Wednesday

Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 1

Since 2010, I have studied, analysed and compiled the eating habits of almost a thousand overweight people.
 
In the next few blog posts, I'll be revealing what I consider to be the undisputed TOP 20 reasons that we find ourselves overweight in the first place, along with a detailed explanation of each. This was initially just going to be a 'top ten', but when I was compiling this, I could see there were many important reasons that fell outside of the top ten. Over the next few blog posts, you may find a few surprises in here; even for those people who think they already 'know' why they're overweight.

So, whether you're about to commence your own weight loss journey or you're part way through and looking for some inspiration to give your journey a boost, here are the Top 3 reasons that contribute to people being over weight;
 
1 Not Drinking Enough Water.
 
By a very long way, the single biggest reason that contributes toward us being over-weight, is the fact that we simply don’t drink enough water.
 
THERE IS NO DIET PLAN OR WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM IN THE WORLD, THAT CAN OVER-RIDE OUR BODIES NATURAL DEMAND FOR WATER.
 
As well as anything else, we’re made out of the stuff; two thirds of your body weight is water.
Even though it doesn’t feel natural or logical to link water intake with our weight, many of the reasons we think we’re overweight, are actually caused by not drinking enough water.
 
So many of us think that our weight problem is caused by, “eating when I’m bored”, “eating when I’m stressed”, “I comfort eat”, “I graze all day”, “I snack in the afternoon or evening”, “I always need something sweet after a meal”, “I crave chocolate all the time”. At some level, this may seem true, because it’s what you’re experiencing. At a deeper level however, the biggest contributor to creating all those experiences is lack of water.
 
Think about it like this: Imagine if you had a car that wasn’t working properly and was constantly overheating. At one level you could say your car overheated; “because the journey was too long”, “because I was stuck in traffic for ages”, “because it’s a scorching hot day”, “because I was driving too fast”, “because it was fully laden”, etc, etc. Again, at some level any of these reasons could be true because your experience can confirm these as verifiable facts. However, at a deeper level, if there isn’t enough water in the radiator, you know that the real, route cause of the over-heating is lack of water.
 
How does drinking water help me lose weight?
Water ticks SO many boxes in terms of allowing our bodies to function properly and efficiently; if we aren’t drinking enough, we’re lining ourselves up for all kinds of problems, one of which is struggling with weight. Water helps your muscles to burn off calories more efficiently, it keeps your skin hydrated, it helps with burning off excess body fat and flushes unwanted toxins out of your system.
 
How much water do I need to drink?
As a guide, we need to drink a litre of water for every 5 stone of body weight, every day. This also needs to be spread fairly evenly throughout the day from just after you rise, all the way through to a couple of hours before bedtime.
 
I’ve got friends who are slim. They don’t drink water like that, why should I?
That may be true. But remember, if you’re wanting to lose weight, you’ll need to over compensate with your water intake for a while; at least until your weight’s reduced and under control.
 
With all that water, I’m going to be on the loo all the time. Won’t that be inconvenient?
Yes, initially it may mean a few more trips to the loo. If you haven’t been drinking enough water, your body will have adapted to this to some degree; for example, your bladder will be used to holding only a small amount of urine. Once you start drinking the recommended amount of water, your body will quickly get used to processing this amount, you’ll also begin to ‘crave’ the right amount and ultimately, your bladder will adapt to hold more, resulting in fewer trips to the loo again and the inconvenience of those extra loo trips being relatively short lived. Compare that with the inconvenience of being overweight or unhealthy and it’s a very small price to pay, isn’t it?
 
Can I count any fluid toward my daily allowance or does it need to be just water?
As a guide, it can be anything that doesn’t contain sugar, salt, caffeine or alcohol. So, tap water, flavoured water, filtered water, mineral water, sparkling water, etc, are all fine. Try adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or unsweetened juice to give it a bit of flavour. You can also count decaffeinated tea and coffee, or infusions such as mint teas, ginger & lemon teas and that kind of thing.
 
I’ve already got swollen ankles and fluid retention. If I drink all that water, surely I’m going to swell up even more, aren’t I?
Not at all. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen. Part of the reason that your body is retaining fluid, is because you’re not drinking enough and your body has adapted to storing it, in much the same way as camels store water in the desert. As soon as your body becomes used to processing the recommended amount of water, your body will realise that it doesn’t need to store fluid any more and those swellings will quickly go down.
 
 
2 Time.
 
The second biggest reason we struggle with our weight, is that we generally just don’t treat ourselves to the time that we deserve, to bring our weight under control. Of course we all want instant results, that’s just human nature; but most of us are sensible enough to accept that the weight didn’t go on overnight, and it isn’t going to come off over night. But the ‘time’ thing goes much deeper than that and manifests itself in a number of different ways:
 
Okay, so you’ve decided you want to lose weight. How much do you want it? Are you completely committed to doing whatever it takes to bring your weight under control?
Have you ever been on holiday and heard people speaking French, Spanish, Italian, etc, and thought to yourself, “Oh, I wish I could speak a foreign language”? Or have you ever attended a venue where there was live music playing and thought, “I wish I could play a musical instrument”? I’m guessing there was probably ‘real’ desire in that moment, thinking about how good it would feel to play that instrument or learn that language. But, how does that desire compare to your desire to lose weight?
 
Many people fall into the trap of having these desires, but with no real commitment behind them. Without the commitment, it’s always going to be ‘just a desire’.
 
So, with this in mind, are you really doing everything you can to bring your weight under control? If not, are you really that determined after all?
 
Ask yourself, just how high up your list of priorities is losing weight? I had a client once, whose hobby was painting landscapes. When I broached the subject of time with her, she informed me, “I never have any spare time. It isn’t just about painting the pictures” she continued, “I’m always out buying materials, taking photographs, attending exhibitions, preparing advertisements for selling paintings, maintaining my website … I never stop!”.
Quite often she would say to herself, “I haven’t got time to prepare a proper meal, I’ve got to get this painting finished. I’ll just grab a snack….” or, “There’s no time for the gym today, I need to get these prints uploaded to my website…”.
 
Many of us fall into a very similar trap, where we kid ourselves into thinking there isn’t enough time, blaming work commitments, children, parents, spouses or a whole list of other reasons. In reality though, the issue isn’t about ‘time’ at all; it’s about prioritising. If we really want to, we can consciously change our priorities … “I’m just not going to get this painting finished today because I really need to stop now and start preparing a meal”. “As much as I want to get these prints uploaded to my website, it’s just not going to happen; I really need to get going to the gym now!”.
 
But hang on” I hear you say, “I really don’t have any time. By the time I’ve finished work, picked Jack up from nursery, done some shopping, called in on my elderly parents, collected Billy from football, prepared tea, bathed the kids, put them to bed ……”. Okay, okay, I get the picture!
 
But let’s have a look at what’s really going on there. We might realise we’re over weight. We might have some level of desire to do something about it. We might even realise that we need to go to the gym. But instead, we’ll just kid ourselves, bombarding our minds with an endless list of tasks that need doing instead. This helps us to justify (at some level) why we’re over weight, blaming events ‘outside’ of ourselves. At some level and in a strange kind of way, this does help us feel slightly better about our weight situation, as we create the illusion for ourselves that things are beyond our control.
 
Losing weight is like taking on a project, and like any project, it may require some management of your time.
 
Prioritise:- Exercise bike or Eastenders? Lie-in or breakfast?
Plan Ahead:- If you know your time schedule’s going to be tight, make sure you’ve taken the time to plan ahead. Planning meals to avoid that opportunistic take-away. Planned snacks to make sure they’re the healthy ones. Planned activity sessions so that they’re a prioritised commitment, around which everything else can be fitted.
Be Selfish:- Are you allowing everyone else to dictate what you do with your time?
Set Goals:- Not too ‘long-term’. What do you want to achieve this week? or next week? Write them down.
 
 
3 Activity.
 
The third biggest factor that contributes toward our weight comes from our levels of activity.
Now of course, it is possible to make some headway into our weight loss journey just by making some changes to our diet. But for those people who are really committed and determined to reduce their weight and feel healthier, increasing your activity levels can significantly increase the effectiveness of your efforts, accelerate the rate at which you’re able to reduce your weight and boost the chances of keeping the weight off for good.  
 
Losing weight is really about simple maths; all you need to do is burn off more calories than you eat. So, making a few tweaks to our food intake, takes care of one half of the equation. Becoming more active takes care of the other half and really can’t be treated as an ‘optional extra’. Regular activity leads to an increase in our metabolic rate; meaning that once you become a regular exerciser, your body will burn off more calories ‘round the clock’, not just at the times when you’re exercising.
 
Of course, there are a few hurdles to overcome in order for most of us to get into the habit of a regular activity routine. One of the mistakes many people make is trying to do too much, too soon. This is far more likely to lead to us not bothering at all, or coming up with all kinds of excuses as to why we can’t do it.
 
Some of the classic excuses are;
 
“Between work, family, and other demands, I am too busy to exercise.”
 
Are you really too busy, or does it make you feel better using that ‘time’ thing as a justification? It’s never really about time, it’s about prioritising what you do with your time.
 
Make physical activity a priority. Carve out some time each week to be active, and put it on your calendar. Try waking up a half-hour earlier to walk, scheduling lunchtime workouts, or taking an evening fitness class.
 
Build physical activity into your routine chores. Rake the garden, hand-wash the car, or do energetic housework. That way you do what you need to do around the house and move around too.
 
Make family time physically active. Plan a weekend hike through a park, a family ball game, a wii console tournament or just an evening walk around the block.
 
 
“By the end of a long day, I am just too tired to work out.”
 
One of the biggest reasons for being too tired to exercise, is that our bodies are out of shape and we have a low metabolic rate. Starting off with something relatively small and safely within your capabilities (even if it’s just a 10 minute walk to begin with), it’s possible to gradually build on this to a point where, in a relatively short space of time, your energy levels increase and you’re engaging in a regular, meaningful level activity.
 
Plus, think about the other health benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also lower your odds of having heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer. Research shows that people who are overweight, active and fit live longer than people who are not overweight but are inactive and unfit. Also, physical activity may lift your mood and increase your energy level.
 
Do it just for fun. Play a team sport, work in a garden, or learn a new dance. Make getting fit something fun. Train for a charity event. You can work to help others while you work out. Committing to this and telling your friends you’ve committed to it will significantly increase your chances of sticking with it.
 
 
“Getting on a treadmill or exercise bike is boring.”
 
There are loads of things that we do that are boring; ironing, vacuuming, cleaning …. but we still do them! The good news is that we can at least tweak our exercise routines so that they aren’t as boring;-
 
Meet a friend for workouts. If your buddy is on the next bike or treadmill, your workout will be less boring.
 
Watch TV or listen to music or an audio book while you walk or pedal indoors. Selecting the right tempo of music can also help influence your work-rate and the effort you put in.
 
Get outside. A change in scenery can relieve your boredom. If you are riding a bike outside, be sure to wear a helmet and learn safe rules of the road. Also, take your camera! It’s amazing where you can end up when you’re out on your bike. You’re bound to take in scenery and landscapes that you almost certainly wouldn’t come across otherwise. Capturing some shots on camera and reviewing them a couple of days later is a great way to motivate yourself to get out there again!
 
 
“I am afraid I might hurt myself.”
 
Of course we don’t want to be aggravating an old injury or even worse, causing a new injury.
 
Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slow at the start. Even if you are doing an activity that you once did well, start up again slowly to lower your risk of injury or burnout.
 
Choose moderate-intensity physical activities. You are not likely to hurt yourself by walking 30 minutes per day. Doing vigorous physical activities may increase your risk for injury, but moderate-intensity physical activity carries a lower risk.
 
Join a class. A knowledgeable group fitness instructor should be able to teach you how to move with proper form and lower risk for injury. The instructor can watch your actions during the class and let you know if you are doing things right.
 
Choose water workouts. Whether you swim lengths or try aqua-aerobics, working out in the water is easy on your joints and helps reduce sore muscles and injury.
 
Work with a personal trainer. A certified personal trainer should be able to show you how to warm up, cool down, use fitness equipment like treadmills and dumbbells, and use proper form to help lower your risk for injury. All gymnasiums have qualified fitness instructors and their knowledge, advice and encouragement is usually included in your membership fees …. So use them!
 
 
“I have never been into sports.”
 
Find a physical activity that you enjoy. You do not have to be an athlete to benefit from physical activity. Try yoga, hiking, or planting a garden.
 
Choose an activity that you can stick with. For example, walking. Just put one foot in front of the other. Use the time you spend walking to reflect or plan ahead, talk with a friend or family member, or just enjoy the scenery.
 
 
“I don’t want to spend lots of money joining a gym or buying workout gear.”
 
Choose free activities. Take your children to the park to play or take a walk.
 
Find out if your job offers any discounts on gym memberships. Some companies get lower membership rates at fitness or community centres. Other companies will even pay for part of an employee’s membership fee. If you’re a public sector workers or even a retired public sector worker, you’ll almost certainly have access to discounted gym memberships and the like.
 
Check out your local recreation or community centre. These centres may cost less than other gyms, fitness centres, or health clubs.
 
Choose physical activities that do not require any special gear. Walking requires only a pair of sturdy shoes. To dance, just turn on some music. Or what about borrowing the kids’ wii console for an hour?
 
If your mobility has been impaired for a while, ask your GP about the ‘Activity For Life’ program; a completely free, thirteen week, one to one physical induction plan with a personal trainer, designed to ease you back into a regular routine of activity.
 
 
“I don’t have anyone to watch my kids while I work out.”
 
Do something physically active with your kids. Kids need physical activity too. No matter what age your kids are, you can find activities you can do together. Taking them swimming, go walking, a ride around the park, or playing with a ball or frizbee together.
 
Take turns with another parent to watch the kids. One of you minds the kids while the other one works out.
 
Look for gyms and fitness centres that offer child care facilities or a crèche. Centres that offer child care are increasingly recognising this problem and are becoming more popular.
 
 
“My family and friends are just not physically active.”
 
Do not let that stop you. Do it for yourself. Enjoy the rewards you get from working out, such as better sleep, a happier mood, more energy, and a stronger body.
 
Join a class or sports league where people count on you to show up. If your football team or squash partner counts on you, you will not want to miss a workout, even if your family and friends are not involved.
 
 
“I would be embarrassed if my neighbours or friends saw me exercising.”
 
Ask yourself if it really matters. You are doing something positive for your health and that is something to be proud of. You may even inspire others to get physically active too.
 
Invite a friend or neighbour to join you. You’ll feel far less self-conscious if you just invite them along!
 
 
“The winter is too cold or the summer is too hot to be active outdoors.”
 
Walk around the shopping centre. A bit of retail ‘window shopping’ therapy keeps you on your feet and active. Even if it’s just once a week, if it’s more then you’re currently doing, it’s a step in the right direction.
 
Join a fitness or community centre. Some gyms will now let you pay seasonally or just for the classes you want.  This way, you can avoid committing yourself to the full membership fee for a whole year.
 
Exercise at home. Work out to fitness videos or DVDs. It doesn’t even have to be a DVD …. look on YouTube for an almost infinite variety of dance or fitness sessions.
 
 
“I have a health problem (diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis) or an injury that I do not want to make worse.”
 
Speak first with your GP. Most health problems are actually helped by physical activity. Find out what physical activities you can safely do and follow advice about length and intensity of workouts.
 
Join the Activity For Life program. Activity for life is available from your GP. In certain circumstances he/she can prescribe you a 13 week gym membership with a one-to-one personal instructor, designed to get you more active. Some of the gym equipment and machinery is designed to do some of the work for you as you begin, and is adjusted as you progress through the program. For more information, just ask your GP about Activity For Life.
 
Start slowly. Take it easy at first and see how you feel before trying more challenging workouts. Stop if you feel out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseated, or if you have pain.
 
Work with a personal trainer. If you recovering from an injury, a knowledgeable personal trainer should be able to help you design a fitness plan around your injury.
 
 
Activity Action Plan
 
 
What are the top two or three barriers to physical activity that you face? What can you do to break through these barriers? Write down a list of the barriers you face and solutions you can use to overcome them.
 
You have thought about ways to beat your barriers to physical activity. Now, create your blueprint for adding physical activity to your life by following these three steps:
 
 
Know your goal.
 
Set up short-term goals. For example, walking 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Once you are comfortable, try to do more. Try 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Then walk on more days a week while adding more minutes to your walk. You can try different activities too. To add variety, you can do low-impact aerobics or water aerobics for 30 minutes, 2 days a week.
Then walk on a treadmill or outdoors for 30 minutes, 1 day a week. Then do yoga or lift weights for 2 days.
 
Track your progress by writing down your goals and what you have done each day, including the type of activity and how long you spent doing it. Seeing your progress in black-and-white helps to keep you motivated.
 
 
See your GP first.
 
If you are a man and over age 40 or a woman and over age 50, or have a chronic health problem such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, speak to your GP before starting a vigorous physical activity program. You may not need to talk to your doctor before starting less strenuous activities such as walking.
 
Answer these questions about how physical activity will fit into your life.
 
Think about answers to the following four questions. Again, it’s good to write your answers on a sheet of paper. Your answers will be your blueprint to your physical activity program.
 
What physical activities will you do? List the activities you would like to do, such as walking, gardening or housework, joining a sports league, exercising with a video, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or taking a class at a fitness or community centre. Think about sports or other activities that you enjoyed doing when you were younger. Could you enjoy one of these activities again?
 
When will you be physically active? List the days and times you could do each activity on your list, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after your evening meal or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best.
 
Who will remind you to get off the couch? List the people - your spouse, kids, parents, or friends who can support your efforts to become physically active. Give them ideas about how they could be supportive, like offering encouraging words, watching your kids, or working out with you.
 
When will you start your physical activity program? Set a date when you will start getting active. The date might be the first meeting of an exercise class you have signed up for, or a date you will meet a friend for a walk. Write the date on your calendar. Then stick to it. Before you know it, physical activity will become a regular part of your life.
 
What one thing could you do today, that would take you nearer to your weight loss goals?
 
 
We'll continue in the next blog post, starting with the fourth biggest reason.
 
Best wishes
 
Tony

Thursday

Why Has My Weight Loss Stopped...?


Almost everyone looking to lose weight, will at some point reach a weight loss plateau.
The reason for this, is that the human body works hard to keep energy intake and output in balance. In other words, our bodies are designed to prevent us from losing weight. After an initial weight loss, our progress can slow down and eventually even stop; even though our exercise and food intake is consistent.

Knowing this in advance, can sometimes ease the frustration when it actually happens. Better still, being able to spot some of the typical patterns that lead to a plateau, can help us do something about it;-
 
BUT FIRST
 
Before we look at some of those patterns that can lead to a weight loss plateau, a quick heads up about the next blog post.
 
Since 2010, I have studied, analysed and compiled the eating habits of almost a thousand overweight people. In the next blog post on November 1st, I'll be revealing what I consider to be the undisputed top ten reasons that we find ourselves overweight in the first place, along with a detailed explanation of each. And I can tell you, there will be a few surprises in there; even for those people who think they already 'know' why they're overweight.
 
So, whether you're about to commence your own weight loss journey or you're part way through and looking for some inspiration to give your journey a boost, keep an eye on your inbox on Thursday 1st November at 0800am.
 
By the way, if you're new to this blog, please feel free to browse through some of the previous postings by clicking through the Blog Archive links on the right hand side.
 
Anyway, back to todays update; How can we spot some of the typical patterns that lead to a weight loss plateau and what can we do about it?

Pattern 1. Lowering our calories too much.

Strange as it may sound, it takes calories to burn calories. When you decrease your food intake, your body simply lowers its metabolic rate in response. This still allows the body to function properly, but ultimately your body requires fewer calories which creates hunger and prevents you from losing fat.

Solution: Keep a check of your food intake so that your energy and metabolism remain high. If we’re regularly and consistently burning off more than about 500-700 calories more than we eat, this can often lead to a reduction in our metabolic rate, a feeling of lethargy or reduced energy and a decrease in our ‘will power’ to keep going.

Pattern 2. Loss of lean body mass.

Maintaining ‘muscle mass’ burns off calories; so, losing muscle means burning fewer calories. In fact, muscle mass burns five times more calories than fat mass does. If we reduce our muscle mass, our metabolism drops and your weight loss stops.

Solution: Make sure your exercise program is combined with a fully nourished body; an under-nourished body will simply find it more difficult to maintain its current level of muscle. Low fat proteins can help you maintain a consistent safe calorie deficit, whilst adding some type of multivitamin can help with any nutrient deficiencies.

Pattern 3. Weight loss!

Yes. Weight-loss itself is one of the causes of a plateau. It’s common-sense really; when you weigh less, it takes fewer calories to move your body around. Any reduction in our weight will lead to a reduced energy requirement.

Solution: Remember to start (or continue) an exercise program that helps to increase muscle mass. Remember, as muscle burns off five times more calories than fat, this will help compensate for your reducing weight.

But, hang-on a minute!”, I hear you say, “Muscle is heavier than fat. If I gain muscle mass, that means I still won’t lose any weight!”.

Yes, you’re right. Well, temporarily anyway. There’s more to losing weight than just losing weight. You must also lose inches and yes, whilst your body goes through this phase, the scales might go through periods of time where they don’t seem to move very much, if at all. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your progress has halted; there’s still lots going on inside your body and you will more than likely experience this as feeling your clothing becoming looser, noticing certain parts of your body becoming more toned or defined and feeling a general increase in your energy levels. Stick with it; your body will continue shedding those pounds when it’s good and ready.

Pattern 4. The 'Adaptation' Phase Ends

When we start a new exercise program, our bodies respond because it is required to make numerous changes to adjust to new and different workloads. Effectively, your muscles are rebuilding themselves and this consumes calories in all kinds of new ways. This is known as the ‘adaptation phase’. At some point however, your body will stop ‘adapting’ to the new workload and, as a result, you burn fewer calories for the same activities.

Solution: Don't let your body get used to the exercise. Maintain your body's ‘adaptation’ phase by changing the intensity, duration, frequency and/or the mode of exercise. ‘Mix it up’ and involve as many different muscle groups as possible.

Pattern 5: Exercise Efficiency

The more you do something, the better you get at it. As your body becomes better at performing your exercises, it can actually uses fewer calories to complete the same tasks. Think of it this way; a trained athletes body is so efficient, it can often use fewer calories than untrained athletes with similar body types and workouts. So, if this describes where you are, consider yourself a trained athlete and read on!

Solution: The solution to this is the same as for Pattern 4; don't allow your body to get used to the exercise. Concentrate on more dramatic changes such as trying brand new activities. For example, if you use the treadmill for two weeks, switch to something different like the rowing machine or the bike. Remember to make changes in your weight training routine as well!

Pattern 6: Over-training

Just like not eating enough can lower the amount calories you burn, so can over-training. When you exercise too much, there is a ‘point of diminishing returns’, when an increase in ‘exercise’ calorie burning is negated by an equal decrease in ‘non-exercise’ calorie burning. In other words, when you increase your exercise intensity, your body responds by decreasing the amount of calories you burn during the rest of your day.

Solution: Take time to recover. If you reach exercise burnout, this is a great time to take a break for a few days, or try something gentle like yoga or a stretching routine. After you've rested, get back to exercise but lighten up your original routine and increase your intensity only as necessary.

7. Enhanced Physical Condition

As you get into better shape, your body is more efficient and it costs fewer calories to operate. Improved health means a lower resting metabolic rate and fewer calories are burned during normal daily activities. Part of this is because your cardio-pulmonary system is more efficient now and you have a lower resting heart rate.

Solution: Congratulations! You're officially in shape and healthy. Focus on that and feel good about yourself. Concentrate on changing your routine as described in the Solution to Pattern 5.
 
That's all for now, more next time.
 
Best wishes
 
Tony