The World Obesity Federation (I bet you didn’t know that existed) has warned this week that more than half of the world’s population will be classed as obese or overweight by 2035.
The report says that more than 4 billion people will be affected, with rates rising fastest among children, and in low or middle-income countries in Africa and Asia.
In the U.K. over 60% of adults are now classed as obese or overweight.
Research has shown that the risk of obesity in children increases by 25-30% if one parent is overweight or obese, and this risk increases to 50-60% if both parents are overweight or obese.
Never in human history have we been so over-fed but under nourished.
The World Obesity Federation forecasts that the cost of obesity rise to more than $4tn annually by 2035.
Health services such as the NHS don’t stand a chance of being able to handle that level of demand.
It’s my mission to help turn this health disaster around before it’s too late by providing as much accessible easy to understand information as possible.
But how do we navigate such a confusing topic as nutrition?
One minute something is good for you, then it will kill you, and then it’s good again.
My advice is to ignore the noise and use common sense along with the following guiding principles.
Weight Management is a Mathematical Equation
Despite what many would have you believe, gaining or losing weight is simply a matter of physics and energy balance.
If you put more fuel in than you burn you’ll gain weight. If you burn more fuel than you put in you’ll lose weight. It’s that simple.
However, simple doesn’t mean easy.
If you have no idea how much fuel you’re putting in or how much you’re burning, what do you think your chances are of effectively managing your weight?
When I start working with my clients I begin by understanding how many calories they burn on average per day.
There are many formulas for getting this number or you can use an app or wearable to calculate it for you.
Then I have them track what they’re eating for 7 – 10 days to see how far over or under their daily requirement they’re consuming.
Note: Consuming 500 calories less per day than you burn will result in weight loss of 1lb (0.45kg) per week.
Conversely, consuming just 200 calories more than your daily requirement per day will result in an increase in bodyweight of 20lbs (9.5kg) in just one year!
It might seem like a chore to track your food, but there’s really no other way of knowing how many calories you’re consuming.
Your chances of success are very slim if you’re guessing.
Eat Whole Foods 80% of the Time
What are whole foods? The best way to understand this is to think of these as foods in their original form, or very close to it. Such as, unprocessed meat, fish, fruits and vegetables.
If it comes in a packet with more than one ingredient, it doesn’t belong on this list.
And just because it says ‘plant based’ on the label, don’t be fooled into thinking that makes it a good choice.
Highly processed is highly processed whether it’s from plant sources or animals. Especially steer clear of any fake meat products.
They’re neither good for your health or the environment.
Prioritise High Quality Protein
Protein, or the amino acids that make up protein, are the building blocks of every cell in your body.
Therefore, prioritising high quality protein at every meal is not only good for your health, but it is also the most satiating macronutrient, meaning you’re less likely to get hungry between meals.
Animal proteins from meat, fish, eggs and dairy are the highest quality proteins available.
Aim for 1.5 – 2g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight per day.
Red meat is also a great source of vitamins and minerals such a B12, iron and zinc.
Each gram of protein contains 4 calories.
Fats Are Essential
Fat does not make you fat! Read that twice if you have to.
Fat is essential to many functions in the body including hormone production and in the membrane that surrounds all our nerves.
Restricting fat too much can be negative to our health and can even result in the development of some kinds of autoimmune diseases.
However, some fats are very bad. In particular are trans fats which are man-made and found in confectionary and other processed foods. These should be completely avoided.
Despite all the negative press surrounding saturated fat that you may have come across, there is actually no scientific evidence that they are detrimental to health.
Despite that, the general recommendation is to limit saturated fat intake to 105 of daily calories.
Here’s my approach to fats.
Aim to get between 20-30% of calories from fats with around two thirds coming from high quality vegetable sources such as olive oil and omega 3 rich sources from cold water fish like salmon.
Stay away from seed oils and other vegetable oils. There’s growing evidence that these are not good for out health.
Each gram of fat contains 9 calories.
Veg, Veg and More Veg (and Fruit)
Fruits and vegetables contain micronutrients that are essential to health.
They’re also extremely important to gut health.
Variety is the important thing when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
Aim for 5-10 different sources of fruit, veg and herbs per day. “Eat the rainbow” is a phrase often used.
The greater the variety the better. When it comes to eating your greens, you really can’t eat too much.
Most vegetable are nutrient dense and low of calories. You’ll get full or bored long before you consume too many calories.
Fruits do contain natural sugars, but they also contain fibre when in their original form. And much like vegetables, you’ll get full before you overeat.
Count fruit and veg as carbs.
Each gram of carbs contains 4 calories.
Ditch the Processed Carbs
Stay away from bread and cakes (most of the time).
Once you’ve prioritised your calories from protein, fat, fruit and veg, plan to get the remainder of you calorie needs from good quality carbohydrates such as sweet potato, squashes and pumpkins.
White potatoes are high in starch and are ideal following intense exercise, but should be limited at other times because of they way they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream which can cause a spike in blood sugar levels resulting in a crash later on.
Grains can be a good option for some people, but many people don’t digest grains very well.
Often whole grains are promoted as being a superior choice because of their greater nutritional content and fibre compared to processed versions such as white rice, but these can be even more challenging to digest for some people.
It really a case of personal experimentation.
Try cutting out all grains for a couple of weeks to see how you feel and then reintroduce one at a time to see if you notice a difference.
Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories.
Alcohol is essentially a poison. The ideal daily intake would be zero, but I’m not here to be the fun police. Just don’t drink every day, and when you do drink, don’t go crazy.
Not only is alcohol bad for our health, it destroys our sleep quality and often leads to bad food choices meaning we not only consume excess calories from the alcohol itself, but from the pizza we eat after the drinks.
Because alcohol is treated as a poison by the body, it prioritises metabolising it ahead of anything else you consume. This can contribute to weight gain and digestive issues.
Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, though these calories cannot be used as useful energy. They’re truly empty calories.
- Get 80% of your calories from whole food sources.
- Understand your daily calorie needs and compare what you’re consuming, and adjust accordingly.
- Prioritise high quality protein and consume 1.5 – 2g protein per 1kg of bodyweight per day.
- Don’t shy away from fat but make sure you’re getting good quality omega 3 rich fats and limit saturated fat to around 10% of total calories.
- Ditch the processed carbs and choose high quality sources such as sweet potato, butternut squash and pumpkin.
- Limit alcohol.
That’s it. I hope you found this beginners guide help.
If you have a topic you’re like me to cover or there’s something you’d like help with, get in touch.