Obesity is a global issue, particularly in the western world. If you weigh 20% more than your ideal weight, you run the risk of getting serious health problems. You will have an increased risk of getting certain cancers, coronary heart diseases and diabetes. You will also more than likely suffer from orthopaedic problems of the ankles, knees and hips.
The wide availability of processed junk food and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle makes it harder than ever for us to control our weight. We have plenty of labour saving devices in our homes and our jobs are not as physical, which adds to our ever burgeoning waistlines. And it’s not just about going to the gym. Think about how much ‘incidental’ exercise you get on a daily basis. Maybe it’s not as much as you think if you drive to work, sit down all day at a desk, drive home then spend all evening in front of the TV.
Controlling your weight is not easy, but it’s important to prevent disease. Plus we feel so much better if we eat well and exercise and we have so much more energy to enjoy our lives.
Maintaining a healthy weight
There are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about what helps to control and maintain your bodyweight. These include things in the environment which might be contributing to weight gain, a genetic predisposition to gaining body fat, your metabolic rate, your behaviour and your habits. Of the factors listed, your behaviour and habits are the things you are most likely to be able to control.
Calories in versus calories out- If calories you take in match the amount of calories you burn, your weight stays the same. If you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight and if calories burned exceed calories taken in, you will lose weight. Sounds simple right? Well, this is the physics, but sometimes it’s not as simple as this. All calories are not made equal and there are many more variables at play that affect a person’s weight. And it’s calories taken in and burned off over a period of time which makes the difference, so that naughty weekend where you had a cake and a takeaway shouldn’t do too much harm!
Exercise– We all know that physical activity is good for us and that the human body was designed to move and not to be sat down for 8 hours plus per day, but the thing to know above everything is that exercise will increase your metabolism. It builds lean muscle tissue, and as muscle requires more calories to maintain it than fat does, you will burn more calories even at rest. And you will look leaner, even if that is not reflected on the scales. Follow a balanced exercise programme of some aerobic work to get you out of breath, some strength work with weights (no ladies, you won’t become like Schwarzenegger overnight!) and some flexibility training and you won’t go far wrong. Choose something you enjoy so that you will stick to it. It doesn’t mean you need to go to a gym, especially if you feel anxious about the thought of sweating in front of lycra-clad gym bunnies. There are plenty of great workout dvd’s and YouTube videos you can follow from the comfort of your own home.
Eat plenty of protein and fibre– if you are tempted to cut calories and eat ‘low fat’ foods, packed full of artificial sweeteners and additives, forget it. If you consume more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, your blood sugar will be more stable and you will feel fuller for longer, which should stop those 3pm snack attacks.
Avoid the temptation to eat unhealthily– Nobody said you have to avoid sweet treats altogether, but some good tips to avoid wrecking your diet are to plan ahead when you are going to eat out and carry healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit and nuts with you or keep them in your desk at work so you aren’t tempted by the vending machine which is usually chock full of diet disasters.
Plan your meals in advance– It will be time consuming at first, but having your cupboards stocked with plenty of healthy staple ingredients such as whole wheat pasta and rice, and planning your daily meals will mean less reliance on convenience foods, takeaways and microwave meals. Healthy meals do not need to be complicated or time consuming. Think grilled chicken and vegetables, a jacket potato with a healthy topping or wholewheat pasta with a homemade sauce. All of these options will save you time and money.
Walk more often- We already mentioned exercise, but what about physical activity? Yes, these are 2 different things. Exercise is structured, so it can mean going to the gym, doing a workout dvd or playing a team game. Physical activity is the overall activity you do in a day. This can mean the 10 minute walk to work or the 5 minute walk to the shops, the 30 minutes you spent mowing the lawn or playing with the kids. Don’t underestimate the value of this type of activity. It’s great you go to the gym for an hour, 3 times per week, but there’s 168 hours in a week. Aim to increase the amount of time you spend being generally active. but emphasize that the more you exercise, the better able you are to maintain a weight loss.
Watch your portion sizes– Do you eat healthily but find yourself baffled by the fact that you still manage to gain weight? Check your portion sizes. Just because a food is ‘healthy’, it doesn’t mean that you can eat twice as much of it. Our psychology will sometimes tell us that it’s okay to eat twice the amount because ‘it’s low fat’, but the calories add up. Be careful with servings of carbohydrates such as pasta and rice in particular, as these are easy to over serve. Measure serving sizes with a set of scales if possible, then you might realise how much you were actually overeating!
Eat dairy– people on diets tend to avoid dairy, as they consider it to be ‘fatty’. But a study found that people who consumed 3 or more servings of dairy each day were more likely to be able to manage their weight. Don’t cut it from your diet, instead, choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and lower fat cheeses, such as feta or cottage cheese. This way you still get all of the nutritional benefits, such as ample protein, calcium and vitamins A, B and D, while keeping your saturated fat intake low.
Watch less TV– Being sedentary is one of the most prominent risk factors for weight gain. Doctors now say that being sedentary is as bad for you as smoking. Plus, when you’re sat in front of the TV, you’re more likely to mindlessly eat unhealthy snacks. Research has found that people who watched fewer than 10 hours of TV a week were more successful in controlling their body weight.
Eat breakfast– A lot of people trying to control their weight skip breakfast, mistakenly believing that if they take in less calories, they will lose weight. This is a fallacy.Your body has fasted overnight and you need to kickstart your metabolism in the morning. If you don’t, your metabolism will be running slowly all day and you are more likely to overeat later in the day as you will be hungry from missing breakfast. A survey found that women who regularly ate breakfast were more likely to have a lower body weight. Make healthy choices to set you up for the day, such as porridge, Greek yoghurt and fruit.
Everyone has most likely heard this advice at one time or another, and you may think that you have to do something drastic to lose weight or keep your weight under control. Actually, it’s the small changes you make which will impact on your weight without you hardly noticing. Like if you could add something to your diet, which could help you control your weight?
Step forward, the humble eggplant…
What is an eggplant?
The eggplant, or aubergine as it is known in some countries hails from India. It is classed as a fruit, not a vegetable, like most people assume. Most people would describe the dark purple variety of the eggplant, but there are actually quite a few varieties. One variety is white and resembles an egg and there’s another variety which is shaped like a green bean, but is yellow/orange in colour. All of the different varieties grow on tall plants. The eggplant is quite popular in cooking, particularly in vegetarian dishes like lasagnes. It’s usually baked rather than served raw or boiled. But the best way to cook an eggplant is to grill it which will help retain most of the goodness.
What are the known health benefits?
Eggplants contain a large amount of nutrients that benefit health. They are high in fibre, folate, vitamins C, K and B6 plus copper and magnesium. They are nutritious and widely used in cooking, but what about their other uses for health?
Studies have shown that eggplant can be used in various ways to treat ailments. The leaves and roots can be boiled to make a tonic for sore throats and stomach upsets, skin problems and toothache.
One study found that an antioxidant compound in the skin of eggplants fights disease causing free radicals in the body. For this reason, eggplants were found to work against cancer cells.
How can eggplant help you lose weight?
Eggplant is low in carbohydrates, full of nutrients and you get a lot of food for relatively few calories. It is also a low on the glycaemic index, which means it does not impact upon your blood sugar levels. This means you feel fuller for longer and will be less likely to reach for snacks.
Eggplant has been found to contain a compound called saponin, that decreases the absorption of fat from your food. Currently, there are a lot of products on the market, usually in pill form, which you can take with food to stop fat absorption. Some of these are effective but can have questionable side effects such as palpitations and gut problems. The thought that a natural product could help without causing you adverse effects is good news. There are a few ways you can consume eggplant to aid weight loss. You can drink eggplant water or juice, or obviously you can make the eggplant a key ingredient in a healthy meal.
Eggplant recipes for weight loss
What you need
3 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 yellow peppers
12 sun-dried tomatoes
8 ounces of goat cheese
16 small basil leaves
Cut the eggplants into thick slices. Take the largest eight slices and place them on a baking tray. Season with salt.
Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the coconut oil. Cook the eggplant, 2 slices at a time. Cook for 3 minutes either side until slightly browned. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Season well with salt and pepper.
Grill the peppers for about 5 minutes each side until the skin is charred. Allow them to cool, then put them in a plastic bag. Leave for a few minutes, then remove them from the bag and then pull the skin off. Cut them open, remove the seeds and cut them into strips. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into strips.
Make the sandwiches by putting an eggplant slice on a plate. Spread each slice with the goats cheese and top it with the roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
Middle Eastern Inspired Eggplant dish
What you need
2 large eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can whole plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
¼ tablespoon ground clove
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Add the onion and eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and toss until the eggplant has a little color to it. Add the tomato paste, pour in the balsamic vinegar and heat until the liquid reduces. Stir in the spices, honey and raisins. Add tomatoes then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the chicken broth and allow the dish to simmer until thickened like a stew.
Weight loss eggplant juice
What you need
1 large eggplant
Half a litre of water
Juice of 1 lemon
Peel the eggplant and cut it into small pieces.
Place the pieces in a bowl with some cold water and allow them to soak for a few hours. After this, heat the water and bring it to a boil. Once it has boiled, add the lemon juice. Reduce the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Add the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.
Aim to drink the mixture 15 minutes prior to a meal and this should help absorb some of the fat from your food. Remember though, that this should be done in conjunction with a health diet and exercise programme for best results. Adding the lemon juice makes the drink less bitter and more palatable.
We have all probably tried to lose weight at one point in time in our lives. We have all probably tried the latest fads or diets and given up quickly, soon realising that what we are doing is not all that sustainable or healthy for us. We need to stop fighting against our bodies and work with them. The body is an amazing machine, but like any machine it needs good fuel to make it run well.
And with health, there are no shortcuts. As with anything in life, doing things properly is always the best way. And the best way to control our weight and maintain a healthy body weight in general, is to take regular exercise and eat well. This might sound dull, but it’s true. These are the things we can control, regardless of genetics or other habits.
Our health is our responsibility, and if we look to using what nature has provided for us, this is a great way to maintain our health. If our body is healthy, it should settle at a weight where it is happy. If our body is healthy, we feel good, we look good, we have great energy.
Eggplant is the latest nutritional weapon to be announced to us in the fight against obesity, I wonder what will be next?