Archive for the 'Weight Loss Tips' Category

How can I quit smoking without gaining weight

Question: I have been a smoker for almost 15 years now and smoke a pack a day. I really want to quit smoking but I am super conscious about my weight and am so scared that I will get fat. Is there any way I can quit smoking cigarettes without gaining weight, or better still, lose weight?

Answer: This is probably the biggest fear for the majority of smokers. It is also one of those questions where the answer may not be what we would have wanted but where it is important to consider the longer term consequences rather than short term results. On average, most people gain approximately 5-8 pounds when they stop smoking in the first 6 months, which is probably less than is generally believed. It is also surprising how many ex-smokers very soon lose all the weight gained and more by enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle, unconstrained by cigarettes.

It is true that smoking cigarettes increase your metabolic rate. Your metabolism gets faster for all the wrong reasons of course, since you are in effect poisoning your body. Your body reacts to these toxins by going into a defensive state and releases more adrenaline which in turn speeds up your metabolism. It is estimated that you burn approximately 200 extra calories per day if you are a heavy smoker, so when you stop smoking you need to adjust your calorie intake to compensate for the reduction in caloric requirements. The other option of course is to increase your activity levels.

A number of factors play a role in the weight people gain when they stop smoking. Firstly, when you stop smoking your body becomes healthier and with it your digestive processes, allowing you to get more benefits from the food you are taking in. Also, many people find that it is only too easy to overeat when they stop smoking because food suddenly tastes and smells so much better. Lastly, many people need a new crutch and often replace food for cigarettes which (depending on what you are nibbling on) can account for many unnecessary calories.

To minimize weight gain when you quit the cancer sticks, make sure that you stick to natural, healthy and non-processed foods. Steer well clear of any processed foods, i.e. anything that comes in bags, cans, bottles bags or tins. If you do this and have plenty of water every day, you may even find that you eat less (and better) than you did before you stopped smoking. It is very hard to overeat on a diet of lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.

As soon as you quit smoking, you body will start getting rid of all the toxins smoking brought with it. In doing so, you are not only reducing your risk for cancer and all sorts of heart and lung disease, but you are also giving your body the opportunity to re-balance your hormones and speed up your metabolism in the long run. Your energy levels will go up and if you switch to a healthier lifestyle you may well soon realize that you are fitter, healthier and more in shape than you ever were before you stopped smoking.

The key to success is to be patient, choose a stop smoking strategy that can help you minimize the weight you do gain, and to switch to a healthier and more active lifestyle early on. Do not start smoking again the minute you see an increase on the scales. Realize that any increases are temporary and that you are going to be much better off in the future.

As with anything in life different strategies work for different people, but one strategy to quit smoking that does not rely on replacing the cigarettes with anything else and as such reduce the chances of weight gain is Allen Carr’s Stop Smoking The Easy Way.

What is starvation mode and how does it affect weight loss

Question: I have been told that when I eat too little, my body goes into starvation mode to protect itself, and that it will slow down my weight loss. Is this true and how can I avoid starvation mode?

Answer: Many weight loss coaches use the term “starvation mode” to describe your body’s natural response to protect itself when you don’t eat enough for extended periods. When you regularly eat too little food to provide your body with the necessary nutrients, it perceives itself to be in danger from starvation. Since your body is wonderfully designed to protect you, it will slow down your metabolism to conserve energy so it can keep vital organs such as the brain and the heart going for as long as possible in the face of the perceived threat. While it will burn fat for fuel, it will also start burning lean muscle mass for fuel, which will slow down your metabolism even further. People on starvation diets invariably find that they regain all the weight they’ve lost (and then some) very quickly as soon as they start eating again.

While a starvation diet may help you lose weight quite fast in the short term, you will pay a heavy price because you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of weight problems. Your metabolism gets progressively slower with each day you remain on a starvation diet. This resultant slower metabolism needs less fuel, so you consistently have to eat less and less to lose weight! As your metabolism slows down even further and your lean muscle mass dwindles you will also find that you become more and more tired. This in turn means you will get less exercise, which leaves you with less lean muscle, and an even slower metabolism. It really is a vicious cycle. The importance of protecting your lean muscle mass to boost your metabolism can not be stressed enough.

The question arises: when does your body go into starvation mode? As with anything that involves the human body, there is no one single answer that will be true for everyone. The levels at which starvation mode kicks in vary from person to person. What we can do though, is understand how it gets triggered so we can avoid getting our bodies in that state. Your decision of how much to eat should be based on your individual Total Daily Energy Requirements, which takes into account a variety of factors including height, weight, age, gender and activity levels. If you want to lose weight safely, without setting off the alarm bells in your body; aim to eat approximately 300 – 500 calories less than your total daily requirements. This will provide your body with enough fuel to keep it going comfortably, but will still create a sufficient caloric deficit to ensure that you lose weight. To protect your metabolism even further, make sure your diet contains enough protein and that you maintain / increase your activity levels.

Note. You will find that many experts advise you not to eat less than 1 200 calories per day to prevent starvation mode. This is just a general rule of thumb to provide advice in the absence of enough information. To be safe, get your individual Total Daily Energy Requirements calculated, and follow the advice above.

Is it true that smaller, more regular meals can help me lose weight

Question: My GP told me that if I want to lose weight I should have smaller meals more frequently. How can eating smaller meals more often help me lose weight?

Answer: Gaining control over what you eat, how much, and when, is the key to losing weight and maintaining your goal weight. If you battle to control your weight and your appetite; your biggest problem is most likely keeping your blood sugar levels stable. The level of sugar in your blood tells your body when it needs food and how urgently it needs it. You can never be in control of your appetite until you have your blood sugar levels in check. With blood sugar levels out of kilter you will simply be responding to distress signals sent out by your brain to your body all the time.

How does it work then? When you go without food for more than 4 hours at a time your blood sugar plummets, resulting in a raging appetite that can easily overpower your best intentions to stick your your weight loss plan. When you then eat a large meal (especially one high in refined carbohydrates), it causes a spike in your blood sugar immediately following the meal. You body will use what energy it can from this sugar rush, and store the rest as fat. An oversupply of insulin to cope with these unnaturally high blood sugar levels in turn result in very low blood sugar levels a couple of hours later. You will feel ravenous and tired, and so the vicious cycle continues.

Having smaller meals more regularly (at least every 4 hours) will result in smaller blood sugar spikes after the meals, followed by smaller blood sugar drops, i.e. more stable blood sugar levels. Your body does not need to send out any distress signals, because it has a consistent source of energy. This means that you will finally be in control what you eat, how much, and when. To keep your blood sugar levels even more stable, ensure that each meal contains some lean protein, fiber-rich fruit or vegetables and some “good fats” such as olive oil or avocado. Not only will this combination of macro-ingredients reduce the impact of the meal on your blood sugar levels, but it will also keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Use this free online food diary to capture what you eat and drink. It will also tell you the protein, carb and fat content of each meal.

What is a good diet for me

Question: I have to lose a lot of weight (about 50 pounds) fast. What would the best diet or weight loss plan be for me?

Answer: The right diet for you really depends on your personal tastes and lifestyle. If you chose a diet that is well-suited to your taste in food and your lifestyle; it will be so much easier to stick to it and it will really enhance your chances of success. A healthy diet is one that becomes a new way of eating, so the weight you do lose can stay off permanently. A recent scientific study on choosing a diet suggested that; as long as you choose a healthy and well balanced diet, the actual mix of protein, carbs, and fats is not that important. It is far more important that you are able to stick to the plan and make a permanent lifestyle change.

For example; if you love red meat the Atkins Diet may be the best weight loss plan for you, while the Mediterranean Diet may be just the one if you love fish. Of course, if cooking is your pet hate, something like NutriSystem may offer a better fit to your lifestyle. If you are the type of person that needs more structure and support, Weight Watchers offers a proven approach and support network.

So take your time and choose your diet carefully considering everything you’ve learned from your past weight loss experiences. Whichever one you choose, break that 60 lbs down into mini-goals and celebrate the achievement of each; then the whole weight loss journey will not seem quite so daunting. There is nothing that motivates like success.

And if your first diet choice turned out to be the wrong choice, try something else until you find a weight loss plan that works for you.

Does muscle really weigh more than fat

Question: I’ve often heard people say that muscle weighs more than fat. Can this explain why I haven’t lost so much weight since I started working out?

Answer: Well, yes and no. One pound of muscle and one pound of fat will both reflect a pound of weight on the scales, so in effect there is no difference between “fat weight” and “muscle weight”, as far as the scales go. But all pounds are not made equal. Muscle is more dense than fat; so a smaller volume of muscle will weigh the same as a larger volume of fat. So, if you have plenty of lean muscle mass, you may weigh as much or even more than someone with more fat, but you will be leaner. The other advantage of lean muscle mass over fat is of course that it increases your metabolic rate, which helps you lose weight, maintain your goal weight, and allow you to eat more without gaining weight. The reason for this is that while one pound of muscle burns about 6 calories per day, one pound of fat only burns 2 calories per day! The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even while you rest.

In light of the discussion above you may want to change your stated goal to start losing fat (or inches), instead of weight. The last thing you want to lose is lean muscle mass; which is exactly what you lose on the majority of popular crash diets. Follow a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of protein combined with a good exercise program, and boost your metabolism for permanent weight loss. For more information on the different diets see our diet reviews.

How do I lose belly fat

Question: I have some extra fat around the waist that I really battle to get rid of. Any suggestions on how to lose this unnecessary belly fat?

Answer: Most experts agree that targeted weight loss is unlikely on most diets; but there does seem to be some scientific evidence that the Mediterranean way of eating can actually help people lose fat around the waist area. This is most probably due to the high “good fats” or “monounsaturated fats” content in the Mediterranean dishes. Good sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) include olive oil, avocados and nuts. These good fats will not only help you lose belly fat; it can also help to protect you against heart disease and cancer. MUFAs make food taste better and helps reduce the glycemic load on most foods, so you stay fuller for longer and have more control over your appetite. In short, a good supply of monounsaturated fats is a critical part of any healthy and balanced diet.

For more information see these articles on the Mediterranean Diet and the Flat Belly Diet.

Can Diet Sodas actually help you lose weight

Question: I always thought diet sodas are great if you want to lose weight, but someone told me it may actually hinder rather than help weight loss efforts?

Answer: The jury is still out on this question, although there does seem to be at least some evidence that aspartame (the artificial sweetener typically used in diet sodas) can disrupt the balance of the hormones in your endocrine system, which is also responsible for your metabolism. So yes, diet sodas can potentially slow down your metabolism and result in weight gain. Aspertame has also been identified as a potentially carcinogenic substance, i.e. there are evidence linking the use of aspartame to cancer. The best thing to do is switch to water. If you need to use an artificial sweetener, try and stick to sucralose (Splenda), or Stevia. They are both regarded as safe artificial sweeteners, and they can be of great assistance in reducing your daily calorie intake. Continue reading ‘Can Diet Sodas actually help you lose weight’

How many calories should I consume daily for weight loss

Question: I want to lose weight safely and keep it off. How many calories should I consume daily?

Answer: We all have different energy requirements. These energy requirements (referred to as TER for Total Energy Requirements) are calculated taking into account a number of variables including sex, age, height, activity levels, current weight, lean muscle mass, bone structure and activity levels. If you want to lose weight gradually and permanently; ensure that the calories you take in are almost always less than the calories your body requires on any given day. To keep you going as you have been, your body then uses stored fat to make up for the energy shortfall. If you consume about 300-500 calories per day less than your calculated TER, you will lose weight safely at a rate of approximately 1-2 pounds per week. As a general rule, never reduce your total calorie intake to less than 1 200 calories per day, since too little food can be counterproductive. For a free TER calculator and food journal to track your daily calorie intake, try these free weight loss tools.

How do I recover from a diet slip-up

Question: I have been doing extremely well following my diet until last night. I went to a friend’s birthday party, and I just couldn’t stop myself from indulging in all the treats! This morning I woke up very angry with myself for this diet slip-up, and I am so worried that I may have sabotaged my own weight loss effort.

Answer: We’ve all experienced the occasional diet slip-up! You would not be human if you did not occasionally stray from your diet. If you are following a healthy and nutritious diet 95% of the time, the odd treat should not affect your weight loss effort in any remarkable way. One of the biggest reasons diets fail is that people are too strict on themselves. When they then naturally overstep the boundaries, they feel like failures and give up on their diets.

Recognize the fact that you are human, that you need the occasional treat, and that it is important to participate in social events. Plan to overstep the boundaries on special occasions. Just don’t do it too often. Most importantly, even if you have made an unplanned mistake; forgive yourself and just continue with your diet immediately as if the slip-up never happened. You will very soon recover any lost ground and be back on track. The worst thing you can do is to give up.

Make sure the weight loss plan that you’ve chosen suits you and your lifestyle. You have to make it as easy as possible for yourself to stick to the diet. If you find it really, really difficult to stick to your chosen diet, start shopping around for one that is more closely aligned to your tastes, personality and lifestyle.

More weight loss tips.