At a fundamental level excess weight is about an imbalance of energy input (food calories) and output (activity and exercise). We cannot get away from this boring fact. This is a basic principle of physics and a fundamental universal law . Energy is proportional to mass. If you are overweight, unfortunately there is no denying that you are storing fat because there is an imbalance between the amount or type of energy you are putting into your body and the energy you are using up. You cannot create energy or body weight without eating. This is something that is in your control (not fate or genetic destiny). Historically we wouldn’t see obese individuals in populations where food was limited and high activity levels were required to maintain everyday life.
However, it is a little more complex than simply counting the calories that go in and the calories you burn because the types of food you eat are equally important (as well as the amount or volume) and we will explore the this later.
Now to confront the genetics issue. Genetics are clearly important but they are not fate. We are all born with a genetic roadmap that governs our lives but it is our environmental exposures which affects how this genetic roadmap is interpreted. We cannot currently alter the cards we are dealt with in terms of our genetic predispositions and there are individuals who are genetically more susceptible to weight gain as compared to other lucky individuals. However, you must adjust your lifestyle within the limitations of your genetics. Unfortunately if you are more susceptible to weight gain you need to be more careful with the foods you eat and your levels of activity — these are things which are within your control (unlike the genetics which are out of your control). For these reasons we cannot hide behind the excuse of genetics and it’s a fact that most overweight families have an inappropriate lifestyle (i.e. imbalance of diet and activity) for their particular set of genetics.
The same argument and principles apply for ‘metabolism’. Again this is a complex and poorly understood subject which is further complicated in the public eye by the information and opinions propagated by unqualified individuals without the appropriate expertise to fully understand the subject they are advising on. If you think you have a ‘slow metabolism’ then you can do something about it. In simple terms you can manipulate your ‘metabolism’ through activity (even more effective in cool environments), by training your body to increase muscle mass or reduce fat (muscle has a higher metabolic rate) and by eating the right foods — importantly you need to avoid foods which our bodies want to turn to stored fat. This all still applies even if you have a medical condition such as hypothyroidism. Naturally as we get older our metabolic rate slow but in parallel we are usually much less active than in our younger years.
Now for the exciting and motivating bit — simple everyday principles make a big difference. With small consistent adjustments there is potential to make profound differences to your overall health and the results can be seen quickly. You can ‘cure’ yourself of high blood pressure, bad cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes and avoid or stop tablets. The first step is to optimise weight by applying the following simple principles — not through restriction or strange diets. Later on we will explore targeted and tailored strategies against specific risk factors like blood pressure or cholesterol.
The First Step
Start a ‘one month to change your life’ diary or calendar — this is best displayed in a prominent place (like your fridge door):
- Mark your start day when you feel you can commit to your new life. Psychologically make a big deal to mark this day and tell your family and friends or celebrate with a special meal the night before.
- Weigh yourself on a good set of scales. If you don’t have a good set then buy one as part of the ritual of changing your life. You need to monitor your weight on the same scales and roughly at the same time of day (e.g. morning in your PJs). Document this baseline weight on your start day calendar.
- Measure your waist circumference. Take a tape measure to the fattest part of your belly and document this in your calendar.
- If you have high blood pressure then it’s a good idea to buy your own home monitor — these can be purchased in pharmacies or online and are relatively inexpensive. Take a reading in each arm and document the highest in your calendar.
- If you have high cholesterol then find out your total cholesterol from your doctor and put this in the calendar. By taking charge and understanding your own risk factors you will be much more successful in improving your health in parallel with the help of your doctor.
- Finally mark out your review day one month later. For the next 30 days or so you need to be committed and motivated. Keep thinking that you will have achieved something significant in only one month of your life — improve your future prognosis (live longer without illness) and quality of life.
It will be exciting to see the results at the end of the month.