PUBLISHED: 12:26 29 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:26 29 December 2015
A lifetime of weight gain can take ages to shift, but changing your habits could change your life forever. Dr Matt Piccaver takes the challenge
Has a year passed already? As I get older, time passes with an ever increasing speed. Before long, the Easter eggs will be in the shops, then Halloween costumes, followed by the adornments and decorations of Christmas once again.
The New Year brings new intentions. Fresh starts, and more likely false starts. Unused gym memberships, subscriptions to weight loss groups, disused exercise equipment cluttering up spare rooms and garages.
I’ve been overweight for most of my adult life. A penchant for chocolate bourbons, a working day spent sitting at a desk. The most common exercise? Calling the patient in from down the corridor.
I meet many people, and I include myself in this, who struggle to lose weight. It takes our entire lives to gain weight, and can take a long time to lose it.
The first step to weight loss is acknowledging your weight is a problem. Many of us carry a few extra pounds and get away with it. In time, being overweight or obese has its problems. Joint problems, diabetes or heart disease are all more likely when we’re significantly overweight. We need to look in the mirror, or jump on the scales and identify our problem.
The next step is doing something about it? In principle, weight loss should be easy. Identify your triggers to excess calories. I eat when I’m tired, or stressed, which as a doctor, means pretty much most of the time. Some people might be night time snackers. Others might be limited by the choices available to them.
I find many people are bad at denying themselves, well, anything really. So don’t see this as a diet, regard your health changes as a way of life. Diets are temporary, lifestyles forever. You could substitute high calorie energy rich snacks for healthier alternatives. Prepare your food the night before work, and have a supply of healthy, low calorie snacks available. Some find eating five small meals over the day suits them more than the traditional three. You’ll get a steadier release of glucose into the blood. You might even avoid that mid afternoon slump that many of us suffer from. I know that if I have a small lunch, I’m less likely to feel sleepy come afternoon surgery.
Log your calories
Be it with paper and pen or on a smartphone app, keep a tally of what goes in. Calories sneak in when you least expect it. The “Don’t mind if I do” and the “oh, just one won’t hurt”, soon add up. Aim for a deficit of around 500kcal a day. This will lead to a 1lb weight loss a week. When you lose weight, nudge that calorie intake down again, otherwise your weight loss will tail off.
Do some exercise
Anything is better than nothing. Start easy, and build slowly. You might decide to go for a five minute walk after work. Tomorrow make it six, and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be exercising more than you ever had before.
Think about the person you want to be
Do you want to be slimmer, or feel fitter? Do you want to live to see your children or grandchildren grow up? Our future isn’t written, and we are the arbiters of our own destiny.
It’s taken my 37 years to finally understand why I’m overweight, and at last I’m doing something about it. Now it’s your turn.
Dr Matt Piccaver is a GP in Suffolk