The five-pound weight-loss trick that works – temporarily

Skipping breakfast led to weight loss but it all came back when I returned to normal eating

Not seeing results? We always go back to within the weight range coded in our DNA and fighting it is a battle we can never win. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Not seeing results? We always go back to within the weight range coded in our DNA and fighting it is a battle we can never win. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

Q I’ve tried exercising three times a week and cutting the crap religiously but this flabby middle is going nowhere, for the love of God. I blame the kids. I know you don’t believe in quick fixes, but surely you have some other tricks up your sleeve to stay so trim at 40? I don’t believe it’s just three runs and cutting crap from your diet.

A Honestly, it really is just that – regular running and a crap-cutting approach to food – that does it for me. But remember, we also have our DNA to contend with.

I’m fairly straight with narrow-ish hips but broad shoulders: a boyish figure, or so I was forever told. Plus I’m very tall so on the long and lean side (as I see it), although my husband would describe my physique as Amazonian.

I don’t know what your build is from your email, but do factor that in: your actual shape – width of hips, height, boobs, and so on – as against whatever idea you have of what you should look like as a mother of however many children.

And for the love of God don’t be comparing yourself with any celebrities gracing glossy magazines six weeks post-childbirth where the mum tum, tears, vomit stuck to hair and face, poo on the floor, the chaos, and the sleepless nights have all been photo-shopped out.

A mum should have a tum – within reason – and pregnancy isn’t supposed to disappear from our bodies without trace.

Here’s the thing: most weeks, I run at least four times and I’ve been living like this for nearly 20 years so my body is just used to being treated this way – to regular exercise and having less crap put into it – most of the time. I drink loads of water every day and steer clear of heavily processed foods: adopting just those habits will have a dramatic effect on your weight control over time.

Radical action

However, I did do something fairly radical recently in response to my impending 40th birthday.

In a vanity-induced desperation to lose weight, I increased my running, by adding another one to my weekly load and making an existing one uber gritty by adding loads of sprints. I also took on a gym session of some description, just something I don’t usually do to use other muscles and hopefully kickstart my metabolism.

This time I tried spinning and went nuts for it, and I also went swimming a few times which I find utterly exhausting because I am so spectacularly s**t at it.

As for food, I skipped breakfast three or four times each week. Controversial, I know, because a lot of anecdotal evidence is to the contrary, that those who skip breakfast are often on the larger side and certainly getting my husband to eat breakfast every day had a hugely positive impact on his weight control (see note 1).

The reason it works for me is because I am ruthlessly disciplined about it. So when I skip breakfast, I don’t just delay it for a few hours and make up for it with a muffin and creamy coffee snack at elevenses; I genuinely don’t eat anything till lunch.

I run too on this empty morning stomach and find myself to be lighter and faster and also very productive over the course of the morning. Strangely, I am no more hungry at lunch time than I would have been if I had eaten breakfast.

The harder part is evening time when my husband’s love of crap becomes devilishly tempting, but if I stick to my guns and just eat a normal evening meal, having sacrificed breakfast and not making the calories up elsewhere, it definitely helps me lose a few extra pounds quickly.

So there you go, a trick up my sleeve to lose weight. I adopted it for my 40th but it really does amount to a trick. Here’s why.

Short-term benefit

Aside from the fact that no one but me and my slinky dress noticed that I was five or six pounds lighter, and that I paid for it by looking more haggard in the face, within a few weeks of going back to eating breakfast again I’ve pinged right back to the weight I was before. So, it worked in the very short term but unless I was going to commit to it forever, as soon as I returned to normal eating, the weight found its way back home (see note 2).

We always go back to within the weight range coded in our DNA and fighting it is a battle we can never win. Which is the fundamental reason that dieting can never work. Provided your BMI (see note 3) for your age and height is within range, and that you are exercising regularly, and eating reasonably healthily, give yourself a break. There is more to life than trying to rid oneself of a mum tum.

1 According to the HSE: “What you eat, not when, makes the difference; calories have the same effect on the body no matter when they are consumed. Evidence does suggest that eating regular meals, especially breakfast, helps promote weight loss by reducing fat intake and minimising impulsive snacking.” See //iti.ms/1KfEU9i

2 “Set point theory” suggests that despite dieting efforts, the body tends to return to its set point weight. However, regular, consistent exercise may help to adjust the natural set point. Some refer to the set point theory as an internal “thermostat” that regulates body fat.

3 Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres.

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