For those of us who lead busy lives losing weight can seem difficult to achieve. Health advisors suggest that a sensible way to lose weight is to increase the amount of daily exercise. In their publication, The Step Diet, Hill et al. suggest that over 2000 steps a day will significantly contribute to a reduction in weight. (Hill et al., 2004: 2). This is a useful method as it is doesn’t cost anything and can be incorporated into your daily routine. Diet pills and regimes are not advisable as they can precipitate dramatic weight loss, which can cause you more problems – such as skin problems and hair loss. In the worst case scenario they can cause you to gain weight – as any sudden change in the metabolic rate can mean that when you start eating normally again you pile back on the pounds.
If exercise alone is difficult then a balanced regime of exercise and reduced calorie intake – bearing in mind the maxim little and often’ – is a good way to approach losing weight. It is generally believed that eating three smaller regular meals, with morning and afternoon snacks in between, is the best way to lose weight. Regular eating maintains a balanced sugar level in the blood, preventing hunger and helps us to avoid overeating. This has the effect of speeding up the metabolic rate so your body breaks food down more quickly to turn it into energy. “Ideally, eat something small (even a piece of fruit) every 3 hours (women) or every 5 hours (men)” (Collins, 2005). Another timeless way to lose weight – and one that will save you money – is to increase your daily intake of water. This is important as dehydration can mean that you don’t reap the full benefits of your efforts to lose weight.
Enough water is considered to be at least two litres a day (Biggs, 2006). If you dont drink enough then your metabolism will shut down first causing your weight loss to slow right down; your digestion will suffer; and you might experience fake hunger’ symptoms (Biggs 2006) . It is important to remember that some people lose weight more easily than others because of their body’s ability to burn fat. One of the most effective ways to burn fat is through cardio-vascular exercise which increases the heart rate sufficiently – for example, aerobics or running. This form of exercise is more effective than, say for example, weight lifting or light walking, which are good muscle-toning activities helping to reduce the appearance of fat. However, if you simply don’t have time to go to an aerobics class or the space in your own home, then other forms of exercise are still effective. Jon Shepherd, from Ultra-FIT magazine, explains: “You won’t burn so many calories weight training, but the potential effect it will have on your body composition and metabolic rate are significant. Muscle is the most metabolically active part of your body, burning up to three times as many calories as any other tissue type. Weights (and other forms of resistance training, like circuits) promote the development of lean muscle, boosting your fat burning potential” Source: (http://www.concept2.co.uk/weightloss/chewing_the_fat.php#2)
Fitness activities and calorie burning
Activity calories/hour Aerobics high intensity 520 Rowing slow 400 Weight training 270-450 Swimming for fitness 630 Treadmill running (3.8min/km) 1000 Treadmill running (5.6 min/km) 750 Source: (http://www.concept2.co.uk/weightloss/chewing_the_fat.php#2)
The above figures are based on a 65kg individual. If you weighed more then additional calories will be expended, fewer if you weigh less. The table illustrates the differences in calorie reduction between various activities. It is important to find the right kind of exercise to suit you. For most people, walking is the easiest and most effective form of exercise. Ann Bolger, M.D., a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association (AHA) says, exercising is like taking the pennies from under the couch cushions and putting them into your piggybank,’ in that every little bit counts.’ (Meadows 2003: 18). There are many small ways of increasing the amount of walking in your day. For example, if you have a dog, or someone in your family or a friend has a dog, then try to find the time each day to take it for a brisk half-hour walk. If you’re lucky to live a mile or so away from work then get up a bit earlier and walk instead of catching the bus. Even parking a bit further away when you go shopping can make a difference.
So this is all about what to do outside the home. But what about when you come back from a day at work and you want to relax? You can contribute to your efforts to lose weight by the way you cook: using unsaturated vegetable oils, and oils such as corn, olive, or soyabean makes a significant difference to your fat intake. Snacks too can be swapped for healthier, lower fat options such as sesame snaps; Ryvita, or a piece of fruit. (Meadows 2003: 18). Many of us like to relax with a glass of wine in front of the TV – but there are other more weight-loss-effective ways of relaxation. Try substituting your daily glass of wine (110 calories) or half bottle (250 calories) for a session of meditative yoga. In this way you can reduce calorie intake, and exercise and relax all at the same time, and it doesn’t cost you a penny. “Yoga also offers psychological benefits. As Baxter Bell, a graduate of Piedmont Yoga Studio’s Advanced Studies Program, says: Weight gain often brings with it a great deal of harsh self-judgment. Through yoga, we can counteract this by creating a safe, positive environment to reconnect with our bodies and quiet the counterproductive messages that often arise in our minds. (http://www.yogajournal.com).
If the traditional more-exercise-less-calories method doesn’t work then look into alternative ways to lose weight. There are little exercises and tips that can take all of 15 minutes of your day – such as the ancient Chinese system of exercise called Chi Kung. A specific series of movements called the Swimming Dragon is renowned for its effectiveness in helping to lose weight. Through a series of simple movements, the Swimming Dragon works to stimulate the correct flow of chi, or vital energy, through the meridians (energy pathways) of the body. The exercise massages all the internal organs and helps to normalise hormone secretions. By practising the exercise for 15 minutes once or twice a day, it is claimed that your body will begin to naturally break down unwanted fatty tissue. (Alexander, J, 1996: 31)
Lastly, weight loss is something to be achieved over time: take it a step at a time and don’t expect too much. Most importantly, losing weight should be something that fits comfortably into the rest of your life and something that you enjoy.
Alexander, J., 1996, How to lose weight in fifteen minutes.’ The Daily Mail. December 30.
Bell, B, 2006, Can Yoga help me to Lose Weight?’ Yoga Journal. Online. Available from: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/963_1.cfm’ [Accessed 14/11/06]
Biggs, S, 2006, Lose Weight with Water.’ Website For Women. Available from: http://www.ivillage.co.uk/dietandfitness/wtmngment/weightloss/articles/0,9544,233_576059,00.html’ [Accessed 14/11/06]
Collins, A, 2005. Weight Loss Support website. Available from: http://www.annecollins.com/weight-loss-support/eating-little-often.htm’ [Accessed 14/11/06]
Hill, J., Peters, J.C., Jortberg, B. T., Peeke, P., 2004, The Step Diet : Count Steps, Not Calories to Lose Weight and Keep It off Forever. New York: Longman Publishing Company
Meadows, M., 2003, How to Keep Your Heart Healthy.’ FDA Consumer. Vol 37. Issue 6.
Ultra-FIT Magazine. Available from: http://www.concept2.co.uk/weightloss/chewing_the_fat.php#2′ [Accessed 14/11/06]
Copyright © 2006 Verena Veneeva