A weight off your mind
Losing the pounds isn’t easy, says DR MATT PICCAVER, but the key is often in our heads
IF ANYONE has met me, they’ll know I’m not particularly svelte. I’m built for comfort, not for speed, for pulling the plough, not riding the tractor (can you tell I work in the countryside?)
A question I’m often asked, and have found difficult to get my head around, is how to lose weight. A good question that isn’t quite so easy to answer. Perhaps the first method is to not put on weight in the first place.
When I was a child, I would spend a lot of time at my Nan’s house. My grandfather came from Poland and would consume pirogi fried in onions and butter. He wasn’t slim, but when not watching snooker on the black and white TV, he’d be gardening. Growing his own vegetables. Building greenhouses from discarded windows and doors, raising pheasant and chickens in the back garden of their ex-council house. My Nan came from Wales, lived through the war as a Land Army girl and she too was never still. During the war, a plateful might have only been 400 calories.
Now, we can get a single meal, without moving from our car, containing enough calories to keep us going all day. I was encouraged to empty my plate but, unlike in wartime Britain, those plates were piled high. Dinner at Nan’s was a feat of endurance.
Our ability to get hold of calories has never been easier. Drinks are full of sugar and caffeine. Drive-through restaurants, takeaways and busy lifestyles mean many of us spend more time at the desk than getting up and about. We
Whatever you decide to do to improve your health, make small changes that you can stick to
spend a fortune on gyms as a nation, but spend our days sitting still. There is probably something very wrong with that.
The generation that is living longest is the one that survived a war, and their children. Calories were not so easy to come by. Food took time to cook. Much of it was home-grown and we expended calories to gain them. Now there is a gap between the calories consumed growing or rearing our food and those we get from consuming them. We’ve almost become like animals in a zoo, our food ready packaged and prepared, with little effort needed to acquire it. We nip to the supermarket, driving usually, get our calorie load and go home.
Once we’ve piled on the kilos, it’s harder to shift. But not impossible. In general terms we need to generate a calorie deficit; a 3,500 calorie deficit a week will lose a pound in weight. As we lose weight, we need to dial down our calorie intake a little more. Each time we lose weight, we drop our intake to match.
Most weight loss is in our heads. It’s about understanding what our triggers are to over-eating, it’s about looking at our lifestyles and seeing what we can change. It might be walking more in the day, taking up a physical hobby, changing our diet - eating more veggies and saving the trips to the takeaway for special occasions.
Whatever you decide to do to improve your health, make small changes that you can stick to. Exercise is important, but the most important is the fork and spoon lift. What we eat is most of the battle, but not all of it. Get some exercise, get outside, but remember that you can’t outrun a bad diet. Get someone to help you with it, a partner in health, someone to help motivate you towards reaching your goal. You’ll get there if you put your mind to it.