Dan Davis, Nutritional Therapist,
for SingleMum.com.au | 12 April 2012
I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and that my last article didnít put you off a tasty Christmas dinner.
So what does the new year hold in store for you? What plans have you made? Iím almost certainly willing to bet my mortgage on the fact that a good fair few of you made a promise to shed a few pounds in the new year. Donít we all make that promise at least once in our lives? So the reason why iíve left it till April to ask you, and to write this column, is to see how many of you have given up, or are disappointed with the progress or results so far. Iíd be willing to bet that mortgage again, that thereíd be a few hands up in the class on that question.
But donít worry. Thereís no need to abandon the project. I want to share with you a few tips that will get you back on track and help you shed the unwanted inches. There are hundreds of Ďdietsí out there that promise a beach body in weeks. The diet industry is worth billions of dollars. Its worth billions of dollars because of repeat business. What I mean is, if the advice, products or celebrity endorsed get slim quick schemes worked permanently, the companies would go out of business and the world wouldnít have an obesity epidemic. Make sense?
It is my firm opinion, and one I have followed to lose a lot of weight successfully, is that you will only lose weight safely, healthily and consistently, if you change lifestyle factors and habits. So I want to feed you some tips, some doís and doníts to follow. You can follow them as you wish, if it's too overwhelming to make a lot of changes at once, then pick the most easy to fit into your day to day life, then as you see results make a few more. I think you will find your motivation increases as you notice changes.
Donít try and lose weight! Thatís confused you hasnít it? Weight loss can be a lot of pressure on someone. To carry out weekly, fortnightly or any interval weigh-ins can breed disappointment, which in turn may cause you to give up. So pick a goal. A small achievable goal with a set time limit. For example, you may want to fit into a dress or outfit you have tucked in the wardrobe. Or maybe you want to be able to jog around the perimeter of your local park without stopping. Whatever it may be, set yourself a target and aim for it. Ignore the scales for now. I only want you to take your initial start weight and maybe some measurements. Thereís another target right there, lose a inch off your waist. You can take a before picture too if you wish. A visual marker for your progress is a great motivational tool. The main reason to ignore weight as a measurement for the time being is that over the next few months, you may increase your lean tissue, your muscle mass. And muscle weighs more than fat in comparison. So you may have weeks where you have eaten well, worked out a bit more or pushed harder and you may gain or stay the same weight. This could hamper your motivation and set you back. So rule 1, ignore scales.
Lots of fad diets, celebrity endorsed plans and heavily marketed weight loss products will brag that thereís no need to count calories. The products work without you having to think about food or eating? But unfortunately that's how many of us got into this vicious circle of weight loss in the first place isnít it?. Not thinking about eating, or the food we eat. No matter what that famous actress tells us or what that stunning model endorses, weight gain or weight loss depends on one simple equation. Energy or calories in (your food intake) versus energy out (calories burned through exercise and normal body functions). If one is higher than the other youíll gain or lose weight. It really is as simple as that. Everyone's daily calorie intake varies, we aren't all the same. We first need to work out our individual BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), which is the amount of daily energy burnt at rest, because all our organs use energy to operate. It is a fairly complicated calculation using weight, height and age so to make it easier I've added a link below to a free website that does the work for you.
When you have calculated this number, we then need to work out your calorie intake needed to maintain weight based on your activity level. We use the Harris Benedict Equation below.
If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) BMR x 1.2
If you are lightly active (light exercise/sport 1-3 times per week) BMR x 1.375
If you are moderately active (exercise/sport 3-5 times per week) BMR x 1.55
If you are very active (hard exercise/sport 6-7 times per week) BMR x 1.725
If you are extra active (hard exercise/sport/physical job all week) BMR x1.9
Be honest with yourself, if you genuinely lead a sedentary lifestyle don't try and convince yourself, or others, you visit the gym 2 or 3 times a week. Your calorie intake will be calculated too high and you won't see any results. So now you should have a number to guide you. This is the calorie intake you would need to consume to stay at the same weight. If you reduce your intake by 500 calories a day you may lose around half a kilo a week. Burn off a couple of hundred more a day with some exercise, and this increases. Take control of your eating from now. Take the time to read the calories in the foods you eat. You will be surprised how much or how little may be in your current staple food choices.
There are lots of free websites available that can tell you the calorie content of thousands of foods. Use them to plan your meals.
Donít put your health in the hands of food manufacturers. How does any manufacturing business make money? You take cheap materials, you form them, shape them and produce an end product that is cheap and will sell to as many people as possible with as high a profit as possible. Cheap food is no different, its cheap for a reason. Look at the Ďready mealí. Perhaps a lasagna. It will have used cheap meats, probably high in fat, white pasta which is made from refined flour, maybe a tomato Ďflavouredí sauce. The ingredients list may have several things you donít recognise as food which may be additives or preservatives. So take control of your food, take the time to read whatís on the label. Often, the calorie contents of ready meals are exceptionally high due to the use of fats and sugar to flavour and bulk the food. Start to prepare a little more yourself, bit by bit if your not used to cooking. There are some great beginners cook books that will teach you some basics. And cooking from scratch doesnít have to break your budget. Frozen ingredients are cheaper, stay fresher for longer and actually have a higher nutrient value than fresh, that loses nutrients the older they get. If you use the calorie counters mentioned before, you could easily see how much more good, nutritious, fresh and healthy choices you could eat compared to processed foods. You could end up eating more, for the same calories, meaning you won't go hungry. Which is another reason people fall off the 'diet' wagon.
Most of the modern diet is heavily carbohydrate based. Especially if you tend to eat mostly from packets and plastic trays. A sugary breakfast cereal will be mostly carbohydrate, as will toast and jam, a croissant or doughnut with your morning coffee. A diet high in carbohydrates sends your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster with highs and dips, causing the body to release insulin to utilise the glucose (sugar) or to store it as fat. Add protein to all your meals, to balance blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein sources are meats, eggs and fish or vegetable sources like beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and grains like quinoa. Instead of toast and jam, try eggs on toast. Even a lean bacon sandwich on wholemeal bread is ok, as long as you trim all visible fat. Don't be afraid to eat foods you wouldn't associate as a breakfast food. I often eat chicken and vegetables for breakfast.
You won't be successful if you carry a lot of stress. The body reacts to stress by flooding itself with hormones which prepare the body for the 'fight or flight' reaction. In the event of a shock or need to react to danger, the blood is full of glucose ready to be used by the muscles to run away from a situation or fight. Less important body systems are 'shut down', for example the digestive system. Modern day stresses make the body react in the same way. A missed credit card payment, family argument or job pressures will do the same things to us but we won't run away to burn off that excess blood sugar, we won't calm down when the danger has passed causing the body system to reset. Modern stress is constant, these hormones make the heart pump harder, blood vessels constrict, breathing rates increase. Insulin is released again, to store the excess sugar in the blood. A high sugar diet, hand in hand with a stressful lifestyle is a recipe for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Take measures to reduce your stress levels, even temporarily is a good start. Take your life back bit by bit, and make time to relax.
I'll just remind you a few reasons as to why adding 30 minutes to an hour of exercise to your day will improve your life. Firstly, it will increase your calorie deficit. If you have reduced your calories by the magic 500 and add some exercise, you'll lose more weight quicker. If you do have a particularly stressful day, put on your training shoes and go for a brisk walk. It will counter the effects of the stress hormones and burn off that excess glucose in the blood. Blood vessels dilate and breathing becomes easier. Lastly, add a little resistance work. Lifting even light weights increases muscle mass, and for every 1kg of muscle built, the body burns an extra 100 calories at rest, increasing the calorie deficit further.
So I hope that's given a new outlook on weight loss. As always my inbox is open if you need to ask anything.
And if you have success, I'd love to hear about that too.
Dan Davis is a Nutritional Therapist based in London and Kent in the UK and a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Panel. To learn more about Dan, please go to his Biography page here
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