Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 4

Over the last few weeks and into next year, we're looking at the 20 biggest reasons that people find themselves overweight in the first place; based on analysis of nearly 1000 overweight people over 3 years .....
8 Eating times. (Eating the right food at the right time)
Next on the list (and no real surprises here), our eating times play a huge part in our weight gain or our ability to lose weight. Eating at the wrong times and/or not eating at the right times is largely down to our failing to plan ahead. As we covered in part 2, it’s very important that we treat ourselves to the time that we deserve, if we’re really serious about getting the results that we desire.

Planning ahead

Having the best intentions is one thing, but you have to make sure you have all the right stuff in”. That was a great quote from one of my clients.

Planning ahead plays a big part in a healthy lifestyle. It isn’t just about knowing what to eat, it’s also about having it there when you need it. Planning your shopping, your meals and your snacks keeps you in control. We all know we need to have a breakfast, we need plenty of water and we need food and snacks to sustain us through the day. So taking a little time at the start of the week to prepare for these, can help keep you from finding yourself hungry in the middle of the day and more prone to making unhealthy choices.

Many of us have busy careers and work long hours, so planning evening meals in advance is also essential, to steer us away from the convenience of a take-away at the end of a busy day. Planned evening meals can be just as convenient if we’ve taken the time to prepare them in advance. It might even be a meal you had earlier in the week, where you deliberately made enough to freeze for another day.

Always make time for breakfast

Although we’ve already covered the importance of having a breakfast, it’s worth reiterating as the timing of your breakfast is just as important as the breakfast itself. Making time for breakfast is huge way to help towards your weight loss goals. Your body actually burns off calories more efficiently once you’ve had something to eat; so the sooner in the day you can have a breakfast, the sooner you’re kick-starting your body's ‘calorie burning’ time!

And, as I say to my clients, it doesn’t need to be a Kings Banquet! … Just a small slice of wholemeal toast, or a small banana, or a hand-full of bran cereal or porridge are examples of all it takes to fire your body up in a morning.

Those people that kid themselves into thinking they don’t have time for breakfast are hindering their own weight loss efforts and often find themselves ‘bumbling’ through the morning feeling lethargic, without any energy and propping themselves up with coffee.

Don’t skip lunch

The importance of eating times isn’t just about the meals we have, it’s about the meals we skip! I remember having a conversation with a client last year, she had a very busy job, driving up and down the country and was telling me she simply did not have time for lunch. “Look”, she said, holding her open diary out in front of me, “Where am I supposed to find time for lunch?”.

Her diary was clearly filled with appointments, so I asked her, “You obviously live by this diary, don’t you?”.

“Yes”, she answered.

“…and, if it doesn’t go in here, it doesn’t get done. Right?”, I continued.

“That’s right”, she agreed.

So, I then asked her, “So, where are your appointments with yourself, to have a half hour lunch every day?”.

You see, it doesn’t necessarily come natural to us to diarise time for ourselves, but if we live by a diary, get those appointments with yourself in there. Yes, this may sound odd, but once those appointments are in there, your thinking changes and you plan your day around them. You just treat them like any other appointment. I know this works because I do it myself !!

Skipping breakfast or lunch is like trying to drive across the country along the ‘b’ roads. If you really want to get going and stay moving throughout the day, a wholesome breakfast and a healthy lunch gets you straight onto the motorway and motoring through your day.

Eating meals late into the evening

As a guide, it’s best not to eat within 4 hours of bed time. Clearly, this isn’t always possible; late nights at the office, meals out with the family, etc, are generally going to cause us to eat on the wrong side of this deadline. It’s important however, to make sure those occasions are the ‘exception’, rather than the ‘rule’.

During the daytime, when our metabolic rate is higher, our bodies have the time to burn off much of what we eat. As we get further into the evening time and our metabolisms are ‘slowing down’ for the day, it becomes increasingly likely that what we eat will not be burnt off and as such, more likely that foods such as starchy carbohydrates are converted into fats and stored by our bodies; very often around the midriff area.

So, for those occasions where eating later is unavoidable, low fat, low carb meals such as prawn, turkey or chicken in a salad, stir fry or soup are a sensible option.

Definite late-night no-no’s would be pizza, kebabs, pies, burgers, take-aways, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, cakes, biscuits, milk chocolate … you get the picture!

Working shifts

Some people believe it’s their shift pattern which is the cause of their weight problem. To some extent, this can be true; but it’s the changing over from ‘day-shifts’ to ‘night-shifts’ (or vice versa) that causes the biggest problem, not the actual shifts themselves.

For those working night shifts, take ‘breakfast’ as, ‘the meal you eat within an hour of waking up’ and ‘dinner’ (as in evening meal) as, ‘your final meal of the day, which should ideally be eaten around four hours before going back to bed’. If you can successfully challenge yourself to stick to this eating pattern, then you won’t be at any real disadvantage compared to someone working a day shift.

9 Food choices

Next on the list of the top reasons we struggle with our weight, is that it’s often simply down to out-and-out poor food choices.

Having an imbalanced diet and making poor food choices not only has a negative impact on our weight, it also affects our overall health. The foods you put into your body directly impacts how you feel, your weight and your risk of developing chronic diseases. Making a few simple changes to your diet can start the ball rolling toward losing a moderate amount of weight, improving your blood pressure levels, lowering blood cholesterol and reduces your risk of suffering serious chronic illnesses.


One of the ways in which our diet affects how we feel, is that whenever we eat a stodgy, calorie laden meal, this can make us feel sluggish and rundown. We can feel lethargic, less energised and don’t want to do anything. Over time, we may gain weight, which can impact our physical activity level even further. Without exercise, we ultimately reach a point where we constantly feel tired and fatigued.

Having a diet high in fat, particularly saturated and trans fat, increases your risk of developing heart disease. Having a poor diet generally filled with unhealthy foods leads to problems in your digestive tract, due largely to not meeting your daily fibre intake. This can cause excessive wind, episodes of diarrhoea or constipation, meaning you are unable to have bowel movements for days or strain when you use the bathroom.

Two unhealthy meals in a row…

There can be a whole host of reasons that causes us to eat unhealthily. Time often plays a part; lack of planning ahead can cause us to call for a junk-food take-away for convenience. Sometimes we can be misled into thinking we’re eating healthily, only to find out that in actual fact, that ‘healthy option’ is packed with lots of ‘hidden calories’.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to never have an unhealthy meal again, so a good rule to try and live by, is ‘Don’t eat two unhealthy meals in a row’.

Poor food choices make it easy to eat two unhealthy meals in a row, which literally doubles our chances of falling off the diet wagon. As a result, we can find ourselves reverting back to that old, destructive eating lifestyle. That’s how easy it is to damage our mind-set and willpower when trying to improve our eating habits.

A very punishing rule of life for people who are overweight or obese, is that a whole week of eating healthy foods can be undone by a single day of unhealthy feasting or binge eating.

When that happens, a feeling of defeatism occurs and we tend to abandon our health goals. Two bad meals can easily lead to three, then four, until we have officially halted any health progress we were making.

Instead, if we do happen to eat way too many slices of pizza or are tempted by the ‘super sized’ version of a Big Mac combo meal, we must make sure our next meal is light, such as a chicken garden salad with a low-fat, low-calorie dressing.

Just as we can ruin a diet with two unhealthy meals in a row that clog our system, we can get our weight goals right back by following up our mistake with a healthy meal that cleanses our system.

Even healthy people fall off the wagon with improper food choices some times; but they are quick to get back on the wagon and they make an unhealthy meal an uncommon occurrence. That’s the fine line between healthy people and unhealthy people.

If you have one of those days in which you do consume two consecutive unhealthy meals because of poor food choices, make sure you follow the next most important golden rule – Never eat three unhealthy meals in a row!

There’ll be more of the Top 20 Reasons We Find Ourselves Overweight in the next blog.

Have You Thought About Your Weight Loss Goals For 2013?

Maybe you have. Maybe you haven’t. One thing’s for sure, although it might not seem that obvious, giving some thought to our weight loss goals over the next year is the very first step to making these ideas become a reality. It isn't the ONLY thing we need to do of course, but if we at least have a target in mind, we have our starting point (i.e, now), and we also have something to aim for. We can then set about taking steps, however small, in the direction of where we want to be.

Instead of your New Years Resolutions being mere ‘wishes’ and ‘want’, you really can make them into firm commitments and rituals by beginning the process of thinking through what your weight loss goals and targets might be for next year. You may already have an idea, or it may be something that hadn't really crossed your mind until now ...... How would you really like to look on next years summer holiday photographs? What about on your birthday? or even next Christmas?? Imagine how you really would like to look and feel, how healthy you would really love to see your eating habits. Which of those outfits in the wardrobe would you REALLY look amazing in next year?

The act of 'conceiving' these goals in your mind and wanting them strongly enough, sets the wheels in motion. Then, by applying some of what we know about how the mind works, once you have a clear idea in your mind of exactly what you want out of next year in terms of your weight or size, the next step is an absolute must ... write it down.

The act of actually writing goals down on paper gets processed by a different part of the brain than merely ‘thinking’ through them. It 'cements' them in your mind. It turns them from mere 'flashes in your brain' to 'tangible, perceivable destinations' to which our minds can set about plotting a pathway.

Now, when you’re writing your goals down, be specific, be realistic, set yourself a time limit and most importantly (and this may sound a bit odd), write them in a way that implies you’ve already achieved them.

For example, instead of writing a goal of, “I want to fit into my black cocktail dress by April”, a much better goal would read, “I’m easily fitting into my black cocktail dress before April. I’m looking great and feeling fantastic!”.

You can set as few or as many goals as you wish, writing them down and keeping them in your purse or wallet. Then, you must read them EVERY day, morning and evening.

As strange as it might seem, by setting your goals out in such a way, your mind is FAR more likely to respond to them subconsciously, helping you to resonate with and respond to more of the circumstances required to steer you in the direction of your desired outcome.

Go on then, give that a go. We’ll catch up again in the New Year and in the mean time, I wish you and your families a fabulous and wonderful Merry Christmas.

Best wishes



Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 3

Following a three year a study of nearly 1000 overweight people, I have put together a list of the top 20 reasons that we find ourselves over weight.

The last 2 posts have covered reasons 1 to 6. In this post, I'll be revealing that the 7th most prominent contributory factor in us is becoming overweight is Snacking and Grazing Between Meals. This entire post is dedicated to looking at some of the causes we snack, what we can do about it, and some ideas to help us snack more healthily...

7 Snacking and Grazing.

Habitual snacking or comfort eating represents a big challenge to many of us who are wishing to bring our weight under control. So, what causes us to pick at food in between meals, late at night, when we're bored or 'because we can'…?

So, here are ten of the main reasons we may find ourselves snacking and ways to combat it;

1. Dehydration..!!
‘Lack of water’ seems to get blamed for everything! But it's true, we're far more likely to snack if we're a little de-hydrated. Ironically, a lot of the snacks that many of us turn to, are either high in sugar (biscuits, chocolate, sweets, etc) or high in salt (crisps, nuts, etc), which compounds the effect! Whenever you find yourself rummaging through the cupboards or the fridge for 'no apparent reason', try a glass of cool, clean fresh water. Virtually every time, you'll notice that 'snacky' feeling dissolve away.

2. Don't allow yourself to become famished! In a previous blog, I mentioned that people who leave it until they're absolutely starving before they eat, are far more likely to make poorer food choices, eat much faster and consume much larger portions (missing the signals the stomach sends to the brain). Also, a person allowing themselves to become absolutely famished significantly increases the likelihood that they'll snack on something, given the opportunity.

3. Comfort Eating or Boredom. Yes, we've all been there. Feeling rotten about ourselves for some reason, so we head off to the fridge to see if we can find something to cheer us up!
Or we might just explore the fridge because there's nothing else to do .... and in either case, more often than not, once we've consumed whatever snacks we could unearth, we either feel 'completely riddled with guilt' or are totally bemused as to 'why we've just done that!'

Sometimes, it's just possible to catch this before it happens. Whilst you’re at the 'pre-snack rummaging' stage, just ask yourself, "Am I really hungry, or do I just want to change the way I feel?". This is a great question because quite often, once you realise you aren't actually hungry at all, you can feel a real sense of achievement and discipline as you walk away from the fridge having resisted the urge .... well done you!

4. Plan your snacks and stick to the plan. Of course there are snacks that can help contribute to your vitamin  / '5 a day' intake, so don't just chose them, plan a time when you’ll actually be eating them. By having ‘planned’ meals and snacks throughout your day, this is far more likely to allow you to feel in full control of your eating patterns by eliminating those times where you perhaps felt uncontrollably hungry in the past.

5. Never eat meals or snacks in front of the TV. If your mind is engaged elsewhere other than on your food, you will almost certainly miss the signals from your stomach and continue eating way past the point of what would be considered a 'sensible portion'.

6. Don't buy snacky food in the first place. Sometimes it’s just ‘good common sense’ to keep temptation out of harm’s way! The overwhelming majority of my clients agree that if the stuff isn't in the house in the first place, it doesn't bother them. So, when you're doing the weekly shop (by the way, don't even think of doing the weekly shop when you're hungry or snacky!), it's worth making a conscious decision to avoid buying some of those 'naughty' snacks in the first place.

7. Chew sugar free gum. Doing this between meals can make you far less likely to snack.

8. Resist snacking on meals that you are preparing. Okay, you may want to test the sauce is hot enough or check the pasta is 'al dante', and that's okay. However, polishing off a stray lamb chop because there's an odd number in the packet is just going too far!

But of course, we've all done it. Snacking or picking when preparing a meal is quite commonplace and clearly catches most of us at our most vulnerable ... just before a meal. Quite often, we don’t even know we’re doing it. The handy thing is that, once we are aware, we generally can exercise much more control. So, be aware…!

9. Don't finish off the food other people leave. Sometimes, people find themselves doing this out of pure habit. It isn't that difficult to break this particular habit with a little conscious effort. In addition, if for example, you find yourself frequently finishing off your partners meal, consider adjusting their portion size in the same way as you would your own.

10 Brush and/or floss your teeth after each meal or planned snack. We’re conditioned from a very early age that the act of brushing our teeth, along with the flavours that come with it, causes us to not expect any food for a while. In effect, it ‘switches off’ the hunger receptors in our brain. This will help you stay away from food for an hour or two; long enough for you to become engaged in something else.

Okay, So It Isn't Always That Easy ....!!

Of course it isn't. And losing weight and becoming fitter isn't something that happens in an instant, it's a journey. Three square meals a day is all well and good, but we all sometimes need a little something in between — particularly when we live an active lifestyle. However, snacking can easily become a diet downfall rather than an energy boost.

Finding food to eat when you’re hungry can be difficult when you’re trying to eat healthy. Having the time to prepare snacks is most of the battle. To eat healthy, is to eat fresh. Freshness doesn’t always come out of a box or package. Granted, those are the easiest and quickest foods to munch on. Just being able to grab a bag of crisps would be the ideal amount of time we would want to spend on preparing a snack! However, to get closer to your weight loss goals, it can be a good idea to 'pre-make' your snacks in advance.

So with that in mind, here are a few healthy, sweet and savoury snacking options, which you can use to fill a gap without piling on the calories!

It's also worth bearing in mind that many of these snack ideas need a bit of 'advance planning', which is great; when we can plan ahead, we're generally in much more control and are far less likely to be tempted by impulsive unhealthy munchies!

Remember when you’re dividing these snacks up, that they are just snacks, to be consumed between your three other meals. Portion control is always key in order to get the best results, so keep in mind that although these snacks are healthy, you should never over eat them.

1. Frozen Grapes
The first time I tried frozen grapes, I expected them to be hard and toothy-chippy like marbles. But I couldn't have been more wrong: they're like little ice lollies ... sweet, with the grape taking on almost an ice-creamy texture underneath the peel.

They're about 100 calories a cup, fat-free, and have all the beneficial flavonoids of regular grapes. Just wash them, pop them in a ramekin or container in your freezer, and let them sit for a few hours. Delicious!!

2. Fresh Popcorn
Popcorn is one of the best snacks to choose for overall crunch appeal. It’s light, healthy and provides a high amount of fibre. You can pick up bags of Microwaveable popcorn kernels in most supermarkets, they're inexpensive and will last you a while. For extra taste, add a few squirts of fat free butter spray and a pinch of seasoning salt.

By the way, don't confuse this snack with the likes of Toffee Popcorn, Butter Popcorn or other pre-packaged flavoured popcorn snacks. Many of these are very high in salt, sugar and/or fat.

3. Dried Apricots and Almonds
Almonds are high in protein and fibre, as well as being low-GI, a good source of magnesium, and rich in vitamin E (an antioxidant). Dried apricots, on the other hand, are rich in carotenes, which may lower the risk of cancers of the throat and lungs — and provide you with potassium, iron, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Interestingly, dried apricots have a far greater nutritional value than fresh ones because the nutrient content is so concentrated. Gram for gram, dried apricots have twelve times the iron, seven times the fibre and five times the vitamin A of fresh ones! The best way to eat this snack is to impale the almonds in the apricots!

Portion size:  Try 3 or 4 apricots with 10 to 15 almonds for a delicious snack of just approximately 125 calories.

4. Chicken Breast
Sliced chicken breast is a great snack to include in your dietary regimen. It's easy to cook an 'extra' chicken breast when preparing a meal, allowing you to have it on hand in the fridge for a quick snack. Cold, sliced chicken breast tastes great and is high in protein, low in fat and has virtually no carbs.

Always choose all natural boneless, skinless chicken breast versus pre-packaged luncheon meats which are processed and contain added sugar and salt.

5. Hummus or Peanut Butter on Crisp-bread, Baked Potato Crisps, Carrots or Celery.
A number of combinations here, all of which are quick, easy and healthy in moderation with a good mix of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and lots of fibre. While peanut butter is high in fat, it’s the unsaturated (or ‘good’) kind — and peanuts are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Peanut butter is also rich in protein — so is an especially good option for vegetarians — and a good source of magnesium. Opt to spread the peanut butter on rye crisp-breads — which are low in salt, high in fibre and have a low GI — so you won’t get an energy high followed by a crash.

Hummus is best when you make it yourself using chickpeas — but if you don’t have time to do this, opt for the reduced fat variety, which will supply you with vitamin E, manganese, and disease-fighting garlic. Use raw veg — such as beta-carotene-rich carrot sticks and potassium-rich celery — to dip into the hummus, in order to boost your fibre intake.

Portion Guidelines: Two teaspoons of peanut butter on two rye crispbreads = 180 calories, whilst 50g (1.8oz) reduced fat hummus with carrot or celery sticks = 125 calories.

6. Dark Chocolate
Much to the surprise of many, you can eat chocolate as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Dark chocolate, containing at least 70 per cent cocoa solids is a good source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which are the type that are found in green tea and red wine.

A number of studies have found that chocolate's main fat, stearic acid, has a neutral effect on the LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, and has twice the magnesium of and more iron than milk chocolate. Plus chocolate makes us feel good!

Portion size: A 20g (0.7oz) bar or chunk = 100 calories.

7. Hard Boiled Eggs
Planning ahead and having some hard boiled eggs on stand-by, give you a quick, high protein snack on hand at anytime! Hard boiled eggs are an excellent source of protein, simple to prepare and each one only has about 76 calories. Eggs are also very nutritious. In fact, they contain a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and Minerals in Eggs

A: good for the skin and growth.
D: strengthens bones by raising calcium absorption.
E: protects cells from oxidation.
B1: helps properly release energy from carbohydrates.
B2: helps release energy from protein and fat.
B6: promotes the metabolism of protein.
B12: an essential vitamin in the formation of nerve fibers and blood cells.

Iron: essential in the creation of red blood cells.
Zinc: good for enzyme stability and essential in sexual maturation.
Calcium: most important mineral in the strengthening bones & teeth.
Iodine: controls thyroid hormones.
Selenium: like vitamin E, it protects cells from oxidation.

Beware though, the yolk is extremely high in cholesterol, containing more than two-thirds of the recommended daily limit of 300 mg! However, the yolk has many health strengths necessary for immunity, healthy skin, nerves and vision. The yolk contains good amounts of B Vitamins, Vitamin A, iron and riboflavin.

8. Olives
Olives have numerous health benefits, including being rich in Vitamins (in particular Vitamin E), minerals, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants. They are full of nutritional value, helping to fight against a number of critical diseases; including cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, constipation, inflammation and asthma.

Benefits of Olives
The Vitamin E contained in Olives is the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Antioxidants help to strengthen the body's immune system; reducing the severity of asthma, cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, premature aging, as well as delaying the effects of aging.

Olives contain compounds called polyphenols that appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. The juice of the olive, otherwise known as olive oil, is a delicious source of antioxidants. This oil is monounsaturated, and it has a positive effect on the cholesterol level in our blood streams, by helping to reduce it.

Monounsaturated fats are an important part of our diets. These oils act to keep cholesterol from sticking to our artery walls, and thus combating against diseases such as heart disease and strokes. Not only that, but they help to control blood sugar, a big plus in offering protection against diabetes.

9 Walnuts
Walnuts are a tasty and highly nutrient dense food to snack on and can add flavour and crunch to a meal. They are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and are also rich in vitamins and minerals that help us to stay healthy. Walnuts are high in poly and monounsaturated fats and especially linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid. Those two acids cannot be synthesized by our body and must be provided daily. They are called essential fatty acids. They are involved in the manufacture of certain hormones, part of the cell's membrane and they regulate the cholesterol. 5 walnuts (28g) supply our daily needs in those acids.

Health Benefits
Walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called elegiac acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties. Alpha-linoleic acid is an omega-3 fatty acids. This family of acids has an anti-inflammatory action. Walnuts are therefore useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and itchy skin conditions. (Dry skin is usually the first sign of an essential fatty acid deficiency).

Heart Healthy
The high amount of unsaturated fats in the walnut helps us keep our blood cholesterol down. Walnuts lower blood cholesterol with a rise in HDL (called "good" cholesterol) and a drop in LDL (called "bad" cholesterol). Therefore, walnuts may reduce heart disease risks. Studies suggest that people who eat walnuts are less likely to develop coronary heart diseases and heart attacks.

Nutrient Dense
Walnuts are also a good source of protein. They contain 15.23 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is equivalent to 100 grams of chicken. Walnuts are rich in calories. They can help people with small appetites, such as elderly and convalescents, to meet their daily calories requirements. Walnuts are also a very good source of the manganese and a good source of copper. In addition, walnuts contain the antioxidant phytochemical, elegiac acid.

10 Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal.
A great example of a quick and convenient snack, that is 'easy' to have in the cupboard.

Wholegrain breakfast cereals such as Weetabix, bran flakes, unsweetened muesli, Shreddies and porridge oats are a great, low calorie source of vitamins and dietary fibre. For example, a 30g snack sized portion of 'No Added Sugar Alpen' contains just 112 calories. Why not try with a spoonful of fat free yoghurt and/or a handful of fresh berries ...?

11. Whole Grain Bread Sticks, Celery Sticks & Salsa
Salsa, which is the Spanish word for 'sauce', is a good source of minerals, some vitamins, and the important antioxidant lycopene.

A typical ramekin (about half a cup) of serving of classic salsa has just 35 calories, and is a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K. It supplies 7% recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and 8% RDA of vitamins A and E.

A ramekin of salsa will also deliver 11% of our RDA of vitamin B6, 4% of our RDA of vitamin C

Go easy on the Whole Wheat Bread Sticks at 33 calories each. But as for delicious crunchy celery, it's loaded with vitamins and can help to satisfy a snack craving for virtually zero calories. In fact, celery is what is known as a Negative Calorie Food. This means, you actually burn off more calories chewing and digesting celery, then it actually contains!!

12. Twiglets
Twiglets are those little whole-wheat knobbly sticks, designed to look like twigs, that have a sticky marmite flavour coating on them. They don't feel at all greasy like crisps do and contain 96 calories and 2.9g of fat (of which saturates 1.3g) per 25g bag .... not too bad if eaten in moderation.

Twiglets are actually baked rather than fried so are marketed as a more "healthy" snack. This of course depends on how many you munch! Oh, and if you hate Marmite, then it’s likely you will hate these too!!

13. Fruit Smoothie
As far as simple, healthy snacks go, nothing beats a homemade fruit smoothie for ease of preparation (as long as you have a smoothie maker!) and general deliciousness!

For starters, they're a super way to make sure you're getting plenty of fresh fruit on a day-to-day basis and you can be as inventive and creative as your mind will allow you to be.

Smoothie Tip: Using properly ripened fruit, which is so full of flavour, is how you avoid adding unnecessary ingredients like milk, cream, sorbet, ice cream, rice milk or yogurt. When you add those things, the smoothie stops being a healthy snack and becomes a fatty dessert!!

14. Sugar Free Jelly
Half a pint of sugar free jelly, gives you a sweet burst of fruity flavour, it contains about 16 calories and you can even count it towards your daily fluid intake!

15. Dried Fruit Pieces
A handful of dried fruit is a great alternative to sweets. Dried fruits such as apple, mango, banana, pineapple, papaya, strawberries and raisins are another convenient, delicious and nourishing snack option. Make sure to choose unsweetened and untreated dried fruits. As most of the water has been removed in these types of snacks (which is what helps to fill us up!), it's also a good idea to accompany dried fruit with plenty of water or unsweetened juice.

16. Low Fat Crispbreads with Non-Fat Cottage Cheese.
Depending on the manufacturer, a snack-sized 50g serving of fat-free cottage cheese only contains about 35 to 40 calories, but monitor your serving size to ensure you do not consume too much of a good thing. And remember just because the cottage cheese is fat-free, does not mean it is cholesterol free, 50g of fat-free cottage cheese contains 5 mg of cholesterol.

17. Half a Tin of Soup
A perfect choice for a healthy snack. soup is a high volume, low calorie food. It also provides the feeling of satisfaction and fullness, without the extra calories often found in larger meals or less healthy, convenient snacks.

Ideally of course, home made soup is far better, but in terms of a quick, inexpensive and convenient snack, a reasonable brand of non-creamy soup can offer a good amount of nutritional value for the time it takes to prepare. For example half a tin of Heinz Vegetable Soup contains all the goodness of carrots, potatoes, swede, onions, peas and haricot beans. In fact 29% of the contents of the tin is made up of vegetables.

A 200g portion (half a tin), contains just 89 calories and hardly any saturated fat.

18. Sugar Snap Peas
Pre-washed string-less sugar snap peas can be found in your local supermarket in plastic bags.

If you are trying hard to add nutritious food to your diet, you are going to have a tough time beating this tasty treat.

The difference between sugar snap peas and regular peas is that you don't have to shell them. With sugar snap peas you get to eat the entire pod with the peas nestled inside. The outer shell tastes deliciously sweet and you get a big CRUNCH out of them.

This is really a great snack. With no effort on your part, except for buying and opening the package, you can have 25% of your daily allowance of Vitamin C. Sugar snap peas have protein, iron, fibre, calcium, Vitamin A and micronutrients that we still don't know much about.

If you grab a bag of sugar snap peas instead of potato crisps, just think of what you will be doing for your health!

19. Antipasto
The Italians know a thing or two about healthy snacking. Olives, marinated veg like aubergine (eggplant), sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes or peppers all make wonderful quick snacks. Go on then .... you can even throw in a little prosciutto (but don't tell anyone!)

20. Water
Another point to remember if ever we're prone to occasional snacking, is to ensure we're well hydrated. When we're slightly dehydrated, our brains confuse the signals between hunger and thirst. So, whilst we might perceive that we're feeling a bit hungry, what our body is actually craving is fluid; anything that doesn't contain caffeine, alcohol or sugar. More often than not, a glass of water or flavoured water will quash those 'snacky' feelings within 3 minutes.

I'll be uncovering more of the Top 20 Reasons We're Overweight in the next blog...


Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 2

In this blog, we're into Part 2 of the Top 20 reasons that we find ourselves overweight in the first place. So, whether you're about to commence your own weight loss journey or you're part way through and looking for some inspiration to give your journey a boost, here are the reasons 4, 5 and 6 that contribute to people being over weight;

4 Portions sizes.

Portion sizes were always bound to feature fairly early on in this Top 20; the fact is, many of us just eat too much.

There are lots of reasons why many of us eat more then we need to at mealtimes; not least, having it 'conditioned' within us from an early age to 'clean our plate'! – One of the things this teaches us is to ‘eat with our eyes’. In other words, we rely on our eyes to inform us when we’ve had enough to eat, because we can see the plate’s empty!

So here are a few tips to help you moderate your portion sizes ...

4.1 Don't wait until you're 'absolutely famished' before deciding to eat. As a rule of thumb, the hungrier we are, the more likely we are to make poorer food choices and eat more of it! If you're moderately hungry, it might be a good time to eat. If it's inconvenient or the wrong time to begin preparing a meal, then a healthy snack may just satisfy that hunger craving until meal time.

4.2 Drink plenty of water. You'll see this crop up time and time again, water really is a miracle ingredient for a whole host of reasons; but particularly when you want to lose weight. As well as keeping your skin hydrated and flushing out toxins, drinking water before a meal partially fills your stomach meaning you'll eat less. Drinking water when you're feeling 'snacky' will also allow that 'snacky' feeling (usually dehydration) to just disappear.

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4.3 Use smaller plates. Simple, but effective. Just using a smaller dinner plate allows you to trick your own mind into feeling that you’re not being 'short changed' at meal times.

4.4 Weigh out your food. Weighing out individual portion sizes can be a useful way to become acquainted with recommended portion sizes of certain foods.

4.5 Eat slowly. Really chew and savour each and enjoy every mouthful, then as soon as you begin to feel full, STOP and push your plate away. Your stomach will alert you that you've had enough for your physical needs.

4.6 Put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. This is another way of slowing down your eating speed and might seem awkward at first. But after a surprisingly small amount of time doing this consciously, you'll be amazed at how easily it becomes second nature.

4.7 Don't eat in front of the television. Or any other distraction for that matter, books, newspapers, computer, etc. When we’re eating whilst already being 'absorbed' in something else, this can cause us to miss the signals from our stomachs that tell us we’re satisfied. Instead, it’s best to treat meal times as an ‘event’ in itself, where you can allow yourself to be more mindful of what you’re eating, free from distractions.

4.8 Plan ahead for another meal.  If you've made more then you need of a certain dish (e.g, chilli, spag bol, etc), instead of piling it onto your plate or leaving it lying handily around for seconds, why not dish up more portions then you need and freeze some?

4.9 When eating out, sometimes it’s just best to keep out of temptations way!  'All You Can Eat' deals or self service restaurants such as carveries and banquets are far more likely to lead to us piling our plates up, so that we ‘get our monies worth’. Instead, how about choosing restaurants that specialise in smaller portions or ‘lighter bites’?. Or, instead of a starter and main course, try two starters.

4.10 Decide when to stop, first! If you find yourself being over-faced, particularly in a restaurant, decide what you're going to leave BEFORE you start the meal. Almost sounds like a daft idea, but in your heart of hearts, you know how much smaller that portion size should really be. Therefore, before you begin eating, deliberately push some of the food to the side of your plate making a conscious decision to leave that amount. Then just plan to eat the rest. Those feelings of guilt will soon start to disappear when you leave food on your plate. In fact, you can feel really good about leaving food behind because it reminds you that you really are in control.

5 Make Sure You Have Breakfast

If there’s only one change you make to your eating habits, the one that will have a massive effect on fat burning, it’s to spend 15 minutes every morning having breakfast. Better still, if you’re able to, have breakfast with your partner or family. This way, not only will you get a physical benefit, you’ll start the day with a mental lift.

Anyone that’s ever tried out popular slimming plans such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World will already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it kick-starts our metabolism. Our bodies’ metabolic rate is much lower overnight when we’re in bed. By and large, it stays that way until we’ve eaten those first few morsels of the day, after which it speeds up, allowing our bodies to burn off calories more efficiently.

It goes without saying then that those people who skip breakfast and don’t eat until lunch-time, have just wasted 5 or 6 hours of ‘calorie burning’ time …. Every day!! - As we’re only awake for about 16 or 17 hours a day, it’s crucial that we don’t waste a third of that time.

A common misconception is that skipping breakfast means we will take in fewer calories, which therefore is bound to help us in losing weight. This really is NOT the case.

Any diet or eating pattern that involves an element of ‘fasting’, will lead the body to switching into ‘survival mode’, prioritising the channelling of essential nutrients to vital organs and slowing down the metabolic rate to conserve energy. People who regularly skip breakfast can experience this in feeling lethargic or low on energy throughout the morning. Also, in ‘survival mode’ our bodies tend to ‘store’ more food when we do eventually decide to eat, The effect of all this will actually cause us to maintain or even gain weight rather than reducing it.

But hang on …”, I often hear. “Whenever I have a breakfast in a morning, I’m starving again by ten o’clock!”.

Yes, this can often be true and there’s a reason for this. It’s generally down to our choice of breakfast. Most breakfast cereals, cereal bars or ‘white bread’ toast, tend to just give us a quick, sugary ‘hit’, then drop us again an hour or two later. Breakfasts such as Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, Bran Flakes, All Bran, Porridge, wholemeal toast or bananas give us a sustained release of energy throughout the morning and are far less likely to leave us feeling hungry between breakfast and lunch.

Many people tell me that they just can’t face anything to eat first thing in a morning. One of the main causes of this is dehydration. Once your body becomes accustomed to receiving about a litre of water for every five stones of body weight, most of your normal bodily processes will begin to work normally, meaning you’ll be able to wake up feeling more alert and refreshed and ready to eat. It doesn’t need to be a banquet; just a few mouthfuls is all that is required to kick-start your metabolism

If you work shift patterns, breakfast is classed as your first meal after you wake up; so although the timings may be different, the principle is just the same.

6 Eating speed.

Eating speed and portion sizes tend to be fairly closely linked. A good way to demonstrate this, is to think about hunger on a scale of 1 to 10; where at ‘1’ you’re so famished, you’re almost passing out and at ‘10’, you’re completely stuffed, ‘Christmas Dinner’ style!

People who wait until they get down to a ‘1’ on this scale, will tend to make much poorer food choices, will eat a lot faster, will eat much more and will often eat all the way up until they reach ‘10’ on the scale.

Whereas, those who decide to eat when they’re just ‘moderately’ hungry, lets say a 2 ½ or 3 on the scale, will have tended to have planned better, will make much healthier food choices, will generally be eating much slower, will eat less and will stop eating when they feel ‘satisfied’, perhaps a 7 on the scale.

Also, as with ‘Portion Sizes’, we can lose track of our eating speed if we’re eating in front of the television or other distraction.

Eating quickly can tend to cause us to miss the signals from our stomachs, that tell us we’re satisfied. When combined with a few other tweaks to our eating habits, slowing our eating speed down can have a significant impact on our weight.

A good tip to help us get into the habit of eating slower is to practice putting your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls; fast eater will typically ‘re-load’ their fork whilst they are chewing the existing mouthful.  Being conscious of putting your knife and fork down and only picking it up again once you’ve swallowed what’s in your mouth, is a very good way to ‘train’ ourselves into eating slower.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t come easy at first; in fact, it can feel quite awkward at first. But, if you can concentrate on consciously putting your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls for just two weeks, it will have almost certainly become an unconscious habit within that time. Give it a try, see how you get on!

But won’t my meal go cold?” – Well, that's a good point and one I can relate to; I was once a fast eater myself for the same reason. Someone suggested to me to warm the plates up in the oven and that was that. I now habitually warm the plates up, can eat much slower and my meal doesn’t go cold.

Another reason I often come across as to why some people eat quickly, is that when they were a young child, if they weren’t quick to finish their meal, their older brothers would begin to help themselves as soon as they had polished their own meals off! 

The key is to recognise what the real reason is that we may eat quickly, then either figure out a way of satisfying that need (as in my case), or identifying the real reason and putting into context in todays terms. Quite often, just being aware of the true reason for a certain behaviour, is enough to put that behaviour into a new context and change it.
More next time. If you missed Part 1, you can find it again by clicking the link below;-
Best wishes


Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 1

Since 2010, I have studied, analysed and compiled the eating habits of almost a thousand overweight people.
In the next few blog posts, I'll be revealing what I consider to be the undisputed TOP 20 reasons that we find ourselves overweight in the first place, along with a detailed explanation of each. This was initially just going to be a 'top ten', but when I was compiling this, I could see there were many important reasons that fell outside of the top ten. Over the next few blog posts, you may find a few surprises in here; even for those people who think they already 'know' why they're overweight.

So, whether you're about to commence your own weight loss journey or you're part way through and looking for some inspiration to give your journey a boost, here are the Top 3 reasons that contribute to people being over weight;
1 Not Drinking Enough Water.
By a very long way, the single biggest reason that contributes toward us being over-weight, is the fact that we simply don’t drink enough water.
As well as anything else, we’re made out of the stuff; two thirds of your body weight is water.
Even though it doesn’t feel natural or logical to link water intake with our weight, many of the reasons we think we’re overweight, are actually caused by not drinking enough water.
So many of us think that our weight problem is caused by, “eating when I’m bored”, “eating when I’m stressed”, “I comfort eat”, “I graze all day”, “I snack in the afternoon or evening”, “I always need something sweet after a meal”, “I crave chocolate all the time”. At some level, this may seem true, because it’s what you’re experiencing. At a deeper level however, the biggest contributor to creating all those experiences is lack of water.
Think about it like this: Imagine if you had a car that wasn’t working properly and was constantly overheating. At one level you could say your car overheated; “because the journey was too long”, “because I was stuck in traffic for ages”, “because it’s a scorching hot day”, “because I was driving too fast”, “because it was fully laden”, etc, etc. Again, at some level any of these reasons could be true because your experience can confirm these as verifiable facts. However, at a deeper level, if there isn’t enough water in the radiator, you know that the real, route cause of the over-heating is lack of water.
How does drinking water help me lose weight?
Water ticks SO many boxes in terms of allowing our bodies to function properly and efficiently; if we aren’t drinking enough, we’re lining ourselves up for all kinds of problems, one of which is struggling with weight. Water helps your muscles to burn off calories more efficiently, it keeps your skin hydrated, it helps with burning off excess body fat and flushes unwanted toxins out of your system.
How much water do I need to drink?
As a guide, we need to drink a litre of water for every 5 stone of body weight, every day. This also needs to be spread fairly evenly throughout the day from just after you rise, all the way through to a couple of hours before bedtime.
I’ve got friends who are slim. They don’t drink water like that, why should I?
That may be true. But remember, if you’re wanting to lose weight, you’ll need to over compensate with your water intake for a while; at least until your weight’s reduced and under control.
With all that water, I’m going to be on the loo all the time. Won’t that be inconvenient?
Yes, initially it may mean a few more trips to the loo. If you haven’t been drinking enough water, your body will have adapted to this to some degree; for example, your bladder will be used to holding only a small amount of urine. Once you start drinking the recommended amount of water, your body will quickly get used to processing this amount, you’ll also begin to ‘crave’ the right amount and ultimately, your bladder will adapt to hold more, resulting in fewer trips to the loo again and the inconvenience of those extra loo trips being relatively short lived. Compare that with the inconvenience of being overweight or unhealthy and it’s a very small price to pay, isn’t it?
Can I count any fluid toward my daily allowance or does it need to be just water?
As a guide, it can be anything that doesn’t contain sugar, salt, caffeine or alcohol. So, tap water, flavoured water, filtered water, mineral water, sparkling water, etc, are all fine. Try adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or unsweetened juice to give it a bit of flavour. You can also count decaffeinated tea and coffee, or infusions such as mint teas, ginger & lemon teas and that kind of thing.
I’ve already got swollen ankles and fluid retention. If I drink all that water, surely I’m going to swell up even more, aren’t I?
Not at all. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen. Part of the reason that your body is retaining fluid, is because you’re not drinking enough and your body has adapted to storing it, in much the same way as camels store water in the desert. As soon as your body becomes used to processing the recommended amount of water, your body will realise that it doesn’t need to store fluid any more and those swellings will quickly go down.
2 Time.
The second biggest reason we struggle with our weight, is that we generally just don’t treat ourselves to the time that we deserve, to bring our weight under control. Of course we all want instant results, that’s just human nature; but most of us are sensible enough to accept that the weight didn’t go on overnight, and it isn’t going to come off over night. But the ‘time’ thing goes much deeper than that and manifests itself in a number of different ways:
Okay, so you’ve decided you want to lose weight. How much do you want it? Are you completely committed to doing whatever it takes to bring your weight under control?
Have you ever been on holiday and heard people speaking French, Spanish, Italian, etc, and thought to yourself, “Oh, I wish I could speak a foreign language”? Or have you ever attended a venue where there was live music playing and thought, “I wish I could play a musical instrument”? I’m guessing there was probably ‘real’ desire in that moment, thinking about how good it would feel to play that instrument or learn that language. But, how does that desire compare to your desire to lose weight?
Many people fall into the trap of having these desires, but with no real commitment behind them. Without the commitment, it’s always going to be ‘just a desire’.
So, with this in mind, are you really doing everything you can to bring your weight under control? If not, are you really that determined after all?
Ask yourself, just how high up your list of priorities is losing weight? I had a client once, whose hobby was painting landscapes. When I broached the subject of time with her, she informed me, “I never have any spare time. It isn’t just about painting the pictures” she continued, “I’m always out buying materials, taking photographs, attending exhibitions, preparing advertisements for selling paintings, maintaining my website … I never stop!”.
Quite often she would say to herself, “I haven’t got time to prepare a proper meal, I’ve got to get this painting finished. I’ll just grab a snack….” or, “There’s no time for the gym today, I need to get these prints uploaded to my website…”.
Many of us fall into a very similar trap, where we kid ourselves into thinking there isn’t enough time, blaming work commitments, children, parents, spouses or a whole list of other reasons. In reality though, the issue isn’t about ‘time’ at all; it’s about prioritising. If we really want to, we can consciously change our priorities … “I’m just not going to get this painting finished today because I really need to stop now and start preparing a meal”. “As much as I want to get these prints uploaded to my website, it’s just not going to happen; I really need to get going to the gym now!”.
But hang on” I hear you say, “I really don’t have any time. By the time I’ve finished work, picked Jack up from nursery, done some shopping, called in on my elderly parents, collected Billy from football, prepared tea, bathed the kids, put them to bed ……”. Okay, okay, I get the picture!
But let’s have a look at what’s really going on there. We might realise we’re over weight. We might have some level of desire to do something about it. We might even realise that we need to go to the gym. But instead, we’ll just kid ourselves, bombarding our minds with an endless list of tasks that need doing instead. This helps us to justify (at some level) why we’re over weight, blaming events ‘outside’ of ourselves. At some level and in a strange kind of way, this does help us feel slightly better about our weight situation, as we create the illusion for ourselves that things are beyond our control.
Losing weight is like taking on a project, and like any project, it may require some management of your time.
Prioritise:- Exercise bike or Eastenders? Lie-in or breakfast?
Plan Ahead:- If you know your time schedule’s going to be tight, make sure you’ve taken the time to plan ahead. Planning meals to avoid that opportunistic take-away. Planned snacks to make sure they’re the healthy ones. Planned activity sessions so that they’re a prioritised commitment, around which everything else can be fitted.
Be Selfish:- Are you allowing everyone else to dictate what you do with your time?
Set Goals:- Not too ‘long-term’. What do you want to achieve this week? or next week? Write them down.
3 Activity.
The third biggest factor that contributes toward our weight comes from our levels of activity.
Now of course, it is possible to make some headway into our weight loss journey just by making some changes to our diet. But for those people who are really committed and determined to reduce their weight and feel healthier, increasing your activity levels can significantly increase the effectiveness of your efforts, accelerate the rate at which you’re able to reduce your weight and boost the chances of keeping the weight off for good.  
Losing weight is really about simple maths; all you need to do is burn off more calories than you eat. So, making a few tweaks to our food intake, takes care of one half of the equation. Becoming more active takes care of the other half and really can’t be treated as an ‘optional extra’. Regular activity leads to an increase in our metabolic rate; meaning that once you become a regular exerciser, your body will burn off more calories ‘round the clock’, not just at the times when you’re exercising.
Of course, there are a few hurdles to overcome in order for most of us to get into the habit of a regular activity routine. One of the mistakes many people make is trying to do too much, too soon. This is far more likely to lead to us not bothering at all, or coming up with all kinds of excuses as to why we can’t do it.
Some of the classic excuses are;
“Between work, family, and other demands, I am too busy to exercise.”
Are you really too busy, or does it make you feel better using that ‘time’ thing as a justification? It’s never really about time, it’s about prioritising what you do with your time.
Make physical activity a priority. Carve out some time each week to be active, and put it on your calendar. Try waking up a half-hour earlier to walk, scheduling lunchtime workouts, or taking an evening fitness class.
Build physical activity into your routine chores. Rake the garden, hand-wash the car, or do energetic housework. That way you do what you need to do around the house and move around too.
Make family time physically active. Plan a weekend hike through a park, a family ball game, a wii console tournament or just an evening walk around the block.
“By the end of a long day, I am just too tired to work out.”
One of the biggest reasons for being too tired to exercise, is that our bodies are out of shape and we have a low metabolic rate. Starting off with something relatively small and safely within your capabilities (even if it’s just a 10 minute walk to begin with), it’s possible to gradually build on this to a point where, in a relatively short space of time, your energy levels increase and you’re engaging in a regular, meaningful level activity.
Plus, think about the other health benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also lower your odds of having heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer. Research shows that people who are overweight, active and fit live longer than people who are not overweight but are inactive and unfit. Also, physical activity may lift your mood and increase your energy level.
Do it just for fun. Play a team sport, work in a garden, or learn a new dance. Make getting fit something fun. Train for a charity event. You can work to help others while you work out. Committing to this and telling your friends you’ve committed to it will significantly increase your chances of sticking with it.
“Getting on a treadmill or exercise bike is boring.”
There are loads of things that we do that are boring; ironing, vacuuming, cleaning …. but we still do them! The good news is that we can at least tweak our exercise routines so that they aren’t as boring;-
Meet a friend for workouts. If your buddy is on the next bike or treadmill, your workout will be less boring.
Watch TV or listen to music or an audio book while you walk or pedal indoors. Selecting the right tempo of music can also help influence your work-rate and the effort you put in.
Get outside. A change in scenery can relieve your boredom. If you are riding a bike outside, be sure to wear a helmet and learn safe rules of the road. Also, take your camera! It’s amazing where you can end up when you’re out on your bike. You’re bound to take in scenery and landscapes that you almost certainly wouldn’t come across otherwise. Capturing some shots on camera and reviewing them a couple of days later is a great way to motivate yourself to get out there again!
“I am afraid I might hurt myself.”
Of course we don’t want to be aggravating an old injury or even worse, causing a new injury.
Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slow at the start. Even if you are doing an activity that you once did well, start up again slowly to lower your risk of injury or burnout.
Choose moderate-intensity physical activities. You are not likely to hurt yourself by walking 30 minutes per day. Doing vigorous physical activities may increase your risk for injury, but moderate-intensity physical activity carries a lower risk.
Join a class. A knowledgeable group fitness instructor should be able to teach you how to move with proper form and lower risk for injury. The instructor can watch your actions during the class and let you know if you are doing things right.
Choose water workouts. Whether you swim lengths or try aqua-aerobics, working out in the water is easy on your joints and helps reduce sore muscles and injury.
Work with a personal trainer. A certified personal trainer should be able to show you how to warm up, cool down, use fitness equipment like treadmills and dumbbells, and use proper form to help lower your risk for injury. All gymnasiums have qualified fitness instructors and their knowledge, advice and encouragement is usually included in your membership fees …. So use them!
“I have never been into sports.”
Find a physical activity that you enjoy. You do not have to be an athlete to benefit from physical activity. Try yoga, hiking, or planting a garden.
Choose an activity that you can stick with. For example, walking. Just put one foot in front of the other. Use the time you spend walking to reflect or plan ahead, talk with a friend or family member, or just enjoy the scenery.
“I don’t want to spend lots of money joining a gym or buying workout gear.”
Choose free activities. Take your children to the park to play or take a walk.
Find out if your job offers any discounts on gym memberships. Some companies get lower membership rates at fitness or community centres. Other companies will even pay for part of an employee’s membership fee. If you’re a public sector workers or even a retired public sector worker, you’ll almost certainly have access to discounted gym memberships and the like.
Check out your local recreation or community centre. These centres may cost less than other gyms, fitness centres, or health clubs.
Choose physical activities that do not require any special gear. Walking requires only a pair of sturdy shoes. To dance, just turn on some music. Or what about borrowing the kids’ wii console for an hour?
If your mobility has been impaired for a while, ask your GP about the ‘Activity For Life’ program; a completely free, thirteen week, one to one physical induction plan with a personal trainer, designed to ease you back into a regular routine of activity.
“I don’t have anyone to watch my kids while I work out.”
Do something physically active with your kids. Kids need physical activity too. No matter what age your kids are, you can find activities you can do together. Taking them swimming, go walking, a ride around the park, or playing with a ball or frizbee together.
Take turns with another parent to watch the kids. One of you minds the kids while the other one works out.
Look for gyms and fitness centres that offer child care facilities or a crèche. Centres that offer child care are increasingly recognising this problem and are becoming more popular.
“My family and friends are just not physically active.”
Do not let that stop you. Do it for yourself. Enjoy the rewards you get from working out, such as better sleep, a happier mood, more energy, and a stronger body.
Join a class or sports league where people count on you to show up. If your football team or squash partner counts on you, you will not want to miss a workout, even if your family and friends are not involved.
“I would be embarrassed if my neighbours or friends saw me exercising.”
Ask yourself if it really matters. You are doing something positive for your health and that is something to be proud of. You may even inspire others to get physically active too.
Invite a friend or neighbour to join you. You’ll feel far less self-conscious if you just invite them along!
“The winter is too cold or the summer is too hot to be active outdoors.”
Walk around the shopping centre. A bit of retail ‘window shopping’ therapy keeps you on your feet and active. Even if it’s just once a week, if it’s more then you’re currently doing, it’s a step in the right direction.
Join a fitness or community centre. Some gyms will now let you pay seasonally or just for the classes you want.  This way, you can avoid committing yourself to the full membership fee for a whole year.
Exercise at home. Work out to fitness videos or DVDs. It doesn’t even have to be a DVD …. look on YouTube for an almost infinite variety of dance or fitness sessions.
“I have a health problem (diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis) or an injury that I do not want to make worse.”
Speak first with your GP. Most health problems are actually helped by physical activity. Find out what physical activities you can safely do and follow advice about length and intensity of workouts.
Join the Activity For Life program. Activity for life is available from your GP. In certain circumstances he/she can prescribe you a 13 week gym membership with a one-to-one personal instructor, designed to get you more active. Some of the gym equipment and machinery is designed to do some of the work for you as you begin, and is adjusted as you progress through the program. For more information, just ask your GP about Activity For Life.
Start slowly. Take it easy at first and see how you feel before trying more challenging workouts. Stop if you feel out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseated, or if you have pain.
Work with a personal trainer. If you recovering from an injury, a knowledgeable personal trainer should be able to help you design a fitness plan around your injury.
Activity Action Plan
What are the top two or three barriers to physical activity that you face? What can you do to break through these barriers? Write down a list of the barriers you face and solutions you can use to overcome them.
You have thought about ways to beat your barriers to physical activity. Now, create your blueprint for adding physical activity to your life by following these three steps:
Know your goal.
Set up short-term goals. For example, walking 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Once you are comfortable, try to do more. Try 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Then walk on more days a week while adding more minutes to your walk. You can try different activities too. To add variety, you can do low-impact aerobics or water aerobics for 30 minutes, 2 days a week.
Then walk on a treadmill or outdoors for 30 minutes, 1 day a week. Then do yoga or lift weights for 2 days.
Track your progress by writing down your goals and what you have done each day, including the type of activity and how long you spent doing it. Seeing your progress in black-and-white helps to keep you motivated.
See your GP first.
If you are a man and over age 40 or a woman and over age 50, or have a chronic health problem such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, speak to your GP before starting a vigorous physical activity program. You may not need to talk to your doctor before starting less strenuous activities such as walking.
Answer these questions about how physical activity will fit into your life.
Think about answers to the following four questions. Again, it’s good to write your answers on a sheet of paper. Your answers will be your blueprint to your physical activity program.
What physical activities will you do? List the activities you would like to do, such as walking, gardening or housework, joining a sports league, exercising with a video, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or taking a class at a fitness or community centre. Think about sports or other activities that you enjoyed doing when you were younger. Could you enjoy one of these activities again?
When will you be physically active? List the days and times you could do each activity on your list, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after your evening meal or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best.
Who will remind you to get off the couch? List the people - your spouse, kids, parents, or friends who can support your efforts to become physically active. Give them ideas about how they could be supportive, like offering encouraging words, watching your kids, or working out with you.
When will you start your physical activity program? Set a date when you will start getting active. The date might be the first meeting of an exercise class you have signed up for, or a date you will meet a friend for a walk. Write the date on your calendar. Then stick to it. Before you know it, physical activity will become a regular part of your life.
What one thing could you do today, that would take you nearer to your weight loss goals?
We'll continue in the next blog post, starting with the fourth biggest reason.
Best wishes