The media is full of programs about dieting, exercising and how to get rid of those unwanted kilograms. There are shows that take a number of celebrates to a beautiful health resort and over a period of time they loose a remarkable amount of weight, become fitter and look healthier. However most of us can not afford such luxury and are left to figure out how we can do it without the Doctor on hand, the personal trainer pushing us all day long, the cuisine prepared by resort chefs.
What follows is a back-to-basics approach to achieve a good level of fitness and health using simple, easy to follow steps anyone can implement.
Dieting & Exercising
Diet: Not All Diets Work For All People
Diets don’t work for all people and there are some very good reasons for this. It’s very much like anything else - what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else.
Basically there are two underlying, causative factors for excessive weight gain.
Let’s look at the background for each one:
As you can start to appreciate there are lots of different causes for why one may be gaining weight. When considering the different possible causes of weight gain, is it little wonder that there are so many different diets? They all claim to work and most of them do work for some, but not others. The problem is how do you know which one will work for you and which one will not?
A diet regime for a person who has recently been injured and is gaining weight due to lack of physical activity is going to need a different diet approach to an other individual who is suffering from an organic disease and is unable to utilise the nutrients efficiently.
The saying there’s horses for courses is quite true and it is important to realise that just going on a diet and adding a strict exercise regime will often not provide the results you may have expected.
There are some basic considerations for each of the two basic causes.
Lets look at these separately in an attempt to create some basic rules, which you may wish to follow.
External Factors Leading To Excessive Weight Gain
Generally speaking there are some overriding factors that may play significant roles in excessive weight gain:
Excessive food intake - irrespective of the quality of food, you can eat too much and too much of anything will lead to an imbalance in your body’s health. Nutrients your body receives, but cannot use will be converted to fat and held in reserve for later.
Eating the main meal of the day at the end of the day will have a similar effect for many people. Remember that after the sun goes down, the body is starting to prepare for rest, not activity and digesting food is activity. A large, heavy meal may take several hours to digest and our body’s normal physiological functions are interrupted when we eat a large meal and go to bed soon after.
Many people do not have a substantial breakfast and few have a healthy lunch, so dinner is the first time in the day that many individuals and families actually have the time to sit down and eat a full meal.
Lack of exercise: These days most people live a very hectic life style allowing little or no time for a regular exercise regime. This is combined with sedentary work often involving sitting in front of a computer all day or at an office desk. This does ultimately not provide any form of exercise and uses little physical energy and therefore, little of the stored energy from last night’s dinner is converted to energy and used by the body.
There is another factor. Our bodies are basically lazy. That is if they don’t need to do the work, they won’t. So, if you are in a regular pattern of eating a large meal at night and little during the day, even though you may at some point in time during the day feel hungry, your body will not start to break down the fat into sugars and thus energy, but will just wait until you have another meal and use the available sugars from the meal to provide you with energy.
You may have noticed that from around mid-afternoon onward you start to feel tired and lethargic. However, about 30 minutes after you eat dinner you suddenly experience a surge in energy.
The tiredness is because you have used up your free energy and your body ‘knows’ that it will be fed in a couple of hours, so it will not invest more energy into breaking down fat stores to access the energy stores in the fat.
Internal Factors Leading To Excessive Weight Gain
Generally speaking there are some overriding factors that may play significant roles in excessive weight gain:
Emotional factors - can affect your digestion to a great extent. If you have ever had a major event in your life that made you extremely angry, you may not have been able to eat, or if you did you felt nauseous and experience a ‘lump’ in your stomach, some people will even vomit. This illustrates how sensitive your digestive system can be to emotional stress.
If the stress is of a chronic nature and has become part of your life, the digestive tract will react adversely. For example it may be over active and as a result you feel you are constantly hungry and this could lead to you over eating.
Similarly, if you do not sleep well and therefore feel tired during the day, you may find that eating snacks very frequently during the day will give you that energy boost to keep you going, but the result of this frequent intake of food can lead to obesity depending upon what you eat.
Depression is another emotional factor that in some people leads to over eating and it is not necessarily the quality or quantity of food eaten, but the fact that the emotional state of the person is depressed and thus the physiological processes such as metabolism may also be depressed. This too can lead to obesity, as the body just converts the nutrients from food into fat, leaving you lethargic and quickly hungry again.
Organ pathologies - There are several underlying health problems that can result in excessive weight gain, for example Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland), which is quite common in the community is just one of the diseases that may lead to obesity. Hypothyroid sufferers find it extraordinarily difficult to loose weight irrespective of food quality/quantity and exercise.
Similarly, hormonal imbalances/disorders can lead to deposition of adipose tissue, for example menopause, may in some instances lead to weight gain.
Where there are pathologies, it is necessary to treat the underlying cause not just try to loose weight by what ever means necessary. Thus, it is important to look at the whole of the person, their life style, diet, exercise regime, health of their body, etc.
Just going on a diet to loose excess weight is not the answer to weight loss if you wish to loose weight permanently. It is a total revamping of the individuals lifestyle and everything that goes with it.
There are literally hundreds of diets and each one has its merits. Below is an small, incomplete list of a selection of diets:
These diets are simply listed to show the large variety of diets available and are not a recommendation.
It is my opinion, that a balance of all foods combined with a regular exercise regime and a adequate level of hydration are the corner stones to successfully getting control of one’s weight.
Foods to eat
I am not going to give you yet another diet and name it after myself or some such silly thing. The following is basic naturopathic advice without any extreme elements or ‘fad’ components.
Breakfast. Firstly, start eating some breakfast. It does not need to be time consuming in preparation nor does it have to be a 3 course meal. However, you should have some fibre, fruit some fruit juice. For example a mixture of 3 different types of nuts mixed with rolled oats and some oat flakes together with some pieces of fruit, say apple, banana, pear, peach, or any other fruit you’d like. Mix all these ingredients together and add a generous helping of natural yogurt. You may add some honey to sweeten the muesli to your taste. The aim is to include in the order of 15 different foods in this meal. That will provide you with a healthy, non-processed, nutritious meal that will give your body a great start to the day.
Lunch-time. Again, keep it simple. A mixed salad (include as many vegetables as you can) with or without some cold cuts of meat, fish or chicken, or tofu and soy or what ever you like. Just make sure it’s unprocessed and fresh.
If you have to attend a business lunch, just order a big salad as the main dish. Or go for a vegetarian meal. Most Restaurants these days are very aware of and cater to vegetarians and provide a good selection of vegetarian meals.
Fish is another must have (okay, vegetarians may not wish to include fish in their diet), because they contain fatty acids such as Omega 3, 6 and some also contain Omega 9 as well as many other nutrients.
Dinner. This should really be the smallest meal of the day and also the simplest. Again, keep it simple and unprocessed. Use vegetables, fish, rice and similarly light, easy to digest foods. Make a stir fry (using virgin Olive oil) for example, or a rice dish, salad, or omelet containing a variety of vegetables.
It’s also not a crime to eat a healthy muesli at night, especially on hot, humid nights when a hot meal is not really desired.
Snacks - well, you’re allowed to have the odd snack, just don’t make it not a chocolate bar. Instead, you could eat a handful of nuts, not salted, not roasted, but just plain unsalted healthy, fresh nuts. Alternatively you could eat fresh fruits and raw vegetables such as Apples, Carrots, etc. as snacks.
Last, but by no means least, you need to consume at least 2 litres of Water and or fresh fruit juices each and every day.
Did you know, that often when you are feeling hungry during the day, the body is actually asking for water, not food? This can be a bit confusing, but by the time you recognise that you are actually thirsty, you are already dehydrated. One of the first signals of ‘I need to drink some water’ is a feeling of hunger. So rather than responding to this impulse of ‘I need food’, drink a glass of juice or water and see if the ‘hunger pangs’ persist.
Well, let me say that none of us need to become athletes just to stay fit or loose some weight. The idea of exercise is not to become Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rambo. Exercise is going for a 20-30 minute walk, using the stairs when possible as opposed to taking an elevator.
Exercise does not have to be and should not be a ‘pain’ to do, rather it should be physical activity you enjoy doing and this activity should make your body work on a physical level. Over time you will build up your strength and your level of fitness.
For example: Swimming especially in the ocean is a very healthy activity and does exercise your body. Walking, not necessarily along roads, but along the sand on the beach or through uneven grounds such as on a walk through the bush is great exercise. But if you are living in the suburbs and are not near a National Park or the beach, than walking along the road is better than not doing anything. Riding a push bike is another good form of exercise especially for the cardiovascular system.
But you can also turn work around the house into exercise. Washing the car for example can be a form of exercise, polishing it would add to this. Mowing the lawn is another form of exercise and the list goes on.
I'll just ad a word of warning here - whenever you do exercise, be aware of your posture, especially when using household chores as intended exercise. Vacuuming for example, keep your back as straight as possible, bend the knees and take a small step rather than reach as far as you can. Change hands every now and again to give one arm a rest while the other is doing the work, than change back again and so on.
Lastly, don’t rush into exercise, work up to increasing levels of fitness using little steps. Each week or two, make the walk a little longer, or try and do the same distance a little quicker, swim a little longer or further, take your bike out and time yourself over a few kilometres, than 2 weeks later, see if you can decrease the time it took by a minute or so on a regular basis.
Take baby steps, don’t try to go too far too soon, or you may end up injuring yourself. Take it step-by-step and you’ll not only enjoy your newfound fitness, but will have fun achieving it.
Hints: Time your exercise to be either in the cool of the morning or early evening. Going for a walk at lunch-time in a city is not healthy. The pollution you breath in will end up doing you more harm than the benefits you get from the exercise. What ever you do, do not go jogging along major traffic roads, especially not during the hottest part of the day.
I see people running along major roads in Sydney during summer in the middle of the day. They look like they are about to have a heart attack and are actually a lot closer to that than they think. They are gasping for breath and breathing in highly concentrated pollution and very little (if any) fresh air... Think what that does to your Lungs and the load of hazardous chemicals that are absorbed into your blood stream - sit under a shady tree and eat a healthy lunch - you’ll get much more from that.
In summary, we know not all diets will suit every person wishing to loose weight. So, follow a back-to-basics concept of eating three meals a day. The first should be the largest, the last (Dinner) the smallest. Eat as much raw and unprocessed food as possible and vary the foods so you will not get bored. Eat raw vegetables and fruit as snacks. These are also great foods if you have to eat on the run.
When it comes to exercise, be sensible! Don't over do it or you will not last the distance. Start with baby steps and work up from there. Make sure it's as much fun as possible - it's much easier to exercise when it's actually enjoyable. Vary your exercise, swim, walk, ride a push-bike, and don't forget to utilise work around the house to help you exercise.
Most of all, don't get bogged down. If something is not working change it - a little, don't throw the baby out with the bath water...
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