A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go away with a great group of friends for a girlie weekend in Bath. My first weekend away without the kids in so long that I can't even remember how long! As part of the weekend we decided to book ourselves into the Bath Spa. It was only as the weekend approached that I suddenly had a last minute panic about the fact that my body, which had been happily under wraps for the winter, was going to have to get into a swimming costume and make a public appearance.
With 1 week to go until the grand unveiling I decided I could just do with losing a pound or two first. I eat healthily most of the time so my plan was just to cut down on a few of the extras that have sneaked in to my daily diet (nibbles of the kids leftovers, extra snacks I don't really need etc). Nothing too drastic and really should be pretty easy for a Personal Trainer right? Wrong!! Because I had decided to cut back a little I spent the entire week constantly thinking about food. I craved food all day, felt hungrier than normal and ended up stuffing myself with way more than I normally would.
I don't weigh myself very often but i'm pretty sure that the end result was that I had put on weight by the time I came to put my swimming costume on. Of course, in the end, it really didn't matter. I was having a great time with my friends, who really couldn't care less what I looked like in my swimming costume.
For me this was a real reminder of what I already knew; DIETS DON'T WORK. As soon as we start to deprive ourselves of something or tell ourselves that we aren't allowed certain things, we crave them even more.
So whats the alternative? Think about the things that you need to put into your diet rather than the things you need to take out. What do you need to include everyday to ensure you are eating healthily and giving your body everything it needs to function well? Here is a good checklist to start with:
- Include good quality protein in every meal ( meat, eggs, fish, beans, nuts,lentils etc)
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day
- Eat regularly throughout the day. 3 meals a day plus 1-2 small, high protein snacks.
- Include good fats in your diet. Fat takes longer to digest so will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plus lots of high fat foods also contain a huge number of nutrients that help to keep you healthy (choose things like nuts, avocado, olive oil, oily fish, nut butters, flaxseed)
- Drink plenty of water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. If you want to look and feel your best then you need to stay hydrated.
- Include complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, oats etc
If you are trying to lose weight or eat better spend some time planning your meals around this checklist (there are many more things you could add but i always think its best to keep it simple to start with) . Don't worry about what you think you shouldn't be having, just make sure you are including everything above. Don't think of it as a 'diet', nothing is out of bounds, you are focusing on nourishing your body rather than depriving and punishing it.
The weight loss equation should be simple : eat less + exercise more = lose weight.
For some people this works perfectly but for others, despite appearing to do all the right things, the extra weight they are trying to lose just refuses to budge! We are beginning to understand that there are a number of factors that contribute to us gaining or losing weight, its not entirely down to what you eat or how much exercise you do.
Here are some of the more common reasons that can cause people to gain weight or struggle to lose it:
1. Not enough sleep
If you are regularly getting less than 6 hours sleep a night then your body is going to be stressed out. Sleep loss has been shown to mess with your hormones and your blood sugar, leading to increased hunger and appetite as well as an increased risk of obesity.
If you are struggling to lose weight and having sleep problems then this is definitely a problem you need to tackle.
2. Your Thyroid is not working as it should be
The Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It works as our bodies thermostat, regulating temperature, hunger, energy etc. In order to do this it produces hormones. The Thyroid can be over or under active. If you are feeling exhausted, have gained weight, lack motivation, have no sex drive and have put on weight then you may have an underactive Thyroid. The only way to find out for sure is to ask your GP for a test.
3. Your blood sugars are out of balance
If your blood sugars are out of balance it can lead to the body storing fat around the tummy. A diet that is high in carbohydrates and sugars can cause this.
Cut back on the carbs and sugar and increase the amount of protein and good fats in your diet. Try and eat regularly throughout the day, starting with a good breakfast (blood sugars will be low first thing in the morning). Aim for 3 meals a day and 1-2 healthy snack (containing protein and fat).
4. Poor gut microbiome
There has been a lot of research done recently that suggests links between bacteria in our gut and a number of conditions. One of these is obesity! If the bacteria in your gut isn't diverse, resilient enough or there is an infection, parasite, yeast or leaky gut it will affect your bodies ability to lose weight.
You can easily boost your gut bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement or by eating fermented foods/Kefir.
When you are chronically stressed your body produces more Cortisol which can impair your bodies ability to respond to insulin. This messes with your bodies ability to burn fat. On top of that, persistently high Cortisol levels increase your appetite (stress eating) making it harder to eat healthily.
The results of one study found that when stressed and non-stressed women followed the same diet, the stressed women gained more weight and tummy fat.
Our hormones impact so many things from our mood and energy levels to our weight. Our hormones fluctuate throughout our lives and an imbalance can often lead to weight gain. For example, if you have to much Estogen compared to Progesterone you can gain weight and store fat around your middle. Women going through the menopause often have Estrogen dominance and find they start to put on more weight around their stomachs.
There are lots of things you can do to try and balance your diet naturally but that a whole other blog!
So, if you are trying to lose weight then always start with getting your diet right and ensuring you do adequate, effective exercise. If you are still struggling to lose weight though then take a look at the 'bigger picture' .Look a little deeper into your lifestyle, sleep patterns and question how you are feeling in general and make changes or get help where needed.
Luckily, over the last few years most peoples idea of the perfect body has moved from super skinny to, a much healthier, lean, toned and fit look. More like the bodies of those that appear on the front of fitness magazines rather than those strutting down the catwalk. That’s great, it’s certainly a much healthier ideal to have. But, for most people, still equally unobtainable. Why? Well, unless you are blessed with amazing genes, those bodies take a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to create. Those people put a lot of effort into looking the way they do. They spend a lot of time in the gym or doing their chosen sports (often at the expense of time with friends and family) and they stick to a rigid nutrition plan ( often making eating/drinking socially difficult). For them, the trade offs are worth the results but for many of us they are not.
Of course, I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t aim high or that you should give up trying to improve your diet, fitness and the way you look because it’s all too hard and inconvenient. Just that you should be realistic, when setting yourself goals, about what it takes to achieve them, what changes you are prepared to make, how sustainable they are and how you are going to do it. At this time of year a lot of people are already struggling to keep to New Years resolutions or have given up completely. Possibly because they hadn’t really thought about the lifestyle changes that would be necessary and how they were going to implement/make way for those changes in their, already busy, lives.
Here are my top tips for setting and achieving your exercise and nutrition goals:
Good luck in achieving your goals.ck here to edit.