Wilkin argues that the environmental factors we tend to obsess about in the fight against obesity – playing fields, PE time in school, extracurricular activities, parental encouragement – are actually less of a factor in determining what exercise we do than our own bodies. "An evolutionary biologist would say physical activity is the only voluntary means you have of varying or regulating your energy expenditure. In other words, what physical activity you do is not going to be left to the city council to decide. It's going to be controlled, fundamentally, from within."
Exercise stretches muscles and joints, which in turn can increase flexibility and help prevent injuries. Exercise may also improve balance by increasing strength of the tissues around joints and throughout the body, thus helping to prevent falls. Weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and weight training, strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Exercise often can improve function and reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, although regimens must be developed specifically for each person, and exercises that put undue strain on joints, such as jumping and running, may need to be avoided.
Over the course of his career, Mayer's pioneering studies – on rats, babies and schoolgirls – demonstrated that the less active someone was, the more likely they were to be fat. Mayer himself, the son of two eminent physiologists, and a Second World War hero to boot, became one of the world's leading figures in nutrition and most influential voices in the sphere of public health. As an advisor to the White House and to the World Health Organisation, he drew correlations between exercise and fitness that triggered a revolution in thinking on the subject in the 60s and 70s. "Getting fit" became synonymous not just with healthier living, but with a leaner, meaner body, and the ground was laid for a burgeoning gym industry.
Your body needs a certain amount of essential vitamins and minerals to function properly. What happens when you don’t get enough of them? What happens when you eat too little food, or when the food you eat isn’t sufficiently nutritious? Perhaps our bodies catch on and reply by increasing hunger levels. After all – if we eat more, we increase the chances of consuming enough of whatever nutrient we are lacking.
“Whether it’s an app or paper food logs, tracking what you eat will certainly be eye-opening. Almost everyone consumes more than they think. Write everything down as soon as you’re done eating so you don’t forget anything. The simple act of recording what you eat will make you eat less. When the calories are in your face, it makes you think twice!” — Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE
“I tell all of my celebrity and professional-athlete clients to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Everyone is overly focused on food, water and exercise, all of which are extremely imperative to weight loss and optimal health. However, without proper sleep, all of these the other factors are null and void. When you don’t get enough sleep, levels of the hormone leptin drop, which increases appetite. This surge in appetite makes comfort food more appealing, which can derail weight loss efforts.” — Jay Cardiello, celebrity fitness and nutrition expert
And before we get into it any further, I'd be remiss not to point out another really important detail here: Weight loss isn't for everyone. For some people, it's actually much healthier to ignore your weight altogether, or never think about calories, or focus on literally anything else. That's especially true if you have a history of disordered eating; if that's you, you should talk to your doctor before going on any weight-loss plan at all. In fact, even if you don't have a history of disordered eating you should talk to a doctor about losing weight in a healthy way.
All you need is a pair of sneakers before you head out the door. But if weight loss is the name of your game, the lackadaisical head-out-for-a-light-jog style of running isn't the way to go. Instead, find a hill you can sprint up, or crank the incline on that treadmill. "Running up hills forces you to work your glutes and legs—two of your body's biggest muscle groups—even more, which requires smaller muscle recruitment and more energy expenditure," explains Rosante. As noted earlier, the more energy you're using, the brighter that calorie-burning fire burns. But proper form here is key. "Lean into the hill, and drive your knees as high as you can, striking the ball of each foot down directly under your body," he says. "Keep your hands open and arms bent at 90 degrees, and drive your arms straight forward up to face level, then backward to the top of your back pocket." And try not to let your arms cross over your body—that'll just waste the precious energy your muscles need. If you're training indoors, here are a few fat-burning treadmill routines to get you started.
Why: Not hitting your goals? Need to exercise to lose weight fast before a wedding? The clean and press is your best friend. It works your entire body, it’s intense and – here’s the best bit –it optimise your hormones to detonate body fat. It’ll also push your lactic acid levels through the roof, reducing your oestrogen and better regulate your insulin.
For us ladies there is a dreaded week each month that we hold onto water weight (and usually a bar of chocolate) and guess what, you will be much more forgiving at the end of the week weigh in if you know once a month you just happen to be 5 pounds heavier. You’ll say to yourself, yep that’s my pattern, it’s OK and it will be gone next week. See… sometimes homework can be beneficial.
There are so many protein powders on the market, and sometimes it can be hard to decide which one is best for your weight-loss goals. But by swapping out a whey or creatine powder for something plant-based, you could cut down on belly fat. Although whey powder is chock-full of muscle-boosting protein, it can also cause a belly bloat. Instead, try one of the 100+ recipes in Zero Belly Smoothies, made with vegan protein that will still have the same muscle-building, fat-burning, and satiating effects, just without the bloat.
An increase in fiber intake is also recommended for regulating bowel movements. Other methods of weight loss include use of drugs and supplements that decrease appetite, block fat absorption, or reduce stomach volume. Bariatric surgery may be indicated in cases of severe obesity. Two common bariatric surgical procedures are gastric bypass and gastric banding. Both can be effective at limiting the intake of food energy by reducing the size of the stomach, but as with any surgical procedure both come with their own risks that should be considered in consultation with a physician. Dietary supplements, though widely used, are not considered a healthy option for weight loss. Many are available, but very few are effective in the long term.
“You can’t just say, ‘I want to lose weight…someday.’ It’s that kind of loose talk, without a fence or guideline, that discourages you from getting started and prevents you from succeeding. The way I did it was by tying it to an upcoming event in my life. I never focused on a number and I didn’t set out to lose a certain number of pounds per week or overall. I merely found a target date a year away and I proclaimed to myself that I’d be in better shape by then. — Maria Menounos, author of The Everygirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness, on how she lost 40 pounds