Sure, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and the scale is often the quickest way to do that. But don’t become obsessed with weighing in. I realised it was more important to eat healthily, move more and moderate my alcohol consumption than worry about the number on the scale.
Here’s what I did:
I ditched the scale
Firstly, I stopped weighing myself as often as I did. Instead (because we’ve heard so often that muscle weighs more than fat), I took regular measurements. And then I took it one step further by taking photos every month.
I started to see a noticeable difference in the early months even when the scale wouldn’t budge. I was losing my belly fat, my waist looked more toned and even my cellulite was improving. It also helped for the weeks when the scale suddenly went up (hello PMS, hello water retention). I realised the scale was not a reliable method for tracking a healthy lifestyle.
I walked more
I used to think I needed to do hectic cardio-based workouts that would make me sweat, or start running (I still haven’t started). Instead, I met someone who lives in my area (we’ve become good friends and bonded over a healthier lifestyle) and we walk almost every day.
Since we’ve started, I have noticed that my step count hits around 10 000 steps most days. Now, that doesn’t mean I walk 8km every afternoon – these are the steps I accumulate throughout the day. I was quite surprised to see how many steps I take – to the kitchen to make tea, to the bathroom, to the car, around the house...
When the afternoons swing around, however, we are so busy chatting that we don’t notice the time – or the kilometres – disappear. Most days we average about 5km.
What the science says:
Why 10 000 steps? According to an article on Fitbit’s blog, 10 000 steps adds up to around 8km, which includes about 30 minutes of exercise – and the global recommendation is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You may need to get more (or fewer) steps in depending on your personal goals.
A good place to start is to figure out how much weight you’d like to lose. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says you should aim for slow weight loss (that’s how you get lasting results) of about 450g a week. If you walk 10 000 steps a day, you’ll typically burn around 8 368 to 14 644 extra kilojoules every week. Now, 450g of body fat equals about 14 644kJ, so depending on your current weight and workout intensity, you could lose about 450g per week just by walking 10 000 steps a day. This, of course, also depends on your kilojoule intake.
I found something I enjoyed
All too often exercise becomes a chore. We find ourselves slogging away on the treadmill to try and get our 30 minutes of exercise in for the day. That’s all wrong; you need to find something you enjoy. Something that you start to miss when you can’t do it because of an injury or flu. For me that something was yoga (and walking, too).
I spend at least 30 minutes every day doing yoga. I’m probably not very good at it and most definitely look ridiculous, but I enjoy it and some days I do feel DOMS (delayed onset muscle stiffness) after a particularly challenging flow.
It’s also important to remain consist and not slack off over the weekends when it’s tempting to binge watch your favourite show on the couch with (un)healthy snacks.
For me, that means my husband I taking our two rescue dogs, Tosca and Carmen, for an off-lead walk – some days we head off to the mountains for a hike, other days it's a long walk on the beach. They enjoy it, we enjoy it – we're getting outdoors and exercising, so it's a win-win.
I moderated my alcohol consumption
This was a no-brainer. Consuming alcohol is effectively drinking empty kilojoules. I wasn’t about to give it up entirely because I believe everything in life is about moderation (alcohol, chocolate, carbs and yes, even exercise). Instead I found ways to cut back on my consumption – it was a simple change but I quickly saw the fat disappear from my belly (this was the most concerning weight gain for me).
Instead of having a bottle of wine on a Friday night, my husband and I would have a whisky. We still share that bottle of wine but just not as often.
What the science says:
You should know that alcohol is void of nutrition. While the kilojoules in a plate of vegetables offer great nutritional value, the kilojoules in a glass of wine won’t.
“It’s important to look at alcohol in terms of [kilojoules],” Dr Fatima Cody Stanford, instructor of medicine and paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Women’s Health.
You also need to take note of how much you are drinking, because according to Dr Stanford people often underestimate how much they’re drinking. For example, a serving of wine is about 148ml but at home you're more likely to pour a much larger glass. “Whatever you think you’re having, you probably need to cut that in half,” Stanford says.
Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also told Women's Health that excess alcohol can turn into fat in your liver, which raises the amount of fat in your blood. And that means your body is more likely to store it as fat.
But, you don't to stop drinking altogether. You just need to exercise moderation as I did. “The extra [kilojoules] from moderate drinking (one serving of alcohol for women a day or two servings for men per day) can certainly fit into the [kilojoule] allotment for weight maintenance,” says Angelone. She adds that you need to count those kilojoules with what you eat.
Do it for your health
Of course we all aspire to look good because when we look good, we feel good, right? Wrong. That’s how exercising quickly becomes a chore. If your only goal is to achieve that elusive thigh gap or six-pack, you need to change your mindset and realise that you should be exercising for your health, not your vanity.
For me, yes, my clothes were feeling tight and I hate the cellulite that has been plagued me since I hit puberty. But what was more important was my health – I suffer from depression and while many people find that regular exercise gives them more energy and helps them sleep better at night, nothing has changed for me.
I’m about six months into my new, healthier lifestyle and I am still constantly fatigued. But I know that what I’m achieving is good for me – my heart is happy, my lungs breathe more easily and my muscles are getting stronger. And, as a bonus, my clothes don't feel as tight.
Disclaimer: Please note this article is based solely on personal experience and is not an endorsement of a weight-loss method by Health24.
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