Once upon a time there was a hare and a tortoise, and they were good friends. They had once had a race and surprisingly the tortoise had won! The hare was much faster but when he was far ahead he’d become cocky and decided to have a rest. He dozed off to sleep and the tortoise had sneaked by and ended up winning.
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After the race, both lost their motivation to exercise. They had trained hard for their event, the tortoise, victorious and pleased with himself became complacent and lazed around all day eating chocolate and chips instead of lettuce. The hare felt down after his loss and consoled himself with beer and takeaways in front of the TV.
A few months went by and one day and Mr Fox came to visit. He couldn’t help but notice how much weight both had gained and felt he should say something. He was in fact a doctor, he didn’t use the title as there had been an unfortunate incident when he had been confused with a radio DJ and followed by the paparazzi on holiday in Turkey. He offered to help the hare and the tortoise to lose weight, and although surprised at first, they agreed. The tortoise did say that his shell had been feeling a little tight recently and the hare had noticed he could no longer see his big paws.
Mr Fox started the pair off on a healthy eating routine, carrots and lettuce leaves, as well as a sensible amount of daily activity. They both had to go for a walk in the park for half an hour every day which they could do together so they had some moral support and to make it a sociable task. Both felt motivated by having a new challenge and encouraged each other by preparing healthy evening meals, taking it in turns to cook.
A week passed by and Mr Fox came to carry out his weekly weigh in with the pair as he had promised. Both had lost 2 pounds and were on the right track. Tortoise felt pleased with himself and could feel that his shell was already a little looser and easier for him to curl up into at night. Hare was less happy; he wanted to lose one and a half stone, and he thought that at this rate it was going to take him forever. He decided that he would cut back on his food and do more exercise, but he didn’t tell tortoise as he wanted to lose more weight than him to impress Mr Fox.
Next week the pair continued to do their walks together, but tortoise became frustrated as hare would speed off and he would struggle to keep up. Hare started to run off into the distance and then run back to tortoise, jogging on the spot next to him. This annoyed tortoise, but he didn’t say anything as he was focused on his own goals and he knew what he could and couldn’t do.
Hare found that if he skipped breakfast in the morning and got out for a quick run he could be back before tortoise woke up and then still be able to do their exercise session together. At the next weigh in tortoise had lost another 2 pounds. Fox congratulated him for continuing to work hard. Hare though had lost 4 pounds and Fox praised his hard work but warned him that losing too much weight too quickly could be unhealthy. Anything more than 2 pounds a week was likely to mean that hare was not just losing fat but probably not eating enough. This meant his glycogen stores (carbohydrate supply) were being depleted and with it he would be losing water. His body may also start to break down his muscles to supply him with energy if he continued for a long period of time at this rate.
Hare though was pleased that he had lost more weight, and determined to reach his goal as quickly as he could he decided to ignore Mr Fox’s advice. He continued on his strict diet and did as much running as he could. He stopped exercising with tortoise as he felt he was not fit enough to keep up with him. Tortoise decided to add a little weights routine into his program as he did not want to get bored of doing the same thing and had heard that weights training could build lean muscles, which in turn would increase his rate of calorie burn and help him reach his goals.
At the next weigh-in hare had lost another 4 pounds and tortoise another pound. Fox was now concerned that hare wasn’t eating enough to fuel his body properly and had a chat with him after the session. Hare reacted angrily and was confused; why was Fox not pleased that he had done so well? He told Fox that he no longer needed his help and that he would carry on alone. Fox, not wanting to argue, asked hare to reconsider his weight loss methods but wished him good luck.
Another week went by and tortoise lost another pound. Hare was now weighing himself and was surprised and upset when he fund he had gained two pounds when he was so close to his goal. How could this have happened? He had barely eaten all week and he had exercised very hard! But he had been starving and gorged most of that cake the one day. And he had treated himself on Friday night with pizza and ice cream as he had been good and only eaten one lettuce leaf all day.
Hare decided to up his training so he joined the gym and spent hours on the cardio kit and went in the sauna as he though he might be able to sweat out more of the weight. Tortoise joined too and took up Body Combat, although it didn’t work as every time the instructor told them to kick or punch he automatically hid in his shell! Instead he tried Yoga which he found more to his pace.
Each weighed themselves again as scheduled and tortoise had lost another pound; he was now 7 pounds lighter than when he’d started 5 weeks ago and very pleased. Hare had gained another two pounds, how could this be? He had noticed he’d been starving after all that exercise and feeling weak so he’d been eating sugary foods to stop himself feeling dizzy. Tortoise had now lost more weight than him which was ridiculous as far as he was concerned.
Tortoise continued with the small changes he’d made to his life and went on to return to his race weight. He now competes in marathons, OK it takes him a while but he gets there. Hare joined a slimming club and drinks shakes for breakfast and takes tablets to help him burn fat. His weight has fluctuated up and down over the last few months and he is currently one pound heavier than when he started his programme. Mr Fox has changed his title back to Dr Fox and has a regular slot on morning TV advising animals about weight loss, exercise and health.
The moral of the story? Slow and steady doesn’t just win the race, it wins hands down for weight loss too. Weight gain will happen slowly over a number of months or even years, expecting to lose it all in a matter of weeks is unlikely to be realistic and can have many effects on the body that make it harder to maintain weight throughout life. Aim to lose one to two pounds a week through sensible changes to diet and an exercise programme combining cardiovascular and resistance training.