The Best Way to Lose Weight
Tips to Make Losing Weight Easier
As you might surmise from the number of recipe hubs I am posting, I love food. I love reading about it, I love cooking it and I love eating it. Unfortunately this results in periodic episodes of the ‘can’t fit into my jeans syndrome’. As a result I am on an ongoing quest to find the best way to lose weight. I have tried temporary solutions such as giving up on using the desktop and doing all producing hubpages on the laptop, while sitting in bed, with a large mound of delicious snacks on the bedside table. However I always feel that more research is necessary.
If making mistakes and failing is necessary for wisdom, then I am a great expert on the topic of losing weight. At the same time I don’t think there is really that much to know, eat healthy food, eat less than you burn (to lose weight) and do exercise to burn more calories. Really there is no way of getting around these points, no deep knowledge and understanding required, and people who develop ‘magic’ solutions and diets are charlatans.
Having said that I did watch a program on the BBC about a year ago, which gave sensible tips on how to lose weight. Some of the advice is pretty standard and well known, other points were new to me and there appeared to be scientific evidence behind them. None of the tips bypass the ‘burn more calories than you consume’ rule, but they show how to make doing that easier.
The truth is the human body is much more complicated than a simple furnace, where you put in food, it gets burned releasing a certain amount of energy. The human body is also connected to a brain, which somehow appears to have missed the fact that we now have plentiful food in supermarkets, fast food restaurants and generally don’t live in caves and hunt mammoths for our dinner. As far as the brain is concerned, gorging yourself on high Calorie food every time you can find it, is an excellent survival strategy, while doing exercise for the sake of it, rather than to hunt mammoths or escape from sabre-toothed tigers is suicidal behaviour. The programming that allowed us to survive thousands of years ago is now killing us through obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
1. Don’t skip meals, don't get hungry
This is an oldie, and very well known. Apparently when our stomach is empty it secretes a hormone called gherlin into the bloodstream. Ghrelin reaches the brain and switches on the neural circuits that, in prehistoric times, made our ancestors leave the safety of the cave and find food, but now makes us reach for the phone and order a pizza. As well as stimulating hunger, ghrelin tells the body to conserve as much energy as possible and build up fat, slowing down metabolism. Of course, one can resist ghrelin, stick to the strict diet and avoid eating by exercising willpower But, because the urge to eat when your stomach is empty is so strongly hardwired into your brain, willpower often fails. It is much easier to lose weight steadily if you try not to get too hungry
2. Protein prevents hunger pangs
The program tested this on two sets of people. They were both given breakfast with the same calorific value and volume, but one group ate lean ham while the other group didn’t. The people who didn’t eat ham became hungry much earlier than the group that ate meat. The Atkins diet, which is really unhealthy and difficult to follow, is an extreme application of this principle. While the program definitely didn’t recommend that you go to such extremes, eliminating almost all carbohydrates and eating a very meat-rich diet, it seems that when your meals include meat, they take longer to digest, hence it is a longer time before gherlin floods into your system demanding that you eat again, and it makes it easier not to overeat.
3. Soup keeps you satisfied for longer
This was news to me. The test here was to feed one group of Territorial Army recruits a meal, and have them drink a glass of water, while a second group had the meal blended with water. They then used ultrasound to see how quickly the food cleared the stomach, and found that being blended with water causes the food to be retained longer. This is a little bit different from the advice to drink a lot of water between meals, which never worked particularly well for me. Drinking water on an empty stomach just makes it flow right through, but blending it with solids slows down its clearance. Hence blended vegetable soups might be a very useful part of trying to lose weight.
4. Low fat dairy stops you absorbing fat
The active ingredient is calcium. Apparently when you eat low fat dairy, which is high in calcium, as part of your meal (e.g. in the form of low fat yoghurt or skimmed milk), the calcium causes the fat to emulsify into a form that does not get absorbed in the stomach and is excreted. This is an example of how the body isn’t just a furnace that burns whatever food you put into it, the food first has to be digested and absorbed. The program tested this on a man, they made him eat yoghurt with his dinner for a month and measured how much fat he was excreting (don’t ask about the details). The conclusion was that, all other things being equal, he would lose weight. It wasn’t a magic formula for dramatic weight loss, but the difference the extra calcium made was not insignificant. Of course if you get your calcium in the form of a wedge of cheese, which itself is full of fat, it’s not going to work very well.
5. Use smaller plates to control portion size
This is also quite an old one. We eat with our eyes, and we will usually keep eating until we clear our plates. Give yourself a head-start by using a small plate.
6. Keep a food diary
The program followed one of the people with “slow metabolism”, who honestly believed that she was eating very little and eating a healthy diet but could not lose weight. On careful analysis of her diet it turned out that she was eating 1000 Calories more than the recommended 2000. People lie about how much they eat and they lie to themselves the most. For example the healthy fruit salad she had for breakfast, was made quite fattening with a large dollop of cream. So yes, counting Calories to be aware of how much one eats is important.
7. Don’t blame your metabolism
Overweight people often have a higher metabolism than thin people (carrying all that weight around costs extra Calories, and the heart etc. has to work harder when it is fatty). There are conditions, such as an underactive thyroid etc. which do cause slow metabolism, and you should go to a doctor if you suspect you might have a problem, but they are rare. Usually if you think you have a slow metabolism, you are seriously underestimating the amount of food you eat.
8. The wider the choice, the more you eat
I can definitely vouch for the veracity of this observation. I know I overeat when I can have a choice of many things. I want to try a little bit of everything, and end up eating quite a lot. On the other hand it gets a bit boring to eat a lot of the same thing.
9. Exercise goes on working even while you sleep
This is the other side of the weight loss equation. You will lose weight if you burn more Calories than you eat. However, I’ve often been disappointed with the actual number of Calories burnt by reasonable exercise. I mean running a marathon burns lots of Calories, but it is not something most of us think we can do. A half hour on an exercise bike can make us feel virtuous but on average it will burn 200 Calories. The thought that you would need to cycle for about 10 hours to loose one pound, is a little bit offputting. However, there is good news! The benefits of exercise in burning fat extend far beyond the actual exercise period itself. Presumably because exercising builds up muscle (which needs energy) and muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate than fat, you keep using more Calories for many hours after you exercise, you burn fat even when you sleep.
10. Keep moving and lose weight
When you are overweight the prospect of signing up for the gym and starting an exercise program can be daunting. However you can derive a lot of benefit from introducing some small changes into your routine, that make you more active. Walk rather than taking the car, climb stairs rather than using the lift, get up from your desk and do a few short exercises while working on hubpages. Introducing small amounts of activity into your daily life can make a big difference to your weight loss program.