After last week's introduction, we look at some of the ways you may have tried to lose weight and why they didn't work; we work out precisely how many calories you need in a day, and get ready to start counting. If you haven't already done so, we strongly recommend that you download My Fitness Pal or similar app and familiarise yourself with it.
I’ve tried all sorts of diets
I bet you have. And in the first week, it was really encouraging, wasn’t it? You took off a few pounds in those seven days. Maybe one or two more the second. Then you plateaued: then you got bored. And, hey presto, you rediscovered the lost pounds, possibly with a couple of extra for good measure.
Let’s look at some of the things you may have tried.
The Atkins Diet
Hmm. Stuff your face with protein, meat, eggs, as much as you like. But carbohydrates, fruit, veg, the five a day which Government scientists correctly encourage us to consume? Absolutely not. So you find yourself walking about with hellish bad breath, constipation, and omitting vital nutrients from your diet. Can you really see yourself living that way forever? (Don’t write in. I know that Atkins did prescribe a slightly less restrictive regime after the initial period; however, are you aware that Atkins died chronically obese, weighing 258 pounds?)
The Cabbage Soup Diet
This one is a hoot. Eat huge quantities of cabbage soup, and you’ll lose weight. And yes, you will. In week one the results can be spectacular. But remember it was intended for patients who needed urgent heart surgery and required some quick weight loss. What do you do after week 1? Let me tell you that you’ll probably never want to see another cabbage in your life – and that those pounds will be back sharpish. If you want a healthy soup that is a meal in itself, try Tom’s Famous Minestrone.
The 5:2 Diet
The theory here is that for five days a week you eat normally (in your case I assume that means following the lifestyle which has made you gain weight in the first place) then have two days where you consume only 500 calories. (Remember that the books will tell you, falsely, that the average man needs a daily intake of 2500 calories, the average woman 2000. They lie, but we’ll look at that later.) Now for the first few attempts you may feel different, worthy even. But once the purity of the fast wears off, you’ll be bloody starving. And what do we do when we’re starving? Eat – but not just ordinary eating. You’re far more likely to raid the fridge and the cupboards and gorge yourself with anything you can lay your hands on, regardless.
The Give Up Bread/Potatoes/Biscuits/Booze/Insert whatever you’ve tried and failed at
Remember the Garden of Eden? Once Adam and Eve got their hands on the forbidden fruit, they couldn’t get enough of it. I’m sure I’m not the only person who, after depriving myself of a favourite ingredient for a while, has cracked and scoffed it to excess. In the meantime, no attention has been paid to anything other than the forbidden fruit. What about everything else that you allowed yourself?
Why Gimmicky Diets Don’t Work
- They are fundamentally bad for you, and your body knows it.
- They leave you hungry. Paradoxically, you will never lose weight if you are regularly hungry.
- They ignore the basics - calories in versus calories out.
A diet may lose you weight in the short term. But to lose weight and keep it off, you need to understand what you are doing and why, and commit to make changes to your life style. (Yes, I know I said that before, but it needs to be stressed.) If you’re ready to do that, come with me. If not, the shops are open. Get out there and buy yourself a range of clothing a size (or two) up.
So How Are We Going To Make This Weight Loss Programme Work?
Earlier, I mentioned calories in versus calories out. It’s time to look at this in more detail and work out how you can put it into practice. I believe there is a TV programme entitled The Only Way is Essex – trust me, the only way to weight loss involves calorie control.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it - BMR
I said last time that the daily 2500 for men, 2000 for women was a false start. False because every one of us has an individual base, even with zero activity, and every one of us takes varying levels of exercise. Sorry to get technical, but you need to know your BMR (not to be confused with BMI). This stands for Basal Metabolic Rate. It is the minimum level of energy your body needs to function effectively when at rest including your respiratory and circulatory organs, neural system, liver, kidneys and other organs. It is different for all of us.
How Do You Discover Your BMR, And Why?
Now here, I really have to apologise. This is really technical BUT IT’S VITAL. If you don’t know what yours is, your diet may head off to the North West Passage when you thought you were going to discover Africa. Remember the 2500 assumption? If I had assumed that, I would have perhaps set a target of 2000 calories a day, and wondered why I continued to put on weight, because my BMR is currently 1733.
Let Me Count The Ways (you can find your BMR)
- I’m a member of David Lloyd gym. They have a wonderful bit of kit called a Boditrax machine which provides you with all sorts of fascinating stats, BMR included. Don’t join the gym for that, but if you have a pal who is a member, they will have a guest pass. Snuck in and use it.
- We talked about scales earlier, and a decent set is essential. There are many scales out there which, in conjunction with an App, can calculate your BMR. You'll find a wide range available online. A lot cheaper than a gym membership. I wouldn't advocate buying scales just for this if your current set is adequate; however If you do need a new set, this might be worth checking out.
- Finally, do it by hand.
You can work out your own BMR. You’ll need a calculator. It’s a bit fiddly but once again I can’t stress too highly how important it is to establish this.
Calculate the sum of 66.5 + X + Y. Then deduct A. In the equation-
X is your weight in kilograms times 13.75.
Y is your height in centimetres times 5.003
A is your age in years times 6.755
Calculate the sum of 655.1 (that's not a typo) + X + Y. Then deduct A
X is your weight in kilograms times 9.563.
Y is your height in centimetres times 1.850
A is your age in years times 4.676.
When you consider the wild swings that differences in height and weight can bring about, you see how absurd it is to proceed on the basis of 2500/2000 generalisation.
And your point in making us do these daft sums?
Fair question. What you have to do is to consume fewer calories than your BMR figure. For the past while I have been aiming for a total of 1500 per day. It’s not a huge amount of food, but there is good news to come - see under exercise.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – calorie intake
This is, or should be, simpler; however, it does require two things. Firstly, you need accurately to measure and record everything that you put in your gob. Secondly, you need to stop fooling yourself. (And me – I’m the one trying to help you, remember.) You claim you don’t? Stick with me and I’ll prove it to you later.
Take time to learn your way round My Fitness Pal or your alternative. You can use it to record goals and progress. It can register every calorie you consume, and make allowances for every piece of exercise you take. You can also input your favourite recipes so it can record these too. But you mustn’t lie to your App – therein lies the clue to why you’re overweight.
In the next three days eat normally and write down everything you consume. Using your App, work out the calories you consumed. Next week, we'll mark it and see how you got on.
Next week we'll start looking at the problematic area of recording what you eat, and consider goal setting.