Friday, 26 February 2016

Eating, Weight Loss and Running. The Truth!?

I think many of us get very stressed about losing weight, dieting, eating right and running and keeping our energy level up. And it's been my experience that the advice we hear and read is very often contradictory or too generic; especially when it comes to weight loss.

It's been my personal experience that you have to find the right balance for yourself, what works and what doesn't work. You have to treat yourself as a living laboratory and keep on experimenting until you find what works for you.

Each one of us is different and our bodies function differently one from another so that, like training plans that are generic and don't take account of age and weight and general fitness, any 'general' advice is only that and you have to tailor it quite subtly so that it works for you.

What works and What doesn't work for Me

So, I can't tell you what you should do. I can only tell you what worked and what didn't work for me. And then you can try some of it if you like.

I tried for a whole year to lose weight by running, staying in the 'fat burning zone' and controlling the calories. And I didn't lose a single pound!

Then I came across a book which told me why - Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. It's a revealing, although detailed, read. Basically Gary Taubes sums up over a century's worth of findings in nutritional experiments and surveys and comes at the problem of why we get fat and don't lose weight just about every which way. It boils down to WHAT we eat rather than how much we eat, or whether or not we take exercise. At the time I read the book I didn't run for a fortnight or three weeks yet as I took the book's findings and applied them to my own eating regime, my weight began to fall off almost right away. I've since applied it to myself with a 'light touch' and my weight has continued to fall very slowly. But you've got to keep going! And you've got to keep the discipline going.

It seems that for the majority of people, most of the time what causes our weight gain or inhibits our weight loss above everything else is consumption of concentrated carbohydrates - sugar, cakes, bread, potatoes, pasta for example. Linked to that, it has to do with the production of glucose in the blood and the way hormones like insulin and cortisol affect the retention of fat in the body's cells and what promotes and inhibits their production. And as I said, every body is different so for some even what Gary Taubes reveals through his book might not work. And he says as much. But it applies to most people.

A lot of fuss is made nowadays about getting a good amount of sleep if we want to achieve our weight-loss goals. The reason is a simple as this: Not enough sleep = tiredness/lack of energy = over eating because we feel the lack of energy. I know that this applies to me.

A high level of stress is a major factor in all of this too. Stress hormones play havoc with those that help to release fat for fat burning. Added to which a response to stress in many people is to eat. I'm one of those.

It's about CHANGE

Most successful weight loss I think is about bringing significant change to your way of life. And you have to apply change principles to the exercise. It's not only to do with changing your own habitual way of life but about changing your environment and the perceptions of the people around you too, to what you are trying to achieve. It takes a much greater amount of discipline to lose weight if you surround yourself with chocolate and cakes and everything sugary. Much better to remove them almost completely from your fridge and larder. And it's not good practice to go food shopping when you are hungry.

You've got to change your enemies into friends too. The people who criticize your efforts and try to force chocolate and cakes onto you or that extra sandwich or pie, you need to either turn into allies to your cause, or remove them as far from your personal space as possible.

You might want to do something about changing your rest and sleep patterns to give you more energy, and bringing in some discipline around relaxation, mindfulness or meditation to help reduce anxiety and stress.

These are just a couple of the change strategies you need to put in place if you are to be successful. And you need to apply all the strategies all the time. You can't just use one and expect it to work for the whole job.

All of this about change I learned from another book, one which is about any sort of change but can be applied directly to weight loss and there are lots of weight loss examples in it. The book is Change Anything by Kerry Patterson. It's very well worth a read and then taking the time to apply all the strategies outlined.

As for Me

I'm still working on me! I retired in September 2014, exhausted in every way, over weight, with higher than good for me blood pressure and a heart that kept missing beats due to years of excessive stress and anxiety. And all this despite knowing all the above and running regularly. Yes, I'd tried these things from time to time but had all sorts of excuses for giving up on them. KNOWING IT IS ONE THING, PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IS ANOTHER! But if there is a secret to all this it's just that.

Now I have no excuses. I've just about rid my life of most of what stressed me, and my heart beats more regularly than for ages. I'm enjoying running in a way that seemed to elude me before I retired, mainly because I'm doing it to enjoy it rather than for any other reason. It's all going very slowly, but it's going, and so is the fat. And that's the point. Even at my age, I'm trying to develop this new way of life which will give me a far healthier weight, a better feeling of well-being and who knows, faster times in my running.

It's never too late to start again and see results - even, and especially, at my age!


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