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Getting Started – A Guide For The Obese Individual

Starting out on the journey to a new you can be a daunting prospect if you are very overweight or obese like I was. When you have 30 or more kilos to lose, the end seems nowhere in sight, however this is the most important time in the weight loss process. This is where you build the basis of your new lifestyle, a lifestyle you will be able to maintain for the rest of your life. It is a time of learning - learning about proper nutrition and about your body and also learning from the mistakes you make. Developing new habits is a challenge at first but after some time these things will come naturally. You will undoubtedly fall off the wagon at some stage during your transformation and hopefully you will find the courage to get straight back on again. Remember, there is no point in going ‘on a diet’ for a period of time only to go back to your old ways. When you come off the diet you will inevitably gain all the weight you lost and probably some more. This is a big change, you must be prepared and determined and focused. Also, make sure you are doing this for yourself and not others who tell you you need to do it. If you don’t have a genuine desire inside yourself to do it, you will probably never succeed. If you think you are ready for it then read on.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this is a gradual process. Don’t expect to be losing big numbers consistently, although in the first week or two you may achieve this as the changes you have made will come as a big shock to your system. Your body as it is now probably uses up a lot of energy just carrying out basic functions. Carrying around all that weight puts a large amount of strain on your body and you probably burn a lot more energy than a lighter person who exercises regularly. This is why at the start your exercise does not have to be as intense or your diet as strict as a person with only a few kilos left to lose. I remember eating a lot more when I was 40 kilos heavier than I can now and I was still losing fat each week. I have kept a food diary from the beginning and looking back at it now, there is no way I could lose weight if I ate that way now. It is better this way because an obese person would never be able to maintain a very strict diet or intense exercise program and would probably give up easily. It is so important to start gradually so your body can adapt and also avoid the risk of injury.

NUTRITION

Start by changing your daily diet to five or six small meals a day. Swap the foods you normally buy for lower fat/sugar versions. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh vegetables and drinking at least 2.5 litres of water a day. Cut out all sugary foods such as soft drink and biscuits and also any fried foods which are full of saturated fat. Stay away from McDonalds, KFC and anything else you may be tempted by. This should be enough to start your weight loss but soon your body will adapt and you will stop losing fat. This is when you can move to the next stage. Start eating more lean proteins, cutting down carbohydrate portions (especially in the evenings) and also increasing the intensity of your training. Again, your body will eventually adapt and you will have to be even stricter to restart the fat loss process. This is the time when you have to be very focused. Be strict with what goes in your mouth. Allow yourself only one cheat meal per week so you are still in control and so you don’t give in to cravings because you know that meal is just around the corner. Make sure every single thing is written down in a food diary including drinks, and foods that you have picked on during the day. You will be amazed at how much you have eaten and forgotten about at the end of the day. Clean out the pantry and fridge of anything that may hinder your progress. If its not there you wont be tempted by it. Avoid any late night munchies by setting a deadline for your last meal or snack. Do not eat anything past this time. You should be waking up hungry in the mornings, if not you are probably eating too much or too late at night. Avoid the temptation and get as far away from the kitchen as possible at this time.

If you know your workplace is a problem then don’t allow yourself to be caught in a situation where you are hungry and there is nothing to eat but cakes and snack machine food. Take a cooler bag to work with you with all your food for the day so everything is ready to eat and you don’t have to succumb to the offerings nearby. I always have some sugar free gum with me so I don’t pick between meals. Be as prepared as possible. Cook your meals in advance so that when you get home from work you don’t go for takeaway because you can’t be bothered cooking. It’s these easy changes which will help you keep in control of your eating.

Be careful when out shopping and learn to read labels very carefully. Many people think they can eat certain foods because they are ‘low fat’ but these foods are often loaded with sugar to make them taste better. Look for low sugar products by checking the nutritional information. These are a better choice for you if you want to lose weight. Remember, any excess calories will be stored as fat whether they come from fat, carbohydrates/sugar or even alcohol.

Now all this may sound a bit much for you and you may be tempted by weight loss programs that are advertised as ‘easy’ or ‘lose 10 kilos in 10 days’ or even ads which promote ‘magic diet pills’ but be very wary of these. Look at the fine print, they always say ‘use in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise’. You may lose some weight but its not because of the pills, it’s the second part which is helping you – the diet and exercise, the part you can do yourself without paying for expensive pills or programs. If weight loss was that easy, we would all be supermodel skinny. Its not! The trick is something a lot of people haven’t heard of or don’t want to hear about – HARD WORK! It’s the only way to change your body for good. This is also why diet programs such as Jenny Craig and Lite n Easy don’t work in the long run (believe me, I’ve tried everything). They are providing you with the food and calories you have to eat in order to lose weight but they are not teaching you how much to eat or how to prepare healthy foods for yourself. You are none the wiser when it comes to proper nutrition and so when you eventually stop paying the money, you are back where you started and the weight will have crept back on again. As a result, the only thing that ends up lighter is your wallet!

MOTIVATION

If you need the proverbial ‘kick in the butt’ when it comes to your diet, I recommend watching the movie Supersize Me. You will never want to eat or even look at junk food ever again. Most people begin their journey with the best of intentions and slowly their motivation starts to wane until they eventually give up because ‘it’s just too hard’. This is when you must look for something to inspire you and push you forward. I always had a ‘fat’ picture and an ideal picture stuck to my fridge. The fat picture was of me when I was at my biggest and the ideal picture was of someone’s body I admired with my head stuck on the top. It sounds silly but it worked for me. Some people have inspirational quotes stuck to their pantry door. Do whatever you have to do in order to succeed. Another thing I always did was to find an item of clothing which was one size too small and hang it on the back of my bedroom door. Every morning when I would get dressed I would look at it and it would give me that extra push I needed to get through the day without straying from my plan. Once I fit into the clothes, I would reward myself – not by eating chocolate or junk food but by going out and buying myself something new (and even smaller) to hang on the door!

TRAINING

The key to sticking to your exercise program at first is finding something you enjoy doing. For me, this was group exercise classes at my gym. Just being around other people helps make the time go much faster plus you may make some new friends with like minded interests. If you are too embarrassed to exercise around others you could try getting some exercise videos/DVDs which you can do in the privacy of your own home. One thing to be careful of though is not to fall into the trap of thinking after you do your daily exercise that you can sit around on the couch for the rest of the day. You must be active for as long as possible each day especially if you have a sedentary job. Make sure you include resistance training as well as cardio. Many females think weight training will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger but this is not the case. It will boost your fat loss by helping to increase your metabolic rate because the more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns even while resting. It will also help make you look more toned and leaner overall not to mention the added benefits of decreasing your chances of osteoporosis in later life.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking doing a hundred sit ups a day will get rid of your tummy. It won’t and you’d be wasting your time. It is impossible to lose fat from only one part of your body. You would probably have really good looking abs underneath but no one would ever see them when they are covered by a thick layer of fat. The only way to get rid of that stubborn belly is to eat clean and soon enough you will see your nicely toned muscles start to show through.

Another big help for me was getting a personal trainer. I had been doing some light walking and cycling on my own for a while and slowly losing weight but I was starting to get bored and I was losing motivation fast. A personal trainer keeps you accountable – you are less likely to overeat or indulge in junk food if you know you will be weighed in at the end of the week. Apart from the endless amount of knowledge they have about training and nutrition, they can also provide you with motivation and help with goal setting. You will learn new exercises and correct technique so that when you go off on your own you know what to do. Find the right person and it will also be an enjoyable experience and much better than training on your own.

An interesting fact you may not know is that a person who has previously been overweight can never reduce the actual number of fat cells in their body. They can definitely reduce their body fat overall but the number of fat cells remains the same. Consider two people with similar body composition. Person A leads a fairly healthy life with good nutrition and exercise habits. Person B starts to lose motivation and starts making poor food choices and stops regular exercise. Person B used to have approximately the same number of fat cells in their body as Person A. However, since changing his diet, Person B has started to store body fat and as soon as his fat cells become full and cannot physically store more fat, his body will start making new fat cells for storage. When he eventually becomes overweight or obese he will have many more fat cells than when he started and this number can never be reduced (unless he undergoes drastic surgery which is not recommended). If he changes his lifestyle with a good diet and exercise he will lose body fat (the fat cells will just shrink in size) and eventually he will become lean again, however the number of fat cells stays the same. It is for this reason that people who have lost fat weight can regain the weight very quickly if they do not maintain their good habits. Their body already has enough fat storage space and is very efficient at doing so. They will put on weight much quicker than say if Person A was to start gaining weight.

It is important for obese people to recognize the fact that it probably took a long time to get to the way they are now so they cannot expect quick results when changing their bodies for good. For many it will take at least a year or more to achieve the body they want but all the hard work will be worth it and they will never want to go back. Training hard and eating well is the only permanent solution. My advice is to be determined and don’t let anything or anyone get in your way.

By Liz Dimakis
bluebox451@hotmail.com

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness” - Edward Stanley

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