Won’t all that sugar make you fat?

I decided to write a blog post to answer all of the questions I get asked ALL the time on Instagram. I only actually discovered direct messaging on Instagram relatively recently, and I was actually horrified to see the number of private messages I’d received – all of them seemingly asking the same questions. ‘Won’t you get fat eating so much food?’ ‘Won’t all that sugar make you fat?’ ‘Do you have high cholesterol and blood pressure?’ ‘Is all that food you eat in that bowl just a style of intermittent fasting?’ I mean come on, they are all absolutely RIDICULOUS, I don’t even know where to start without going off on a huge rant.

Someone seriously thinks that I eat a bowl of cake, chocolate, cereal and nut butter as my ONLY meal a day!? ‘Won’t I get fat?’ Well you tell me, am I fat!? I’m not in great shape, there are many things I would love to change about myself but am I fat.. no!! Maybe I’m just missing something, but I can’t understand why everyone has such a huge fear of sugar. First it was fat, then it was carbs and now it’s sugar!? Sugar does not make you fat. No food does. A calorie excess does. Eating too many apples or too much broccoli could make you fat if you managed to eat them in such large quantities that you consumed too many calories! Believe it or not there is no secret formula or magical potion. I’m not quite sure what people expect me to say when they ask ‘how do you eat so much and stay so thin?’ I don’t take some wonderful pills or drink some fabulous slimming tea that miraculously makes me never gain weight! The key is consistency and balance. I always eat treats and will never deprive myself of foods I love and for that reason I never have crazy binges or desperately try to cram in all my favourite foods on a certain day of the week stupidly labelled a ‘cheat day’. Another word I cannot stand – ‘cheat’. I often get asked my views on ‘cheat days’ or ‘cheat foods’.. maybe they work for some people but really, who are you cheating on!? Broccoli? Lettuce!? To have to label foods as good or bad makes no sense to me. Food is just food! Yes, of course some should be consumed more mindfully than others, but at the end of the day the body needs fuel, whether it comes from steamed broccoli or a dominos pizza!

It’s the same every time I post a picture of myself, or a picture of my nightly dessert bowls.. I get comments and direct messages asking me the same thing over and over again! Rather than type out the same response every single time someone asks me I decided to invite people to ask questions and just write a post which I can then direct people to!

I’m sorry that I can’t provide anyone with a magical formula to eat all the food and not put on weight, and yes I do appreciate that everyone is different and although I’m small I do have a fast metabolism so I’m probably able to eat a fair bit more than other people. But there are plenty of tips which I can share with you which I try to live by:

1. Balance balance balance!! I feel like a broken record but this is the number one key thing for me, and I exercise it every single day. Eat balanced meals and nutritious foods but allow yourself plenty of treats too! I love food so much that I would be miserable if I didn’t allow myself to eat the things I enjoy. I just make sure that amongst all of the treats I TRY to fit in plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables too! The key is consistency, so if there are a few odd days when that’s not possible, or if I’m on holiday then I just accept that the foods which I’m eating won’t be so nutritious and I’ll get back on track when I next can.. which leads me to my next point..

2. Don’t stress!! Don’t stress, overthink or overcomplicate things! I find that the more I think about something, the more I worry, stress and build it up to be a much bigger thing than it is. When something is on my mind, no matter how silly – I may have thought that I upset someone (they probably don’t remember!), I may be worrying about work, family, even not getting enough sleep (!!) – I sometimes get so anxious that I can’t sleep or even go for five minutes without feeling the need to talk about it even though I know that it won’t help me in the slightest! The same can be said for food – if you just eat when you’re hungry or treat yourself when you fancy it, rather than worrying and stressing about whether you can or can’t have it, or whether it’s good or bad, the chances are you’ll approach food with a more relaxed attitude.

3. Stay active when you can. I don’t necessarily mean working out, I just mean getting fresh air and walking around! I have days during busy periods at work where I’ll sit down for 14-16 hours straight at a desk, getting up only when I absolutely have to go to the toilet or get a drink and it makes me feel rubbish.. which makes me far more likely to make poor food choices and generally feel low in confidence!

4. Mix up your food – don’t cook boring meals! Who wants to eat chicken, broccoli and brown rice every day!? If you do then good for you, don’t read on 🙂 but personally I want to eat meals that I enjoy and look forward to! During the week I try to cook healthy and nutritious meals – a veg stew, a stir fry, chicken fajitas, a homemade curry or better versions of the things I love – homemade burgers or pizzas for example – it genuinely doesn’t even feel like I’m eating healthily as I enjoy it so much! If there are times when I don’t have time to cook, see point 2 – don’t stress! No one is perfect, there are a limited number of hours in the day.. if you don’t have time to cook then just accept it and make the best of what you have! I generally try to cook huge portions and freeze them as it’s less time consuming to cook that way and I’ll usually have something in the freezer to eat if I’m really stuck.

5. Enjoy eating out!! I love eating out and I really look forward to it, particularly at weekends when I’ll travel into London to cross more places off my ever-growing list of places to visit! To me, if you’re going to sit there and be miserable watching your friends eat good food while you’ve ordered something that you don’t like just because it’s the ‘healthy option’ there’s no point in even bothering to go out! My advice would be that when you’re eating out, just order whatever you want, enjoy it, enjoy making memories with friends/family/whoever you’re with and don’t feel guilty about it! No doubt if you’re one of these people who worries, then you make reasonably good food choices when you aren’t eating out anyway! Life is for living and enjoying.. so go and enjoy it 🙂

6. Workouts.. this is something I get asked about all the time – how often do I workout and for how long. Everyone is different of course and I know many people follow a plan or structure. I am absolutely not saying that’s a bad way to go about working out, and by all means do it if it works for you, but don’t just follow it mindlessly – think about what you’re training and why. Don’t follow a plan that tells you that you HAVE TO go to the gym 5 times a week (particularly if it’s not achievable given your lifestyle) because you’re just going to feel guilty or demotivated when life (work, social life, anything!) gets in the way and you don’t make it. Personally I like to take a more relaxed approach. I’m not training to be a bikini competitor, nor do I have any particular goals, other than to stay fit, strong and healthy. It’s quite a recent thing that I’ve stopped writing any sort of plan for the week because I realised that it was an unnecessary source of stress – I used to worry about what I’d train on which day and constantly wonder if I should change it! For me at the moment, it doesn’t matter! My only goal is to fit some workouts in and to stay active, whatever form it takes. I will try to fit in a couple of weights sessions and maybe a circuit each week but generally I’ll go to the gym and decide on the way there what I feel like doing! Some weeks I may opt to walk outside instead with music, or play sport – whatever takes my fancy 🙂

7. Gym – get in and get out! In my opinion, quality over quantity definitely applies when it comes to working out. Let me paint you two pictures-

  • Get to the gym after work. Work hard, feel good. Shower and go to meet friends for a late dinner.
  • Get in. Start working out. Have a rest, play on your phone. Lift a few weights. Check the time. Feel the need to stay longer because 40 minutes ‘isn’t long enough for a workout’. Do some more half hearted workout to pass the time. Realise it’s late and that you’ve spent your entire evening in the gym.

Seems like a no brainer right!? Yet I still see people in the gym for hours, half heartedly working out, on their phones, doing cardio for hours looking miserable. My motivation levels are also highest if I go there, smash a good workout, then leave and get on with everything else I want to do! There’s no point in spending hours on end at the gym – I’m sure that you all have better things to do, and if you push yourself hard enough then you shouldn’t need to. I can’t understand the mentality of working out every day and spending hours at the gym. I recently went to my first workout class in London as it was a free trial (they usually cost around £20!) and there was a girl there who did 2 classes back to back! Not only id she spend £40 and waste her entire morning, there’s no way that she can have pushed herself 100% in both classes. Sadly I’m sure that she’s just one of many who think that quantity > quality still applies. When people in the fitness industry say that they ‘don’t have hours to workout’ then do 2 workouts a day it just makes me laugh. For people that work long or unsociable hours, I know what it’s like to actually not have time to fit a workout in! My gym is open from 6am – 9pm so often by the time I’ve factored in my commute it literally is impossible to get to the gym. Personally I try to avoid the gym all together at weekends. I generally go quite often during the week, and after a long week at work, I want to spend my weekends with family, friends and eating out! There is no need to workout every day, and certainly no need to work out for hours each day. That said, there are sometimes times at weekends when I’ll wake up and I might feel like I want to do a quick workout if I have had a busy week at work and haven’t had time to make it to the gym much. Driving to the gym, changing and getting back always seems to take a while, even if I only work out for a short time – I’d rather do a quick home HIIT workout – it takes 15 minutes or less (and trust me if you do it properly you won’t want to do a second more!).

8. It’s okay to slip up. Nothing will ever go perfectly, it’s called life! There will be times when you planned to workout, and your train home got delayed so you didn’t make it. Or times when you had all the best intentions to cook a healthy meal for dinner, but something came up at work, you had to stay and then you got a takeaway either because you ate in the office or because when you finally got home you just couldn’t be bothered to cook! That’s FINE! It’s consistency that gets results, not a couple of missed workouts or poor meal choices! It’s also fine to not always have a great workout. I have plenty of terrible workouts, and I’m sure that everyone does. Don’t beat yourself up about it, it happens to everyone!

9. Rest and make time for yourself.. I am personally rubbish at this and I have to make a conscious effort to to it. I don’t mean taking rest days, as I do take rest days every week, but I’m terrible at just switching off! When my boyfriend is here, we’ll watch movies together, sit on the sofa, chat and relax, but when I’m alone I constantly feel like I need to be doing something productive! I find it so difficult to just put my feet up with a cup of tea and do nothing.. but it’s so important for both mental and physical wellbeing. No one can keep going forever, and I always know when I’m in need of some quiet time because I don’t sleep well, I feel anxious and stressed and no amount of coffee can cure my tiredness. Don’t forget that often rest can be more beneficial than a workout.

10. Finally, and most importantly. DON’T compare yourself to others in a negative way! This is another one I’m awful at and I try to work on it every day. I have so many body confidence issues, and I really struggle to find positive things to say a lot of the time. I find myself comparing myself to other people, and I’m always comparing myself to their strengths.. It’s as though I take the best bits of hundreds of different people, combine them into one super-person (who doesn’t and won’t ever exist), and then I put myself down because I’m nothing like them.. of course I’m not! Everyone is different, everyone has their own good and bad. I’ll always be the first person to doubt myself or to put myself down and it’s completely pointless! Rather than thinking ‘that person can do [X] better than me,’ how about thinking ‘that person can do [X] better than me but I can do [Y] better than them!’ I also compare myself to people people on social media – and from the number of comments I see around, I can tell everyone else does that too – comparing to people who eat better, work out more, look better. Be realistic! Who seriously takes a photo after a huge meal when they’re feeling bloated on a bad hair day with poor lighting and no make up on and posts it on social media!? The chances are, you’re comparing yourself at your worst with others at their best! Use others to inspire you, to motivate you and to bring out the best in yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who support you and choices which you make. People who encourage you, enjoy the good times with you, and help you to get through the bad. I’m lucky enough to have the most incredibly supportive friends and boyfriend, who are there for me no matter what.. and every time I’m feeling down about myself I try to take a step back and remind myself just how lucky I am 🙂

I think that a lot of the questions which I got asked were covered above but here are some others:

How much do you workout/what do your workouts normally consist of? I workout around 3-5 times per week, but this varies hugely each week, depending on work and other plans. For example, this week due to the long weekend/Easter, I have a lot of things planned so I only managed to fit in a couple of workouts. I usually do weights twice per week and some form of circuit or interval training once a week – the rest of the time I just see what I feel like doing and I try to play badminton at least once a week because I enjoy it! 🙂

How many meals/snacks do you usually eat? I have four meals a day usually – two breakfasts, one before work and one I get to work, lunch, dinner and I guess the yogurt bowl is a 5th if you count it since it’s usually pretty big! I have a mid morning snack and an afternoon snack, and sometimes a snack on my way home as my commute is long and i’m quite impatient to wait for dinner! At weekends it’s different, I’ll usually just have three meals but they’re usually a lot bigger, and I’ll snack as and when I fancy.. I’m usually around London discovering new food places and going from cafe to cafe between meals! 😛

What do you do for work? I’m a general insurance actuary at one of the big four audit firms. It’s a very sedentary office job, much like most people’s jobs and can involve very long and unsociable hours.. plus a long commute from north of London to SE London!

Do you follow any sort of calorie count/macros or is it a case of ‘I fancy it I’ll have it?’ Nope, I’ve never tracked and I never will. For me it’s far too restrictive and time consuming. I don’t feel as though I have enough hours in the day to sleep and spend time with loved ones, let alone weigh and measure every last morsel of food! My intake will also vary a lot each day, depending on what I’m doing, how many meals I eat out for, etc. I think it forces people to have a very unhealthy relationship with food, as they’re constantly aware of what/how much they’re eating, rather than just eating when they’re hungry!

Any protein bars/snacks that I would recommend as a must try? I’ll do a whole post on all of my favourite snacks soon but Grenade carb killa bars are my all time number one at the moment and I also love fit elite bars!

How come you’re on here? Honestly, it all started out as me just taking photos of my food, almost as an online photo library for myself (and anyone who was interested!) but over time it’s become somewhere where I try to promote balance and help people who are struggling with unhealthy relationships with food.. and I’ve met some pretty amazing people too!

How do you eat so much and not work out that much.. you don’t track at all.. any idea what amount of cals you’re on or just eat what you want? Did you just keep increasing calories or just an insane metabolism. Just tell me all your secrets.. Okay firstly,THERE IS NO MAGIC SECRET! All of the tips above should help but seriously.. do people really think there is a secret to it!? It’s really very simple – stay active, fuel your body, don’t restrict any foods or food groups, treat yourself and fit in plenty of nutritious meals! Also can we please be real!? In the real world, for people with non-fitness related jobs, 3-5 times a week is MORE than enough!! Everyone needs rest days, not everyone has time to workout every day and some weeks during busy periods, the reality is that I workout a lot less! In busy periods I’ll work 8am-midnight some days.. so not only is there literally no time to workout by the time I’ve added on a 3 hour commute – that leaves me 5 hours to sleep and that’s it! It’s about a sustainable lifestyle.. working out but still having time to live life! Even when I don’t work such crazy hours would I want to use that extra time to gym!? Most of the time, no! I use it to see friends, spend time with my boyfriend, rest, relax, watch TV.. things which every normal human does! And no, I really honestly have absolutely no idea what number of calories I eat each day (I can’t even remember what I”ve eaten so far today and it’s only 11.30am!), and I’m pretty sure it varies hugely each day. One of my friends once told me that she thinks I easily hit 4000-5000 calories a day when I go to London and eat out for 3 meals + snacks, but equally there are days during the week when I don’t eat out at all! Even if I did have any idea, it would be less than useless to anyone but me! Everyone is different – everyone has different bodies, metabolism, lifestyles and build! I build leg muscle like crazy – I only have to do squats once a week and my legs get noticeably bigger. Some people may do them every other day and struggle to build muscle. Equally abs don’t come easily to me but some people naturally have them. 

I hope that this helps 🙂 I know that it’s easy for me to take things for granted and to forget how hard it is for some people to find a balance, but don’t forget to look at the bigger picture – eating badly or missing workouts is absolutely not the end of the world. Be grateful that you have a healthy working body, the ability to workout if you want to and the option to eat different foods – there are millions of disadvantaged people in the world who are living in poverty without the possibility to eat good food or people with disabilities who are literally incapable of working out and it’s easy to forget that when wrapped up in small day-to-day worries like whether or not you should have that slice of cake or whether or not you’ll have time to make it to the gym! Ultimately remember that you only have one life.. so enjoy it, and make it worth living! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Won’t all that sugar make you fat?

  1. I really wish more people understood this. My friends starve themselves and spend hours doing cardio and I can see their eyes judging me when I order a burger at a restaurant. And yet they’re so unhappy with themselves and just won’t admit it to themselves. I might have to show them this 👊👊 you are a lifestyle icon

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    1. Thank you Jess! I feel like the fitness industry often sets unrealistic expectations about people’s lifestyles and I always try to help other people see/understand that it’s not necessary to deprive themselves of treats or spend hours working out – it’s perfectly possible to eat out, have treats and be fit and healthy! Life is for enjoying after all 🙂

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