Losing Weight - The Simple Truths

If you take away nothing else from this page, remember this one fact: if you routinely consume more calories than you expend, you will gain weight regardless of what you eat. Even if you eat less than 25-30 per cent fat calories a day and limit your intake of saturated fat to the recommended 10 per cent, you’ll still gain weight if you take in more calories than you burn.

Surprised?

You’re not alone. Many people believe the myth that as long as they eat low-fat or fat-free foods, they won’t gain weight. Not true. If you put away a whole bag of low-fat pretzels in one sitting, you’re consuming several hundred calories. Sure, most of them come from carbohydrate, but carbohydrate can be stored as fat, too. So can protein. And obviously, so can fat.

This is not to say that carbohydrates, protein and fat are all the same. Clearly, fat is the real bad guy if you get too much of it. Primarily, fat is much higher in calories than carbohydrate or protein (9 calories per gram versus 4 per gram for carbs and protein).

The answers are simple – and there’s no getting around them. Exercise more, or eat less – or preferably a combination of the two. And running, as we never fail to remind you, is the best way to lose the most weight in the least time. Fact.

Don’t believe the myth that the optimal exercise for fat-burning is low intensity – such as walking. The physiological fact of the matter is that running burns more fat than walking because it burns more calories than walking. The studies show it clearly. But the evidence doesn’t stop there. A recent study performed in Quebec showed that an aerobic exercise programme that included occasional 90-second bursts at 95 per cent of maximum heart rate burned three and a half times more body fat than a steady-state, moderate-intensity programme. What’s more, the interval trainers achieved this high rate of fat loss while expending less than half the calories the steady-state group burned.

Why this startling result? Research shows that resting metabolic rate can stay elevated for hours after a bout of intense exercise. A 1991 Norwegian study, for instance, showed that significant fat-burning was occurring for a full 15 hours after a 70-minute bout of intense exercise (70 per cent of VO2max). Low-intensity exercise, on the other hand, doesn’t cause a comparable metabolic boost.

One last point about fat-burning exercise: running will make you a better fat-burner 24 hours a day. The reason is that habitual endurance exercise increases the activity of fat-burning enzymes in the muscles.

Tricks To Change Your Food Attitude

Change isn’t easy – it never was, and it never will be. But switching to low-fat fare is a change worth making, and one that doesn’t have to have you gnawing your fingernails. Eating leaner foods will slim you down, rev you up and even lengthen your lifespan. Not a bad deal in return for something as simple as ditching full-fat milk for skimmed.

But what about the good stuff? The lasagne, crisps and things that make life so enjoyable. The good news is that they don’t all have to go – just read on and find out how.

Learn the three-to-one rule
In a nutshell, this means that for every higher-fat meal you eat, you should eat three low-fat ones, explains Debra Waterhouse, author of Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell. The upshot? If tonight you’ve planned a dinner of steak with potatoes au gratin and cheesecake, enjoy it, but make sure your breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day are all low in fat. This three-to-one thinking will leave you with a healthier diet overall. Plus it permits you to…

Give in to cravings occasionally
You’d think that if eating low-fat is good, then ditching all those foods you crave must be best. Not so. The reason: permanently giving up the foods you love will leave you feeling deprived and probably grouchy, too. To avoid these emotions, which can steer you off course, Waterhouse suggests you heed your cravings… in moderation. “If you want chocolate, a thousand carrot sticks won’t fill the void. So eat a little chocolate to satisfy your craving and a few carrot sticks to satisfy your hunger,” she suggests. Just don’t overdo it. If you eat chocolate after each carrot stick, you defeat the purpose.

Know when to say when
It seems obvious, but lots of us still get this one wrong. Hence, remember this cardinal rule: turn to food only when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re satisfied, not stuffed, advises Waterhouse. The reasoning: when you eat more than your body needs (even if it’s low-fat), the extra gets stored as (you guessed it) fat.

Take it slow
Don’t get too drastic with your fat-cutting efforts, in other words. Quitting fatty foods all at once can leave you feeling deprived. The result? You end up heading for the very things you’re trying to avoid. If this sounds familiar, modify your diet gradually. For example, instead of frying meat, try a low-fat recipe, but make the side dishes the way you normally would.

Focus on flavour
“You need to get used to tasting the foods you eat rather than the fat you cook them in,” says nutritionist Judy Marshel. This may take some time, however. After all, when you think of carrots, you typically think of buttery ones, not the characteristic sweetness of the vegetable itself. But once you get used to unadulterated carrots, you’ll find that butter masks their naturally delicious flavour. The message here: treat low-fat makeovers as you would a new dish. Don’t compare them with their full-fat counterparts.

Makeover your kitchen
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you can’t cook a low-fat meal with a deep fat fryer, so make sure you have the following standbys:

  • A set of nonstick cookware so you don’t have to fry in oil
  • A microwave oven (no fat needed to cook in this, either)
  • A blender, for making light shakes and juices
  • A roasting rack, which suspends meat and poultry so fat can collect at the bottom and be drained off

Makeover your favourite recipes
If you can’t bear to throw out your favourite non-diet recipes, then don’t. Modify them instead – but take it slowly. First, work out which ingredients pack the most fat (butter, oil and fatty cuts of meat are the worst offenders). Then use a low-fat cookbook to help you to come up with a substitute. For example, sauté onions in chicken broth instead of butter, then make the rest of the recipe as directed. If the dish meets with your approval, try switching a second ingredient. Keep exchanging in a ‘this for that’ fashion until your recipe’s fat content is as low as possible but still tastes great.

Remember the payoff
If it seems your diet (and your waistline) aren’t changing fast enough, take heart. The little things you do each day really will add up. By gradually reducing the fat in your diet, the total effect will be significant. Just be patient, keep up the exercise, and keep your eyes on your ever-shrinking shape. Before you know it, you’ll need smaller jeans.

What to remember when the going gets tough:

Don’t panic:
A one-off chocolate pig-out doesn’t mean that your diet is in tatters – you’ve simply lost your way en route to your goal. Get back on course the next day.

Always set a realistic goal:
Take positive steps to bring yourself closer to your goal, though if you are going to lose weight you have to accept that you genuinely want to do it.

Don’t starve:
However desperate you are to lose weight, remember that you need food to live and that your body will not function properly without it.

Think ahead:
Instead of concentrating on the times when you haven’t stuck to your diet, visualise the slimmer, more confident person you will become when you have reached your goal.

Think long-term:
Remember that the occasional binge won’t make you put on weight. Consistently over-eating is the culprit.

And finally..

Why you won’t get fat overnight:
To put on one kilogram (2.2lbs) of body fat, you need to consume more than 10,000 calories or: 30 fresh cream chocolate eclairs; 167 custard cream biscuits; 3 packets of butter; 36 cinnamon bagels; 80 choc ices; 52 pints of skimmed milk; or 66 packets of salt and vinegar crisps.