There are so many books, articles, vids and every other sort of media imaginable that seemingly want to tell you how best to lose weight. The incredible number of diets out there is truly mindboggling – so much so in fact that many simply add to the confusion rather than give any real hope of long term weight loss.
Personally, a few years ago whilst enjoying a few weeks of the generous Italian hospitality of Lido de Jesolo near Venice, I managed to balloon up all the way to 117 kgs (257 lbs or 18 st 5 lbs). This was mainly because of the nigh on irresistible temptations of the abundant pizzas, pasta and ice cream that was oh so readily available in the resort.
Now, I am a pretty tall guy, but even so that was far, far too heavy to be considered healthy. I felt slow and bloated and noticed how even simple physical tasks were becoming more of a challenge. I resolved to do something about it and within a few months I had lost ten kilos and eventually, about a year later, I settled down to around 100 kgs where I have stayed ever since.
The lessons I learned back then form the first 4 of the 5 factors.
1. Avoid Fast Food
Not all fast food is poor nutritionally but so much of it is that it is often safer just to take the default position of avoiding it altogether. The usual suspects are often very high in calories, soaked in sugar and salt and often lack the vital nutrients your body needs that are contained within fresh, live food.
2. Avoid Over Eating
It can really be this simple! Many of us were brought up by our parents to ‘finish your food’ or to think of the starving millions in Africa who would be glad of the food we had left. This onerous guilt trip often stays with us later in life and we feel that if the food is presented to us we more or less have a duty to consume it.
Learn to listen to your body’s signal and turn away when you have had sufficient. Eat smaller portions (some even recommend keeping smaller plates in your kitchen). Most of us actually know when we are over doing it and we need to act on that knowledge.
3. Eat Fresh ‘Live’ Food
During my Italian episode this was one element that was sadly lacking. You cannot help but put on weight if the majority of your diet is pre-packaged, tinned or essentially ‘dead’ second hand food that has had the vast majority of its freshness and nutrients extracted from it by industrial scale preparation or simply cooked. Often the very best food as far as nutrients are concerned is the simplest prepared in the simplest ways, if at all. A regime made up of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables will not only be healthy but will also ensure that your weight will come increasingly under your control.
4. Avoid Snacking Between Meals
It is quite curious to look at the self-reports of people who are trying to lost weight. They often list all the foods that they ate at mealtimes but oddly tend to not list the little in between snacks, biscuits, chocolates and sweets. When asked about it afterwards, such people often believe that such small indulgences are not really relevant. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Those little indulgences are often packed with unneeded calories, sugars, salt and heaven knows what else.
Finally, I would like to add a fifth factor to this list that is based on relatively recent discoveries in the fields of not only weight loss but gerontology (the study of aging) as well. Actually, I am saying relatively recent but, in many ways, this particular intervention is as old as the hills.
In the last year I have experimented with this technique myself and have found that not only has my weight gone down from my usual and fairly constant 100 kgs, but that the weight has actually stayed off with very little extra effort.
Using this method I now find myself to be normally around 93 or 94 kgs (205 lbs or 14 st 9 lbs) and have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 22.5, more or less right in the middle of the healthy band.
So, the final factor, and perhaps the most important one is…
5. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting, or IF, has proven in recent years to be a very simple and very effective way of both losing weight and keeping that weight off. The idea is very straightforward: you build a period into your normal daily or weekly routine wherein you fast completely save for water, coffee and tea. The latter two are to be taken without milk or sugar, although you can use artificial sweeteners for flavour if you feel the need.
For me personally, I have found that the 8:16 method works particularly well. This means 8 hours of eating per day followed by 16 hours of fasting. This is nothing like as hard as it might sound as 8 or so of the 16 are spent sleeping! Others prefer 5:2, meaning five days of eating normally during the week but with the addition of a couple of fasting days, say Monday and Friday. I tried this method myself for a month but found it far more onerous. I normally eat breakfast at around 8 a.m. most days and then can eat all the way up to four in the afternoon.
There is much more to IF than I have covered here, but I will leave that to another article for now. The one aspect I will mention briefly is that the process has also been found to stimulate internal cleansing on a cellular level. A Japanese scientist, Yoshinori Ohsumi, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work in this field but… more of that in a future blog!