Women JoggerYour health questions are answered!

Can you explain how green long-life bags keep food fresh? Are the fruit and vegetables they contain just as nutritious as off-the-shelf produce?

As fruit and veggies ripen they release ethylene, a gas that accelerates ripening but ultimately causes spoilage. The green fresh-produce bags you describe (and hard plastic absorber units you pop into the fridge crisper) absorb the ethylene slowing the ripening process and therefore the time it takes fruit and vegetables to deteriorate. All fresh produce declines in nutritional value over time, so any product that delays this decay also prevents vitamin loss. Use these handy products to help fresh food retain nutrients.

I have already blown off my vow to lose weight by spring. Can I still reach my goal by summer?

Depends on what your goal is and how many kilos you have to lose, but you can absolutely get onto the right path. You are not alone – most of us have already strayed from our yearly get-healthy objectives. But with a few tweaks, you can jump back onto the weight-loss wagon. What distinguishes a resolution-maker from a resolution-breaker is having a specific, attainable goal. Many women tend to set a pie-in-the-sky target, like losing 7 kilos in a month. Trying to do too much too fast can cause you to become frustrated and give up. Reword your objective so it focuses on behaviours you can change rather than on an arbitrary number on the scale. Break down your overall goal into smaller, more manageable ones, emphasizing what you are adding you your diet rather than what you are giving up. Tackle a few easy items on your list first, like doing five push-ups every morning and a walk, and switching to leaner cuts of meat and smaller portions. Swap fruit for dessert instead of ice cream. Once you have mastered those changes, try more challenging ones, like packing your lunch instead of hitting the deli, or taking kickboxing classes.

A friend told me there is a virus that can make you fat, is this true?

Right now, it is just a theory. However some researchers are so convinced Human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) may be partly to blame for obesity, they are developing medications to counteract its effects. Lab experiments suggest that this virus has the power to turn adult stem cells into fat cells. A study that was published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who tested positive for Ad-36 had a BMI 9 points higher than those who didn’t have the virus. Obese people were also three times more likely to have been infected than their slimmer counterparts. The good news: If you are at a healthy weight now, you probably don’t need to worry about contracting Ad-36. After being exposed to similar viruses that cause colds, flu, and illnesses, most adults have developed antibodies that protect them against catching it. Also keep in mind that even science can prove this virus directly lead to extra kilos, however, it has been shown that it probably affects less than 10% of the population. Lack of exercise, poor eating habits are still the most common factors leading to weight gain.

It seems gluten-free foods are being sold everywhere. Are they better for me?

Probably not. Going gluten-free may be a hot diet trend, but there is no science showing that doing so offers any nutritional benefits for healthy women. These special products are designed to help people suffering from coeliac disease, a disorder that makes the body unable to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. For the rest of us, however, eating gluten-free foods can cause weight gain. Not only are these products often high in fat, calories, and refined carbohydrates, they are also usually lower in fibre, whole grains, and nutrients. Better to leave them on the shelf unless you have been diagnosed medically with celiac disease.

I have been doing a total body workout twice a week for two months. My arms are toned up, but my thighs are still jiggly – what gives?

Gender is partially to blame. As you drop kilos you lose fat all over your body, but because women store more fat around their thighs, it takes longer before the muscle toning you have done becomes apparent. But Mother Nature is not the only one at fault: Doing the same workout for 2 months will slow your progress because muscles get used to your routine and you stop seeing changes. Switch things up every four weeks by adding more weights, sets, or reps – or alter the exercises you do. While you are at it, add one more strength session to your weekly plan and use it to focus on your lower body. Start with lunges or squats, then do two to three isolation moves that target specific groups. You don’t mention cardio, but I assume you are doing at least 5 sixty-minute workouts every week. Cardio burns more calories than strength training, and that is key for fat loss. You should see leaner, firmer thighs in about 2 months.

What is carb loading?

In order to work, your muscles use glycogen (stored carbohydrates) for fuel. Carbohydrate loading is a technique used by endurance athletes that involve changes to diet and exercise to maximise glycogen stores, so they can work out longer at an optimal pace. There is more to it than scarfing down a huge bowl of pasta the night before a race. When carbohydrate loading, athletes eat a high carbohydrate diet (7-12g per kilo of body weight) for 3-4 days, combined with a reduced training schedule. Not everyone who plays sport needs to carbohydrate load; it is only for those who regularly exercise at moderate to high intensity for more than 90 minutes. Common difficulties with carb-loading include cutting our fibre rich foods, choosing compact carbohydrates (like cordials, sports drinks, jam and tinned fruit) and eating too many high-fat foods.