Here are 10 weight loss tips for 2012. I've ordered them in what I think are their importance for most people. In other words if you start at the top you are likely to gain benefit sooner than if you start at the bottom.
- Eat a low GI diet. - In practice this means avoiding foods that cause a surge in blood sugar levels. A surge in blood sugar stimulates your pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin causes your body to shift carbohydrates and fats into cells where they become stored as fat. To some extent you can avoid this outcome if you are exercising fairly hard soon after, during or immediately before eating the food. At any other time high GI foods will have a tendency to cause weight gain, especially if you are already overweight. The foods you want to reduce are starches such as bread, rice, potato and pasta as well as any bakery items such as cakes and buns. The foods you want to eat more of include animal and plant based foods. Animal foods such as poultry, red meat, fish, eggs and dairy produce. Plant foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, lentils, beans, oats and fruit.
- Eat breakfast every day. - Eating a healthy breakfast sets you on a course that keeps your blood sugar levels even throughout the day. If you skip breakfast your blood sugar levels drop off and your body produces stress hormones such as glucagon and adrenaline that break down muscle into sugar in order to keep you topped up. Less muscle will lower your metabolic rate making subsequent fat gain more easy. A healthy breakfast is the traditional English breakfast and bacon eggs with fried tomato. Keep bread and cereals to a minimum unless you are going to be exercising hard soon after. If you do eat cereals keep to porridge with nuts and seeds in it. This has a reasonably low GI and should also keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Avoid sugar and salt. - Sugar, salt and a host of other additives are added to processed foods in order to affect our brains. Scientists working for big food companies are specifically tasked with finding flavours and substances that encourage us to eat more of their product. They have suceeded to a great extent as evidenced by the current obesity epidemic. "Well done food scientists!" Both sugar, salt and additives such as monosodium glutamate and other flavour enhancers will encourage most of us to reach for a second helping. The best way to avoid this is to limit salt and sugar intake and avoid all packaged foods. Ready meals, meal toppings in jars and tins, bakery bread and all sweets are all full of these substances that derail our appetite. Just stick to vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts and seeds, meat, fish, beans, lentils, eggs and dairy produce and you'll be on the right track.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. - You may be surprised to learn that artificial sweeteners, far from helping with weight loss actually can lead to weight gain. Interestingly sucralose, saccharin and aspartame have never had any independent randomised, controlled studies on their weight loss effects, reported in the scientific literature. It makes you suspicious, when you realise that this would be an excellent way for a big company to boost sales of these types of sweetener. The problem seems to be that artificial sweeteners increase appetite. Although they activate the taste receptors in the tongue in a similar way to sugar they do not entirely fool the brain, which is less satisfied after an artificial sweetener and is more likely to ask for more calories.
- Do regular strength training. - While building muscle may not seem to immediately help with weight loss, what it most certainly will do is increase your lean mass (your muscle mass). Muscle is a tissue that requires some energy every day to maintain itself. Fat requires a lot less. By having more muscle, not only will you look more attractive, but you will also burn calories more easily. To do effective strength training carry out some core work such as sit ups, back raises and side planks. There are a vast number of different exercises that you can do to work your core. Add to this core work some weight bearing exercises such as leg squats and press ups. One idea would be to seek the advice of a good personal trainer who will be able to give you a range of exercises that will help.
- Never eat a TV meal. - Watching TV while eating has been shown to lead to very poor eating habits. For one you are generally slouched in a poor position that can lead to digetive problems, there is a strong tendency to eat more than you need and your calorie burn is minimised. It has been found that people in front of TVs burn less energy than those who are asleep.
- Eat plenty of calcium and vitamin D. - It is not well known, but increased intake of calcium has been shown to lower levels of calcium in cells and lead to fat breakdown1. Vitamin D also has been linked with weight loss. While you could supplement, the foods that contain most of these two micronutrients are dairy produce and oily fish. So eating kedgeree made with lentils, mackerel and eggs would be a good weight loss meal.
- Eat probiotics. - People carrying more weight generally have a poor gut flora. By eating probiotics you are replacing bad bacteria in your gut with good bacteria. These good bacteria improve your immune system and some recent research on mice fed antibiotics suggests that they could help overweight people shed a few pounds also2. Buy yoghurts that have the words "probiotic", "live" or "contains live cultures" on them.
- Get a good nights sleep. - Disrupted sleep or sleep that is too short or too long all have a negative effect on staying slim3. Basically disrupted sleep or sleep that is too short leads to the release of stress hormones that cause weight gain. On the other hand if you sleep too long you tend to become sluggish and lethargic and this also can lead to weight gain. As a general rule 8 hours sleep is needed by most people. If you are doing a lot of mental or physical work then this requirement may grow to 9 or more hours. Equally some people have a natural ability to survive on less. Basically if you are jolted out of bed by an alarm then this is not a good thing for weight loss.
- Do regular interval training. - This may sound a bit specialist to some people, but if you are one of those people who run, cycle or swim regularly then interval training is far more effective than just getting out and doing a steady jog, bike ride or swim. By exercising in an intense manner with a rest in between you can build more muscle and stimulate your metabolism more than a steady even-paced plod ever will. Running is the most effective way of losing weight, although cross country skiing will run it close if you are lucky enough to live in snowy climates. A typical routine would involve 10 minutes steadily building up speed from walking pace and then 8 lots of full out sprints for between 15-30 seconds with a recovery of up to 30 seconds. You can then do a 5 minute jog to warm down.
Having pointed out al the above it is certainly the case that different people lose weight in different ways. Sometimes there are emotional hurdles. Some people cope well with carbohydrates, dairy products and gluten, others don't. If you come for a nutritional consultation at DrDobbin all these factors are taken into account so that you have the best chance for sustainable long term weight loss.