| 8 vital questions you should ask before trying to lose weight

It can be hard to keep up with the barrage of diet trends and bold claims that promise to help you reach that feel-great weight, and if you’re struggling to drop kilos and improve your race times, it is even more difficult to wade through the tidal waves of advice.

What’s more, nutrition guidance for runners often contradicts even the most conventional dieting advice.

To get you started on a path to weight-loss success through running, ask yourself these key questions about your running and diet goals before you dive in head first.

1. Does this training programme fit my lifestyle?

Some people try to follow off-the-shelf training approaches, or follow a coach’s training advice to the letter of the law. Most of the time, generic training advice will only work if it is adapted to fit the rhythms of your everyday life – and your unique needs, goals and time constraints.

If you’re following a training programme that requires three or four uninterrupted hours for a long run or demands two workouts on a single day, you need to know if you can reasonably do that.

If not, be willing to adapt that programme to fit your schedule so you don’t get discouraged and go off track.

2. What are my unique eating challenges?

temptations,bad habits,eating

Some people can only shed weight if they keep sugary foods out of sight, while others can only drop unwanted weight by making small, incremental changes. Do some critical thinking about where your trouble spots are – like eating before bed or indulging on the weekend – so you can map out your own personal plan for improvement.

3. Do I hold myself hostage to high standards?

exercise programme,diet,healthy

Whether it’s logging 160-kilometre months or glimpsing that dream pace, it is powerful and confidence boosting to see what we can do with intense focus. But if you hold your training hostage to the fastest or farthest you’ve ever run – or what your younger body could do – you’re setting yourself up for chronic disappointment.

Think instead: How many kilometres and what kinds of training loads are sustainable before my body, schedule, relationships and work performance start breaking down? Pace your training the same way you would an easy run, and ease into a rhythm that feels sustainable enough that you could maintain it for a very long time.

4. Can I sustain this particular diet?


If an approach to eating feels like a sacrifice, ultimately it’s going to backfire. If your daily diet is too expensive, inconvenient, lacks a balance of the right nutrients, leaves you feeling depleted or feels like you’re punishing yourself, it’s not going to last.

When trying different eating approaches ask, “Can I maintain this for the rest of my life if I had to?” That answer can change as your schedule, body, metabolism and training changes.

5. What are the main ‘priorities’ with my running?

running variations,running

In your running life, the one thing that should not change over time is the enjoyment and good health you get from running.

Keep “happiness” as the one non-negotiable of your running and be flexible enough to let all other factors – PB goals, weekly mileage, terrain and racing schedule – evolve.

If you handcuff your running “identity” to a single type of training, race distance or a specific number of kilometres logged, burnout and injury are all but guaranteed.

6. Can I adapt my diet as my running changes?

healthy eating,training

As a runner, you will always want to make sure you’re getting a balance of wholesome carbs, protein and healthy fats that your nutrition needs. But your cravings are going to change as your training changes, and so will your appetite, schedule, time and interest in cooking.

Many runners get tripped up because they continue to eat marathon-sized daily kilojoule loads long after they cross the finish line, or they reward themselves for workouts with sweet and savoury treats.

Adjust the kilojoules you consume to the training that you’re doing and pay close attention to why you are eating, customising your meals and snacks to fuel your workouts and recover from them.

7. How will I brush off setbacks?


Progress typically involves one step forward, two steps back. Decide what you will focus on when the chips seem down.

8. Can I learn from my small mistakes?

weight loss,journey

Success is not about 24-hour perfection. It’s about progression. And weight loss is a process of learning what works for you and what doesn’t.

Think of each diet slip up as a lesson. Say you’ve gone cold-turkey on sweets, but then find yourself with a voracious craving for chocolate. Then you’ve learnt that cold-turkey approach isn’t for you.

If you find that you’re rifling through the refrigerator after your good-old dinner standby, you’re learning that it may be time to mix up your menu options. Click here for more nutritional help.

To start running properly, follow one of our training programmes.

This article was originally featured on

Image credits: iStock

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | 5 diseases we can get from animals

Comforting as it may be, snuggling with your beloved pet may end up making you ill. This is because some common house pets and farm animals can infect you with a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are diseases passed from animals to humans.

From mild to fatal, zoonotic diseases may have very little impact on animals but lead to death in humans.

1. Cat scratch disease (CSD)

cat, animal diseases

Humans can contract this bacterial infection when an infected cat scratches or bites them. A cat can also transfer the disease if it licks an open wound on a human body.

The disease is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae.

Symptoms of CSD, which include fatigue, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, may only appear 14 days after the initial infection and may result in brain disease or inflammation of the optic nerve.

2. Listeriosis

animal diseases, chicken

The disease, which recently led to the death of a pregnant South African woman, is mostly contracted through the ingestion of contaminated food. 

The bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, is occurs in poultry and cattle and can be passed to humans through the ingestion of the meat of an infected animal, or dairy products made from the milk of infected cattle.

Symptoms of the disease range from headaches to confusion and seizures. Listeriosis can be fatal in some cases.

3. Rabies

rabies, animal diseases

Perhaps the most commonly known zoonotic disease, rabies causes more than 59 000 worldwide deaths annually. According to the South African National Travel Health Network (SaNTHNet), 95% of deaths as a result of rabies occur in Africa and Asia. 

Rabies can be transferred to humans through the bite of an infected animal. In South Africa, many reported cases are a result of dog bites.

Fever, intolerance of bright light, hyperactivity as well as fear of water are some of the symptoms of rabies.

Paralytic rabies, which accounts for 30% of human rabies cases, can result in gradual paralysis and eventually death.

4. Query Fever

cow milk, query fever

Also called Q fever, this bacterial infection can be passed from animals to humans by simply breathing in dust that has been exposed to the faeces, urine or milk of an infected animal.

Likely to be found in goats, sheep and cattle, severe infection can lead to pneumonia and hepatitis.

Infected humans will experience fever, night sweats or chills, stomach pains, nausea and vomiting.

5. Plague

infected rats, rodents, the plague

With most cases of the plague occurring in Africa, this zoonotic disease can be fatal if left untreated.

Often passed to humans through the bite of an infected rodent or fleas, symptoms of the plague begin to show within six days of the onset of infection. Infected people will experience chills, chest pain, body aches as well as a sudden fever. 

If left untreated, the bacteria could enter the bloodstream and cause septicemic plague. The bacteria can also enter the lungs and result in pneumonic plague – which is fatal if not treated early. 

Image credit: iStock