I watched an excellent documentary last night on BBC1 called "10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight" (it was a repeat from 2009). The program looked to science to give the best possible tips to reduce weight with the least effort or willpower. We all know that in order to lose weight that you have to eat less and exercise more. This program promised to show us how to combine that basic knowledge with some proven techniques to make the process painless and sustainable. I've gained a lot of weight recently so I was particularly interested but at the same time a little skeptical that I would learn anything new. In fact there were a number of surprising insights and I was so impressed that I've decided to put the theory into practice.
Putting Theory Into Practice
I'm 51 and 6 feet tall. I weigh 16 and a half stones (231 pounds) and I take medication for high blood pressure. I think a reasonable target weight would be 13 stones (182 pounds) so I need to lose about 50 pounds. If I lose weight at the rate of 2 pounds per week I should achieve my target weight by the middle of the year (30th June 2011). In the past I've had some success in following diets but always slipped back into bad habits. The documentary focused on simple changes to lifestyle choices so I'm optimistic that I can achieve my target weight and then maintain it. I found some of the tips more relevant and useful than others. I will focus on the tips that I will be following but also give a brief overview of the other tips.
1. Keep Moving
The documentary showed that, by making small changes to your daily routine to ensure that you keep moving, you can significantly increase the amount of calories that you burn. Examples included old favorites such as using stairs instead of escalators and getting off your bus one stop early. The revelation for me was moving throughout your daily routine. So when you are making phone calls walk about, every time you go for a coffee walk for a couple of minutes. If your typical day's schedule is full arrange to have walking meetings at lunchtime. So its a matter of being mindful throughout the day that you need to keep moving. I'm fortunate to work at home so I will set an hourly alarm to make sure I move about regularly.
2. Exercise After Burn
During exercise your body burns carbohydrates but after exercise when the carbohydrates are used up the body burns fat. I didn't realize that exercise gives this double benefit. I'm not keen on the gym or jogging but I do enjoy swimming (especially with my children) and bird watching (this can include some fast paced walking). I will swim or bird watch at least three times per week.
3. Eat Protein Regularly
Protein sends a message to the brain which suppresses hunger pangs. Protein does this more effectively than any other food type. I will include eggs and low fat milk (see diary products below) for breakfast and nuts and low fat yogurt for lunch. No need to make major changes for dinner as I always have fish, cheese or meat, I will also have a small glass of skimmed milk if I'm not having cheese.
4. Dairy Products
Dairy products help you increase the amount of fat you excrete. The calcium molecules in dairy products attach themselves to the fat molecules and you can double the amount of fat you pass by having a diet rich in low fat dairy products. I'm partially combining this with "Eat Protein Regularly", see above.
5. Smaller Plates
Have you noticed that restaurants with "all you can eat buffets" give you very small plates? The same principle applies here. If you have a small plate you are more likely to be satisfied with smaller portions of food. I will switch to smaller plates.
6. Count Your Calories
Most people think they have a reasonable idea of how many calories are in different types of food but they tend to underestimate. For example one chocolate bar may have as many calories as a full meal of grilled chicken, potatoes and greens. I will snack on fruit instead of crisps and chocolate and I will avoid all deep fried foods.
These first six tips are the ones that I found most relevant to me, but you may find the other tips just as useful:-
7. Eat Regular Meals
This has never been a problem for me! However if you are trying to lose weight skipping meals may actually be counter productive. If you become very hungry your brain will urge you to seek out high calorie foods. So, for example, if you skip breakfast you are more likely to be tempted by that high calorie Danish.
8. Its Not Your Metabolism!
I've never doubted that I'm overweight because I eat too much and exercise too little. However when we count calories we tend to under record, sometimes by as much as 50%. We forget about snacks, sugar in drinks and underestimate portion sizes and then we blame our "slow metabolism" for our weight gain.
9. Avoid Too Much Choice
If we are presented with many choices, for example at a buffet, we are programed to sample as many foods as possible as variety will provide a balanced diet. However most of us already get all the nutrition we need. Too much choice just encourages overeating.
Soups make you feel fuller for longer than solid foods. I'm not a great fan of soups so I will not be following this tip but if you enjoy soups they are great way of staving of those hunger pangs for longer.
The documentary gave ten great tips. I will be actively following six of them:-
- Use an alarm each hour to remind me to move about more
- Proper exercise 3 times per week
- Eat protein with each meal
- Eat more low fat diary products
- Use smaller plates
- Count my calories- substitute fruit for crisps and chocolate and avoid deep fried food
Following these tips I aim to lose about 2 pounds per week until I reach my target weight of 13 stones (182 pounds) by 30th June 2011.
For extra self-motivation I will update this article on the first of each month, so first update 1st Feb 2011!