Recently I worked with a guy who had a bit of spare weight he wanted to lose. Having been there myself I tried to give him some pointers, as did some of the other people in the office who are into fitness and nutrition. In the end he didn’t really pay attention to what we said to him (make small, long term changes and do more exercise) and ended up going down the path of diet pills and depriving himself of all the food he actually likes. He lost a decent amount of weight quickly but got frustrated as it slowed down.
The main thing I was trying to tell him though was that it’s not complicated. To lose weight (or more accurately, to lose fat) you just have to move more and eat less. More importantly, you have to eat better. I don’t mean start calorie counting or buying weight watchers ready meals, that’s not better it’s just another form of crash dieting. A short term solution, not a long term lifestyle change. I mean cooking from scratch and eating fresh food as much as possible. That way you know exactly what’s in your food and can control portion size, oil and salt. That’s not to say you should be afraid of big portions, oil or salt, but that’s another blog post for a different day.
To lose fat and keep it off you need a balanced lifestyle, not just the well worn old balanced diet. You have to balance not just food but fitness as well.
It’s not about eating healthy or cutting out all the bad food, it’s more about eating normally and avoiding extremes. Some people eat junk food every night as they say that they don’t have time to cook. That’s extreme eating. Then they go from that extreme to cutting out all junk food, another extreme and just ended up craving the stuff. What they should be doing is still having the junk food but in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with eating food that’s bad for you if you enjoy it, just don’t do it every day. Be sensible.
So what should they be doing to deserve this junk food fix? Again this is where long term thinking comes in, not short term fast losses. You could sign up for a gym and pound a treadmill for a month or two until you get bored. Most people will lose a bit of fat initially by doing that but then when then they’ll start going less and it’ll creep back on. Just like the pattern with crash dieting. The best thing I did was ignore the gym and find sports I enjoyed instead. I bought a cheap bike and started cycling along an old railway line a few nights a week and a couple of years ago I started doing Taekwondo again, having last done it about 12 years ago. The fact that I’m doing a sport I enjoy makes me want to keep doing it and helps avoid the feeling that you’re forcing yourself into exercise just to reach a short term goal. Fitness is something that should be an intrinsic part of your weekly routine, not a special thing that crops up for a month or two at a time.
So we tie the two things together. We have a long term plan for balanced eating. Don’t concentrate on calories and cutting out everything that’s bad, just cook more fresh food and enjoy things in moderation. We also have a long term plan for increased fitness and fat burning. Find a sport you enjoy and train for it. That way you’re much more likely to make it a part of your normal routine rather than a short term fudge to help you lose a stone or whatever your initial goal is. Now, couple these together and you have a good balance. Eat healthy and live healthy. Use food as a reward for hard work on the fitness front and use fitness to drive your new food lifestyle.
Eventually it’ll all be second nature and you’ll find yourself slimming down without even thinking about it. You might also find you’re spending so much time thinking about your new hobbies of food and fitness that you start a stupid blog in the vain hope that other people are actually interested in what you’re doing…