Weight loss: How small changes can lead to huge changes

Whether you are an athlete or not, losing weight is often a goal for many of us, whether that's a New Year's resolution or getting your body beach ready for a summer holiday.

Despite being a pretty active person I have battled with the flab most of my adult life. While giving up alcohol has helped me lose weight, it is definitely one of my main goals for the coming Triathlon season.

The main reason for this is that it's a very effective way of getting quicker.

This is an older version, the latest edition has an even more exciting triathlon picture on the front
According to The Triathlete’s Training Bible (which is written by triathlon coaching legend Joe Friel and is a bit like a bible for triathletes in training) losing 10 pounds of excess flab means you can ride up a hill 7-10 per cent faster and run 5km around a minute quicker without putting in any extra training.

So for someone like me, who carries considerably more than 10 pounds of excess flab, it’s a bit of a no brainer.

For example, one of the first events I am taking part in this year is the Brighton Half Marathon. It’s my aim to complete this in under two hours (well 1hr and 50 mins if you go by a slightly over exuberant post I wrote in October).

My quickest half marathon so far is 2 hrs 6 mins 48 secs. This was a relatively flat course, so not dissimilar to the Brighton Half Marathon. 

So based on Joe’s numbers, by losing 10 pounds I should be able to finish in at least 2 hrs 3 mins. So if I can lose a bit more than that, I should be able to complete my goal without putting in a horrendous amount of training

But as I’ve said, despite six years of endurance sport, I’m still (what people often refer to me as) a “Big Fella.”

Well, I was. Since the New Year the weight has been falling off me (approximately half a stone in two weeks).

Satire alert: This is not Carillion's share price

So what’s my magical secret? To be honest it’s nothing groundbreaking but I have been quite surprised at how effective my approach has been. 

And all I have done is make three slight changes to my lifestyle (well, on top of the huge lifestyle change of giving up alcohol) that anyone can do, regardless of age, size or athletic ability.

But before you read any further, I will emphasise the fact that I am neither a nutritionist or dietitian. These are approaches that I have stumbled upon that have worked for me. 

1)     Step it up

In recent years it’s been reported that sitting is the new smoking. Spending our days on our backsides, glued to a computer screen, is shortening our lives. 

As a result we need to be upping our activity levels by taking the office stairs instead of the lift (or elevator for my American friends), getting off a bus, train, or underground (or Metro for my American friends) one stop early to increase our activity. 

Because if we don’t do at least 10,000 steps a day, we may not live to see the morning.

Don't be too alarmed, I haven't done the school run yet

The problem is I work in a shed in my garden, which doesn’t involve many steps at all (how my friends eagerly await my annual commuting joke about not being able to make it into work when we have a light dusting of snow).

Personally I think this "top bantz" was worthy of at least a laughter emoticon

So, at the start of January I made it my aim to get out for a walk everyday (on top of my normal exercise, unless it’s a run session) to ensure that I accomplish the magic 10,000 steps (which isn’t actually based on any science and is just an arbitrary number. Although the science on the ill effects of having a sedentary lifestyle does stack up.)

So far I have managed to achieve this. 

2) Count those calories

I have been using My Fitness Pal for years. This clever little app works out how many calories you should be consuming daily, based on your weight and activity, in order to lose weight.

It also enables you to track these calories,  with a huge database of food and its nutritional content (everything from marrows to McDonald's), which you can either enter manually or scan with a barcode. 

Carrotts smothered in Anchor Lighter butter is my favourite

If you have it hooked up to an exercise app (I use Garmin) it then adjusts your intake, giving you extra calories for the exercise (including walking) you have taken part in that day.

Where I have fallen foul in the past is to have a day off, which turns into two days which turns into a week and, well, you get the picture.

I then slip into the trap of wistfully believing that having completed a 5km run, I've burnt off enough calories to eat pizza everyday for the rest of the week. 

So another goal for January is to ensure that I enter my calories every single day, even those days where I eat unhealthily and exceed my calorie allowance.

It's amazing how your mindset changes when you are doing this - you soon realise that any "treats" are not treats at all and are counterproductive to your weight loss aims.

I have to confess that I have had a couple of slip ups with this. But one thing I have learnt from my friends at OYNB is that a slip up is just that. It's not a reason to abandon your attempt to create healthy new habits, so I have been persevering.

3) Fasting to get fast

Fasting is not a new concept but has entered the public weight loss consciousness in recent years, with programs such as the 5:2 diet. As I have mentioned above I am generally under my calorie goal for the day, sometimes by a significant amount.

While I do not have set days where I consciously try and stay under the type of calorie count that is suggested by the 5:2 diet, I have consciously been trying to attempt a certain type of fast, in that I do not eat after 7.30pm. 

I am a terrible evening snacker, and I know that I can easily increase my calorie intake by 50% between 7.30pm and 10pm.

Apparently the body enters the fasting state after eight hours. So I know that by restraining myself after 7.30pm I am getting a good four hours of fasting in during the early hours of the morning. 

Often I will try and fit in some light exercise (certainly nothing too intensive) before I eat breakfast, even if that's just walking the children to school, to increase the fat burning effects.

So there we have it. As I say, I am not a professional (or amateur!) dietitian or nutritionist but this three pronged approach has been more effective than anything else I have tried in the past, so it could work for you also.

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