Food, Exercise and Weight Loss

April was a chilly old month but now the days are longer, the leaves are out and you might notice your energy levels rising and the urge to get moving. Combined with good diet, regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It boosts your metabolism and your mood, keeps everything flowing round your body, makes you strong and supple and keeps your heart healthy. However, it’s a minor player for weight loss (20%) compared to how you eat and drink (80%).

Energy balance (calories in vs calories out) has been heavily promoted by the food industry to keep the spotlight off their products. Coca-cola even funded a ‘science’ website (rumbled and disbanded) to falsely blame obesity on consumers’ sloth when it was their drinks’ fault all along. It’s a concept that’s resulted in thousands of people pounding treadmills week after

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week hoping to get slim. Aerobic exercise tends to increase appetite and people reach for the quick hit of a sweet snack/drink. “I’ve run so I’ll eat cake!” The truth is you can’t outrun a bad diet.

Simply reckoning calories doesn’t work because they don’t all have the same effect. What matters is the type of food you eat and the hormones your body makes in response. Every time you eat something sweet, you produce insulin. Insulin makes you store fat. And it stops your stored fat being released. This is the opposite of what you want.

Try strength training (sadly discouraged by some slimming clubs) followed by protein based snacks like cheese or a whey shake. You’ll increase muscle which burns calories even at rest, you’ll lose fat and you’ll gain the more svelte figure you want.  HIIT (High intensity interval training) is great too. Check with your doctor that it’s OK for you to do something this strenuous and remember to take rest days if you do these types of exercise.  With plenty of variety you’ll gain strength, stamina and flexibility.

So eat well to manage your weight and do some sort of movement every day for your health.

Top tip: Move and eat well.

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Join the Dots

As a child I loved those ‘Dot to Dot’ puzzles and recently noticed books for grown-ups too.

imag0913-2 It’s a bit like that interpreting the messages your body sends you about food and drink. The most blatant, like indigestion, demand your attention. You can easily join the dots and avoid trigger foods. When I twigged that white wine = headache, I stopped drinking it. Other messages are more subtle, like aches in your joints or bad skin if you eat too little fat or the wrong type of fat. You might miss them when you’re busy getting on with your life.

Sometimes it’s easy to see that diet and lifestyle go together with other people’s health and well-being but not to make any connection between what you eat and how you feel yourself. I suffered unnecessarily for years feeling tired and miserable and carrying excess weight without any inkling that the diet I thought healthy was actually doing me harm.

p1010452Breakfast and lunch have a big impact on your day so it’s useful to learn what your body thinks of them. Experiment a bit – porridge, protein smoothies, full English. What time of the morning do you start thinking about having a snack?  Ideally it’s better not to be snacking.  Is your breakfast so good you don’t need to eat again for 4 or 5 hours?  My favourite green smoothie lasts me for 6h.

Try different lunches to find out how alert you are in the afternoon. Do you feel better after a salad than a sandwich? If you have a hot lunch, are you sharper when you leave out potatoes and pastry? Once you join the dots you can adapt your routine, feel better and enjoy life more.

Top tip – Start noticing how food affects you.

Yoga Challenge

imag0770From the 3rd to the 23rd of October I did yoga every day to raise money for the wonderful debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty who rescue people from the crushing misery of debt.  CAP is 20 years old and to celebrate, they and their supporters are doing 20fortwenty challenges for 20 days.  I signed up for yoga even though I’m fairly new to it and usually only do it once a week.  I’ve been stretched in every direction and ached in muscles I didn’t even know I had.

Here is a selection of pics from my twitter feed @eatwellcoach.

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Why would I put myself through this?

Because of people like D who came to my local centre. Health problems and hospital visits meant she was down graded at work and lost income. Her son wouldn’t look for work and her youngest had irregular school attendance; thankfully her eldest daughter helped and supported her. D pared expenditure down to the bone and worked diligently with CAP on her finances.  In August she became debt free and now has a house and a new start in another town.  She found faith at a discovery break and is off the anti-depressants she took for nearly 8 years.
You can see some more stories here – check out ‘Break the Silence’.

You know my passion for eating well – people in debt often miss meals.  My book Survival Guide for the Skint talks about priorities including food and CAP’s budgets always allow people to feed their families.

Even though I’ve finished the challenge, I’d be thrilled if you’d sponsor me to help clients like D.  Here’s my Just Giving page.  If you see me in town, I’ll have a paper sponsor form with me.

Thanks already to Christine, Tim, Heather, Brenda, Cathy, Tom, Jean, Julie, Garry, Brenda, Maurice, Joyce, Janet, Barbara, Jackie, Tony, Sarah, Hilary, Robert, Alec, Caroline, Clear North, Glynis, Pete and Heather, Wolf, Betty, Pauline, Cyril, Suzanne, Davy, Vera, Lindsay, John, Carolyn, Brenda, Cynthia, Val, Jane, Betty, Barbara, Anne, Warren, Jennie, Alan, Val and anonymous donors!

My total to date is over £400.

 

110% ?

It’s been a great summer of sport with the Such3Commonwealth Games, golf (what a fab Ryder cup), cricket and the European Athletics Championships. My husband gets annoyed when sports people say they’ve given 110%.  If you put 100% into something, by definition, that’s everything you’ve got. There is no more. When it comes to eating well, how far are you prepared to go? Do you need or want to eat 100% good things?

Recently, I went to a delightful concert with tea and cake at Higham Hall. A gentleman who had heard one of my talks watched with interest to see whether I would indulge. Knowing that a cream scone once in a blue moon wouldn’t do me too much harm, I had one (well, half of one). I ate it mindfully and enjoyed it very much.

Golf put MWLike sports people, the % effort you put in depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you have serious health problems, then it’s worth putting serious efforts into supporting your body by eating all good, nutrient-packed food. If you’re healthy and feel great, you might take a more relaxed approach.

What if you’re in-between with a few niggles, an expanding girth, declining energy, but nothing drastic?   First, think about your physical state and the importance to you of it being better. Second, estimate current percentages of natural food and processed food you eat. Marketing is so subtle and devious that you might not even be sure which foods count as good and which as bad. Low-fat fruit yoghurts are a classic processed food posing as a healthy choice. Third and last, decide what you are willing to do to improve your life. Choose a level that gives you some benefits and that you can sustain.

Top tip – You decide how far you want to go.

Don’t Blame Your Age!

Clients sometimes say of their weight, lack of energy and ailments, ‘Well what can I expect at my age?’ I think it’s a shame that we’ve been conditioned to expect so little. It’s almost an abdication of responsibility – “there’s nothing I can do; it’s my age”. OK, we might suffer some wear and tear but our bodies have a remarkable capacity for renewal if we look after them. We don’t have to buy into the common pattern of junk food, inactivity and physical deterioration as if it was inevitable. If you commit to exercise and good food, perhaps you can stay younger for longer. It’s your choice.

You probably know people who are still sprightly in their older years and also young people who look and move as if they were decades older than they are. In my early 30s I was in a sorry state. Overweight and unhealthy, I felt lousy most of the time. Ten years ago I learned to eat well and transformed my life. I recently turned 50 but feel 19. Being 20 years older doesn’t matter to me; I feel young.

Find a good role model and emulate them. Jack LaLanne understood exercise and nutrition and lived a vigorous life to the age of 96. One of his sayings was, ‘Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.’

My grandfather was still fly fishing at 94.  Young at 94He was Italian and understood about eating good food.  When Channel 4 made a programme on the World’s Best Diets, Italy came second (just behind Iceland) and we saw a village of elderly people, full of vigour, eating only real food.  There is no paradox to the health of the French either; they eat well too.  Sadly the UK was way down with our love of processed food and you can see the results all around you in the population’s general lack of good health.

It’s always worth looking after yourself and never too late to get into good habits. Keep moving with a form of exercise that suits you, keep flexible and improve the way you eat. You’re worth it!

Top tips – you’re never too old to benefit from eating well.

Men Who Made Us Thin

If you’ve ever lost weight on a diet, chances are you put it back on again afterwards.  People can blame themselves for this, thinking that it’s a lack of will power and self discipline.  It isn’t true.  Others think overweight people eat too much.  Sometimes perhaps, but often that isn’t true either.

We’re told that all we need to do is eat less and exercise more – it sounds so plausible we believe it – I used to.  A BBC mini series, “The Men Who Made Us Thin”, looked into the diet industry – and the vast amounts of money they make directly as a result of their failure to deliver long term weight loss.  This is not news.  They’ve known since the 1940s that diets don’t work – it’s the reason for the continuing financial success of the industry!  So really they’re The Men Who Didn’t Make Us Thin.

Weight is classified using Body Mass Index; you’ve probably seen the charts.  The definition was arbitrarily changed from BMI 27 to BMI 25 resulting in millions of people who were fine suddenly being classed as overweight and therefore clients for the diet industry.  BMI ignores body composition. Many fit, muscular people without an ounce of excess fat come out as obese on the charts.  A better method is to aim for a waist measurement less than half your height.

Much of the diet industry’s profit comes from selling foods, including ready meals and processed foods which aren’t generally great for your health, or for weight loss.  They may be low calorie and low fat but calories are not all equal and fats are not all bad.  Most people would lose weight naturally and permanently if they switched to real food and leaned to eat well.

Top tip – If you want to get thin, eat well!

Live long 2

A study of world health including 187 countries has listed its top 10 – Britain is not one of them.

Japan has the longest life expectancy for both men and women. One factor might be their high intake of fish which means they get a good supply of omega 3 fats. Omega 3 levels could be linked to the speed of ageing.

Singapore was 2nd for men and 4th for women. A British lady I know has been living in Singapore for many years. As she begins to plan her return, she is looking forward to buying ready meals!  Her health could be about to take a nose-dive. Convenience food is not eaten in Singapore and this may be part of the reason for Luigithem enjoying health so much better than ours. Italy is in the top 10 and they are a people who love wonderful food, prepared from fresh ingredients.  My Italian grandfather was still shopping, cooking, playing bridge and driving right up to the day he died aged 94.

The United States was listed 29th for men and 33rd for women in spite of spending more than double the amount of money per person on ‘healthcare’. By healthcare, I believe they mean drugs and treatments that suppress the symptoms of diseases. I’m not sure how much they spend on action to promote health.  So it looks as though diet and healthy lifestyle factors are more important than money.

A Lancet reports shows that since 1970 we have gained slightly more than ten years of life expectancy overall. That sounds like good news; none of us want to die young. The sting in the tail is that we spend more years living with debility. We’re good at dealing with injuries, diseases and childbirth so these are no longer the main causes of death as they used to be. Instead we suffer from slow acting conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I don’t know about you but 10 extra years in an incapacitated state doesn’t appeal to me.

The statistics are against us here in Britain.

It’s time to look after ourselves better,

exercise,

deal with stress

and learn to eat well!

Live long

If you’ve overindulged during the Christmas period, you may not be starting 2013 feeling your best. Now I’m approaching 50, I find I’m increasingly interested in ways to stay young so I thought I’d look at strategies to not only live for longer but live better for longer.

 

Friendships and good social interaction extend life expectancy. It’s worrying that today’s kids often prefer computer games to playing with each other. Stress relief is also crucial as the stress chemicals your body produces upset the balance of your body’s functions.

 

Exercise is a good antidote to stress and also extends life and brings many health benefits. Sitting still is very bad and most of us do it for hours on end. You need some variety; not just endlessly pounding the streets but also stretching, resistance training and some higher intensity work. Recent research shows that excessive exercise can be damaging but not many of us do so much that we need be concerned.

 

I’ve seen the quote, ‘If you’re not learning, you’re probably dead.’ Education turns out to be important, they think perhaps because you learn to delay gratification and plan for the future, rather than just living for the moment. Looking to the future helps when you build new, better habits.

 

Of course what you eat and drink is of fundamental importance. You want your body to have energy and nutrients for repair and renewal as bits wear out. Natural meats and vegetables provide many nutrients that your body uses as raw materials. The toxins that come with artificial food rob you of energy as your body works hard to get rid of them. Manage your insulin levels by avoiding sugar and reducing intake of grains and refined carbohydrates. Good anti-ageing fats are omega 3 (found in fish) and medium-chain saturated fats (found in coconut oil).

 

Keep eating well and feel great in 2013.

 

 

Top tips: Eat well, exercise, keep learning and enjoy life with the people you love.

 

Happy New Year

The lovely stats helper monkeys at WordPress have put together an annual report for the Learn to Eat Well site.763sunflower

In 2012, there were readers from 49 countries, mostly in the UK with the US and Brazil not far behind.

People were most interested in the page on Courses for Individuals and Groups.

The most popular post was the first one on 15th Jan – ‘No Quick Fix’.

 

It’s still true of course that there is no quick fix to looking after your health and well-being.  It’s a life long commitment to a long life!  To help inspire you, how about watching Channel 5’s50 shocking facts about diet and exercise’.  Entertaining, attention-grabbing and containing a lot of very sound information, I really enjoyed it.

Have a great year.

Wishing you well

Jackie