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You train hard, you eat clean and you have completely changed your lifestyle but you still aren’t seeing the results you’ve hoped for – does this sound familiar? “Clean eating” is a wonderful thing. You’re providing your body with all the nutrients it needs, strengthening your immune system and giving yourself a whole host of benefits. However, just because you eat clean and train hard, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to see drastic results with your body composition.

Let’s take a classic healthy meal consisting of salmon, rice, and a salad topped with avocado and a light honey mustard dress. With plenty of calorie dense components to this meal, it’s very easy to go overboard. Here’s a comparison of two different sized portions. You’d be surprised how “normal” the first one looks.

225g of salmon, 1 cup of brown rice, 1 cup of salad, ½ a small avocado and 2 tbsp of dress ends up being 674 calories, 33 grams of fat, 62 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein. Comparatively, a McDonald’s McChicken meal ends up having almost an identical caloric profile with 719 calories, 30 grams of fat, 86 grams of carbohydrates, and 19 grams of protein.

Disclaimer: we are NOT encouraging you to hit the drive thru on your way home. A clean, nutritious meal is essential for gut health, hormonal balance, a strong immune system and a whole host of other benefits. The Macca’s meal will likely make you feel sick, guilty, unsatisfied and undernourished. The salmon meal is clearly the optimal choice, no doubt about it. However, it’s also important to take the next step to know what a proper portion looks like, and how to identify foods that can add up in calories extremely fast.

The point we want to drive home is targeted towards the more “advanced” dieters who have already nailed frequent workouts, eating clean and feeling good, but can’t seem to shed those last few kilos. You already know how much better you feel when you choose salmon over Macca’s, but for SOME reason, you’re still hanging on to fat. Take a real, honest look at your portions and reconsider whether you may be over-estimating just how much you are really eating.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, ensure you’re not stuffing yourself full of celery and lettuce. The feeling of “fullness” is mainly supposed to be a hormonal, psychological response, NOT physiological. Let this important point sink in with every meal you eat, and don’t ever forget it. If you think you’re “full” when your belly is engorged with a low calorie salad the size of Jupiter, you likely didn’t take the time to eat a properly portioned, balanced meal and let your tummy tell your brain “that’s enough”. Leptin, also known as the hunger hormone, will not send it’s “I’m full” signal until it has received all the nutrients it needs to defend you from undernourishment. It is a very protective hormone that, when altered with lack of nutrients and starvation, can cause you to binge eat. That’s where the scary yo-yo cycle begins – that’s where people say “I eat 1000 calories all week!” but then they quickly forget the 5000 calorie binge they had out of frustration from eating cucumbers all week.

Eat your meals VERY slowly, ensure you have modest portions and that you’re getting all the fat, protein and carbohydrate necessary for Leptin to tell you “thanks for feeding me everything I need to survive, I’m satisfied!”.

In addition to becoming more aware of calorie dense foods and overeating low calorie items, be cautious when eating out – although a salad may seem healthy, a restaurant is a business that wants to keep you as a returning customer with their deliciousness. Even a salad will likely have ingredients cooked in a savoury butter and tossed with a dressing that is full of fat and sugar – the hyper-palatable combination that keeps you coming back for more.

This is probably a lot to take in, and we never want to discourage you from enjoying yourself. That being said, if you’re desperate to lose those lagging kilos and it’s driving you absolutely insane, you have to be realistic. The salad dressing you gave up or not going back for another helping of dinner will be forgotten about within hours. You’re not going to look back and say “wow I really wish I went back to the buffet that day”, but you will most definitely look back and say “I was really unhappy at that time in my life when I couldn’t lose weight”. The choice is yours!