9th June 2011 by SevenSeasLife | 6 Comments
So many of us seem to be in real trouble when it comes to keeping a healthy weight and the global weight loss industry was worth $US7.9 billion in 2009 and is forecast to grow to a value of $US10.5 by 20141. What on earth is going on? We have reviewed the many pieces of advice regarding our weight, what we have uncovered are some great principles of healthy weight management. This is not meant to be an article advocating a programme of eating and supplements for guaranteed weight loss. What we do aim to do is: explain what a healthy weight is; offer a brief overview of what factors can be contributing to gaining weight and suggest some healthy eating principles along the way that can apply to everyone. Our aim is to encourage eating for maximum enjoyment, nourishment and health.
The idea of a healthy weight is a bit misleading; how much you weigh is not all that matters. The NHS uses BMI (Body Mass Index) as a guide for how you are faring on weight, it is a useful part of the picture. BMI indicates if you are at a healthy level using your weight and height measurements. Here is a link for you to calculate you BMI: http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx. Another factor to consider is how you shape up in terms of your hip to waist ratio. http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/tools/hip_to_waist/hip_to_waist.shtml. You should aim for a ratio of 0.75. These two measurements, when combined will give you a pretty good picture of how you fare.
Maintaining a steady weight, at its most basic level involves an equal balance of the following:
How much energy (in food and drinks) goes in X how effectively we burn it up v.s. how much energy we use. Theoretically if this is in balance – all will be well.
Unfortunately it is in fact a bit more complicated – so let’s take it one step at a time
What is in your food and drinks-the hidden truths.
When we fill up our trolley with foods that have been cooked or prepared by someone else we lose control of what is in it. That is unless we have a good look at the detail. The government has introduced a great new traffic light scheme that helps us to choose healthier options if we are shopping in this way. If you are aiming to lose weight but feel that cooking from scratch – known as scratch cooking – is just not going to happen-use the guideline - if the calories, fat or sugar content are not green, generally be careful on the quantities you are buying! It’s quite simple.
You should aspire to buy less of the packaged stuff and more of the ‘wholefoods’. The idea being to buy food that is as close to its natural form as possible so that you are not eating flavour enhanced, sugar and fat-loaded options. The most important areas to be aware of are: breads, cakes, biscuits, margarines, cereals, non-organic meats and pre-prepared meals.
Although in all of these areas there are exceptions. The other thing to check out are the number of preservatives, colourings and other chemicals in processed foods, if our body is struggling to deal with these toxins, it will store them in fatty tissue to lock it away from damaging our body. Logically, if the body feels like it is constantly struggling to process endless alien chemicals – it is not as likely to be releasing them into our system – and therefore is likely to hold on to the fat stores, adding to our weight problem. All in all, messed-about-with-food – messes about with our weight management. So what are the our weight loss secrets?
We are all generally well rehearsed on the basics of healthy eating, when we are eating a biscuit at 11am – most of us are very clear that it will not be doing much for our waistline. The limiting factor is that we may not be able to help ourselves – and often there is a logical physiological reason for this – it is a sugar craving and makes appetite control and therefore managing your weight very very difficult. It goes like this:
One of the first ways to aim to control your cravings and appetite – is to aim to smooth out your sugar ride and stabilise your blood sugar fluctuations. Many of the same principles of healthy eating apply here:
|Nuts/seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts etc)||Fruit – fresh, tinned and dried|
|Fish and shellfish||Vegetables|
|Soya (tofu, yoghurt, tempeh, miso)
||Grains e.g. millet, wheat, barley, quinoa, rye, oats|
|Meat||Rice, pasta, bread|
|Cheese yoghurt and milk
||Root vegetables e.g. potato, swede, sweet potato|
|Pulses and beans e.g. lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans||Vegetables, grains|
||Vegetables, wholegrain toast|
Of course appetite control, or good old fashioned willpower can also be influenced by emotional factors including the impact of stress or a tendency to comfort eat. A food diary can really help you to identify your ‘weak times’. Identify these and aim to avoid them as far as possible. You can enlist the help of friends and family to look out for you – although be careful you may get quite cross with them at times – even when you know that they are right! Another option is to visualise yourself as you would like to be, possibly write a short paragraph to yourself on how this will change the way you feel – then read it when you are feeling tempted. Possibly text it to yourself so it is there on tap!
An excellent exercise to do is to compare what the recommended portion size for your favourite foods is compared to what you are cooking and eating! The results can be quite an eye opener.
The best, most portable way to measure a portion size is to use your hand:
You are aiming for the following:
An excellent, more detailed look at portion sizes is available: http://www.impcna.com/intranet/Adult%20Education%20Materials/diabetes%20meal%20planning%20guide.pdf There are several other healthy eating pointers in this leaflet, not all agree with what is said here but both are broadly good guidelines for healthy eating.
Other portion size tips:
The real nutrient content of foods now vs then
Our body is constantly in search of the nutrients that it needs to make it function at its best. If you fill it full of calories without nutritional value, the chances are that it will search for more food especially if it is lacking in vital nutrients. Excess calories that are not needed are stored as fat on the body. Assuming that we are all eating an optimal diet full of fruit and vegetables, we can still be in trouble.
The mineral content of fruit and vegetables has significantly reduced over the last 50 years with changes in agriculture – although methods of measuring could be a factor2. In addition to this, vitamin and mineral content of foods can be easily lost through processing, cooking and over time in transport chains and sitting on supermarket shelves. It is for this reason that we recommend that you aim to buy as many healthy foods as possible that are in their natural state, are locally produced and seasonal. Aim to eat at least 30% of your food raw too – it is healthy, delicious, filling and full to the brim of nutrients!
If you suspect that some foods don’t agree with you, the chances are you are probably right. Food intolerances can slow down weight loss and should be tackled as part of your weight management
Put on the brakes
Fast decisions and gobbling don’t help with weight management- here’s how:
Do you know someone who just seems to ‘burn off’ all of the calories and stay slim despite the fact that they eat so much more than you? It is not an illusion, they probably do just that – they have a higher rate of burning up calories otherwise known as ‘metabolic rate’.
A healthy thyroid
It is the responsibility of the thyroid to control your metabolic rate and of other hormones including insulin to make sure that the body is using up energy supplies efficiently and fuelling our cells.
If you feel that you find it harder to control your weight than you used to, feel depressed, your hair is dry, brittle or falling out, you are suffering from unexplained constipation, menstrual problems and a lack of energy – get your thyroid checked out3. To do this, see your GP or a private Health Professional who can offer a more comprehensive test.
Make sure that you are using up energy productively and that the hormones responsible for this are working to maximum effect. To do this, ensure that you have a good supply of health promoting fats. The best way is to make sure that you eat 2-3 portions of fish a week, including at least one oily fish and snack on nuts or seeds with fruit. You can also consider an Omega 3 and 6 supplement to make sure that you have enough of these vital nutrients. On no account should you consider a ‘no fat diet’ – fats are vital to our overall health and help us to burn calories provided that we eat the right ones!
It is also a well known fact that your muscles use up more energy than fat tissue. Exercising to reduce the amount of fat on your body and convert it to muscle has an additional benefit- it helps you to burn off even more weight. Brilliant! A good way to do this is to add a little resistance training into your programme or invest in some small free weights and walk with them on your ankles or carrying them. Speak to your trainer at your local gym or to the GP about referral. Alternatively investigate body pump classes in your area.
Dieting and ‘Starving’
Do not be tempted to go on a crash diet or skip meals, your body will rightly believe that it is starving and slow down the rate that it uses up calories to conserve them – not what you want! Follow the principles of maintaining steady blood sugar levels above, make sure you eat little and often.
We know we need to exercise, it is just how to fit it in to our busy lives. Here are some suggestions:
Walk around at lunchtime, or around the local park. Get off the bus a stop early. Take the stairs rather than the lift. Walk the dog when you get home from work. Deliver the village weekly newsletter, take up with a walking group (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/areas_groups). You could go one step further and join a local gym or aerobics / dance class. If you are overweight, some local NHS Trusts are funding gym memberships to promote improvements in health – ask you GP if you are eligible for a GP Referral. You are aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes a day where you manage to increase your heart rate or feel a bit ‘puffed’.
If your weight is out of balance it is possible that your body is also lacking vital nutrients to help get you back on track. You need to make sure that you have an excellent supply of the nutrients that help the body to control blood sugar, energy production, detoxification mechanisms and the rate at which you burn calories. Therefore it is a good idea to invest in a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement containing B complex, Vitamins C and E, Chromium, Zinc, Manganese, Magnesium and CoQ103.
And finally…..if you have a bad day, start again immediately. All is not lost! Reflect on why, learn from it and carry on.
The advice in this article is only applicable for those who are healthy. If you are on any form of medication, have a previously diagnosed condition, are not feeling well or just feel off, make sure that you consult your doctor immediately and insist on a full testing programme. Talk to them about the changes that you plan to make and ensure that any supplements that you are considering are fully discussed.
1. The Future of the Weight Management Market, October 2010, Leatherhead Market Research, http://www.leatherheadfood.com/the-future-of-the-weight-management-market-new-market-report-from-leatherhead
2. Mayer AM, 1997, Historical changes in the mineral content of fruit and vegetables, British Food Journal, 99:207-211
3. Glenville M, 2001, The Nutritional Handbook for Women, Piatkus, London
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