“Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart.”
  ~ Gene Tunney

Active seniors running outside in green nature

Some exercise possibilities

To help you choose a programme you can feel good about.

Cycling

Benefits: cycling is gentle on the joints. It burns plenty of calories and improves your cardiovascular health. It can also be built into your day as a means of transport.

Considerations: a good quality bicycle can be expensive however you can get just as much exercise on a cheap bike, you just won’t go so fast! Your bicycle will need regular checks for signs of wear & tear and to be fixed, if necessary. Protective equipment (including a helmet) is essential. Be traffic conscious and plan your route or join a cycling club.

Online videos or DVDs

Benefits: Used at home can give you the expertise of an instructor without the expense or inconvenience of attending a gym. You can also work out whenever you have the time.

Considerations: You may need to use a variety of online videos or DVDs to keep your workouts interesting. You might like to exercise with a neighbour, to break the routine. You also need to follow instructions carefully and include warm-ups to avoid injury. Make sure the instructors on the videos are qualified. Just because someone is a celebrity does not mean they have relevant qualifications or knowledge.

Gym membership

Benefits: Gyms stock a wide range of equipment and often offer classes such as aerobics or pilates. Taking full advantage of your membership should give you plenty of opportunities to improve your all-round health and fitness. Instructors should be on hand to help you use equipment correctly and reduce your risk of injuries.

Considerations: Gym memberships can be expensive and gyms can be very busy at peak times, such as after work. If you think you may feel embarrassed or intimidated working out in front of people, find out when the gym is less busy.

Top tip If you can focus your keep fit at non-peak times the price of membership plummets and classes are less crowded.

Home fitness equipment

Benefits: Exercising on home fitness equipment is ideal for people who have to take their exercise in when they can grab a few minutes such as parents of small children or carers. You can also watch TV or play your inspiration music up loud.

Considerations: Home fitness equipment is expensive and takes up a lot of space. Many people stop using their home fitness equipment within a short period of buying it. A qualified person must show you how to use the equipment, otherwise you risk injury.

Top tip Home exercise when no-one else is there is risky if you have an fall. Make sure you have a way of getting help if you are incapacitated.

Running

Benefits: Running is a weight-bearing activity so it helps to build strong bones. It’s one of the best ways to increase your cardiovascular fitness and burns lots of calories. The need for equipment is minimal, although it is recommended you buy a good pair of running shoes.

Considerations: Running-related injuries can be caused by the heavy load that running places on joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles throughout the body. It is vital that you build up your strength gradually from initial fast walking, through gentle jogging to running.

Swimming

Benefits: Swimming is a low-impact activity. The buoyancy of the water supports your body so the risk of musculoskeletal injury is small. Swimming strokes exercise the entire body but particularly the muscles of the back, chest and arms. Swimming is an ideal form of exercise for most people, particularly people who are frail, elderly or obese.

Considerations: Swimming is a learned skill. You may need to take swimming lessons if you are a beginner. Swimming is not a weight-bearing activity, so unlike activities such as walking or running, you will not strengthen bones or burn as many calories.

Top tip
Don’t go swimming in the sea if there is a shark warning!


Team sports

Benefits: Team sports offer friendship and fun. It is easier to exercise when you are enjoying yourself. Most team sports, such as soccer or netball, quickly build cardiovascular health because of the required running and quick bursts of activity.

Considerations: The stop–start nature of most team sports may put strain on the joints and ligaments, which can increase the risk of injury, particularly of the knees and ankles. Team sports tend to be seasonal (such as winter or summer), so you’ll need an exercise plan for the off-season.

Also consider if this is in your nature. Team sports are both collaborative (with your team) and competitive (against the other team). You need to enjoy and not be stressed out by both of these elements.

Walking

Benefits: Walking is an ideal exercise, especially for beginners. It is free, easy to perform and doesn’t require any special training or equipment apart from a good pair of shoes. You can walk alone, with a friend or you can join a local walking group, or even start by catching the bus from a different stop.

Considerations: Some people feel unsafe walking the streets alone. Remember there are alternatives such as walking with a companion or a walking group.


Strength training – free weights

Strength training includes training with free weights, body weight training, chair exercises and rubber resistance.

Benefits: Strength training is a weight-bearing activity so it strengthens bones, builds muscle and burns calories. Strength training involves not just the targeted muscles but surrounding muscles too. Strength training can help to improve and maintain your independence in any day-today activity.

Considerations: Strength training must be built up gradually. Incorrect technique or trying to use heavier weights than you can manage may put you at risk of injuries. Get professional advice from a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or qualified fitness instructor.

Strength training – machines

Benefits: Like training with free weights, training with machines is a weightbearing activity. Each machine is designed to target a specific muscle group so this activity is ideal for beginners.

Considerations: You’ll need either a gym membership or home equipment. You will need advice on the best type of equipment to achieve your health goals and match your body shape, and to be taught by a professional to ensure your routine builds up progressively.

 

The next section looks gives you some tips to help your memory.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Exercise for the body

 
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres
Senior Alarm System

Identify your wants from physical activity

Do you like things organised or prefer a more casual approach? Do you like to do things on your own or to be part of a group-based activity? You are more likely to stick to something you enjoy or which gives a sense of achievement. Getting more exercise might involve getting off the bus two stops early or walking up escalators as well as something more complex. Considerations include:
  • Exercising alone – are you self-motivated? If so, this is a good option, especially if your busy schedule prevents you from planning a regular time to be active every day.
  • Training buddy – you may be more likely to commit to a physical activity routine if you are doing it with someone else, because you don’t want to let your training buddy down.
  • Team sports and group physical activity programs – organised activities offer the chance to widen your social circle as well as getting fit. It doesn’t need to be strenuous either, for instance at a walking football club you are disqualified if you run!
  • Mixing it up – some people like to combine two or three options. For example, you may choose to exercise alone on two or three days of the week, and train with a buddy or participate in a team sport on a couple of the other days.

Physical activity – decide on your health goals

While any type of physical activity is good for you, different physical activities offer different results. Deciding your health goals will steer you towards the right intensity of activity for you. Tips for choosing a physical activity
  • Try to choose an activity you enjoy and that suits both your goals and your lifestyle.
  • Choose an indoor activity if you are bothered by weather extremes such as heat or cold.
  • Enjoyment is the key to sticking to an exercise plan. Choose an activity you enjoy, not one you think is ‘good for you’.
  • Think back. Did you enjoy a particular physical activity as a child, such as cycling or basketball? If so, give that activity another go.
  • Keep your budget in mind. Some physical activities, such as skiing or sailing, can require a big financial investment.
  • Whatever activity you choose be realistic about your current health and level of fitness. If you are a beginner, the physical demands of certain activities (such as running) may be too much at first. Choose a gentler alternative and work your way up.
  • Don’t give up. The benefits of activity come over time and what starts as a chore will hopefully end up as pleasure.
  • Be realistic: if you have joint problems try and find a suitable non-weight bearing activity such as swimming or cycling.
  • Remember any old injuries and choose exercises that won’t aggravate them.
  • Ask the advice of your doctors’ surgery. There may be special clubs which would suit you and may be available on prescription.

The next section looks at some specific activities, their benefits & other considerations to help you find the right one for you.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.
 

Engaging with the world

 

There are very few of us who truly can’t make a difference to family, our neighbours or the wider world. If you are not already active in the world think about what you can do.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore

This is about finding the joy and energy of ‘serving’ whatever it is that gives you value and developing both ‘who’ and ‘how’ you want to be.

Many people find helping others gives purpose, social contact and teaches new skills.

Of course, you should not exhaust yourself and you need to get the balance right.

Whatever you believe in or stand for, there will be groups who will appreciate your help, however full or limited it is. Seek them out and find out what you can do. It could be a morning in a charity shop, letter writing for Amnesty International or to MPs (or even local papers).  

 

The next section looks at Choosing appropriate exercise.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Lifelong learning

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

~ Hamlet by William Shakespeare 

Tandem Skydiving

Life long learning

Why learning

You have survived with what you know, so why should you learn more?

Learning can be great for mental agility and keeping your brain age young, staying positive, improving your social life and of course if you are learning a sport or fitness, like yoga or dance, then it can keep you fit too.

Approaches to learning

Reading

There are lots of ways to approach learning. Possibly the easiest (and laziest) is to read, perhaps a good start might be reading a book which you enjoyed years ago and would read with fresh eyes.

There are lots of resources for getting more reading material. If you have a library near you then you should be able to take out books for free. Some library services also ‘lend’ ebooks through apps that you can get on a smartphone, tablet or iPad. These can even be audio books which are read aloud to you so if reading is difficult for whatever reason you can still enjoy literature.

If you are registered blind it could be worth exploring the free talking books service from the RNIB whilst others who have difficulty reading due to illness, disability, learning or mental health difficulty can get audio books (streamed, downloadable or on CD) from the listening books charity which has annual memberships from as little as £20.

Listening books also cover lots of curriculum books which could make studying for qualifications possible for some.

Reading groups are a great way of meeting people and introducing you to new books.

The Internet

The Internet can be great for finding out about new things. To find out about things you never knew you never knew, TED Talks can be amazing, RSA Animate have a fascinating way of representing serious subjects through cartoons and there are many more opportunities. Youtube and other sites have a vast amount of material but suffer from not being curated and so it can be difficult to find the needle in the haystack.

Saying ‘Yes’ to new things

When opportunities arise do you take the adventurous option?

Unless there is a good reason not to, try saying ‘yes’.

Get in touch with your local council or Tourist Information Office and get listings of what is going on.

You could also contact Museums, Heritage sites, historical and other local societies. There are online sites that will tell you about formal and informal groups that are happening near you.

Meet-up.com is very handy, and some of the groups are for no other purpose than to create community, for instance in my town there is a group for people who are new in the area to meet once a month with no other requirements.

If you are of retirement age or above then U3A (University of the Third Age) is great for doing things with like minded people in your vicinity. It is set up as a cooperative for learning, exercising, community and whatever the local members want to do.

Talks & lectures

You can explore things you didn’t realise existed. Sometimes they will be boring, sometimes fascinating but nearly always engaging and may open new areas to you.

The next section looks at Engaging with the world.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be.
If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Staying safe at home

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

~ Jane Austen

Staying safe in your home and garden

Monthly Checklist

We all spend a lot of time at home and in retirement that may be an even larger proportion of your life. That is why it is so important that your home should be safe.

This checklist should help you keep safe.

  • Check and remedy any safety hazards around your home. These could include:
    • Trip hazards such as loose carpets, cables and general detritus,
    • Security of handrails and whether other safety equipment is functioning as intended,
    • Defective electrical cables and sockets,
    • Anything that gets hot (room heaters, kettles, ovens, …).
  • Check smoke alarms regularly (and fit if there are none).
  • Vacuum regularly to keep dust levels down.
  • Open windows regularly to get some fresh air into the house.
  • Keep at least one room warm during the winter
  • Keep warm in bed. Use blankets and possibly a nightcap during really cold nights, a suitable electric blanket can keep you warm overnight if you tend to get cold even in bed.
  • If you are at home for much of the day, try and use a room that gets lots of sunlight as this minimises the possibility of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can leave you feeling depressed. You can also get SAD lamps that replicate sunlight to fight this type of depression.
  • Keep on top of home maintenance. A small job can turn into a big job if not dealt with promptly. Try and get someone you trust to come and look around your home and advise you on any jobs that need doing.
  • Make sure you have a way of calling for help if you are trapped in your home or garden and unable to get to the phone (e.g. because of a fall).
  • Make a plan for what to do in the event of a fire. Try and have at least 2 escape routes and if any route has a door with a deadlock, make sure you can get to the key.
  • If you live alone, consider fitting a keysafe so people can access your property in the event of an emergency. Remember to tell at least one trusted person how to open the keysafe.

The next section explores Lifelong learning.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be.
If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Getting value for your money

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

~ Epictetus
senior couple with papers and calculator at home

Spending where you get best value for your life.

Are you spending on things that don’t really improve your quality of life?

Your car: if you have a car do you need it? Most people’s gut response is that they do, but that is because cars can become such a large part of our identity. A small car likely costs at least £150 a month to keep on the road, probably far more. For many this is a bit of an extravagance, and whilst renting a car seems expensive, for the very few times it is truly required it can be the best option.

Your home: if you are a home owner it is probably your biggest asset but you might want to consider whether it really serves your needs now. Many people become attached to their homes as they can hold so many memories but often moving on frees them to a new life, and they still have their memories.

Homes that are suitable for bringing up a family are more expensive to run in terms of bills and maintenance and though it might be nice to think of as a base for the family to visit the money freed by ‘downsizing’ might mean that you can share more weekends visiting.

Alternatively you could consider equity release. This is essentially selling your home, or a share of it, in advance. When you no longer have a use for it the future value belongs to the company that has given you the money. You could use the money to help you improve the property, have a trip of a lifetime, make life more comfortable or hand on to family members to help them get on the property ladder.

Equity release is a complex area as you are selling the future value of your property and you should take advice from a regulated financial advisor (see previous post).

Are you paying more than you have to for the things you do need?

Comparison websites are your friends. Many companies give competitive introductory offers but then increase prices. This is often true for insurance and utility companies and breakdown services too. There are lots of ways to compare, but if you’re not the most proactive then there are even services like lookaftermybills.com that will automatically switch you to a new utility provider when it saves you money.

For more general tips on offers and savings moneysavingexpert.com is a go-to site and if you sign up for their monthly emails you will have loads of interesting money saving ideas delivered straight to your email inbox.

A ‘win-win’ with your food

Eat sensibly and be better off financially and in better health. Convenience foods are indeed convenient, and are packaged to look enticing – but often, fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and the like are healthier and also cost less.

and with local transport

Even if you keep a car that doesn’t mean you have to use it. If there is suitable public transport you might be eligible to use it for free but it is also worth considering where you can comfortably walk to or even cycling. Both of these options have health dividends too.

Still not seeing how to make ends meet?

If after looking through all your options you still cannot see how to make ends meet then speak with your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB). Sometimes it can be possible to reschedule payments when debts become overwhelming, and the CAB will be able to tell you whether this is possible and can often help by approaching lenders to ask them to make an arrangement with you to make your life a little bit easier.

Thinking ahead

No-one likes thinking about death but it will be reassuring to have done the work to make a will. Some charities will even do this for free or a donation. Age UK has a very helpful page which includes a video introduction to the topic.
Also consider creating a Lasting Power of Attorney, which would let someone whom you trust make decisions if you are not able to. The government has some very good information on this at gov.uk/power-of-attorney.

The next section gives tips helps you to keep safe in your home.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be.
If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Managing your finances

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

~ Mr Micawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Are you comfortable? Or do you have some financial worries you’d like to address?

Like most of life, worries are best dealt with head on and often the worst course of action is to pretend nothing is wrong and hope for a miracle. It will work for a few people each year, but the odds of it working for you are very long indeed.

Jars with different level of coins

Taking a snapshot of where you are and comparing it with where you want to be can be really useful. The moneyadviceservice.org.uk have a great online budget planner which can help you to compare your income and expenditure to see whether in Mr Micawber’s words you’re on track for happiness or misery.

There are two sides to improving your financial situation. The first is to ensure that you are getting the best from your assets and that they are generating enough income to cover your activities both now and in the future. The second is to review your spending to see whether you can save a few pounds by shopping around.

Getting the most from what you have

Maximising returns from your financial assets can be complex. There are so many options available that ‘doing it yourself’ can be really tricky. The Money Advice Service is a great place to start for a wealth of information about what is available for your hard-earned money, and who you might get to assist you in making decisions. They also have some excellent advice on how to avoid those who will seek to separate you from your money. Click our shortlink to visit their webpage acticheck.com/findadvisor.

Claim what is rightfully yours

Many people do not claim all they can in the form of benefits: do not be shy, you’ve earned your retirement income, every penny, and there may be a few more pounds available if you look. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) should be up to date regarding your options and be able to tell you about any local initiatives in place to help as well as any national ones.

One thing which can really help is if you can benefit from discounts related to your age or health many organisations will offer a discount if you only go at a certain time, whether it’s your local gym, or travelling by rail or bus. Even local shops will often offer discounts to certain groups, including the retired, as they want your business. Make them earn it!

The next section gives tips on how to get the best value from your money and what to do if you still can’t make ends meet.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be.
If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

Balance

 

“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”
~ Maimonides

 

 

 

Why ideal weight is good for you

You are likely to live longer, with less time being impacted by health issues. It becomes easier to enjoy life and indulge in activities that bring you joy!
More specifically maintaining an ideal weight has the following proven medical benefits:

If you are overweight reducing your weight is likely to lead to:

  • Improved mobility
  • Improved blood sugar levels and decreased risk of diabetes
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Decreased risk of certain cancers
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Decreased risk of stroke
  • Reduced back pain
  • Decreased risk, or improvement in symptoms, of osteoarthritis
  • Decreased risk, or improvement in symptoms, of sleep apnoea

If you are underweight increasing your weight is likely to lead to:

  • Improved energy through decreased risk of malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, or anaemia
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Improved immune function

Enjoying what you eat and drink

If you choose well what you eat and drink you should be able to enjoy it just as much even if you are trying to gain, lose or maintain weight.

 

Find an ideal weight

In the UK, we have a rule-of-thumb to find the ideal weight range which is called Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a very rough guide and whilst it works well for most people the boundaries are quite broad and it doesn’t work the same for all body types.
Remember that an ideal BMI for one ethnicity may not be right for another.

This video www.acticheck.com/bmivideo  gives a good overview of why BMI can be a misleading measure.

We suggest that you search online for an ‘ideal weight calculator’ and explore what the various formulae suggest.
Pick a target weight, and if you are already there that is great, just make sure to weigh yourself regularly and check that you are not drifting from your target.

 

The next article in this series explores ‘Getting to your ideal weight and staying there’.

 


    If you have a critical issue bothering you, click here for some information about what you can do now.


    How to get the latest Health Active Ageing

    If you are looking for some regular handy tips to help keep you shipshape, you have some choices:

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    2. Bookmark our blogs and visit is regularly, you will be able to navigate through all our posts
    3. Follow us on Facebook

    Senior man reading prescription label

     

    “The best doctors and medicine in the world can’t save you if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do.”

    ~ Magic Johnson

     

     

    Keeping on top of meds

    Very few people like taking medications but not taking them can lead to medical problems. Medications fall into three main categories:

    Supplements

    Whilst not strictly medications, dietary supplements such as vitamins and fish oils are widely used. Much is written about the benefits of supplements but it is important to recognise they have not been tested to pharmaceutical standards. In general, supplements have no deleterious effects on your health as long as you follow the directions on the label, though for any beyond the most widely available, it would be wise to check with a dietitian.

    ‘Over the Counter’ remedies

    These medications are typically taken for the relief of pain or discomfort. They can be very effective as a short term remedy but should not be used to treat long term symptoms without prior consultation with your doctor. As with all medication, read the label before taking.

    If you have a symptom, speak to your local pharmacist. They are highly trained and can advise on a suitable medication.

    Prescription Medicines

    These medicines are prescribed by your doctor and are typically more ‘powerful’ (or expensive) than over the counter medicines and should be taken as prescribed.

     

    Here are five top tips to help your doctors to help you.

    1. Always take your medications as prescribed. The label will give details of times and special conditions (such as before a meal).
    2. Always discuss with your doctor any concerns you have about any medications you are taking. It is important to let your doctor know if you have decided, for whatever reason, not to take any of your medications or if you are taking additional over the counter medications.
    3. If your medications are having any effect (either good or bad) make a note so you can tell your doctor the next time you see them.
    4. If you are having a strong reaction call an NHS adviser direct on ‘111’ and they will advise you what to do or to call an ambulance if they think it is that urgent.
    5. If you have difficulty keeping track of your medications ask your pharmacist for your next prescription in blister packs. These are organised so that you pop the right pills out at the right time. There are also electronic pill dispensers that will sound an alarm when you should take your next medication.

    The next article in this series explores ‘Managing your weight’.

     


      If you have a critical issue bothering you, click here for some information about what you can do now.


      How to get the latest Health Active Ageing

      If you are looking for some regular handy tips to help keep you shipshape, you have some choices:

      1. The simplest is to fill in your details below and click on the ‘Get Healthy Active Ageing’ button
      2. Bookmark our blogs and visit is regularly, you will be able to navigate through all our posts
      3. Follow us on Facebook

      Eating well- part 2

       

      “Take care of your body.
      It’s the only place you have to live.”

      ~ Jim Rohn

       

       

      Getting to an ideal weight

      After the first part of ‘Managing your weight’ (in our previous post) you might have found your ideal weight range. If you’ve identified that you are either underweight or overweight – or even if you are trying to maintain your weight, you need to learn to calorie count.

      You probably know the logic but here is a reminder:

      • If your body is processing food normally and you are regularly taking in more energy than you are using, your body will store this energy and you will put on weight.
      • If you take in less energy than you use you will lose weight and if you balance the energy in with energy out you will maintain weight.
      • The bigger you are the more energy will be used to perform the same activities as someone smaller than you.
      • As your weight changes your calorie need will change too and you can adjust for that.
      • Calories (with a capital C ) are the units of energy used in dieting; this information is available on all packaged food and drink and can be looked up for ‘fresh’ produce. Sometimes energy is also displayed in kilocalories (kc) or kiloJoules (kJ) where 1 Calorie = 1kc = 4.2kJ.

      Know your maintenance calorie needs

      calculator.net/calorie-calculator will tell you the calories needed to maintain your correct weight with your current lifestyle. You can then set your calorie goal as a variance from this. If you are underweight the chances are you have been taking in too few calories and if you are overweight too many calories. There is a danger that if you just cut down or add proportionately to your current diet you will feel hungry or bloated. But there are some low-calorie foods which are very filling and the converse is also true, so choosing carefully can mean you feel nicely full whilst still moving towards your target weight. Don’t eat on the run: sit and enjoy what you eat, if you focus on the act of eating you are likely to feel satisfied with less food.

      The 500 Calorie rule

      Now you need to set your calorie target. Keep your target to within 500 Calories of your daily maintenance calorie needs to make sure your body is not being too stressed by the change of weight. This will mean you will lose (or gain) 3,500 Calories a week which roughly equates to a pound (450g) weight change. You might like to think of that as losing a small packet of butter, if it helps.
      Some diets advocate fasting days and combining foods which might mean there are days that are far less, or more. Just bear in mind over a week that the calories should balance out.

      All calories count!

      Don’t forget drinks. Allow 100 Calories per glass of wine and 180 per pint of beer. Tea can have up to 50 Calories per cup with milk and sugar though semi-skimmed with no sugar will bring it down to about 15-20. Swapping to green tea reduces this to 1 or 2 calories.
      Calories count even if:

      1. No one else is watching
      2. It’s from someone else’s plate
      3. You’re wearing training shoes (it does NOT make consumption into exercise)
      4. The date says it’s between Christmas and New Year
      5. There’s one bite left
      6. It’s your birthday
      7. You eat standing up
      8. You’re on vacation
      9. It’s free
      10. It would be rude not to

      BUT!
      Do it anyway, occasionally. Enjoy the odd treat. But don’t give up, just try and adjust back to your target over the next few days.

      The next article in this series explores ‘Managing your finances’.


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        If you know something is wrong then please contact an expert immediately.

        Your doctor can help with medical problems, or if you are in an emotional crisis you could contact the Samaritans. You can call them free from any phone on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or you may have a branch near you that you can visit (see www.samaritans.org/branches).

        If the cause of your crisis is feeling overwhelmed by a financial or legal issue then they may suggest a local legal centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau as a good first step to solving your issues.

        There is a Spanish phrase that says ‘Where there is a will, there are many ways’. Just because what you have tried so far has not worked does not mean there is nothing else to try and these people are expert at finding the right solution in a crisis, and they care.