Changing Eating Habits

Old habits die hard!

Food shopping just a routine? Reaching for the same supersized sharing snack packs at the supermarket? Most of us are creatures of habit. We shop in the same places, have very similar shopping lists from week to week and usually cook very similar meals. To be honest, it works really well for most of us – with a busy life, it just makes things easier.

This becomes an issue when you decide you want to lose weight: your well stocked store cupboards full of favourite treats become a trap for the unwary. So when you make your cup of coffee, you automatically reach for the biscuits. One leads to two and then before you know it you’ve fairly mindlessly eaten an extra 300 calories. This wouldn’t be so bad but it leads to spikes and troughs in your sugar levels. Rather than making you feel satisfied, the next trough stimulates a need to eat something else equally as enticing!

If you’re serious about eating healthier, and perhaps even trying to lose some weight, a good place to start is to empty those store cupboards and change your usual treats for healthy alternatives. Start to think differently not just about your meals but about your overall lifestyle.

These are our top six tips for change:

  • Try not to skip breakfast – it fuels you for the day.
  • Plan your meals and, just as importantly, plan your snacks.
  • Think about portion size. Use scales for a while to measure out portions, then try to visualise the amount you need, not the amount you are used to.
  • Work out where your empty calories are coming from and replace them with healthy alternatives. For example, replace sweet biscuits with fruit, raw veggies or a small portion of healthy nuts.
  • Try to get enough quality sleep – it really helps keep you strong the next day.
  • Work out what will motivate you to stay on track.

It helps if you can identify your high risk situations and plan for them, for example, family meals out, or that all you can eat buffet. If you have a plan, you can make sure you don’t blow all your good work.

Be patient and kind with yourself. If you do end up having something from your list of foods to avoid, give yourself a break. It’s just one slip: all is not lost.

Above all, see this as a life change, not a diet. Reprogramme yourself to enjoy your new style of eating so it becomes less of a chore, and more of a lifestyle choice.

To help prevent relapse and make sure you maintain progress, share your journey with a friend or family member who can encourage you to stay with it. They’ll celebrate those moments with you when you get into that item of clothing you’ve always loved but not been able to wear for years, safe in the knowledge that it will also be back in fashion!

Yoga, Energy Systems and the Fat Burning Zone

All movements require energy and, as we mentioned in earlier posts, food provides it. The amount of energy needed and how that energy is released from food depends on the intensity of the movement and its duration – in the simplest terms, what we do and how long we do it for. There are three energy systems and your body switches between them.

While this might sound quite technical, getting to the nitty gritty of what’s going on when your body exercises will help you make informed choices about weight management.

Aerobic Energy System

Marathon runners who are moving at a steady pace for several hours will use their aerobic system to produce large amounts of energy. They learn to breath efficiently, taking in plenty of oxygen which combines with glycogen and fatty acids to forge a long-term energy system that will last for ages. Once the glycogen stores in muscles are used up, the body will switch to burning fat. Marathon runners tend to be very lean.

Anaerobic Energy System

If the exercise is more intense, your body needs to produce energy quickly, so it turns to the anaerobic system which uses glycogen stored in your muscles and liver. Your body can’t wait for oxygen to arrive, so it cracks on without it, but in doing so creates a waste product called lactic acid. If you’ve ever felt an intense, burning sensation in your muscles during exercise, this is caused by lactic acid building up. Eventually, if you keep working as intensely, your muscles will tire.

Creatinine Phosphate Energy System

Unless you’ve studied sports science, you’ve probably not heard of this energy system. It also releases energy without oxygen and fuels our bodies in the moments when they start or make sudden, explosive movements. Sprinters call this energy into play when they drive off the blocks.

Although the creatinine phosphate energy system releases power that will only last a matter of seconds, that’s long enough to make sure you have an immediate source of energy.

Energy Systems in Yoga

In our style of hot yoga – which combines flowing and dynamic movements with intense poses held for what can feel like ages – you will naturally move through these energy systems. All three will be used in varying amounts, depending on the intensity level.

The fantastic news is you will quickly use up the glycogen stored in your muscles and move into burning fat for energy. You’ll spend the main part of the class in that fat burning zone.

This is where the idea of informed choices kicks in. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you’ll want to take in extra food afterwards to replace the stores lost.

If you’d like to lose some weight, the good news is that your hot yoga session has increased your body’s need for food during the day. Combined with a calorie restriction plan – whatever type works for you – this means you’ll start to see results more quickly.

We plan to write more about diet and nutrition in a future post. Please consult your doctor before embarking on a new diet or exercise regime. If you’re interested in finding out more about hot yoga, check out our post – How To Find The Perfect Hot Yoga Class.

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Want to Lose Weight but not Sure Where to Start?

Thinking about a lifestyle change? Want to lose weight but not sure where to start? Been on unsuccessful diets before that didn’t work? These are a few of our top tips:

  • Think about what to eat and when to eat it

Plan your meals in advance. Have the right things in your fridge and store cupboard, remove the temptations and the habit calories – 3 biscuits with a hot drink when you get in from work. If you prepare you stand a better chance of being successful. Plan your snacks and have them there ready, so when the adverts come on you reach for an ounce of almonds or some carrot sticks and a healthy dip instead of the supersize bag of sharing crisps that isn’t actually designed for you to share! Think about some healthy swops, something you can take to work for your mid-morning snack to avoid temptation when your blood sugar levels start to plummet and someone at work has brought celebratory cakes in.

  • Think about increasing your activity levels

Find something you love doing. Obviously for us that is hot yoga but for you it might be walking to work when the weather is glorious. Taking the dog that little bit further on your nightly walk. Planning a bike ride at the weekend with the kids instead of the trip to the cinema with the giant popcorn bucket and the fizzy drinks. If it is a walk in the park at weekend you are on a double bonus. Weight bearing exercise increases bone strength and even better, exercise in sunlight helps to synthesise that much needed vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is essential in the absorption of calcium and phosphate. Without these our bones can become soft and weak and leave us at risk of things like osteoporosis. Fresh air, exercise and keeping hydrated with water instead of fizzy pop or sugary hot drinks will make a massive difference physically and mentally.

  • Think about your sleep pattern

Now this might sound extremely strange to you but getting enough quality sleep plays a massive part in weight loss. Firstly, if you have a restless, interrupted night’s sleep just try and be aware of how you feel and what you do the next day. Studies have shown that people who haven’t had enough sleep spend the next feeling shattered and hungry. When monitored closely they tend to eat more, make poor food choices and emotionally eat more calories than people who have had a full, restful night’s sleep.

Why is this?

Well it’s all down to a hormone that you may or may not have heard about called ghrelin. This bad boy helps regulates your appetite. It sends messages to your brain when it thinks you need to eat, when you should stop burning calories and when you should store your energy – unfortunately as fat cells! When you sleep you don’t use a lot of energy, so you have low levels of this hunger hormone. People who don’t sleep well end up with too much of this hormone floating round their system telling their brain to take in some calories. In addition, sleepless and restless nights lead to high levels of stress hormones and also to resistance to insulin. Insulin is produced naturally in the body for most people and is the key that unlocks to cells to let the glucose in. One of the ways to increase insulin sensitivity and to promote great sleep quality is to exercise and for us that’s just got to be hot yoga!

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