How To Lose Weight

Do you feel less like your arse is attached to you and more like it’s following you? Have you reached an age where you look in the mirror and think ‘what the hell happened?’ Do you find yourself  holding in your stomach to try and avoid fat rolls and muffin tops? Have you gone from slinky and seductive to baggy and comfy? Have you got wobbly bits that you’d rather you didn’t have? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you’re probably thinking that you could do with dropping a few pounds…..

Do you feel less like your arse is attached to you and more like it’s following you? Have you reached an age where you look in the mirror and think ‘what the hell happened?’ Do you find yourself  holding in your stomach to try and avoid fat rolls and muffin tops? Have you gone from slinky and seductive to baggy and comfy? Have you got wobbly bits that you’d rather you didn’t have? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you’re probably thinking that you could do with dropping a few pounds…..

DietIf that’s you then, firstly, stop thinking about ”weight loss”; ‘losing’ something has very negative connotations, instead think about gaining health and life as that’s what you’ll actually get if you’re carrying too many extra pounds. How great is that? You’ll actually be getting something and not missing out on something! Also, forget the concept of ‘going on a diet’ as this won’t be something that you’ll start and then stop when you’ve reached your goals, you’ll be making changes, doing a few things differently and that’s all…

Secondly, ask yourself the question ‘do I really want to lose weight’; there’s a big difference between thinking that you’d like to do something and actually wanting to do it. It’s a reason why a lot of diets fail, you need to make a commitment to changing your eating and exercise habits and a half-hearted effort just isn’t going to get you there.

If you’ve made the commitment then the next thing is to be honest with yourself about what you eat and how much exercise you do. Many people find that writing down what they eat and drink (yes most drinks have calories toois a good wake up call and makes them realise quite how much food they’re taking on board on a daily basis. The same applies to exercise: if you sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and then go home and sit on the couch in front of the TV all evening, be honest about it!

Dear meOnce you’ve got a clear idea in your head about how much you eat and how little you exercise don’t beat yourself up about it. Feeling bad about yourself is not a good starting point for weight loss because, if you stray from the path towards a healthier you, you’ll feel guilty and pissed off with yourself and that can then lead to comfort eating. Instead, accept that your body is what it is at the moment and focus on how good you will feel when you’re not carrying around extra pounds – your back and legs will ache less, your breathing will be better, you’ll be able to move more easily, you’ll be cooler in the summer, your clothes will feel more comfortable etc etc etc. You’ll have your own great reasons for wanting to shed the weight so focus on those; concentrate on how amazing you will feel as you see the changes that you make to your body.

Now you’ve got the right mind set, it’s time to look at what you eat and drink. There will be no doubt that you eat too much, if you hadn’t you wouldn’t have gained a lot of weight, but you probably eat too much of the wrong types of food. You could eat mountains of carrots and broccoli without really gaining any extra pounds but, if you have pizza for dinner every night you’ll find yourself going up a dress size pretty damn quickly!

Real food

There are three things that are responsible for most people’s excessive weight gain:

Refined Sugars: think cakes, sweets, ice-cream, donuts, biscuits etc etc

Junk food: think burgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken etc,

Processed foods: think crisps, sausage rolls, breakfast cereals, pies and ready meals.

If you are looking at that list and thinking that’s pretty much your diet at the moment you’ll probably be panicking a bit and wondering what the hell you’re going to eat now! If that’s the case then think back to the reasons why you want to lose weight and visualise the happier and healthier you. If that doesn’t work and you’re still craving burger and fries with a couple of donuts to finish off then you have a choice – eat what you want but also accept your body and the problems that come with it or find a middle ground……

Turkey burgerWork out what it is that you like most about burger and fries – is it the texture of the meat? The taste of the sauce? The cheese or bacon? The crispiness of the fries? The taste of the salt and ketchup? The fact that you can dip them in a sauce? Trust me, if you really think about it, there will be a primary reason why you like to eat burger and fries. So, let’s imagine it’s the meat that you really enjoy, the taste and texture of ground beef; could you enjoy that without the bun and the sauce, could you be satisfied with ground turkey meat instead of beef? If the answer is yes then try turkey burgers between two portobello mushrooms; it’s still meat, the look is similar, the texture will be similar but it will have far fewer calories and be much healthier for you.

If it’s the fries that really do it for you, could you be satisfied with baked sweet potato wedges? If it’s the crunchy crispiness that you like could raw carrots sticks work? I know that sounds weird, burger and carrot sticks, but why not? It’s just a change, something different, you don’t need to have it for every meal, it’s just a way of educating your taste buds so that you will feel comfortable moving away from the unhealthy to the healthy.

Moving on to dessert; this is where things can get a little trickier because sugar is addictive and that’s why so many people struggle with weight loss. We often have the idea that cakes, sweets and biscuits are a ‘treat’ (remember your mum or dad saying if you’re good you can have a……something with loads of sugar in it) so the thought of not eating them can have the inverse effect and make us feel as though we are being punished in some way. Excessive amounts of refined sugars are anything but a treat for your body but you can re-educate your taste buds to appreciate the sweetness of fruit for example or, if chocolate is your thing, eat a couple of squares of very dark chocolate (70% plus cocoa); it will satisfy the craving.

On top of educating your taste buds, you can also re-educate your mind and your stomach; how often do you feel slightly peckish but tell yourself that you’re ‘starving‘ or ‘famished’? Try this little experiment – next time lunchtime comes around just say to yourself ‘I could do with a little something to eat’. Your mind has told your stomach to expect some food in the near future but just enough to satisfy it, it’s not on red alert because you’ve told it you’re going to die from lack of food and waiting for half a cow to descend….

half-finished-glass-of-beer-and-pie-with-meat-on-plate-at-table_7yyj9nho__F0000.pngLastly, think about leaving food. Many people were brought up with the idea that they absolutely must finish everything on their plate. It usually comes from parents or grand-parents and comes with the phrase ‘think about all the poor people starving in the world’. No-one will be any less starving because you decide not to eat every scrap of food that’s served to you; you really don’t need to feel guilty. If you get a disappointed look from a waiter in a restaurant just be honest – tell them it was delicious and you enjoyed it but the portion was just too big for you. This is another positive affirmation, telling yourself and other people that there’s just too much food there will get your mind and your stomach used to healthier portion sizes.

Once you’ve got the food angle sorted out think about how much you move and how you could move more. You don’t need to join a gym or start hurling yourself around a tennis court; walk to work, take the stairs and not the elevator, don’t sit at your desk at lunchtime, take a stroll around the park or shops instead, go and play football with your kids, dance while you’re doing the housework. Exercise will make you feel good and, as the pounds come off, you’ll want to do more of it and you’ll find the right programme for you but, until then, just move more!

If any of you out there are planning on making some changes to your lifestyle I really wish you the best of luck and I’d love to hear how you’re getting on….

Lisa x

 

The Power of Advertising?

With their almost hypnotic powers of persuasion, we become convinced that the new Biological Bling will make our whites so dazzlingly white that everything we ever dreamed of will be delivered to us on a silver platter by a pink unicorn…..

Some people could sell snow to Eskimos and they are dearly loved by the advertising industry who, mercilessly exploiting their abilities, make sure that we crave things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. With their almost hypnotic powers of persuasion, we become convinced that the new Biological Bling will make our whites so dazzlingly white that everything we ever dreamed of will be delivered to us on a silver platter by a pink unicorn…..

Just do itIf I say “Just Do It”, what pops into your mind? A pair of Nike trainers by an chance? If yes then that’s the power of advertising and exactly why Nike make billions of dollars every year. Their trainers are great, I wear them, you wear them, hell everybody wears them; there are other brands out there but it’s just not the same is it? The slogan “Just Do It” is somehow inspirational; it’s almost telling you ‘You CAN do it; don’t be afraid, wear our trainers and you will get where you wan’t to be’. You WANT to get out there and exercise so you end up looking like the person in the ad. Amazing right?

McDonalds HealthyWell, yes and no. I’m just as much a sucker as the next person; if a new beauty product is launched and lauded with the promise that it will fight all the crap that’s been giving me wrinkles I’ll try it! Of course, deep down, I know that no such miracle exists but the only thing it’s cost me is cash (quite a lot of it in some cases but hey ho). However, when those marketing geniuses are snapped up by companies whose sole purpose is to sell junk food to an unsuspecting public it’s a different thing entirely. The sole purpose of advertising and marketing is to convince people to buy a product and, one of the best ways of doing it is to tell people what they want to hear. Unless people have been living in a cave for the last 10 years, they’ll know that fast food, eaten in quantity, is not healthy so what do the advertisers do? They word their ads in such a way that the customer thinks that they are getting a healthier version of the food that they want to eat but know if bad for them. The companies continue to sell their products and the consumers get to appease their guilty conscience, despite all the evidence that that their food choices are making them fat and unhealthy but, let’s face it, McDonalds and their ilk wouldn’t shift many burgers if their slogan was “Want to get Type 2 diabetes?  We’re lovin’ it”

If the marketing campaigns are targeted at adults, that’s one thing but, when they’re targeted at kids I do wonder if it’s entirely ethical. I would think that most parents find it pretty difficult to say no to their children and when they’re complaining of being hungry and a cheap meal with a free toy (!) is on offer just across the road what are they going to do? Yes, in an ideal world all parents would be aware of the dangers of consuming too much junk food and say no to the tears and the foot stamping but, also in an ideal world, advertisers would have a few scruples.

I don’t like the idea of banning anything really as I believe that we are all free to make our own choices in life but I am beginning to question whether Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is right in his calls to curb the junk food adverts that are targeted specifically at kids – what do you think?

Food. Unhealthy food
Join Millions of others on their journey towards heart disease and diabetes. You’ll never be alone with Junk Food!

When even Healthy isn’t Healthy!

Food is not something we can exist without (well not for very long anyway) so is it really any wonder that so many of us have such a complex relationship with it? What’s your relationship with food? I’d really love it if you’d share your thoughts with me….

How do you feel about what you eat? Is your relationship with food unhealthy? Do you find that you have emotions attached to food? If so, it’s not really surprising as we are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us what we should eat, when, how much, what’s bad, what’s good……it really is completely non-stop (and I’ve just realised that I add to the mountain of information with my blog – oops!)

distorted body imageWe are all aware of conditions such as Anorexia and Bulimia which stem from distorted body image and can lead to serious health problems and even death. We have seen people become morbidly obese, eating themselves into ill health and an early grave.  There are reports in the news every day which tell us that certain foods cause cancer and heart disease, that our BMI should be a certain number and that our food choices will ultimately determine how well and how long we live. However, some nutritionists now believe that some of us could be at risk from a newly discovered eating disorder. Orthorexia is an obsession with ‘pure’ or ‘clean’ food which can lead people to cut out entire food groups, thereby depriving themselves of some essential vitamins and nutrients.

Come on inner peaceI read this article and thought ‘oh bloody hell that could be me!!’. Anyone who reads the stuff that I write knows that I have a deep interest in nutrition and a love of exercise but this article made me wonder if I do wonder sometimes if I over do it. When I have a rest day I’ll often feel restless because I’m very active 6 days out of 7; I know that my body needs to rest but my mind often requires a lot of mediation to get with the programme. I very rarely eat processed foods or refined sugars, I think about food additives and calories and make my food choices according to:

  1. How they will help me exercise and workout in the gym
  2. Whether, if I over indulge, they’ll make me fat.
  • Healthy foodsThat said, I’m not a big foodie, so I don’t feel as though I am missing out by choosing to eat those foods that we deem as being healthy – vegetables, fruits, lean meat, nuts, berries and fish. I actually like the taste of vegetables, especially green vegetables but I never used to; it was only when I started training seriously, in my twenties, that I began to understand the effect that food could have on my body. For that reason I wonder if I have just made the mental connection between doing what I enjoy (working out and exercise) and the foods that make it easier. Over the last 20 odd years I’ve experimented with food and I eat what best serves my purpose; cakes, candy, junk food, lots of bread and pasta and processed foods don’t so I don’t eat them. I’m not sure if this means that my relationship with food is unhealthy or not; I’m slim and pretty fit but I don’t get a great deal of pleasure from food as, for me, it’s a means to an end. I like to work out and I like my clothes to fit so what’s the problem? Food is not something we can exist without (well not for very long anyway) so is it really any wonder that so many of us have such a complex relationship with it?

What’s your relationship with food? I’d really love it if you’d share your thoughts with me as, even after all these years, I still find it a fascinating subject :O) x

Yes, We Are All Individuals

So, on the one hand we have groups who campaign against purveyors of junk food and sugary beverages and on the other we have groups who campaign for their right to eat whatever they damn well please. What we don’t seem to have anywhere in the middle are individuals who have received enough nutritional education to make their food choices based on knowledge rather than what one crowd or another is telling them to do

Does anyone remember the wonderfully irreverent film Life of Brian? Specifically the scene where Brian tries to persuade a huge crowd to stop following him by telling them that they don’t need a leader because they are all individuals? The ironic response was ‘Yes! We are all individuals’……in complete unison…….with only one dissenting voice which was immediately shushed by the crowd. It seemed hugely amusing at the time but I do wonder if it has become our reality.

offering candyThere was an article in the news recently in which a healthy eating campaigner criticised a shop for putting huge quantities of chocolate bars close to the checkout complaining that they were ‘cashing in on our sweet tooth’. So, effectively what he is saying is that ‘we’ are incapable of resisting temptation and that the blame for the negative results that arise from an individual’s bad food choices i.e. obesity should rest with a shop?? When did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions? In this instance, what the critic seems to ignore is that no-one is standing by the check out forcing free candy on unwitting shoppers; people make a choice – to buy or not to buy….

The same logic (if you want to call it that) is used by Government when implement ideas like the sugar tax; it’s a blanket response to something which is an individual’s problem. Taxes on tobacco and alcohol haven’t stopped people smoking or drinking because, when you’re dealing with an addiction, the price is pretty much irrelevant. churchill quoteUnfortunately this type of action is also likely to provoke far more negative responses than positive; after all how many people are ever happy when a new tax is introduced? It also means that people will be inclined to band together to stop what they view as oppression by the Government – there is even a Twitter group which has been set up to oppose the sugar tax and says that the ‘it’s not nutritious brigade’ are forcing their choices on the rest of us.

So, on the one hand we have groups who campaign against purveyors of junk food and sugary beverages and on the other we have groups who campaign for their right to eat whatever they damn well please. What we don’t seem to have anywhere in the middle are individuals who have received enough nutritional education to make their food choices based on knowledge rather than what one crowd or another is telling them to do.

BlameWe all have the opportunity to learn about our food choices and what impact they can have on our health; the internet is absolutely awash with information. However, it seems as though people are far more likely to rely on the information provided to them in bite sized pieces by one self-interested group or another than to trust their own decision making. It’s easy to blame the Government or shop-keepers or schools for the current obesity epidemic, it’s far more difficult to take responsibility as individuals but, as the film said, we are all individuals.

Debunking Diets (Part 2)

The bread here tends to be of the baguette variety and not the sliced white kind which means that it’s not chock full of additives and preservatives. If you buy a baguette here you have to eat it on the same day because the following day it will be so hard that you could beat someone to death with it! 

This is part 2 of my post looking into some of the diets that are out there – what do they involve and, more importantly, are they going to work! The diet industry is absolutely huge with millions of $$$$ being spent every year as people search for the magic formula that will take them from fat to thin as quickly and as easily as possible:

The 5:2 Diet claims that you can lose 2 stone in 12 weeks by eating a ‘Mediterranean’ diet 5 days a week and just one quarter of your normal calorie intake on the other 2 days. capreseThe ‘Mediterranean’ aspect of the plan is to cut back on bread and cakes and to include more fats, from oily fish and olive oil, and use fresh vegetables and fruit. Apparently during the 5 days a week you are encouraged to eat ‘normally’. As, during the other 2 days your calorie intake should be around 600-800 (25% of your typical intake) we can assume that ‘normal’ will be between 2400 and 3200 calories per day.

The plan suggests that the 600-800 calories should be ingested in the course of up to 3 meals a day. Obviously this includes everything you eat but also everything that you drink as well so it will need a lot of careful planning to keep within these levels.

The fitness regime that’s recommended to go with the eating plan is short bursts of high intensity interval training (up to 20 minutes) three times a week with strength training on two other days to help build muscle and burn fat faster.

Verdict: I live on the Cote D’Azur i.e. the Mediterranean and I can tell you that the people here eat a lot of bread and also their fair share of cakes! Pasta and pizza are also very popular so why aren’t they all desperately overweight and turning to this kind of diet plan?

  1. They eat very little in the way of processed foods, meals are cooked from scratch using fresh and natural ingredients.
  2. BaguetteThe bread here tends to be of the baguette variety and not the sliced white kind which means that it’s not chock full of additives and preservatives. If you buy a baguette here you have to eat it on the same day because the following day it will be so hard that you could beat someone to death with it!
  3. The weather here tends to be very good with around 300 days of sunshine a year so people spend an awful lot of time outside, walking, swimming or playing sports
  4. Although cakes are very popular, they’re not eaten to excess for the most part and, again, they are freshly made without additives and preservatives.

All of that said, the eating plan that is proposed with this diet IS very healthy and, as you will be cutting your weekly calorie intake and cutting out processed and junk food I’ve no doubt that you will lose weight. However, what I cannot for the life of me understand, is why you wouldn’t just cut the number of calories that you eat each day to give yourself the same weekly total rather than carrying on as normal for 5 days and then drastically reducing intake for the other 2. I understand the principals of fasting and it can be very beneficial in terms of overall health but, in order to maintain the weight loss, participants will need to continue eating in this way long term. Cheating on a dietAs you are effectively, ‘depriving’ yourself 2 days a week I wonder what affect this will have psychologically on people who are fasting purely to lose weight. If you come to dread the fasting days and see them as something to be endured rather than something beneficial then I would expect the tendency to be to ‘cheat’ on the fasting days or to overeat on the other 5. Although the testimonials for the plan were good, the fasting days were also described as ‘hard’ which, for me, never bodes well. Healthy eating should be a pleasure and not a torment.

When all is said and done, what this programme advocates is eating less crap, more fresh fruit and veg, cutting down on calories and exercising more so not really what you’d call ground breaking.

 

Debunking Diets (part 1)

A quick whizz around Google News this morning resulted in articles about 5 new diets that have been launched; that’s the news just for today not the last week or month, in just one day! Curious as ever I decided to have a closer look at a couple of them and I’d like to share with you the things that I discovered…

The 2 Week Diet:  With this one the clue is in the title, the creator claims that you will lose 8-16 lbs in just 2 weeks. Apparently his system is full-proof and science based but, unfortunately, I couldn’t verify this as I would need to part with $37 in order to read the PDF downloads which would explain the diet that ‘100% guarantees to melt away stubborn body fat’. No junk food His claims could well be right; if you are obese and you cut refined sugars and carbs from your diet for a period of two weeks, I’ve no doubt at all that you would easily lose the promised 8-16 lbs.

However, according to what little information there was available, the programme requires that you do only 20 minutes of exercise a day, 3-4 days a week to ‘carve out the body of your dreams’. Hhhmmm well Elle McPherson has the body of my dreams and I’m fairly sure that an hour of exercise a week is not going to give me that. High intensity interval training can burn a lot of calories quickly but, even then, in 20 minutes you’ll only be talking about 200 which is somewhat less than a grilled chicken salad with no dressing. Elle mcpherson.jpgThe author claims that cellular inflammation is what needs to be addressed when looking at weight loss and says that his plan is ‘revolutionary’. This inflammation occurs when we ingest high levels of refined sugars and trans fats (fast food and processed foods basically) which cause the liver to generate chemicals to fight the toxins. This is not a new idea, it’s well known that bad foods lead to increased levels of fat in our bodies.

Verdict: Cutting out processed foods and replacing them with meals made from fresh natural ingredients will certainly ensure that you lose weight but, as far as I can make out, there is nothing ‘new’ here. I would also suggest that an hour of exercise a week, if you spend the rest of your time sitting on your backside, is going to do little to help you shed any unwanted lbs and will certainly not do very much to improve heart and lung health. I’m also slightly concerned about the emphasis that is put on losing weight quickly as it’s often been suggested that, when people lose a lot of weight very quickly, they invariably put it all back on again and then some. As the programme suggests that, after the first 2 weeks you will continue to lose the weight far more slowly, I wonder how much of the weight lost will, in fact, be water and not, as the diet suggests, fat….

The Lectin Free Diet was developed by a former heart surgeon who believes that lectins are a major cause of health problems in the US as they cause inflammation in the body. There does seem to be some scientific evidence to support his claim but the diet he proposes to combat the problem is extreme even for the most determined dieter.Foods containing lectin You have to avoid any nuts and beans, squash, bell peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, all grains and fruit (unless it’s in season) and even then in small quantities. You can eat meat if it’s been fed on grass and not corn as corn is one of those things that are forbidden to you in this programme. What you are left with, basically, are green vegetables, line caught wild fish, avocados, mushrooms, onions and garlic. Rice and pasta are out as well unfortunately as is milk unless it’s from a goat or a sheep or cows residing in Southern Europe. Apparently there was some sort of mutation in cows who reside in Northern parts of Europe that resulted in their milk being full of lectin like proteins – who knew! Funny-Cow-Smiling-With-Humans-TeethThe doctor who came up with the diet makes many interesting suggestions on how to replace those foods that you will cut out with others that are acceptable under the regime. It will be interesting to see how the science develops over time as it’s obvious that a lot of research has gone into all this..

Verdict: There are some foods that will irritate the stomach such as tomatoes, grains and pulses if eaten in large quantities but they also provide us with certain nutrients that our bodies need. I’m a great believer in cutting out processed foods and junk food but I do wonder about cutting out entire food groups if there are both positives and negatives for eating them. If you suffer from IBS or stomach bloating I think that you would definitely find an improvement in your symptoms if you followed this diet. There is certainly nothing wrong with the foods that are proposed and I’m sure that you would lose weight but I would be concerned about how difficult it would be stick to long term and how quickly you would lose motivation and revert to previous eating patterns.

 

Stop! It’s Naughty

If you then tell them, yes it’s naughty but you can have it twice a week on Monday and Thursday afternoons at 3 o’clock, what will that do? For most of us by the time Monday and Thursday lunch times swing round we’ll be salivating and trying to stop ourselves diving head first into the fridge (or wherever you’ve stashed your tasty treat). At 2.59 we’ll be breaking out in a cold sweat and, at 3.01,heaving a huge sigh of relief as our taste buds finally come into contact with whatever it is we’ve been craving.

Some people absolutely swear by slimming clubs and, until 2017, The Biggest Loser was one of the US’s most popular TV shows but are these types of organisations really the best idea for people who want to lose weight? More importantly, are ‘diets’ really the way to keep the weight off or even to lose weight in the first place?

The fundamental thing that needs to be considered before any kind of weight loss programme is why you want to lose weight. You might say ‘well it’s obvious isn’t it’ but if you really take the time to think about it, it might not be. Being slim for some people is like the holy grail, they think that, if they shed, 50llbs their world will suddenly be filled with rainbows and unicorns but, unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. Whatever you look like on the outside, you will still be you on the inside so you need to have a think about whether it’s your body that needs fixing or your mind.

Most weight loss programmes are based on systems of punishment and reward: foods will be given points according to their calories and will then be labelled good or bad for you. Some slimming clubs even label certain foods as ‘sins’ (it didn’t stop Adam and Eve with the apple did it!?) The thinking behind this is that if you commit too many ‘sins’ you will continue to gain weight whereas, if you stick to the foods that have been deemed good for you, you will lose weight. However, built into most of these regimes will be the concept of a ‘treat’ which, continuing with the Garden of Eden analogy is a bit like telling you the apple is forbidden and then handing it to you on a plate with a nice bit of cheese and some crackers! If you think about human psychology, what will it do to most people if you tell them that something’s ‘forbidden’ or ‘naughty’? They’ll want it even more – think teenagers with alcohol! If you then tell them, yes it’s naughty but you can have it twice a week on Monday and Thursday afternoons at 3 o’clock, what will that do? For most of us by the time Monday and Thursday lunch times swing round we’ll be salivating and trying to stop ourselves diving head first into the fridge (or wherever you’ve stashed your tasty treat). At 2.59 we’ll be breaking out in a cold sweat and, at 3.01,heaving a huge sigh of relief as our taste buds finally come into contact with whatever it is we’ve been craving.

The other way that weight loss programmes work is to cut your food intake drastically and exercise you into the ground which is exactly what they did on the hit show The Biggest Loser. The contestants were alternately bullied and cajoled but they were also given ‘motivation’ in the form of a dirty great cheque at the end of it all; $250,000 to be precise. For some of the contestants it worked, they lost huge amounts of weight and they kept it off but many of them reverted to their previous eating habits and piled the pounds back on. biggest loserSome were back or close to their previous weight within a couple of years and some even exceeded it. For those who were truly motivated the regime of healthy, low calorie food and 4 to 6 hours of exercise a day was enough for them to transform their bodies and the transformation itself was enough motivation for them to continue with a healthy lifestyle.

However, the contestants on that show were in a bubble; their meals were tailored to their requirements, their exercise plans were designed specifically for them and they had top level personal trainers at their disposal all day and every day. Once many of them went back to the real world and didn’t have access to all those things, the weight piled back on again. What they also lost when they returned to normal life was the time to train and the emotional support that they received from their trainers and the other contestants.

So what’s the answer if you don’t have a huge team of people who are willing to help you undertake your physical transformation and you don’t like counting calories and having to wait until Monday afternoon for your sinful pleasures?

SuccessThe first thing is to stop thinking that your weight loss journey will be a battle and that you’ll have to give things up in order to succeed. In that way you start from a positive place rather than a negative place which is an awful lot easier mentally and emotionally. Think about all the things that YOU will gain if you lose weight. Don’t think about what other people may say or feel, think about how it will benefit you personally and write those things down, just 2 or 3 if that’s all you can think of, in a little notebook everyday. Secondly, realise that weight loss is not, when all is said and done, complicated – if you take in less calories than you expend you WILL lose weight, no question about it. However, counting calories requires you to microscopically examine everything that you eat and that is a pain in the ass. What is much easier is to take the plate that you normally put your dinner on, measure it and then go out and buy one which is 2/3rd’s the size. You will not be able to dish up the same portion size that you would normally as some of the food would just fall off the edge but your plate will still be full which means that, psychologically, you won’t feel that you’re being deprived of anything.

Next use smaller forks and spoons. I know this sounds a little strange but what it will do is to slow down your eating; you will be taking smaller mouthfuls because you’ll have no choice. This will then give your stomach a chance to register that food is on the way and have time to tell you that you’ve eaten enough. As our meals have a little way to travel before they turn up on our tummy radars it’s very easy to over-eat; you know that feeling when it seems that, all of a sudden, you are absolutely stuffed? Taking smaller mouthfuls should mean that you will stop eating long before you get that ‘I think i’m going to explode’ feeling.

The third thing is to cut, by half, the processed foods that you consume – ready meals, burgers, pizzas, cakes,pastries, sausages, bacon etc. You don’t need to cut it out completely and you don’t need to have days without – just replace the processed stuff with something natural and home cooked. stir fry chickenMost people think healthy is salad, salad and more salad but it doesn’t need to be like that at all. Try experimenting with stir fried chicken and vegetables, add more fish to your diet, look for colourful foods to brighten up your platehandmadeburgersinportobellomushroomcaps, look for alternatives to your favourite junk meal; try using portobello mushrooms on top and underneath a home-made burger instead of a bun. There are so many great recipes on line that you can try, it just takes a little imagination and effort but once you get started, it’s great fun discovering new ideas.

If you can make those changes to your diet, you will lose weight but, if you want to make the journey easier, you will also need to think about exercise. You don’t need to rush out and sign up for life-time membership of your local gym, you just need to look for opportunities to move more than you’re doing now. Park the car further from the office or, if it’s less than a mile away, walk to work. Instead of taking the kids to school in the car, get up earlier and walk with them. Go for a walk after you’ve eaten lunch rather than playing on your phone at your desk, walk up the stairs rather than taking the lift. climbing stairs

As you begin to lose weight and do a little more exercise you will find, quite naturally, that you have more energy, as you will have more energy you will have more motivation to exercise, the more muscle you build, the faster you will lose the fat etc. etc. etc. Once you get into the habit of exercise you may well find yourself wanting to join a gym or the local five a side football team but you can do that when you’re ready, there’s no pressure. The only thing you need to do is to do a little more tomorrow than you did yesterday.

standing on scaleIn this way you can lose weight slowly and easily without feeling that nice is naughty and without the pressure of weekly weigh-ins (or humiliations as they should more accurately called when people haven’t reached their prescribed target for that week.) It’s much more fun to think about what you will gain from your new healthier lifestyle than what you will be ‘giving up’. If your mind is happy about losing weight, your body will be too.

I’d really love to hear about your weight loss journeys if you have a few minutes to spare to drop me a line.

Have a great day everyone x

 

Unhealthily Fashionable?

All of this really goes to show that what what we perceive as being healthy may not necessarily be so and, frankly, any processed foods (including most sliced bread that you find in supermarkets) will never be as healthy as those that Mother Nature provides for us!

How do products that were introduced to help people who suffer from medical conditions become ‘fashionable’? A good example is gluten free food which was initially marketed to people who have Celiac disease (or wheat intolerance) but now seem to have found their way into the mainstream. For some reason, people seem to have got it into their heads that gluten free = healthier; is that really the case?

Gluten free breadIf you have ever tried gluten free bread, you will know that it lasts forever without going off (when I say forever that’s a slight exaggeration but it will be at least a week). It does then beg the question – what’s in it to keep it fresh for so long? Well, here’s the ingredients list for one of the most popular:

Water, Tapioca Starch, Brown Rice Flour, Canola Oil, Potato Starch, Egg Whites, Dried Cane SyrupTapioca MaltodextrinTapioca SyrupModified Food StarchYeast, Gum (Xanthan Gum, Sodium Alginate, Guar Gum), Salt,Locust Bean Gum, Cultured Brown Rice, Brown Rice and Enzymes.

Modified_food_starchYou will see that there are 3 different types of starch: tapioca, potato and the mysteriously named ‘modified food’ starch. These are all used as thickening agents in the bread making process and whilst the first two, tapioca and potato, are words that are familiar to us ‘modified’ is not so clear – what is it that’s been modified and, more importantly, why? In the case of gluten free bread, the food that has been modified is unlikely to be wheat but could be corn or rice. These natural ingredients are then mucked about with in any number of different ways from roasting them, to adding a positive electrical charge or treating them with either potassium or sodium hydroxide…..sounds appetizing?

From starches, we move on to sugars in the form of dried cane syrup, tapioca maltodextrin and tapioca syrup. All of these ingredients have next to no nutritional benefit but are all high glycemic refined sugars which will cause your blood sugar to spike. They will give you a quick burst of energy which will wear off very quickly and leave you craving more.

Canola OIlMoving on, canola oil is our next ingredient; don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is something similar to olive oil or rapeseed oil, it isn’t. It’s very cheaply produced which is presumably why it’s popular with food manufacturers and it’s also genetically modified. Added to that it is also often a refined oil which means that it is partially hydrogenated and therefore contains trans fats which are well known to have a very negative effect on heart health.

The last unfamiliar ingredients (at least unfamiliar if you make bread at home) will be the various types of gum which are used. These are not considered to be harmful and are used as thickening agents and stabilizers; they are created by fermenting sugars with a specific bacteria. That said, they can in no way be considered natural ingredients.

All of this really goes to show that what what we perceive as being healthy may not necessarily be so and, frankly, any processed foods (including most sliced bread that you find in supermarkets) will never be as healthy as those that Mother Nature provides for us! Aside from all that, if you don’t have Celiac disease but eat gluten free product anyway you will be limiting your consumption of whole grains which have been proven to help with heart health.

wholewheat breadFor comparison, this is the list of basic ingredients that you will need if you make bread at home from scratch:

  1. 1 kg strong bread flour.
  2. 625 ml tepid water.
  3. X3 7 g sachets of dried yeast , or 30g fresh yeast.
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar.
  5. 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt.
  6. flour , for dusting.

As you can see there is something of a difference between the two lists of ingredients, in fact, one bears no resemblance at all to the other!

Unleash your Inner Cave Man (or Woman)

Although they risked being mauled by whatever it was they fancied to eat that day (which makes me wonder how many of them decided that vegetarianism was a good option), they didn’t risk heart disease from ingesting refined sugars, refined carbs and trans fats.

I’ve recently been reading up on the Paleo diet which seems to have captured public imagination in a big way. Whilst I have a problem with the word ‘diet’ in general because it implies:

  1. That you will have to give something up or, in other words, deprive yourself of something you enjoy
  2. That it’s something you will undertake as a ‘journey’ i.e. there will be a beginning, a middle and an end, after which you will have finished your ‘journey’ and can go back to eating as you did before

this healthy life choice is certainly one that I approve of and, without realising it, have been pretty much following for the last few years.

I won’t bore you with the details as there is bucket loads of information on the internet about it but, basically, the eating plan is ‘natural’. paleo fooThe basic premise is that you eat what would have been available to cave men – meat, fish, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Whilst cavemen had many trials and tribulations I am sure, one of them was not trying to avoid all the additives and chemicals that are responsible for many of the health problems that we have today. mammothIf they were hungry they killed something or picked something from a tree or a plant; their nutritional needs were met by what they had available at the time. Although they risked being mauled by whatever it was they fancied to eat that day (which makes me wonder how many of them decided that vegetarianism was a good option), they didn’t risk heart disease from ingesting refined sugars, refined carbs and trans fats.

I try to eat foods that have not been ‘mucked about with’ as I like to put it – nothing processed and very little junk food (although I do have a penchant for Pizza Diavola and will indulge on rare occasions). This combined with plenty of exercise has ensured that my weight has stayed the same, give or take a couple of ounces, for the last 4 years. Personally, I’m happy to live like a cave woman except for the ‘cave’ part; indoor toilets and a front door are a must for me I’m afraid ;O)

 

An Attempt at Clarity

In fact, forget all the little labels and try to think about it this way: if something is natural and non mucked about with, chances are it’s healthy: fresh fish, lean meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables essentially. If something has been processed (ready meals, packet foods, soda’s etc) or is ‘junk’ food (take away burgers, pizza’s, fries, donuts etc) then, chances are, it will be bad for you. 

Have you noticed these days that a lot of food packaging these days is covered in little coloured charts and masses of numbers and percentages? This is manufacturers and Governments way of making us more aware of the food that we eat but it’s not exactly straightforward is it? This is the sort of thing I’m talking about:

TRAFFIC-LIGHTS_377x171

So, the colours are pretty straightforward; green is good, amber is OK and red is bad but what about the rest of it? What are the percentages? How much is 30g? What’s the difference between fat and saturates? What’s a reference intake? All in all it’s pretty confusing isn’t it?

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Well, this is 30g of cornflakes and it’s not a lot is it? If you are trying to lose weight you need to be really aware of portion sizes. This portion size will give you 110kcal but, if you eat double this amount, you will be taking in 220kcal and that’s without any milk, added sugar, tea and toast.

If you are counting your calories: 220kcal is about half an hour of fast paced walking……

Then we need to think about percentages but first we need to know what is 100% for each of the categories i.e. what are our advised daily limits:

Fat: a maximum of 70g per day. There is 15g of fat in an avocado and 49g in almonds but there are a great many health benefits to eating both as they contain monounsaturated (or heart healthy) fats. If you are trying to lose weight, both can be included in your daily food intake BUT in small quantities as they are high in calories: 144 cals per 25g of almonds and 160 in a small avocado

Saturated Fat: a maximum of 24g per day. 2 sausages can give you up to 11g of saturated fat or almost half your daily allowance [Source]

Sugars: a maximum of 30g per day. To give you an idea, one Mars Bar has 42g of sugar or almost 150% of your daily allowance.  [Source] It’s obvious that sweets and cakes will contain a lot of sugar but you also need to be aware of the refined sugars that are ‘hidden’ in many of the other foods that you eat – next time you’re wandering around the supermarket with half and hour to spare check out the food labels on ready meals!

Salt: a maximum of 6g per day. Two rashers of smoked back bacon will take up more than half this daily allowance with 3.8g of salt

Now the chart above makes a little bit more sense; if your limit for sugar for the day is 30g then 5g for your breakfast cereal (assuming you eat the recommended portion size) is really quite a lot when you think about the other things you eat on a daily basis that contain sugar.

Sugar and salt are pretty straight forward but fats are a little bit more complicated because you can have good fats and bad fats and knowing the difference between the two will really help if you are trying to live more healthily. Basically, unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) are essential to maintain a healthy body and, when eaten in moderation, can reduce your cholesterol levels. On the other hand, saturated fats and trans fats will increase your cholesterol levels if you eat too much of them and put you at risk of heart and blood pressure problems.

Examples of the good fats:

 

Then there are the ones that you really want to give a miss, accept on very rare occasions if you want to keep healthy. They all contain trans fats (essentially mucked about with oils) which the USA consider unsafe and will be phased out over the next 3 years. As far as I’m aware no such ban is being considered in Europe and foods containing trans fats are not required to be labelled as such despite there being a link between their consumption and types of cancer.

 

Whilst I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised quite how complicated all this stuff is so I’m going to try and simplify it further – without complicated terms, statistics, percentages or little charts. In fact, forget all the little labels and try to think about it this way: if something is natural and non mucked about with, chances are it’s healthy: fresh fish, lean meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables essentially. If something has been processed (ready meals, packet foods, soda’s etc) or is ‘junk’ food (take away burgers, pizza’s, fries, donuts etc) then, chances are, it will be bad for you.

Even simpler? Prepare and eat food made from natural, individual ingredients. As food author Michael Pollan says:

“Simply by starting to cook again, you declare your independence from the culture of fast food. As soon as you cook, you start thinking about ingredients. You start thinking about plants and animals and not the microwave. And you will find that your diet, just by that one simple act, that is greatly improved”