'not that sort of average'

                                              'not that sort of average'

THANKS to its colloquial meaning and people’s almost-compulsive need to be exceptional, average has become quite the dirty word.

Describe someone as ‘average’ and you can kiss goodbye to that friendship. Yet when it comes to weight-management and fat loss ‘average’ can be the difference between success and failure.

In dietary terms your ‘average’ is what you’ve done at the end of the week or month when you take into account the good, bad and average days. Average is what is left after the blow-out meals, the binges and the purges.

For example, say you’re trying to lose weight and have a daily deficit target of 500kcal and for five days you come in spot on but over the weekend thanks to a normal social life you find yourself taking in 1500kcal more than you planned. Thanks to these two days you’ve now completely nullified the sacrifices you made Monday to Friday.

In fact across the whole week you now have an average daily intake surplus of 80kcal a day. Congratulations you’re now slowly putting on weight!

                                         'that's the average I was talking about'

                                         'that's the average I was talking about'

What always amazes me is that the take-home message of this article isn’t a profound insight. If you asked a child to do the pure mathematics of your average intake they’d easily come to the same conclusion.

Yet so many people turn a blind eye and deluding themselves when it comes to diet.

“Yes, but I was so good for those five days and five is a larger number than two so I must be doing well,” is a well-trodden justification.

“The five days when I restrict my diet are miserable and my week is more miserable than its fun so I must be sticking to this diet,” is another common, if slightly logically weak.

But when you think about it this sort of delusion is pretty understandable and in fact rooted in human nature and our reaction to times of restriction.

On the simplest of levels everyone over the age of 18 eats what they want to eat.

So if you have more body fat than you want its because the food you want, in portion size and food selection has made you fat.

And as a diet works when your body is forced to use stored fat for energy because it is not getting enough energy from the food you eat  to lose weight we have to restrict the amount of food and the types of foods that we want to eat.

How much we can cut out, what we cut out and how long we manage to cut things out for is what takes up so much shelf-space in bookstores.

Regardless of what a diet claims no diet allows you to ‘eat as much of the foods you want’. Eating as much of the food you want is the status quo. This is what’s made you fat.

On a diet you can certainly eat ‘as much as you want’ of certain foods but these foods will certainly not be the things you want to eat.

Other diets might allow you to eat more food than you’ve had before, but again this is most likely to be food that you currently have no inclination to eat – regardless if its better or healthier food.

All of which means to lose weight you have to have less of the foods that you want. Which is not a happy thought, it’s annoying, it’s miserable and it’s frustrating. This is a restriction and a stressor and when your willpower and resolve can’t match your desire to eat you’ll break and eat the foods you want to eat.

So what’s the solution? Are all diets doomed to fail?

Certainly not, the secret is to look at our ‘average’ intake – who’d have thought ‘average’ would be the key?

As long as your average is where it needs to be for weight loss then you’ll be fine. Which means you can have periods of ‘relaxation’ and periods of ‘strictness’.

And this is where the personalisation of a nutrition plan is important. It might be that you have an iron will and can go 28-days without flinching, then need a week to relax before getting back to business.

It might be that you need frequent comfort breaks in which case you might benefit from a small number of “pleasure meals” throughout the week.

Or it might be that you exist somewhere in between the two and find you can hold off the forces of temptation for around five days before needing a day to relax.

In each case the size and frequency of this ‘dietary relaxation’ is entirely dependent on how this will affect your daily or weekly average.

Obviously people who deviate less can pause more often while those who pause less frequently can afford to deviate more.

But in all cases the diet will only work if you can keep yourself in a calorific deficit and this will only happen when you ensure your ‘average’ stays under your calorific target.