weight loss

Weight loss and Christmas. The food addicts guide to feasts part 2

This post follows on from part 1

Holiday health

What I have learnt at these times of feast is that they are also times that I don’t feel as healthy as I normally do. You see I am fortunate because I generally enjoy good health. I don’t suffer with regular pain like many others tell me they do. The pain of headaches or stomach problems or whatever. This could be luck but I’ve always felt it’s also down to my lifestyle. What tells me this is that when I live like others do, which is what happens during the holidays and other periods of feast then I start to suffer the ailments that others do.

For example, yesterday I had the usual holiday back pains, I know how to fix them because I know why they occur. Lack of normal activity is, funnily enough the biggest trigger for injury. Strange, but true. So a walk and a few simple moves cure it. I just need to keep my body ticking over until normal activity resumes after christmas. I know this is the solution because it has happened so many times. Lack of activity is always the cause and being active always fixes it.

Handling a food hangover

So you can see why being uncomfortable is now what I associate with eating too much, very much like a hangover comes from drinking too much alcohol. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever eat too much. If the urge takes me I do it. Life is for living and when good food is around I eat it. What I have learnt is how to recover quickly and avoid the problems it brings. This holiday one approach has been mixing days of less food with days of plenty. The maths is quite simple.

If I eat the equivalent of 2 meals in one sitting then I often skip a meal.

I just wait until I am hungry again. I don’t do this for long, weeks or months but a day and particularly a meal here and there makes all the difference.

Fast weight loss

What it means is that I am enjoying the food that I eat more because I want it because I am hungry. Less and less do I just eat because food is there.

I don’t have food laying around, that would be silly, I would just eat it, whether I want it or not.

To prevent this I’ve frozen food or packed it away some how and ensured the dates are long enough. So I have set up my environment to support me and minimise my binge eating but I’ve also set up my mind. I am actually never that far from a lovely meal and I can happily enjoy the pleasure of looking forward to it. This is one of the most powerful influences I have found. I know that eating too much beforehand will literally change the taste of the food and ruin the experience. This gives me the strength to enjoy the process of fasting.

I fast every day, but it’s just a normal fast. For normal people, not food addicts, it’s the space between a meal. I see it differently. For me it’s actually the void where random nibbles used to be. The technical term is snacking which is what I always thought the point of a holiday was. You snack all day, a mince pie here, an orange there, some cream, don’t mind if I do. At least that’s how it used to be. These days I don’t allow myself to go too long without a meal that inspires me. it must be a meal that is an experience that I savour. This is what gives me the strength and desire to avoid food in between. The way I live is that I remember the last heavenly meal I had and spend my time happily in the knowledge that the next is coming soon and it will be just as good, hopefully better.

Eating holidays

The challenge for the holidays, Christmas being the hardest next to Easter, is that it is an eating holiday. It is literally what you’re supposed to do. A food addicts nightmare and heaven rolled into one. I’ve just realised that what happens over christmas is that you either willingly, or sometimes against your will, visit a place that you can’t leave until you have eaten and drunk more than you should in a week. To do anything else would offend those who invited you and spoil everyone elses fun. For a food addict it can be a little like a prison. A very well appointed one but something you can’t escape with rules and expectations you must abide by all the same. The message is clear.

You are going to eat a lot and you won’t leave here until you have done so.

You see, since I’m known to eat plenty, people often lay on the types of and amount of food they think I will like. That’s nice though isn’t it. It’s nice that they went to all that effort. Often its home made so they really have gone to a lot of effort. And I don’t like to disappoint. I no longer gorge myself often but this is the season of plenty and I absolutely hate food going to waste. So I find space. I know far too much about how to adjust my metabolism, posture or whatever I need to get food from my plate to my stomach. Even when it won’t fit, I still have more tricks and I’m not talking about bulimia. That would be a waste of food.

I get big because it all goes down and stays there. I still do this because that’s life. What is fun is that I now have a thousand ways of dealing with this challenge. Short fasts or just not snacking so much is one useful solution. I’m not so hungry between meals when they’re so big so I take advantage and the calories even out, or more accurately the calorie surplus is just a lot smaller.

Forbidden fruit

What life has taught me is that abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. I have also found plenty of reasons to value foods that are supposed to be banned. Of course moderation is the answer but it sounds dull. So let me tell you about the moderation I just practised. Lunch generally has a dessert with it. At least in my life that’s true and at Christmas the standards are raised. Yet there is food that is getting past its use by date and I have to balance my compulsion not to waste food. It’s the same story we all face this time of year with so much great food around but few seem as bothered about letting food go to waste as I. So they don’t have to learn how to eat this all up along with the food that I planned to eat in the first place without eating too much.

It gives me something to think about. That’s actually the fun part. It becomes a problem to solve. What would you do if you wanted a mince pie but then saw the banana that needs eating up and remembered the last bits of madagascan vanilla custard on its last day. Maybe its obvious. You make the banana the star accessorising with the mince pie and custard as the supporting cast. Of course then you have to top with a little irish cream. It is christmas after all. Mouthwatering. It was for me of course. It may be an obvious solution to you. Either way it’s a reminder that fruit works because, if you know how to use it, then it is all about quality over quantity. Quality of taste and nutrients over quantity of calories. Making it the star and pairing it with something means you can literally have your cake and eat it. Another day I will pair the mince pie with a satsuma. The orange cuts perfectly through the indulgence of the mince pie. It’s perfect with or without cream.

I just wanted to inspire you. I love fruit, using it as part of indulgence is just natural to me. It’s just a benefit that it helps shed the pounds.

The story continues

I sense I am getting into my stride now. All sorts of memories are flooding back to me that I want to share but I expect neither you or I have the time to explore it all right now. This has turned into such a long post I feel it should be broken into parts so it is not so overwhelming and becomes easier to digest. The rest of the story will come out over time. The point has been to explain a little why I feel I know a little about losing weight. That means I have to introduce you to my inner food addict. The fact that I have never got particularly large is not luck it is through prolonged effort. It shows that I must know something. I am just like any one else, I gain weight and lose it for the same reasons.

I used to think I would eventually just get really big because I hadn’t proven I knew how to lose weight, only put it on. I had to put on a stone or two and lose it several times before I could trust that what I was trying would work. Making this manageable and fun has been my lifes quest and taken several years longer. Even now I’m still learning.

With this post I also wanted to build on the idea that happiness should make you thin not the other way around. So being happy should achieve your life goals. That’s a dream but so many amazing things have been achieved simply because people followed their dreams.

This post follows on from part 1

Related articles

Of course this post is related to so many more that I couldn’t include.

Weight loss and Christmas. The food addicts guide to feasts part 1

I am now living in that nice space where I don’t fear putting on weight simply because I know exactly how to lose it. It’s been a complicated road to get here but worth it. I actually started the journey when I was twelve. Few things stand out in my memory as well as me getting a love for weight training, sculpting my body and learning how it works.

With hindsight I can see the engineering, artistic and practical influences in my particular approach because that is the kind of family I come from. The men are generally engineers, the women more artistic and generally practical.

My inner food addict

What I’ve learnt comes down to accepting myself, my humanity and the life I lead. I am who I am. I get results because I work honestly with what I have. I love to move, to walk, to run and stay active which makes burning calories that bit easier but I could still put on plenty of weight because I’m not a professional athlete. So I don’t have the time to move enough to negate all the calories I would eat had I not figured out how to eat all I want and want what I eat. Knowing that it will get me to the weight I want to be.

Right now I’m really enjoying the holiday season because I know how to make Christmas work for me. I use the basic principle of feast and famine that our bodies expect, to make each day work for me not against me. Right now I just balance quantity with quality. Some days the quantity of food on offer is vast, others it’s more normal. At times I really do eat a lot and I mean like 2-3 meals worth in one sitting, some days I do that for each meal, That’s rare now but something i used to do often.

I still remember when I did just this for a week when we travelled on the QEII a few years ago. I found it easier at each meal to tell the waiter what I didn’t want on the menu. You see I agreed to go because it was a cruise and when I learnt that this means it is

a floating restaurant of the highest quality where all the food is free

The food addict in me took over. How could I say no!!! Each meal would cost atleast £30 in a top class restaurant and I had 3 per sitting and it was all free. My logic was that if I didn’t eat it then it would have gone to waste wouldn’t it. Said like a true addict don’t you think!!!

Fattening up

Of course I put on a stone in one week. Not the first time I have done this but the most memorable and I didn’t regret a gram of it.

I can still remember the feeling of the new fat being laid down.

For those not accustomed to it I’ll try and explain. Each person lays down fat in their own particular way. Some put it in their bellies, some their legs, some deep inside their bodies, others more at the surface. The only exact way to know is to have a scan. That’s a medical procedure and not something I have access to so my low tech alternative is through feeling it. It’s like when you have a hair cut and you suddenly feel the wind in places you haven’t for ages. It reminds you that you’ve had a haircut. The feeling goes in a few days, not because your nerves stop sensing the wind but because your brain stops paying attention to the information.

I hope to explain this process in detail at some other time. For now it’s enough to understand the opposite process is happening. I always get a new layer of fat around my belly. It feels like insulation very much because my sense of feeling around my stomach gets dulled. Touching it just feels different. I know I’m touching it but I don’t feel the sensation as clearly as I did before. Over time this sense adjusts. The nerves either get rewired or their signals are listened to better but for a short while I am acutely aware most of the time that I am now bigger, heftier. Even the way my clothes feel on my skin is different.

If you understand what I am saying because you get the same results. You know what it feels like to gain a lot of weight in a short time. You may then then understand the challenges I face saying “no” to food.  It literally was not how I was raised. Finishing my plate was a sign of respect and wasting it is an offense. So changing my attitude to food, focusing on quality over quality has been anything but easy. It has taken years and huge amounts of learning.

Continue to The food addicts guide to feasts part 2

How can you lose weight and be happy?

I’m planning a series of articles on weight loss tips and weight loss resources. Something I’ve been researching for years. There is so much to say but of course so much has already been said. That’s why I thought I would start with something that seems to get forgotten. Happiness. Why are you trying to lose weight and particularly what will you gain and lose if you do?

The general message is that you can either lose weight or your can be happy. The two seem to be mutually exclusive and I don’t agree. I never have and it’s one of those burning questions I’ve had for years and now I feel not only have I found my answer but I can put it into words too.

Losing weight isn’t generally the challenge for most. Lots of people have lost all the weight they wanted, often even more. Yet they generally put it back on again. When they keep the weight off there are various explanations why but it’s ultimately a very personal set of circumstances. Great, that worked for them, but what about you. It’s easy to feel that it’s really down to luck. Some pick the right approach, or have the right support structure or right genes, other don’t. That’s how most people feel.

That’s not how I see it. I’ve been looking into this question for more than half my life and I’ve struggled for years to come to a clear universal truth, just like everyone else.

The simplest answer I can find is that if you are happy doing something you will continue to do it.Losing weight isn’t hard if you do the right things for long enough but whatever you do you must do it for life. So that means losing weight should make you happy, or better, being happy should make you lose weight.

I will return to the topic of happiness later. For now I just wanted to make this point. Give you an idea where I am going and a little more detail behind this blog. Happiness as its root. When achieving happiness also delivers health, weight loss and general balance we’ve achieved what I set out to achieve.

Running or just moving. What is most important to losing weight?

A gentle stroll

The question for this article is whether losing weight requires you to run or should you just move more in general including walking and standing more throughout the day.

My wife Kat is exploring whether losing weight can be done through simply being more active throughout the day or whether more intense like running is necessary. She recently had a role where she was on her feet all day. Just helping people out. She was surprised how much weight she lost. She hadn’t even been trying. At the same time she had been so busy there was no temptation or opportunity to snack during the day. She was happy, busy and her lifestyle set her up to lose weight. No running or intense activity. Just gentle regular movement.

Thinking about it, watching historical dramas like the tutors or Downton abbey you don’t see many people running. But most are active. Back then they had to be. The difference from then to now is most likely that for several hours of the day each person used to burn on average an extra 20 – 50 calories per hour. Not much on the face of it but add up each hour, maybe 3-4 hours and you have between 80-200 calories extra burnt per day. That can burn as much 1 stone of fat per year or prevent you putting on that much.

Food for thought ;-). This is how I can explain how we ate more during the war yet weren’t obese, we were more active throughout the day, we didn’t have all these labour saving tools and most people had to move more in general but there’s no proof yet. research just isn’t really done in this area. I’m hoping to inspire you to test this theory for yourself

The idea is to take care of the small values and the big ones will take care of themselves. Pun intended. If you can add 20 calories per hour to parts of your day for a while then it is easy to add another 20 calories at a time until you burn enough. The key point is not to rush and burn out or injured. Always remember you are burning more calories than you used to. Sooner or later it will pay off.

Exercise and weight loss: Do we know it all yet?

Watching The men who made us thin is a double edged sword for me. I like to learn more about the food and fitness industries and I certainly learn a lot watching the show however I do think the presenter Jacques Peretti has his own opinion and I can’t say it is completely accurate. I feel it is almost as biased as the industries he is trying to expose.

I feel the show is confusing the issue as does pretty much everything I read on nutrition or exercise. There is generally too much politics. They gloss over the fact that we used to be active all the day instead of the little bit we are these days. More importantly because we were active all the time we were much fitter. So when we were active we burnt more calories per minute than we do now. We had both quality and quantity of energy expenditure because the fitter someone is the more calories they can burn per minute. Their body knows how to make this possible because exercise is about finding ways to burn more calories and get more done so those who exercise more regularly get better at burning calories for longer.

During my degree I learnt a lot about how the body uses energy, adapts to exercise and how we track the energy itself. I also learnt a lot about interpreting science and coming to my own conclusions. I read a lot of research at the time. Often off my own back because my personal goal was understanding how to treat diseases like obesity. My conclusion is actually that we don’t have perfect methods to track the energy use of the body and so we cannot draw perfect conclusions from any of our research. Frustrating but that is a common argument in any area of research. I just don’t think many people want to accept that.

Activity also has many more impacts on the human body than simple calorie burning and each can be essential to losing weight. To say it simply I feel a body needs to function properly in order to lose weight. That means it must know when to use certain types of energy and how to clean up the waste products they create. It also means that all the processes a working body requires to function properly do so. Functions like sleep so the body can repair all the daily damage that happens during the day.

By solely focusing on calories burnt people always miss the much wider and more important picture of what activity and just a balanced lifestyle itself can really do for us. So this really is a simple case of reductionism gone too far. The implications of research are misinterpreted. This is why I try to distill everything into common sense that I can apply and believe in. The facts I am convinced by are that we used to eat more yet we had very little obesity. During the second world war, during rationing, people on average ate more than we do now.The main and clear difference is the quality and quantity of activity. Back then you had to move to live. Only the rich could be lazy and funnily enough only the rich had the health problems the west now suffer from. This active lifestyle is not assumption. It is what I find when I ask people about how things used to be. Before everything was so automated and easy. People really did have to get food from the local shops every day because they didn’t have fridges and freezers. My mum was telling me about keeping milk and butter under the sink. What else would you do.

As regards data I use government data because it is open, generally methodically collected and unbiased as much as any data can be unbiased. It also reflects a large population making the results more valuable. The trend is clear. We ate much more then than we do now. I only wish they had tracked activity as well. I couldn’t find this data for any country in the world so I couldn’t make a comparisonThe difference is subtle. We didn’t do more intense exercise, it was more gentle instead but this adds up. I have not seen studies on the energy requirement of manual labour like washing, farming, mining and other active jobs compared to sitting at a desk typing. But I think it is safe to assume it was more taxing than our current work situation. We forget just how long we spend every day doing very little to tax our muscles and expend energy. Even adding small amounts of activity occasionally may not add up to much per minute but per day it could be 50-100 calories or more which adds up to half a stone of fat per year. Funnily enough that is about how fast many people add weight and why it is so hard to spot.

The truth is that you don’t actually have to eat much more to put on a lot you just need a lot of time or just to stop moving. What is noticeable when you look for it is the lack of data on how much energy we burn on average per day. There is no data on this to match the data for what we eat. Recently it has started to be recorded but it just doesn’t go as far back as that on nutrition. All I see is that we have consistently been burning less calories per day than we used to. Particularly over the course of a year. We are busier than ever but this activity does not translate into movement any more like it used to. Of course many people would still be bigger if they were active. That was true then as is now but not so many.

What I see is a longtail of energy expenditure. We track the headline numbers of how much energy is burnt to move us a certain amount but not the less obvious aspects like the cost of cells regenerating in response to activity and energy lost as heat. We also don’t have perfectly accurate methods of tracking the stored energy consumed. Add to that the other deeper side of weight loss which is about consistency and a balanced life. Activity can have a powerful effect because it makes you want to eat and do the right things. It gets your cells to behave properly. These wider and complex effects of exercise are not understood or promoted very well. Only the obvious effects like energy consumption get the attention.

Only when you consider the full impact of exercise or lack of it on your entire well being do you realise the contribution it can make over a lifetime. That means understanding that when you’re tired you don’t want to do the right things. Activity can help improve your sleep but can take 4 months to have an impact. Exercise can also help store and use energy properly, improve bones, use electrolytes better and improve mood but we do not know how long these improvements will  take for each person or the types of activity required. Often it is not even the activity but the environment the activity puts you in that is the benefit. The social and emotional bonds you create and experiences you enjoy have as much an impact as any direct physical benefits.

Activity also makes you stronger so you can resist the impact of daily life. I am not the first to suggest that high cholesterol and added weight can be a consequence of lots of damage within the body. Being active makes your body better at recovering and thus repairing the damage. The body systems thus work well and normal service is resumed. Energy is used properly and you can and want to do the things that your body needs.

Essentially proper activity and recovery are key to balance in life. This is something that could never be appreciated when applying such a narrow vision like tv programmes tend to. So ultimately I see that these shows end up drawing fact from fiction because they do not consider the debate in the complex way it needs to be seen. Instead they use statistics to promote the very confusion they aim to eradicate.

Wow. this article has certainly got me opinionated. But then, as a scientist and engineer that is how I have been trained. Truth is truth. If we don’t have the full data yet then we can not draw full conclusions. We must search for the full truth and not assume. I am getting increasingly confident in the opinions I draw because I have researched quite widely and then applied what I have found. It does not mean I am right but I can see how each theory stands up to every test I can apply to it. These programmes unfortunately don’t present theories I can fully believe in.

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Can you reverse insulin resistance

I read an article Insulin resistance and pre diabetes and just had to report the findings of the major study they refer to.

‘lifestyle changes reduced the risk of diabetes by 58 percent’

The main recommendation is to be active and eat well.

I just wanted to make the point that insulin resistance can be reversed. They also found that many people with pre-diabetes, symptoms that often lead to diabetes, returned to normal.

So anyone out there who’s worried about or has been told they have or are likely to get diabetes. There are options for you and they don’t all involve medicine. Simple approaches like looking at the balance in your life and including activity and adjusting your foods can make a big difference

These days diabetes type 2 is generally considered a self inflicted disease. The up side is that it means you can help fix it yourself with the right advice.


If you’re in a rush here is the take home message in one paragraph.

Insulin resistance occurs because your body forgets how to deal with sugar. This leaves sugar flowing through your body causing lots of damage. Exercise creates a big demand for sugar forcing your body to remember how to deal with it. Making sure sugar doesn’t get to flow where it shouldn’t, minimising the damage sugar can do. Improving your health in the process.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When people have insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, leading to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes

Insulin resistance means that the cells start losing their natural response to the presence of insulin and so sugar is no longer used properly within the body. This is because the levels of a cell component named Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT4) fall. GLUT 4 responds directly to the presence of insulin and encourages cells to take up sugar. GLUT4 is the glucose transporter found in (skeletal) muscle and fat (Adipose) cells

This can lead to sugar shortages within the cell and an inability to clear sugar from the blood. Both situations can have serious consequences. This is often compounded by the pancreas secreting more insulin in an effort to trigger great uptake of glucose within cells. Over time this feedback loop can overload the pancreas and create problems in producing any insulin at all.

How important is insulin resistance?

The size of the problem can be large because insulin resistance affects two thirds of the human body since it effects both muscle and fat cells which account for around two thirds of an average humans weight.

Why does insulin resistance develop?

The reason insulin resistance occurs is because the body is constantly adapting to our lifestyle and looking for ways to save precious resources. When you lead an inactive life you rarely create a big demand within your cells for carbohydrate. So the GLUT4 receptors are lost by the cell. There seems no need for them.

How can you reverse insulin resistance?

What is not commonly known is that regular exercise can reverse insulin resistance by increasing the number of GLUT 4 receptors within cells. Research shows that exercise places a high demand on the bodies carbohydrate (sugar) stores. It tests its ability to mobilise and use carbohydrate to power the muscles to create movement. Most of the adaptations that happen when you get fit are designed to conserve carbohydrate by using it efficiently. As a result the body will increasingly prefer fat as a fuel. Small amounts of exercise have been shown to have a big impact on the bodies ability to regulate carbohydrate.

Benefits of reversing insulin resistance

It is becoming increasingly clear that insulin resistance causes obesity and diabetes. Not the other way around. If you consider How exercise combats Heart Disease, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes then you will find that learning how to move more can tackle insulin resistance. In turn this can help tackle:

  • Obesity
  • Coronary Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Cancer

Often because all these problems are strongly linked to an inability to handle sugar properly.

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Can you reverse insulin resistance first appeared on my original blog. Cell Your Sole is my new focus for health posts so I’m re posting relevant articles here.