When you find yourself single either by choice or shock revelation, you are presented with an opportunity to make changes in your life – one of those may be taking the decision to put yourself first for a change; your health, your fitness, your weight, your appearance. If the one thing you are looking to do is lose weight, then here are my 10 commandments for successful weight-loss.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF FAT LOSS
1/ THOU SHALT NOT EAT BREAD
Bread makes you fat. Simple as that. The principal ingredients in bread are flour and water. What else do we make with flour and water? Come on…didn’t you ever watch Blue Peter? The answer is GLUE!
Now ask yourself, do you really want glue in your guts? Nope, didn’t think so.
And there’s more. Bread also contains wheat and a thickening agent called gluten, both of which most of us find indigestible. Thanks to the addition of gluten into so many foods, not just bread, we are a generation of Coeliac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers. If that wasn’t enough to put you off, there’s the ‘mould inhibiting’ chemicals too which manufacturers put into bread so it can sit in your bread bin and not go green until it’s about 10 days old. If you want fat loss, you don’t want bread. I have yet to meet a client who doesn’t tell me he/she feels better after giving up bread. If you’re storing fat around your middle and have love handles and bingo wings, bread is the culprit. Ditto pasta. Pasta is made from wheat, which, again, most of us have trouble digesting. It causes bloating and trapped wind and, if that wasn’t bad enough, the body converts pasta to energy very quickly so if you don’t use that energy it stores it as fat. Usually round your belly. Doesn’t that look nice in your skinny jeans/pencil skirt/mankini (hey, no judgement here!)?
So the solution? Stop eating toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. Be adventurous with your brekkie. Have scrambled eggs and spinach leaves, have live Greek yoghurt with almonds and berries, have a curly kale stir fry. I’ll be talking more about breakfast in a forthcoming commandment.
2/ THOU SHALT NOT EAT PROCESSED FOOD
PASS me the soapbox a second…right that’s better now I can really start ranting.
Processed food, sauces in a jar, ready meal dinners….anything that requires reheating in a microwave makes you fat. If your dinner comes in a box and contains ingredients which you can’t pronounce you can’t bet that your body doesn’t recognise it as food. And since it’s your body’s job to keep you alive and safe, it has an ingenious way of dealing with chemicals in food. It makes fat to store them in to keep them away from your vital organs. Add to that the fact that consuming processed food puts your liver – your body’s major fat-burning organ – under such stress that it can’t do its job and you’re shipping out to Fatsville on a one-way ticket. And feeling utterly wretched in the process.
If you want to lose bodyfat and get lean your first step has to be to ditch anything that you didn’t make yourself from raw ingredients. You may lose a few pounds here and there eating prepared ready meals, but you WILL ALWAYS GET FAT AGAIN! That’s a fact. So next time you want curry or chilli, learn how to cook it from scratch. It’s surprising easy and rewarding. And, more importantly, you will feel amazing!
From now on, your meals should consist of HUGE amounts of nutrient-rich carbohydrate greens like kale, spinach, spring greens and watercress. Team this with high quality protein like chicken breast, salmon and turkey, fish and steak and you’ll feel fitter, healthier and better. What’s more, you’ll be dropping bodyfat like a good ‘un.
3/ THOU SHALT NOT EAT LOW FAT
Just to clarify here, I am talking about products that are manufactured to be low fat, not naturally occurring low fat food like turkey breast, for example. I’m talking low fat yoghurts, cakes, biscuit, cheeses, and spreads.
By and large, manufacturers have crammed these foods full of sweeteners, sugars and chemicals to enhance flavour and taste. Low fat spreads are manufactured using such extremes of temperature that their molecular make-up has been altered to the point where the body no longer recognises them as food and, instead, sees them as toxins. As we should all now know, anything the body doesn’t recognise as food it stores in adipose (fat) tissue to keep it away from your vital organs.
Just as importantly, we need to realise that fat is not the enemy of fat of loss, sugar is. The body needs fat to keep you alive; to absorb vital vitamins and for brain and nerve health. And we need to get real. If you are trying to drop body fat, you simply can’t eat foods like chocolate brownies, biscuits, marshmallows, and cheesecake. By reaching for low fat versions of these foods when you go shopping, you are not re-educating your eating habits and you are certainly not giving your body the nutrients it needs to function healthily. You may lose weight through calorie restriction, but you won’t keep it off. How many people do you know who go to slimming clubs and drop weight, only to put it all back on again? Lots? Yep, so do I.
4/ THOU SHALT NOT EAT BREAKFAST CEREAL
Breakfast cereal is processed and full of sugar. You often hear people saying, “Ooh, if I have breakfast, I just want to eat all day.” That’s because you are at your most insulin-sensitive in the morning. If you spike your insulin – the hormone that controls your blood sugar – with sugary cereal you will set off a roller-coaster reaction that will have your energy levels peaking and plummeting all day. As a consequence you’ll be craving sugary treats all day. In addition, if you want fat loss, you need to steer clear of milk, especially skimmed or semi-skimmed. Milk is meant for baby cows, not humans. This means it’s full of bovine growth hormone which will make you grow up big and strong if you’re a calf. Unfortunately, if you’re a human it will make you fat. It’s also pasteurised, homogenised and generally stripped of any goodness whatsoever. So it’s off your shopping list. Try rice milk or almond milk instead. The first thing you put in your mouth in the morning will govern what you eat or want to eat, depending on how strong your willpower is, all day. So stick with eggs – scrambled, poached, boiled; live Greek yoghurt with blueberries; quinoa (a great alternative to porridge served up with rice milk); vegetable stir-fry. The minute you think about breakfast, you think of toast and cereal – all the things that are making you fat. Instead start thinking of it as your first meal of the day. And who says you can’t have vegetable stir-fry in the morning?
5/ THOU SHALT NOT EAT WHEAT OR GLUTEN
I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s so important it’s worth stressing twice.
About to have a nice pasta salad for lunch? Well, step away from the linguini right now.
Pasta is made from wheat which spells digestive disaster for most of us. Wheat intolerance is very common and the symptoms are very uncomfortable. If you suffer abdominal bloating, trapped wind constipation when you polish off a bowl of Italy’s finest, chances are you are intolerant. It stresses your digestive system and makes your metabolism sluggish, neither of which are desirable side effects when you’re trying to drop bodyfat. In addition, your body converts pasta into energy very quickly, in simple terms. If you don’t use this energy, you will store it as fat – right round your muffin top! Ditto gluten. Gluten is a protein used by food manufacturers to give bread and cakes elasticity. It’s present in most products that are derived from wheat, including biscuits, cereals and even gravies. Avoid it! Simple as that.
6/ THOU SHALT DRINK AT LEAST THREE LITRES OF WATER A DAY
The body won’t give up fat if it’s dehydrated. So if you spend most of the day with a gob like the bottom of a birdcage, you’re not going to shed that belly. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, if you don’t drink enough water your kidneys can’t function properly. This means the liver – the body’s major fat burning organ, as mentioned earlier – has to stop metabolising fat and go and help the poor old kidneys clean your blood. Secondly dehydration causes a drop in your basal metabolic rate. This is the amount of calories your body uses to keep you alive, run your heart and lungs, work your brain etc. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can cause your baseline metabolism to drop by 3 per cent which means you’ll start gaining bodyfat at the rate of one pound every six months. My tip is to just get into the habit of carrying a bottle of water with you everywhere you go and swig from it at regular intervals. Not rocket science, is it?
7/ THOU SHALT SLEEP FOR 8 HOURS A NIGHT
There’s a kind of misplaced pride in telling people you can survive on three hours sleep a night and still run a home, a business, a marathon or whatever every week. I’ve done it myself. But if you’re doing this, stop it now! There are few greater barriers to fat loss than lack of quality sleep. So if you’re doing everything you should be and you still can’t get rid of that spare tyre, it’s probably time to look at your sleeping patterns.
Think of sleep as your body shutting down to do essential maintenance work and get your batteries recharged for the following day.
Overtime, chronic lack of sleep will lead to impaired judgement, mood swings, low enthusiasm and a fat belly.
This is because when you’re stressed, overtired and unable to switch off, your body is flooded with a breaking down and fat-storing hormone called cortisol.
Start getting to bed by 10am, leave your mobile phone outside the bedroom, stay off Facebook, twitter and your laptop in general for at least an hour before you go to bed. If you’re struggling to get to the land of nod, try reading fiction with a low lamp light until you drift off. This will help you get quality shut-eye and keep the cortisol monster at bay.
8/THOU SHALT NOT DRINK ALCOHOL
Hate to be a party-pooper but alcohol is pure sugar and has no nutritional value whatsoever. I don’t care which slimming club said it was okay to have a vodka and slimline tonic on a night out, you can’t do that and have optimal fat loss. And it’s not only the fact that you’ll derail yourself with a Saturday night on the plonk. Research shows that booze can impede your body’s fat burning abilities for up to SIX WHOLE DAYS after a sesh. Still fancy a cold one? Or would you rather reach your goal and feel amazing?
9/ THOU SHALT NOT JOG ON A TREADMILL
This is going to sound blunt but beating around the bush is not going to help you drop your backfat, so I’ll just say it. Next time you go to the gym, have a look where all the fat people are. I bet you a tenner they are either:
- On the treadmill
- On the x-trainer
- On the wave machine
- On the recumbent bike.
Don’t get me wrong, this approach has its benefits and it will definitely help you get fitter. However…
…If you want fat loss, you don’t want ‘steady state’ cardio training. This sort of a workout only burns calories while you’re doing it. And it also produces cortisol which breaks down your lean mass to fuel your workout. Instead, you want to go for what we call afterburn. This is the sort of training that will have you burning calories for up to 48 hours afterwards while your body returns to its pre-exercise state. In other words, you need to come way out of your comfort zone and start working those big muscle groups with squats, lunges, burpees, press ups. You are better off doing 10 minutes of this kind of training at high intensity than two hours working through the cardio machines 20 minutes at a time at a comfortable pace. I promise you. Tomorrow, just try 30 seconds of squats, 30 rest, 30 seconds press-ups, 30 rest. Do this three times through and see how you feel, compared to 20 minutes jogging on a treadmill while watching Jeremy Kyle. Don’t get me wrong, jogging has its place. If it’s a nice sunny day and trot through the park can make you feel great. But if you want fat loss, stay away from the cardio machines and start squatting. If you don’t believe me about running, check this out. Eddie Izzard ran a marathon every day for 30 days. Guess how much he lost? Well, that would be a whole lot of nothing! Not a single pound.
10/THOU SHALT COMMIT, PLAN AND PREPARE
Okay, so it’s sounds likes I’ve crammed three commandments together here, but the truth is for fat loss you can’t have one without the other two. What I mean by this is that if you want fat loss you have to commit to doing everything necessary to achieve it. No drinking “in moderation”, no “rewarding yourself” at the weekend because you’ve been good all week. That’s like rewarding yourself for saving money, by throwing a pile of tenners on a bonfire. If you go to work, you have to plan your lunches and prepare them the night before so you don’t get caught short at the Co-op and end up eating a BLT butties, a packet of French fries and a Mars bar for dinner. You have to take responsibility for getting results and accept responsibility when you don’t. Don’t make excuses. “Oh, I didn’t have time.” Or “they didn’t have any healthy food where I was” Or “The dog ate my dinner so I had to go to McDonalds.” Plan your shopping list, plan your menu. Don’t buy food that tempts you.
Eat the foods that your body needs to be healthy right down to your cells and fat loss will be a byproduct of that. Throw in the right kind of exercise and you’ll build yourself some lean muscle mass too. And remember muscle is the only tissue that can burn fat.
Finally, the principles of fat loss are simple; it’s sticking to them that’s the hard part. But, as Paddy McGuinness tells his Take Me Out contestants every Saturday night: “The power is in your hands.”