Ruth Field’s Advice: Give your running a boost by watching out for hidden fats and sugars

If you are running but still need to shift those extra pounds, reduce the amount of saturated fats and sugar you consume


Q I have been running since the beginning of the year with The Irish Times Get Running courses, and it has been brilliant; really life changing. I lost nearly a stone and a half already without really trying, but I want to lose another stone. But not a pound has shifted in the past three weeks even though I am running about three miles, three times a week. I think my diet is pretty good. Can you help me? Paula C

A Well done on losing all that weight so quickly. It is amazing how running does that for so many of us. We take it up, and our bodies respond by just shrinking back into themselves, ridding us of unwanted flab that had stuck around stubbornly for years without requiring that we change much about our eating habits.

So, Paula, what happened in January was that your metabolism got an almighty kick up the backside through introducing all this frenetic exercise, and your body was able to burn loads of calories.

However, your body and brain have now adjusted to the new status quo, demanding that you keep the exercise up – or feel sluggish and tired – and consume fewer calories to maintain your, now leaner, frame.

So, the plateau in your weight loss is entirely natural and happens to us all. If that last stone needs to come off – and I assume, for the purposes of this column, that it is excess weight that needs losing – then I recommend a two-pronged attack to restart that fat-burning process.

Food diary
Look more closely at your diet by keeping a food diary. Be viciously honest, carry it with you everywhere and record every single thing that passes your lips, both liquid and solid.

A lot of us, myself included, kid ourselves that our diets are healthy, until a food diary revealed to me quite how much saturated fat I was devouring in my so-called “healthy” diet.

Until it is in black and white we can continue to delude ourselves.

The two killer culprits in most of our diets are saturated fats, which are loaded into pies, burgers, meatballs, sausages, cakes, cookies and the like, and sugar.

A lot of us think we don’t eat any rubbish at all just because we don’t frequent fast-food joints.

But microwave meals and all pre-packaged foods and sauces can be the bigger sinners on the added sugars and fats front, and need to be seen for the junk they really are.

Cook everything from scratch wherever possible and be mindful of all that tomato ketchup, BBQ sauce, chilli sauce, whatever your sauce, because it is full of sugar.

If you cook from scratch, it puts you back in charge of the added fats and sugars.

We actually get more than enough sugars from fruit, vegetables and dairy before pastas and breads, let alone the sugar from a doughnut, a cake or a packet of biscuits.

The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day, and yet a full-fat latte from your local coffee shop can set you back the full 10 teaspoons before you’ve even arrived at your office desk.

Fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables and, wherever possible, go for wholegrains and high GI carbohydrates over refined white versions.

Grit Doctor translation

Go brown

: eat brown rice, brown bread – the browner, the better. And keep those proteins lean.

Always trim any obvious fat from your meats prior to cooking and turn this into a habit.

Drink more water. If you are drinking any sugary drinks, stop. This includes any and all fruit juices and smoothies, which are spectacularly calorific and wreak havoc on insulin levels, hitting your liver as they do at breakneck speed.

Just as a useful common reference point, a glass of fresh orange juice can set you back the full 10 teaspoons of sugar too.

You do not need isotonic sports drinks at the level you are running, so make sure you are not wasting calories by drinking them.

Be mindful of alcohol consumption too. Alcohol is full of sugar, so cut down where you can.

If you aim to be healthy and sensible 80 per cent of the time and are exercising regularly, it really doesn’t matter what you do with the remaining 20 per cent.

And by the way, those last five or six pounds are almost always impossible to lose and people waste their lives trying to shift them. If you are at a healthy weight, eating normally, running regularly but still five or six pounds shy of your goal weight, perhaps the time has come to revisit the goal and adjust it, making friends with this slightly heavier, but super-healthy, happy you instead.

The Grit Doctor warns
This is not to be taken as a green light for remaining overweight, and tucking into an Easter egg stolen from the kids’ stash. It assumes you have fallen within the healthy weight range for your age and height. Check with your GP if you are in any doubt.

In addition to these dietary changes, either take on an extra run each week and/or “grittify” one of the three you are already doing by adding in a hill or some short sprints.

You could sprint for 100 seconds and then jog very slowly to recover for 100 seconds, then sprint again, and so on. I count to 100 in my head, which works just fine. This ought to help shift some pounds, along with your healthier, more mindful eating regime.

Just don’t get obsessed with the scales and lose sight of what running has really given you: a new lease of life, a healthy heart, stronger bones and a bigger smile.

Ruth Field is author of Run, Fat Bitch, Run and Get Your Sh!t Together