Staying Lean Sensibly

Staying Lean Sensibly

For most people, weight-gain happens over a period of time. You step on the scales one morning and suddenly See that you’re five kilograms (11 lb) heavier than you were just the other day, or, at any rate, a few months ago. . . or a year ago.

But there can be a world of difference between what you would like to be, and how nature intended. Perhaps never as sylphlike as the fashion pundits would wish, but if your figure is in proportion (waist 25 cm (10”) slimmer than bust; bust 5 cm (2”) smaller than hips), if you look well put together, then there is very little to worry about.

On the other hand, love can be blind, certainly when it comes to the odd ‘spare tyre’ or two. ‘Oh my family/husband/wife like me this way’ is a common excuse. Do they really — or are they just being kind? And, if it comes to that, are you really being loving when you serve your portly (all right, cuddly) husband or wife a favourite meal of fish and chips followed by spotted dick and a couple of pints to wash it all down? On the whole, a slim family is a healthy family. And there’s just as wide a gap between fat and slim as there is between slim and gaunt!

A two-pronged attack is needed to effect a lasting weight-loss — diet and exercise. Diet will actually make the pounds melt, however slowly. Exercise will help speed up the process, and will help trim slack muscles to give you a slimmer, more streamlined figure. Many people often feel that, because they’re a bit lumpy and bumpy, they’re overweight, although the scales tell them differently. Quite often this can be corrected by regular exercise — all that is needed is some firming up.

The two most popular types of dieting are calorie counting and carbohydrate counting. Calories are a measurement of energy; for instance, it is estimated that the average adult woman can burn up 2000 calories a day — anything over that will be stored in the body as fat. The average adult man needs about 3000 a day. Or, if you prefer carbohydrate counting, then 60 g (2 oz) a day is a usual dieter’s allowance.

Most people prefer calorie counting because it gives you a wider choice of foods, even allowing sweets or chocolates as an occasional treat. But the low carbohydrate — or high protein — diet has many devotees and works well. Starches and sweets are virtually taboo in this diet but it does allow a certain amount of alcohol (high in calories), and dieters can eat as much as they want of the `allowed’ foods.


Many people start off on an exercise programme with high hopes and enthusiasm, but fall by the wayside very shortly afterwards. Sports — running, tennis, badminton, squash, swimming, riding — are very good, complete exercise but not everyone has the time, inclination or facilities to enjoy them. But a regular exercise programme at home will be just as effective in toning muscles and keeping fit.

There’s safety — and fun — in numbers. Here’s an exercise programme for all the family. Do it first thing in the morning (just by getting up ten minutes earlier).

GENERAL TONER. Run on the spot, bringing knees up high, for 30 seconds.

BUST AND CHEST. Bring hands to chest height. Clasp them together with the heels against each other. Push hard — heel against

heel. Relax. Push hard again. Repeat 20 times.

WAIST. Stand up, legs about 30 cm (12 in) apart. With left hand on left hip, slide your right hand down your right leg as far as you can, bending your trunk sideways. Slowly come back to starting position and repeat with left side. Repeat 10 times each side.

TUMMY. Lie flat on the floor with heels resting on a pile of books so that they’re about 30 cm (12 in) higher than the head. Clasp hands behind head. Raise trunk, keeping legs straight, to sitting position. Very fit people can show off by leaning forward and touching knees with their forehead. Try — and if at first you don’t succeed. … Repeat 5 times.

BOTTOM AND THIGHS. Squats are super for this problem area. Hold on to the back of a chair or anything that is firm and chest high. Keep feet flat on the floor about 30 cm (12 in) apart. Squat

down, holding on to the chair or whatever, keeping your back straight and feet flat. Come back to standing position. Do this very quickly and as often as you can manage, starting with 10.

LEGS. Bicycle in the air, preferably from a shoulder stand position, for at least a minute.

FINAL BREATHER. Stand up, arms at side, legs slightly apart. Flop forward from the waist, arms hanging loose, touching the floor. As you flop, breathe out. Stretch up slowly, breathing in. Reach for the ceiling with your hands and stand on tiptoe, still reaching. Then flop forward. Repeat 5 times or more.

Whichever diet you choose, please don’t try to lose more than 1-2 kg (2-3 lb) a week for every 6 kg (14 lb) you are overweight. Quick weight-loss is harmful and is not long-lasting. The first amount of weight you will lose is body fluid — ‘crash’ diets simply eliminate this and then, the minute you revert to your usual eating pattern, all of it comes on again. A slow but steady diet will help your body adjust to its weight-loss and will also reeducate your stomach to expect less.

Two final golden rules: remember that every diet should be balanced for health and effectiveness. You want to look good and feel on top of the world when you’re slimming, so always include body-building foods (another reason why you should avoid fad diets). And, if you are grossly overweight, always consult your doctor first. He will help monitor your weight-loss and advise you on the best diet to follow.