Ever wonder why you don't manage to drop inches when you're on a diet? Time to change your mindset
Stop looking for a magic solution to make you thinner, leaner, fitter. Take responsibility for your own body and lifestyle today, says Donna Aston, author of The End of Dieting (£8.99, Hardie Grant).
The book's aim: to help you get leaner and healthier. Try these four steps to take long-term control of your body, your health, your weight, your life:
1. Don't over-focus on your BMI; many athletes, due to their high lean-to-fat ratio which makes them heavier on the scales, would be falsely placed in the obese category if this were the sole measure of a healthy size.
2. Measure your current body composition so you can set realistic goals to change your body and monitor your progress. Get yourself a set of body composition scales or consult a fitness trainer or sports clinic for this.
Statistically, the 'ideal' healthy female has around 24% body fat. Many women actually have more than 34%. Generally, only elite female athletes come in at below 15%.
The bad news: upper body and abdominal fat can be bad for your health because it's often primarily metabolically active visceral fat which can interfere with hormone production and exacerbate inflammation and insulin resistance. The good news: this kind of fat is more metabolically active and is easier to shed than subcutaneous fat that sits directly beneath the skin. Try aerobic exercise to shift visceral fat, like skipping. Strength training has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which in turn helps to reduce visceral fat deposition.
3. Aim to lose fat, not weight. This is the definition of tone: high lean mass and low body fat. For women to appear 'toned and firm' you need to achieve a body composition of around 18-24% fat. So your aim shouldn't be to simply weigh less.
Obviously, appearance shouldn't be the sole reason for improving your body composition. Health and wellbeing should be among your top priorities. By maintaining a body composition in healthy range, you can eliminate the risk of many debilitating ailments, diseases and stresses that arise when you carry too much body fat.
4. Boost your metabolism. The term Basal Metabolic Rate BMR refers to the amount of calories your body uses in a state of complete rest - fuelling vital functions such as repair and cell replacement, organ functions and core temperature maintenance.
The BMR is determined largely by your lean weight, along with the influence of hormones, genetics and overall activity levels. The higher your lean weight, the larger your body's engine and the more fuel it will burn.
As a rough estimate, for every kg of lean muscle tissue you gain, you will burn approx 35 extra calories at rest. Equally, for every kg of lean muscle you lose, whether through lack of essential nutrients or lack of physical activity, you will burn approx 35 fewer calories per day.
So having a 'low metabolic rate', a common excuse for being overfat, is actually more in your control than you thought.
5. Do the math: if you're 80 kilos with a goal of 60 kilos and you get 'stuck' at 70 kilos, it's because you have the diet and exercise habits of a 70-kilo person. Tweak your lifestyle to that of a 60-kilo person and your body will have no choice but to follow you there.
The End of Dieting, by Donna Aston. Hardie Grant books, £8.99
Five lucky Zesties will win a copy of The End of Dieting in our forum giveaway this week (ends March 4, 2012). Click here for the chance to win.
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