What’s a portion, anyway?


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!


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.’

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.

How sugary is your fruit?


Getting your5-a-day is important, right? So why am I advising you avoid fruit?

Because, just like any other absolute piece of advice, there are some that are better and some that are worse. It would have been better had the advice been 5 veg a day, but the authors knew people would struggle with that.

Fruit is a plant’s gift to you – it wants you to eat it. So it loads it up with lots of lovely sugars to make it sweet, appetising and calorific.

Here’s a helpful graph. The top-left offers the most sugar for your mouthful, down to the bottom-right where the sugar is also offset by the amount of fibre it gives. When planning a low-carb or a low-cal diet, the lower down the graph, the less sugar and therefore the less kcal/carbs you need to worry about.


Get some shut-eye for some easy weight loss

Here’s today’s task. Set the alarm clock a half-hour later, or get to bed earlier.

This isn’t an indulgence. Laval University researchers have shown that sleep (and how much you get) has a huge impact on your weight.

 “The solution is not as simple as ‘eat less, move more, sleep more,'” the researchers wrote in the commentary, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “However, an accumulating body of evidence suggests that sleeping habits should not be overlooked when prescribing a weight-reduction program to a patient with obesity.”

“New studies provide evidence that insufficient sleep enhances hedonic stimulus processing in the brain underlying the drive to consume food; thus, insufficient sleep results in increased food intake,”

…in other words, if you’re tired, you’re more likely to overeat. Why? It’s all down to your hormones – two in particular.

How hormones affect your sleep

Leptin and ghrelin work to control you feelings of hunger/fullness.

  • Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite.
  • Leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

“When you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food”

One recent study found that just one week of sleep deprivation was enough to make people overeat enough to gain a kilo (2 pounds)!

So, just increase the time for which you’re trying to sleep and the amount of time you are actually asleep will (eventually) increase too. More sleep = less cravings and an easier weight loss journey.

11 questions to design the exercise routine you’ll stick to

We all know that different people have different interests, hobbies and tastes. So why do most of us believe there must be one secret approach out there?

In truth, there is – but the one that’s right for you won’t be the one that’s right for me – just like for diets.

So how can you design your perfect plan? Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has set 11 questions to help you think about yourself and what might work for you.

Ask yourself these questions, and when you’re done, think about what kind of exercise routine would suit you best:

Exercise Questions

  1. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  2. Would you like to spend more time in nature?
  3. Would you like more time in solitude; or more time with friends; or more time to meet new people?
  4. Are you motivated by competition?
  5. Do you enjoy loud music?
  6. Do you do better with some form of external accountability, or does that just annoy you?
  7. Would you like to challenge yourself with exercise (whether by learning a new skill or pushing yourself physically)–or not?
  8. Do you like sports and games?
  9. Would you like more meditative time, or more time to watch TV, read newspapers, etc?
  10. Do you have a lot of control over your time?
  11. Are you sensitive to weather?

Hopefully, these will help you think about where you can start looking for your own personal goals.

Should we label food by exercise needed, not calories?

An interesting study led by Sunaina Dowray, a student at the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina, looked into the impact on people’s habits if they were shown one of four different menus, giving them the food’s calorie count, the time it would take to walk those calories off, the distance it would take to burn them, or none of this extra information.

People who viewed the menu without nutritional information ordered a meal with up to 200 kcals more than those with the exercise information.

This wasn’t in the real world- it was a hypothetical test online. But the results are promising; saving just 100 kcal twice a week could add up to over a kilo of weight loss over one year.

How little we move – and why you should stand up more often

Even if you do get off your bum a few times a week to get to the gym, the studies are starting to show that this might not be enough for some. Most of us now work in an office chair, drive our commute and slump in front of the telly at home. Even with our deliberate attempts to improve our exercise levels, we’re still falling short of what’s needed.

Even worse, sitting for too long is now considered another of the many things that may cause diabetes.

So what should we do? Fidget. By incorporating more of these smaller exercises into our days we can increase our overall activity level outside of the dedicated forms of “Exercise”. Cutely, the academics call this Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT.

Six ways to get more NEAT and be more active

Inspired by Travis Saunders, here are some good tips to getting more not-exercise exercise:

  1. Wear a pedometer – or a FuelBand, or an UP; something that can help you monitor your NEAT. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. There’s no need to start with a too-ambitious goal. Can you get your step-count (or Fuel, or whatever) to be a hundred or so more than last week?
  2. Take the stairs – you probably wait longer for the lift than it would take to walk a couple of flights of stairs.
  3. Active transportation – can you walk, cycle, bus or train it? If not, have you considered parking at the far end of the car park?
  4. Drink plenty of water – It’s good for slimmers anyway, but it also encourages you to get up – if only to refill your glass and to visit the loo!
  5. Forget the phone, have walking meetings – If you need to chat with someone in the office, walk over there. If it’s a longer chat, why not invite them to go for a walk? It always looks impressive on the West Wing…
  6. Walk during your lunch break – I do this regularly. Not only does it improve my mood and give me a proper break away from my desk, but it encourages me to find new lunch venues, too!

Dietgirl’s top 20 diet tips

shauna-reidShauna Reid, formerly known as Dietgirl, has done an amazing job of halving her original 25 stone (351 pounds, almost 160kg). Twelve years of healthy diet and exercise later, she’s still soldering on. She’s condensed her learnings into a 20-point list that she’s shared. Although I don’t personally agree with everything she’s written, that’s an important point in itself – YMMV. But I’ve clipped out my favourite four:

  • Focus on the details. Every day we make dozens of tiny decisions that can spell the difference between whether we lose weight or gain. Do you pick the muesli for breakfast or the chocolate muffin? Do you spend twenty minutes on the couch or twenty minutes on a brisk walk? Small changes can add up to huge results.
  • Make your treats miniature. Instead of banning puddings, I choose smaller portions – like an apple crumble baked in a ramekin dish or a small bar of Green and Blacks chocolate. I get my sugar hit without dangerous leftovers!
  • Feel your emotions, don’t feed them. In times of stress it’s tempting to bury your feelings in cake – better to feel bad about binging than tackle the real issue! But try to find non-edible ways of coping – I highly recommend kickboxing classes.
  • Don’t wait to be “skinny” to start living your life. If you have dreams of travelling or writing a book or learning to scuba dive, don’t think you need a smaller bum before you deserve them. Your life is happening right now – so forget about your wobbly bits and jump right in.

Do read her article here for the rest.