Doesn’t it seem like there’s a certain age where everyone just starts piling on weight? Has it happened to you yet? Maybe you’re eating less and still not losing weight.
There are two main reasons that people get fat.
The first reason is that they eat more food than they should. Keep a food diary for a week to see if this is you. It is pretty common, but it’s often not the only factor.
Does modern life make us fat? (It does)
There’s a couple of life events that make people fat too. The first one is getting a car.
Cars are a fact of life. If you need to commute a significant distance to work then you need a car, or a house and workplace that are both close enough to the train station. The problem with this is that instead of walking or cycling to work, you now get to sit on your arse for an hour or so every day instead. If your job involves a lot of driving, then add several hours to this!
Although you’re moving and going somewhere, as far as your body is concerned, you might as well be sitting in front of the TV at home. It still burns next to no calories and doesn’t provide much stimulation to keep your heart and lungs healthy.
The second is getting a desk job.
If you thought an hour on your arse was bad, how about eight!? Then if you drive to and from that job then you can spend most of your waking hours sitting down, depriving yourself of the activity that is so vital for your health and keeping a healthy weight.
I’ve been sitting down for much of my 15-16 hour days lately creating content for this site and Fitness Local, and I feel your pain. While I’m pretty good at controlling my weight, how about the crappy feeling in your back? The only time I want to be sitting down is after leg day..
If you’re on your feet for a lot of the day, then although it’s more tiring, your fitness is probably a ton better than most people’s. You probably don’t have a hard time losing weight either!
So, this all leads me on to the second reason people get fat, we don’t move enough!
Yes it’s true, you can’t outrun a bad diet. You know what else you can’t do? Maintain a low-calorie, low-activity lifestyle forever. Sooner or later, you’re pretty likely to fall off the wagon and get fat.
If it wasn’t enough for the world to throw high-calorie, highly convenient foods at us, it also forces us to be inactive so we can’t burn them off too. In order to break the downwards spiral and really improve our health and appearance we need to get our nutrition in order, but also get our activity up too.
Why not just eat less?
The problem with just eating less is that it is difficult. Exercise stimulates the body which generates heat and makes us feel good. Eating is also pretty damn fun.
Both eating and exercise positively affect your mood, lack of exercise and food means you end up feeling rubbish.
When you have a very inactive lifestyle and you moderate your diet to get your weight down, you end up feeling cold and miserable. What a way to live!
You need to be practical when you look at your approach. Does cold and miserable sound like something you can keep up. We’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so go figure.
Weight loss is a ton easier when you’re more active, although you can’t easily exercise enough to lose a lot of weight quickly, you can certainly make a difference. Keep in mind that most people don’t gain weight 10kg at a time, it’s a small imbalance in energy that adds up over months and years until you look in the mirror and realise you’ve let yourself go. You can lose weight in the same way.
2 + 2 = 7
The best thing about moving more is this. It makes losing weight way easier when you cut back on food. You don’t have to cut back as much and when you do, you’ll still have all the feel good hormones from exercise keeping you motivated.
Diet and exercise are synergistic.
When you combine them, they are far more effective than when used alone. When I say exercise, I mean activity. Weight training is awesome but you do need to keep up a certain level of general activity too.
Health matters too. It’s not just about burning x amount of calories and getting to your ideal weight. You want to look good, but you also want to think well, be healthy and avoid disease. Moving your body is key to all of those things. You can look good and be unfit, and looking good becomes harder the more unfit you become.
How to move more in a move less world
If you have the opportunity to move more during the work day then you should. It’s a big chunk of time that most of us spend sat down.
If you live just up the road from where you work but still drive to work, consider walking or cycling. This can make a big difference over time.
If you have no freedom over the above two scenarios, you need to do some cardio.
Cardio is just a slang term for cardiovascular exercise and it really doesn’t matter too much how you do it, as long as you do it.
High Intensity Interval Training
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one option which has increased in popularity a long over the last 5-10 years. You use intervals of highly intensity exercise followed by rest periods in which you recover before the next intense phase. You spend less time in the gym this way and it works well.
Low Intensity Steady State
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio is another option where you train at a lower intensity for a longer period of time. Some find it boring, but it works well. You don’t have to do steady state at a low intensity if you don’t want too. Up the intensity to a more moderate level if you want a challenge.
Doing both is a good way of mixing it up and keeping yourself interested, but if you only like one type, just do that type. It’s much, much better than nothing.
If you’re pretty unfit and you find yourself getting out of breath walking up the stairs, aim for 30 minutes of daily LISS cardio on weekdays. You’ll improve quickly and while you might get bored, it’s really not that hard.
If you’re fairly fit but you know your activity level isn’t great then try combining LISS cardio with HIIT cardio throughout the week. Alternating them daily, starting and ending with LISS is a good way of getting your activity level and fitness up.
You can do this on any CV machine; treadmill, crosstrainer, exercise bike, you name it. You can also do this with no equipment.
Get yourself a good pair of running shoes if you’re going to run a lot on hard surfaces. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
The beauty of getting your exercise into your commute or work day is that it doesn’t take up any more time. If you don’t have that luxury then you’ll have to find time to get activity into your life. It’s usually pretty do-able if you make it a priority.
If you work during the day and have the kids to look after in the evenings, you can get an aerobic step and use that while watching TV in the evenings. Or just use the bottom step of your stairs.
If you prefer to keep your evenings for family time or relaxing, get to the gym in your lunch hour or go for a walk.
Finally, try not to see this as an obligation or something you should do. See it as something you’re doing for yourself, there’s a ton of benefits that you will enjoy. You’re not giving up your time, you’re making the most of it so you can enjoy a better body that looks, feels and performs better.
Until next time,