Healthy Living Magazine

8 years ago
Waist not Weight!

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If you’re watching your weight, be sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well. As Shawn Nisbet advises, overall health is about waist – not just weight – management.

Many people who are watching their weight may well be short-changing their general health. Combining weight management with a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent and/or manage blood pressure, blood lipids, cholesterol and blood sugars, while reducing the risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke. At the same time, you can improve your general wellbeing and boost energy levels.

How much weight do you really need to lose? To achieve healthy weight loss, determine your ‘ideal weight’ and your ‘set point weight’.

Your ideal weight is the weight you would like to be, and perhaps have been trying to reach with little success for years. Your ideal weight may be the weight you were in high school or when you felt your best many years ago. But do you really need to go that low now?

If you are overweight, perhaps you should aim initially to lose just 10% of your present weight. It may be more than your ideal weight, but it may be a healthier weight to attain. Trying to lose too much weight too soon can set you up for failure, while small amounts of weight loss can bring big rewards, especially if you keep it off.

Baby steps really can add up to lifelong changes. Research shows this type of weight loss is easier to attain and maintain. In Break through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off, Dr. George Blackburn suggests that maintaining a 10% loss for six months to a year helps your body adjust to the lower weight and thus reset the set point. Most people overestimate how much weight they can realistically lose, which leads to frustration, and ultimately, failure.

And what is your ‘set point weight’? Just as your body temperature is programmed to stay around 98.6 degrees, your body weight is naturally regulated to stay within a range of 10% to 20% of your set point weight. Your body regulates your set point through a complex set of hormones, chemicals and hunger signals. Your eating and exercise habits also play an important role.

Lose weight the old-fashioned way! As the old adage says, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When you slowly improve your eating and exercise routine, you will lose weight. When you have lost up to 10 to 15% of your initial weight, depending on your personal goals, try to maintain your new weight for a few months before losing more.

This will give your body the signal to lower its new set point and get used to your new and healthier food choices, smaller portions and exercise routine.

Think back to the number of times you have lost weight, only to gain it back, and possibly more. As Dr. Phil says, “How is that working for you?”

Waist hip ratio. Waist to hip ratio is another simple measure of where fat is stored in your body. Most people store body fat in two places: around the waist and around the hips. Storing extra weight around the waist (apple shape) puts a person at a higher health risk than someone carrying extra weight around their hips and thighs (pear shape).

Waist hip ratio is calculated by dividing the measurement of your waist by the measurement of your hips. Use a measuring tape to take your waist and hip measurement, or use a long piece of string and measure the length of the string against a flat ruler. Stand in a relaxed position, breathing normally when you take the measurement. Don’t pull tightly on the measuring tape or string.

Your waist measurement should be taken at the smaller section of your natural waist, usually located just above the belly button. Your hip measurement should be taken at your hips on the widest part of your buttocks.

A healthy waist hip ratio for women is 0.8 or lower; for men it is 1.0 or lower. Higher ratios are associated with obesity, and linked to greater risk of health complications and diseases.

Learn to boost your metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which you burn calories, and, ultimately, how quickly you gain weight or lose weight. Not everyone burns at the same rate. Your metabolism is influenced by: your age (metabolism naturally slows about 5% per decade after age 40); your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and your proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be).

Remember: the more weight you carry, the faster your metabolism. Therefore when you lose weight, if you go back to your regular eating habits you will gain weight.

That’s why it’s often easier to lose weight at the start of a diet, and harder later on. When you are very overweight, your metabolism is already running so high that any small cut in calories will result in an immediate loss.

Exercise is important. When you don’t exercise, you place the entire burden of weight loss on your diet. If you become more active, you can eat more of the things you like and still lose weight. The key is finding an exercise you enjoy. Spend time at different activities until you find one you want to do on most days.

Muscle burns more calories than fat, even while at rest. The more muscles you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, which means the more calories your body will burn just to keep you alive.

Every pound of muscle in our bodies burns 35 calories a day, while each pound of fat burns just two calories a day.

When you feel stressed, angry or bored, your levels of serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being, drop. Since sweet and starchy foods bump up the secretion of serotonin, you may notice a corresponding improvement in your mood after eating a chocolate bar. The antidote might be exercise which triggers the release of other feel-good body chemicals called endorphins.

Eat more to lose more. Frequent meals keep your metabolism in high gear, and that means you’ll burn more calories overall. When you put too many hours between meals, your metabolism slows down to compensate. If you then eat a huge meal, at the same time your metabolism is functioning as if you’re starving, your body wants to hold on to every calorie.

While this won’t make much difference on an occasional basis, if you continually leave too much time between snacks and meals it can become harder to lose or maintain weight.
Studies show healthy snacking helps people eat less at each of their three regular meals. The result is a higher metabolic rate, a lower caloric intake and reduction in body fat.

Check List

Think about your overall lifestyle – not just your weight:


• Do you eat nutrition-rich food?

• Do you eat balanced snacks and meals throughout the day?

• Do you move and/or exercise daily?

• Do you get 6 to 8 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep daily?

• Do you have quality coping skills to manage your stress?

Did you know?

• More than 400 million people worldwide will live with diabetes by 2030

• 3 million Canadians live with diabetes (2.5 million diagnosed, 
700,000 undiagnosed)
• 6 million Canadians live with prediabetes

• In Canada alone, one person is diagnosed with diabetes every three minutes

• Every seven minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke

Shawn M. Nisbet, RHN, CFA, is a registered holistic nutritionist, certified fitness consultant and Nordic pole walking master instructor. Tel: 416.804.0938; www.shawnnisbet.com; info@shawnnisbet.com

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