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My story Weight Loss

Project Fat Loss: Week 1

Find out how my diet is going! Spoiler alert…not great!

So week one of the diet went well. I stuck to my calories every day and some days I even had a few left over. I was literally just concerned with hitting the calories rather than hitting the macros but I did notice that my protein intake was higher than I though it would be although I was no where near hitting the protein goal.

I was tempted to weigh myself during the week but I had decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to do this, so I managed to stick with the plan and I weighed myself on Thursday morning as planned. As I had stuck to the calories, I was pretty convinced that I would have lost fat and I was feeling slimmer (psychological I know, it’s amazing what the brain can trick you into!). So when I stepped on the scales I was very disappointed to see that I had actually put on 2.5 kg! Now I know that this isn’t physiologically possible. That would take 19,250 calories more than my body requires – I didn’t even eat that many calories in the week! Logic aside, I was disappointed but I resolved to carry on with the calorie deficit and see what I weight the next week.

However, I got to work and had a few (too many) little chocolate truffle eggs. ‘ No big deal’ I thought, ‘I’ll track them, I can fit them into my calories.’ Then came the trip to Lidl bakery with the work colleagues. This didn’t quiet go to plan and to cut a long story short I abandoned my my chicken pesto pasta which I had brought in for lunch (and had pre-logged on my fitness pal) and ended up with a focaccia and Danish pastry for lunch. Again, salvageable but I went into ‘screw this’ mode and ate a load more of the truffle eggs. I think that not actually having booked the holiday I’m planning on going on didn’t help the situation as this is my motivation to slim down.

I’ve thought about getting back on the diet and considering that I am going back to evesham to spend time with my family for the Easter holidays, and that with it being Easter, there is going to be a heck of a lot of chocolate floating around. I don’t really want to do a repeat of the year that I banned sugar in the build up to a holiday and didn’t even eat a piece of my own birthday cake. So I’ve decided that I’m going to have a bit of time off over Easter and that I’m not going to track and I’m not going to restrict the chocolate (or gin). I won’t really have any control over the meals that I’ll be eating with the family and tracking macros at that time will feel quite stressful (protein intake is difficult to regulate back home) and I imagine that my mum would hit the roof if she caught me weighing my food. I’ll vaguely try not to eat like an idiot but frankly, I probably will. There are certain times of the year where it is more challenging to reduce your calories and I want to spend some relaxing time with my family ahead of a big life change.

I’ll get back on it on Tuesday, I’m going to think about how I measure the fat loss given that scales aren’t the most accurate (I knew this but it’s easier than measuring).

How do you get over diet setbacks? Let me know below, I need the advice!

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Weight Loss

Should I have a Cheat Day?

When dieting, some people have a weekly ‘cheat day’. On this day they allow themselves to eat whatever they want. If you search hashtag ‘cheatday’ or ‘cheameal’ on instagram you will find millions of images of high calorie food and snacks which people claim to be eating and still losing weight.

I have a bit of an issue with this way to structure a diet for the following reasons:

You could blow your Calorie Deficit

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that the only way to lose fat is to consume less energy that you’re using i.e. to be in a calorie deficit. However, if you put yourself in a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories , you could easily eat this back (and more) in the course of a day. Heck, you could eat this back in the course of a meal!

Consider this:

  • pancakes and maple syrup 460 calories
  • brownie and a latte 610 calories
  • cheese and pepperoni panini with chips (fries for the North Americans) 535 calories
  • 1 medium Dominoes pizza* with a garlic bread side, garlic dip and a bottle of wine 3127 calories
  • 1 tub of ice cream 1080 calories

In this example, you’ve eaten 5,812 calories. This means that you have eaten back the calories that you have saved throughout the week so you’re not going to lose any fat.

You should eat the Foods you Love Every Day

One of the pearls of wisdom from my Nan that sicks out is ‘a bit of what you fancy does you good.’ I wholeheartedly agree with this advice and I think that learning to eat in a way that incorporates your favourite foods regularly is important when it comes to eating this way long-term. It also means that you are more likely to be able to stick to the diet. You need to find a way to fit your favourite foods into your calories, perhaps by eating a bit less of them.

It Encourages the Binge-Restrict Cycle

Being in a binge-restrict headspace is not a good place to be from a mental health point of view. It doesn’t encourage a good relationship with food and it usually leads to over-eating long-term. Having the attitude that calories don’t count for one day or one meal (when they clearly do) is going to lead to over-consumption which may then be followed by feelings of guilt when your fat loss efforts have been derailed.

It Encourages Labelling Food as ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’

Puting food into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and demonising foods isn’t a good idea. This way you are likely to have feelings of guilt and shame when you eat something that you deem to be ‘bad’. A healthy diet doesn’t ban foods altogether, it just includes the high-calories-low-nutrition foods less often than healthier options.

I hope that helps you. How do you fit the things that you love into your diet?

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My story Weight Loss

I’m trying to lose weight

Yes I actually took a photo of me!

I’m actually a bit nervous to share this with you as I haven’t really added anything very personal on this site so far but I’ve decided to change it up a bit and let you know about a little challenge that I’ve set myself.

This week I’ve been looking at going on holiday in June and if I’m completely honest with myself I would feel more comfortable in a bikini if I lost a bit of fat. So I’ve decided to try and put myself on a little weight loss programme to see whether I can lose a couple of kilos before June. Anybody who knows me will know that I really struggle to turn down food (hasn’t happened for a long time!) and that I find reducing my calories very difficult to stick to – the struggle is real!

How am I going about this?

I’m basically tracking macros and implementing a calorie deficit. The plan is that I’ll use more energy that I’m eating and will hopefully lose some fat. I say ‘hopefully’ because working out the number of calories that you should be having is a bit hit and miss to start with. I’m not worrying about the actual macronutrient proportion at the moment, my priority for this week is to hit the calories if I can. I will review my macro proportions at the end of the week and try and steadily increase my protein. One step at a time.

I’m not going to share the amount of calories that I’m eating because this is really individual – what works for me isn’t going to work for you. I will admit that being six foot in this instance does work in my favour. Naturally, I weigh more and I need more calories to function. I’ve worked out what I think I should be having by using an online calorie calculator to work out what my calories should be if I wanted to remain the same weigh, I then subtracted 500 calories per day so that I will hopefully lose about a pound (or just under half a kilo) a week. Do remember though that because in theory I need a lot of calories subtracting 500 calories is proportionally not that high and certainly isn’t going to put me at risk of being malnourished. I weighed myself on Thursday morning and I’ll do the same next Thursday to see whether I am making any progress and will adjust the calories accordingly. I’m aiming for slow weight loss that is maintainable over the next few weeks.

So how have I got on so Far?

So far, so good but it’s only been three whole days! I’ve had a ‘treat’ every day so far including most of a pizza (I’ll eat the rest today), a huge scone with jam and cream in a cafe and some gin and tonics.

A Scone with jam and cream from a little cafe in Roath Park, Cardiff.

I’m being made aware of certain eating habits that I have which can be improved. For example, I didn’t realise how low calorie my lunches can be. They are really nutritious and I really overestimated how many calories are in some foods. Some people may think that very low-calorie lunches are a great thing, but I often go swimming or to the gym after work and I need to make sure that I have enough energy in the tank for that. I’ve also noticed that I haven’t got the recommended amount of fibre for two of the days, even though I would have thought that I get a lot! Honestly tracking your food is really eye-opening.

Was this interesting or TMI? Do you want me to keep telling you what I’m doing?

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Weight Loss

Set Point

In adults who are not dieting, weight tends to stay relatively stable over the course of a few years. As a result of this, there is a theory that our bodies have a weight range that it likes to be and that we will naturally fluctuate around this point. We are driven to eat through hunger cues (or not eat through not feeling as hungry) through your body fighting to be around a specific weight. Your body also regulates your subconscious movement, have you ever noticed that people who are very lean (as in too lean) don’t fidget? This is because their brain is trying to protect them from the very low calories that they are taking in.

This is why dieting is so hard, your body fights to maintain weight around this ‘set point’ and this is why very often when we lose weight we put it back on with a little extra on top. Each subsequent weight loss attempt becomes harder and the real battle is maintaining your weight.

This all plays into why fad diets don’t work. When you lose a lot of weight quickly by restricting your diet, the weight will go back on quickly because you won’t be able to maintain that restriction. If you reduce your caloric intake by changing your lifestyle, then you are more likely to keep the weight off long term.

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Weight Loss

Myth-busting: You can’t get Fat if you Don’t Eat Fat

Oh if I had a penny every time that I have heard this myth… I actually heard a nurse advising a patient this a few years ago when I knew nothing at all about food and nutrition. I cringed then.

Fats are one of the main macronutrients that make up our diet. None of the macros should be avoided, but the government recommends that we eat them in different proportions because they have different functions in our bodies and different effects on our health. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, which is the highest of all the macronutrients so it does makes sense to keep an eye on it when you’re trying to lose body fat. The UK government recommends that no more than 30% of our daily calories come from fats, but in the UK the current average caloric intake for fats is more like 42% of our diet. It is something that as a nation we need to make an effort to reduce.

Fat has different purposes in the body including protecting our vital organs, insulation, making the ’covers’ that go round our nerve cells and energy. It’s pretty important and by no means should it be cut out of our diets. When eaten to excess, fat is stored in the body. However, it is not as simple as you eat fat, it doesn’t get used so that same fat gets sent to the hips, stomach or wherever it is that you don’t like it being stored. In order to use fats, our body has to break them down. Fat molecules, or triglycerides (as 99% of the fats that we eat are this kind of fat) are too big to be absorbed and transported around the body, so they are broken down into their smaller components: glycerol and fatty acids. From there, they absorbed and end up in the blood stream where they are sent off to be used and the excess are then sent to the body’s fat cells (called apodicytes if you really want to know!) where the glycerol and fatty acids reform into triglycerides – so the fat that you store is made from all the different fats that you have eaten that day.

What about Carbohydrate and protein?

Both carbohydrate and protein if eaten to excess (and by excess I mean more energy is obtained by them than your body needs) will be stored as fat.

When your body has more carbohydrate than it needs, it will store some of it as glycogen in the muscles and liver. However, once these limited stores are full, then your body converts the carbohydrate into fat and stores it in the fat cells – it now has the same form that the fat that you ate and stored does. With protein, something similar happens. Excess protein cannot be stored in the body (although how great would it be if excess protein went to your glutes) so your body excretes the nitrogen it contains and converts the rest into energy. Like any other energy, and I’m sure you’re spotting a theme here, it is either used immediately, stored as glycogen or transported to the fat cells to be stored as fat.

When it comes to fat loss, the important thing is energy balance: calories in vs calories out. It is not fat or any one macronutrient which makes your body store excess fat but excess calories. Quite simply, if you eat more energy than you are using, your body will store it as fat.

I hope that this myth is well and truly busted! What health and fitness myths have you heard?

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Weight Loss Wellness

Why Slow and Steady wins the Race

The evenings are getting lighter, the clocks going back are nearly upon us and we’re all starting to think about our summer holidays. Invariably, thoughts then turn to ‘beach bodies’, ‘how to get fit quick’ and basically how to lose half our body weight in… ohhhh I don’t know….three weeks?!

In this post I want to speak to you about sudden, drastic weight loss. The type where Sarah from tells you that she’s lost 6 lb in a week. The kind of weight loss that if we aren’t achieveing we think that we’re failing in our diets and promptly give up diving in to the Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and putting on more weight than we started with.

Let me let you into a little secret…when somebody is losing more than 1 kg a week (2.2lb), they aren’t just losing fat. It is not possible to lose any more and if you do lose more weight than that in a week, then it won’t be fat. It’ll be glycogen, water and protein (i.e. muscle). Losing weight and losing fat are two different things. Weight can be anything, chop of an arm and you lose weight, but it isn’t going to affect your body composition.

Why is losing more than 1kg per Week Damaging?

Well, first of all, from a psychological point of view it’s going to be pretty damaging. Water and glycogen weight can fluctuate by up to 1 kg so it’s likely that at some point you are going to put that back on, at least partially. If initially, you do see big changes on the scale (and just to reiterate…this is weight not fat), then this will not be sustained. Think about how you are going to feel when you ‘just’ see a modest weight loss of 1-2 lb, probably not too good.

Losing more than a kilogram per week means that you are almost certainly going to be losing those bootie gains you worked so hard for. To lose 2kg of fat in a week you would have to cut 14,000 calories from your diet in a week. Now, for a lot of women that may be what they need to achieve energy balance (i.e. where the amount of calories that you eat is the same as the amount of calories that you are using). Are you telling me that you didn’t eat or drink anything apart from water all week? That’s highly unlikely, and dangerous if true. However, there are less calories stored in a kilo of muscle. This means that when you burn muscle you lose more weight for fewer calories. Now this might sound like a good, thing but it isn’t because muscle takes up a lot less space than fat so you won’t actually get much thinner. Plus having muscle is awesome for the following reasons:

  • being strong feels so good;
  • muscle is more metabolically active which means that it uses more calories just to keep you alive;
  • muscle looks good. I mean if you’re in this for aesthetics then you probably realise that heroin chic is not so chic. Why just be skinny when you can be wonder woman?

When in a calorie deficit, your body burns muscle rather than fat where it can. Although this seems counterproductive, you can’t really blame your body because it is simply trying to keep you alive. From an evolutionary point of view, when you are in a calorie deficit your body panics and does all it can to ration its energy. One of the ways that it does this is by burning muscle for fuel. This serves two purposes: firstly it accesses fuel and secondly, muscles are expensive to run. They use up more energy just existing than fat does so if your body can get rid of some muscle, the amount of energy that it needs to stay alive is lower. In terms of your brain trying to keep you alive when it thinks that food is scarce, this is a win-win.

This whole burning muscle for fuel phenomenon is exactly the reason why most personal trainers recommend weight training when you are in a calorie deficit. If you keep training your muscles, then your body recognises that you need them and you should maintain a higher proportion of muscle. So rather than training to gain muscle when you are in a calorie deficit, you are actually training to keep what you already have.

So my advice to you is if you want to lose weight, take the sensible slow and steady route of losing 0.5-1kg (1-2 lb) per week.

What advise would you give to somebody to help them lose weight sensibly?