I consider myself to be a fit, active and healthy person and if the mainstream media are to be believed then I’m probably doing better than a lot of others in my demographic. I keep track of some of my personal stats such as Blood Pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI) and body fat percentage.
However, even taking all of the above into account it was with dismay that I have noticed since turning 40 years old that I started to develop “love handles” around my mid-section despite being active!
My first thoughts were to run farther and/or harder, so I upped my usual running time (I run for a particular time rather than distance as I find I enjoy the whole session more) from 25-35 minutes to 40-60 minutes or so.
This worked until about 42 years old or so! And despite the increased running distance the “love handles” started to grow and develop.
My diet was generally ok, I love fruit and vegetables so I’ve never seen eating them as “missing out” or a chore. However, I did have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I thought that with some limited changes that this could be an effective route to try and banish the love handle blues!
I always added sugar to my cereal (usually cornflakes), so this seemed and easy fix. I generally added about 2 teaspoons full. Having a bit of a geeky streak inside me I thought it’d be interesting to do some calculations on what cutting out the sugar might mean from a calorific/fat perspective. So here’s what I worked out:-
1 Teaspoon of sugar = 16 Calories
1 Calorie is equivalent (approximately) to 1.3 grams of fat.*
2 teaspoons (32 Calories) x 0.13grams x 365 days=1.5kg of fat per year!!!
I’ll write that again 1.5 kg of fat per year.
WOW, it was quite a revelation to see that “just” 2 teaspoons of sugar on my cereal is the equivalent of 15kg of fat (if not used and stored) per year.
Now, I know that a direct comparison as shown above is not exactly what happens in the body and that metabolism and activity and biology and chemistry and energy transfer is very complicated. However, just seeing the above in black and white was enough to convince me that it was an “easy win” with no real downside.
I was also surprised that after only a few weeks the cereal tasted sweet as I was actually able to taste the sugar content of the product!
Well, I was on a roll now so decided to scrutinise other “easy fixes”, my attention was then drawn to Tea and Coffee. Yep, I added 2 teaspoons of sugar to either drink and would usually drink anywhere between 4 and 6 cups a day.
Time to do some basic maths!
So effectively it is the same calculation as above, but then I needed to multiply the amount by 5 (my considered daily average beverage intake).
32 Calories x 1.3 g fat x 5 x 365= 7.5 kg fat per year.
BUT and this is a big BUT it was much harder for me to cut down on my sugar from the drinks!
I had to do it in stages, I cut down to 1 teaspoon for both tea and coffee immediately and just made sure that I stirred the sugar in more effectively!
I managed to eliminate sugar from my tea in about 2 months, however it took about 6 months before I actually enjoyed the taste!
Now coffee was much harder. It took me about 6 months to eliminate sugar completely and about 1 year before I actually enjoyed it again!!
Looking back I’m glad that I did it and I’m pleased that I’ve eliminated up to 9kig of potential love handle fat per year through fairly easy behavioral changes! It’s a win-win.
My beverage Caloric annual intake was cut down by 58,400 Calories per year!
My added sugar to Cereal Calorific intake by 11,680 Calories per year!
So the above seemed to help until around 45 years old or so.
Then BOOMERANG-the Love Handles began to return again. At around this time I had discovered Tim Ferriss and got hold of his “Four Hour Body” book.
I experimented with some of the suggestions in the book for workouts and thought that they were ok.
One of the chapters outlines what Tim calls the “Slow-Carb Diet” and after reading through the chapter I realised that with a some modification I would be able to adopt it fairly well. What I also liked is that it allows a “free” or “pass” day where it is allowed, even encouraged, to just go for it. This is great if you know you’re going out for a meal or going to be away from home as this can be built into your routine.
Tim also suggests that actually pigging out may also help your body to re-adjust and know what to do with “rubbish” food.
In addition to Tim’s “slow-carb” diet, I’ve also been interested in the diet advice being given by Dr Mark Hyman http://drhyman.com/ This is similar to Tim’s but is a little stricter and includes eating more natural fats.
Basically, from my perspective they seem to be building on a Glycemic Load based diet. (Not to be confused with the Glycemic Index-which it is based on but takes into account fibre and portion sizes).
I’ve come up with my own variation of the GL type diet and that is “No White Carbs” so specifically I try not to exclude the following from my diet as much as possible:-
- White Rice
- Anything with White Flour in it
To compensate for the above I increase the amount of protein, fat and vegetables to fill the space that the White Carbohydrates would take up on the plate.
I also try to avoid as much processed food as possible.
Additionally, I try to have a mixture of colours for every meal-salads work really well for this.
So far, the above seems to be working. My body fat varies between 14.5% to 19% which I’m ok with. I use and Omron Body Fat Monitor (BF306). I understand that the readings obtained on this device are not likely to be particularly accurate, however I think that if I take the readings at around the same time of day and look at the general trend then it’s an easy and convenient way of assessing whether I’m going in the right direction.