Monday, 3 September 2012

Shape Up.

Credit: Corbis

I was recently asked by a reader how I stay in shape... well let me tell you, I wasn't always in shape! It certainly wasn't easy to shed the 30 (yes, 30!) pounds I piled on in my first year of University, but here are a couple of tips that helped me lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off!

1. Exercise.
You can't expect to lose weight if you're not prepared to do some form of exercise! I really didn't enjoy exercising in a dingy indoor gym, so I got into skipping (with a jump rope), walking and Pilates. Find one that you enjoy, and you'll begin to look forward to your workout!

2. Don't sit still.
Get your hands on some dumbbells and do reps whenever and wherever you can ... I usually do some in front of the television, when I'd otherwise be slumped on my sofa. Resistance exercises (like planks, lunges and squats) don't require fancy equipment, and quickly define the abs, legs and behind.

3. Carbs = good.
Bread and pasta have got themselves a bad name when it comes to losing weight - and wrongly so! Carbohydrates are our body's primary source of energy, and by depriving yourself of them, you're essentially putting your body into a permanent state of starvation. Low-carbohydrate diets have a whole host of horrible side effects, including kidney problems and bad breath (yuk). The real reason for weight-gain from carbohydrates is actually because of...

4. Portion distortion.
We're all guilty of piling up our plates due to the huge misconception that a restaurant-sized portion of pasta is considered a 'normal' serving - in fact, most serve portions up to three times larger than the amount we are meant to eat! Roughly 75 grams is considered a serving, and is more than sufficient (especially when vegetables and sauce are added) for a good, hearty meal!

5. Go animal friendly.
I'm already a committed vegetarian, so cutting back on meat wasn't an issue for me, but can imagine it would be for you carnivores out there! I discovered I had a lactose intolerance (albeit a mild one) a few months back, and found switching to dairy substitutes (like soy milk) helped a lot when it came to losing weight, and also with skin problems like acne. If you're totally unconvinced, I highly recommend a book called Skinny Bitch ... if it doesn't put you off eating so much dairy and meat, I don't know what will!
I realise this sounds like quite a dramatic measure, but even just cutting back on the amount you eat day-to-day will make a world of difference - I haven't totally eliminated dairy from my diet, I just don't eat anywhere near as much of it as I used to.

A final few words of caution ... remember that treating yourself once in a while is totally okay - I don't always follow a healthy diet (I could eat Nutter Butter cookies all day, every day...!).
When I was trying to lose weight, I used to get so frustrated at myself for gorging on an entire packet of Hobnobs (we've all done it!), but I'd only do it because I'd totally 'banned' myself from eating goodies and was craving a quick sugar fix. Food was made to be enjoyed - you can still eat your favourite treats, just do so in moderation and not every single day!

I hope you've found my tips useful - if you've got any of your own, feel free to share by leaving a comment below!

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