it? Sure, if you say so. Each to their own and no judgement here, but is it sustainable, and is it a short-cut for a long-term goal?

My biggest bugbear though is that food plans teach you absolutely nothing about managing your own food intake. It teaches you nothing about the ability to manage your nutrition long-term in the absence of a plan. Yes, you may well lose weight following your plan, but then what? What happens after your 6 or 12 weeks? Hmmm, see my point? I am going to be brutally honest here; if you WANT a food plan, it is the lazy option. The biggest sign for me about a person’s willingness to own their own outcome is whether or not they request a plan. “I just want a plan Lill to tell me what to eat”. Let’s learn how you can eat, when to eat and what to eat. Let’s also learn about your bottlenecks (read the last blog for info on bottlenecks) so you can have awareness of the things that are derailing your best intentions. I can’t always be there, and neither can your food plan, that is why learning how to manage your own nutrition is so important.

I have been reflecting on why fads are so popular yet common sense seems to have taken a walk right out of the arena. Why is a normal healthy diet, regular exercise (in any way, shape or form), and good sleep not enough to get people posting, commenting and sharing their success stories? I haven’t figured out the answer yet, and I need facts not opinions, so until I am confident, and I have appropriately read and researched the literature I will not comment.

In the interim, I am proposing a new ‘summer body’. It is one that allows you to do what you want, to participate in activities you enjoy, that doesn’t ache or hurt, that doesn’t get sick all the time, or feel tired all the time. A summer body that is functional and healthy, regardless of how it looks. Oh, and the best thing, this type of summer body looks good all year round.