Fit For Sailing

Andrew Verdon looks at ways to lose body fat - and keep it off.

We are constantly bombarded with ads and supplements and programs to help weight loss. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes and a long-term approach is required to lower body fat levels. The ultimate goal is to change the balance between daily energy intake and energy expenditure. The simple science is that body fat stores are reduced when there is an energy deficit (intake is less than expenditure) and this loss is maintained by achieving a new energy balance (intake equals expenditure).

Losing weight – what does it mean?

While most people talk about losing weight, what they actually want to achieve is a loss of body fat. In fact, for successful long-term weight loss, the goal is to lose body fat while preserving muscle mass.  Body weight is a poor measure of the amount of fat we carry and changes measured on the scales do not necessarily reflect changes in body fat stores.  Using a number of measurements of body composition will provide a better overall picture of its changes.  Measurements of fat levels and body girths or circumferences (e.g. waist and hip measurements) are all useful to build up a picture of body fat loss or gain.

Why is losing body fat good?

In sport a loss of body weight (fat) maybe useful for these reasons:

    * Improved health and wellbeing
    * Decrease the load on the joints
    * Improved power to weight ratio
    * To make any weigh in’s easier
    * Move closer to the ideal weight range for that class or position on a yacht.

Summary of strategies

The Sports Nutrition Department at the AIS recommends the following:

• Health should be higher on the list of priorities than low body weight. In the long term, this will benefit performance, training, emotions and health.

• Choose a balanced diet, emphasising a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods.

• Investigate reasons for eating when not hungry. Everybody does it, but some people do it more than they realise.

• If you are not already very active, include some aerobic training into your lifestyle. You can also increase the levels of active living by using stairs, walking or commuting by bicycle.

• Approach weight loss as a long-term change in lifestyle that is comfortable and will be sustainable. Weight loss is not a race and needs to be approached consistently over time.

The logistics of fat loss

I spoke with one of the country’s leading fat loss dieticians, Susie Burrell. Susie passed on these eight tips on slow, sustainable fat loss. Susie says “Fat loss is a fairly specific program and if you remember these principles, it should be fairly smooth progress”.

1) Eat a protein based breakfast before 8am such as eggs on toast or protein shake.

2) Include small, carbohydrate/protein snacks every three hours, such as yoghurt, milk or nuts.

3) Aim for a palm-sized serve of protein at lunch with plenty of salad.

4) Aim for a cup of carbs at night max, or swap for a small treat or dessert.

5) Get rid of extras such as margarines, spreads, avocado, flavoured coffees, biscuits from the tin and lollies/chocolates from the jar.

6) Walk, gym, run for at least 45 minutes each day – be active!

7) Have a meal off a week where you eat whatever you like.

8) Expect to plateau after 3-4 weeks and then look for ways to slightly increase your food intake and change your exercise regime to keep that fat coming off.

The key thing to remember is that any changes to your diet and exercise/activity need to be mindful of keeping the body fit and healthy as a primary goal then fat loss
as the secondary goal.

Susie has recently released her first book “Losing the Last Five Kilos”. You can learn more by heading to or She also is the author of a weekly update on nutrition, food products, recipes  and exercise.

“Susie’s Updates” has been distributed for the past four years and each week features a review of new products, nutrition and exercise tips, recipes and coaching suggestions to help kick start your week each Monday. They are a must for anyone who wants their health and well being information delivered in an easy to understand format by an expert who understands the lives and pressures of today’s busy people and their families. Susie has extended an offer to my readers to receive her outstanding weekly update. It is normally $50 per annum but is free to readers of my column. To take up the offer simply email her at

Susie has identified through her work that people who control their weight (not their weight controlling them) exhibit the following qualities:

• They take control.

• Prioritise themselves and create boundaries.

• Respect their time.

• Plan.

• Are empowered.

• Live by food rules and guidelines.

• Compensate when they do over eat or
under move.

• They are tenacious, failure is not an option.

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