Being overweight has now become the norm in Britain as according to NHS statistics over 60% of us fall into this category and 27% of us are obese. Shockingly, this applies to both children and adults: more than 1 in 5 children in Reception class and 1 in 3 children in Year 6 are now obese or overweight. Regardless of opinions on the aesthetics, being overweight has serious health implications - linked to many life-threatening illnesses including: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain cancers, arthritis and diabetes type 2. Experts predict that 1 in 2 of us will be obese by 2050.
Yet we have not always been a fat nation. Back in the 1970s the vast majority of the UK were slim. Only 2% of the population were obese – just 1 person in 50 - now it’s 1 in 4!
So what has caused us to pile on the pounds in just four decades?
According to scientists and researchers this obesity epidemic is the result of changes in our nation’s eating behaviours. In the 70s most of our meals were home cooked and eating out was viewed as a treat. In addition, there were far fewer fast food restaurants- the first McDonalds did not open until 1974 and less choice of ready meals and snacks.
Today eating out or having takeout is a regular occurrence and fast food restaurants and outlets are in every neighbourhood. We also consume far more processed foods, our portion sizes have increased, and we snack more – yet, we are far less physically active. Our shops and supermarkets display aisle after aisle of crisps, sweets, biscuits, cakes, pizza and ready meals. These processed foods are usually high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, salt and additives. They also tend to be high in calories but low in essential nutrients - especially vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fibre. These processed foods encourage us to overeat and make us fat (see next week’s blog: How processed foods make us fat).
All those extra calories have expanded our waistlines: the average woman today has a waistline almost 7 inches bigger than her grandmother had. Ironically, as our waistlines have expanded so too has the very industry which claims it can shrink them. There are now more diets and dietary products than ever before and yet we are the fattest we have ever been. Clearly diets do not work- but why not?
Diets will only work if we stay on them long term. Therein lies the problem - most diets are not sustainable long-term because they tend to be very low in calories, nutrients or even real food. Driven by hunger and boredom, we stop dieting. We then return to our former eating habits and inevitably the weight piles back on. The best way to achieve permanent weight loss is to change our eating and lifestyle habits permanently too - a concept that had eluded me for some time.
Diets v habits - my own story
I started to gain weight in my early 40’s and within three years, despite dieting several times, I had gained over 2 stones (30lb’s) and three dress sizes. I could not understand why I had gained so much weight - I exercised regularly and believed that I ate healthily. In fact, I was a part-time fitness instructor with a degree in nutrition. The diets I had tried all made me hungry, tired, miserable and even fatter! So I gave up dieting and decided to try and accept the notion that weight gain is inevitable as we get older – but I was not convinced.
One day after teaching an exercise class, a participant asked me when my baby was due. I was mortified - as was she. As I studied my side profile in the studio mirror – I understood why someone could think I was expecting - my belly was comparatively the same size and shape as it had been at five months pregnant! Although the incident had been highly embarrassing it also served as the impetus to change and I left the gym that day determined to shrink my fat belly.
Unlike previous attempts to lose weight - this time I did not plough through the internet looking for another fad diet to try. Instead I analysed why I had gained weight in the first place. Keeping a food diary revealed that my eating habits were not so healthy. For a start I consumed far too many calories; my portion sizes were huge; I was constantly snacking and I ate unhealthy ready-meals and takeaways several times per week. Despite the fact that I taught exercise classes three times week, the rest of the time I was fairly inactive, as I drove everywhere and sat watching television most evenings – when I was often partial to a glass or two of wine. Evidently it was my habits - not my age- to blame for my weight gain.
I set about changing the unhealthy habits that were making and keeping me fat. One of the most significant was to stop eating takeaways and ready meals and instead cook healthy meals from scratch, which incidentally, I had always done before I gained weight. Within a couple of weeks, I had lost weight without feeling hungry and my energy levels soared. Motivated to continue, I began to create my own healthy recipes that were tasty, simple and quick to prepare. These meals kept me feeling full and satisfied and I no longer needed to snack in-between meals.
After six weeks I lost 9lbs of fat, and 3 inches from my waist. I felt great and best of all it had not been a struggle like it had been on diets. I continued to create new recipes and over the course of the next few months, I lost all my excess fat and gained my slimmer, fitter, healthier body back. People commented on how well I was looking and asked me if I could help them lose weight - I did and they too achieved great results.
Six years on, I have kept the weight off and helped many others do the same. My plan works because it is easy to do, suitable for anyone, and sustainable for life. I called it - The S Plan because it is a Simple Solution for permanent fat loss without hunger and dieting and in as little as Six weeks it can help to become a slimmer, fitter, healthier you. I have recently made the programme into a book available to purchase at my web site: www.s-plan.co.uk. The book explains how and why the programme works and includes dozens of delicious and nutritious recipes that are quick and easy to prepare.
Make it a habit to eat…
less of these foods
Processed foods high in sugars, bad carbs and fats, salt and additives
and more of these foods
Unprocessed foods good fats and carbs, vitamins, minerals and fibre