6 February 2009

Does an underactive thyroid really make you gain weight?

For many years, someone complaining about being overweight because of ‘a thyroid problem’ was usually greeted with the roll of eyes by others who presumed they were making excuses for their over indulgences when eating and laziness when it comes to exercise.

Thankfully, doctors and the public have become a little more sympathetic and aware of the impact on weight that having an under active thyroid can have.

An under active thyroid, otherwise known as Hypothyroidism, is something that you could have without knowing about it, especially during the early stages. Its symptoms include chronic exhaustion, weight gain, dry, flaky skin, hair breakage and hair loss, brittle nails, foggy brain, poor concentration, infertility and depression. Not a pleasant state of affairs.

Many people don’t know much about the thyroid but its role in helping our bodies to function properly is major.

The thyroid is a gland which sits in front of your larynx in your throat and is responsible for regulating your body’s metabolism and controlling how quickly reactions in your body take place. So, small as it is, the thyroid is responsible for how efficiently your body burns fat and for how much you weigh.

When your thyroid stops functioning efficiently, your metabolism slows down, the weight gain begins and the other symptoms of hypothyroidism start to reveal themselves. It’s estimated that 20 million Americans and 4 million Britons suffer from a thyroid disorder and there are many more who don’t know yet that they have the disorder.

A visit to your doctor for the blood tests to read the levels of your thyroid hormones is how this is done. Unlike the US,  in the UK, patients receiving medication for hypothyroidism receive free prescriptions.

Medication will usually recover the thyroid function to ‘normal’ after a few months but for many women this doesn’t automatically signal the return to their slimmer shape as they would hope. In many cases, the weight gain will continue. This is because the damage to the way your metabolism functions can be far reaching and so a low calorie diet will not necessarily get the same results as it would have done in the past.

So what can you do if you have an under active thyroid to get your weight back to normal?

The fastest way to boost your metabolism is to exercise. Dieting alone is unlikely to shed pounds but in combination with a regular exercise regime, the weight will start to come off. The effects of exercise and a low calorie diet may take longer to have an impact than they would on someone with a normal thyroid function and metabolism, but over time, the effects will definitely be noticeable.

The key is to develop a routine and stick to it. By incorporating a lot more vigorous activity into your life, your body will begin to respond to your new diet and fitness regime.

Reducing stress is also key to encouraging more efficient thyroid function so, despite the frustrations of weight gain you can’t seem to control, it’s important to stay calm and focused on your fitness routine knowing that the results will come, even though they may not arrive as fast as you would like.

For more information on thyroid weight gain solutions, visit www.ThryoidWeight.com

For more articles like this, visit the Women's Fitness site.

4 February 2009

Does smoking help you stay slim?

smoking as a weight controller is surely dicing with danger
Whenever you see models puffing away on their Marlboro Lights or even school girls sneaking a cigarette, the excuse more often than not is that it helps them lose weight either by suppressing their appetite or speeding up their metabolism.

But does smoking really increase your metabolic rate and enables you to control our weight more easily?

Some studies have shown that smoking does indeed increase our basal metabolic rate – the rate at which calories are burned by the body each day as it takes care of essential functions such as the rhythm of the heart, breathing, digestion, thoughts and movement.

Around 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure can be accounted for by basic bodily functions and experts believe that one way smoking raises metabolic rate is by stimulating the nervous system to produce catecholamines – hormones which cause the heart to beat faster, thus making the body burn more calories. Nicotine also produces more thermogenesis, the process by which the body produces heat. This too, causes the body to use up more calories.

Some research suggests that the increase in metabolic rate during smoking could equate to smokers burning up to 200 extra calories a day more than non-smokers.

Examining all the evidence together it would seem that each cigarette smoked will contribute to a temporary increase in the metabolic rate and that the more you smoke, the higher a proportion of the time you will be experiencing this faster running metabolism. But does this actually help you control your weight more easily?

Many believe that smoking suppresses the appetite and that smokers eat less than non-smokers. In fact, most studies comparing the calorie intake of smokers and non-smokers show that smokers actually eat as much or more than non-smokers. The reason they are sometimes able to manage their weight more easily is not that they eat less but rather that they burn off more of the calories consumed due to their metabolism running faster when they smoke.

The increase in metabolism while smoking may also explain why some people gain weight when they quit. It is true that many ex-smokers reach for more food than they are used to just to fill the gaps created by not using cigarettes, but even those who maintain a steady amount of food will run the risk of increasing in weight due to the fact that their metabolism is now running at normal speed for most of the time now rather than being artificially boosted by smoking.

So, rather than smokers being their ‘normal’ weight when they smoke and then gaining weight when they stop, it may be more accurate to say that smokers may be artificially slim while they are smokers and then they return to what is a more natural weight when their metabolism is allowed to regulate itself without interference from nicotine. Longer term studies comparing people who smoke for a period and then give up with people who never smoke show little difference in weight gain at the conclusion of the studies though those who smoke experience periods of being thinner.

Having said all that, smoking does not rank highly as a weight management strategy. Exercise and healthy eating will guarantee you positive results in this area by speeding up your metabolism but without any of the potentially fatal and critical negatives such as lung cancer, emphysema, leg amputation, heart disease, clots in the lung, stroke, infertility......the list goes one. And of course, shortened life span.

*Thanks to ash (action on smoking and health) for research. Visit ASH for more information.

Find more articles like this at the Women's Fitness site.

Photograph by bizzyb0t (flickr)

3 February 2009

6 Ways to make exercise easier

We all know how good exercise can make us feel and look and yet sometimes, motivating yourself to go to the gym or go for a run can be impossibly hard.

So here are 6 tips that will make working out easier. No more excuses.

1. Do focus on how good you'll feel by the end of the workout. Don't focus on the effort your workout will require.

2. Work quickly, work hard...then relax.

3. Know yourself. Have a variety of options including tough workouts which progress when you're feeling energetic, and easier workouts for maintaining fitness when you have less energy.

4. If you don't feel like exercising, don't just do nothing. Try something new like walk into a class at the gym that's about to start and go for it or walk for 30 mins at a good pace or go swimming. Just do something.

5. Get competitive. Set targets for yourself and focus on trying to beat them. Stick your progress chart on the fridge door and take pride in what you've achieved week to week.

6. Have company and make exercise fun with friends rather than a solo slog all the time. Games in the park, jogging buddy, walking with friends.

To read more fitness tips like this, visit the Women's Fitness website.