Keep the kilos off: fitness guru Michelle Bridges reveals how
Fitness guru Michelle Bridges reveals her essential advice for long-term weight management, plus three delicious recipes.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to maintaining weight loss over the long term. Sure, we can all lose weight by tidying up our diets and ramping up our exercise, but the uncomfortable truth is that, for most of us, the weight eventually creeps back on. For most people, keeping the weight off is really hard, some say even harder than losing the weight in the first place. Indeed, long-term studies are showing that within two years, more than 80 per cent of people who lose weight will have regained some, if not all, of it.
The first thing to understand is that you and I can eat exactly the same meals, but our bodies metabolise the energy and nutrients very differently, depending on our age, genetic make-up, how well our thyroids function, our lean muscle mass, how stressed we are and how often we’ve dieted in the past.
Losing weight is a science and keeping it off is a psychology, and as our knowledge in these areas grows, we realise that the impact of both these factors on weight loss is greater than we thought. Complex factors in our biology and environment also exert powerful influences on whether we can sustain weight loss in the long term.
But this doesn’t mean we should despair and give up. On the contrary, we can now move forward armed with a good dose of reality. Rather than pinning our hopes on empty promises, we can focus on real solutions. When we know better, we can do better. And doing better means shifting our obsession with the outsides of our bodies to the insides. It means eating minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods and exercising, because this makes us feel better and helps us to think better.
1 Reframe your thinking
Maintaining a healthy weight is going to take a sustained and measured approach, gradually replacing old habits with new ones. Reframe the way you think about health and exercise.
Start with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based (S.M.A.R.T.) goals, ie, I want to be able to jog for 5km without stopping, by the end of three months.
List all the excuses you might come up with for not exercising or for eating crap food. This mental preparation is super important and, in my experience, the key to staying on track while you learn helpful new habits.
Find other ways to deal with stress and recognise your triggers. When you feel the urge to do something that you know is unhealthy, visualise a big stop sign and just pause for a second. What are you feeling? It’s these thoughts that are the triggers for your old habits and recognising them is the first step to making lasting changes to your self-care.
2 Exercise every single day
The human body is designed to move – we actually have 206 bones and around 700 skeletal muscles –
and exercising our large muscle groups is important for a long list of reasons.
Exercise improves bone strength and posture, helps us balance our energy intake, enhances mood and cognitive function, and improves heart and lung function. Exercise also builds muscle, and it’s the amount of muscle we carry that has the most profound effect on our metabolic rate, and therefore our ability to burn the calories we ingest.
3 Get support
There is a lot of research to show that social networks are powerful tools in encouraging positive health behaviour. Having an exercise partner can be a powerful motivator to get you out of bed in the mornings to go walking or jogging. Joining an exercise class is great, too, as most of us don’t like to waste money, so we’re more likely to turn up.
Some of us will continue to rely on food or alcohol to comfort us and we will overindulge to the point that it affects our daily life. Remember there’s a difference between habits and addictions. Habits we can work on ourselves, while the deeper emotional and mental health issues that can lead to addictions often require specialist intervention.
4 Always choose fresh wholefoods
One mistake many people make when they reach their goal weight is to treat themselves to unhealthy foods.
They think because they’ve lost a lot of weight, it won’t hurt to eat the odd sugary, fatty meal. But a burger here, a slice of cheesecake
“Slowing down your eating can help you feel fuller.”
with cream there and soon they’re back to the same old eating patterns that saw them gain so much weight in the first place.
Choosing healthy food every single day is non-negotiable when it comes to long-term weight management. Research shows that people who do keep the weight off stick to a diet high in fibre and nutrients from vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains and with a good amount of healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds.
5 Eat mindfully
Mindful eating is about slowing things right down: paying attention to our own hunger signals; enjoying food in a quiet, screen-free environment; noticing the colour, texture and flavour of the food; chewing slowly; and putting down our utensils between mouthfuls. Deliberately slowing down your eating can help you feel fuller and it definitely assists digestion. But mindfulness is also important when we’re deciding what and when to eat.
Skipping breakfast is the numberone habit shared by all of my obese clients, closely followed at number two by lack of exercise. Enjoying a good breakfast with wholegrain carbs, greens such as spinach, and proteins such as eggs or beans will kick-start your metabolism and keep you feeling full until lunchtime.
Keep an eye on serving sizes. Never have seconds and don’t eat in front of the TV, computer or at your desk. When you are distracted, it’s harder to pay attention to what you are eating.
6 Keep track
We can only change behaviours that we’re aware of. Keeping track of what we eat, how much we exercise and our weight helps us to understand the relationship between these behaviours and reinforces positive change. People who monitor their food intake and regularly weigh themselves are far more likely to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.
7 Make sleep a priority
Lack of sleep increases your appetite for sweet food, as your brain thinks it’s going to need more fuel to cope with the extra hours you’re awake. Being sleep deprived also makes you more sensitive to stress, which can trigger the stress hormones that encourage belly fat. To give yourself the best chance of staying on track with healthy eating, it is super important to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
The human body is designed to move, so getting some exercise every day is vital to keeping excess weight off.