This morning as I was looking for some inspiration for this week’s article, I noticed that the latest social media sensation is something called the “Dadbod.”

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it was apparently popularized by an American student called Mackenzie Pearson in a post on website, and it refers to a male body type that is “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out”.

According to Pearson this particular shape says to her that “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.”

And the good news for all the lads out there that enjoy similar nutrition and training habits is that according to Ms. Pearson, girls love that look. So, it appears that all the time that you’ve spent attempting to develop a rock-hard six-pack and bulging biceps has been a complete waste of time.

Apparently, the reason this look is irresistible to women is because they feel less intimidated standing beside a lad carrying a few extra pounds of flab, and obviously he’s going to be more fun to cuddle.

But it seems there’s some long term strategic planning going on as well. Pearson reckons that women map out their future pretty early in a relationship and don’t like too many surprises. So they feel more comfortable dating a man in his twenties who already has the body of a 45 year old!

Needless to say this opinion has sparked a fair amount of controversy and it has thrown up allegations that society has double-standards for what is considered physically attractive in men and women. There have also been a number of comments on how it portrays women and their preferences for an “ideal” partner.

I believe you could spend a long time and waste a lot of energy trying to argue about the ethical, moral and socio-psychological implications of body-image in general and the Dadbod phenomenon in particular. So rather than get too deep or heavy, here’s my take on the subject.

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Own Goal

In recent weeks I’ve written about various ways that you can help to improve your motivation to train more often and improve your food choices. The reason I spend so much time on this subject is because I believe that it is the biggest factor that prevents people achieving their health and fitness goals.

As a good example we only need to look at the annual New Year’s Resolutions Madness. In the 1st week of January, thousands of people across the country sign up to weight-loss programmes and take out gym memberships. By the 1st week in February most of them are back on their couches, munching away on snacks and watching tv. And they’ll probably stay there till around the 1st week of January the following year.

There are a lot of reasons that this happens: some people can’t make the time to train due to work/home commitments, others find that they don’t enjoy the experience, while some will quit due to the fact that progress is slower than they were expecting, and they feel that they’re wasting their time.

And in most cases there will have been no specific goals. Or else, there were goals that were not suitable to the individual.

The whole purpose of a goal is that it should be big enough to motivate you, but small enough to be achievable. But most importantly, it must be relevant and actually mean something to you. There’s no point jumping on the bandwagon and deciding that you have to run a marathon because everybody you know is doing it, or that you have to be 2 dress sizes smaller because all the “Health & Beauty” magazines say you should be.

In cases where goals or targets are imposed on us, there’s a natural tendency to rebel, or at least to not put in the required effort. Goals that we freely choose ourselves tend to work far better.

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Prevention and Cure

When we start a training programme, there’s a reasonable expectation that the result of our efforts will be improved fitness, energy and a reduction in body fat levels.

However, things don’t always go according to plan and there will be times when illness and injury will slow down or even halt our progress.

At times like that, it can be very frustrating to have to take a break from training – especially when you’re enjoying it and starting to see some positive results. When this happens, it can sometimes be hard to get back the motivation that got you started in the first place.

On the basis that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, we can look at some ways to help prevent illness and injury.

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Counting Calories

Today we’ll look at possibly one of the most confusing aspects of nutrition in general – and “weight-loss diets” in particular- calorie control.

As you’re probably aware, there are dozens if not hundreds of different diets that are promoted as being the ultimate weight-loss plan. Although they may be different in content, the one thing that they will all have in common is that they’ll encourage you to “reduce calories”. In other words, eat less.

Some will give general guidelines while others may be specific enough to require that you have your kitchen scales and calculator nearby in order to weigh and measure your meals.

So what exactly are calories, and how much do we need to focus on them? We can start by understanding that a Calorie – also known as a Kilocalorie- is simply a unit of measurement of energy. It’s actually the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of I kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

Therefore we can measure the food we eat in terms of the amount of calories -or energy – that it will provide. Likewise, physical activity is rated in terms of how much energy or calories we use up while doing it. As mentioned earlier, all successful weight- loss diets rely, to some degree, on creating a calorie deficit, which means that you’ll be using up more calories in daily activity than you’ll take in through your food and drink.

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Paralysis By Analysis

Modern technology in general – and the internet in particular – has brought huge benefits to our lives. Aside from numerous labour-saving devices and entertainment gadgets, we now have access to almost unlimited information.

It’s been argued on several occasions that labour-saving devices are partly responsible for the decrease in levels of overall physical activity. Increased use of cars, dishwashers, remote controls, game consoles and even robotic vacuum cleaners have therefore been held partly responsible for the increase in obesity levels.

However I believe that some of the blame lies in the unlimited information that we now have.

Just think about it for a moment. Imagine that you are carrying a few pounds (or maybe a lot) of extra body fat. Alternatively, your body weight might not be a problem but you’d like to get stronger or fitter.

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Do What Works For You

There are a number of sayings that remind us that there is a repetitive nature to world events and also to what goes on in our own lives. It’s often been said that “History Repeats Itself”, “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” and also that if you hang onto your old clothes for long enough, eventually they’ll come back into fashion.

Numerous boom times have been followed by economic downturns, oil prices peak and drop down again, and there are always wars going on in some part of the planet.

So how can we use this fascinating insight to help you get fitter, stronger or leaner?

I believe that for many people, there are also times of Boom and Bust in their fitness and nutrition programmes. You may have noticed that you’ve had times when everything went almost perfectly for you: you felt motivated to exercise on a regular basis, and even though you might not have had cravings for cabbage soup, you were probably happy to maintain a mostly healthy diet.

So if we can do it sometimes, why can we not do it all the time?

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Weight Training Made Simple

There are many reasons why people do not reach their health and fitness goals. But even among those people who make the effort to train regularly, there is one big factor that is preventing them from achieving the results that they seek: the intensity of the workout. Or, more accurately, the lack of it.

If body composition or improved athletic performance are your goals, there’s absolutely no doubt that in order to reach them, you are going to have to work hard.

But that’s only one part of the solution. You also need to work smart by using a well-designed training programme that will allow you reach those goals.

Let’s look at intensity first. The usual caution always applies: when you begin a new programme, you need to start at an intensity that you can manage and only increase the intensity as you become stronger. You may also need GP clearance if you’ve any illnesses or injuries.

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Here Comes The Bride

I recently attended a family wedding and, as is customary on these occasions, the Bride looked stunning, the whole day was planned to perfection and a great time was had by all.

When it comes to weddings, there’s no doubt that there’s a huge amount of pressure on the Bride. We might refer to the event as the “Couple’s Big Day”, but in reality it’s all about the Bride. The groom is merely the Best Supporting Actor.

And it’s probably fair to say that the majority of the pre-wedding planning and organisation ends up being done by the Bride. It may be a generalisation – but probably not too far off the mark – to say that most Grooms tend to have the attitude that everything will be grand on the day, so what’s all the panic?

But, unfortunately, things like this don’t just happen by themselves and in order to get the desired result, the groundwork has to be done.

And if we’re interested in achieving health and fitness goals, we can learn a lot from the focus and determination of our blushing brides.

At many times during the year we work with Brides-to-be, either in our Circuit Class Bootcamps, or as Personal Training Clients. And without exception, they are a joy to work with, because they actually follow all the training, nutrition and lifestyle advice we give them!

The difference between Brides-to-be, and those people who achieve less spectacular body composition results is down to the level of motivation. Here are some of the strategies and mechanisms that Brides – consciously or sub-consciously – use in order to make sure they look their absolute best on their Special Day.

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What Are You Prepared To Do?

“You wanna know how you do it? Here’s how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” – Malone, (AKA Sean Connery) The Untouchables.

Ok, this week I’m not advocating violence under any circumstances. What I’d like you to do instead, is to consider what you are honestly prepared to do in order to achieve the goals that you say you want to achieve.

A good working definition of insanity (which may – or may not – have been said by Albert Einstein) states that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Based on that, we’ve all probably been a little insane in some area of our lives at one stage or another. In my experience, one of the bigger sources of this form of insanity is the area of health and fitness.

I’ve lost track of the amount of clients (sorry ladies, but it’s mostly female clients), whose only method of weight loss is walking. Although many of them have not seen any significant improvement in weight, clothes size or body fat levels, they continue to walk the same route at the same time and at the same speed, in the vain hope that a huge amount of fat-loss will magically happen.

And it’s not just confined to females or walkers. There are many people, male and female, who are doing gym and class-based training programmes, but who have been sorely disappointed with the results.

If this applies to you, or somebody you know, stay with me while we look at some practical ways to fix the situation.

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Everything Counts (In Large Amounts)

Almost everybody is familiar with the story of the sinking of The Titanic. While it’s obvious that the collision with the iceberg was the main factor in the tragedy, something that is often overlooked is that there were a number of other significant factors which contributed to the huge death toll.

A recent tv documentary highlighted some of these issues. Among them were the fact that there were not enough lifeboats, and many of the lifeboats that were available were not filled to capacity due to inadequate crew training, and poor management of evacuation procedure.

There were a series of poor decisions made prior to the collision including the one to maintain full speed going through an ice field, and the one that led to radio contact being lost with the closest available rescue ship. It’s also speculated that the decision to steer away from the iceberg caused far more damage than if the ship had struck the ice head-on.

Question marks were also raised over the quality of steel and rivets used in the construction of the hull, while the lack of binoculars being issued to the look-outs was also a major issue.

So what has all that got to do with you and the current state of your health and fitness? Well, in much the same way that many of us are looking for the Magic Bullet that will solve all our problems, we often think that there is just one cause of all those same problems.

And while it’s true that there is usually a major limiting factor or Red Flag, the reality is more often that we have a series of smaller events that contribute to the overall result. In the case of ill health or excess body fat, it’s not just 1 unhealthy meal or 1 “Duvet Day” that causes the problem. It’s a combination of regular poor quality food, lack of exercise, excess stress levels and inadequate sleep and recovery.

However the good news is that the situation can be reversed relatively simply. Sir Dave Brailsford, the General Manager of cycling’s Team Sky and former Performance Director of British Cycling, is credited with popularising the concept of “Marginal Gains”.

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