Sixty per cent of the population in the UK are now overweight or obese. It is not rocket science but experiments have shown that if people are overweight it is because energy in to the body has exceeded energy expended.
The main issue is the unbalanced situation between our metabolism which has evolved to deal with an ancient lifestyle and our modern way of life. Our bodies are designed to function healthily in a situation where food is scarce and the energy required to obtain it is high. However, we now expend relatively little energy and food is plentiful, fast energy releasing and rich in calories. This sets up a situation where only the most active and strong-willed person finds it easy to maintain a healthy weight.
Excess fat is not just about how you look and feel but it increases the risk of diseases that are less visible such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, joint problems and psychological issues. Susan Jebb from Oxford University has done research that has shown that even a modest amount of weight loss (3-4kg) is helpful and 4kg can halve your risk of developing Type II diabetes.
So to succeed in weight management it can be quite hard to take on and stick to radical changes in your diet. you are much more likely to succeed if you take conscious control of many small changes which altogether amount to a significant number of calories. This is where food diaries can play a really useful role because they don’t let you get away with lots of little items of consumption which will add up to the equivalent of extra meals. Things to look out for are small changes that you can make which will shave calories from your diet, all adding up at the end of the week:
Sweet drinks (including fruit juice) – 250ml orange juice is 110 cals vs. serving of squash at 4 cals
Alcohol – 140 cals in a can of bitter, 100 cals in glass of white wine vs lime and soda 10 cals
Fruit – 1 medium banana 105 cals vs serving blueberries (20 berries) 20 cals
Coffee – 1 blue milk latte is 129 cals vs cup of tea 15 cals (green milk)
Hot cross bun with butter – 214 cals vs 2 ryvita with 2 tbsp hummus 88 cals
Chicken tikka masala is 384 (½ large foil container) vs dhal 125 cals
Strategies to make it easier for yourself:
- Don’t get too hungry – but don’t mistake boredom, mood or thirst for hunger.
- Balance your energy so that you are not responding to energy lows
- Look for ways to reduce the energy density of foods – add air (grate it), add water (soups, casseroles and water dense vegetables) and add fibre and keep foods whole where possible
- Eat foods that are more resistant to digestion (pasta, rice or potatoes that have previously been cooked – just be careful to eat rice within the day)
- Eat foods which an intense flavour (not calorie) punch to give you that satisfaction and enhance mood
- Exercise gently after your meals where possible (walking is good) so that you are more likely to use the calories as heat energy and it makes insulin more effective