Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat…
We’ve all tried different diets at some point in our lives, whether it’s to change our shape, lose weight, or to accommodate any intolerances we may have developed. For a lot of us, we diet for fat loss, but then the weight mysteriously creeps back on again.
There are a lot of ‘fad diets’ out there, which can be based on dubious science and prescribe eating practices that are actually unhealthy and can make you ill. This is often because it is a typically low-calorie diet with few foods on the plate, or an unusual combination of foods that leave your body lacking in vital nutrients to help it function properly.
Diets that are very low in carbohydrates (foods like pasta, bread and rice), which is an important source of energy, can also cause side effects such as bad breath, headaches and constipation. Some allow you to eat foods high in saturated fat (foods like butter, cheese and meat) and too much of that can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Then there are the ‘detox diets’ which are based on the idea that toxins build up in your body and can be removed by eating (or not eating) certain things.
Coming up on the horizon is Christmas (there, I said it!) and we typically start a diet in the New Year, but after a long period of lockdown making it even harder to stay on top of those extra pounds, the last thing you need at the back of your mind after the festivities is to be dreading a punishing 2022 diet! My suggestion is to start making a few small changes now that become a way of life, which is much more enjoyable and doesn’t leave you feeling guilty after the occasional treat.
We put on weight when the amount of calories we eat exceeds the amount we burn through our daily activities, so we need to be burning more calories than we eat to lose weight. Also, the less active you are, the less calories you are likely to need. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to make permanent changes to the way you eat and exercise.
One thing you can do is keep a food diary; you may think you know what you eat, but it’s surprising what you might miss or forget when you look back. Don’t forget to keep track of how much water you’re drinking too, along with any other drinks. See if there is anything that stands out, perhaps a treat that has become a daily fixture, or a sugar-heavy drink that you didn’t realise you were overdoing. Be honest and don’t feel you need to share it with anyone. There are apps you can use too that will help you calculate how many calories you are consuming, which will give you a clearer idea of where additional weight may be coming from and also help you manage things more consciously.
A few small alterations can help kickstart things, like eating smaller portions and choosing drinks that are lower in fat and sugar (and alcohol). You should always consult a doctor or qualified dietician before making big changes to your diet, but small tweaks can get the ball rolling.
Everyone is different, but if you are overweight you could set a goal of losing a percentage of your starting weight.
Generally this is possible by eating fewer calories per day than you normally consume – but again, do make sure you do your maths before making significant changes. Current figures state that an average man needs 2,500 calories per day and an average woman needs 2,000 to stay the same weight. Knowing that and what your daily calorific intake is will help you set your targets accordingly.
Here are six simple things you can do to eat healthily and help you lose weight.
• Reduce the amount of fat you eat. You could trim the fat off meat, switch to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk instead of full fat, choose a reduced or low-fat spread, and replace cream with low-fat yoghurt.
• Eat wholegrain foods, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta. These are digested more slowly than their white counterparts, so will help you feel full for longer.
• Don’t skip breakfast! It’s true that it’s the most important meal of the day, as it gives you the energy you need to start the day. What’s more is that there is research to suggest people who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to be overweight. Maybe not a full English every day though…!
• Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. You knew this one was coming; it’s an old one, but it persists for a reason, and is an easy way to remember to keep variety and good nutrients in your daily diet.
• Have a drink if you feel peckish. Sometimes we think we’re hungry when really we’re thirsty, so a nice refreshing glass of water might keep those hunger pangs at bay.
• Find healthier drink alternatives. Most brands of fizzy drinks have a lower calorie alternative. You could also swap a fizzy drink for carbonated water with a slice of lemon. Don’t forget that alcohol is high in calories, so cutting down on drink can help too.
• Regular exercise will not only help you lose weight, but could also reduce your risk of developing a serious illness, such as diabetes and stroke.
The amount of physical activity that is recommended depends on your age. Adults aged 19-64 who are new to this sort of exercise should aim to build up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. You can lose weight without cutting out foods from your diet, but choosing healthier alternatives combined with regular aerobic exercise is a winning formula.
One change I’ve made to increase my weekly activity and motivate myself is the weekly 5K park runs that happen on a Saturday. I’m not a big fan of running on my own, as it is far too easy to give it a miss, but when you’re running in a group it feels much more motivating and you get to meet people and make some new friends too!
So this month we are going green, with a delicious smoothie recipe. It may not sound very exciting, but it’ll give you a great boost. All you need is: spinach, kale, apple, pear, banana, ginger, celery and flaxseed.
You can vary these ingredients depending on what you have in your fridge, but with this combination you get a great balance, with vitamin K1 from the spinach and kale, and fibre from the apple and pear (these will give the smoothie sweetness too, but are also diabetic-friendly fruits). The banana is rich in potassium, giving an energy boost, whilst celery will aid digestion and reduce inflammation (and is also a great source of vitamin C). A piece of fresh ginger is a great antioxidant that cleanses the blood, and the sprinkling of flaxseed not only has omega 3, but also around 20g of protein per hundred. This smoothie contains ingredients that will help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as being full of cancer-fighting goodness (having had cancer myself, I have at least four of these food items every day in my smoothies or meals).
The method is very simple for this one, just throw them all in together with a cup of water and blend – delicious!
Next month, we’ll move from aerobic exercise into some more structured, whole body exercises to keep you on that road to trimming up for winter. Have a great month and see you in November!
Ian Eassom is a Lincoln-based mobile personal trainer. Ian can offer private online one-to-one sessions, with bespoke exercise and diet plans to suit you. Ian can also offer individual training sessions in your own garden or public space, subject to and in adherence with the latest Covid guidance and with social distancing in place. Don’t forget there’s a special offer for Lincolnshire Life readers! For the latest information, visit www.ianeassom.co.uk