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.

Foodswap: diet drinks replace full calorie ones. Really.

Coke and Coke Zero

It sounds obvious, but if you’re a big soft drink fan, trade over to the no-cal version.

Why am I posting this? Because sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths every year. That means 1% of all obesity-related deaths are down to the soda fountain and the sugarwaters they dispense.

It’s hardly surprising; Just one can of sugary soft drink raises the relative risk of type II diabetes by around a fifth. Wow.

“But LazyFit!” Some of you are asking. “Aren’t diet drinks just as bad for you? They cause cancer and stuff!”

Well, probably not. Diet coke isn’t a saint. There is some evidence that some of the ingredients aren’t great for you – although the quantities involved would be equivalent to drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet soda every day.

So should you take up a soft drink habit? Not if you already only drink water. But it’s all a matter of small improvements (almost as if that’s the theme of this blog…). If ‘fat’ soft drinks are your sin, switch to diet versions. If you’re down to diet, consider the occasional fizzy water instead. Your liver, pancreas and waistline will thank you for it.

Plan your meals with Tesco

Are you bewildered by choice? Would you rather just have someone tell you what to do?

We at LazyFit are all about offering different approaches to weight loss and maintenance – we believe that there are small (and large) changes you can make to redesign your lifestyle into a healthy, sustainable approach. But sometimes we can feel the need for some outsider advice.

Tesco Health & Wellbeing is a new site (still in beta or ‘test mode’) from the supermarket Behemoth. Give it your current details and approach and you can select a range of diet approaches, like low GI, ‘Mediterranean’, diabetic support or healthy heart. These can then be tailored to you even more closely with a dizzying range of options from your activity level to your willingness to eat individual foods.

The site then prepares meal plans for you to explore, print, or even order online (naturally).

Once you’ve planned your food, the site then allows you to track how you really get on, both with a comprehensive food diary (with UK/IE nutrient levels) and even a place to record your exercise.

Despite the unwieldy name, it seems to share much of its DNA with its sister site, Tescodiets, with one very important distinction – it’s free.

If you’re just starting out, feel the need for a more focussed approach, or just fancy a change, give it a try – it may inspire you.

What the world eats – what does your food look like?

What the world eats -- a week's worth of groceries - Imgur

The Bainton family’s week, Cllingbourne Ducis, UK

 

Sometimes, it helps to lay it all out in front of you.

Food’s a funny thing. We all eat, but there are some significant differences from person to person and from culture to culture.

In 2008 husband-and-wife photojournalists published a book with a week’s worth of food from 25 families in 21 countries. TIME published 45 of these photos in three sets, linked below.

There’s an interesting insight into individual culture’s demons; the US’s prepared food, the UK’s reliance on snacks and Mexico’s love affair with Coca-Cola are all visible.

Does your weekly shop look more like this or like this?