Your Loss, Your Gain

Tired of lugging that extra weight around? These 30 ways are guaranteed to shift it

Posted: 5 June 2002
by Hal Higdon

You’re a runner, so the chances are pretty good that you’re not one of the growing number of obese people in this country. Rather, you’re probably one of the healthiest specimens your doctor sees. But this doesn’t mean that you’re satisfied with your current weight. Or that you’re not interested in losing a few pounds in order to become healthier, feel better and run stronger.

If weight loss is your goal, we have some tips for you – 30 of them, in fact.

Not all of these weight-loss tips will be right for you, but we’re sure you’ll discover several that can help you reach – and then maintain – your goal weight.

  1. Exercise often You may already have this one covered, but you should know that people are more likely to stick with their exercise programme if they exercise more frequently for shorter periods of time than less frequently for longer periods. It’s been shown that an exercise programme consisting of daily half-hour sessions works better for long-term weight loss than one consisting of hour-long sessions done just once or twice a week.
  2. Remove certain foods from your diet This is something that men appear to do better than women: they stop having a dessert, they quit nibbling on crisps or cut back on beer, lowering their total calorie consumption per day, which leads to weight loss. But if you’re a woman, give it a try anyway – it works.
  3. Eat all foods, but limit the quantity Unlike the last, this tactic is generally used more effectively by woman than men. With this method, you decrease calories by eating the same foods that you normally would, just in smaller portions.
  4. Increase your carbohydrate intake The body’s most efficient energy source is carbohydrate. It’s the equivalent of high-octane fuel. Burning fat for energy is less efficient, and you don’t want to burn protein, since you may be cannibalising your own muscles. You’ll find it easier to run if your muscles are well fueled with carbohydrates. This equips you to run farther or faster (or both), which will boost calorie and fat burning.
  5. Don’t eliminate all fat Some dietary fat is necessary for good health. Also, certain fats improve the taste of food. If your diet is so bland that the fun goes out of eating, you’ll find it much harder to stay on track with your weight-loss plan.
  6. Learn the magic numbers Most nutritionists agree that the proper balance of nutrients for good health comes from a calorie balance of approximately 55 per cent carbohydrate, 20 per cent protein and 25 per cent (or less) fat. Stray too far from this 55-20-25 diet, and you’ll find it hard to maintain any weight loss.
  7. Seek a dietician’s help It’s not easy to determine what foods to eat to achieve the 55-20-25 ratio, so consider calling in a professional. A registered dietician can guide you in your food choices and fine-tune your weight-loss programme. To find a dietician near you, consult the British Dietetic Association.
  8. Avoid fad diets Weight-reducing plans that have you radically changing your eating habits usually don’t work – at least in the long run. Sure, you can lose weight quickly, but most of the time it just comes right back.
  9. Don’t use diet pills They don’t even work very well. Unless you’re clinically obese and at high medical risk (you have diabetes or high blood pressure, for example), you should not be taking diet pills. They don’t eliminate the main reasons people overeat, which are often psychological.
  10. Choose high-intensity activities As a runner, you’ve already done this. The higher the exercise’s intensity, the more calories you’ll burn. Walking and running each burn around 100 calories per mile, but you can cover more miles in the same time by running rather than walking.
  11. Don’t overtrain Running too many miles increases your injury risk. If you’re injured, you can’t run. If you can’t run, you’ll be missing out on your favourite calorie-burning activity. Running too much can also leave you so fatigued that you burn fewer calories when not exercising, as you’ll find yourself sitting around more. To allow your body to adapt, increase your mileage and intensity gradually.
  12. Record your progress Mark your weight loss on a calendar or in a diary. A visible record of your success can help to motivate you to continue. It will show that, despite occasional ups and downs, you’re making steady progress.
  13. Establish realistic goals Want to lose 10lbs in 10 days? Forget it. It’s not going to happen. Unless you virtually starve yourself, that is, in which case those 10lbs will surely return. Meanwhile you’ll have lost muscle, which may later be replaced by fat. Very obese people sometimes can lose a lot of weight (because they have more to lose), but for most of us, a goal of 1-2lbs a week is more realistic.
  14. …And write them down Having goals and putting them down on paper is a simple yet powerful method for sticking to the task. “I will increase my running mileage by one mile a week for the next 10 weeks” would be one example of a clearly stated goal.
  15. Ask for a doggy bag Everyone knows that the dog will never see it, but you don’t have to eat every bit of food on your plate. Many restaurants offer over-large portions as a matter of course. Either push the plate away or take the food home.
  16. Think before you drink Around 20 per cent of your calories come from fluids, and this number often goes up in warmer weather. Changing the fluids you drink, therefore, can have a big effect on your total calorie intake. For example, fruit juices and fizzy drinks are great thirst quenchers, but they come with lots of calories, too. Try substituting lower-calorie sports drinks, or go with cold water, the ultimate no-calorie thirst quencher.
  17. Don’t skip meals It seems an effective strategy to skip entire meals instead of cautiously cutting calories. Unfortunately, you run the risk of compromising your health by eliminating important nutrients. Skipping a meal can also make you so hungry that you pig out on high-fat foods during your next meal.
  18. Plan your snacking It’s all right to eat between meals, as long as you do so in a controlled manner. Fruit, energy bars, a pot of yoghurt, half a sandwich… these are all great snacks. With nutritious snacks available, you’ll be less likely to grab high-fat alternatives on impulse.
  19. Mix it up Not only is eating a varied diet more fun and interesting, it’s healthier, too. Recent studies suggest that when people eat lots of different foods, they generally take in fewer calories.
  20. Remember that a low fat content doesn’t always mean low calories We’ve certainly mentioned this one before, but it’s worth re-emphasising. Many foods marketed as low-fat or even fat-free don’t necessarily have fewer calories. In a recent study, people who consumed a significant portion of their calories from low-fat foods ate the same number of total calories as those who ate no low-fat foods at all.
  21. Understand genetics Your family history frequently dictates your physique. If your parents are big, you’ll probably be big. You can’t change this. You may never be as skinny as the featherweight runners who win races, but you can maintain a reasonable and healthy weight for your particular frame.
  22. Shop with a list Avoid impulse purchases and impulse eating. Impulsive food choices often prove to be high-calorie ones. If you shop with a list, you’ll be less likely to grab high-calorie foods off the shelf. In the same vein, don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry.
  23. Park and walk Not all of your exercise has to come on the running trails. Seek ways to burn a few calories here, a few there. Use the stairs instead of the lift, or park your car further away from your office. In other words, don’t make exercise an all-or-nothing endeavour – blend it into your day.
  24. Seek support It’s easier to succeed at weight control if you surround yourself with people who applaud your efforts, rather than those who (even subconsciously) might not want you to lose weight. Join a running club or attend group sessions (even if the others are faster). Many runners who are slim now once had weight problems themselves.
  25. Find a friend You’re more likely to exercise – and lose weight – if you train with a friend or group. Knowing that your friend will be disappointed if you miss a session will motivate you to stick to your programme. And you can celebrate your progress together.
  26. Identify weak points Analyse your eating habits. When are you most likely to grab an extra snack? Midday, when your energy is low? During TV commercials? Determining when and how you slip up will allow you to devise ways to avoid this behaviour.
  27. Get a coach Elite athletes aren’t the only people to benefit from coaching. You will, too. Perhaps you can find someone to help supervise your exercise programme. Okay, not everybody can afford to go one-on-one, but you can join a running club where coaching is available. To find a club, visit the UK Athletics Club Website Directory.
  28. Schedule your days off If your food or exercise regimen is relatively strict, schedule a day each week when you don’t exercise and don’t keep such a close eye on your food intake. The occasional day off creates a ‘release valve’ that can make a weight-control programme that much more palatable, and thus sustainable.
  29. Try some speedwork You already know that speedwork (faster-paced running, usually done over shorter distances) is a great way to improve performance. It’s also a great calorie-burner. You shouldn’t run fast every day, but occasional high-intensity training can help with weight loss (a half-dozen short bursts of 60-90 seconds will do the job).
  30. Try strength training As with speedwork, strength training can boost your metabolism. In fact, one study showed that strength training can boost metabolism for up to 15 hours after the session. It also builds muscle tissue, which is better at burning calories than fat tissue.

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Discuss this article

Hi - I'm Sally and I have just joined RW. I am a total beginner and did my first run today - 2 mins running, 2 mins walking but I only managed this twice! I am overweight but dieting and I cycle to work every day which takes me a hour in total.
Any advice would be most appreciated as I have said I will run the 5K in July for my local slimming club (if I'm still alive!) Thanks
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 21:24

Hi Sally, welcome to the rather addictive world of the RW forum!

Just take it nice and steady, that's what my advice would be (for what its worth). Why don't you check out some of the training schedules on the site? Also the penguin's site (I think its is good as is the Plodders thread on beginners. Very encouraging.

Good luck with the training & weight loss, and keep us posted with your news
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 21:29

hiya sally! well done on your first run. I didn't even manage to run at all the first time I went out (about a year ago). I was entering Race 4 life, with a friend. We just went really slowly, walking where we had to, two or three times a week. Enjoy it, don't punish yourself! there are loads of us out there ( i could do with getting rid of a stone) who all think we should run faster or longer or something. if you keep going, you WILL get there!
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 21:31

Hi Sally,

I too have just joined RW and am an almost total beginner. My first run, 8 weeks ago, was 20 minutes of run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute, which felt pretty tough. But I've gradually built up what I do, running 3 or 4 times a week and now I can run comfortably at a reasonable pace for 40+ minutes, and I've started doing some interval and hill training. I'm doing a 5K at the end of June. Advice - keep it up, stick to a schedule and don't try to progress too fast, wear decent shoes, get a running partner if you can cos it is a great motivator. You'll do the 5K no problem!
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 21:33

Sally keep up the good work. It is good that you have a goal to work towards as it will keep you motivated and determined to keep on going.

Remember that everyone started from scratch and with practice you will be running non stop for ages. Just take it easy and enjoy every moment of this new adventure.

Posted: 28/04/2003 at 22:12

Hi Sally!

Welcome to the forums! Well done on entering your 5KM it will give you something to look forward to!

Good Luck and don't forget to keep posting and talking about your progress, whether it's good or bad as we've all been there!
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 22:34

Im 3 stone overweight
and ive done 2 marathons
ignore your weight, and concentate on enjoying getting fitter
Keep posting on here, through the good times and th bad
lots of support here
Posted: 28/04/2003 at 22:49

Hi Sally - just take it steady, have a look at some starter schedules & do what you find easiest, taking it really slowly & you will be amazed how quick you improve, as Hippo says, there is plenty of support here, and ignore the weight. I'm....stone overweight!

Posted: 28/04/2003 at 23:14

Benz, you sure about 'Keep posting on here, through the good times and th bad'? (wink...)

Posted: 29/04/2003 at 07:41

Hi Sally
Well done on making a commitment to run the 5k's. I'm also overweight and have been running for about 5 weeks now... the first few weeks were quite tough but I perservered and now I really look forward to getting outside and having 'my plod around the block'.
Don't beat yourself up if you find some days harder than others - you'll really surprise yourself how quickly you start feeling fitter, and how quickly your stamina improves.

Good luck - keep us posted!!
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 08:43

Wot, nicky?
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 09:09

Well done Sally, you've made a great start! I've been plodding for three weeks now in preparation for the Hyde Park 10k on May 18th and having a goal to work towards is definitely the key for me. My first week of training was run 1 min/walk 1 for 10 minutes and I really struggled. I'm certainly not a runner now, but I've managed to get up to running 10 minutes/ walk 2 for 40 minutes and I can tell you, every time you can do just one more minute, it really makes you feel terrific! Look forward to seeing your progress here :-)
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 09:21

Hi Sally and welcome to RW.I'm a beginner too but am amazed at how quickly stamina builds up. Like everyone else says take your time and celebrate the little successes like the first time you run for 3 minutes. Buy yourself some really nice bubble bath so you can have a lovely luxurious soak after a good training session and enjoy the fact that you are out there taking control and making an effort. You'll find these forums really encouraging so keep us posted.
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 09:52

Well done. That is a great start. I could hardly manage 60 seconds on my first run. And I was so embarassed that I went bright red on the treadmill.

I can't say that I am finding it easy, but then it wouldn't be a challenge and wouldn't be any fun.

As for being overweight - just think, you have to work twice as hard as beanpole people. Thats what I tell myself anyway!

Keep going :-)
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 09:55

Hello, Sally. I was nearly 3st overweight (and diabetic to boot) when I began running. Am now just 10lb off my target and have the diabetes well under control. I began with the same sort of walk/jog schedule and it works. I'll never be a fast runner but I can now run several miles at 11-min miles quite comfortably and, most importantly, I really enjoy it.

Good luck for July.
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 13:59

Thanks for all the messages and encouragement. I must admit that I am enjoying myself more that I thought and I am not finding it too hard which is probably down to the cycling. I went out again yesterday and managed another set of 2 mins and I hope by next week I can increase that to 4 sets. I will keep you all posted with my progress.
Thanks again - it is really great to have so much help and support.
Posted: 30/04/2003 at 08:14

Where do overweight ladies find the kit to run in? Being big and tall makes finding kit doubly difficult. I can hide in winter under jacket and tracksters, but what to wear when the sun shines? I want kit that fits, but ladies sizes just don't do it - too short and too small. Anyone else have this problem?

Posted: 31/03/2004 at 20:43

wonder what happend to all the others on this thread
i buy mens t shirts
short legs mean im ok with large ladies leggings
Posted: 31/03/2004 at 20:53

Thanks for the reply. Problem with men's t-shirts for me is that that they don't hang too well at the front. But at least they are long enough to cover the back adequately! Would just love to see ladies sizes in ranges that are a bit more realistic.
Posted: 31/03/2004 at 21:03

i agree totally
there was once a link on gear
Posted: 31/03/2004 at 21:04

Hi Sally. Welcome to madness.

You remind me of myself last year, when I first started running. It felt like everyone lese was going faster than I was.

Very soon, you'll be running a mile like it's a walk in the park. Keep at your schedule, listen to your body and let me know when you're ready for your first marathon.
Posted: 31/03/2004 at 21:06

hi sally
well done for starting!
i've only been running a few months and i'm also overweight
you'll find your fitness will improve really quickly if you run at least 3 times a week - or infact do any kind of exercise -
the advice on this site is excellent in the articles section

you should also have a look at kerry's thread who is running a marathon but started from nothing and several stone overweight

in particular look for where she has posted her coaches advice
- if you want rapid weight loss and fitness then go for half an hour a day exercise - and mix it up - swimming one day , cycling another, running or brisk walking another and so on - as long as you do it regularly

but don't worry if you have a few bad days or just do 20mins or 10mins even at the start - important thing is "little and often " and that's the best way to avoid injury and get fit

once you are into the habit of it you can build it up
i started from nothing and now do an hour most days
i feel amazing and the weight is dropping off without dieting. (i just avoid cheese and cakes/sweets)

best of luck and welcome to the forum

Posted: 02/04/2004 at 09:51

Hi Sally
I'm really quite overweight and started running a month ago. The key is to start slow. I jog on a treadmill and go at 7.5kph which seems very slow to begin with but after 10 minutes or so doesn't feel so slow anymore. It gives you confidence knowing you can run for longer, then you can start to work on your speed.
I also find that stopping to walk makes it harder for me to get going again - although most people I think don't find this.
I'm running my first 5k on 5th May, but I have already run 6k at the gym so am hoping it will be easy.

Cathy - I know it's hard to find clothes that fit. My clothes aren't proper running gear as they don't make it in my size. I wear shorts and a sleveless top in the gym, and an old tracksuit outside.

Posted: 02/04/2004 at 10:09

I'm also very overweight and spent last night devising a running plan that I feel I can REALISTICALLY do. It's a combination of using a treadmill (with 1% incline) and running in the local park or track (assuming weather permits)

I've got a lot of weight to lose, but I have already lost a stone since the beginning of the year.

Onwards and upwards.

Love this site by the way!!!
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 12:15

Hi Sally
Have just started back running after injuring my back in October!!! Physio said could run justa after chrimbo but had horrible flu and chest which laid me off again. I am 2 and a half stone over my supposed ideal weight. I try not to let it bother me. I cut down on fatty stuff, but allow myself a little treat when I run. No run/plod no treat. (I also love red wine which is empty calories I know but...)I was told by one Doctor last year I was "too heavy" to run. Then when I hurt my back was told by another its a great way of loosing weight. Lost 8 lbs up to now and am up to plodding 10mins. Don't give up. If I am not comfortable with a week on my training schedule I repeat it. I don't see it as a failure, usually when I do that by the end of the next week I am comfortable. Doing My 6th Great North Run this year and 5th Race for life. I am considering a Marathon perhaps next year. I was told I would never do my 1st Great North Run, but with grim determination (mainly to wipe the smile off my smug ex's face I did it). I was 11 stonethen. I am 12 stone 7lbs which with a height of 5'2" id a bit on the big side. What I find more encouraging at the moment is I may be losing weight slowly (a pound a week)but my clothes are feeling a bit less tight. I prefer to use that to monitor how I am doing rather than than scales as I find when I get to plodding 5k I usually hit a weight loss rut. I would like to get a stone more off but it is not the be all and end all. I have a love hate relationship with running, if I have a good week I love it, if I have a bad week I hate it. But when I van;t go out.... I am horrible to live with.

I run mostly in Mens gear. The only shop near without having to go into Newcastle for a specialist shop is JJB sports. They only seem to sell men's running stuff. (women obviously don't run)or I go on the internet, but I find it a bit bigger and a lot more comfy in some cases.

Go for it girl. You know you can do it.
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 17:01

tell your doc to sod off

Im 11 and a half stone
and your height
anbd im about to do my 6th marathon
and my joints are fine
so there!
you CAN do it
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 17:39

Hello Sally!

Good on you for getting out there and going for it. The beginning is the hardest bit, it does get easier and you do get less self conscious - honest! If you're feeling flush try and get hold of a heart rate monitor. I enjoyed my runs a lot more after I'd got mine. I think everyone initially runs harder and faster than their bodies need you to do to improve. I had to keep consciously slowing myself down to stay within my target heart rate zone and I found that I could reach my target 'time on feet' time so much more easily. Success really does breed success.

I'm more overweight than I have been probably ever, I say probably because I haven't weighed myself in months. The amazing thing is, yes I'm flabby, BUT it doesn't give me sleepless nights or make me mope about anymore. that's a really big deal for me. :o) Clothing for summer running is a problem. If you're buying on the net it's such a guessing game of trying to work out what size to order. The sizes are all so small and the mens sizes mean very little to me. What size would a 5'6 18 order in mens? XL or XXL do you reckon?

I'm rambling!

Again I say good luck and keep going Sally! Keep us posted!
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 18:54

Sally, how are you getting on as it is now nearly a year since you started running (28/04/03)? Let us know how you're doing, entered any races etc.
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 19:08

Just to add to the gear comments - Evans do some reasonable tops and tracksuit trousers at the moment, in cotton (didn't think they realised natural fibres existed!) up to size 30.

Since I haven't posted before, may as well add my stats for this - new runner (well, walk/runner at the moment), definitely overweight (16 stone something, down from 22 stone two years ago) and heading for the New York Marathon in November. Needless to say, the goal is to finish, not to get a specific time. I'm doing some shorter races in between - partly to give myself some goals and also to just get experience.
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 20:54

Fantastic Domina. 6 stone loss is amazing. I'm a run-walker too. What races have you entered in the run up to the big one?
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 22:06

Hi tortoise - and thanks, I'm still getting used to the weight loss (reaching for size 30 in the stores and being surprised when it's too big!)

I'm doing Wheathampstead 10k in May, Run For Life in June and Burnham Beeches Half in August. Contemplating walking the St Albans Half in June as well, but that might be overkill ...!
Posted: 02/04/2004 at 22:16

I've lost 1 and a half stone since Christmas still got a bit to go. I followed the Slimming World diet which is great fo runners as you get to eat loads of pasta, rice and baked spuds etc. I've entered the Great North run and thought that will give me the inspiration to keep losing. I'm a bit of a plodder but love running. It's the best exercise for weight loss.I've had the same problem with the gear, big people are not allowed to look good when running. I go out in my aldi jacket and tights. Cotton isn't the ideal fabric as it holds the moisture and gets a bit heavy. We'll need to hound the "girls run too" web site, they'll maybe help us larger ladies!
Posted: 03/04/2004 at 09:18

Hi Sally and very well done. It takes a lot of courage to take the plunge. I am a newcomer myself, nine weeks now. If you read the thread 'Share in my Success' you will see how I managed to build up from 2min run\1min walk to 8.5 miles in this time.

It is possible, and good for you on setting yourself a goal of your local 5K. That is something I haven't the courage to do I'm afraid.

Best of Luck to you.

Posted: 03/04/2004 at 12:37

Dear Sally,

Do not worry.

Because of injury I haven't done any proper running for about 4 years and because of it have put on a lot of weight!

Soon I will start running again in my larger state!

At the end of the day you are out there, doing it, not sitting on the sofa, watching telly and thinking about doing it.

I know which one I would rather be! I always think of Rik Waller for my inspiration!


Posted: 04/04/2004 at 20:18

but sally has gone:(
Posted: 04/04/2004 at 20:21

All together now

"Where oh where oh where is Sally,
Where oh where oh where is Sally,
Where oh where oh where is Sally,
Where can Sally be?"

(If you don't know the tune then your homework is to watch Bear in the Big Blue House on ch5)
Posted: 04/04/2004 at 20:28

Hope it wasn't the mention of Rik Waller that scared her away???!!!

Posted: 04/04/2004 at 20:50

she hasnt posted for a year
i do feel sad about the lost runners


Posted: 04/04/2004 at 22:23

Yes, I did notice Sally had gone but she's kept us going for a wee while.
Let me know if you find any decent gear for the larger, lady runner.

Posted: 05/04/2004 at 13:20

Hellooo - I'm back - yes its Sally. Sorry about not getting in touch before but I have been busy running!!!
Just to up date you all - I still run and I have stayed with my running group - and I go twice a week (just to annoy them all!) I have lost approx 2 stone and I have also lost about 4 inches off my flabby bits (I still have a few left alas!) I can run for an hour without stopping and, last week I was NOT the last person back on our jog (don't faint!) I have entered myself in the RFL 4th July and I am hoping to do something in September as well (if I can get a jogging partner). So, I have not disappeared yet and I feel great. I say to anyone out there - do it and enjoy it. I am still not into my sexy small shorts yet but I can dream. Cheers! Sally
PS - Rik Waller is the reason why I run!!!
Posted: 05/04/2004 at 20:30

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