Slow down - the lazy man's way to lose weight
Men know Diets with a capital D don't work. So how do you build weight-loss into your daily routine? Jim Pollard says that if we simply slow down and think it through, a healthy diet that can help control weight need not be difficult.
A survey published by Mintel last week claimed that record numbers of men are attempting to lose weight. Apparently one in four of us would like to shift a kilo or two - up from one in six in 1980.
Perhaps we've all been inspired by the recent Danish research showing that being overweight lowers your sperm count and makes you less fertile. The University of Southern Denmark found that, compared with men of normal weight, overweight men — defined as men with a body mass index over 25 - had a 24% lower sperm count.
Anyway, regardless of its impact on your fertility, the general tone of the media coverage of the Mintel report was that men trying to lose weight must be a good thing at a time when two-thirds of the male population is overweight or obese. Maybe. But the trouble is that diets don't work. And the whole weight-loss obsession can be very damaging to the self-image. Fortunately, many men already know this. Twice as many men as women told the researchers that they would never diet and only 3% would even consider joining a slimming club.
The report found that men tend to want to lose weight for health reasons rather than to get into smaller clothes sizes. As a result we are more likely to cut out the booze or take more exercise than to resort to meal replacements or faddy diets.
John Ville, deputy editor of Men's Health magazine told The Independent: 'Men want to eat healthily and keep in shape, but they are a lot more sceptical about the whole dieting industry.
'They are too used to having to pick up the pieces of their wives and girlfriends who get on the scales each morning and realise the latest diet fad or slimming product hasn't worked. They don't even like the word 'diet'. It is a total no-no for our front cover.' Well said, John.
So what do you do? If you want to lose weight without actually changing what you eat it comes down to two things: slower and fresher.
To start, don't even think about what you eat. Think about how you eat it. Lots of us stuff our faces in front of the telly hardly noticing what we're shovelling in. No good.
Take it easy. Drink some water. Look at your food. Chew it. Savour the flavour. Drink some more water. You'll enjoy your food more and your body will know that it's actually eating. This is vital because when it comes to food your brain's a bit slow. It takes it a good 20 minutes to wise up that your stomach is full. This means that if you've been stuffing yourself, you'll have eaten tons more than you wanted. Good rule of thumb? The first belch. It's dear old mother nature's way of telling you've had enough. (And, of course, like all mothers she does it in the most publicly embarrassing way possible.)
Once you're eating more slowly you'll taste your food better so the smart next step is to choose the tastiest version of it. Now, I'm no farmer but it's clear that the carrot that tastes most like a carrot will be the one you've pulled out of the ground yourself rather than the one that was picked weeks ago and has since been flown round the world, sliced up, salted, sugared and tinned. The good news is that this fresher version is also the most nutritional version with the most vitamins.
So don't change what you eat but choose the least-processed version of it. The more factories and other places your food has been through, the more likely it is to have had sugars, salts and fats added. Avoid ready-meals and convenience pre-packed options. Don't buy a chicken meal, buy a chicken. When it comes to fruit and veg, frozen is better than tinned. Fresh is better than frozen. Organic is better than supermarket.
Not that all fresh food is that fresh. If the item has been flown from the other side of the world it's likely to be less fresh than something produced down the road. Check out the country of origin on fruit and veg and buy local.
It's hardly brain surgery is it? Baked beans are a good example of the problem with processing. The beans themselves are pretty good for you but in the tins we buy they're pumped up with salt and sugar. Nobody's suggesting you bake your own beans — though you could chose a reduced salt and sugar version - but you see the point.
Apart from the reduction in nutrients, processed foods - and fast foods like burgers and fries too by the way — have a high energy density. That means that each mouthful contains a lot of calories. More calories than your body is expecting. Human beings have evolved over thousand of years to guess how much we need to eat by the size of a portion but just an ordinary looking portion of a high-density food can contain double the calories your body expects. If you also have the habit of putting it away like a wolf in a meat factory, you can see how the calories can mount very quickly.
Worst of all, you can become dependent on the sweet, salty, fatty tastes because they give you an instant sugar hit. In tests, rats who are used to this sort of food get the shakes when they're deprived of it. Trouble is that the hit soon wears off and you're back starving again. Now, if only you'd eaten more slowly in the first place. Just like mamma used to say.
Talking of evolution, you can take that idea a little further and think about what food we've evolved to eat rather than what we actually do eat. Humans have been on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years. In terms of our evolution, the cultivation of crops only began yesterday and the processing of food even more recently.
That's why you hear people going on about the raw food diet or the caveman diet. Sure, they're trying to sell diet books but the basic theory is sound. For most of our time on this planet, we would have been eating what we could hunt and what we could gather from the landscape around us. That means a diet of mainly fruit, nuts, vegetables and meat. Not that the meat would be much like today's meat. The meat on a hunted animal is different to the flab on a factory-farmed one that has never seen daylight and never walked more than a yard or two. Lean meat, free-range, organic or game gets a little nearer to what you're after.
This is not say you shouldn't eat cereals but that you should try to get the version that's closest to nature. That means whole grain or wild rice. Fresh, brown bread rather than factory white. If you're having trouble eating the government's recommended five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, you'll find it a lot easier if you replace one serving of cereals, bread, pasta or rice with one of vegetables.
But sorry, as usual, chips don't count.
Why not? Well, since potatoes are pretty disgusting raw (most of their plant relatives are poisonous), we didn't start eating them in quantities until we learned to cook food. Again this happened relatively recently. There's that and the 50g of fat in a portion of fries!
Jim Pollard is editor of malehealth.
Page created on November 8th, 2004
Page updated on August 3rd, 2011