How to Get Back on Track Post-Lockdown
Around one in ten women have put on more than a stone.
After what seems like an eternity, lockdown is finally easing in the UK. From the 4th of July, pubs will once again be able to open their doors. Weddings will be able to go ahead in religious venues, provided that there are fewer than thirty people there and no-one does any singing. We’re not allowed to hug one another or go to the local casino or swimming pool, but elsewhere life appears to be getting back to normal.
If you’re like most people in the UK, lockdown hasn’t had a great effect on your health. More than half of us have reported gaining weight over the lockdown period, with young people and women being among the biggest gainers. Around one in ten women, according to a Slimfast survey, have put on more than a stone.
All of this is to say that, if you’re unhappy with what you see when you step on the bathroom scales, then you’re in good company. In some cases, your GP may recommend a gastric band to lower your appetite and get you to a weight where you can comfortably exercise. For most of us, however, reversing these trends is a matter of changing our habits.
The Power of Habit
The first thing to note is that most people who go on diets eventually put the weight back on. The reasons for this are fiendishly difficult to untangle, but it mostly stems from habit. According to Jonathan Valabhji, a consultant diabetes specialist at St Mary’s Hospital in central London: ‘The important thing about weight loss is that it has to be sustainable – incorporating habits that will last.’
In other words, it’s not worth obsessing over how many pounds you’re losing in a given week. It’s better instead to form good habits. Eat plenty of vegetables. Cut out refined sugars and build up a taste for fruit. Get into the habit of exercising regularly. If you go for a job three times a week for months on end, then it’ll feel strange when you miss a day. This sensation is what’ll keep you going, even on the days where you don’t much feel like spending half an hour running around the block.
Most of the weight you lose in the early stages of dieting is not going to be subcutaneous fat (the blubbery stuff under your skin), but glycogen.
Glycogen is a source of energy that’s dissolved in water, right next to your muscles. When you’re eating less than your burning up, your body will quickly suck up this glycogen before turning to your body fat reserves. As such, you’re going to lose more in the first week than you do later on. If you don’t understand why this is happening, it can feel like a depressing loss of momentum.
We’ve all had a friend who cheerfully reports than they’ve lost seven pounds on the first week. Most of them, statistically, get disheartened when they can’t sustain this, and eventually relapse. By managing your expectations at the start, you’ll put yourself in a better position to change your lifestyle for the long term.