When you're trying to lose weight, not seeing results can be very frustrating. These three fitness mistakes are making you gain weight.
1. Using food replacement supplements
We've all been tempted by them at one time in our lives. There are so many on the market, from Slim Fast to Herbalife, it seems like there's a quick fix and we want to take it. However, food replacement supplements are the worst thing you can take in your efforts to lose weight. Not only are they bad for your bank balance, they're bad for your waist line. Food replacement supplements work on the logic that if you are restricting your calories, you will lose weight. While this is completely true, the shakes and bars that you consume on these diets are full of sugar and lack essential nutrients which will leave you feeling tired, moody, and can even give you bad skin.
It is always better to get your calories and nutrients from real food, only taking supplements if you really need to on top of an already balanced diet. By reducing your calories from real food, you can easily lose weight without suffering from mood swings and having to buy expensive supplements.
2. Not tracking your food intake
We can all be guilty of being 'secret eaters'. At the end of each day, if you were to try to remember every single thing you ate that day it would be almost impossible. There will always be one biscuit or cake that slips through the net that you forget about. It's also easy to make excuses for yourself in order to eat more than you realise, such as "I have a cold" or "it was my co-worker's birthday". Your portions may be a lot bigger than you realise unless you weigh your food. By tracking your food as you eat it and weighing your food, you are taking the guess work out of losing weight and you are far more likely to succeed.
Let's take oven chips (french fries) as an example. Next time you put your favourite oven chips onto the tray, weigh them before they go into the oven. Chances are, it'll be two or even three times as much as is recommended. This happens easily and frequently and is definitely a reason you're not losing weight. Weighing your food may seem a bit neurotic and take a lot of effort, but it doesn't take long and will be worth it in the long run. Below is what 200 calories of oven chips looks like on a small plate. It's not much! And these are fairly skinny fries, if you enjoy those big chunky oven chips you'll end up with only around 10 on your plate!
3. Drinking too much alcohol at the weekend
For a lot of people, being healthy ends on Friday. We want to relax after a long week at work and rightly so! We go out for dinner and drinks and forget about all our stresses, but this is when you'll end up undoing all your hard work from the week. Alcoholic drinks are full of sugar and calories and by knocking back a few glasses of wine, pints of beer, and pitchers of cocktails, you will be consuming a lot more calories and sugar than you realise.
You probably wouldn't eat 3 cheeseburgers in one sitting, but you wouldn't think twice about drinking 6 beers on a night out. Try to limit how much you drink on the weekend, and limit dining out and takeaways to just one per weekend. This may seem stingy, but if you are truly committed to losing weight and getting healthier, it's a compromise you'll be willing to make.
Working full-time in an office can take its toll on your health. Sitting for 8 hours a day, colleagues bringing sweet treats and other temptations into the office, and going out for work drinks can all mean it feels impossible to be healthy. We give you all the tips and advice you need to stay healthy when you work an office job.
Workout at work
There are lots of creative ways you can workout at work without affecting your performance (or ticking off your boss!) You could go for a run or a brisk walk at lunchtime or do exercises at your desk. If you can burn more calories at work, you stand a good chance of living an overall healthier lifestyle as chances are you spend most of your day at the office.
There are a lot of reasons to workout at work and living a sedentary lifestyle by sitting at a desk all day can be very bad for you, even if you regularly exercise outside of work. Incorporating it into your day can make a huge difference to your lifestyle.
Bring homemade lunches
One of the most difficult parts of staying healthy while working an office job is all the temptation. If it's someone's birthday, you can expect cake and treats, and then there are working lunches and meetings. If you're hungry, this means you are far more likely to cave so being prepared and taking your own homemade healthy lunch and snacks will stop you over-indulging.
Don't drink your calories
One of the easiest ways to over-indulge without realising is by 'drinking your calories'. What this means is drinking juices, smoothies, sugary teas, and soft drinks throughout the day. Even supposedly healthy drinks like smoothies and diet soda are bad for your health. Try sticking to water by taking a BPA-free, reusable water bottle to work with you which can sit on your desk and remind you to stay hydrated throughout the day.
The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.
When you think of 'mindfulness', what comes into your head? A monk-like figure, sitting crossed legged in a garden, spending their days meditating and generally being totally zen? At Mindful Bites, we strongly believe that it doesn’t have to be that extreme. We can all fit mindfulness and meditation into our lives in a real and accessible way.
Some of us are able to allocate a proportion of our day to dedicated meditation and we’re sure that the benefits of that are amazing. But if that’s not for you or you don’t have time, it doesn’t cut you completely out of the picture. In every action or choice we make there is an emotion to experience. We see a beautiful tree that triggers a childhood memory of a neighbour’s tree-house, we hear a piece of music and it takes us back to a holiday romance, or we experience something new for the first time and it creates a new memory, a new perspective on the world. Taking a moment to meditate on these things, to reflect and create a connection is an important tool of mindfulness and will ultimately reap huge rewards. We can all fit these moments of meditation into our day and we can all be more present.
What is mindful eating and what are the benefits?
What better opportunity to take these meditative pauses than when we eat? There is a misconception that mindful eating is just sitting quietly or chewing slowly. Some of the latest trendy diet books may even have us believe it’s a weight loss tool.
At Mindful Bites we don’t buy into this. For us, mindful eating is a real art; it’s not about the health of the individual. Isolating yourself and purely thinking about your own health isn’t mindfulness and it isn’t going to get you very far. We must allow ourselves to be part of the bigger picture. We must connect to our food, where it comes from, and also the people we are sharing our eating occasion with.
We should be examining where our food comes from, how it gets to our plates, who was involved in putting it there. We should be finding out if any of these processes have been harmful to the planet. By eating this particular food are we contributing to the solution or the problems facing the food industry? By taking this moment to meditate on these thoughts you will be able to make your choices count; you will make them mindful.
How to practise mindful eating
We have broken this down into a simple process for you. With each food we choose to eat, we ask ourselves questions:
- What is our intention?
- Are we actually hungry?
With so much choice on offer to us these days, it’s easy to confuse our ingrained hunger signals.
Attention: What am I actually eating? How will it interact with my body? Will it nourish me adequately and in a positive way? Will it fuel me well for whatever I’m planning on doing next – be that a workout or writing an important essay?
Gratitude: What can I be grateful for in my choice of food? Where have the ingredients come from? By paying attention to not only the choice of ingredients but also how and from where they are sourced, there should be a good reason why you chose this over another food or product.
Pleasure: Last but not least, you should always enjoy your food! Otherwise, let’s face it, what’s the point?
So, if meditation has always seemed out of your reach, why not try this approach? Just ask yourself those questions each and every time you eat something and see what happens. Amazingly, by shifting our focus from ourselves and our own weight/nutrition/body fat percentage to the wider issues of sustainability and high quality ingredients, our bodies will naturally benefit and so will the planet.
About the author: Stephanie Peritore is the founder of Mindful Bites. She actively campaigns for the future of food and a fair, more sustainable and secure food system.
Metabolic Efficiency refers to the measure of how well the body utilises fat as an energy source. The human body is able to store around 1,200-2,000 calories in the form of carbohydrates (glycogen) split between the liver, muscles, and blood. These stores would allow us to exercise at a low to moderate intensity for around 2 or 3 hours.
However, there is another source of energy that the human body can store that could provide up to a staggering 80,000 calories: fat. What would happen if we were able to teach our body to use fat stores for energy instead of depleting our carbohydrate resources?
The benefits of Metabolic Efficiency Training
Metabolic Efficiency Training was a concept developed by Bob Seebohar in 2003 and refers to teaching our body to use fat as a primary energy source. This has a number of positive implications:
- If the body is able to use fat to produce energy, racing athletes can become less dependent on carbohydrates.
- Less carbs means a lower probability of GI distress (stomach cramps being a common issue among endurance athletes).
- More fat burnt means less body fat and a leaner frame, a positive impact on performance for endurance athletes.
It's key to understand when the body uses fats or carbohydrates as its primary energy source. Typically, short-duration exercises will use carbohydrates, while longer endurance exercise will cause the body to start burning fat. This happens during aerobic training when the intensity is close to the aerobic threshold or lactate threshold.
In order to be 100% accurate, Bob Seebohar described a lab test known as “crossover point”. This is the exact point during an aerobic session when the body stops using fat as an energy source and moves to burning carbs as its energy source.
How to achieve Metabolic Efficiency
As not everyone has access to a lab where this test can be performed, there is a way to teach the body to be more efficient. There are a few rules that everyone can follow. This is best performed at the beginning of the training season, when the athlete is building an aerobic base.
- Avoid high-calorie carbs such as pasta, rice or white bread. During this period, all carbs should come from vegetables and fruit. Also during this phase, more good fats (omega 3 or 6) and proteins should be consumed.
- Avoid sport supplements such as gels or bars which are high in carbs.
- Practise training in a fasted state, building up the duration of the training sessions slowly until you're able to complete up to 3 hours on only water. These session must be endurance-based and performed at a low intensity.
- After training, avoid recovery drinks and high glycemic index carbs. If the training session was easy, theoretically the body used fat as its primary fuel source and so carbohydrates won't need to be replenished.
By following the aforementioned rules, the body will become more efficient and better at using fats as an energy source.
Which foods to eat when training for Metabolic Efficiency:
- Protein: poultry, tuna, salmon, mackerel, eggs whites, whey protein or plant protein.
- Low glycemic carbs: spinach, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, carrot, beans, sprouts.
- High glycemic carbs: oats, quinoa, potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, pasta.
- Fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, egg yolk, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter.
About the author: Cesar Martinez is an Ironman athlete.