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New Year, New You

Monday, January 07, 2013

By Paul Willgoss

Happy New Year!

So, made any resolutions? They’re big business over this side of the Atlantic—the sales of diet books and get-fit-quick books are through the roof, and the sales of chocolate and sweet stuff have (possibly) plummeted.

I’ve been asked by a few people how to lose weight, and by more people how to do more exercise, normally with a conversation opener like “What’s the secret... ?” or “How did you do...?”

Well, I’m not a great one for faddy diets, nor do I believe in excessive increases in exercise. Last year I lost 28 pounds, down to my lightest. That was a couple of weeks before the Ultra. Since then I’ve relaxed my concentration and let my body recover and put 7 pounds back on—so a net reduction of 21 pounds.

The secret? That’s the bad news folks—it’s a combination of concentration, planning and a bit of hard work. Oh, and the most important element, especially for us GUCHs/ACHDers… common sense.

But it is mainly simple—a balanced diet, so a good mix of carbs, protein, fruit and vegetables. Plus the most important thing, for me anyway—portion size. It doesn’t matter how healthy something is if you eat double (or treble) portions of something. A portion size is one of the scariest things you can read on the side of a packet. Pasta was my big surprise! 75g of pasta is not a lot, but it is a portion.

My only diet gadget? The scales to weigh my portions on. (Exercise gadgets are another thing!)

These are normal portion sizes—not micro-portions or diet portions, just normal-sized portions. Oh, but not restaurant portions.

Checking labels is great fun—a lot of low-fat foods bump up the sugar. The number of calories is not directly related to the size (look at a cashew nut if you think otherwise).

Planning helps for me by reducing the spur-of-the-moment ordering of pizza or a kebab. No exclusions is another one of my little tricks; I can eat anything I want but I aim for balance. So I have sausage casserole, but it’s lean meat sausages, trimmed bacon, plenty of vegetables—and sensible portions.

I hope it’s all sounding simple so far. The common sense bit is, don’t forget that it can take awhile for your body to adjust to portion sizes. Don’t worry, you’ll get there. And if you’re anything like me you will have days where it all goes to hell in a handbasket. The thing to remember is that this genuinely is a marathon, not a sprint.

Which nicely brings me to exercise! I do not expect everyone to enjoy the sort of madness I enjoy. In fact, I can’t wait until February; my favourite canal towpaths will be quieter as the January flourish of activities drop off.

If you want to do formal exercise the sensible advice is to check it out with your doctor first, especially if you’ve done little or nothing for awhile. It also can help if your doctor suggests where to start in the gym. If you’re really lucky your doctor may be able to send you to personal trainer with experience in congenital heart disease—and I have seen a few out there!

It doesn’t have to be formal, heart-pumping, sweat-drenching exercise to do you good and burn a few calories. Dancing is greatly underestimated, and chaps—dancing applies to you, too. Think about it, how many guys can actually sweep a lady off their feet? Gardening is another sneaky exercise…

The world is your oyster!

Which takes me back to food. Don’t become scared of it. You need it—and if you are doing the combination of exercise and diet, remember a meal containing the fuel you need for the exercise can be necessary. So the night before a long run I have pasta, the night before a very long run I have a double portion of pasta.

Have a happy, healthy and enjoyable 2013.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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