When it comes to losing weight and getting fitter, Spire Gatwick Park’s Health Adviser, Ben Short believes we can be too hard on ourselves right from the start, making too many changes too soon which can lead to failure.
“Many of us try fad diets or intense exercise regimes hoping for those quick fixes and fast results but these are hard to maintain,” he says. “Health is a marathon and not a sprint, think more Paula Radcliffe than Usain Bolt when it comes to this one.”
Ben advises introducing gradual changes to meet long-term goals. He is an advocate of what he calls the “Triangle of Progression” which focuses on making small changes within three key areas – activity, nutrition and alcohol.
Activity – the key here is to move more than you have been doing previously. Small lifestyle changes could include:
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift. If you already take the stairs, look to go faster.
- Park on the far side of a car park and walk further.
- When walking, look to go a bit further or faster each time. Progress onto alternating walking and jogging the same route.
When exercising, include resistance exercise like using free weights within your workout. Resistance exercise increases muscle density which continues to burn calories even when you are sedentary.
Nutrition - Watching portions sizes is vital. It is often not just what you eat, but how much. Keep a food diary and eat little and often during the day to speed up your metabolism, which in turn assists with weight loss and/or weight control. It will also mean your blood sugar levels are kept stable.
Swap bread, pasta, and rice for wholemeal varieties, and exceed no more than three portions per day. These complex carbohydrates release energy slowly into the bloodstream, help to stabilise your blood sugars, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Consuming sugary snacks, such as biscuits and chocolate, can lead to a “sugar low” which in turn will encourage you to eat more sugary snacks to produce the corresponding “sugar high”. If you really feel the need for something sweet, try eating dried or fresh fruit or occasionally dark chocolate.
Stick to low fat varieties of dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.)
Alcohol – Alcohol contains a lot of ‘empty calories’. A pint of light beer on average is 182 calories which takes 18 minutes of running to burn off and a bottle of red wine on average is 682 calories which takes over an hour of running to burn off.
Adding an additional alcohol free day to your week or reducing the size of that evening glass of wine can make consistent changes to your body composition and reduce associated health risks. Try downloading the Drinkaware app onto your mobile phone www.drinkaware.co.uk
“Don’t be afraid of mishaps, barriers or disruptions on this journey,” adds Ben. “These are expected, so focus on damage limitation and keep going in the right direction. Recognise when you are doing well by rewarding yourself with a massage, day out or item of clothes that you can now fit into.”
Ben Short is a Health Adviser at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Povey Cross Road, Horley, and an elite marathon runner. Find out more about their health check services at www.spiregatwick.com/healthchecks or call 012930 771 913.
Originally published in April 2015 by the Surrey Mirror.