Hale – When You Can’t Stick To The Plan

After 3 weeks of following The Hale Method, I’m feeling really good. I’m training 4 times per week with a mixture of strength, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning and following a muscle building nutrition plan (that I wrote, as I’m the consulting nutritionist for the program).

I’m loving the program and this past week I noticed that my heart rate is recovering heaps better after a training session then it did at the beginning. Your heart rate doesn’t lie. In week 1, I’d be 5 minutes into the stretch session and my heart rate would still be in the orange zone (over 80% of max).  *gasp* I could pretend all I wanted that I was completely fine but my heart rate was telling a different story!

After the final high intensity session last week, I was back down into the green zone within a few minutes. Yay! It means my body is adapting and adaptation to training is what makes us ‘fit’! The science nerd in me loves this stuff!

Unfortunately, my food last week was way off plan.

I’m not going to lie. Even nutritionists find it difficult to follow a meal plan.

The perfectionist in me feels drawn to always do things perfectly. To execute the plan exactly as laid out gives me much satisfaction. Unfortunately, life is far to unpredictable and I have far too much going on for ‘perfect’ to be possible. I’m on an journey of squashing the perfectionist within and being ok with things not being 100% the way I want them to be. I’m a work in progress.

I promised myself that I would honestly demonstrate how I would follow a meal plan, in the way that I feel promotes a healthy relationship with food, my body and still gets me results.

Here’s what happened last week:

The perfectionist in me popped out after I went for my weekly body scan on Sunday, at the end of the week. It didn’t tell me what I wanted to see. You see, I’m following a muscle building plan which means I need to hit 2700 calories of high quality food per day. Due to an incredibly busy week (and a scattered brain) I forgot to bring enough food some days, misplaced snacks other days, was out during meal times and so didn’t hit my calorie quota. I came in under. A lot under. My disorganisation also meant that on the days I hit the calorie targets I did it from less than ideal food choices that I grabbed on the run.

My body scan showed slight decrease in muscle and increase in fat. Hmmmm. Despite the fact that scanning weekly is perhaps a little too often, I still let my emotions get the better of me.

I was cross and annoyed at myself. I felt down for most of Sunday which then lead me to making some less than ideal food choices for most of that day. While I was half-way through my frozen pizza (which was gross but the way) it dawned on me that my feelings dictate A LOT of how I rate how well my life is going. I let one weekly scan completely derail a great week of consistency, all because I didn’t like what I saw in the numbers. Because even though I was ‘off plan’ the bulk of my diet was still really healthy. Could it have been better? Yes. Doesn’t it matter? Not in the scheme of what I’m trying to achieve with my health.

It also important to know that changes in my body composition from week to week are so insignificant. My body composition will change from long term activity and diet quality! A week doesn’t mean much at all!

Even more ridiculous is that I’m actually feeling fantastic! I feel stronger, fitter and leaner. And even if I’m not those things yet, I feel like I am and that’s enough for me. I’ve got heaps of energy. I’m sleeping great and I’m so enjoying a 12 week program that doesn’t involve dietary restriction or trying to smash out 500 calories a day in exercise. It’s amazing!

So, from one imperfect human to another here are my tips for what to do when things go off plan:

  • Remember the fundamental keys of nutrition and if you don’t know them, get help from someone who does. I may have been off plan last week, but apart from the day when my misery got the better of me, I ate lots of unprocessed protein rich foods, heaps of vegetables, high fibre carbohydrates, fruit, nuts and legumes! Heaps of whole foods. The fundamentals of nutrition come naturally to me (it’s my career) but if you’re willing to put in the time and investment they can come naturally to you to. Knowing the fundamentals means that when the meal plan isn’t working for you, you still know what to do.
  • Focus on the positives. Don’t just focus on the scales or your body composition. These tools give us good data to track our progress but they’re not the be all and end all. Do you have more energy? Are you feeling fitter? Is eating better and exercising regularly making you feel more in control?
  • Remove the desire for perfection. The only way to break the ‘all or nothing’ mindset is to take away the pressure of being perfect. If you have a piece of chocolate, or something else off plan, that’s totally fine. Don’t let it mean that your whole day or week is ruined.
  • Try baby steps. If following the whole plan in its entirety is too hard, then just focus on one part of it. You can build on your new habits as you go. For example, start by just focusing on breakfast. Do that for a few weeks until you feel like you’ve got a handle on it. Next work on lunch and then your snacks and so on and so forth.

A program like The Hale Method is about creating an opportunity to focus on prioritising yourself to set up healthy habits to last you long term! You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be consistent.

Article by Kate Freeman

Registered Nutritionist. Writer. Presenter. Home cook. Mother. Wife. Runner. Hiker. Amateur photographer.