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Weight Loss

WEIGHT LOSS The amazing power of small changes

According to experts, a series of small changes is more likely to deliver better health because they’re so much easier to stick to over time

Small is big news.  Especially when it comes to change.  Just ask the British Olympic cycling team.  The secret to their glittering medal tally in last year’s Olympics was down to ‘marginal gains’, a term coined by their performance director David Brailsford.  Nothing magic or sinister, marginal gains simply refers to the big successes that come from taking lots of tiny steps consistently over a set period.  ‘Marginal gains are about the one per cent advantage that you can apply to as many areas of your life as possible that add up to a much bigger advantage over time,’ says Kirstie Tew, performance scientist at Ki Performance.


In the case of the cyclists it was applied to the clothes they were wearing, the wheels of the bikes they were riding and right down to moving their bedding from place to place during training times so each cyclist could get the best night’s sleep they could.

For most of us, the likelihood of sticking to massive changes like hour-long runs or cutting whole food groups is low. But using the marginal gains theory, we can make tiny changes to lots of different areas of our lives that can add up to one big gain – such as weight loss – over time .  Here are some suggestions.

Have standing chats

You go to the gym three times a week but sit most days in the office.  What’s the problem? Researchers from the University of Sydney published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the average adult spends more that half their waking hours sitting and that people who sat for eight to 11 hours a day increased their risk of dying by 15 per cent.  Turns out, the physical pressure that prolonged sitting places on the hips and bottom causes fat cells to produce more triglycerides (the major form of fat stored in the body) and at a faster rate, increasing localized fat storage by up to 50 per cent.  The antidote?  First, get up every hour and move out of your chair.

Set a timer on your phone to go off at pre-determined intervals and customize your own message to remind you to move. Second, stand up when you chat on the phone.  This could double the number of calories you burn.  Third, cut TV time to two hours or less a night.  The researchers found that every hour of television watching could reduce life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. ‘The evidence indicates four hours per day is in the risky category while two hours a day is in the lower risk group,’ says Dr  David W. Dunstan, a professor at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia and author of the study.


It takes a 3500 calorie deficit to lose one pound.  These might look like small changes but over a year they can add up to a massive difference – check out these numbers!

  • Vacuum for half an hour once a week

Calories burned in a year: 5,477

  • Washing and drying the dishes every day (instead of using the dishwasher)

Calories burned in a year: 4,390

  • Going for a 30 minute walk instead of slopping in front of the telly five nights a week

Calories burned in a year: 19,500

  • Walking around while on the phone for a total of 30 minutes a day (not necessarily all at once)

Calories burned in a year: 10,950

  • Swap a full size chocolate bar to a treat-size version five days a week

Calories saved in a year: 41,600

  • Swap seven glasses of red wine on a weekly night out with three glasses of champagne interchanged with mineral water once weekly

Calories saved in a year: 28,496

Total potential loss in 12 months: 110,413 calories = 31.5 pounds* in a year (2.5 pounds in a month)

*With thanks Dr Kirstie Tew, performance scientist, Ki Performance


Jump a little

De rigeur with top trainers right now, plyometrics are high impact moves such as jumping on and off a step, jump squats, jumping jacks and jumping with a skipping rope.  Added to a workout, they send fat burn through the roof.  A 2007 study in The Journal of Dance Medicine and Science found people who did plyometric exercises twice a week for six weeks increased strength by 37 per cent (more strength equals more fat burned). ‘Plyometrics melt kilojoules, not only while you do them, but also after you’ve finished your workout for up to eight hours,’ says top trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read.  This is the Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC effect; the cranking up of calorie burn not only during but after a tough resistance workout. For an easy way to get some plyometrics into your life, jump rope for 3-5 minutes each morning to give your metablism an easy boost for the day. Check out Lucy’s plyometrics workout on Healthista 

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