UG1: A healthy weight, diet, and life-style

How you think is how you live.

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Introduction
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Dieting and exercise isn’t just about following a diet plan for a while, it’s about changing your mindset and your behaviors.
'Have and regularly look at reminders for why'
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There are very good reasons for why you might want to lose weight, or hold back from putting it on - see for example ‘Motivations’. Identify 3 or 4 that are particularly important for you and write them down on a card you can carry around with you, or somewhere else you can readily access. Remind yourself of them regularly, a few times a day, and also when you might be faced with particular temptations.
'Choose a dieting plan that will work for you'
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This app is mostly about general dieting behaviors which will help you lose weight. Many people however will also find it motivating to follow a particular branded dieting plan – see ‘Effective Use of the Existing Diet and Exercising Industry’. Choose a diet plan that you believe will work for you in terms of being able to stick with it and is sufficiently varied to ensure you get essential nutrients – any diet plan will enable you to lose weight simply because it leads to a reduction in calories. In parallel be aware of the guidance given in this app, which will be a vital part of long term maintenance of your weight once you have reached your target. Note that adopting a crash or extreme diet is highly unlikely to lead to long term weight loss.
‘Plan in advance’
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Make time to prepare weekly menus and to buy the ingredients – see ‘Effective use of Meal Plans’. Ensure that you are ok with the time and effort it will take to prepare your meals, which may be at the end of a long hard working day. It is better to chose slightly less healthy options you will prepare and eat than healthy options you won’t and then go for quicker fast food options. Planning in advance and (mostly) following through is a critical part of losing weight. Also plan for snacks – when and what.
‘Write it all down, at least for a while’
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When you start dieting, or are thinking about doing so, or if you are consistently failing to lose weight, it is very useful to write down everything you are eating, together with an approximate calorie count. Also drinks if they are calorific. It is likely you are consuming more calories than you realize, possibly far more. Do not be judgmental about it, it is simply information and facts to help you change your future behavior for the better.
‘Develop ‘tactics’ for tackling common difficulties’
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Once you’ve been dieting for a while you may well find certain situations regularly repeat themselves, leading to you doing things you later regret. Typically this might include unhealthy snacking or regularly deviating from your meal plan. See these as problems to be solved. Potential solutions might relate to changing aspects of your environment, changing some of your behaviors, avoiding certain circumstances, finding ways to reward or punish yourself, and/or seeking to improve your self-discipline in general. Look up advice for how others might have handled such situations, many people will have and many will have found ways of dealing them which worked at least for them.
‘Only have unhealthy foods and drinks in moderation’
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There are many foods and drinks which won’t do you any harm in moderation, but are undoubtedly bad for you if you eat or drink a lot of them. And you might be surprised just how much of them you do eat and drink. Moderation isn’t just a couple of times a day, moderation is a couple of times a week. This includes for example alcohol and high calorie coffees.
'Be active and get exercise’
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Get exercise and move about – see UG4: Exercising. Whilst you shouldn’t expect exercise to contribute directly to weight loss, it will generally help you to feel better and help with body shape. You are more likely to stick to a diet if alongside it you also exercise more. Note that it is not just about particular exercise sessions. Take whatever advantages present themselves during the day to stretch a little more, to use your muscles a little more, to make a little bit more effort than you might otherwise have done.
'Slow gradual weight loss is best’
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Rapid weight loss is rarely sustainable or healthy. It is far better to lose just a little weight – even just ½ lb a week – over a longer period, as a result of improved habits, than to lose 3 or 4 lbs with unsustainable diets, crash diets, or frequent fasting. Rather than focus on your longer term goals for weight loss, set a modest target, maybe 6 lbs, focus on that, feel very pleased with yourself when you achieve it, then set a further modest target.
'Let momentary lapses go, recommit now'
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There will be many times when you will eat something you know you shouldn’t have. If you immediately recommit to continuing with your intent it will have done no lasting harm. If however you ‘give up’ for the rest of the day or longer then you will significantly set yourself back.
Note that if you do slip up, don’t feel a need to ‘make up for it’ by not eating something you had planned – doing so will increase the likelihood of a further slip up later. Simply look to learn from the ‘slip up’, what might you do to avoid it again the future, and then let it go.
'Don’t expect it to be easy’
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There will be times when you find the dieting hard, and you’ll be thinking about giving up. Accept that it is hard. Remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to diet. Are they not worth fighting for? Keep at it. It’s hard, not impossible. Many people succeed and so can you.
Weigh yourself, about once a week
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If you want to lose weight, or maintain a given weight, you need to weigh yourself from time to time. I would suggest about once a week. Your weight will vary during the day and from day to day a bit, and weighing yourself every day will give you variations that are not reflective of your longer term trend. Look to weigh yourself wearing a similar weight of clothes each time (or none - though not to be recommended if using public scales). Don’t be concerned about being a pound or two off your target, but a steady weight increase or failure to gradually lose weight whilst dieting, mean you do need to take more disciplined action.
'Be aware of but not a slave to your BMI'
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Some people have a natural body weight that is higher than others, and have a fuller body shape than others. That does not make them fat. Having a larger body size and being heavier than someone else is not necessarily a sign of being overweight or being less healthy, and the BMI (Body Mass Index) provides a range which does in part recognize this. Moreover if you are particularly athletic then given that muscle is much denser than fat it is likely your BMI is not a good measure of a healthy weight range. For most of us however the BMI chart will provide a good indication of whether you ought to be losing some weight.
'A healthy weight?'
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A healthy weight is that which you will naturally maintain with a healthy and varied diet, with only very occasional high calorie extras (once a week-ish), and with a reasonable amount of exercise, and without regularly starving yourself. Being ‘celebrity thin’ is unlikely to be healthy. We have different body shapes and a healthy weight for one person is not necessarily so for another.
'Maintaining your weight'
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If you have reached some desired weight as a result of following a particular diet, and think it will then be easy to maintain your weight, you are wrong. Most people who rely solely on following some particular diet to lose weight end up putting it back on again. Maintaining a healthy weight requires the sort of behaviors and mindset covered in this app. Develop these behavior and mindset changes alongside your dieting, and in time you will find it relatively easy to maintain a healthy weight.
'Your metabolism slows down as you get older’
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Your metabolism relates to how fast you burn up calories as you go about your daily life. As you get older this slows down, such that you will naturally start to put on (more) weight if you continue to eat the same amount and get the same amount of exercise. As you get older you should thus seek to reduce the number of calories you consume daily. There is evidence to suggest that eating a little fewer calories than is generally recommended is a contributing factor to longer life.