How to restart your weight loss

Sometimes, losing weight becomes harder than normal. Plateau, stall – there are lots of names for this, but sometimes it feels like the weight just won’t come off.
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Of course, that’s not true – there’s a way to get rid of the weight, but it will probably need a little change to your approach.

So, before you despair and think about giving up, run through this list.

Has this been a consistent problem for more than 6 weeks?

Weight loss isn’t a straight line; we all go up and down. This is especially true for women, where hormonal differences can cause weight gain. Weigh yourself on the same day at the same time each week. If your weight hasn’t changed for 6 weeks, you should start to look for other reasons.

Are you drinking enough water?

Amazingly, many of us confuse thirst for hunger. If you’re not getting enough water, you’re making it harder for your body to run and harder for you to avoid the snacks!

Are you getting enough sleep?

It’s not just that if you’re asleep, you’re not eating (although that’s a help). A recent study has shown that just one night of bad sleep leads people to be hungrier and to choose larger portion sizes. Here’s Why You Should Get More ZZZ.

Are you eating enough veg?

Green, leafy vegetables are low in calories and help you feel full after a meal.

Are you measuring your portions?

It’s too easy for portions to creep up as you get comfortable with your new style of eating. It’s usually gradual; a slightly-larger portion of Shreddies in the morning, or the swap of the soda water back to a swift half on Friday evening. Why not go back to weighing your food, just to make sure you’re eating what you think you are.

Are you eating something which only seems good for you?

Salad dressings, Greek yoghurt – there are many foods out there that are healthy in principle, but are easy to eat too frequently or too much. Always check the nutritional label!

Are you overeating for emotional reasons?

It’s something we all do from time to time, but it’s not really helpful. If you’re eating just to change your mood, see if there’s something you can do instead. I’ve taken to making and enjoying a big cup of tea.

Have you reduced your physical activity level?

Maybe you’ve gone back to taking the lift at work, rather than walking up the 4 flights of stairs. Amazingly, little things like this add up. Have you tried to walk 10,000 steps every day?

Are you weighing yourself consistently?

Remember the old rhyme, ‘a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter’? Well, if you drink a pint of water, that’s how much your weight will immediately increase! It’ll go down again as you go through the day, but that’s why we always recommend weighing in the same clothes at roughly the same time of day.

Have you already been losing for a while?

If none of the above apply, it’s possible that you’ve done so well that you’ve shrunk below your current calorie-count. When you started to lose weight, you were larger, and so needed more calories just to fuel yourself. Well guess what? You’re smaller than you were before, so now (cruelly) you need fewer calories to ‘run’. That unfortunately means you may need to reduce your intake to continue the good work. Try working out a reasonable calorie target here.

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Eating at your desk

Did you know that it’s been British Sandwich Week?

The week has been LazyFit’s excuse to look at how your work environment can affect your weight. Today’s last instalment takes a full look at the most obvious part of this relationship – the ‘al desko’ lunch.

Yep, the British Sandwich Association has declared 12-18 May 2013 as the week of the sandwich. Now, we’re not big fans of sandwiches at LazyFit. Although we do often recommend lower-carb diets, it’s not the bread that’s our biggest concern.

Azmina Govindji, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said ‘When you eat at your desk you aren’t really focused on the quality or quantity of your food, and can end up eating more.’

A poll by the BBC in February showed that 60% of the office workers identified eat their lunch at their desk every day, while two thirds take a break of 30 minutes or less despite being entitled to a full hour.

Alison Clark, also of the BDA, said ‘Eating at your desk can be a fast track to piling on unwanted weight.  For example, it is far too easy to partake in a bit of ‘mindless eating’ while working away at your desk.

‘While you mind is fixed firmly on tasks at hand, your actual hand is automatically dipping into a whole raft of treats lying around on your desk.  Also, working through lunchtimes often means a quick dash to the local sandwich shop without enough time to properly read food labels and understand what you are about to eat and this type of ‘grab and go’ habit can soon add up.’

Eating out – Restaurant meals aren’t good for you.

A cheeky dinner out can be costly for your waistline.

Researchers from the University of Toronto examined the calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol levels of 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down restaurants around Canada. They found that the average meal has 1,128 calories. Given the average daily recommended intake for a British woman is 2,000 kcals, that’s over half used up at once.

Even worse, these meals are some of the unhealthiest you can eat. Another recent study looked at fast food in the US for the last 14 years. It showed that the nutritional value of the food available has pretty much remained the same, despite pledges to offer healthy choices.

Food from the companies included – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell,  KFC), Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen – were analysed and scored against a healthy eating index. In 1997 they scored 45/100. In 2009 that had risen to just 48/100. This was also compared to the average American’s diet, which scores 55/100.

So, food from restaurants is unhealthy and fattening. This isn’t surprising, but it shouldn’t be too worrying either – as long as your other meals are reduced in size accordingly. This is the problem for most of us; if meals out are normal, the other meals creep back up to standard sizes.So this is a Foodswap opportunity If restaurant food – (even a sandwich from Boots or Pret) are regulars in your diet. Reduce your meals-out frequency by bringing a lunchbox to work. Make your date night focus on a home-cooked meal, rather than one at a restaurant or the £10 Tesco deal.
A general focus away from pre-prepared food will help you set your own portion sizes and control your own calorific (and nutritional) inputs, leading to a healthier diet

Set a target and make it SMART.

Yesterday I spoke about the importance of a weight loss target. Today I wanted to expand on how to set one.

Setting a target is one thing – but how do you make sure it’s one that will fit and inspire you?

There’s lots to mock in business-speak, jargon and buzzphrases. However, clichés can still hold some truth. One of these is SMART. This is an acronym for how to make a meaningful target.

  • Specific – If you just say “I want to lose weight” then you could just accept 2 kilos when really you wanted to lose 8. Decide what you really want and are willing to work towards.
  • Measurable – Track your progress. This doesn’t have to be the scale (even if it is, it shouldn’t be too often, you know the drill) but do track – kilos on the scale, inches off your waist or physical abilities you’ve gained/improved. It’s important to know how you’re getting on.
  • Achievable – Don’t start by saying you want to lose 50 lbs in 4 months. You’ll decide its too much of a mountain. Pick something possible; NICE‘s recommendation of 1kg/2lb a week is helpful.
  • Relevant – Make sure your target fits you. Don’t try for 3lbs a week just because a friend managed this. If you’ve a reason to lose weight, try to build that in to the target. If you’re losing weight for a party, make your target weight a specific (attainable) dress size – then go and buy that dress.
  • Timely – Pick a deadline, either an important date (for me it was my 30th birthday) or work backwards from how much you want to lose and therefore how long this will take. A deadline strengthens your resolve as you can’t slack.

Commit to a goal.

I’ve signed up to a 5k run.

I’m not a runner. I don’t particularly like it and I find it very hard to get my trainers on and get out there. Which is exactly why I’ve signed up.

Sometimes, it’s important to have a goal – something to stretch you and make you work towards a result. When you’re losing weight, the first few kilos/pounds are easy to lose, because you’re running away from something – from ‘fat me’.

When you’re getting closer to your target, suddenly it’s much harder as you need to change your motivation to run towards something. And that what I’m doing – literally. I’m running towards my first 5k.

Using the NHS’ 5K podcast, I’ve started the 9-week programme, which will culminate with the Color Run, an untimed run which has its first races in the UK this year. I’m running in London. The sense of fun (you’re blasted with paint at kilometre markers, leaving you looking like those fools above) and the lack of competition (my aim is just to run the whole way, rather than to achieve a certain time) gives me enough flexibility to believe that this is an achievable, realistic target.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be running. Perhaps it’s not going up for seconds at a buffet, or being able to skip up the stairs at the shopping centre without running out of puff. But work on something small and build from there.

Out of sight, out of mind

The Sweetie Cupboard, by UK_Greg

It’s better not to have your ‘trigger foods’ in the house. But what if that’s not possible?

My first piece of advice to anyone who’s starting a new, slimmer lifestyle is to get rid of all the little temptations from the house. Chuck the crisps, banish the baguettes and remove the Rolos. If it’s not in the house, you’re less likely to pull on your shoes to go to the corner shop and pick up a Kit-Kat.

Some people can’t do that, though. Not for themselves, but for other family members. Perhaps the (perfectly-formed) girlfriend isn’t willing to give up her morning cereal. Maybe dear husband would rather move out than not have a cake as part of his Sunday tea.

Now, if it’s the kids who will kick up a fuss, I’d be tempted to put my foot down; a slim lifestyle is good for them too and it would be a great to work together to improve your diet.

But if it’s a full-grown adult who’s too set in their ways, what can you do?

Have a Naughty Cupboard.

All the baddies – the Walkers, the Cadbury’s, the Kellogg’s and whatever your personal nemesis is – go in one cupboard in the kitchen. And you never, never open that cupboard.

You know what’s in there. You know what could happen if you open the door. But by separating this space from your normal routine or your normal life, it gives you a tiny little safeguard against your weaker impulses.

So you make it clear to the rest of the family – they’re more than welcome to put their treats in the Naughty Cupboard, but don’t expect you to fetch something from that cupboard if you’re going into the kitchen, or to join in for that late-night snack.

Foodswap: replace cake with sugar-free jelly

cake jelly

Sometimes it’s good to end on a sweet note. Sometimes a coffee won’t cut it.

A sugar-free jelly (Jello) can be a fantastic way to finish a special meal without the calories and carbs of a more traditional pudding.

To go one better, if you’re a low-carb dieter, try replacing a little of the cold water with double-cream instead, to get a rich blancmange instead.

Are you sitting down?

Amazingly, research has shown that a five-minute wander every half hour is more important when it comes to fending off diabetes than regular gym attendance.

The report, which reviewed many other studies, showed that those who sat the most had a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and death than those who sat the least.

This sounds obvious when phased like this. But in our everyday lives, most of us think that our health is down to the effort we put in at the gym – forgetting about what we do for the rest of the day, too.

In fact, according to a YouGov poll, a quarter of British adults now walk for less than nine minutes a day – including time spent getting to the car, work and the shops – that’s less than an hour every week. While nine out of 10 Britons agree that walking is a good form of exercise which can keep you healthy, most are not doing so nearly enough.

Almost half of people surveyed walk for two hours or less a week – meaning they are not doing enough walking to stay healthy. Chief medical officers recommend that adults do 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, like walking, per week, but 43 per cent of people surveyed walk for 120 minutes or less.

Dr Emma Wilmot, head of the study, said:

“If a worker sits at their desk all day then goes to the gym, while their colleague heads home to watch TV, then the gym-goer will have better health outcomes. But there is still a health risk because of the amount of sitting they do.

People convince themselves they are living a healthy lifestyle, doing their 30 minutes of exercise a day. But they need to think about the other 23.5 hours.”

I’ve spoken about NEAT before; this is more evidence of the same issue from the opposing angle. Those who move more throughout the entire day are healthier.

So stand up for your meetings. Walk during lunch. Get up to drink another water, then get up again to go to the loo.  Take ‘mini breaks’ from your desk. Run errands. Take part in hobbies that don’t include sitting down in the evening. Switch off the telly.

It’s looking even more important to your health than before.

Advice from an older man

After losing a job, Andrew Forsthoefel decided to try walking across America from his home in Philadelphia to the Pacific. 4,000 miles, talking to people he met along the way. He asked them a simple question; what advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

Andrew made it into a radio show, of which an edited version appeared on This American Life. But this post isn’t about him. It’s about one of the people he met along the way. Andrew asked the 83-year-old about hos life and his abilities. He’s not credited on This American Life – in the transcript, he’s simply listed as ‘man’ – but something he said made me want to share it with you.

It hadn’t been, I don’t know, the day before yesterday or something, I was in my 20s. And it just goes by. Whenever you’re young, and you’re waiting to get 16 to get your driver’s license, the years go by kind of like highline posts.

And then you get that. And you get out, and you go to work, and all that stuff. And then they get a little faster. They get like fence posts.

And then pretty soon, you get up to 65 years old. And things change in your life so much so drastically, of putting your feet where you want them and your body where it needs to be. It’s gone.

And time goes by like- like cross ties on a railroad track. Just tch-tch-tch-tch.

These days are gone. So while you’ve got it, use it. Your mind, your strength, your agility.

Use it.

Get running with Couch to 5K

Thinking about exercise can be a bit bewildering, especially if you’ve never even trotted further than the corner shop.

Couch to 5k is designed to get you off your couch, on your feet and out the door with no new equipment – just you, your trainers and your headphones.

Working from just a walk around the block, the programme slowly builds in segments of jogging and then running, minute by minute, until after 9 weeks you are running consistently and eventually for 5 kilometres straight – the ‘5k’ of the title.

If my description sounds unnerving, don’t let it scare you – the three sessions a week are well tailored, increasing almost imperceptibly.

Best of all, it’s cheap or even free. The NHS has funded a podcast, or series of audio files that can be downloaded and used on any media player. It includes instructions and a timed track that bleeps and bloops at you to tell you when to change your pace. There are also smartphone apps that do the same, which have the benefit that you can listen to your own music in the background.

Even if you’ve never attempted any form of exercise since PE at school, Couch to 5K will have you running – properly – in just over 2 months.