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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Telly – exercises for the advert breaks

lazy%20cat%20watching%20tv[1]18% of people who watch less than two hours of TV a day are obese.

30% of those who watch more than 4 hours are obese.

Not enough? OK, how’s this:

Overweight participants who cut their daily TV time in half (from an average of 5 hours to 2.5 hours) burned an extra 119 calories a day. And a recent study of people who successfully lost weight found that 63 percent of them watched less than 10 hours of TV a week.

Yikes.

Listen, I love a little telly-time too. So what can you do to improve this? First, make sure you’re posture’s perfect – no slumping like kitty up there. (We’ll talk about this later in the week, too). Second, try some exercises during the advert breaks – yes, that means without fast-forwarding, those with Sky+. I’ve linked to some ideas in the sources, below. Don’t be an armchair athlete – someone who watches sport on the TV but never takes part. If you can ‘earn’ your programmes by paying for it during the breaks, everyone gains – and you still get to watch Sherlock, too.

A brisk walk is healthier than running

A study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has suggested that as long as you’re expending energy, the speed doesn’t matter.

At least, that’s the findings from an astonishing six-year-long study on over 48,000 runners and walkers. It showed:

Risk of developing Running Walking
Heart disease down 4.5% down 9.3%
High blood pressure down 4.2% down 7.2%
High cholesterol down 4.3% down 7%
Type 2 diabetes down 12% down 12%

The catch? The amount of energy expended needs to be equal – so to achieve the same results a walker will have to walk much further and for longer than a runner would need to run.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“The more the runners ran, and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.

Exercises for when you’ve not got time for exercise

The exercises only use household items

Even if we can’t all find the time – or the enthusiasm- to get to the gym regularly, most of us can agree that exercise is an important part of healthy living and particularly of weight loss.

Nano Workout is a great ‘one purpose’ site – it gives you regular little snippets of exercise tips that you can work into your everyday life. Waiting for an appointment, travelling upstairs, even lying in bed – all become opportunities to take a few seconds and improve your activity level for the day.

In the words of its creator:

I no longer see working out as a binary event but I do it continuously during the day. […]  [Y]ou can achieve a more healthy life, no matter what your day looks like. A small amount of exercise many times becomes a lot when added up. For instance if you exercise when brushing your teeth it will add up to 24 hours during one year.

No, they’re not going to have the same impact as a full-on session, but the little tips add to your existing portfolio of healthy activities. I’ve also found them to be helpful if you’re stiff or aching in a particular muscle.In a way, I consider them to be the complimentary opposite of NEAT – a way to deliberately build a little more activity into your day.