How To Lose Weight

You might be forgiven in thinking that we’ve moved from a tech blog into a lifestyle magazine but I wanted to share a little of my life from the past 18 months. In late spring last year, I visited my doctor and she pointed out that in the 20 years since I joined her practice, I’d put on over 20 kg in weight – about 44 lb – and that my blood pressure was up. All classic signs of a heart attack waiting to happen. I had to lose some weight, get the pounds off and lower that blood pressure or an early exit beckoned. Obviously I’m still here but did I shed the pounds and how did I do it.

First of all, let’s get over the fact that there’s no diet in existence that will make you magically lose weight; you have to work at it. However, the recipe for weight loss is very straightforward – there are only three ingredients really.

  • Eat less
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more

While the recipe for weight loss is easy, I’ll admit that following it isn’t. The good news is that you can have three square meals a day; the bad news is that it means no junk – no crisps (chips), sweets or late night peanut butter sandwiches. There’s no need to starve: just take smaller portions and if you are full, stop eating.

Wii Fit Balance BoardAs a geek, I also employed a bit of tech to help achieve my goal – a Nintendo Wii with Balance Board, a Fitbit Zip and food apps / web sites.

Most people will be familiar with the Nintendo Wii though sadly its discontinuation has been announced in the past few day. The Balance Board is bundled with WiiFit and WiiFit Plus, and while the associated programs are fun enough, I used the Balance Board as electronic scales to record my weight. Each morning, shortly after getting up, I’d weigh myself on the Balance Board. If my weight was down, I gave myself a mental high five. If my weight was up, it was a mental “you need to do better”. The Wii records your weight day by day and will show a graph of your progress.

Fitbit ZipThe second piece of gadgetry is the Fitbit Zip. It’s an advanced digital pedometer that will upload its data to your PC and onwards to Fitbit’s portal. I received this for Christmas and Fitbit tries to gamify the activity of walking further by competing against friends and awarding badges. While I don’t need any stinkin’ badges, I was quite chuffed to be awarded my 1000 mile badge last month. The Zip doesn’t make you fitter by itself, but it does make you aware of walking and now I often choose to walk where previously I might have taken the car. Every little bit helps.

Finally to help eat better, I used a range of foodie websites and apps to find new, interesting and low calorie recipes. I find the BBC’s offerings both on their main site and on the Good Food site are excellent. Many of the supermarkets, such as Tesco, have good recipes too. Look for sections on healthy eating. App-wise, there’s a Good Food app on Android too. It helps if the app and website cater to metric as well as imperial units and do the conversions properly as directly converting from oz to g doesn’t work terribly well.

A word of advice. When browsing the supermarket shelves, “low fat” is not a particular benefit when the product is laden with sugar to make up the taste so approach with caution any food which loudly makes those claims. Ultimately, I found that weight and calories were the best guides so read the nutritional information on the back of food.

Did I succeed in losing weight with help from this tech? Absolutely – I’ve managed to lose nearly 18 kg (40 lb) and 4″ in waistline. There’s still a few pounds to lose but I do feel tremendously better for it. It has been hard work even with the tech – it requires willpower to say “no” to food, and food is so very much part of Western culture. But you can do it as I did. Remember; eat less, eat better, exercise more. Take encouragement from your success and determination from your setbacks.

Enhance the Movie Experience

Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.