Although I have been blessed with a fast metabolism, there are times when I’ve been a lot bigger than I am now. If you want to gain weight, head off to Uni and live on a diet of tropical VKs, sambuca and cheesy chips. Did you know a shot of sambuca contains 100 calories? I don’t even bloody like sambuca! If, on the other hand, you’d quite like to lose a few pounds and can’t work out where you’re going wrong, here’s a little insight that might help.
1. Excessive running and cereal bars are NOT the answer
I ran 5k three times a week at Uni, as well as general gym-going, dance classes and daily sit ups in my bedroom. I was obsessed with watching the calories add up on the treadmill. And yet I was heavier than I am now, a person who hasn’t set foot in the gym for 3 years. Don’t get me wrong, muscle does weigh more than fat, but I was less trim. And here’s the other thing, I ate less. Well, I thought I was eating less. I was tucking into bowls of cereal, cereal bars, fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, yoghurts, Jaffa Cakes and low fat versions of everything I could find. I was so preoccupied with checking the calories and fat content of my food that I completely overlooked the amount of sugar! The endless nights out on alco-pops didn’t exactly help matters either. Another thing, sugar is highly addictive. The more you eat, the more you feel like you need. It brings on sugar lows that leave you craving more. As a student, I couldn’t afford to buy good-quality protein-rich foods. I would get home from the gym and eat a bowl of muesli instead, only to feel hungry again after a couple of hours. I quickly became hooked on eating cheap ‘healthy’ sugary snacks with little nutritional value. When I left Uni, I thought I was losing weight because I was stressed, but when I think about it now, I had quit the gym and subsequently quit all the sugar. In case you don’t know, not only does sugar turn into fat, sugar come downs leave you feeling constantly hungry.
2. Depriving your body of fat is the WORST thing to do
This sounds really weird, but from about the age of 14 to 20, I had a genuine fear of fat. I wouldn’t dream of frying anything and the thought of pouring oil on my salad made me feel physically sick. I was a strictly no butter, skimmed milk kind of girl (how boring, I know). Then one day I read somewhere that depriving your body of good fats prevents it from breaking down bad, saturated fats. Intrigued, I started buying oil-rich full fat hummus, full fat natural yoghurt, Brazil nuts, oily fish and avocados. I noticed instantly that not only was I fuller on these higher-calorie snacks, my stomach felt a lot less bloated and my skin improved. Now I don’t tend to eat low fat anything, apart from the odd diet coke as a treat.
3. Starving yourself is NEVER a good idea
I’m the sort of person who has to eat breakfast. I feel faint and sub-human otherwise. On the rare occasion that I’ve had to skip breakfast, I end up eating much more than I usually would at the end of the day. Breakfast doesn’t have to be huge; a bowl of porridge and a banana should do it, or poached eggs with spinach and tomatoes. When I left Uni, I worked in a bar – often 12 hour shifts that didn’t allow time for lunch/dinner. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t a rake – I was rushing around all day and night and running on empty. However, as soon as my shift finished, I’d eat something huge, quick and carby. When you’re body goes into starvation mode, it clings to whatever food you do eat. In my case it was a chicken burger from the pub kitchen. Not ideal, even when that was all I’d eaten all day. Eating little and often is definitely the way forward, if your day allows for it.
4. Drink as much WATER as humanly possible
If there’s one piece of advice I can give anyone, it’s to drink 3L of water a day. When you’re dehydrated, your brain SHRINKS, giving you a headache. Filling your body with water is like filling up the car with petrol. Your body needs water to function properly. It flushes out bad toxins, it clears up your skin, it gives you energy, it helps you to lose weight because all of your organs are happily hydrated. Fact. And I’m afraid sparkling water doesn’t count. The bubbles in fizzy drinks prevent anything from being absorbed into your bloodstream, so it won’t properly hydrate you. Also – you’ve heard this a million times before – most of the time, when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. Obviously you can drink too much water, so don’t get too carried away. Too much water and you’ll end up flushing out all the good stuff, too.
5. Don’t be lazy, but remember to REST
As a student, I was quite lazy. A trip to the supermarket counted as a major achievement for the day. Although the only exercise I do now is walking and yoga, I have a lot more get up and go about me. Little changes to your attitude can have a big impact on your life – remember, all the time you’re doing something, you’re burning calories. I wake up early at the weekends and tidy the house, I run up the stairs when I hear my phone ring instead of letting it go to answer phone, I stroll up and down Kensington High Street on my lunch break, I do things today, instead of leaving everything until tomorrow (which inevitably means never). I burn calories by simply being a more useful person – it’s a win-win situation. In addition to this, I make sure I take time out to rest. I used to find it really difficult to unwind. Watching TV felt like some form of torture. These days, I know that doing too much leads to being run down, which has a negative impact on your body and its ability to perform. Strike a balance and listen to what your body is saying.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dietitian or food expert. However, I do, after a fair few years, have a healthy relationship with my body, and that’s not something I take for granted. Be kind to your body, it’s an amazing thing.