#132 Getting in shape during the lockdown

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Don’t get me wrong, I was already obese before the lock-down with a body mass index (BMI) of 31.8. The BMI is a convenient rule of thumb used to broadly categorise a person as underweightnormal weightoverweight, or obese based on tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) and height. Commonly accepted BMI ranges are underweight (under 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (18.5 to 25), overweight (25 to 30), and obese (over 30).

Half-way through the lock-down, the lack of activity and ready availability of beer meant that I put on 7kg (15lbs), going from 92kgs (200lbs) to 99kgs (218lbs) and raised my BMI to 34.4.

To get a healthy BMI I would need to lose 27kgs (59lbs). You can check your own BMI at the NHS website. It told me that losing and keeping off 5% of my weight can have health benefits, such as lowering my blood pressure and reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Healthy diet and exercise also helps to improve mental health which I wrote about last month

Given that obesity is the top underlying conditions for severe Covid-19 and even mild obesity could put a person at risk of developing severe COVID-19 and dying it seemed like a good time to start. The NHS site told me that, over time, I should work towards achieving a healthier weight and that if I’m concerned about my weight I should speak to my doctor. It suggested a recommended daily calorie intake of 1881 – 2418 kcal and to lose 1-2lbs a week stick to the lower end of the range.

In truth, I had already been doing some exercise using a couch to 5km app. I don’t download the NHS podcasts, instead I downloaded one by App Symphony which I have been very pleased with.

The NHS has a 12-week weight loss plan and one of the first things I needed to do was start counting my calories.  I created a spreadsheet so that I could include all the information the programme was asking me to record on their food and activity chart.

They also have a change4life programme which contains healthy recipes of all kinds.  At the end of the first week I had already lost 2kg (4lbs) and another 2kg by Tuesday of the following week.

In week 3, I started alternating my aerobic couch to 5km activity with strength and flexibility exercises, the aim being to do at least 150 minutes of activity a week. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the incredible NHS has a 5-week strength and flexibility plan in which you can download podcasts which start at a very basic level and work their way up.

By the end of week 3, I had lost another 1kg, meaning a loss of 5kg in three weeks. I am in the middle of week 4 and am looking forward to seeing how much progress I have made. Hopefully, I will be close to the weight I was at the start of the lockdown and can continue to lose weight beyond that.

The NHS also recommend that you measure your waist. They say that measuring your waist is a good way to check you’re not carrying too much fat around your stomach, which can raise your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. You can have a healthy BMI and still have excess tummy fat, meaning you’re still at risk of developing these conditions. To measure your waist:

  1. Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips.
  2. Wrap a tape measure around your waist midway between these points.
  3. Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement.

Regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is:

  • 94cm (37ins) or more for men
  • 80cm (31.5ins) or more for women

You’re at very high risk and should contact a GP if your waist is:

  • 102cm (40ins) or more for men
  • 88cm (34ins) or more for women

Another benefit of this new diet is that I am also moderating my drinking more.  A pint of beer is generally around 200 calories and 2 to 3 units of alcohol, a gin with slimline tonic is 1 unit of alcohol and only around 55 calories depending on the gin.

To keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level men and women should not exceed 14 units a week and to spread that amount over three or four days. This equates to two units a day over seven days which means a pint of beer a day or two gin and tonics a day. I tend to find I am a little more thirsty than this so I have devised a system. Now, I only add 10ml of gin to my gin and tonic rather than the standard 25ml or random bottle tip. This means I can drink 5 gin and tonics at a cost of only 110 calories and 2 units a day, keeping me within both limits.

I’ll try to keep you up to dates with my progress and would love to hear your lock-down weight loss stories.

About M J Dees

M J Dees lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brazil with his wife, daughter and two cats. He has written three novels, Living with Saci, The Astonishing Anniversaries of James and David, Part One, and When The Well Runs Dry. He is currently editing the fourth and writing the fifth. You can sign up for more information on his book launches at http://eepurl.com/cTnAD5 and receive a free copy of Living With Saci.
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