Fancy being Skinny?

Most of what we read about and hear in the media is focused on weight loss. Everything seems geared to burning Calories and losing the flab but what about the folk that really struggle to keep weight on, never mind gain weight?  The health implications of being underweight are different but just as serious as those linked to  being overweight but because only 2% of the adult population are underweight, compared to >60% being overweight you can see why the focus lies on weight loss.

Our body weight will naturally fluctuate over days and weeks but unintentional weight loss of more than 5% of your body weight over 6 to 12 months could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Stress and depression can certainly be a factor, as could an overactive thyroid, uncontrolled diabetes, digestive problems or even cancer. The rule of thumb is go and see your GP if you are not sure.

Particularly with media influence, being skinny is  often viewed as the idea of perfection. For women a waif-like appearance (albeit airbrushed) is the most desirable attribute, yet a models weight is 23% less than the average woman.  For men, it is often about having a 6 pack and a chiseled jawline and the expectations to achieve a particular physique are equally unrealistic.

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I am one of those annoying skinny people – often I am told ‘it’s OK for you’ followed by ‘you don’t need to worry about eating that‘ or ‘I wish I could eat what you do‘ and you know what, they have no idea.

I was a very tall and lanky child growing up. I then hit the mid teens and shall we say filled out somewhat. With my parents getting divorced and leaving home to go to uni, my weight plummeted. Life later settled down as did my weight, until I had my son. From that point on, my metabolism seemed to rocket to that of a marathon runner. Ever since then it’s been a battle to stay on an even keel. There’s nothing going on, it’s just hard work to make progress and stay there!

Feeling well, healthy and happy in your skin is certainly not all about weight. It’s about being content with who you are, embracing the bits we are less happy about. The image of perfection is not real, our lumps and bumps are what make us, make us human but it’s so often a challenge to get to a point where we feel comfortable in our skin and achieve a level of acceptance.

Just eat more!

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I hear this a lot! Yes of course it can be done but how many of us can stick to it? Christmas seems a doddle as you are surrounded 24-7 by the richest, most calorific foods but aren’t most of us sick to the back teeth of it after a month of having ‘a good go’?

Probably the most famous example of an actress gaining weight (twice) to play a role is Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones but she did report how hard it was (although who wouldn’t do it for a few million quid?). It takes constant commitment.

Some of my clients may say ‘so-and-so could eat a horse and they never put any weight on’ or ‘how can xxx eat the same as me and not out an ounce on?’ The thing with these statements is we just don’t know what is really going on when people make claims about their food intake. Almost invariably, when you track these ‘big eaters’, they really aren’t eating that much. Research has routinely shown that overweight individuals tend to under-estimate food intake (e.g. they think they are eating much less than they actually are) but in my experience ‘hardgainers’ are doing the opposite: vastly overestimating how much they are actually eating in a given day, or over the span of a week. To be honest, I’ve done this myself. Partly because I easily get distracted and don’t take a mental note of what I’ve eaten so it doesn’t occur to me to eat more. I’ve resorted to setting an alarm on my watch to remind me when it’s snack time!

The other issue that makes weight gain hard is that we usually compensate for those high-caloric intakes by lowering calories on the following day (or even in the same day). So while I might do well with a hearty lunch, I simply won’t feel hungry until later that evening. Again there is no trigger to eat. Having to over ride the signals that say you are not hungry, because our body is attempting to retain a level of balance, to eat when you don’t want to literally goes against your gut feeling. My head says don’t eat until you want to but the voice on my shoulder says you need to eat to gain some weight. Literally one or two days of listening to my body and ignoring the nagging voice means any previous hard work and gain is lost. Arghhh it’s hugely frustrating and it’s really no different if you are wanting to  lose weight; you are just as uncomfortable eating less than you desire, I’m just approaching this from the opposite end of the spectrum.

To add something else into the mix, I don’t want to get heavier for the sake of getting heavier. I want to feel better, to look better. For me this means gaining muscle, not just fat. I don’t believe there is any real evidence to support that gaining weight is harder than losing it as it all comes down to our personal experiences. What I can say from my personal and work experience is that it’s flippin’ tough!

Train to gain

Funny skinny guy lifting weights

Exercise builds muscle but it has to be the right type of exercise. Excessive calorific burn is the last thing I need in order to put on weight yet I also want all the additional benefits of being active; the time out, the endorphin hit, the general sense of satisfaction and well being so this makes my choices a little tricky. Especially now that I’ve signed up for a 10K run and have just started to get back to regular training.

Building muscle requires something called “progressive overloading”. This is just a fancy way of saying that you’ll need to strength train with an increasingly high weight, reps, or volume during subsequent sessions. This enables muscle growth,not that I want to or will end up looking like Arnie but when my weight is low I certainly feel weak and weedy. So if I can suss this, it will result in an increase in healthy weight. Easy right?

Please join me next time when I will be providing some tips on weight gain, for anyone else out there who might be in the same position………….so it’s not just me?!

 

Go for Gold or You’re Toast!

How do you have your toast in the morning? From warm bread (pointless in my eyes!) to disintegration on touch?  On the above picture I prefer a 4-5, so you get a decent crunch but when you are slurping your morning brew whilst trying to clean up milk spills and Weetabix whilst getting school shoes on (and that’s just for me!) you ignore the smell of burning and are prepared to butter whatever pops out of the toaster.

So following yesterday’s report by the Foods Standards Agency we might have to re-think the colour of our morning toast due to concerns about a possible carcinogen (something that may cause cancer) that is created when bread is heated to a high temperature, i’e’ it goes brown. In fact it’s not just toast, it’s all ‘starchy’ foods so potatoes are another food to watch out for.

The culprit is called Acrylamide. When we toast, bake, fry or roast starchy foods, acrylamide is naturally produced as a by-product of the browning reaction. Animal studies have shown that high levels cause cancer (think Rats and chips) and although this doesn’t mean the same will happen in humans there is a definite air of caution.  There simply isn’t enough evidence to prove it doesn’t cause cancer in humans. So is it worth the risk, even though we might be looking at regular and prolonged consumption of burnt foods? Not in my book!

So keep an eye on your food when cooking and as the FSA have recommended – Go for Gold instead.

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Acrylamide has nothing to do with your spuds going green by the way. Although it’s also not advisable to eat green and sprouting potatoes as they are likely to have higher levels of other harmful toxins.

Another handy tip is keep you spuds at room temperature (in a dark cupboard or in the garage or porch where temperatures stay above 6°C). Storing them in the fridge (in colder temperatures) encourages them to produce more free sugars (sometimes referred to as ‘cold sweetening’). It’s these sugars that caramelise and go brown when heated and thus generate more acrylamide when heated above 120°C .

The final point I want to make is that this report does NOT mean you shouldn’t eat any starchy foods either! Having a balanced diet with a good variety of carbohydrate / starchy based foods is essential in maintaining our energy levels, providing fibre and B vitamins. Probably what is much more harmful is a diet with too much reliance on processed foods like cakes, biscuits, crisps and processed meats!

So as they say, everything in MODERATION 🙂