Weighing in, how to cope with setbacks, and the importance of exercise
You do need a set of accurate scales. You’ll have a temptation to jump on every set of scales you see. Resist that. Even if your scales aren’t 100% accurate, they’ll be consistent. My experience is that different scales can vary by 3 or 4 pounds. To be accurate, strip off before you weigh yourself. And bear in mind that you’ll probably be heavier at night. My friend and personal trainer Kenny Taylor has lost about 35lbs. He knows he is tempted to snack after dinner. He therefore weighs in twice a day, the evening weigh in being a deterrent against a kitchen raid.
For weighing in and recording, the best time is first thing, after you’ve had your morning pee. But whatever you choose, be consistent.
The Weekly Update
Use My Fitness Pal to log your progress, good and bad. The books will tell you not to get on the scales daily, but I’ve yet to meet a dieter who doesn’t. For various reasons your daily weight can vary even if you’ve been good. For example, what did you eat last night and when, and how much waste has your body yet to get rid of. So don’t get too uptight about that – the most important figure is the weekly login.
Reconcile yourself to the fact that this will be a slow process. That is, in fact, a good thing. Weight shed fast tends to return equally speedily, often with interest. You’re better losing 1lb a week for two months and keeping it off, than yo-yoing.
So, one week your weight has increased
- accept it philosophically and vow to be more careful the coming week, or
- say, oh f*** it and phone for a 12” pizza (1183 calories)?
Well you know the answer. You’ve made sacrifices and done really well. Why throw away all that progress because of a measly 1 lb set back?
OK, you had the pizza anyway and a bottle of red wine
Fret not. It’s hardly the end of the world. It’s a bit like going into overdraft. You just have to make an adjustment and get your spending under control. Same with a diet.
Your weight has plateaued
That’s pretty common and is no cause for alarm, albeit it’s bloody irritating, especially when you know you’ve been good. I had about 4 weeks with no real decrease at all. I’m not a nutritionist, but your body really doesn’t like losing mass. Like a prudent Chancellor it’s partial to having reserves. In the beginning you’re taking it by surprise by decreasing your food intake. After a while it gets used to the reduced rations and reacts accordingly. In my case it was the four week period prior to April 26 when the gyms reopened, which brings us neatly to-
I’m not and never have been a natural athlete. Despite what my wife tells people I can ride a bicycle – it’s just that I fall over if I try to do a hand signal. I don’t like swimming, and my dodgy knees preclude me from running for a bus never mind jogging round a park. Much of my life in normal times is spent in front of a computer writing blogs for your entertainment. But exercise is important. Indeed, I would suggest that it is essential to a weight loss programme.
The advantages of exercise
There are many. It-
- improves your heart rate
- makes you feel better
- prolongs your life, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY
- it means you can eat more.
We’ll consider types of exercise in a minute; however, be very careful before starting anything you haven’t done in a long time. If in any doubt, take medical advice first. If you decide to join a gym, as many dieters do, try a taster package to see if you’ll like it, and get experienced gym staff to supervise you in the early stages. The gym works for me, but it is very expensive.
If you’re tempted to get your old bike out, consider where you’re going to ride it. The state of Scotland’s roads is shocking at the moment, and even experienced cyclists are expressing concern.
Swimming is good – no-impact, and uses every muscle. The question is, where? I can’t abide chlorinated pools and the notion of so called wild swimming doesn’t appeal. If you’re tempted by the latter, go with a group or at least one other. Scotland’s sea temperatures can be a shock to the system.
Running and jogging are free, but are not for everyone, especially those of us with dodgy knees. But don’t knock walking. When I started on my quest, the gym was shut. Last year, if you recall, we were allowed out only for a walk. We took to that on a regular basis. In March we upped it to two walks a day, just a loop around the neighbourhood. Does that make a difference? Well, 40 minutes of normal walking burns 168 calories. If your daily total is only 1500, that’s an 11% uplift. A former client of mine put on a shed load of weight after he bought a pub. He took to rising an hour earlier and walking first thing. His progress was dramatic.
How Does Exercise Impact on my Calorie Count?
My Fitness Pal has an Exercise Diary where you can log anything you do. The calories which you have burned up are added to your daily total. In the example above with my 40 minute walk the impact was
1500 + 168 = 1668 calories
An hour in the gym, if you’re working hard, can burn upwards of 400. So in my case by doing that and a walk at night, I had
1500 + 168 + 450 = 2118 calories
to play with. That leaves room for a treat or two. Who says virtue doesn’t have its own reward? When the gym reopened I was struggling by the end of the warm up. Now I can do 90 minutes’ hard work (650 cals). Build up whatever you’re doing gradually. By way of illustration, here are some other examples of calories burned in half an hour.
|Walking, moderate pace||125|
|Jogging (12 minute mile)||304|
|Cycling, 10 – 12 mph||228|
|Aerobics, Low Impact||190|
A Postscript on Exercise
This post script was penned a couple of weeks later, in mid July. For the first time in 18 months we were out of Scotland, enjoying a few days in London. And I mean enjoying. No calories were counted, friends were met, a good meal out was enjoyed every day. We even ate butter! Arrived home on the Thursday and on Friday morning approached the scales with great dread. I had lost a pound! But I had been walking about 10 miles a day.
You may have heard the old advice for dieting. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a Lord, dine like a pauper. You may equally have heard a word common in my vocabulary, Bollocks! The old adage may work for some, and I believe that for reasons of metabolism eating too much late at night isn’t a great idea. But my point is that this is your weight loss programme, and that you must never be hungry.
Take a piece of squared paper. Along the horizontal line (the x axis if you want to be technical) mark out your waking hours. On the vertical or y axis write, for each hour, a number between 1 and 10, 10 being a time when you know you’re likely to be really hungry, 1 being a time when food doesn’t enter your head, 10 when you’re ravenous. You almost certainly have a pattern; you just haven’t thought about it.
In my case, I’m not hungry first thing. I can happily go to late morning on nothing more than a coffee. I need something by then, and the pangs really start to kick in late afternoon, but well before dinner time. The times which you have identified as 7,8,9 or 10 are the danger times. Snack Attacks threaten. For many this is late evening, a couple of hours after your meal.
Your Eating Patterns
At the risk of sounding like a scratched record (if you remember what that is) this has got to work for you. If I followed those who have told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I would have consumed about a third of my daily calorie total when I didn’t really want it.
Work out when your body screams to be fed, and act accordingly. If that means four or five meals a day instead of three, so be it. In today’s stressful world, where meal breaks are less common, advance planning may be needed. I spent much of my working life nipping out to a nearby shop for a lunchtime sandwich. It was a long time before I realised that my delicious treat with butter and mayo was coming in north of 500 cals.
Worse still if you reach for a large KitKat (213 cals) or Mars Bar (244). Work, rest and play, indeed. Try to anticipate the Snack Attacks (which all of us encounter) and work out how to deal with them. Remember, you must never be hungry. If you get caught unawares, the day’s diet can easily be derailed.
In the final instalment (in two weeks time), we'll consider fighting the Snack Attacks, celebrate eating food that isn't boring, and congratulating you on your achievements