Why are we meant to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit?

Do you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to keep fit? - BBC News

A simple, clear article about the history of the 10,000 step target set by many organisations – where did that come from, anyway?

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Your lizard brain and you

Supernormal Stimuli

This is a fantastic comic that hits home – it explains the history of the ‘argument’ you (big-brained you) are having with your subconscious every time you pass the biscuit tin.

Our instincts have served our bodies well for millennia. But they aren’t adapted to this world of plenty and abundance we’ve created. It’s only through reflection- using our conscious, determined mind- that we can rewrite our aims.

I found this comic referenced in an article by Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness, a fantastic resource for the more geekly-minded. His philosophy is great; he has adapted the terminology and approach of video games (levelling up, for example) to fitness as a whole. Worth a look.

The novelty of fitness bands lasts 6 months

Fitness bandsForbes’ Mike Powell (no relation) has written about fitness bands and their appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). He explained that although 10% Americans now owns one, it’s less likely that you’ll see them on one-in-ten wrists:

At the panel, NPD’s VP of Connected Intelligence, Eddie Hold, noted that 42 percent of Fitness tracker owners abandon usage in the first six months. This is a very high rate of abandonment, mirroring the dropout rate at fitness centers.

I take one important lesson from this. “[The] high rate of abandonment [mirrors the] rate at fitness centers”. In other words, if you’re not committed, simply signing up to a gym or buying a FitBit isn’t going to change things. The people who buy a band as a solution rather than as a tool will be sorely disappointed.

WeightWatchers offers in-app coaches

WeightWatchers doesn’t get much love these days, but I’m all for organisations attempting to innovate.

In WW’s case here, their American company have made a couple new additions to their programme that have impressed me.

Screenshot of Amazon's Mayday serviceFirstly, their app now offers video coaching- similar to us, of course, but in practice more like Amazon’s ‘Mayday’ button, where you can press the button and speak with one of their coaches 24/7. In practice, I feel working with a specific coach is more powerful than working with whoever picks up the call, but I love the fact that they now recognise one-on-one coaching can be powerful in weight loss.

Secondly, their new advertising campaign openly accepts that losing weight is hard. The video – which I encourage you to watch – talks about how we “eat our feelings”. Their new slogan, Help with the Hard Part, acknowledges that fact. It also shows a variety of people, men and women, large and only needing to lose a few pounds.

Overall, it’s very positive that the largest player in weight loss is now showing identifiable issues, rather than just newly-slim women doing a twirl in their party-frocks.

If the idea of personal accountability appeals and you think a coach would work for you, but you’re not a WeightWatcher, why not give us a try? We’ve helped hundreds of people all over the world lose weight and keep it off- for good. Get in touch.

What’s a portion, anyway?

portionsizes

Does that pizza seem to be fairly good, calorie-wise? Make sure you check the ‘serving size’. One sneaky trick sometimes used by manufactures is to label their box with a size different from what we may consider a ‘normal’ portion – only half of a ‘personal pizza’, for example.

Yet another reason to check the back of the box!

The men who made us thin

As a follow-up to The Men Who Made Us Fat, the fairly-predictably-titled The Men Who Made Us Thin was, on the basis of its first episode, a disappointment.

Now, you may feel that as someone who writes about diet approaches and offers weight coaching, I’m biased. And I am. Totally. I’m biased because I believe the central proposition of the programme was faulty. The host, Jacques Peretti, stated that only around 5% of people who try to lose weight keep it off. But he misspeaks. Firstly, the study he cites is limited to WeightWatchers- a weight loss approach I feel is outdated. Secondly, only 5% of people keep all of their weight off. Of course dieters are likely to put a few pounds, a kilo or three, back on once they adjust to a weight maintenance lifestyle. But in Peretti’s argument, they’ve failed.

It’s not to say that the episode made no good points. One aspect that was hammered home repeatedly was that someone on a diet is starving their body and the body responds appropriately – attempting to conserve as much of that energy as possible, slowing down metabolism and increasing food cravings. This is well known; it’s the source of the ‘starvation mode’ urban myth.

It’s telling that many of the facts shared in the original programme were omitted from this. For example, the first study that was referenced was explained to be from Ancel Keysdemonised as the ‘fat maker’ in the last series as he unscientifically identified fat, rather than sugar, as the main cause of obesity. This wasn’t mentioned here. Equally, the mention of Atkins was carefully phrased; something like “his detractors said that his diet caused his heart attack” without clearing up that misconception.

The whole thing was made to sound calculated and distrustful- when in fact, you could sum it up in two sentences.

  1. Every diet works, if you stick to it.
  2. Stop using the diet’s rules and you’ll regain your weight.

Is obesity purely a willpower problem?

 

A fascinating article by David Berreby about obesity as a clinical issue. Are public policies that focus on personal responsibility helpful? Does that even matter?

The issue, rather, is whether the government policies and corporate business plans are in fact doing their best with the evidence they already have. Does the science justify assuming that obesity is a simple matter of individuals letting themselves eat too much? To the extent that it is, policies such as Japan’s mandatory waist-measuring […] will be effective. If, on the other hand, there is more to obesity than simple thermodynamics, some of the billions spent on individual-centred policies and products may be being wasted. Time, in that case, to try some alternative policies based on alternative theories, and see how they fare.

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.

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