5 Simple steps to help you Shape Up
5 simple steps to shape up
How do I get in to shape? How do I lose weight? Do I need to go on a diet or increase exercise? Getting in to shape is tough in the beginning and knowing what to eat, how much to eat and how much to exercise needs some thought.
Check out our diet and exercise advice.
Get In Shape
How do you get in better shape and lose a few inches?
If you look through the adverts in the back of many magazines you will have a vast choice placed in front of you.
Different people will be offering pills, injections, diets, food supplements or replacements. ‘Fitness’ accessories will be on offer to sculpt, firm or tone which look like instruments of torture. There will be surgeons who can cut or suck bits out, put implants in or pull everything up an inch or two… None of it sounds fantastically appealing or particularly healthy! It all looks fairly expensive too.
The good news is that moving to a healthy lifestyle, a sensible diet and a manageable exercise routing need not be painful or hideously expensive. By taking the healthy option you will feel better as well as looking better.
Taking simple steps will go a long way.
Starting here and now
When do you want to look and feel better?
The common answer is ‘tomorrow’. There are two problems with this. To be healthy it takes time for the benefits to accumulate and become visible. But secondly, what about the day after tomorrow? We want a solution that lasts so that you don't just look good on a Saturday night, but all year round…
This means we are going to change some habits, get in to a routine. Living your life the way you do at the moment and you look as you do now. If you are taking unhealthy options it is also likely that things will get worse rather than better! What is needed is change, and changes that are sustainable. Don’t think in terms of ‘going on a diet’ or ‘going on a fitness drive’. Change your routine and get into new habits.
What is ‘routine’ or a ‘habit’? It is something you do each day or week without thinking about it. It is regular. So the changes you make should be changes you are willing to stick with. Going crazy for a week or two may bring more immediate results but they will be short-lived. Are you really never going to eat chocolate again? Let’s make changes we can stick to.
Here is a rule to bear in mind: “If you do the right things you will get the rewards. If you take short cuts you reap the consequences.” Very often the rewards come thick and fast just when you are starting to think they never will. So it is essential to stick to good habits. You can’t reach any destination instantly, but you can be sure you’re heading in the right direction. That way you know you will get there.
First things first
What changes can you make first?
The best place to start changing your diet is with your shopping trolley. If you don’t have it you won’t eat it. This brings with it a warning. Beware of buying ‘bits and pieces’. Some people find keeping a food diary* reveals that their eating habits are quite different to what they perceive. Seeing all the food you eat in a week in one place at one time is a good way of showing your diet for what it is (that is why some diet makeover TV shows do this). So looking at what you put in your trolley and being careful about extra bits and pieces you buy is a good way of monitoring your eating.
Look at what you are putting in the basket as you shop. Ask yourself:
- Is it necessary?
- Is it healthy?
- Is there a healthier alternative?
Try to eat a varied diet that ensures you are properly fuelled without containing unnecessary calories or excessive processed foods. By buying in one go it is easier to monitor the amounts of snack foods and ‘treats’ you eat. Try to take your own meals and snacks with you when you are at work or out and about to enable you to control what you eat more easily (and it saves money)
You can find out more about how to do this with our article on Are You Properly Fuelled?
*You may or may not find a food diary useful. They do reveal exactly what you eat but it can make you overly obsessive about each and every thing you. It is the overall content of your diet that matters. Also remember we want to focus on sustainable habits – are you going to keep a food diary indefinitely? You may find it helps to start with to get you into good habits though.
Making positive changes
You can now start to make a few more tweaks to your eating habits.
Think about your portion sizes. Are they too big? Do you find you are full but end up clearing your plate anyway? Cut down on the amount you eat. Using a smaller plate can be a good trick to play on yourself as you do not feel you are missing out. Eating a little less is a good step towards sustainable weight loss.
It may be that you are actually eating too little at times. ‘Hey?’ You may ask. But think it through. Do you ever reach for an unhealthy snack as you get hungry mid-morning or mid-afternoon? It may be you are trying to be too ‘worthy’ at meal times and then giving in to unhealthy food when your body rightly tells you that you’re hungry. Another solution is to have a healthy option to hand and keep the unhealthy temptation out of harm’s way.
Eating more slowly is good on many fronts. Chewing foods properly is good for your digestive system. It allows you to enjoy the flavour of what you eat for longer – the other way to do this would have to be eating more. Slower eating also allows your body to control hunger better. If your food goes down without touching the sides by the time the message goes from your stomach to your brain to your shovelling hands which says ‘I’m full,’ you have already shovelled more food down you.
Very often people think they are hungry when they are actually dehydrated. In fact many people go through life dehydrated. Dehydration has a negative effect on your digestive system, your skin, slows recovery from exercise and can cause headaches. So be sure to drink plenty of water and if you feel hungry between meals try drinking a glass of water first. It may be you are actually just thirsty. Or you may be wanting to eat a snack just out of habit or the desire for a break. The water makes a healthy alternative.
Eating healthily is a positive step towards getting in shape.
Eating less calories, less junk and healthy foods will help you manage your weight and will also make you feel better. But you can do more to help yourself get into better shape and lose weight.
Mention the word ‘exercise’ and some people run a mile – the exercise fanatics run 10 miles just to show they can. But remember our principle that our changes should all be sensible and sustainable.
If you are not doing much exercise then do not charge headlong into a mad training regime. You may injure yourself and you will almost certainly find that after an initial wave of enthusiasm you ‘burn-out’ and give up as sore muscles and low energy stop you in your tracks. If you are already doing a lot of exercise to crank it right up is also unwise. You will suffer similar consequences.
The key is to gradually build up. A great way of doing this is to walk more. Walking will burn calories but not be as demanding as running or other forms of exercise. Leave the car at home, park a short walk from your destination or get off the bus a stop early. Think of ways to introduce a few extra minutes of walking a few times each day. It will add up.
You can also build up any exercise you are already doing. Exercise burns calories and raises your metabolism which makes weight loss easier. As you get fitter you are able to do more. This means you can burn more calories and get fitter – so you can do more. If you progress at a sensible rate a virtuous cycle develops.
If you want to know more about sensible exercise you can look at our coaching section. It is possible to use this to have a training routine that is suited to you and your current level of activity drawn up. The training schedule drawn up with coach to superstars, Alan Storey, can be made up of walking, walking and running or running. You can choose the days you want to train on and decide how much you want to do.