You’re short on time, tired, and your children become the number one priority.
Finding successful dieting strategies as a modern day parent is arguably one of our biggest challenges. Children, full-time work, little sleep and caffeine reliance can all come in the way of successful long-term leanness.
With this in mind, I hope to alleviate some of the stress and frustration when it comes to losing fat, feeling more energetic and being confident whilst being a busy parent.
Let’s have a look at the basics of fat loss before we move onto the tips.
It All Starts with Calories
A calorie is a unit of energy. Our macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) have different amounts of calories.
How much do you need?
Once we know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight without activity (BMR), we would adjust this number based on your activity levels throughout the week. I’m not going to delve much deeper into this right now but you can either read this article I wrote on the topic or simply download the excel spreadsheet I have attached and it’ll do it all for you.
Your Frameworks Must Be Adaptable
Now we’ve established your baseline maintenance we can start developing adaptable frameworks which suit your busy schedule.
The first thing we need to do is to put you in a slight caloric deficit. Relax! This doesn’t mean that you’re going to be starving. In order to lose body fat you’re going to have to cut calories a little. We need to do this slow and steady because crash dieting rarely works and can have extreme consequences such as decreased thyroid function, hormonal problems, sleep deprivation, muscle loss, reduced cognitive function and more.
In other words, you’d be a grumpy person to be around!
So: Take your maintenance calorie intake and subtract either 250 or 500 calories. If your maintenance intake is for example 2000 Cals, subtract 250 and start at 1750 or subtract 500 and start at 1500.
Once your calorie intake is set, and you account for being within this energy intake, you will set yourself up for success.
Now lets look at 4 tips to help you get leaner while being a busy parent.
Tip 1: Beef up your protein intake
Protein has a very high thermic effect, which means that you will expend more energy breaking it down than the fats and carbs you consume. Protein also provides the building blocks of your muscles and your muscles are are lot more metabolically active than fat. Since being a working parent can be very demanding, protein is therefore a key nutrient in enabling you to retain as much muscle as possible. We know that anywhere between 1.8-2g of protein per Kg of bodyweight is sufficient to maintain muscle mass when our goal is fat loss. This means that a 65Kg female should be consuming 117-130g per protein daily in order to preserve lean tissue while dieting. The following table is a guide to protein sources and their available protein plus a recipe idea to help you prepare for the week ahead.
Tip 2: Sleep More to Look Better Naked
Sleep is very important, especially for us busy parents and professionals. Unfortunately it doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as the latest diet fad or training craze.
Why? because sleep doesn’t sell. Sex does. Naked bodies do.
However, I digress. When it comes to sleep and body composition, you have to be aware of two hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is produced in the gastro-intestinal tract and is known as the hunger hormone. Ghrelin increases your hunger. When your stomach is empty, your body tells you to release more ghrelin and you’ll feel hungrier. When ghrelin levels are high, you get that insatiable appetite where you cannot stop eating. Leptin on the other hand does the opposite and is a “satiety hormone” that lets you know when you are full. Together, ghrelin and leptin help regulate energy balance through the feelings of hunger and satiety.
That sugar craving you get just before dropping the kids off at school in the morning has a deeper explanation than just poor self control.
Poor sleep leads to increased ghrelin release and the feeling of hunger, subsequently decreasing leptin release. Despite the fact that you might not actually need to eat (read: you’ve consumed enough calories) the ‘feeling’ of hunger is still there.
Tip 3: Fasting makes it easier to take the kids to school
Fasting can come with potential health benefits, but I’m convinced you’d see these positives whether you eat breakfast or not. Fasting simply removes the meals you’d consume within a given time period, subsequently helping to decrease your calorie intake. The early morning starts and rush to get the kids to school makes fitting in a healthy breakfast very hard. Fasting until 10am makes it a lot easier to take the kids to school! Ensure you keep your water intake high in order to stay hydrated and transport important minerals and vitamins around your body. Aim for a minimum of 2 litres per day.
Below is a table with an example week of fasting:If this schedule doesn’t work for you, you can simply have a normal calorie controlled way of eating 5 days per week and then fast until a set time twice per week (say until 1400 Mondays and Thursdays).
Tip 4: Guilt is not a food ingredient
Guilt isn’t an ingredient, it’s not a macronutrient either.
It is true, that especially when dieting, focusing on foods that are rich in nutrients is very important. I’d obviously love to see someone eating broccoli carrots and peas instead of a bag of crisps the majority of time.
However, grabbing something small to eat on the go whilst running in-between errands, work and school pick-up should be done completely guilt free.
You bring the guilt.
Guilt is an ingredient inside the confines of your own head that often stems from misinformation gleaned through social media. Sometimes we have limited control over our cravings and feelings, It’s a part of being a human being. Guilt is an ingredient that stems from not loving yourself enough to change or enjoy life to its fullest. So; if you’re stuck in a meeting all day and all you have access to is a steak for lunch with some chocolate to snack on throughout the day, you’re good to go. You’ll keep your cognitive focus, be able to contribute to the meeting, prevent muscle loss and much much more.
You Are Doing Very Well
The late night at the office and the many errands you have to run between school drop off and pick up make it hard to fit in exercise and other activities. It’s the lack of sleep, self-love and high stress levels that often lay the foundations for poor food choices and other unhealthy habits.
Know that you are doing very well; being a parent is much harder than it looks to the outside world.
Whilst you are raising the next generation, aways remember to keep things simple; know how much energy you need to lose fat, keep your protein intake high, focus on getting more sleep and drink more water. These 4 tips will set a strong foundation for future fat loss and make the journey a lot more enjoyable, Staying active with walks, jogs, perhaps running with the kids. Other non-exercise activities are also very important for energy expenditure, mental health and positivity.
Kennet Waale is an educator, facilitator, coach and co-founder of The Vertex: A multifaceted health facility in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more here
He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Human Movement Studies as an exercise scientist at the University of Queensland. During his almost eight years of coaching, he has worked with Commonwealth and Olympic levels Athletes as well as the every day folk wanting to look better naked.