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Dieting

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This page is about my struggle with weight-loss. I have been overweight for a long time now - Since I was in my early teens. After graduating from and Engineering degree, I decided to apply the analysis and scientific reasoning to dieting and find out exactly what went wrong with every diet I've ever tried in the past; why I ultimately failed then, and what can stop me failing this time!


Although this page was written to provide a way to gather my thoughts and research, I figured the facts may interest others, and this is the reason this page has been tidied up. I'm not brave enough to put personal details up just yet

Contents

A Healthy Diet

These are simple overview of the rules for a healthy diet. Following these rules is the hard part, but we should be aware of them before we start:

  • Enjoy your food
  • Eat a variety of different foods
  • Eat the right about to achieve a healthy weight
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in carbohydrates and fibre
  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Try and avoid foods containing lots of fat
  • Don't have sugary foods or drinks too often
  • Drink alcohol sensibly


The Basics

Almost 60% of UK adults are classified as overweight (BMI over 25); 17% of men and 21% of women are classified as obese (BMI over 30) - These figures have trebled since 1990. Many nutritionists believe this is not because we are eating more, but that we are doing less, and so require less energy - modern technology and labour saving devices make us less active than we once were.


Our weight is a reflection between the balance of the energy we consume (in terms of food calories) and the energy we use. This energy intake is determined by the amount and type of food you eat. Energy expenditure is determined by a combination of out resting metabolic rate and the amount of calories we burn in our day-to-day activities. The resting metabolic rate is the energy required to keep your body ticking over, similar to a car's engine idling when the car is stationary.


If our energy needs are exactly matched by our energy intake, our body weight will remain the same. If our intake exceeds the requirement, the excess energy is stored in the body as fat. This is depicted graphically below, as a kind of sea-saw effect.


Balancing energy intake an expenditure

Ideal Rate of Weight Loss

The best way to lose weight is slowly and steadily. General consensus among experts is to lose between 500 grams (1 lb) and 1 kilogram (2lb) a week. If you lose weight too quickly, you risk losing lean muscle tissue as well as fat. Since the basal metabolic rate (calories required to live) depends on lean muscle tissue, it is a good idea to do all you can to keep it!

How Low Should You Go?

The total number of calories we need to eat each day varies with many parameters, such as age, weight, sex, activity levels, body composition and metabolic rate. As a general rule, women need about 2000 calories a day and men 2500. To lose around 500 grams (1 lb) a week, a reduction of 500 calories is about typical. Diets restricting calorie intake severely (to below 1000 in women) are generally regarded as a bad idea.

Body Mass Index

Most people can get a good idea if they need to lose weight by simply looking in the mirror, it is possible to get a more accurate assessment by form of body mass index, or BMI. To calculate your BMI use the program below. You must enter a mass (weight) either in kilograms (kgs) or pounds (lbs) and a height either in meters (m) or inches (in). You can cross metric/imperial, but you must enter a height and weight. BMI is calculated by dividing your mass in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.


BMI formula


Mass kg/ lbs
Height m/ in



BMI Chart

Waist Circumference

  • For men, a waist circumference over 94 cm (37 in) indicates a slight health risk. Over 102 cm (40 in) indicates a substantial health risk
  • For women, a waist circumference over 80 cm (31.5 in) indicates a slight health risk. Over 88 cm (34.5 in) indicates a substantial health risk

Relationship with Food

You will often find that you eat out of habit or emotional needs rather than because you are hungry. We use food to celebrate, relieve boredom and make us feel better. Certain people, places or moods change this behaviour. Keeping a food diary will help you to understand these trends. Buy a notebook and make note of the following

  • Time & Date
  • Where you are
  • What you're doing & who you're with
  • How you feel - Tired, bored, unhappy, etc.
  • What you ate
  • How hungry you were - use a scale of 1 (hungry) to 5 (not hungry).

After two weeks, you will have enough data to review your diary and make a list of all the triggers. This will make you aware of the situation and enable you to better plan around it. Work out strategies that help you avoid these triggers.

Getting Fitter

A combination of diet and exercise is by far the best way to lose weight. Exercise burns calories but it also helps to develop muscle tissue. Muscle is metabolically more active than fat tissue (i.e. it burns up more calories). In other words, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Exercise will help to improve your body shape and tone, and help you maintain your weight loss.


If you haven't done any exercise before, take it easy when you first start. If you start with something that is beyond you, you're more likely to become discouraged and give up! Exercise doesn't necessarily mean getting hot and sweaty in the gym. Making small changes to your normal life will help - such as getting off the bus one stop early and walking, or taking the stairs rather than the lift. Just these can make a big difference! Walking briskly for 20 or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, will burn the equivalent of 5.4 kg (12 lbs) of fat a year.


Choose something you enjoy doing and something that fits in with your lifestyle - you're more likely to stick with it. Try to persuade a friend or family member to exercise with you. If you make a commitment to a friend, you're less likely to back out.


Finally remember that scales never lie, but, they do distort the truth! Muscle tissue weighs more than fat. If you're doing a lot of exercise and building muscle tissue, the scales may not move - don't be disheartened! You should notice your body start to become more toned and more shapelier and most importantly, you will be healthier!

Trimming the Fat

Fat provides twice as many calories as other proteins or carbohydrates, which is why it is the most effective way of reducing calorie intake. Here are some tips:

  • Start with low-fat ingredients - lean meats such as chicken, shellfish and white fish are all good choices.
  • Trim off visible fat from meat before cooking and remove skin from poultry. Avoid red meat that has marbling.
  • Choose low-fat cooking techniques - poach, braise steam, roast, grill or stir-fry.
Marinades are a good way of adding flavour without adding fat.
  • Invest in a good heavy-based non-stick pan and remember that oil expands when heated.
When softening onions or vegetables, you don't need to add as much oil as you may think. Use a vegetable or olive oil spray.
  • You don't need fat for flavour. Use plenty of fresh herbs and spices in your cooking. Add a squeeze of lemon juice when serving for a boost!
  • Bulk out savoury dishes by adding lots of vegetables. They are low in calories and provide essential vitamins.
  • Use reduced- and low-fat alternatives such as reduced-fat cheese, skimmed milk and low-fat yoghurt where available.
  • To make gravies and sauces creamy, add yoghurt or fromage frais rather than cream. Stir in at the end to prevent curdling.
  • Using cheese with a stronger flavour, such as mature Cheddar, Parmesan or Stilton, will mean that you don't need to add as much.
  • Don't be afraid to use high-fat foods such as cheese and bacon, but you only need a small quantity to add a lot of flavour.
  • One tablespoon of French dressing contains 97 calories and 11 grams of fat. Use sparingly or find a low-fat dressing.

Essential Tips for Losing Weight Forever

  • Recognise why you eat: Before you reach for a chocolate bar or slice of cake, ask yourself if you're really hungry. Keep a food diary (as suggested above) to help you identify danger times when you're more likely to over-eat.
  • Believe you can do it: A recent study found that people who believed they could lose weight and keep it off were much more likely to succeed! Try to visualise the new, slimmer you, and keep that image in mind. Edit a photo of yourself to show you how you would like to look - print the image and put it around the place to remind you of your goal. I had this image as my computer desktop and my phone wallpaper, to give me the constant reminder!
  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly: The brain takes about 15 minutes to get the message that your stomach has had enough to eat. If you eat to quickly your stomach fills up before your brain knows you're full, and you end up eating too much.
  • Never skip meals or allow yourself to get over hungry: If you do, you'll be more tempted to snack and overeat at your next meal. Aim to eat three small to medium sized meals a day, plus 2 or 3 small healthy snacks.
  • Always have breakfast: If you skip breakfast, you're more likely to snack during the morning and overeat at lunch.
  • Eat fruit: Fruit and vegetables are the dieters best friends. They're low in calories and fat-free. Aim to eat at least 5 servings a day. Be adventurous and try something new. Look for recipes and ideas for new ways of cooking fruit or vegetables.
  • Stack up with starch & Fill up with fibre: Choose fibre-rich varieties such as wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereal where possible. These provide slow-release energy which helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Be prepared: Make sure your cupboards and freezer are full of healthy foods and have plenty of low-calorie snacks available.
  • Don't Feel Bad: Don't feel that one bad day will ruin your diet. Life is full of ups and downs, so if you do lapse on the odd day, just be a little more strict the following day.
  • Never go shopping hungry: Never go shopping on an empty stomach. Always write a list and stick to it! Don't buy foods you know you can't risk!
  • Don't punish yourself: Don't deny yourself the foods you really enjoy. Just eat them in moderation.
  • Drink water: Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. It's easy to confuse thirst with hunger. When you're feeling hungry, try drinking a large glass of water first.
  • Trim the fat: Fat is the dieters biggest enemy. Whenever possible, choose products that have less than 3% fat.
  • Stay active: Make use of every opportunity you can to stay active. Use the stairs instead of the escalator, get off the bus one stop early and walk. Small changes make a big difference!

Top Dieting Tips

  • A lifestyle change is needed. A new mind-set. A new way of thinking about food.
  • Avoid processed or refined foods.
  • Eat fresh vegetables, whole foods and whole grain cereal.
  • Eat fresh fish, which is rich in Omega-3 oils.
  • Eat fresh lean meat - remove skin from poultry.
  • Visit a healthcare professional and get yourself checked for a hormone imbalance or nutrient deficiency.


If you eat too little, your body will assume you're being starved. As a result of this, the metabolism slows down and the body stores fat. In this survival mode, the body uses much fewer calories and burns less fat - the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve! This becomes 'normal' until proper food intake is resumed.

Why Most Diets Fail

  • A lack of required nutrients for the body.
  • Psychological side of weight loss not addressed.
  • Lack of self motivation (lazyness).
  • Do not correct eating habits.
  • Frustration.

Sources

  • Enjoy Your Food
http://ezinearticles.com/?Enjoy-Your-Food&id=309465 (7/Jun/2011)
  • Best Diet Tips for Weight Loss
http://www.webmd.boots.com/diet/guide/15-best-diet-tips-ever (7/Jun/2011)