How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off - Being Slim for Life

Many of us seriously struggle with our weight - sometimes it feels like it is a constant battle in our minds with what we should and shouldn't allow ourselves to eat.  Even when we try to cut back on the calories, it still seems to make no difference, or indeed, sometimes it has the reverse effect where we actually put it on!!

This is me before and after my weight struggles:-
Even though we know that being overweight is unhealthy and it causes a higher risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease as well as other issues, why are more than a third of adults in the western world still classed as either overweight or obese??  I mean, women who have breast cancer are 75% more likely to die from it if they are obese when diagnosed.  Also, obesity can knock an average of 9 years of our life.
I can give you the only truthful and honest answer to that...because we consume more energy (calories) than we use. That's all it is. The energy we don't use up is stored as excess fat on our body, making us overweight. If we continually use less kcals than we take in, we will put on weight.

Soooo, this leads me on to my next point and the whole reason behind this article (yeah, I know I've taken a while to get here), the only way to lose weight and keep it down, is to lower your calorie intake and use up more calories - by being active. But obviously you need to continuously keep the intake of food down and output of energy higher almost constantly. How can this be done? The secret is by controlling your appetite.

Appetite and therefore how we feel during the day affect our well-being enough to control what and when we eat. Therefore appetite is a key factor in weight loss. Understanding how appetite and metabolism (our output of energy) work together is essential to fighting the flab.

So how do our metabolisms work? Thinner people have slower metabolisms than larger people. Eh? I hear you say, but, yes, you heard right. Someone with a bigger body uses more fuel just to stay alive, and the amout of energy we use is is our metabolic rate. So thinner people have a slower metabolism than fatter people and they burn their food slower.  
We use energy and burn calories just by staying alive; when our digestive system is active and processing our food, when our heart busily pumps blood around our veins and arteries, indeed every single cell in our bodies requires energy to keep us alive.

So, if fatter people have a higher metabolic rates than thinner people, how come my skinny friend can eat loads but never get fat? Why do some thinner people eat more than some larger people? The answer is that they don't - that is only our perception of what people eat. Someone slim may have a day or two where they eat more than a larger person, but overall, during the month or the year, their overall calorie intake is less than their fatter friend. You can tell how much a person eats by the size of them, pure and simple.

I just thought it was important to, before returning to the subject of appetite, to put to bed the urban myth that thin people have a higher metabolism than their larger counterparts. It's all about perception - overweight people continually underestimate the amount they eat.

Of course exercise makes a difference to the amount of calories we burn and therefore our metabolic rate, but it is so much easier, quicker and requires less self control to eat a fatty meal or snack containing 2000 calories than it is to jog for one hour and burn around 700 calories, that I am focussing on food and appetite rather than exercise, as the delicious temptations of food are generally people's downfall. Not just that, but some people accidentally increase their food intake after they have exercised to compensate.

Appetite is so important because when we satisfy our appetites, we feel replenished and great, ready to get on with the rest of the day. When we leave our appetite wanting for more, and therefore feel hunger, this can put most of us into a stroppy mood! (Ring any bells?! ;-D ) So obviously this leads to diet failure.

Now, how about this: what if we can control our appetite and our hunger pangs, taking control of our desire to eat?

Scientific research has shown that our hypothalamus is where appetite is regulated (my GCSE biology is coming back to me!). Ghrelin is a hormone produced by our stomach wall which tells our brain (or rather our hypothalamus) that we are hungry and therefore it increases appetite. When our stomach is full, barely any ghrelin is produced. After and during weight loss, the amount of ghrelin in our blood is higher, explaining why it is so hard to maintain weight loss. 

So how do we keep ghrelin and therefore our appetite and hunger pangs at bay? By eating the right foods that suppress our appetite.

Fibre and protein are probably the best food types for this enigma. Fibre and protein, along with food with a high water content make us feel fuller for longer and suppress ghrelin.  The best foods that meet these 3 requirements are pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and fish. Low cal soups are also a great appetite suppressant because of their high water content which does not pass straight through the stomach (unlike a drink of water).  Also, I find that whipping up a smoothie with fresh fruit fills me up much more than if I had just eaten the fruit.

Try this great nutty and fruity smoothie idea:-
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Obviously nuts do not have a high water content but they are a fantastic weapon in the hands of someone wanting to lose weight because they are supposed to help you boost your metabolic rate and the fact that we don't always chew them thoroughly suggests that not all their calories are absorbed by our bodies.

This brings me to another great appetite-reducing tip; taking your time over food; really enjoying it and savouring its taste and flavours means you will feel more satisfied after a meal or snack. Scientists have noted that it takes time for appetite signals to reach the hypothalamus, so eating slowly should also mean that we listen to our feelings of fullness.

To conclude, to control your appetite, you need to listen to your body as it tells you what it does and does not need. There's no use hiding under the guise that you have a slower metabolism than thinner people because that is just not true - the truth is that larger people consume more calories and do not burn them off. Be honest with yourself and do not underestimate how much you eat.

A slow and planned approach to weight loss with a reduction in highly calorific food and some exercise is the best way.  Start with small goals; initiatially set a goal of no more than 10% of your body weight to lose.

And most importantly, take control of your desire to eat. Do this but cutting out sugary snacks and fast food; fill up on fruit, have an extra portion of veg, and rediscover fish dinners and water based soups. Carry a bag of nuts around to curb any cravings. Swap white bread for wholemeal as this contains more fibre. Always have an extra helping of salad with your meals if possible, and always try to order the soup as a starter as this will fill you up.

Lastly, one of the strongest psychological motives to consume more calories is the nagging feeling that we have to empty our plate. Tell yourself this is a myth from the past and is no longer relevant. Also, we generally eat less when we are reminded how much we have already consumed, so keep a food diary and monitor your food intake.

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