So how are your health-related New Years Resolutions going ?
Most of us have been looking to shed a few extra pounds since the the start of the year and burn off the excesses of the festive period. Generally, the people I have spoken to chose the age-old recommendation of eating less and exercising more. Has that approach worked for you ?
Basic laws of physics suggest that we need a certain amount of energy (in the form of calories) to stay alive and move around. You get these calories of energy from food or from stored energy (e.g. your fat tissue). So in theory, if you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight ?
Unfortunately, as you‘ve probably already found out, this ‘energy balance’ equation doesn’t always work for everyone. Sure, if you already have a significantly high, excessive level of body fat then this is a good place to start and likely to initiate weight loss, particularly if you’ve been fairly sedentary and eating everything in sight. However, it doesn’t tell us the full story and for a lot of us it can become increasingly frustrating when you’re watching/counting the number of calories you eat and exercising regularly yet the numbers don’t seem to add up or the results do not match our expectations.
The problem is everybody is different, and the equation discussed above doesn’t take into account factors such as our body composition (levels of lean muscle, body fat etc), hormone levels, the amount of stress or load our bodies experience day to day, the macronutrient breakdown (protein, fat, carbs) of our foods, the efficiency of our digestive system, exercise style/frequency/intensity, our age, health issues or our metabolism.
Unfortunately, the ‘calorie in, calorie out’ equation is actually more complicated than it sounds.
Quality Over Quantity
If your rate of weight loss has slowed right down and you’ve reached a plateau then it’s probably time to place more emphasis on quality rather than just quantity. It’s not just about counting calories and how far you go jogging. Getting lean, looking good and feeling great is more often a result of the quality of your lifestyle, the quality of the food you eat and the type of exercise you do. Most of us would actually benefit more from flipping the old adage of ‘eat less, exercise more’ and actually trying to EAT MORE + EXERCISE LESS !
Now, before you click to another page and dismiss this apparent madness, let me explain what I mean by this.
When I say eat more I mean focus on eating more nutritious, un-processed, preferably organic wholefoods. When we say wholefoods we refer to anything that grew in the ground, on a tree, swam in the sea or once roamed the land. I like to call them ‘real foods’. They are the foods that nature provides, that farmers have nurtured, that hasn’t been tampered with by scientists or food manufacturers in a factory or a laboratory to make their product more profitable. These foods simply provide all the essential nutrients (in their natural form) needed for life and a healthy body. As a result of eating more real food you’ll find you start to actually absorb more nutrients and less energy (calories) thus tipping the ‘energy balance’ scales in your favour.
Equally so, it is important to emphasise the quality of your exercise and again, not just ‘how much’ you do.
With regards to weight loss, often ‘less is more’ when it comes to the duration of your workouts. Mindlessly exercising for hours is often actually more detrimental to your health and so I often recommend to my clients that they do short, intense bursts of high quality exercise to stimulate a growth response that accelerates an improvement in fitness levels, aids with fat burning and develops lean body mass that continues to tap into the body’s energy stores even when you’re not exercising. A good, experienced Personal Trainer could help you to develop a ‘balanced’ exercise programme that consistently provides that necessary stimulus and keeps things varied so you don’t have to keep pounding the treadmill every week for the next 12 months and beyond.
Contrary to popular belief, this new mindset is helping people to realise that health + fitness isn’t just a numbers game and that weight loss is more consistent and sustainable when the body is nourished and trained as opposed to starved and punished.
The quality over quantity approach applies to all the foundational principles of health such as your thoughts, your sleep and recovery, your breathing and of course your nutrition and your movement.