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Nearly two thirds of gym memberships go unused. Don’t let yours be one of them. Make sticking to your fitness plan effortless with these five easy ways to boost motivation. And if you don’t have a plan yet, use ours: sign up to our free Men’s Health #5in5 workout programme to lose 5kg fat and gain 5kg of muscle in just five weeks!

1. Optimally primed

Pepper your day with casual clues – trainers by the front door at home, gym bag ready-packed in your car, protein shake on your desk at work – as reminders of your intention to train, and take time to recall how great you felt after your last workout. Positive memories of your last session send motivation levels soaring, found researchers at the University of New Hampshire. Just be sure to focus on how great you felt after squeezing out that squat, rather than how difficult it was to walk down the stairs to the changing room afterwards.

2. Log your sessions

People who report their progress to others are more likely to carry on with a training plan. But that reporting doesn’t have to be face-to-face, according to research in the Journal of American College Health. The study authors found that logging fitness activity online for others to see inspired as much motivation as regularly working out with a group. But remember: you are notJen Selter. Spare your followers an endless stream of #fitspiration by signing up for the Men’s Health Personal Trainer tool and get access to training and nutrition plans personalised for your unique strength, stats and training goals.

3. Fine yourself

Would you be more likely to go to the gym if you had to fork out a fiver for skipping it? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone, according to a handful of studies and the creators of Pact, a clever smartphone app that has users check in at their gyms via GPS and charges them for missed workouts. Each week, money is pooled from the non-exercisers and distributed among Pact users who have managed to hit their workout goals. Sign up and never skip a workout to earn money and muscle.

4. Get a training partner

If you work out with a buddy, make sure he’s in similar shape, suggests a study in the journal Science. Researchers found participants who exercised with partners similar in BMI, age, and fitness level were more than three times as likely to stick with their fitness plans as those with less compatible partners. Whatever you do, don’t work out with someone much fitter, say scientists. That sets unrealistic goals and undermines motivation.

5. Think smaller

Large goals can seem unattainable. Instead, focusing on incremental victories brings better results, report scientists in the Journal of Consumer Research. So rather than dwelling on the 15 pounds you want to lose, think about doubling your current 3-pound loss.


Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer today stated in her annual report that tackling obesity should be a national priority to avert a “growing health catastrophe”.

While the report looked specifically at women, England’s top doc said obesity was so serious that is should be a priority for the whole population. She also warned that the food industry needed to pull its socks up or face a sugar tax (do we need a sugar tax? Join the debate). 

Obesity throughout the country is an epidemic, and we need to act fast before it overwhelms our body, the NHS and the economy. It’s causing a fatal class divide and thousands of deaths. If something isn’t done, our nation could collapse under its own weight.

Men’s Health investigates what can be done…

(Lunch)time bomb

You don’t need a time machine to glimpse this fatter future. A trip to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire will do. According to market researchers CACI, this Scottish town has the UK’s fattest residents. One in five has a BMI above 30 and cabbies limit loads to two passengers. It’s no coincidence that Britain’s fat capital is also one of its most deprived areas. A map of the UK drawn by the National Obesity Observatory (NOO) shows a stark class and geographical divide. The fattest areas include the North East, where unemployment rates are among the highest at 9.6%. Earning power seems directly linked to your girth, with only 21.6% of top-earning households seriously over weight, compared with 29.3 % of households where cash is tight.

If we don’t act, our ‘fatocalypse’ will become reality. The Foresight report predicts that by 2050 we’ll have an economic and health crisis if current trends continue. If you’re one of those making up the far-too-round number, the personal consequences will be dire. The British Dietetic Association warns that risk of fatal disease increases by 1% for every pound you’re overweight. Obesity ups your risk of heart disease by 82%, your risk of type 2 diabetes doubles if your BMI hits 25 and University of Aberdeen research found a 20lb (9kg) weight increase cuts your chances of fatherhood by 10%. Harvard Medical School has even coined a new term for patients suffering from obesity-related diabetes: ‘diabesity.’

Looking at the big picture, the cost to society will be crippling. NHS spending will increase from £104 to £114bn by 2015, but in real terms it will be static, thanks to rising costs and patient numbers. Health charity The King’s Fund and economic think tank The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimate this leaves a £20bn funding gap. “There’s a gap between what we’d like to spend and what we have, and obesity comes into that,” says King’s Fund health economist John Appleby. “NHS funding is flat in real terms and the cash just won’t be there.”

While the NHS budget flatlines, obesity costs are soaring. Over 5.5m over-16s are on obesity registers, a rise of 250,000 in the past year. Research by Diabetes UK shows the impact of this in a 5.5% rise in type 2 diabetes cases in a single year. Treating diabetes costs the NHS an annual £8bn, the cost of prescription weight-loss drugs is up 13% to £47m, and obesity operations 40% to £32m. Perhaps the most shocking figure is that each NHS hospital spends an average of £60,000 annually on ‘supersizing’ beds, wheelchairs and equipment for heavier patients. All this while cancer drugs are being rationed.

Related: Are you sleepwalking your way towards type 2 diabetes? 

The predicted cost to the nation also includes the amount taxpayers will be funding in incapacity benefit for those whose obesity-related health problems mean they can barely walk, let alone travel to an office. “The consequences are so wide-ranging that no country, however wealthy, will be able to afford the fallout – whether it’s pervasive diabetes affecting 30-50% of adults or heart disease, ar thritis, cancers or respiratory problems,” says Professor Philip James, chair of the International Obesity Task Force. He points out that the fat epidemic is already responsible for half of all the increasing costs of the US health sector.

Slim chance

So far, the government’s response has been to ‘nudge’ the public into slimming down, with initiatives like cinema tickets for children who walk to school. The Department of Health says it is ‘concerned’ about the prevalence of obesity and its ‘serious implications’. A spokesman told MH that ministers were ‘working hard’ on new measures but ‘nannying’ people to lose weight is not on the agenda. “The Government’s role is not to lecture people, not to nanny them, not constantly to be legislating or taxing them,” says the DoH spokesman. Many experts argue that more drastic action is needed.

Some German politicians have already suggested fat people should pay higher taxes because of the burden they place on the health system. Or there should at least be a tax on fatty food. “A junk food tax is sound in principle,” says Paul Sacher, specialist dietician at Great Ormond Street Hospital.“ But it will only work if it’s high enough to stop people buying high-fat, sugar and salt foods. Otherwise it just becomes a tax on the poor.” And, he argues, cash raised through a tax on unhealthy foods should be used to subsidise more nutritious foods. Sacher also supports limiting advertising unhealthy foods to children to ‘minimise’ the ‘pester power effect.’

Pay as you gorge

The influential health journalist Ian Marber takes a more radical stance, calling on the Government to bring in National Insurance pay bands which reflect our individual lifestyles. Those who don’t exercise, or have a high body fat, should pay the top band. “Those who don’t drink or smoke and eat healthily should pay the lowest amount,” says Marber. “It’s like any other type of insurance. You pay according to your risk.”

How we stop the next generation from supersizing is one of the most vital issues. Children are feeding their ‘fat future’ before the age of five and parents are often to blame, argues Terry Wilkin, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth. His long-term research found sons of obese fathers are six times more likely to be obese, and he stresses that we need to tackle parents to stop this ‘conveyor belt’. “Obese parents are ‘recycling’ their obesity through inappropriate feeding,” says Wilkin. The demise of family mealtimes has an impact, he argues, because we no longer understand the impact of portion sizes. It’s a theory backed by University of Wales research, which showed children who don’t have set mealtimes don’t learn appropriate eating habits. “It’s vital that we educate children at an early age, but it has to be a whole family approach – the parents buying the food need the knowledge and understanding, too,” says Sacher. Wilkin’s solution is controversial: “We should target obese couples pre-conception.”

Related: Obesity is gentic but it can be fought! 

Obviously blame doesn’t rest solely at the (partially obscured) feet of overweight individuals. Many stress that the food industry’s role in the global obesity crisis needs to be tackled. No one force-feeds us quarter pounders, but are they playing with our minds? Dr David Kessler, former commissioner of the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), warns that food chains – including supermarkets – are manipulating us so that we consume more. His book, the New York Times bestseller The End of Overeating, highlights the use of salt, sugar and fat as the most commonly used ingredients, in terms of dietary manipulation. His investigations revealed that some restaurant chains deliberately increase these ‘killer’ ingredients in starters, so we eat more throughout the meal and are more likely to develop addictive eating behaviour.

Related: 11 of the best exercises to lose weight

A matter of course?

A first step in controlling the food industry could – and many say should – be to ban the use of trans fats. These chemically-altered vegetable oils are public enemy number one, according to Professor Lindsey Davies, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health. They’re in many of processed foods because they’re cheap, bulk ingredients, which prolong shelf lives. But they have no nutritional value, Davies points out, and cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen, upping your bodyweight, even when you’re controlling calorie intake. Their link to obesity has been confirmed in research by Wake Forest University in the US. “Thousands are dying from them,” says Davies. “And we get hysterical about E. coli, which may kill a handful of people. Trans fats are contaminating food.”

If our weighty issue isn’t tackled now, we could be facing a bleak nutritional future. Wilkin believes there will come a time when there will be draconian measures, just as society came round to a public smoking ban. The Future Foundation goes further, predicting a Christmas Future where sugary foods are banned and chocolate is rationed. It’s not so improbable. In the US, education chiefs in Pennsylvania have drafted regulations limiting classroom birthday parties to one a month.

In the meantime, maybe it’s better to give that burger a miss.


There are many claims on our sympathy nowadays, so Britain’s fattest man Carl Thompson was never going to get much of a look-in. The 33-year-old weighed 65 stone when he died in June, housebound and basically bedridden. He was alone but not out of sight – tabloid infamy had confined Carl to a thoroughly modern bedlam, where newspaper readers and daytime TV viewers were invited to survey this fleshy catastrophe. Step right up! You could gasp in mock horror at Carl’s food diary, feel disgust at the rolls of fat that seemingly merged his head with his sternum, work up some moral outrage about the NHS funds spent on cleaning and caring for him… do anything but feel some human empathy for the fact that this was a relatively young man whose life had moved disastrously out of balance, and who was heading inexorably toward a miserable, early death.

You can’t legitimately sneer at many people these days, but fatties are still fair game. And they’re a boon for the sort of TV producer who spends their life looking for something that’s going to make Benefit Street look like Émile Zola. A blubbery subject can be trailed from takeaway to takeaway accompanied by comedy trombone parps; a wretched red-top Gagool whose sole accomplishment is getting booted off The Apprentice can binge her way to a few extra pounds, lose them and then claim this empirically proves the obese are just weak and lazy; a public schoolboy can switch off the suppressor on his inner Flashman by proposing a tax on the obese – generally with extreme examples drawn from northern mill towns or southern housing estates. Like most British political issues, obesity comes with an ugly, oft-denied but obviously prevalent class dimension.


Terminate with prejudice

Willpower behaves a lot like a muscle: it can be strengthened, but it’s going to tire out if you ask it to do too much. Don’t go in all guns blazing; try to change your diet and quit smoking at the same time, and you’ll only fail in both.

Keep your distance

Describe what’s happening to you in the third person, as if you’re an onlooker: “The soldier is about to capitulate and gobble the doughnut.” Yes, you will look slightly mad to any actual onlookers, but this technique helps to suck out the emotional cues that make you reach for the sugary snack.

Disguise the danger

Don’t see a Danish pastry sitting provocatively on the counter. Think of it as a small pool of brown-coloured fat that has been extracted from between your organs. See it for what it isn’t and it will be easier to defuse cravings.

Plan your defence

The ‘If, then’ rule says that when you encounter temptation, you have a preset choice that you must always commit to. So, “If I see chips on the menu… Then I’ll order a side salad.’ This will stop you being caught off-guard.

Picture the threat

Try putting an imaginary frame around your temptation and see it as a picture. Or imagine it in black-and-white newsreel footage, or in a music video from the 80s. This distance makes it less real and cuts your physical connections to the food.

Chill out

There are two parts of your brain working when you make decisions: a hasty, emotional, greedy part, and a cooler, more analytical part. You can learn to rely more on the cooler part by simply counting to 10 and visualising your end goal: long-term happiness, not a few frenzied moments wrestling a cream cake into submission.


) Dave Leather

Before: Age 19, weight 21st (133kg), waist 44in (112cm)
Vices: Eating late at night, a diet of beer and pizzas

After: Age 21, weight 14st 4lb (90kg), waist 33in (84cm) 
Victories: Men’s Health cover-model competition finalist

Dave Leather’s story is one of the most inspiring ever published in Men’s Health. Not only was he a Fat Burner of the Month, he also went on to be a finalist in the Cover Model Competition.

“I didn’t even realise I was getting fat – it happened over 10 years,” says Dave. “I was chubby as a child, but not fat. Then I went to university, ate pizzas and drank a lot – I got big. I’d cut down on food,” he says. “But I failed to lose weight because I didn’t know the difference between fats, proteins, carbs and sugars.”

He only started to burn serious amounts of fat when he got his head around the food science and started a daily training regime. “I now avoid saturated fat and try to eat 30-50g protein every three hours when I’m training hard, and five small meals a day when I’m not.”

For Dave’s full story plus all the latest nutritional science and a super-fast fat-burning workout plan, get your copy of the new Men’s Health book, The Fat Burner’s Bible, by clicking here

Build More Muscle, Faster

What you scarf post-workout matters for building and repairing muscle. And while scientists have long known that protein should be a key component of whatever you consume to get the job done, two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveal one reason whywhey protein stands above all others: It’s the leucine.

“Whey is a high-quality milk protein that’s a rich source of the essential amino acid leucine,” says Stefan Pasiakos, Ph.D., a physiologist with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. And consuming lots of leucine leads to greater muscle protein synthesis—the intricate process that helps promote the remodeling, repair, and muscle growth that occurs after exercise, the study explains.

More from MensHealth.com: The Truth About Protein

In Pasiakos’ study, military members rode stationary bikes for 60 minutes at a moderate intensity on two separate occasions. Both times they chugged a beverage with equal amounts of protein, but one drink contained 1.9 grams of leucine, while the other packed 3.5 grams. (For reference: 10 grams of regular whey protein contains about 1 gram of leucine.) Researchers found protein synthesis was 33 percent higher after the larger leucine dose. “Leucine can help trigger complex signaling networks within muscles that turn on muscle protein synthesis,” Pasiakos says.

Meanwhile, the second American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that consuming 25 grams of whey protein that contained 3.5 grams of leucine after a resistance training workout led to higher blood concentrations of amino acids, including leucine, than when participants downed smaller repeat doses of whey meant to mimic another type of protein called casein. The reason? Whey is digested quickly, and makes essential amino acids available sooner—leading to a greater muscle protein synthesis response, Pasiakos says.

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