There are tonnes of books on how to lose weight, eat well and live better. You’ve read them all and tried them all but to your dismay, nothing seems to work. In fact, despite all the research, you've managed to gain a little extra 'padding' instead of the results that you were after. If this sounds at all familiar, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in this. Many people struggle with their weight, as did I.
One point to note is that only you can decide what weight, size and body you’re comfortable with. However, we all have to face the fact that excess weight increases the risk of many health problems. If you’re on the heavier end of the scale any weight loss will reduce your risk of diseases, and chronic illness. And being underweight isn't too great for your health either. It's all about finding the right balance in what you eat and the lifestyle you lead. You can live a better quality life where you and your family are not burdened with health issues onset by obesity or malnourishment if you make health a priority. Unfortunately, you can't eat yourself sick and then try to find a magic pill to fix the damage you've done.
I couldn’t really tell how unhealthy I looked until I compared my 'then' and 'now' photos. I, like many people, tried out all sorts of trendy diets and would lose weight then pack it back on. I also suffered from sporadic energy levels from cutting out certain food groups and depriving my body of essential nutrients. I'm happy to say that I now have my health better in check and I feel physically great; all by just making a few small tweaks and adjustments in my life.
Determine your healthy weight range
Body Mass Index (BMI), is a measure that uses an individual's weight and height to assess the categorisation of underweight, acceptable weight, overweight, obese. To calculate BMI, one's weight in kilograms is divided by one's height squared in metres. The ideal BMI ranges between 20-25.
John weighs 80kg and is 180cm (1.8m) tall.
180cm 1.8 x 1.8 = 3.24
80kg ÷ 3.24 = 24.7 BMI
People who are underweight or extremely overweight bear the greatest risk of serious health implications compared to those whose weight fall within the normal range.
Having a BMI above 30 (obese) significantly increases the risk of a wide range of diseases; heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, gall bladder disease, gout, and even some types of cancer. A pot belly is a potent indicator for risk of coronary heart disease; when extra fat is stacked around the mid section, your heart has to work harder to force the blood to circulate around the body causing a lot of stress on the system.
While on the other end of the spectrum, being underweight can significantly reduce an individual's ability to fight any wasting diseases such as cancer. Underweight women are less likely to conceive than women with a BMI between 20-25. According to studies, underweight women who do conceive risk a higher potential for unhealthy babies.
*While the measure of BMI provides an accurate illustration of weight-related health status, however this is not always the case. Muscle tissue is almost two and a half times as dense as fat tissue thus a muscular person is likely to weigh more than a less fit or less muscular person of the same overall body size. Hence a fit, exercising person with high muscle density is likely to weigh more, but have a lower fat level than an unfit person of (roughly) the same size. Don’t kid yourself, look at your circumference to get a clue.
Top tips for weight loss
- Don’t beat yourself up for eating what you were not ‘supposed to’. Instead, focus on the recovery - do an extra set in the gym, walk a little further. Adapt the 80/20 rule - eat healthy 80% and allow yourself a buffer of 20% to enjoy a little indulgence here and there.
- Respect your own opinion over others. State your intentions and tell your friends, family, that you’re working on a lifestyle change. Never feel pressured to consume something you don’t feel like; after all it’s your body, your choice. Do what you need to do, you’re the only person responsible for yourself.
- Always end your day with a positive and work from them – Be proud you opted to walk up the stairs instead of taking the escalator. A pat on the back for swapping out white bread with a wholemeal option. Big thumbs up for cutting out sugary beverages.
- Watch what you purchase. Avoid buying inappropriate foods for keeps just because they are on special, in case you have unexpected guests, for someone else or even as a wee treat for later on. It’s like playing with a loaded gun.
- Avoid hunger. Eat small regular meals and have snacks handy throughout the day. Pack healthy snacks such as fruits, nuts, and have them stashed in the office, car, bag - this is an excellent way to keep your hunger at bay avoiding regretful choices later on.
- Drink plenty of water. Water fills the stomach between meals, gets rids of water retention, and dilutes the metabolic waste from the break down of fat.
- Start an exercise routine – Move around more, take the stairs, join the gym. Downloading exercise applications such as Seven Minute Workout timer is great for those who have little time to spare and prefer exercising in the comfort of your own space. I do a set in the morning and one before bed if I feel up for it.
- Limit your intake of sweet food and alcoholic beverages. Both simple sugars and alcohol provide empty calories. This means they don’t give much nutritionally but are added on and stored as excess energy you’ll need to burn off.
- Eat predominantly fresh foods. Reduce your consumption of pre-prepared or commercial foods such as those that are in tins, jars and packets and increase your intake of fresh produce, products and meals. This means wholegrain brown rice over the choice of noodles, a piece of fruit over a protein bar, balsamic vinegar over thousand island dressing.
- To reduce the absorption of fat into the bloodstream, and to avoid feeling hungry, ensure that fibre and protein are included in every meal ie a piece of lean meat or beans with vegetables. You need protein to maintain muscle; being skinny with less muscle mass is counter intuitive as you’ll end up gaining more fat in the long run. Veggies + Protein = Burning of fat without feeling hungry.
Try some of these tips and you’ll notice health improvements as you go. Make small subtle changes such as removing fried foods, cutting out sugary drinks, and eating more vegetables. As you eat better, your energy levels will increase. It’ll be hard to start but it gets much easier over time. And if you slip up, don't let it get you down - learn from it and move forward. I hope this helps some of you out there.