I recently got to sit and have a coffee and a chat with a friend of mine, which is always good. What was particularly good is that, on this occasion, this friend was Jason Fligg, a registered Sports and Exercise Nutritionist, college lecturer who teaches up to degree level, and someone who also runs his own company: Jason Fligg Sports and Exercise Performance, based in Norwich, Norfolk, UK. Jason works with a range of people, from individuals who want to be healthier generally, up to professional athletes, and is also a UK Anti-Doping Advisor. I seized the opportunity, and he had some great things to say; this is some of what we discussed:
We began by chatting about, as you might guess, diet…but also exercise. I confessed that I’m not the most active of people. When I’m on holiday I tend to walk quite a bit. But when working, the two minute romp from the car to the office and back, a few trips to the photocopier…sadly that’s about it. I also confessed to not having the best diet either. After a long day at work I often find myself opting for convenience over nutrition.
You Need a Goal/Focus
“You need a goal” Jason said…”you need a focus. You say you don’t exercise much or eat healthily…but why should you do that?” It felt like a strange question at first…I’m not an athlete. I don’t play any sports… But then he said “you’ve got a son and a family…what about them? Don’t you owe it to them to be fit and healthy?”. This is true. I realised that I’d often thought about my health in terms of how I look; the persistent fear of ‘middle-age spread’ having recently turned forty. But framing it in such a way that went beyond me personally, quite literally, hit home.
Lead by Example
I talked a bit about how I sometimes feed my son, who is currently five, healthier things than I feed myself, which isn’t great. I know full well from studying Psychology that children learn far more from example than they ever will through being told what to do (e.g. Social Learning Theory (Bandura 1976)). If you want your children to lead a healthy lifestyle, you need to show them what leading a healthy lifestyle looks like. I can tell my son that he shouldn’t eat too many biscuits, for example, but if he catches me doing it too often, my own brand of nutritional advice is likely to be met with more than resistance.
Jason told me that if I wanted to improve my diet, variety of food is the best place to start and is highly important. People tend to talk about food being specifically “good” or “bad” for them, but many people eat the same things all of the time. They go to the supermarket and go to the same shelves and buy the same things. He said that, when shopping, he will make sure he goes down every isle and try to get a wide variety of food. I avoided telling him that I do most of my grocery shopping on-line and tend to select from the same list of ‘favourites’.
We discussed how Planning meals is important. How, if you wait until the last minute to decide what to eat, you are more likely to go for convenient food. This, unfortunately, is usually food that’s not so good for you – things like take-aways. “this is something I try to get my clients to do all the time. If you take just a few minutes a day to plan your meals, to balance nutrition, you’ll get much better results. You should be careful saying a particular food is “bad”. There’s nothing wrong with a slice of cake once in a while, if you have a slice and really enjoy it, but if you’re mindful of what you eat throughout the day, particularly your calorie intake, it’s not a bad thing.”
Body Image and Realistic Expectations
We also talked about body image for men in particular: “This places a lot of pressure on men who see images of others in magazines and often in the gym” Jason said. “They compare themselves to this, or try to compete. They set high expectations and try to adhere to societal pressure of how they should look, but might give up if they don’t see results quickly enough. But there’s no shortcut if you want to be healthy. This is so important: diet and exercise should compliment one another. If you’re training hard but not eating properly…its not likely to help you”. I talked about my previous post, on ‘self-efficacy’. In particular the idea of ‘modelling’ and how important it is to keep your expectations realistic.
Don’t Try to Cut Corners – Get Professional Advice
Jason told me that: “People tend to try fad diets, to cut corners rather than adjust their lifestyle more generally and take the time and effort to find out what’s best for them. They listen to people at work, look things up on the internet or read magazine articles. We’re all different though. Suddenly cutting something out of your diet completely could have a detrimental affect; you need to be careful who you’re taking advice from. This is why it’s good to see a professional nutritionist if you can. Someone who can help people understand their health and reach their goals in a personalised way. You do have to be careful though as ‘nutritionist’ isn’t a protected title, so people can use it without being registered, so check their credentials carefully”.
I dared to ask: “what’s likely to happen if I maintain my current (mostly sedentary) lifestyle?” “if you’re putting more calories into your body than you’re burning, your weight is likely to increase. Again, it comes down to eating a varied diet – An athlete might over consume certain things on specific days as a nutritional strategy in order to optimise their performance, but if you’re consuming large amounts of the same types of food over long periods of time, this can have a cumulative effect. It can lead to a decline in physical health and puts you at risk of things like obesity, heart disease…”
This chat has certainly made me think more about what I eat, my level of activity, how I treat myself generally, and why I should look after myself better. It was great talking to Jason; a real gentleman who is passionate about what he does, with a professional, and ethical, attitude, and who wants the best for the people he works with.
Please check out his website at https://www.jfliggsportsnutrition.com