I'm asked regularly if I watch any of the many diet/weight loss/fat TV shows and what my opinion of them is. My answer is that I find most of them irresponsible and exploitative and I avoid them.
There is an exception: Channel 4 - Secret eaters
The premise is that people's food intake is accurately recorded, using secret cameras, private eyes and a dietician. I find it interesting as there is always a gulf between what people think they eat and what they actually eat. The show is generally quite supportive to the secret eaters and helps them improve their diet (always sensible: up your fruit and vegetable intake and reduce portion sizes) and they have a dietician on the show who is a proper nutrition scientist so no nutty or dangerous diets.
The difference in what we think and actually eat results in any scientific studies on food intake generally being flawed. I always ask people to try and do a week's food diary if they are concerned about their weight. I ask people to write down what they eat straight after eating it as we soon forgot those little extras. I guarantee if you think of everything you ate over the last few days you'll forgot those few chocolates at work, that slice of cake at the coffee shop and those crisps in front of the telly. Go on, try it!
As I mentioned in my last blog I was carb loading for the Brighton Marathon. It was a wonderful day and I helped my friends get round their first marathon. It seemed like the whole of Brighton came out to cheer and the sun even made an appearance. Last year I did the same marathon and did quite a lot of training (my final training run was from Uxbridge to Kings cross) and I was annoyed that I actually put on weight.
At the time I was running 20-25 miles and cycling around 120 miles per week and eating fairly healthily. I couldn't work out why! However there was no magic calorie machine attacking me in my sleep; I was completely underestimating how much food I was eating and needed. I was so active I figured I could treat myself regularly, have a second helping of dinner and have rice pudding every day. It's apparently quite common that despite all the training I wasn't thinning out. Find out about myths of calories and weight loss
This year I didn't put on any weight as I made sure I wasn't eating massive portions of dinner after long runs and tried not to treat myself with cake for doing a long run.
Sadly we have always been over sold the affects of physical activity and weight loss. Losing weight by just exercising is possible but very very difficult and mostly impractical for the general population. There is no evidence on what the balance of physical activity and food reduction is but I use an 80:20 ratio. 80:20 is 80 per cent diet (calorie reduction) and 20 per cent physical activity. It's not saying that physical activity won't lead to some weight loss, but it's that diet is major factor. That 20 per cent physical activity is essential as moving more makes us feel better and if we feel better it makes changes to our diet easier to sustain. Have a look at Walking Girl for a real world example of this.
I'm due to try baking a vegan loaf of bread for my friend. He's kindly fixing some bike wheels of mine and I'm going to repay the favour by trying soya spread as the fat for the bread mix. Fingers crossed it works.
If you have any questions, please do let me know.