Combat The Fat

Leave bad nutritional habits behind with this simple ten-point weight-loss plan

Posted: 15 January 2009
by Matt Barbour


Remember: miles are miles, as far as your belly's concerned. "Coming back from injury last year, I needed a plan to stop me piling on weight," says James Smith from Hemel Hempstead. "I stopped taking the bus and started walking to work and back instead. I was getting in six miles a day without even trying. The weight dropped off. It's the perfect way to clear your head before and after the office. And knowing every session doesn't have to be an all-out lung-buster is great for motivation. I always start my runs with a walk until I feel mentally prepared to pick up the pace, and if I don't feel like it, I just walk and enjoy it for what it is."

"Certain 'diet' foods backfire because they leave you feeling unsatisfied, so you eat twice the amount," says Gina Kerr from the North West Triathlon Club in Londonderry. "After years of trying – and failing – with 'diet' foods, I removed low-fat products from my diet, which were more often than not loaded with sugar, and focused on healthier fats, such as monounsaturates, dairy and fish oils. I'll have a full-fat yoghurt in the morning, which keeps me satisfied until lunchtime. I've also cut out fruit from my diet in favour of loads of veg – fruit was too sweet for me and made me crave sweets. I've lost 24 pounds over the past year, so something has to be right."

"I decided to shock myself into losing the two spare stones I gained after my second child was born," says Helen Newton, member of the Black Pear Joggers in Worcester. "I pinned graphs and charts of my weight and body fat in the kitchen alongside photos of me before and after. Every time I reached for a biscuit I was reminded of the consequences of my actions. It also meant that I got comments on how well I was doing from people who came round the house – if I got none, I knew I was slipping. It also spurred my husband into stumping up £100 for every stone I lost to go towards a new wardrobe. Basically, get everyone involved and make it the main priority in your life."

The big mistake I made was thinking running held all the answers," explains Tom O'Shea from Cirencester. "But two years ago I injured my Achilles and was forced to take some time out. I went to the gym and did some weights work – I didn't put on one pound and my body fat actually went down, with not one bit of cardio. When I returned to running, I continued going to the gym twice a week to do a 60-minute circuit of low-weight high-rep full-body moves, such as squats, lunges and presses, and have lost almost three stone. Not only do your muscles keep burning calories even after you've finished working out, but full-body moves actually strengthen the stabilising muscles around the joints that let so many runners down."

"I found that drinking water made a huge difference with controlling hunger pangs," says Himesh Gohil from Harrow. "Constantly sipping made me feel less hungry – I still eat as much as I want to, but I get fuller quicker, and don't snack so much. I always have a bottle with me. It's actually become a bit of a talking point among my friends and colleagues. I clock between two and three litres a day. It also gives me added energy. The best part is that it's not part of some faddish diet, so it's something I've kept up even after I've hit my target weight."

The first rule about weight loss is to be true to yourself. "If snack foods are your weakness, don't buy them – it really is that simple," says Lorna Gold, a member of the Centurion Running Club in Birmingham. "People kid themselves into making excuses that crisps are for the kids' lunchboxes, or those chocolate biscuits are for their spouse's tea, when in reality it's for them. If you take temptation out of the equation you soon realise how quickly you don't need these things. And be realistic about how many extra calories you need because of your running habit – a mile only burns around 100 calories, about the same as a glass of orange juice."

As the saying goes, breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. "In July last year I weighed in at close to 17 stone. I was eating too many treats and justifying that by skipping breakfast," says James McNeill, from Wallasey on the Wirral. "I was upping my mileage, but running on empty meant I never really enjoyed it and never reached the intensity where it would have an obvious impact on my weight. Now, I have a breakfast of porridge, toast and poached eggs every morning, a large jacket potato or pasta for lunch, and a piece of lean meat with salad for dinner. I've lost over two stone now, and I'm enjoying my running more than ever."

Small steps can lead to big changes. "One day I just decided I'd increase my mileage by 10 per cent each week and see what happened," says Clare Brotherton from York. "It doesn't sound like much, but the extra calorie-burn accumulates faster than you think, and it wasn't so daunting a prospect – especially as I was starting on just 20 miles a week. Once I reached 50, I didn't have the time to do any more, so I started incorporating hills – it's worth remembering that running on a five per cent incline burns 50 per cent more calories than running on a flat surface. I also threw in some intense fartlek sessions. Whatever session I did, I was absolutely spent by the end."

Controlling what you eat can be half the battle. "Ready meals are nearly always loaded with extra sugar, salt and fat to add flavour to what are pretty bad-quality basic ingredients," says Karl Andrews from Fife. "I was running a fair bit, but I was eating too much processed junk, so the extra weight I was carrying just wouldn't shift. I started to analyse what I was eating and took a real interest in cooking. I started using the Collins Gem Calorie Counter when going round the supermarket, sought out food at farmers' markets and kept a detailed food diary – seeing it in black and white really helps you understand where the problems are."

Understand that it’s OK to have the occasional treat. "If you’re running regularly, you deserve it," says Lina Martino from Tipton Harriers in Stoke. "The reason why diets fail is because they're based on deprivation, and once you give in to that craving with one biscuit, you think 'Sod it' and demolish the whole packet. Focus on the foods you can eat rather than those you can't. The more you tell yourself you can’t have something, the more you crave it. The key is to experiment and find foods you like that are healthy. I love bowls of breakfast cereal, whereas others love toast – stick with those, but find healthy versions, such as wholemeal toast, or cereal without all the sugar in."

Previous article
RW's BIG Weight-Loss Index
Next article
Runner's World calorie calculator

health general, nutrition recovery, nutrition running, weight

Discuss this article

All the issues raised in the above article were valid, and useful; particularly as they were underpinned by the personal experiences of runners who had valuable insights into the points made. However, having read the superlative article Your Good Health 28/11/08 Runner's World, I would like to invite readers to read both & take note of how important it is to ensure a balance between required/expended calories, & cortisol production during hard (regular) exercise. Over stimulation of cortisol (adrenal pre-cursor) can substantially reduce immune system function.

Insufficient quality calorific intake of complex, low GI carbs will increase cortisol production, so significantly reduce immune system function. Yes, there are other factors in play, such as hydration & over use of artificial immune system boosters, but it would appear from evidence based research, that carbs are critical to maintaining system strength & wellness...


Posted: 19/01/2009 at 21:35

Would this explain sudden waking in the night, a sudden rush of adrenalin, even though not overtraining and running in the morning?
Posted: 21/01/2009 at 20:12

Hi there WCP,  not medically trained, but can offer to comment on your question - they are symptoms/issues I have experienced myself, and it was by reading the article Your Good Health, I was able to identify what was going wrong for me, and how to broadly tackle it. I know that if I am very stressed at work, train hard (morning runs for me too), injest insufficient prolonged burn carbs; I wake several times in the night, feel 'pumped' at times when I probably wouldn't normally; and am highly susceptible to every oportunistic respiratory infection going!  Hope this is of use to you. 
Posted: 21/01/2009 at 20:41

Dietician/nutritionist at the last regional Pituitary Foundation conference recommended an intake of pro/prebiotics to help bolster the immune system - either via foods or supplements.  I usually have a low fat Activia yoghurt once a day which means I get my dairy hit also.
Posted: 22/01/2009 at 18:29

Yep, Sharon, me too!

But have followed recommendation of  not over loading on the Ecinaecia following repeated viral infections that I just couldnt seem to clear (as opp to remit from). All beneficial supplimentation seems to be counter productive in 'over dose'; problem is, ascertaining what that might be too much for you, in terms of your age, gender, body weight/height/metabolism/basic diet....ect.

Its a bit of a mine field to say the least, particularly when so much information out there is highly contradictory, and allegedly 'evidence based' !


Posted: 22/01/2009 at 18:59

I usually take echinachea as soon as I get a bug, but I only take it for about 2 days and usually start feeling much better by then. I dont know whether it works, all I can say is that I have never had a bad cold or flu since taking it. I went down with everything before. I think the key is to build up your immune system but not overwhelm it so it stops bothering
Posted: 04/02/2009 at 00:49

You know, reading all these diets and taking on board what the 'experts' say makes life too complicated. We spend more time worrying about calorific intake, if we've had 5 portions of fruit and veg, avoid wheat, sugar, blah, blah, blah. Why bother worrying? Life is too short. We are active people, surely that means we can live a little??

Off for some chocolate now ........

Posted: 04/02/2009 at 03:01

Sounds like you have found the right balance for you Any...think that we do tend to overload on what we are told is 'good' for us without really considering how it might work within the wider context of what we are doing with our bodies, and the lives that we live. The old addage "all things in moderation" must certainly apply, and as for the chocolate Kirrie - well, I'm all for that too!!

I am often told that running is bad for me. Seriously. The nay-sayers advise me that I am merely storing up joint & bone problems for my old age....

Posted: 04/02/2009 at 06:12

Have you noticed though that most of the nutritionists/medics/health secretaries that they wheel out whenever they decide that something else is good/bad for us are generally overweight?! Makes me laugh.  I'm always told that running is bad for me, but I ignore them. Again, most of the nay-sayers in my life are....overweight!

Posted: 04/02/2009 at 06:26

Yeh, my mom very kindly once suggested I see the doctor about my weight. I said are you kidding, she is absolutely enormous. I was only a size 14 at the time! We also have a social worker at the school where I work who is also extremely large and she is seeing a young boy who has a weight problem and giving him advice what to eat!
Posted: 04/02/2009 at 17:39

i give up i really dont know what to eat anymore im a normal weight but cant get my diet right to fuel my runs and what makes it worst is i keep getting a viral infection every couple of months i have tried everything
Posted: 18/05/2009 at 21:27

Perhaps Siobhan Gorry Groves should think about giving up smoking duty-free cigarettes in order to lose weight and run better.
Posted: 27/05/2011 at 16:18

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.