Losing weight and living healthy
firstly am not a nutritionist or a dietitian or a health fanatic, but I am your average middle aged man in a Western culture who is realizing that his waist line is starting to increase a bit more than he would like over the past 10 years or so.
now, I am not what many regard as overweight (my BMI is about 25-26) and when I mention that I am keeping an eye on what I eat and only choose to have higher energy treats if they are indeed a treat, my colleagues look at me and laugh that I don't need to be on a diet.
unfortunately, this is perhaps a sad reflection on how our perceptions are changing as the obesity epidemic takes hold.
we no longer see people who are on the road to inevitable obesity as being obese and this lulls us into thinking our lifestyle can continue and all will be well.
for most of us, the middle age spread is a gradual process over many years as our metabolic rate slows and exercise levels diminish while our eating habits tend to increase, so that each week, we end up being in a small energy surplus, gradually adding more fat to our waist and increasing our risk of diabetes, heart disease, snoring, arthritis, injuries and adversely affecting our psyche, self-perception and motivation, which further tends to decrease our exercise levels and increase our eating as a comfort thereby creating a vicious cycle that we must endeavour to break.
Are you overweight?
there are various methods of assessing this.
the simplest is the Body Mass Index (BMI):
BMI = weight in kg / (height in metres)2
normal BMI is 20-25
less than 18 = underweight
more than 25 is overweight
more than 30 is obese
obesity increases the risk of type II diabetes 4 fold.
The basic facts of life:
there is a lot of misinformation around, so hopefully I won't be adding to it, but making things easier to understand, after all I try to see life as simply as possible.
firstly, if we weigh ourselves each day, we will see fluctuations which are mostly related to fluid retention or mild dehydration rather than changes in fat deposits, so we need to ignore daily fluctuations and look at it from a month to month perspective.
secondly, if we want to lose weight then we should not try to lose more than 0.5-1kg per week, and more reasonably, aim for 1kg loss per month if we want to create a sustainable lifestyle.
thirdly, the law of conservation of energy:
unlike our bodies response to drinking water where any excess over our needs is excreted in urine to avoid damage to our cells, our bodies will use nearly ALL energy we eat or drink and excrete very little (unless we have an intestinal illness or are on certain medications), irrespective of how much fat the body is already storing.
thus weight gain from fat = energy eaten or drank minus energy used by the body (metabolic rate plus exercise)
therefore, there are ONLY 2 ways to lose weight:
reduce your energy intake (the easiest to achieve for most people)
increase your energy use through increasing exercise levels
fourthly, your brain does not seem to care much for how much energy is in a meal before it makes you feel full
last, it is easier to not eat a high energy food or drink than to burn that energy off by extra exercise.
So how much energy do we need each day to maintain constant weight?
this depends on:
your basal metabolic rate which depends upon your age, sex, height and a few other things.
middle aged male (31-50yrs), height 1.8m, weight 71kg, bed-bound requires 8,500 kJ/d.
your level of exertion throughout the day
middle aged male (31-50yrs), height 1.8m, weight 71kg requires additional daily energy as follows:
sedentary / seated work => 1,400-2,100 kJ
occasional standing or walking => 2,800-3,500 kJ
mainly standing or walking all day => 4,200-5,000 kJ
heavy occupational work or high performance athletes => 5,700-7,000 kJ or more
see http://www.healthyactive.gov.au/internet/healthyactive/publishing.nsf/Content/male-31-50 - also has links to tables for females and other ages.
thus for the average middle aged guy who walks a bit during the day, total energy needs are about 11,500 kJ but if they walk around most of the day, it gets boosted by a further 1,500 kJ (ie. one Magnum ice cream), or if they work their butts off physically, then it gets boosted by 3,000 kJ (ie. two Magnum ice creams).
now you can see why it is easier to lose weight by not having that extra ice cream rather than working your butt off and risking injury.
How much energy is in the foods and drinks?
firstly, each component of foods provides a different amount of energy per gram of that food:
fat and oils = 37 kJ/g
alcohol = 26 kJ/g
protein = 17 kJ/g
carbohydrate = 16 kJ/g
now I like to look at this in terms of my favorite treats so let's look at what they hit us with (approximate values):
whole milk: 1 cup = 720kJ and chocolate milk shake = 1,500 kJ and Magnum ice cream which is almost 1,500 kJ
thus better to use skim milk at only 380kJ
avoid cafe latte and sweet smoothies made of full cream milk/ice cream as much as possible
drink macchiato coffee at 221kJ with 2 sugars or, better still, tea with skim milk and no sugar at 62 kJ
80g chocolate/nut bar = 1,600kJ
375ml soft drink = 657 kJ, thus ban soft drinks, and if you must, drink zero kJ varieties
deep fried, battered fish = 1,000 kJ (tartar sauce adds another 300 kJ !)
deep fried, hot chips (french fries) = 1,600 kJ for 1.5 potatoes, thus perhaps go for mashed potato at 700 kJ/cup instead.
1/4 cup of nuts = 1,250 kJ
thus, if you eat that extra treat at 1,500 kJ and it is more than your daily needs for that day, it will add about 40g to your weight, doesn't sound much, but it all adds up, doing it each day will add over 1kg in a month!
Mathematics of weight loss:
if you need to lose 1kg of weight, this equates to about 37,000 kJ (at 37 kJ/g fat)
this is why it is so hard to lose that much weight in a week (unless you are actually losing water and getting dehydrated)
so to lose 1kg of fat, if you exercise a lot during a week, your energy usage for that week is about 100,000 kJ, you would have to restrict you energy intake to 63,000 kJ = 9,000 kJ per day
So what should a lazy person do?
remember, it's easier to NOT eat an ice cream than spend an hour or two trying to work that energy off - the choice is yours and yours alone.
it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that a good option is:
reduce energy intake by changing your eating habits:
restrict or eliminate high energy treats such as ice creams, chips, chocolate bars, deep fried foods, pizza, cheese, cream, cakes, jams, "energy" or "sports" drinks, cordial, coconut & nuts
do not buy these with your groceries so that they are not there to tempt you!
consider nuts and seeds instead of chips but eat in moderation.
be wary of fads and use common sense:
avoid unnecessary calories:
use low fat dairy products instead of full cream milk
reduce the amount of milk - avoid drinks containing excess milk such as cafe latte, smoothies
avoid the "hidden" fats
sauces such as mayonnaise, etc add substantial kJ to your meal
minimise butter, margarine & cooking oils
avoid simple carbohydrates (sugar) and other high glycaemic index foods
learn to drink tea without sugar and you will learn to appreciate the true taste of tea
minimise sugars on your cereals and in other drinks, avoid Milo type "energy" drinks
eliminate carbonated soft drinks or at least choose zero energy varieties
eliminate fruit juices - eat fruit and drink water instead
eat wholegrain - 2 serves a day decreases type II diabetes risk by 30%
minimise other carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice
go for the wraps instead
minimise alcohol intake to 1 glass a day at the most
there appears to be no nutritional value in alcohol and benefits on the heart are dubious
only choose to drink a glass if it really adds to the enjoyment of your meal or to the social occasion.
the only ones to benefit from you binge drinking are those out to exploit you at your weakest. NEVER binge drink - only bad will come of it - traumatic injuries, poor decision making, increased weight and loss of respect.
replace fatty processed meats such as salami & sausages with lean red meat, fish and skinless chicken.
reduce your serving sizes, including for meats
don't go for the super-sized fast foods
avoid those big 400g steaks in the pub meals, even 1 skin-less chicken breast = 1,500 kJ
substitute foods that make you feel full and have nutritional value:
complex carbohydrates and high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables
increase energy expenditure sensibly:
a sedentary lifestyle is NOT healthy
try to embark on walking EVERY day and a little more intense exercise for 20min at least 3 times a week
avoid repetitive or high impact/stress exercises that are likely to cause injury which will then set you back months in your plans for a better lifestyle
check you progress monthly.
when in doubt, ask your doctor or talk to a dietitian
Hope this has been helpful, good luck.
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