From the monthly archives:

September 2011

Say no to starvation.

September 30, 2011

Good article here from, weirdly, The Hindu.com. Sensible, practical advice and well worth heeding.

The king of rock n roll, Elvis Presley, in one of his desperate attempts to lose weight, was rumoured to have sedated himself heavily for over two weeks so that he could sleep all the time, thus not requiring any food! However, this only left him weaker, heavier and more frustrated. In 2007, Beyonce Knowles, the popular singer admitted to following a ‘lemonade diet,’ to lose 10 kilos for an upcoming role in a movie. You can only imagine the acidity that would have caused!

All over the world, people hElvis knew the scoreave resorted to drastic remedies in order to rid themselves of their excess body baggage. Crash diets where only one food group is allowed (for instance, the cabbage diet), or liquid diets that serve only juices and soups but restrict solid foods have all been popular before people fell victim to their own eating habits, leading to severe physical and psychological stress.

Say no to starvation: If you’re overweight or obese, you may think that by not eating any more, your body will burn the fat that you’ve accumulated over the years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. “Many people make the mistake of starving in order to lose weight quickly,” says Dr Anoop Misra, Director, Centre of Internal Medicine (CIM), Fortis Hospital, New Delhi. “Excessive restriction of calories only causes a stronger appetite as it tricks the body into thinking that it requires more food due to deficiency of essential nutrients. Calorie restriction must be gradually developed over a period of time and a balanced diet should be followed.”

In order to do this, try to eat a little less at every meal, so that you’re satisfied, but not overtly full and don’t restrict any food group. Remember, it’s not the foods that are ‘bad’ but what you do to them. For instance, even the starchy potato, the villain of most weight watchers, is good for you when it is steamed and not deep fried, adds Dr.Misra who is also the Chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation of India.

Beware of BMR: Just as different cars burn the same fuel differently, giving you better or worse mileage, every individual’s capacity to burn food as fuel is different too. Your body’s metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories even when you are at rest) begins to slow down when you starve. In the long-term, this can make losing weight much more difficult.

“It has been scientifically proven that when individuals go on prolonged fasting, the body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) reduces to conserve energy, making it extremely difficult to lose weight despite not eating adequately. Severe starvation causes muscle wasting and creates serious electrolyte imbalances leading to cramps and other side effects,” says Mumbai-based dietician Meghna Rajpurohit.

Havoc with hormones: When you follow an extremely low calorie diet, normal hormonal functions may be temporarily or permanently disturbed, putting you at risk to thyroid disorders. “The effects of starvation on the brain can cause a lack of concentration, loss of motor skills, and increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. As the condition progresses, brain function decreases, leaving the victim in a state of fatigue or torpor,” explains Dr Misra.

Strike the right balance: If weight loss is your goal, then it’s time to re-think your relationship with food. Increase your BMR by eating small meals at short intervals; say every two-three hours. This, experts advise, will help your body burn calories faster. Combining this practice with adequate exercise will help you get rid of fat.

In all cases, moderation is the key, so just don’t exceed the ‘feed limit’!

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Tips for tackling weight gain

September 29, 2011

This article looks at the effects of stress and hormones, specifically in women, on weight gain. It’s definitely easier for men to lose weight so come on guys, you’ve got no excuses!

StressIt sounds simple – reduce the amount of sugar in your diet and increase your intake of green vegetables and you’re on your way to controlling your body weight.

But there is more to it than that, says Dr Libby Weaver. Sex hormones and stress play a major role in determining whether we lose weight, she says.

Dr Weaver helps us solve the weight-loss puzzle in her new book Accidentally Overweight?

Q: HOW DOES YOUR BOOK DIFFER FROM OTHER WEIGHT-LOSS BOOKS?

A: Accidentally overweight identifies nine different factors that have to come together for a human to use fat as their fuel; they are biochemical and emotional.

The body is making a decision at any given moment to use sugar (glucose) or fat as its fuel and because a lot of us live in what I call the fight-or-flight response constantly because of deadlines and pressures … we make a hormone that communicates to our bodies that our life is in danger … and to get out of danger we’ve got to have a fast-burning fuel to power that escape and so that’s always going to be sugar.

When people live in that state they rely on their sugar constantly and don’t dip into their fat stores.

Q: WHAT ARE COMMON MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE WHEN TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT?

A: Most people in the Western world believe that their body shape and size is down purely to the calorie equation. So most people think that it’s just about how much they eat versus how much they exercise. That’s part of it … but that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

What the book identifies is that that’s part of it but also that there are these other factors including that stress response that can signal to the body that it needs to store fat because that’s going to serve the body long term.

So stress hormones and sex hormones in particular are incredibly powerful when it comes to sending those messages to the body.

Q: WHEN ARE THESE HORMONES TRIGGERED?

A: What I see time and time again are people who have two things on their to-do list or 28 things on their to-do list and they rush. No matter what they’ve got to do it’s all a great big rush … there’s no problem with having to function at that level but then we need to come down that stress mountain and that’s what people aren’t doing. They’re constantly living in this wired state using sugar as their fuel.

When you use sugar as your fuel the natural response of your body is to then make you desire more sugar so it’s a very vicious cycle … part of counter balancing that is we’ve almost got to schedule rest time…

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES TO WEIGHT LOSS?

A: Probably the two big ones that I think most people relate to especially is stress and the sex hormone … oestrogen is one of the major hormones for a female’s menstrual cycle and it’s a fat storage hormone; it’s one of the main reasons why women have more body fat than men and that’s because we’ve got to have a bit more flesh in case there’s a conception.

Q: HOW DO HORMONES PLAY A ROLE IN BODY SHAPE?

A: Sex hormones and stress hormones play an enormous role in it, so do thyroid hormones. Numerous glands in the body make different hormones that are signalling to the body whether it’s safe to burn fat or store it.

Q: YOU’VE SPOKEN ABOUT STRESS, ARE THERE ANY OTHER EMOTIONAL FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN?

A: Definitely. One of the things I try and teach people is it’s not a lack of knowledge that leads someone to eat a packet of chocolate biscuits after dinner – no one eats that thinking they’re going to do themselves any favours – it’s emotional.

I try to teach people there’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate, there’s nothing wrong with eating those foods, it’s what you do every day that impacts on your health, it’s not what you do sometimes.

Because so many people have grown up with a diet mentality they’ve got this subconscious list in their mind of good foods versus forbidden foods … no one can sustain only eating the foods on the good list and eventually they’ll eat something off the forbidden list. The judgement they pass on themselves is so much worse for them than that food.

Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY QUICK TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE WANTING TO LOSE WEIGHT?

A: Get honest with themselves about how much alcohol and caffeine they’re consuming; amp up the green vegetables; including essential fats in our diet so the fish oils, the flaxseed oils, the evening primrose oil (all those things are very important for your body to actually be able to make hormones); scheduling diaphragmatic breathing … getting on top of oestrogen dominance is crucial for women who have heavy, clotty painful periods too.

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How to get running today

September 28, 2011

Here’s a great article from The Telegraph about running and how to get started if you’ve never tried it. I must admit, it’s something I’ve never done but I can see why people like it, especially on a nice day in the park. I’m not convinced it’s so enjoyable in mid winter in the pouring rain though!

HurryRunning can help you get fit, lose weight and best of all, make you happy and stress-free. Anna Magee finds out how to get started if you’ve never run before.

Emma Courtenay began running six months ago, initially to lose weight. The 34 year-old arts marketing consultant grew up in Northern Ireland riding horses every day. “A few years ago, I moved to London and within months of stopping riding I had gone up three dress sizes,” says Emma. She tried the gym and a weight-loss club but was frustrated by the boredom she felt on exercise machines or calorie counting.

Then, Emma tried running. “The idea horrified me,” she says, “but I bought an iPod and began with 15 minutes walking and running that I built up each week. “It wasn’t easy at first, but I quickly realised that when I ran to music I felt calmer and stronger afterwards,” says Emma. Six months on, she runs for 55 minutes, three times a week and has lost two stone. “The freedom I feel when I am running is the same feeling I had riding horses,” she says. “The weight loss is great but it’s that feeling that keeps me running. I love it.”

“People often start running to lose weight,” says Professor Andy Lane, a leading sports psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton. “But they continue because of the way it makes them feel. Running can alter a person’s stress levels and emotional state quickly.” The high intensity of running pushes blood around working muscles, he explains, and this causes a quick re-prioritisation of thinking. “This is why people feel clear-headed and gain perspective on problems after a run,” says Professor Lane.

The famed runner’s high was something many scientists had reserved judgement on until recently, when researchers in Germany published a study in which they used PET scans on the brains of people immediately after a run. The scans showed that endorphins produced during running were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas, which are active when people are in love.

Running is sociable, too, says Gordon Crawford, a UK Athletics and Running Coach who has led runners of all levels. “Joining a local running community is motivating for beginners as working towards a common goal creates camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment that increases self-esteem,” he says.

For beginners who experience motivation blips and sore muscles, Professor Lane suggests not exhausting yourself at the start and making the experience an enjoyable one by finding a scenic route and harnessing the power of music. “Music creates an enjoyable run, specifically the tunes people like or associate with happy times,” says Professor Lane. Music is a secondary stimulus which takes the mind off discomforts in the early stages of an exercise programme, he explains. Create a playlist that features upbeat songs for the running segments and slightly slower songs for the walking part, he suggests. “Running to the beat of music also reminds beginners not to go too fast too soon as this can lead to injury,” he says.

Among the most common injuries that beginners experience involve knees and ankles, says Alex Floyd, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist specialising in sports injuries at the Bupa Centre in Barbican, London. “Running injuries are often due to doing too much too soon, so starting slowly is important,” he explains.

Never ignore pain that isn’t a general ache, Floyd advises. “Seeing your doctor immediately can mean less time spent recovering.” Investing in a pair of trainers from a specialist running shop can help prevent injury, says Floyd. “At shops such as Runners Need, footwear is prescribed based on a treadmill assessment and video analysis,” he says. Trainers have use-by dates too and over time lose the cushioning that helps them prevent injury, he explains. “Replace trainers every 12 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first,” says Floyd.

Correct technique can help, too. “Running is not only about the leg muscles – using the correct arm movement can make it easier,” says Gordon Crawford. “Relax the shoulders, hands and upper body, bend the arms at 90 degree angles and move them back and forth, not side to side,” he says. “By also landing on your forefoot rather than your heel and lifting your feet up towards your bottom at every stride can make running less effort.”

Begin by scheduling two or three days in a week for walk/runs, advises Crawford. “But not two days in a row to give muscles a chance to rest,” he advises. Begin by walking for four minutes, jogging for one, walking for another four and jogging for one for around 20-30 minutes. “To build up to jogging, gradually lessen the time spent walking by one minute and increase the time spent running by one minute each week,” says Crawford. A goal may help increase motivation but don’t be over-ambitious as this may lead to injury. “Aim to complete a 5km run after the first three months,” he suggests. “After that, train for another three months towards a 10km event and build up slowly like that. Be gentle with your pace and speed at the outset — you will still get all the benefits without the exhaustion.”

 

Help to get you started

Shoes

K-Swiss make affordable and specialist running shoes with hi-tech cushioning in water-resistant fabrics. Try Blade-Light Run, £69.99.

Gear

Asics Ayami range of clothing is designed to be stylish and functional. The Ayami jacket, £65, controls temperature while increasing road visibility.

Music

Audiofuel creates training programmes with music and voice coaching. The Fitness Pack, £22.50, contains 30-40 minute programmes for beginners.

Armband

For a range of arm and wrist band covers for Mp3 players, go to proporta.com, from £9.95.

Energy drink

It’s important to rehydrate after a run. Try Vita Coco coconut water for a natural isotonic drink, £2.05, Holland & Barrett.

iPhone app

Bupa’s new Smart Runner iPhone app is perfect for runners who want to keep fit, feel good and enjoy their runs. It keeps you motivated by mixing your routine with exercises to boost fitness levels. Free from iTunes.

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Well it’s official. As someone who understands the scientific method, I was pleased to see that a proper randomized controlled trial has been carried out to see the effectiveness of Weight Watchers, and it’s shown to be twice as effective as standard weight loss care.

I haven’t read the official study, and it was only carried out on 772 subjects, but the data appears to be pretty conclusive.

Here’s the article:

(Reuters) – Overweight patients told by their doctors to go to Weight Watchers lose around twice as much weight as people receiving standard weight loss care over 12 months, according to the findings of a study published on Thursday.

In the first randomized controlled trial — considered the gold standard of scientific analysis — to directly compare a commercial weight-loss program with standard care by family doctors, Weight Watchers was found to be more than twice as effective.

More people stuck to the Weight Watchers diet, they lost more weight and fat mass, and also shaved more off their waist measurements than those assigned to standard care.

Susan Jebb of Britain’s Medical Research Council (MRC) Human Nutrition Research Unit, who led the study said the results showed that Weight Watchers is “a robust intervention that is generalizable to other economically developed countries.”

“This kind of research is important so that we can identify clinically effective interventions to treat obesity,” Jebb said.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, comes in the wake of research last month which said obesity is a global epidemic that is fast replacing tobacco as the single most important preventable cause of costly chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Worldwide, around 1.5 billion adults are overweight and another 0.5 billion are obese, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. Obesity takes up between 2 to 6 percent of healthcare costs in many countries.

In the weight loss study, which was funded by Weight Watchers International but run as an investigator-led trial with all data collection and analysis conducted by the independent research team, researchers assessed 772 overweight and obese adults in Australia, Germany and Britain.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either 12 months of standard care as usually offered by the primary care team, or referred to and given a 12-month free membership for a Weight Watchers group in their neighborhood.

As well as losing twice as much weight as those in the standard care group, patients referred to Weight Watchers were also more than three times as likely to lose 10 percent or more of their initial body weight. Some 61 percent of patients in the Weight Watchers group lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared with 32 percent in the standard care group.

The average weight loss at 12 months was 5.1 kg for those using Weight Watchers versus 2.2 kg for those on standard care. For those who completed the full 12 months, average weight loss was 6.7 kg on Weight Watchers versus 3.3 kg on standard care.

In a commentary on the study, Kate Jolly and Paul Aveyard of the school of health and population sciences at Britain’s Birmingham University said cost-effectiveness was a key factor in determining whether commercial programs like Weight Watchers become part of publicly funded health care.

They added that “the low cost of these programs — at present about 50-60 for 12 weeks — makes the case for incorporation intuitively appealing.”

David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International said the Lancet study “proves that Weight Watchers is part of the solution to help transform the health of nations.”

“There is a clear need for practical treatment solutions that are proven effective, affordable and scalable to have a population-wide impact,” he said in a statement.

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