Want to lose weight this year?
If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight in 2019, then a great place to start the journey and get all the advice and help you need is your local Community Pharmacy. Call and speak to your local pharmacist, and he or she will be able to give you some really useful advice that will help you eat better, be more active, and lose weight in 2019!
Before we start however, it's important to say that weight loss in itself isn't always an ideal goal. What??
More important is developing and maintaining a healthy routine - what you eat, and how active you are. Weight loss can be a way of measuring this, but it can be misleading to concentrate only on how many lbs you've gained or lost in a week.
How long you can exercise for - for instance how long can I run without stopping? How many lengths of the swimming pool before I need to hang onto the side for a breather - can be a better indicator of your fitness levels, and will allow you to see real, measurable progress. Likewise upping the intensity of your exercise - for example by timing your run around the block - will show progress.
Can you fit into that dress you've bought before your summer holidays? Can the belt go in an extra notch? These too are better indicators of your shape and waist size, rather than your weight (we'll explain why in more detail below).
If you've underlying health problems, being able to measure an aspect of this can give more measurable results - for example your cholesterol or blood pressure. Please note that particularly if you have an underlying health condition, we strongly recommend you speak to your doctor or pharmacist before you begin to exercise, or cut certain foods out of your diet.
Weight loss by itself can be misleading, because as your diet improves and you become more active, your body will change. You'll lose fat and put on muscle, and the scales can be deceiving...
(but it is still nice to see them going in the right direction!)
Gradual weight loss
The healthiest way to lose weight is to do it gradually - step by step - by introducing lifestyle changes that are achievable and sustainable. This helps you maintain your weight loss in the longer term (how many people do you know who crash diet, and then put the weight back on as soon as they stop dieting?)
Likewise with exercise, it's important to also build this up slowly and gradually. Doing too much, too soon, can lead to injuries and fatigue, which can leave you disheartened.
Our advice is to make small, subtle changes to your diet and lifestyle rather than introducing a complete overhaul. In the long run you'll be more likely to stick with it, and avoid that 'back to square one' feeling...
Diet - how this impacts weight loss
Your body uses food for energy. When we eat more food than we use up during a day’s activities, we store the excess energy as fat, and gain weight. Conversely, if we use up more energy throughout our daily activities than we eat, we will lose weight. Therefore, by making sure that we're taking in less energy than we're using, weight loss should follow.
When looking to improve our diet or reduce our calorie intake, a lot of what we should look to change is simple, common sense. It's safe to say that most of us know what sort of foods we should avoid, and what's ok to eat.
Here are a few tips that will help you manage your diet:
Don't skip your breakfast! It's often called the most important meal of the day! When you skip breakfast, you're missing out on important nutrients, and it might make you feel hungrier later on (which can lead to snacking...). Studies have shown that eating breakfast activates our body's thermogenesis process, and thus stimulates our metabolism.
Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods that are high in fat and sugar (and oh so appealing...). Eating every couple of hours keeps your body digesting, which burns calories.
Drink plenty of water. We already know that it's good for us - but it also helps manage hunger! When we're reducing the amount of food we eat, we inevitably will feel hungry at some point during the day. People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need.
Reduce your portion size - using smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions. By using smaller plates and bowls, you can gradually get used to eating smaller portions, without going hungry.
Chew your food more, and eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
Snacking doesn't have to be a bad thing. Cut out sugary snacks, and replace these with small portions of healthy snacks - things like nuts, small portions of fruit, greek yoghurt with berries, sliced apple with peanut butter, or a hard boiled egg.
To help resist temptation, simply don't keep sugary snacks at home! If it's there, you'll be drawn to it... If your canteen or kitchen in work has a vending machine with crisps and chocolate bars, leave your purse on your desk. Being able to say 'no' is great, but if we take the option of saying 'yes' away, it will lead to more success.
Have the occasional treat. Banning certain foods can sometimes make us crave them more! Instead of banning pizza, save it for a special occasion. Just don't go too overboard, you're not The Rock (google The Rock Cheat Meals if that means nothing to you...)
Planning meals can help with weight loss. Try to plan what you'll have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list. This way, you'll be less likely to grab something unhealthy, because you won't have the "there's nothing for dinner" excuse.
Exercising for weight loss
Being active is crucial to weight loss. All the dieting tips that we've given above, or those that you'll find online, only go so far. Our advice is to do both in moderation - to achieve sustainable and gradual improvement.
Exercise will help burn off those additional calories that dieting alone won't cut through.
There are lots of ways that busy mums and dads, families, young people, office workers and older adults can build physical activity into their lives. Being physically active is easier than you think - especially if you make activity part of your daily routine.
What counts as exercise?
This bit is important. For most of us, our daily activities (shopping, housework, sitting in an office) don't count towards your activity target. This is because your body doesn't work hard enough to get your heart rate up. Counting steps likewise can be misleading - hitting your 10,000 steps each day might not help you achieve a great deal, because it hasn't caused us to exert ourselves.
Exercise should feel like a work-out. It should get our heart rate up and blood pumping, and leave us feeling like we have achieved something.
For adults aged 19-64 years, NHS Guidelines recommend that we perform some moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week (cycling, or a brisk walk) along with strength exercises that work all our major muscles, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (e.g. running, game of tennis), again with strength exercises.
The good news is that activities like mowing the lawn count as moderate exercise - we're talking about activities that get the heart rate up. For vigorous activity, you need to really feel that you've been active - out of breath, sweating, and so on.
Your starting point will be completely different to another person's starting point, and - particularly if you're new to exercise - it's really important to seek advice. Your GP or pharmacist can give you tips and advice, and if you've any underlying medical conditions it's really important to speak to them first.
For lots of other activites there will be someone who can give you expert advice to get you started. If you join a gym for example, it's likely that you'll get an introductory session with a Physical Trainer who can create a customised programme for you. If you join a running club or Couch to 5k plan, there'll be a coach to monitor your progress.
You may find it easier to do lots of small amounts of exercise, rather than one or two long sessions. For instance, going for a 20-30 minute run most days will probably be easier to fit into your schedule than 2 longer runs per week. You'll be able to exercise harder while you're out - at the end of a long run you'll be tired and sore, and won't be pushing on as hard as you would at the end of a shorter run. And you'll be less likely to pick up a niggle or injury.
Getting into a routine makes it easier to get out through your front door to exercise. Try sticking to the same time each day - for example as soon as your partner gets home from work, or the kids go to bed. You'll find that it becomes a habit, instead of something you need to force yourself to do.
Joining in with a group makes your exercise more sociable. It helps push you on and work harder, and it makes that feeling of "I don't feel like it today" less of a temptation. If you're in a gym for instance, find out if they operate group fitness classes. Sign up in advance to these, and once you've made a commitment you'll be more likely to get yourself there each session.
An activity like Park Run is ideal, if you're able to run or walk briskly (and get the time on a Saturday morning). It's free. It caters to all ages and abilities. It's timed over a set distance (5km) so you'll be able to monitor your progress and improvement, and give yourself a goal. It doesn't take that long, but it's long enough to count as good, vigorous exercise. If you've young kids, you can run with them in a buggy. Click to find out more about ParkRun
How to monitor weight loss
Please be aware (before we go any further) that weight loss can be deceptive. The real goal is to be a better you - healthier, with a better diet and a more active lifestyle. It can be disheartening to step on the scales at the end of a week when you've ate well, and been to the gym a few times, and see the needle slide too far to the right...
As your body burns fat and your muscles strengthen and grow, you may actually put on weight. Muscle is heavier than fat, so as we burn off our fat reserves and our muscles develop, the scales may seem like they're going in the wrong direction. For this reason, setting ourselves a specific weight loss target might not be the best approach.
As a starting point, Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good indication of whether you need to lose weight. BMI is calculated by taking your weight (in kilograms), and dividing this by your height (in metres) squared. Here's a useful BMI Calculator.
A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. If you have a BMI over 25 you are generally overweight, and a BMI of over 30 is termed obese.
Please note that the measurement can be misleading for those with a particularly muscular frame. BMI is often criticised because it doesn't factor in how muscular a person is (muscle is heavier than fat). A very athletic, well built person will often display a BMI that would classify them as heavier than they should be. However - and particularly for those of us who aren't in great physicaly shape or who aren't in the habit of exercising regularly - it is a very useful starting point.
Another useful method is to measure around your waist. People with very large waists (94cm or more in men and 80cm or more in women) are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.
Your pharmacist can check your BMI and give advice on measurements.
Gradual weight loss
An ideal weight loss should be between 1-2lb per week. The best way to achieve this is to reduce the amount of calories you eat and increase your activity. This can be achieved by eating between 300 to 500 calories less each day.
XLS Medical Fat Binder tablets
XLS Medical Fat Binder tablets are a natural weight loss aid that have been clinically proven to help you lose up to three times more weight than dieting and exercise alone. Unlike some other weight loss aids, it’s also gentle on your digestive system, leaving you with no known harmful side effects. XLS is clinically proven to bind dietary fats before it replenishes the body with fat-soluble vitamins. A recent study showed that XLS started to work in three days and that you should notice a measureable difference within four weeks!
In 2019, we may not be able to change our long working hours, eating on-the-go or the stress that comes with our busy lifestyles, but we should try to take small steps to improve our diet, exercise regime and overall health. And an ideal place to start this is in your local pharmacy.
Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.