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How to eat and drink sensibly - and still enjoy it!

If you are overweight, you are eating too much! It's as simple as that. No exercise in the world is as effective in weight loss, as reducing the amount being eaten and drunk. On this page:

  | Calories burned in exercise | Muscle to Fat Graph | Some advice on dieting | Food Pyramid | Physical Activity What is a food portion |    What is metabolism  | Diet Plateaus   | The truth about Aspartame | - dispel the myths about this popular aid to dieting!

An empty fridge means 'take-away' meals or worse - fast food! Avoid indulging in unplanned fat and calories from the neighbourhood's fast food outlets. A simple strategy is all you need. Keep a well-stocked fridge. Grocery shop with detailed lists for low fat foods. Know what you're going for. Devise seven to fourteen dinners for the weeks ahead and shop with an itemized list of ingredients needed to prepare them.

At home double recipes while cooking. Stew, chilli and many other dishes freeze well. Never cook "just enough" - make extra and freeze the leftovers. This week's vegetables are next week's ingredients for soups and stews. Prepare salads and cut up vegetables into snackable strips. Use weekend cooking and baking to stock the fridge and freezer with nutritious meals and snacks for the weekdays. It's a worthy path toward healthy, low fat eating - and it helps avoid the excess fat and calories from an unplanned trip to the local fast food emporium.

Snacking is on the rise. Current research indicates snacking is one of the top ten consumer nutrition trends. More than 60% of people snack once or more daily, while 32 percent snack instead of eating proper meals. Snacking shouldn't mean mindless eating in front of the television, nor should it replace regular meals.

The foods that are most often associated with snacking are high calorie, high fat junk foods such as candy bars, chocolate and potato chips. Small portions of these foods occasionally won't hurt your diet, but for everyday snacking, you'll want to choose a healthier alternative.

Clearly, healthy snacks can help us meet nutritional needs. However, choose snacks that are low in fat and sodium and preferably high in complex carbohydrates, such as raw vegetables or fruit. Some snackers prefer a protein like low fat cheese or yogurt. If it's the crunchy foods you like, air-popped popcorn, pretzels, low fat crackers and rice cakes are still all-time favourites. Drink lots of water with your snack - and try not to eat it too close to bedtime, as studies clearly indicate that late night eating can lead to weight gain.

Lack of water makes your kidneys work harder to filter out toxins. When your internal workings become sluggish, your complexion can look dull and sallow. Keep your skin in tip-top shape by drinking lots of water and eating as much as you can afford of fresh fruit and vegetables.

It is basically, and very boringly, all to do with calorie intake. There is no better measure of what you are consuming. However, you can make it fun, by becoming really fussy about it and keeping accurate records and weighing and measuring everything. It could put a strain on a relationship unless your partner joins you. Which won't be a bad idea; if you are overweight it is likely they are too. Advice on calorie counting and sensible eating plans below:

See: Pyramid for details of food groups and recommended portions.

See: Graph for details of  'fat to muscle' conversion and extra calories for you.

Check your Body mass index BMI and see how much fat you have!

Check Physical Activity chart to see how much you need to do to burn excess calories.

                 Calories Burned in Exercise


Calories Burned per Hour*
         Bicycling, 6 mph 240
         Bicycling, 12 mph 410
         Cross-country skiing 700
         Jogging, 5˝ mph 740
         Jogging, 7 mph 920
         Jumping rope 50
         Running in place 650
         Running, 10 mph 1280
         Swimming, 25 yds./min. 275
         Swimming, 50 yds./min. 500
         Tennis, singles 400
         Walking, 2 mph 240
         Walking, 3 mph 320
         Walking, 4˝ mph 440
min. = minutes
mph = miles per hour
yds. = yards

* These figures are for a person who weighs 150 pounds. The amount of calories you burn during an activity depends on how much you weigh. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn. For example, a person weighing 100 pounds burns only 0.67 times the calories of a person who weighs 150 pounds (100 ÷ 150 = 0.67). So, to find the number of calories a burned in an activity by a person weighing 100 pounds, multiply the number of calories in this chart by 0.67. For a person weighing 200 pounds, multiply by 1.3. To find the number of calories you burn in any activity, divide your weight by 150 and multiply the number of calories in the chart by that number. The actual burn rate is controlled by our own basic metabolic rate or individual metabolism. 

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns to maintain itself. Whether you are eating, drinking, sleeping, cleaning etc... your body is constantly burning calories to keep you going. Metabolism is affected by your body composition. By body composition, I mean the amount of muscle you have versus the amount of fat. Muscle uses more calories to maintain itself than fat. People who are more muscular (and have a lower percentage of body fat) are said to have a higher metabolism than others that are less muscular. For example, let's say you have two people who are the exact same height and weight. One exercises on a regular basis with weights, in addition to aerobic exercise, and has a low percentage of body fat. The other never exercises and has a higher percentage of body fat. The first person who exercises will have a higher metabolism than the second person. What this basically means is that person #1's body will use more calories to sustain itself than person #2. 

[Extracts from:]

Basic metabolism will increase if you begin to exercise and stop dieting. If you've never exercised before, make sure you see a doctor before beginning a new exercise program (your problems with metabolism may be the result of a medical condition rather than your diet or lack of exercise). 

You can increase your muscle mass by doing some type of resistance work (i.e. lifting weights, using exer-tubes, rubber-bands, dyna-bands, hand weights etc...). You can also decrease your level of body fat by doing some type of aerobic exercise at least 3 days a week for longer than 20 minutes. By aerobic exercise, I mean an activity (such as walking, jogging, step aerobics, hi/low aerobics, biking, swimming etc...) that will increase your heart-rate  into the training rate  and keep it there for the duration of the exercise session. You also need to eat! - Do not diet, just watch the types of foods you eat. Try to eat a diet that is lower in fat (check the labels on the foods that you buy).

After the age of 30, your body gradually begins to lose it's muscle. If your activity level stays the same and the amount of calories you eat stay the same, you will gain weight because your metabolism has slowed down (you don't have as much muscle as you did in your 20's). If you exercise with weights and do some type of aerobic activity on a regular basis, you probably won't notice much of a change in your metabolism as you age.

Symptoms of slow metabolism include fatigue, feeling cold, dry skin, constipation, a slow pulse and low blood pressure. These symptoms could be the result of a medical condition rather than low metabolism - MAKE SURE YOU SEE YOUR DOCTOR to rule out any type of medical problem. If you eat a very low-calorie diet, your metabolism will slow down in order for your body to survive (your body thinks it is starving).

If you have been dieting over the years, and your weight has gone up and down, it has probably resulted in a loss of muscle and an increase in your percentage of body fat. As a result  your metabolism has probably slowed down.

Everyone has a different bone structure and body type (mesomorph, ectomorph, endomorph or combination). It is not realistic to think that everyone can look like the 'Baywatch' beauties or like Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, given your body type and genetic make-up, you can exercise (with weights and aerobically) to look the best that you can.

Most experts agree that weight training and aerobic exercise do increase metabolism while you are exercising and after you are finished. They disagree on how long after exercise your metabolism remains increased.

When you are exercising aerobically, your focus should be on burning calories and working your cardiovascular system. Because it takes more calories to exercise, your metabolism speeds up during the activity. When you are lifting weights or doing other resistance work, focus on the activity itself which not only burns calories but increases muscle strength, tone and endurance. The combination of aerobic activity and weight training will result in a body that has more muscle and less fat - so the end result will be a higher metabolism.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion you may have on metabolism. This is an area that is constantly under study. As new information becomes available, I will add it to this page.

Step 1 - Assess your body mass index

Body Mass Index (BMI) - Your weight in kilos divided by your height in metres squared.

Example: 12st 7lbs & 5' 8"  =  79.38 divided by 2.98 (1.73 x 1.73)  =  BMI 26.64


  • Less than 20 - underweight
  • 20-25 - healthy weight range
  • 25-30 - overweight - could lose some, but definitely aim not to gain more
  • 30-40 - obese - lose some weight for your health's sake
  • 40 or more - lose weight now - seek medical advice

Or measure your waist. Excess fat around your middle spells a greater risk of problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Women: 80-88cm (32-35 inches) = overweight 88cm (35 inches) or more = obese

Men: 94-102cm (37-40 inches) = overweight 102cm (40 inches) or more = obese.

Step 2 - Assess your Eating
and Exercise Habits

Keep a food and activity diary for two weeks. In a handy notebook, record what and when you eat and drink, and any associated thoughts or feelings (look out for any negative thoughts about food and eating that may throw you off course). Also jot down any activity, whether it's a walk up the stairs or a workout. Use this information to make diet and activity changes (see Step 3), and develop your own strategies to help you feel better about food (see Step 4).

Step 3 - Whittle off Excess Energy

Body fat is stored energy, and one pound of it contains 3,500 calories. So to lose a pound you need to make a 3,500 calorie deficit. The painless way to do this is slowly - using a few lifestyle tweaks. By whittling away 250-300 calories a day, you can lose 9000 calories a month, equivalent to 2-3 pounds of body fat, without even thinking about it. Combine a weekly average of an extra 100 calories burned by daily activity, and 200 calories dropped from your daily diet, to get your 300 calorie energy deficit.

Increase Physical Activity
N.B. For the same activity, the heavier you are the more calories you burn. Use these two examples to decide what fits you best.


Minutes to Burn 100 calories

67kg/10.5 stone person

95kg/15stone person

Aerobics (low intensity)



Aerobics (high intensity)









Cycling (moderate)



Food shopping









Running - slow  (11min.mile)



Running - rapid  (7 min. mile)









Swimming (breast stroke)






Walking (briskly)



Walking up stairs



Drop an average 200 calories a day - here's some ideas

  • Replace a medium chocolate bar (50-60g) with a piece of fruit
  • Order a jacket potato instead of fries
  • In sandwiches and rolls, hold the mayonnaise and butter.
  • Nibble on a 30g pack of Twiglets instead of 50g pack nuts.
  • Order a vegetable topped pizza rather than double pepperoni
  • Snack on a fruit scone rather than a 90g fruit flapjack
  • Cool down with an iced lolly rather than a Magnum
  • Order a vodka and slim line tonic rather than a creamy cocktail
  • Lunch on a healthy choice sandwich rather than a meat/pork pie · 
  • Skip chicken korma and order a non-creamy curry
  • Order steamed rather than fried rice

Step 4 - Keep it Off

To maintain your weight loss, it's vital to keep up new habits. But it's also important to change the way you view yourself and your progress. According to Professor Christopher Fairburn from Oxford University, successful weight loss maintainers tend to:

  • Set realistic weight goals and try not to lose weight too quickly
  • Maintain an active lifestyle
  • Eat a lower fat diet than they used to (and more fruit and vegetables)
  • Regularly monitor their weight (say, every two weeks)
  • Don't get put off course by 'all or nothing' thinking e.g. "I have eaten a 'bad' food so I have failed and may as well keep on eating" - this reaction is the problem, not eating the 'bad' food.
  • Have some form of ongoing support
  • Recognise that weight maintenance is a long term project.

                     If you need advice now, e mail the Webmaster

The Food Guide Pyramid

A Guide to Daily Food Choices

Select a section of the pyramid for details

The Food Guide Pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day. It's not a rigid prescription but a general guide that lets you choose a healthy diet that's right for you.

The Pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need and at the same time the right amount of calories to maintain healthy weight.

Use the Pyramid to help you eat better every day...the Dietary Guidelines way. Start with plenty of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. Add 2-3 servings from the milk group and 2-3 servings from the meat group. Remember to go easy on fats, oils, and sweets, the foods in the small tip of the Pyramid.

What Counts as One Serving?

The amount of food that counts as one serving is listed below. If you eat a larger portion, count it as more than 1 serving. For example, a dinner portion of spaghetti would count as 2 or 3 servings of pasta.

Be sure to eat at least the lowest number of servings from the five major food groups listed below. You need them for the vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein they provide. Just try to pick the lowest fat choices from the food groups. No specific serving size is given for the fats, oils, and sweets group because the message is USE SPARINGLY.


Milk, Yoghurt, and Cheese
1 cup of milk or yoghurt 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese 2 ounces of process cheese
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of lean meat
1 cup of raw leafy vegetables 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
1 medium apple, banana, orange 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Bread, Cereal, rice, and Pasta
1 slice of bread 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

Nobody likes dieting.  But is there really any other choice for those who want to lose weight?

Yes, there is. Look at the graph below to see how many calories you can burn if you replace some fat with muscle.

Some advice on dieting?

Don't let discouraging words ruin your chances of achieving a healthy weight.

Have you heard the latest dieting scare? Recent research suggesting that they’re losing bone along with the fat may have distressed many folks trying to lose weight.

      The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that women who lost an average of seven pounds while on an 18-month low-fat, low-calorie diet also lost bone mineral density in their hips at twice the rate of non-dieters. Exercise helped slow the bone loss but didn't stop it. The researchers warned that dieting might therefore increase the risk for osteoporosis, or brittle bones.

      The truth is we don't yet know what the findings mean. Does the lost bone density really put dieters at high risk for fracture, or is it just a natural adjustment to losing weight that restores bone density to its proper proportion? I suspect the latter.

      Dieters, it seems, are periodically assaulted by discouraging findings. For instance, some researchers have concluded that up to 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back within months of stopping the diet. Faced with a statistic like that, many overweight people may feel it's not worth even trying to slim down.

      But such estimates may not apply to the general population. Dieting studies often involve volunteers who have struggled for years to lose weight without success. Few studies have looked at 'run-of-the-mill' dieters, who are probably far more successful than the published findings suggest. If you approach dieting sensibly and with realistic expectations, I believe your chances of success are quite good.

Every Little Bit Helps

      Even if you do regain the weight you lose, you're still better off than if you hadn't lost it in the first place — despite media reports about the hazards of such weight cycling, sometimes dubbed "yo-yo" dieting.

      You may have heard that swings in body weight can make it harder to lose weight the next time or even increase the risk of certain diseases, the best evidence doesn't support those supposed risks. In 1994, a National Institutes of Health panel reviewed 43 studies of weight cycling and found no adverse effects on the body at all.

      On the other hand, yo-yo dieting can have a psychological impact. After all, it can be discouraging, even depressing, to lose weight only to gain it back — and even more so to repeat that cycle several times. It certainly would be better if everyone who lost weight managed to keep it off, but the benefits of losing weight are so substantial that weighing less for even a short time can improve health.

      An overweight person who sheds as little as 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight can lower the risk of obesity-related conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. For people who already have such medical problems, losing even a few pounds can help. "If you weigh less for, say, 20 percent of the time, you reduce the risks associated with being overweight for that amount of time."

Losing It Sensibly

      The key to losing weight without risk is to approach the task sensibly and not expect to drop a lot of pounds in a few days or weeks. Dieting can become dangerous when you try to achieve too much too fast.

      Severely restrictive diets that are not medically monitored can lead to serious health problems, including heart damage. Even at less aggressive levels, dieting can cause loss of muscle as well as fat, potentially resulting in lost strength and endurance and also reducing the body's metabolic rate and thus its ability to burn fat. The best way to maintain muscle while dieting is to do resistance exercises, even using very light weights.

      Another danger of dieting comes from plans that overemphasise just one nutrient or food group. Take the currently popular high-protein diets, for example, which restrict the intake of carbohydrates but not fat. There's nothing to the notion that protein helps curb appetite, in fact, high-quality 'complex' carbohydrates — such as whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice — are more filling and nutritious than rich or fatty foods on a calorie-for-calorie basis. The best way to lose weight without sacrificing nutrition is to eat a variety of foods and just cut back on the amounts.

      Dieters typically focus on cutting down on dietary fat to lose weight. And that can help, since fatty foods do tend to be calorie-dense. (Plus, too much saturated fat in the diet is a major risk factor for heart disease.) It also helps to cut down on sugary treats, which often provide only "empty" calories with little nutritive value. But the bottom line is that a calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from. And the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn as energy.

     The safest and most sustainable way to lose weight is to strive for one or two pounds per week, although many people lose more than that in water weight during the first week or two. That's why almost any diet will seem to work at first, but may fail to live up to its promise over time.

      Unfortunately, there are no short cuts or magic cures when it comes to losing weight. But the good news is that it's worth the effort. And although it sounds trite, it's true: If at first you don't succeed, try again! 


Did you know about dieting plateaus?

It's kind of like running into a wall - that feeling you get when, after a few months on a weight-loss program, you suddenly stop seeing results. This is called hitting a plateau and it is not uncommon. In fact, unless you continually update your program to reflect the changes your body has already experienced, you can almost be guaranteed to plateau at some point along your journey toward reaching your goal weight.

Weight-loss Woes

The first thing you should do upon hitting a plateau is try to determine the cause. Could you be eating more calories than you think? Research shows that most people underreport the number of calories they eat - it's not that they're lying, they just don't know how to make an accurate assessment of how much they're eating. And even if you're eating less calories than before you lost the weight, you could be eating just enough to maintain your current weight at your current activity level. It is important to keep in mind that as you lose weight, your metabolism slows down because there is less of you to fuel, both at rest and during activity. So, while a diet of 1,800 calories per day helped you lose a certain amount of weight, if you've hit a plateau, it could be that 1,800 calories is the exact amount you need to stay at your current weight.

Exercise Your Options

This leaves you with two options: Lower your caloric intake further or increase the amount of time you spend being physically active. The first option is less desirable because you may not be able to get sufficient nutrients from a diet that is very low in calories, and it is difficult to stick to it for very long. It is much better to moderately reduce calories to a level that you can sustain when you reach your goal weight. The same is true for exercise. Trying to exercise for several hours per day to burn more calories is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Not only does this type of regimen require an enormous time commitment, it is hard on the body, making you more susceptible to injury and overuse syndromes. To help balance the intake with the expenditure, a good rule of thumb is to multiply your goal weight by 10 calories per pound, and add more calories according to how active you are. Again, be realistic. Don't attempt too much in an effort to burn more calories. Instead, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most of the days of the week and, as you become more fit, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise sessions. Choose activities that you find enjoyable, whether that be in-line skating, step classes or even mall walking. Another means for getting you off the plateau is strength training, which has been shown to be very effective in helping people manage their weight because the added muscle helps to offset the metabolism-lowering effect of dieting and losing weight. Muscle is much more metabolically active than fat; therefore, the more muscle you can add, the higher your metabolism will be.

Get Off The Plateau

If you've stopped losing weight, the key to getting off the plateau is to vary your program. The human body is an amazing piece of machinery, capable of adapting to just about any circumstance or stimulus. By shaking things up a bit and varying your program by introducing some new elements, you'll likely find yourself off the plateau and back on the road to progress in no time.

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Wednesday September 08, 2010 12:43:13

| home | abdominal exercises | aspartame | blood pressure | BMI | calculators | contacts | diet advice  | dumbbell exercises | exercises | fitness | fitness links | fitness log | gym equipment | lifts | men's page | MFW | MFW Trolls |  Misc | schedules seniors' page | sitemap | useful links | weight training | women's page

This is the home of Physical Training & Fitness - 'Fitnwell' - It is hoped that you enjoy your time here and that you find something of interest. Do let me know if you have any queries, and also your feedback.