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It may have been fairly chilly up until this week, but the summer is just around the corner, and most of Britain knows it.
Swimsuit fear has already kicked in, as many start to count the calories this week, shows research.
XLS Medical a weight loss aid company, did research showing that 50% of the UK population will start a diet in preparation for their holiday. A 12-week diet starting today will have you in shape for the start of the summer holidays – Wednesday, July 18.
Juliet Oosthuysen, spokeswoman forXLS medical, says: “As a guide, dieters should aim to lose around one to two pounds each week. Research shows that dieters are far more likely to maintain a healthy weight long term at this rate.”
With this steady target in mind, those who start today could lose up to 24 pounds (just under two stone) in a sustainable and healthy way.
Now might indeed be the time to start thinking about the summer bikini. Leave it later and the temptation to try a faddy diet like the Atkins diet or the Ducan diet may be too strong; but beware. Weight lost too quickly and/or through the wrong means will lead to physiological and psychological changes that mean you will be unable to hold the weight off. Indeed, research shows that you will most likely end up fatter than when you started…not a good look in a two piece. Slow and step by step changes to eating are the easiest to stick too, and are also those that are more likely to become habitual.
Oosthuysen says: “Instead of thinking about the weeks and months ahead on your weight-loss journey, simply concentrate on what’s immediately in front of you, such as, ‘What am I going to cook for dinner? Shall I walk to the shops or take my bike?’”
Dr Matt Capehorn, clinical director at the National Obesity Forum, also commented, saying: “Starting a diet now gives dieters a reasonable time frame in which to lose weight steadily for their summer holidays. It’s important not to fall into the trap of last minute crash dieting, which is often unsuccessful and can play havoc with blood sugar levels and appetite cravings.”
As a result, he explains, dieters can end up gaining weight as they struggle to cope with changes brought on by such extreme measures.
It is also important not to neglect the role that activity plays in weight loss. Even without a structured exercise program, small changes to your routine can add as much as 500 calories a day to your energy output; take a look at our article on NEAT (non exercise thermogenic activity).
And remember that one of the best ways to increase daily energy output is to build lean muscle through strength training.
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips? Not quite, but nearly; and faster. Have a big mac for lunch, and by tea time the fat will be on your middle. Scientists at Oxford University have discovered that fat from food can be converted into fatty tissue that sits on our waist and hips in as little as three hours, much quicker than previously thought. That’s how quickly you can get fat.
For the research, volunteers were given food that contained fatty acids that had been “marked” with slightly heavier isotopes of carbon that are easily tracked in the body, so scientists could follow their route. The study found that it took about an hour for the fats to be broken down in the gut, then entering the bloodstream as tiny droplets. These droplets were then carried around the body until caught by adipose cells in the waist and stored.
The good news is that this storage is temporary – the fat is broken down and used during exercise. But if the subjects continued to eat to excess and did not do enough activity, the fat will then be moved into long term storage around the hips, thighs and buttocks.
Modern thinking and research leads us to think that exercise is a vital part of any weight loss problem. But is it? On its own and with no adjustment of calorific input (what you eat) exercise has been shown by many studies to actually make some people fatter. Exercise and hunger have a complex relationship.
Your weight is an equation that includes lots of factors, not just how much you exercise vs how much you eat. There are also hormonal factors, emotional issues, psychological complications and genetics to be considered.
Many studies have shown that although exercise does indeed burn calories, it may not be as much as you think. Exercise also makes you more hungry and can lead to a compensation culture. Let’s say that you have done an hour in the gym. You have worked reasonably hard. But, feeling great and guilt free, you then go to Starbucks and have a muffin. You burned 400 calories in the gym, but the muffin contains 600. It’s not looking good. If this carries on then over the course of a few weeks you will start to get fat.
Your weight will be influenced by many factors, but the energy gap remains the most important one. This is the difference between the amount of calories that you take in compared to the amount that you expend. Exercise will make a difference, but you must also look at the calories that you are burning outside of exercise. Including more activity in your every day routine will make as much difference as working out. Being controlled and disciplined with eating is also vital.
Other things that will make a difference are the type of exercise that you do, the intensity and duration, as well as the frequency. There is a contentious but interesting article from Time magazine here.
So keep exercising, remembering that exercise is not just about weight loss. It’s the most powerful tool in the world to keep you health, happy and fit into old age. But look at all the other factors that will help to make you lighter. Put all of the pieces togther and success will be yours!
Organisations representing nearly every doctor in the UK have united in a single campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity, reports BBC health.
The campaign will begin by reviewing the case for more and higher fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures. There was criticism of sponsorship of the Olympics by fast food firms, which is seen as sending “the wrong message”. The Department of Health said it was taking action to combat obesity. A spokesman for the campaign, Prof Terence Stephenson, said the government’s current strategy of “partnering” food firms in order to tackle obesity “might be seen as counter-intuitive”.
Almost a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to be obese (this figure is on the rise) and some predictions suggest half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020, with Prof Stephenson saying they were “storing up problems for the future”.
“This is a huge problem for the UK. It’s much bigger than HIV was, much bigger than swine flu.”
The Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties represent some 200,000 doctors across all specialities, from GPs to paediatricians and surgeons to psychiatrists. They have described their campaign as an “unprecedented” union – as part of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) – on an issue of public health.
AoMRC spokesman Prof Stephenson said: “Every doctor I’ve ever spoken to feels obesity is a huge problem for the UK population.”
He said a united voice had “more of a chance” of tacking obesity.
The first phase of the campaign will try to find out what works. It will review evidence for diets, exercise, taxation, minimum pricing, changing advertising and food labelling, which medical procedures work and how children are educated. Recommendations could target food companies who sponsor major sporting events – such as the Olympics – and fast food outlets which operate close to schools. Prof Stephenson said allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics “sends the wrong message.”
“They clearly wouldn’t be spending the money if they didn’t benefit from being associated with successful athletes,” he said.
Whether it’s salad, Atkins, the soup diet or lighter life, women have tried every slimming trick in the book, says the Daily Mail. In fact, the average 45-year-old has been on 61 diets, a recent survey has found. Few of them would appear to have had the desired effect, however, as from the age of 16 that equates to around two a year. Logic dictates that even if only one of these diets worked then the subject would be slim and not need to try any more. Thus, diets don’t work.
In a poll of 2,000 British men and women, more than 75% had tried a diet in the past year. But women had attempted the biggest array of eating plans to try to shift the pounds. There are now fears that these fad diets are rubbing off on the next generation, causing potential future health problems.
Six out of ten people surveyed said they had been asked by their children not to give them foods such as bread, potatoes and fruit, believing they are bad for them, when they are healthy as part of a balanced diet. Around half of parents did remove some of these foods from their children’s diet. More than 85 per cent of those surveyed on behalf of the bread company Warburtons said they did not know calcium was important to their diet and around half did not know calcium was found in white bread. The fact that this survey was commissioned by a bread maker, and markets bread as a good source of calcium is also of some concern.
Weight is, in most cases, defined by the amount of energy that you take in (food and drink) less the amount of energy that you expend. If there is a surplus of energy then your weight will increase, this excess energy being stored as fat. If on the other hand there is a deficit of energy (you expend more than you eat) then your weight will decrease as your body uses fat and lean muscle to fill in the energy gap.
Traditionally the focus of our physical efforts to lose weight have been on gym based exercise, activity that takes place two or three times a week for a duration of an hour or so each time. Although this form of structured exercise is proven to improve fitness levels, provide huge health benefits and increase feelings of well-being, it’s a relatively small amount of energy expenditure when you look at the overall week.
Over a week, there are 168 hours. If you sleep for 8 hours a day that leaves 112. Going to the gym will make you fit and healthy, but even if you can manage 3 hours a week that’s only 2.7% of the time available for activity. Logic dictates that this wont make a huge increase in your overall calorific expenditure, so might not help to make you less huge! What about trying to increase your energy output for the other 97.3% of the time? It’s time to increase your NEAT.
NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis, is made up of all the energy you burn while not taking part in structured exercise. Rolling over in your sleep, sitting at a desk, walking up the stairs, throwing a ball for the dog are all examples of NEAT. In fact it includes any type of movement that requires muscle contractions.
Although structured exercise has been the target of most exercise physiology research in the past, new evidence is suggesting that NEAT plays a role in both health and obesity. The first paper to focus on NEAT (performed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota) examined weight gain in 16 non-obese adults who were given a 1000 calorie surplus (roughly the same as 2 Big Macs) every day for 8 weeks, while keeping their level of structured exercise at the same level. Not surprisingly, all of these subjects gained weight, but there was a huge variation: some individuals gained just 1.4 kg while others gained as much as 7.2 kg. What is very interesting is that changes in NEAT accounted for roughly 50% of the variation in fat gain. So, when overfed, some individuals naturally began to burn more calories through activities of daily living, postural changes, and even fidgeting, and this increase appears to be at least partly responsible for their resistance to weight gain.
A second paper by this same group compared the amount of NEAT in obese and non-obese individuals. As you might expect, obese individuals performed less NEAT than lean individuals. In fact, if obese individuals had NEAT levels similar to the more active people in the study, they would have burned an additional 350 calories a day, equivalent to roughly 1lb of fat every 10 days. Or 40 minutes of strenuous exercise in the gym! What is also interesting, however, is that this reduced NEAT was found in obese individuals even after weight loss, suggesting that NEAT levels are at least partially influenced by genetic inheritance.
In a recent BBC Horizon program, “The truth about exercise”, Dr Michael Mosley further investigated the effects of NEAT on individuals with different jobs and lifestyles. Using specially designed GPS monitors (fidget pants) the show concluded that even small changes to lifestyle can make a huge difference to the amount of energy expended during the course of a single day. Repeating the mantra “the chair is a killer, the chair is a killer” Mosley started cycling to work, having walking meetings, standing up to type and taking the stairs rather than the elevator. The fidget pants showed that he was burning up to 500 calories more each day – the same as attending a bootcamp. So of you would like to do a bootcamp without actually breaking into a sweat, get NEAT!
Ways to increase your neat could be walking to work, getting off a stop early and walking, parking a bit further away from your destination, sitting down for less time, having meetings walking and pacing up and down the office while on the phone (studies show that this also increases confidence and is a often used tool of sales people). Strength training will also increase NEAT, as small, non-exercise related movements will burn more calories if they are having to utlise more lean muscle.
A lot of the time our personal trainer clients obsess about being thin and svelte sexy beasts prowling the high street. We can certainly help to get them to this point, but along the way there are other components of fitness that are just as important and which should not be ignored. Although these components are not perhaps the main tools in the weight loss battle (resistance training, cardio-vascular work and good nutrition) they are just as important, and can actually be combined into a weight loss programme to make for a fitter, safer and more all round you. These are motor skills, a group of abilities that contribute to controlled and efficient human movement.
Proprioception is a component of fitness that informs an individual where all the parts of their musculoskeletal systems are and what they are doing relative to each other in space and time. Or in real-speak an innate sense of positional awareness. It’s a very important part of all round fitness, and all of our personal training programmes will contain elements of this. It really helps you to stay on your feet in sports and every day situations, when children/large labradors/husbands bump into you, uneven pavement threatens to tip you into the road and so on. Open chain exercises where your limbs are free in space as they push a resistance are great for this, as are wobble boards, bosu balls and stability balls. Free weight training is a good example of this open chain exercise.
Balance can be defined as the ability to maintain the centre of mass within the base of support. Again vital in everyday life and really helpful if you want to have fun and be an active outdoorsy type.
Co-ordination can be defined as a controlled interaction between two or more body parts that produces a desired movement under the control of the neuromuscular system.
All human movement requires some degree of these motor skills. The more complex the task the more motor skills are required. Different activities require different combinations of these motor skills, and they are just as essential to a great life and physical well being as being functionally strong, having a healthy heart/lungs and looking great. The whole package if you like. So try something new, get your personal trainer to make you do things that you may not be used to doing. If you can skip, try to skip backwards. If you like to jog, try to do some agility footwork before you go out; you never know when you might need to be agile.
Keep it varied, and good luck!
Many articles and websites write about the importance of lean muscle mass. It is important, but why? Your muscles provide may functions: just about all body movement, from walking to nodding your head, is caused by skeletal muscle contraction. Your skeletal muscles function almost continuously to maintain your posture, making one tiny adjustment after another to keep your body upright. Skeletal muscle is also important for holding your bones in the correct position and is essential for strong, stable joints. Muscles store fuel too, and along with the liver make up most of our energy stores.
Important bit: they also play a large part in defining how much energy we need to function, hence they play a vital role in weight loss and maintenance. They are, as mentioned above, functioning continuously, therefore the more we have and the more toned they are, the more fuel we will need all day, every day. As weight loss depends on someone expending more energy than they are taking in, energy used becomes an important part of the weight loss equation; the more the merrier. Although cardio-vascular exercise will burn lots of calories when you are doing it and for a short time afterwards (depending on the intensity of exercise), it won’t increase calorie output all the time. Strength training, however, will! Increasing the tone and amount of muscle we have is like replacing A 1.2 engine in a car with a 2 litre. And that 2 litre is going all the time. It needs more fuel. Combined with sensible eating lean muscle will lead to sustained weight loss that stays off.
Correspondingly, loss of lean muscle will depress the metabolic rate – the amount of fuel we need to function. This explains why crash diets look great on the scales but don’t last. Although you will lose fat, you will also lose muscle. There is weight loss, but after the diet you now need less calories than before, so a return to normal eating will lead to unavoidable weight gain.
We also lose lean muscle as we age; from the age of 30 this can be up to 1lb a year. This explains why it gets harder to maintain weight as we get older. Our engine (lean muscle) is getting smaller, so we actually need less fuel!
The good news is that unlike most symptom of ageing, you can keep or even increase lean muscle as you get older through strength training. And as a lady you don’t have to be muscly, just toned and strong. A recent study into strength training by the University of Pittsburgh showed that adults in their 70s and 80s who did strength training had nearly the same muscle mass as someone in their 40s.
All our courses at Diets Don’t Work include strength training, and you are never too old to start. Our 50plus training gets great success too – http://www.dietsdontwork.co.uk/services/50plus-fitness
The NHS will be deploying a new war in the fight against obesity: a talking plate that tells people not to gobble their food, reports the Sunday Times. The Mandometer, a £1500 Swedish made device, consists of two parts: a scale which sits under the plate, and a small computer screen. The screen displays a graph with one red line to indicate the speed at which the person is eating, and one blue line which is a guide to the healthy rate. If the lines deviate too much then an audible warning is issued to slow down. It also asks occasionally: “are you full yet?”
The system will be tested on 600 families in which at least one parent and one child is clinically obese, as part of a project run by Bristol University in conjunction with the NHS. It will also be tested on a dozen people with a genetic mutation that prevents them from recognising when they are full. In previous trials, adolescents who used the Mandometer ate between 12% and 15% less per meal after a year – and were still eating less six months after they stopped using the device.
A combination of factors determine our weight, and that’s why it’s difficult to set an exact ideal weight that applies to everyone. There’s a range of healthy body weights, and your aim should be to keep within this healthy range. This means an end to aspiring to one magic weight that you think you should be. Your target weight is not a constant either; it may change depending on your circumstances and age.
Many people have a distorted perception of what constitutes a healthy body weight. We’re surrounded by images of celebrities and models, many of whom are underweight. Comparing yourself with these images isn’t helpful. But comparing yourself to friends and family isn’t that useful either, because as obesity becomes more common our perception of ‘average’ weight may in fact be too heavy. It’s important to make an objective assessment of your size. Looking at yourself in the mirror might also not be the best way to assess whether you’re a healthy weight either, although it’s a step in the right direction. There are a number of ways you can work out if you’re within a healthy weight range. You need to get an accurate idea because it’s easy to underestimate or overestimate your own weight.
1 – Body Mass Index or BMI. You can check your body size using the body mass index which assesses your weight in relation to your height. Although this method is much touted by the media and medical professions (it is used by the NHS) BMI is, in the eyes of many trainers and health professionals (including us), a flawed and often misleading system. Although it can be a useful guide if you are an average height, size and build, the BMI makes no allowance for individual variations in body frame, shape, muscle mass and bone density. As a good example I will take myself-I am 5’9, very fit, functionally and weigh 93kg (14st 8lbs). My BMI is therefore 31, or clinically obese!! My waist is 32 inches, and my body fat is 16%. So in actual fact I’m actually a healthy weight.
This misleading result is mainly because the BMI is a rigid measurement system which does not allow for different body shapes and genetic inheritance. Where the BMI is concerned, proceed with caution.
DDW approval rating – 4/10
2 – Waist measurement.
Another method of assessing whether you’re a healthy weight is to measure your waist. As a personal trainer this is one of the single most important measurements, especially considering that recent studies show a direct link between fat stored around the middle and internal fat. Internal fat increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Waist measurement, along with the tightness (or otherwise) of your favourite frock/jeans are two of the best guides to your health and size. Use your common sense, and remember that you can be overweight but very fit and healthy through exercise, just as you can be thin, unfit, unhealthy and at risk of many common life-threatening diseases.
DDW approval rating – 8/10
3 – Body fat analysers. These are most commonly modern bathroom scales with metal footpads or hand-held readers with metal grips. These pass a small, safe electrical signal through your body. Lean tissue, such as muscle and blood contain water and act as conductors of an electrical signal, while fat resists it. The greater the resistance, the more body fat you have. Although these analysers are reasonably accurate they may not give the full picture depending on where the electrical current goes. If you use the handheld model, it will only give you a reading for your upper torso, as the current only goes from one hand to the other. Likewise, if standing on the scales or a plate, the signal will go up one leg and down the other, so only measuring the lower body.
Overall though these are a reasonable guide – if in doubt measure your waist and see how your favourite jeans are fitting.
DDW approval rating – 5/10
4 – Skinfold measurement. The skinfold estimation methods are based on a skinfold test, also known as a pinch test, whereby a pinch of skin is precisely measured by calipers at several standardized points on the body to determine the subcutaneous fat layer thickness. These measurements are converted to an estimated body fat percentage by an equation. Some formulas require as few as three measurements, others as many as seven. The accuracy of these estimates is more dependent on a person’s unique body fat distribution than on the number of sites measured. As well, it is of utmost importance to test in a precise location with a fixed pressure. Although it may not give an accurate reading of real body fat percentage, it is a reliable measure of body composition change over a period of time, provided the test is carried out by the same person with the same technique.
Skinfold-based body fat estimation is sensitive to the type of caliper used, and technique. This method also only measures one
type of fat: subcutaneous adipose tissue (fat under the skin). Two individuals might have nearly identical measurements at all of the skin fold sites, yet differ greatly in their body fat levels due to differences in other body fat deposits such as visceral adipose tissue (fat in the abdominal cavity). Some models partially address this problem by including age as a variable in the statistics and the resulting formula. Older individuals are found to have a lower body density for the same skinfold measurement, which is assumed to signify a higher body fat percentage. However, older, highly athletic individuals might not fit this assumption, causing the formulas to underestimate their body density.
DDW approval rating – 7/10 (if done correctly)
Body fat is only one aspect of health.
Your GP can advise whether additional measurements such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood cholesterol, fat% and glucose tolerance tests are necessary. If your BMI and waist circumference indicate you’re overweight, changes to your lifestyle could help to control your weight. Think about how you can make changes to your diet and physical activity over the long term. Get a Diets Don’t Work Personal Trainer.
Are you a healthy weight but unhappy with your figure?
If your weight lies within the healthy range but you’re unhappy with your shape, you’ll probably derive more benefits from a
supervised exercise programme than by restricting your diet. Quite often we find that clients who have been training with us for a few months may still be the same weight but will have dramatically improved measurements and body shape. They have toned their muscles (not bulked up) and lost fat. This training will improve your fitness, help to tone specific muscle groups and enhance your overall health and well being. At Diets Don’t Work all our Personal Trainers in London and the Thames Valley focus both on input (what you eat) and output (exercise) and by addressing both sides of the weight equation get the best results.