Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Yesterday a I received a message from a lady who has reached the point where enough is enough.
I won't reveal her actual name, let's call her Claire.
In her eyes, her weight and unhealthy lifestyle are affecting her ability to be a good mum.
Claire first realised that her weight was becoming a problem during the first lockdown.
Claire found herself out of breath and aching after playing with her kids in the back garden.
As the months have passed, Claire has gained further weight and has found herself making excuses not to play any active games with her children.
Claire's worried not only about the damage she's doing to her health but also potential long term damage to her children's futures because they are spending more and more time on their games consoles.
Claire knows that she needs to change her lifestyle and has spent the last few months reading about other peoples success stories - so much so that she's even more confused by the barrage of information.
When I asked her how she feels, she replied: "Overweight, unhappy, tired all of the time, mardy, judgemental and jealous of others that have lost weight, and I'm slowly finding myself withdrawing from doing things I used to like."
Claire has a limited budget, three children, 15kg to lose and the restrictions of lockdown 3 to work around.
Claire's contacted me for advice and to help her get started.
What do I need to do to lose weight?
Here are the two things I've asked her to do:
Walking for weight loss
According to her step tracker, she averages around 5,000 steps a day during this lockdown.
I've explained that a vital part of reaching your ideal body goal is being active.
And, the simplest, most accessible way to increase your activity level is to walk, but it's often the most neglected.
The biggest source of your daily calorie burn is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) - the energy you burn doing things like walking, cleaning and gardening.
The more you move, the more calories you burn.
So, I've set Claire a daily goal of doubling her step count.
I'm often asked if you can lose weight by walking an hour a day
The simple answer is yes.
I've asked Claire to schedule a 1-hour walk every day, either on her own whilst her husband is at home with the kids, or as a family.
The 1-hour walk is in addition to her average step count.
I don't want her to get up at 7 am, smash her walk out before breakfast and then sit around for the rest of the day.
Claire asked if she should exercise as well as adding in the 1-hour walks?
It's worth noting that just because you're not out of breath and dripping with sweat doesn't mean that your activity doesn't count.
The opposite counts.
All of your activity, no matter how 'light' or 'easy' adds up and counts over the day.
This is why I band the drum about everyone doing a minimum of 10,000 steps a day.
For Claire, the exercise will be added later.
The first step is taking 10,000 steps a day and build that into a new lifestyle habit.
That takes time and by adding in too many new things for Claire to do could be overwhelming, leading to burning out and then giving up.
For now, I want Claire to walk an additional 1-hour every day and also remember that every activity adds up:
Mopping and sweeping the floors burn 156 calories an hour
Light gardening burns 250 calories an hour.
Using a standing desk can burn 98 calories an hour.
Walking the dog around the block burns between 100 and 200 calories.
And finally, taking a 5-minute walk every hour over an eight hour working day could burn an extra 660 calories per week.
Added up over the year - you could lose about 9 or 10 pounds just by taking those 5-minute walks!
I explained to Claire that successful dieting does not go hand in hand with being a perfect dieter.
Rigid dieting for most people is no fun whatsoever.
In fact, dieting in such a way that it goes against your personal preferences is likely to hinder rather than help you achieve your long-term goals.
Being fixated on what you eat 24/7 with no flexibility can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame and obsessive behaviour.
In the past Claire:
Adopted diets she did not enjoy and felt restricted, and missed eating her favourite foods.
Claire overreacted when she 'Fell off the wagon' ... She 'gave in' and went off her diet, got mad and told herself that she had failed.
She did not adopt sustainable behaviours ... Claire went for the 'quick fix' but quickly found out that it doesn't exist without long-term behavioural change.
I explained that to make long-term lifestyle changes Claire needs to know what she's eating and what changes she can make to ensure the process is as efficient as possible.
Being aware of how many calories she's consuming daily gives her flexibility in what she can eat and how much of it.
This way of eating provides Claire with freedom in her food choices, which may help keep weight off over time and create a positive and healthy relationship with food.
Calorie counting is a short term measure to achieve long term success.
Like millions of others, Claire has MyFitnessPal already downloaded to her phone but she has never really used it properly.
I've asked Claire to focus on her daily step count for the next two weeks.
I don't want her to worry about food choices or additional intense exercise.
All I want is for her to be consistent with hitting 10,000 steps every day.
After two weeks, we'll evaluate Claire's progress by checking measurements and discussing how she feels.
If she is losing weight, we won't make any changes just yet, we'll continue with just the walking for another two weeks before reviewing the process again.
After four weeks, if we are both happy with the progress' I'll then ask Claire to add calorie counting to her plan.
This doesn't mean that I'll be asking Claire to restrict her food choices or the amount she eats.
I simply want to know how many calories she eats on an average day.
Claire will then use MyFitnessPal to record the food and drinks she consumes each day so I can build up a picture of her daily eating habits and where we can make small, rewarding changes.
And that's it
For the next 4-6 weeks, I want Claire to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day and introduce calorie tracking once the steps are an established habit.
Consistency is key: I asked Claire to track every step and everything she puts into her mouth.
And make it her new way of life.
Having good habits helps you ride through the times that you're feeling unmotivated. It's impossible to feel motivated every single day.
But if you have the habits, you go through the motions until that motivation comes back.
To sum up
Losing 15kg or any substantial amount of weight does not happen overnight.
It starts with adding in small lifestyle changes that build over time.
You have to commit to doing it and then you’ve got to stick with it and be consistent.
The key is to find a way to lose weight that you enjoy.
One that makes your life happier and healthier.
For long term weight management to be successful, your diet and activities must fit around your lifestyle and not the other way around.
The best way to lose weight and become fitter is to find a process that you can adhere to and enables you to make consistent progress without controlling your life
Ben Yates is a personal trainer based at Places Gym Hinckley and Hinckley Leisure Centre in Leicestershire.
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