Here’s the answer (for me, and others)

Yesterday I posted about food or movement – what works to help you lose weight? Well, I think it depends, and you’ve got to find what works for you.

For some who can’t or don’t want to exercise, and they want to lose weight, food is their best option to lose weight. Calorie restriction or intermittent fasting (5:2) might work.

But they could increase their activity through walking or everyday activity, to allow them to eat a little more and still lose weight.

A few good books to read are Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor, and Primal Blueprint by Mark Sissons, and Why we get fat and what to do about it, by Gary Taubes.

If you want to lose weight without running or exercise one, two or all three of those books will give you the knowledge and tools you need to help you change your life forever. Food and what you choose to consume daily, can most definitely change your life.

For some, like me, it’s good to have exercise as part of their lives. They wouldn’t do without it. It makes them feel great and it allows them to indulge a little, or eat a little more than say 1200 calories a day.

Some good books to help achieve weight loss through exercise include Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald, and Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, by Tom Venuto.

What works for you, might not work for someone else, so I’ve got together 4 examples, of where weight loss has worked for them. Bringing it back to my experience, and the experience of those around me – what works for them.

1. The first article yesterday reminded me of my Dad. Who, for decades struggled with his weight. An intelligent GP who helped other people get or stay healthy, he probably saved hundreds of lives in his career.

Daily he talked to people about giving up smoking, losing weight, becoming more active, and diagnosed and treated people with many illnesses. Technically he knew what he should be doing, but he always struggled with his weight.

For as long as I remember he was always out walking, and going through some regime to lose weight. Eating salads, eating 5 a day, having competitions with my mum to reach a certain weight first. Charting his weight weekly on graph paper. His weight would go up and down and I’m not sure if he ever found ‘the answer’ for him when I was growing up.

That was until around 3 years ago when he tried 5:2 intermittent fasting. Whilst it works for some and doesn’t. But it works for him.

He fasts 2 non consecutive days a week. He’s now at the lightest he’s ever been in his life and he can afford to (weight wise) inside in his food and drink his wine on days when he’s not fasting.

He goes through phases of walking still, but he doesn’t HAVE to exercise to keep the weight off. Calorie restriction 2 days a week seems to work better for him. It also works well for obese people or people who have a lot if weight to lose.

And as he’s getting older, he’s looking to hopefully extend his life (longevity), with the rest he gives his body whilst he’s not eating. Put simply, his body repairs itself more when he fasts (as its not processing food) and more growth hormone is produced too.

It suits him. And food is the answer for him to keep the weight off. When you can’t exercise or choose not to exercise, Calorie restriction is a good option to lose weight. And it’s a good idea to eat the right foods (ie eat whole / real foods, and limit sugars where possible). He eats healthily for the most part, and in dishes every now and again, and fasts 2 days a week.

He’s around 150lbs now, and about 5’7″ and there’s not much on him. No belly, that’s for sure. 🙂 He’s finally found what works, and it doesn’t include much movement – for him, he can do it all with food.

My Dad used to walk maybe 1000 miles a year, but now as he’s getting older he’s maybe not able to walk as much, or chooses not to walk as much. For him, fasting or calorie restriction works so that he doesn’t have to burn so many calories off through exercise.

Perhaps most importantly for me, my Dad has set a very good example for me –

Be active, eat well and indulge sometimes. Be nice to people. Enjoy the small things in life and take time to watch the world go by.

2. Then there’s someone else I know. Let’s call him Bob.

He’s also found what works for him. He indulges every now and again, but he’s learned that if he wants beers and to indulge, he either needs to compensate by exercising, or he might put on weight.

Bob now runs around 6 times a week, 4 x 8k and 2 x 22k. Mostly steady (slow) miles, keeping his HR low, or in fat burnin mode. He runs for maybe 8-9 hours a week, burning around 10,000 calories through running alone.

He can afford the time and enjoys exercising. He knows what works for him and he can either lose weight or not, based on what he chooses to do.

It means he can eat what he wants, but if he’s careful with what he eats (and doesn’t drink beer) he creates a big calorie deficit through activity, and he loses weight – sort of effortlessly.

He uses his gadgets to help motivate him, fuel band and fuel points pushing him to meet his fuel points goal. Heart rate earphones to tell him he’s running easy / in the fat burn zone.

For Bob, he’s able to lose kilos (10kg in around 4-5 months) through regular activity, lots of slow cardio, and he gains other benefits life being really fit too, from running.

3. Then there’s my close friend, let’s call her Molly. Molly is mid 30s and has always struggled with her weight. She’s been on many diets and tried exercise and other things to lose weight.

A few years ago Molly was diagnosed with cancer, and whilst she has recovered from that and had the all clear a few times, she’s on medication which makes weight loss even harder than it was before.

She may well be an emotional eater, and running didn’t always work for her as she didn’t enjoy it. But in the last 6 weeks or so she’s successfully lost a stone.

She’s understood why she puts on weight, and she’s set herself activity and food goals to help her lose weight. It’s very impressive (but simple). And, she doesn’t even need to run (like me and Bob do).

She now knows what works for her, and it isn’t running, or crazy diets, it’s simple maths:

1. Lots of walking, minimum 15,000 steps a day. She has 2 dogs and walks them regularly.
2. Only having breakfast lunch and dinner, and being careful about what she consumes – she’s logging everything in My Fitness Pal.
3. Using my fitness pal to chart calories in vs calories out and create daily deficit of around 1000 calories a day.

Put simply, she has set achievable targets (steps / activity / eating / weight) and she’s using gadgets (Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Withings scales) and apps to help her see her progress.

4. For me it’s a little different from my Dad, but similar to Bob and Molly.

Running and activity helped me drop around 2 stone when I started my weight loss journey. It was coupled with healthy eating, and I’ve learned more about ‘what’ to eat, but I eat to fuel my running, more than I eat to lose weight.

Whilst I tried intermittent fasting for over a year, my high level of exercise means it’s hard for my body to deal with a restriction in calories and train most days. I was at my ideal weight when I did IF, and as much as I could do IF, it maybe wasn’t the best for me.

I’m a runner, and I’m into strength training. To sustain my running and build my strength, I need to eat plenty calories. I move a lot. Through my training, walking and non exercise activity (stairs etc) I burn around 5000-6000 calories a week.

I’m still careful to try to eat well, but my calorie burn allows me to eat what I want, usually without any negative effects or fat gain. (I’ve put on weight, but not fat, burgers a whole other story).

I try to eat whole foods, and don’t eat bread, but eat most other things. I like to eat eggs, and berries, and I like meat and I drink a lot of water. I don’t drink alcohol which probably helps with weight maintenance too. But I also indulge, 3 course meals including puddings. Ice cream and mars bars. My exercise allows me to eat what I want calorie wise (and I do).

In the last few months I’ve packed on around 9lbs, but it seems not to be body fat, soon probably fuelling my strength training right to add mass instead of maintain my weight. Running and activity sure helps me to lose weight.

The way I started off losing weight, way back in 2008 when I was 147lbs was to increase my activity and aim to burn around 5000 calories through exercise, and to eat ‘healthy’. And it worked for me. Down 2 stone in 2 years.

But then again, I’m not obese. Being obese can have its own barriers to exercise, so maybe the BBC article has a good element of accuracy. Eat well, don’t over indulge, lower calorie intake, and you should lose weight.

(Even though without exercise). But exercise is good for you, for your mood, for your health, for your fitness levels and to prevent diseases.

Anyway, my summary of these two articles is, to make weight loss work for you, you need to find something that works for you and do it.

There are many gadgets and apps that can help, so you take the guesswork out of the whole process. My fitness pal and activity trackers are great ways to help you achieve your goals. (The Garmin vivoactive looks like an ideal GPS / activity tracker smart watch combination.)

Bob and Molly above, are simply using maths to create a calorie deficit and they’re successfully losing weight. They make it look easy and very impressive. It just works.

So if you can or you would like to do exercise, here are my tips:

1. Understand why you’re overweight or obese – look at how much and what you’re eating.

2. Learn to eat better, make better choices. Eat for satiety, eggs, berries, Greek yoghurt, veg, meat, nuts. Reduce or eliminate sugars, look at labels, if it has high sugars, choose something with less sugars.

3. Drink plenty of water, half your weight in lbs, in oz of water, daily. Other liquids could be black coffee or tea. Be careful of liquid calories.

4. Fuel your exercise, and if you want to, use my fitness pal to track calories in vs the calories you burn.

5. Get more active – if my fitness pal is too much main fence, just shoot for a daily activity goal: 10 or 15,000 steps a day? 3000-4000 Nike fuel pints? 2000 calories a day? Make it automatic – get an activity tracker to see how much activity you can do.

6. Choose an activity you enjoy – if you don’t like tuning, don’t do it. Walk, cycle, stair climber, rower, swimming, gym classes. Set yourself goals to achieve. 3-5 times a week. A certain distance or steps a week. Easy.

7. Use non exercise activity to get your calorie burn up. Take the stairs instead of the lift every time. Walk short journeys instead of taking the car. Be social, get out for walks with friends or family. Go to the park and have fun. Chase your kids around.

8. Enter and event or raise money for charity to help motivate you to get active. Set simple weekly goals to run 3-5 times a week to enable you to do your event, and make an outcome of your activity, weight loss.

9. Hire a PT or coach to really help push you in the right direction. (You can get a coach who will help you train, see Clare at Fitness Therapy Glasgow, me as a running coach, or Gordon at Kaizen Active for nutritional coaching).

10. Give yourself a good reason to lose weight and make it important. Choose to change your life forever (and make a pretty downward trend graph in the process).

The good news is, that if you can’t exercise (through injury or old age) or you don’t want to exercise (time or other reasons), you can use food and good choices, to lose weight.

I think it’s harder, but it’s maybe just a different type of discipline than using exercise / activity to lose weight.

If you can’t or don’t want to exercise, then you can use food to help you lose weight, but you need to find out what works for you.

1. See steps 1-3 above, understand why you’re oversight, eat well make better choices, find what works for you for weight loss, drink plenty water.

2. Read the 3 books above, about what is best to eat to help your body get a balance and lose weight. Learn about what to eat and do to change your life: Calorie Myth, Primal BluePrint & Why we get fat and what do about it.

3. Learn about and try intermittent fasting if you think it’ll work for you (instead of exercising).

4. See points 9-10 above – hire a nutritional coach, Gordon at Kaizen Active knows what he’s talking about. And make it important, your life and the example you set for your kids may depend on it.

You can do this. 🙂

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