Contributed by Caroline J.

As a nation, we are becoming bigger and bigger. The usual excuses for the increase in obesity is that we lead a sedentary lifestyle compared to that of our forefathers. But when you look back in time, our ancestors did not do that much more than us in terms of calorie burning exercise.  What they did do was eat less.  In the past, since famine was always a possibility, a plate of food was conservative and they canned, dried meats and stockpiled food for leaner times.

Now, however, there is food readily available, we get extra calories in cookies, frappuchinos and martinis, we expect extra large servings of food when we eat out and then, even when are stuffed, we order dessert.  For the most part, we are no longer happy to be satiated, we want to be supersized! The difference between feeling satiated and supersized amounts to about 1,000 calories.

Many of us make up for the extra calorie intake by working out, often on the treadmill.  The problem with this type of thinking is that the extra time on the treadmill may not lead to that many extra calories burned.  It turns out that, if you do the same type of workout on a regular basis, you will only be using a small set of muscles; your body will start to see the unused muscles as wasteful and get rid of muscle mass.  The weight you are losing might not be fat but muscle. So if the treadmill isn’t working, how can you lose weight?

Eat less.  Obvious but often overlooked.  Keep a food diary and look at what you are eating.  Instead of getting a frappucino, get black coffee. This small move can cut out 500 calories a day.  Instead of reaching for a cookie, eat a handful of grapes. One trick I use is to eat a measured amount of vegetables/fruit, and if I was till hungry I could eat a cookie afterwards.  I found that I would fill up on the veggies and didn’t eat the cookie.

Drink water. If you are thirsty, it means your body is dehydrated. A calorie is the measurement of having to raise the temperature of a liter of water by one degree.  Drinking 5 liters of water a day, especially if it is cold water, forces your body to work to heat up the water.  It also flushes toxins out of your body through your kidneys.  If you are dehydrated, then your body starts using your liver to flush out toxins rather than the more important business of processing stored body fat.

Sleep. Not getting enough sleep is greatly undervalued. When I tell people I sleep for 8 hours a night, they compete with me by telling me they can get away with only 6.  Not getting enough sleep is a stressor to your body.  As a result, your body starts to slow its metabolism and you gain weight.

Change up your aerobic activity.  Let us say you are a runner and can run a long distance without getting winded.  Then you jump into the pool and cannot get to the end of one lane without being out of breath.  That is because your body is used to the exercise.  Switch things up and you will burn more calories.

Build muscle. As we get older we lose muscle. With a loss of muscle tissue comes a loss in metabolic rate. If you work out your muscles, they will become bigger and your metabolic rate will increase again. Adding just 5 pounds of muscle will help you burn more calories a day even when you are sitting still.  Also, it is important to work out all the muscles in your body and not just a select few to get the maximum benefit.

Have you noticed a change in your body’s ability to burn calories?   We invite you to share your ideas in the box below.