Veganuary; It's a Lifestyle Not a Diet

Before you forego the whole hog consider the reasons why you’re making the choice. There’s a firm ethos underlying Veganuary, being vegan isn’t simply a dietary choice, it’s not just your plate it’ll impact but your lifestyle too.

The first thing to really consider is why you’re doing it? If you think a vegan diet may help you drop a couple kilos this can be achieved through simply putting yourself in a calorie deficit. Either by moving more, eating a little bit less or a sensible combination of both.  Cutting out any food group will result in you removing a portion of calories from your diet, therefore inducing weight loss. That is, provided you don’t replace those calories with something else.

While Veganuary is a fantastic opportunity to explore new flavours, broaden your recipe repertoire and perhaps try foods you wouldn’t have thought of it may pose be a challenge. Some planning on your part before doing the weekly shop would be wise so that you don’t end up with a trolley full of stuff you can’t eat. Or alternatively lose your marbles after your 20th veggie stir-fry of the week.

For those of you serious about training and animal welfare let’s just establish that you CAN get enough protein on a vegan diet. Despite what the meatheads might tell you your muscles won’t waste away because you stop eating chicken breasts.  However, the quality of plant protein is lower of that than animal varieties because it contains less of the essential (particularly branch chain) amino acids needed to support muscle growth/maintenance – fat loss essentials.

Combinations of rice and beans are a good way to guarantee you’re getting all these essential proteins and there are some great vegan protein powders on the market too.  In cutting out meat, initially, it’s likely you’ll fall short on hitting your micronutrient targets. Vitamin B12 is the one to be most aware of in addition to Calcium, Iron and Zinc.  Look for almond milks fortified with B12 and calcium.

One final consideration, that’s probably the most important is the affect it might have on your personal life and relationships. Having to bring Tupperware to dinner parties or obsessively check menus before you go out to eat can be pretty stressful. Restrictive eating habits can cause you to feel quite isolated and alone, sometimes resulting in a pattern of binge eating.

Fun fact: Oreos are vegan. This fact might not be so fun when you’re hungry, tired and confused about what to eat and reaching for a packet just to fill a gap.



If you’re keen to make a change, start sustainably by testing the water. Rather than going the whole hog (pun intended) in January why don’t you start by swapping meat for one vegan meal per day. Or by eliminating red meat this month, then chicken, fish, eggs and then trickier things like cheese.

Nobody’s dietary choices are inherently right or wrong. You should be able to fuel yourself in a way you enjoy and that serves a purpose for the life you like to lead.  Just be aware that big changes in diet often mean making big changes to your lifestyle and if your underlying motivations aren’t for the right reasons it’s not likely to last.

By Ailish Flemming
SIX3NINE Trainer


Calories and Christmas Coffees

Ahhh Christmas, the time for festive joy, work parties, pigs in blankets and of course the marketing barrage of special xmas drinks. For the many of you who are reading this blog post, being conscious of your health around this time of the year can be very tricky.

Lets take the afternoon coffee run for example (a staple of any sensibly run business). Gingerbread Lattes, Salted Caramel Cappuccinos, Billionaires Hot Chocolate are hard to resist when the whole office is holding red cups.

What once started as a drink at the start of the process generally ends up closer to a dessert by the end. As active and healthy people, how can we successfully navigate ourselves around this time whilst being able to get involved in the festivities?


Decadent Beverages - What you need to know.

We may not always be directly counting them but calories will always count. Understanding that the amount you consume vs the amount you use for energy will dictate how our body composition changes, is a powerful tool that can allow you to make better informed decisions.

Let’s take a look at some examples and what impact they may have on a typical 2,000 calorie day:

SIX3NINE Christmas Coffee Cafe Nero

1. Small Starbucks Egg Nog Latte - 169 kcals
2. Large Costa Coffee Gingerbread Latte - 339 kcals
3. Large Cafe Nero Toffe Nut Latte - 623 kcals

As you can see from the above, each of these drinks can be included within the example diet, however they will all take up different percentages of your daily targets. Each of these can impact the rest of the days consumption in many different ways. Opting for a small, lower calorie order might not make much of a difference, such as the Egg Nog Latte at Starbucks which is only 8% of the calorie target. However going for a large, creamy Latte is 24% and dramatically impacts the available calories over the rest of the day.

Looking at the nutritional information provided for consumers on the websites/menus can allow you to make good decisions and pick a drink and size relative to you. Because it is important to indulge at times over Christmas


Managing Expectations & Being Realistic

I can remember the nerves and anxiety I would feel around the festive period; I was convinced that joining in on the food festivities with my colleagues could in fact undo all of the progress that I had made this year. Was I really no longer “a healthy person” by having one of these drinks?

Several years further down the line and far better educated, I now know that actually moderating rather than restricting my nutrition choices is probably the “healthiest” decision that I ever made. It dawned on me how important mindset and managing expectations throughout the year are, especially around Christmas. It’s very possible that we’re already setting ourselves up for failure from the outset by placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves.


Context is always key of course. We’re most likely striving to be a healthy mum, dad or partner rather than bodybuilder, professional athlete or olympian.

A more positive strategy for most of us around this period would generally be one of maintenance and moderation rather than over restriction and guilt.

Is it time we all thought about the bigger picture more and learnt to adjust our expectations according to where we are right now?

Calories in High-street Christmas Sandwiches

Deep filled mince pies and 'pigs in blankets' have already made an reappearance on the supermarket shelves; yes, Christmas time is almost upon us.

Whilst festive food can often be highly indulgent and calorific it doesn’t mean that you should avoid them all together, it's about having a basic awareness of whats in the food you're eating so you can manage your expectations. (It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing scenario.)

So here's two strategies on how to enjoy Christmas food whilst still working towards your goals.

1. Make informed decisions.

We know food choices will be on the higher end of the calorie spectrum than the rest of the year. Being mindful of the choices that are presented to you and ascertain if they take you towards your goal or away from it. No decision is 'good' or 'bad', it just means you're in tune with where you're at.

For example, if you are popping out for lunch to grab a sandwich you can still enjoy the Christmas themed meals if you are being mindful of your weight. There is often a large variance in calories from shop to shop - It's just a case of working out which one suits your target most.


1. Pret a Manger Christmas Lunch Sandwich
482 kcals

2. Boots Turkey, Stuffing and Redcurrant Sandwich
328 kcals

3. Marks & Spencer Turkey Feast

4. Waitrose Turkey Roast Vegetable Sandwich

Again, it's not about one being 'better' than the other, it's just about awareness. The lower calorie options shown here are just as delicious however the higher calorie options donate a percent of sales to Charity which is a wonderful gesture. Do what works for you.

2. Take your time.

It takes around 15-20 mins for your digestive system to signal to your brain that you are satiated. So with that in mind, slowing things down is a good strategy to avoid that uncomfortable post-Christmas dinner bloat.

Take it easy, enjoy yourself and be fully present at meals rather than viewing them as an opportunity to consume to excess, or feeling guilty and going without the trimmings. The festive period is a great time to be able to relax and unwind from the stresses of work and enjoy yourself with friends and family - so don't spend it stuck in the all or nothing cycle of guilt.

There's a lot of talk about 'surviving' Christmas when it comes to fitness. Let's embrace this season and thrive instead.

Why we are always on a diet

“Up to 50% of women are on a diet at any given time.”(1)

Actually, 100% of us are on a diet all the time. Our diet is made up of the food and drink we consume on a daily basis. What we eat is extremely important to our health, performance, physiology and psychology. Our diets can shape our strengths, weaknesses, appearance and emotions. We really are what we eat. 

The language of our society likes to separate conscious eating from unconscious eating. There is this strange notion that if you are thinking about your food choice; you are doing something out of the ordinary, called dieting. 

Dieting is also often used synonymously with ‘trying to lose weight’ (as is most likely the case in the livestrong quote at the start of this piece). Again, this language is very unhelpful.

Viewing ‘a diet’ as a temporary means for weight loss is the primary cause of the ‘yo-yo’ phenomena. Taking on an entirely different and often ridiculous diet for a predetermined period of time may lead to weight loss. However, it is unlikely you will continue to only eat juice, no carbs, or ‘clean foods’ forever. So what happens when you return to a different diet - like the one you had before, when you were heavier?

How about a different perspective. We’re all dieting all the time - so what is your current diet doing for you? Is it helping you to gain weight or lose weight? Is it helping you feel energised and strong or fatigued and sluggish? Are you happy and enjoying your food, or are you tearing you hair out calorie counting?

Assess how you feel about your current situation, your health, lifestyle and general happiness. Is there an area you want to improve or alter? For example: body composition, improving sporting performance, reducing alcohol consumption, or just better overall health. Rather than ‘going on a diet’ think about making small changes to your current diet that can steer you in the direction of your goal.


So if the goal was weight loss, what might a small change look like?

Depending on your current eating habits, some of the suggestions below may present a bigger window of opportunity for change than others. For example, if you are currently having after work drinks 3 times a week, limiting alcohol intake to once per week may be a great place to start. 

- Adding protein and fruit/veg to each main meal

- Swapping sweet snacks for a fourth light meal, or a high protein afternoon snack

- Swapping fancy coffee calories (such as frappes and lattes) for lower calorie options

- Reducing alcohol intake to once per week

- Reducing restaurant indulgence to once per week

- Getting 10,000 steps a day

- Trying to get an hours walk/cardio/training in 2-3 times per week


A significant calorie deficit for weight-loss is around 500kcal below maintenance. If your current weight is stable and not budging, even just implementing one or two of these strategies may be enough to bring you into that deficit. This is not extreme, this is not ‘weight loss dieting’. This is making small adjustments to the diet that is keeping you where you are now, and brings it more in line to the diet required to maintain you at your target weight, your target performance level or your target health.


We’re all dieting whether we like it or not, so why not make it the best diet for you. 


(1) (