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Have your cake, but exercise

 

From new year onwards I see a lot of diets flying around as well as brides wanting to lose some weight for their wedding day, sometimes utilising some very weird and wonderful eating and exercise plans.

Not too many will know this but in between catering and now wedding cakes I spent 8 years in the fitness industry as an instructor then a manger of a facility. So, as a change from the norm I thought I’d weigh in (geddit?) with my tips on maintaining a healthy weight up to and beyond your nuptials. A lot of people find the gym/cake thing a bit at odds but I do believe you can enjoy food without sacrificing your health. It’s great looking good for your wedding day but still being able to stroll down that beach hand in hand when you are both 80 is priceless, as well as being able to pass a long, happy and healthy life on to your family.

Diets

‘Diets’. DON’T. Not ever. They work for the people that make money from them in books/bars etc. – not you long term.

Faddy diets will not work past a year in 90% of cases. Sticking to something that restricts what you eat day to day or needs constant monitoring is too hard to keep up for life. I’ve done it. Lasted two weeks tops.

The key to permanent weight loss is to make small changes or swaps that can become second nature rather than something to obsess about constantly which can just makes things worse.

If you can knock 100 calories a day off to start you will see a difference. Try to avoid processed food as much as you can (especially sugar and processed fats, butter is best!), have a couple of slices of bread less a day and if you take sugar in tea see if you can reduce or even stop this.

Weigh portions for a while, it’s scary… A well-known breakfast muesli says there are 200 odd calories per portion. I weighed out this portion once out of curiosity – it barely covered the bottom of the bowl. The effect being I was probably having two or three times that portion, making my breakfast nearer to 600 calories while assuming I’ve had around 200/300. Unrealistic portion sizes are massively to blame for eating too many calories without realising. Getting a feel for calories per portion and what that actually looks like is a good way of visualising how much food you really need.

Low fat foods are full of sugar which ends up in the same place ie. your hips. They also don’t fill you up. Eat full fat natural products but eat a little less. The fact that you think you feel like you have been a little ‘naughty’ and the fact that they are more satisfying will help.

Instead of thinking about what you have to leave out, think more about what you need to put in. If you can approach from a nutritional viewpoint rather than purely weight loss, the end product will generally be a healthier diet and weight loss will come naturally. Do some research, arming yourself with knowledge gives you confidence in what you are trying to achieve.

Don’t beat yourself up over that cake with your coffee. As long as it’s not all the time it’s fine… It’s all about balance. Being healthy 80% of the time is perfectly ok and healthy food does not have to be tasteless rabbit food, don’t fall into the cliché of thinking a good diet = rubbish food, it’s just not the case.

Pace yourself! Steady weight loss is easier to maintain and is easier on your heart, especially if you have a bit to lose. Don’t lose one week, or even two? Don’t worry, sometimes it takes a while to catch up – but it will!

Exercise

This medium sized word strikes large scale terror into the hearts of many.

Unfortunately diet and exercise are inextricably linked. It is far too hard to lose weight just doing one or the other. A far better option to either eating only cabbage and maple syrup or running a marathon every other day is to do both moderately…

A good proportion of people do little formal exercise since they left school and the worrying trend of bed/car/chair at work then again in reverse is terrifying – and is leaving a huge health time bomb sitting under us all. Not only for our hearts but also our backs, spent rested against a chair of some sort all day rather than being used to support us. Standing desks are becoming popular – your back is being used and you burn more calories than being sat all day. Even if just for an hour or so this could make a difference if you workplace can allow it.

Seriously think about just moving more in the day. Can you walk to work, or halfway? Can you go for a walk in your lunch hour? Use steps instead of the lift?

Make time for some sort of exercise each day, even if it just a power walk around the block. You really need to be moving to a point where you are out of breath for a cumulative hour every day.

I love to run and have done all my life and it is one of the easiest and cheapest forms of exercise as well as being good fitting in with daily life (step out the door, do whatever time you fancy, bosh). HOWEVER… Don’t suddenly after 10 years of inactivity pull on your Adidas and train for a marathon or you WILL end up injured and WILL probably hate it. Start slow. For the first month I would do light walk/jogs with lots of leg strengthening exercises to build up your joints and tendons. Then slowly build – you will be surprised how quickly you get fitter and may even want to set a goal like a 5 or 10k race. A goal is great for keeping you focused and doing something for charity that you can’t back out of helps too!

Of course running is not for all, cycling and swimming are all great as well as hiking or power walking and are a little more forgiving on any existing injuries.

You can usually find some great classes either at a gym or in local halls for not a huge amount of money. Go with a friend and have a laugh! No competitiveness and you can work at your own pace. A circuits class if you can find one is great for overall fitness and you can chose which stations you do.

Find something you find fun – you are more likely to do it and keep it up if you enjoy it. It can be anything as long as you are moving and a bit sweaty!

Women – please do resistance work… Ladies often shy away from weights but they are essential in tandem with moderate impact exercises in keeping your bone density up – which will come in majorly handy post menopause. Osteoporosis is not a nice condition and very debilitating, affecting millions of women’s quality of life later on. As well as this the more muscle you have the more calories your burn as they take more energy to maintain. As a fitness instructor I can tell those who have lost weight from exercise and those who have dieted it off, and it’s all about muscle tone. Once you get past 35 thin ‘aint pretty if it’s hanging over unused muscle… Don’t embark on a complicated regime that’s hard to fit in, simple box press-ups and a few curls will use a lot of muscle in one go and make a lot of difference. I always advocate free weights (dumbbells) rather than machines so that you are using all your support muscles as well, rather than the machine supporting you. Great for the core! Lunges and squats with or without weight are great for lower body muscles and toning.

There are lots of resources on the internet regarding exercises but if you can it’s great to get a session or so in the gym with an instructor who can show you how to do everything safely, especially if you have an existing condition or injury. Keep it simple and safe.

Make sure when you do anything you are actually working. Working in a gym you do meet a certain amount of people who think because they have walked in and stood on a machine at the lowest level means they have done a work out (and therefore deserve a Mars Bar)… One of the main reasons for people quitting the gym for ‘non results’ is this phenomenon. I’m not saying kill yourself but getting fitter naturally takes a little bit of effort.

Don’t put pressure on yourself and keep sight of why you are doing it and the benefits to you. Even working in a gym I put weight on after I got married and while I did a bit of exercise I’m probably only just getting back to previous levels. Life happens, time is precious but you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you look after yourselves, a few small changes can make all the difference.

Please note – see a GP  if you want to embark on any fitness program if you have any underlying health issues.

 
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