With the nation getting ever fatter and the burden this will have on our health and economy, the government and health care professionals alike are desperate for a modern approach to weight loss. But there are so many different diet books and weight loss programmes on the market and so much conflicting information in the press that it can sometimes be quite confusing about what to do.
The basic premise of eating slightly less (calories) and exercising more does hold some truth and many people will lose weight by being more mindful about what they eat and drink and by exercising a little more. But this is far from a modern approach to weight loss and can often be too simplistic for many people who “diet and exercise” but who still can’t lose weight.
The basics for effective weight loss
There are four basic “rules” to weight loss that go beyond simply eating less and exercising more:
As simple as it sounds a modern approach to weight loss is to stop smoking. Stopping smoking can be one of the best decisions you make to improve your health as it is associated with cancer, especially cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and lungs and it accelerates aging.
There is some evidence to suggest that if you quit smoking you are more likely to put on weight – and this may be because nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant / or you just tend to eat something when you would have had a cigarette – but this certainly doesn’t mean that you should smoke to lose weight. But there is other research that refutes this claim.
In fact researchers have shown that females who smoke 10 cigarettes a day as teenagers are more likely to be overweight as adults, this trend didn’t apply to males in this study, but in young males smoking tends to accompany alcohol and alcohol as we will see also contributes to obesity.
Reduce and modify alcohol intake
Alcohol contains an abundance of calories that often don’t get accounted for when you are trying to lose weight. However a modern approach to weight loss is to modify your alcohol intake rather then quit all together.
Consider that a pint of beer may contain up to 400 calories and simply drinking 4 or 5 pints on a night out may give you your calorie requirement for the whole day, it’s easy to see why excess alcohol can make you fat.
Beers and spirits are also made from wheat which is a common food intolerance that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, intestinal permeability and immune sensitivity causing symptoms such as IBS, constipation or diarrhoea (but more on this later).
Epidemiological research has shown that drinking alcohol in moderation is however beneficial to our health, but what do they mean as “in moderation”? I would interpret this as one glass of wine a day (it doesn’t have to be everyday either – especially if you are trying to lose weight) and certainly don’t give yourself the excuse of drinking all 7 glasses on a Friday night because you have abstained for the rest of the week as this will just add a whole bunch of calories to your day and play havoc with your blood sugar and insulin regulation.
The best wines to drink are organic as the grapes haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, but also try and pick wines rich in a compound called resveratrol which has many health benefits. These include pinot, merlot and all Spanish wines.
There is no doubt that exercise can help you lose weight and that not doing any exercise can contribute to you being fat. But there are many types of exercise – yoga, Pilates, bootcamps, running, lifting weights or simply walking the dog – and you need to find what is right for you.
From an evolutionary perspective we are designed to be highly active, not designed to sit at desks all day and drive Carbofix or take the bus everywhere we go. We can get a good idea of how much activity we need to get each day by looking at isolated indigenous communities that still live a very basic lifestyle. It is estimated that these communities may “exercise” in terms of hunt, gather, clean, build shelter, play etc… up to 5 hours a day which seems quite a lot and certainly a lot more than modern Westernised humans get – but just think they get 19 hours a day to sleep, eat, relax and have fun. Wouldn’t that be great?
Most people think that “cardio” be it running, or using the rower or the cross trainer in the gym is the best way to lose weight, and there is no doubt that doing some cardio can help. But a modern approach to weight loss includes the need to build muscle as well and this involves doing some resistance training. As with cardio, resistance training comes in different forms, be it using your body weight, using a TRX or a Swiss ball, kettle bells, dumbbells or resistance machines. I think that all of these things can be used for effective weight loss and they will certainly add variety to your exercise regimen, but the true secret to success is to change things often to prevent your body from adapting. This might take the form of doing cardio for a month, then using TRX or Swiss balls for a month, then doing Pilates or boxing for a month then doing some weight training – just keep changing things up.
The other secret to success, and this hold true for success in any other industry or in life, is that you need to work hard at what you are doing. If you go to the gym and sit on one of the bikes watching the TV or reading a book you are not working hard enough to get results.