The Unwanted Truth
So, what’s the secret to losing weight? If, as I say, the ‘Diets’ don’t work, then is it a pill? Has there been some new advancement in science that means they have found a miracle cure? Is surgery the answer? Of course, the reply to all of these is ‘No, no and definitely NOT!’ To be honest, there is no real secret. There is no miracle cure or pill that you can take to easily drop that unwanted poundage and getting it cut or sucked out doesn’t solve the problem either. There is, however, a fairly simple equation that sums up how to stop putting weight on and start losing it.
Burning More Calories Than You Eat = Weight Loss
Now, many of you, if not all, will have probably figured this out already. It just makes sense. If you burn more calories than you take in, your body has to find that energy from somewhere, so it starts tapping into your fat stores. ‘But hang on a minute’ I hear you cry ‘You told us in the last article that your body just taps into your muscle and that’s why you lose weight’ This is true, but I was talking about why you appear to lose weight quickly if you follow a ‘Diet’. What I am talking about now, is how to train your body to convert the excess fat into energy for long term results. In order to do this, you need to equip yourself with the following 4 things:- Time, Effort, Patience and Understanding.
I will cover each of these elements individually a little bit later and explain exactly what I mean, but first, I think a bit more information is required. Let me make this quite clear - what I am telling you in this article is for people who seriously wish to lose weight and improve their overall health and well being. For anybody who is looking for that ‘quick fix’ then you probably won’t want to hear, or will just ignore, what I have to say anyway. If you have read my previous article ‘Dieting - The Dreaded ‘D’ Word’ and still wish to go down that road then, I’m sorry I can’t help you.
There are two things to consider when you look at this equation - 1, what you eat ie how many calories you are taking in and 2, what you do to burn these calories off. In this article I will cover the first of these two items - our diets. (Note that I will be talking about diets with a ‘d’ not ‘Diets’ with a ‘D’) Our body needs certain nutrients in order to function properly. They are - Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Vitamins & Minerals and Water. On a daily basis, our diet needs to be made up of the following quantities of each of those nutrients:- Carbs (65%), Protein (20%), Fat (10%), Vitamins & Minerals (5%) + Water (approx. 2-3 Litres). Most foods contain some or all of these nutrients in different quantities. Although foods are generally placed into one or other of these categories (breads, pasta, rice - Carbs, meat, fish - Protein, oils, butter - Fat etc) they still contain the other nutrients. Take for example Bread, it is heavy in carbohydrates which is why it is placed in this category but it also contains a certain amount of protein, fat, minerals and water. How much depends on the type of bread you choose to eat (white, wholemeal, french, fruit etc) but it still has them. Obviously, I could go further and explain about carbohydrates being broken into complex and simple or the different forms of fat, but I want to try and keep this as straight forward as possible.
You don’t have to make it hard work or a difficult mathematical problem to work out whether you are getting the right amount of nutrients every time you want to eat something. One of my favourite foods is a Tuna & Mayo sandwich. With this simple meal I am acquiring everything that I need. I have my main source of carbs from the bread, protein from the fish, fat from the butter that I spread on the bread and in the mayonnaise and an array of vitamins, minerals and water. There is nothing extremely unhealthy about this meal but if I wanted to reduce the amount of calories in it I would simply exchange the white bread for wholemeal or granary, reduce or cut out the amount of butter and mayonnaise and add more salad.
I don’t believe you have to deny yourself the foods you enjoy eating in order to lose weight. We all have a fairly good idea of what is considered good for us and what is considered bad for us. Fruit - Good, Chocolate - Bad, Vegetables - Good, Chips - Bad and so on, but it’s not so much about what you eat, it’s about getting the balance right. We don’t have to cut everything that falls into the ‘Bad’ category out of our diets. You will probably be familiar with the old saying ‘Too much of a good thing is bad for you’ and this is true of everything. Fruit is extremely good for you, not to mention tasty, but if you have too much of it or that’s all you choose to eat, then it becomes bad for you because you are not getting the balance right. Having chocolate every now and then is fine, overindulging in it on a daily basis is not. When it comes to your food intake engage your common sense. If you are eating three large meals a day, snacking and/or having takeaway food every night and are doing little to no exercise, then you are obviously taking on more calories than your body needs and will gain weight.
So, what do we do about it? We are overweight and we want to change our diet to reduce the amount of calories we are consuming without going on a ‘Diet’ or making drastic changes forcing our bodies to go into ‘starvation mode’. There are a couple of different ways to do this but first you have to take a good honest look at your current diet. Below I have listed some solutions to a few common problems. If there is something I haven’t mentioned, which you would like help or advice on, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll try and help you with it.
Snacking - Most of us do this to a greater or lesser degree. The main cause of this is boredom. It passes the time and makes us feel good. Feeling hungry can be more psychological than physical a lot of the time. Generally 3 meals a day, is more than adequate for the average human. You can cut snacking out of your diet completely as it is entirely unnecessary. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to do this to begin with, try changing what you eat as a snack to something like a piece of fruit, carrot/cucumber sticks, unsalted fruit and nut mixes or anything that you would normally enjoy eating but has a lower calorific value than you are currently snacking on. Or if you feel the urge to have a snack try thinking about it like this - I am only going to eat 3 times a day. I would normally have breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had breakfast at 8.30am, it’s now 11am and I feel the need to eat something. If I eat now, that is my lunch and I can’t eat again until dinner. Do I really need/want something right now or can I wait for another hour, maybe two and have a proper lunch?
Portion Sizes - You may already be only eating 3 times a day or possibly less (skipping breakfast or lunch depending on work commitments and your schedule) but you still manage to gain weight or are unable to lose it. In this case, take a look at your portion sizes. Again, so many of us dish up far more food than we need and then feel that we have to eat it all. Start by cutting your portions by about a third. Don’t worry about being exact but use it as a guideline. So, for example, if you would normally have 2 sandwiches for lunch, cut it down to 1½. If, you have 3 spoonfuls of rice and 3 spoonfuls of sauce on top, cut this down to 2 of each. A fried breakfast with 3 sausages, 2 bacon, 2 eggs, mushrooms, tomato, 2 slices of toast, gets cut down to 2 sausages, 1 bacon, 1 egg, a smaller amount of mushrooms, tomato and 1 slice of toast and so on. We should feel satiated after eating NOT stuffed. If you are having to cram the last mouthful in and feeling exhausted after a meal then you have overeaten. Trust me, no matter how wonderful something tastes, you will appreciate it and enjoy it so much more if you eat the right amount of it, rather than overindulging in it. If you are unsure of the right amount, spend the first couple of weeks experimenting with slightly different portion sizes until you start learning how to listen to your body and recognise when you have had just the right amount. Don’t be afraid to stop eating before you have finished what is on your plate. This may mean to begin with that you waste a little bit of food but in the long run you will be saving a lot more and making your food go further. Also remember, the great thing is that our stomachs adapt and over time shrink, so therefore, the less we eat, the less we need to eat before feeling full. Ultimately, you should end up eating at least half the amount you used to without you feeling hungry.
Rushing Your Food - Try to make sure you give yourself time to eat your food. Too many of us rush the process of eating our food. Usually because we are trying to cram something in on the go. You have to try and break this habit, you have to make a conscious decision to eat slower. It’s not easy but it has many benefits. Firstly, it aids your overall digestion, helps prevent indigestion and reduces aggravation if you suffer from IBS. Secondly, a lot of carbohydrates begin breaking down in your mouth, so chewing your food properly is important. It’s also while you’re chewing your food that signals are sent to your stomach indicating what type of food you are eating and therefore giving it a chance to prepare the correct enzymes to break that food down efficiently. Your stomach also needs a chance to send messages to your brain that it is getting full. If you eat too fast, by the time your stomach has a chance to send those signals you will have already eaten too much. Lastly, you will start enjoying and taking pleasure in your food, because you get the opportunity to savour and appreciate every mouthful.
Prepackaged/Ready Made Meals/Food - As much as possible leave these out of your diet. If you can, prepare and cook as much of the food that you take in as possible. Not only will it generally be healthier for you but it means you have control and know what you are putting into your body. So many of those types of food have all sorts of chemicals and additional salt and sugar that you wouldn’t get if you cooked or prepared that meal yourself. Again, there is also a lot more satisfaction to be had when you eat anything that you have taken the time to make.
For all of the above mentioned problems and in order for you to take control of your diet, you will have to equip yourself with the 4 elements I mentioned earlier.
Time - Give yourself time to eat. Time for your body to adjust. Time to lose weight at a sensible rate (approx. 1-2 lbs a week). Time to enjoy the pleasure of food. Time to break old habits. Time to create a healthier lifestyle. Time to see results. If you don’t allow yourself time and set unrealistic deadlines and goals you will become disheartened very quickly and never achieve the weight loss and healthier body you desire.
Effort - To get the most out of something you have to put some effort in. With your diet it takes effort to stop yourself from snacking. It takes effort to remind yourself to eat slower. It takes effort to think about how much you are consuming. It takes effort to prepare your own food. It takes effort to stay disciplined.
Patience - Be patient with your body and yourself. Don’t expect miracles over night. Remember the Aesop Fable of ‘The Hare and The Tortoise’ slow and steady wins the race. You’ll get there, just be patient.
Understanding - Try to start understanding a little of how your body functions. Start listening to it and interpreting what it is telling you. Try not to let your brain drown out your bodies voice. Your body knows better than anyone what you need and if you just listen to it you will soon learn when it is patting you on the back for a job well done or punishing you for ignoring it.
As I said right at the start, diet mainly comes down to engaging your common sense and I have tried to explain here just a little of how you can do that. If you try to follow these simple rules you will be well on the way to taking control and beginning a happier and healthier lifestyle for yourself. In my next article I will run through (no pun intended) the second part of the equation and look at burning off those calories.