Losing weight

How To Lose Weight

Losing weight is as much about what you eat as what you don’t eat – a healthy body needs a balanced diet. Making small, gradual changes to your diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing. Start with changes that are easy to make and that fit into your lifestyle, for example, walking to work instead of getting the bus or choosing an apple instead of a biscuit (or five) will have many health benefits, not just for your waistline but also for your mind.

If you are striving to lose weight, try not to be tempted by extreme diet plans or the latest ‘fat burning diet’. These can seem like a quick fix and initially, you may lose weight fast, but they often result in an unhealthy yo-yoing of body weight. Losing weight too quickly results in losses of both muscle and fat. Muscle is important for burning calories, so in order to ensure your weight loss is mainly body fat, aim to lose about 0.5 – 1kg per week on your weight loss journey. Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight and neither does weight loss so try to be patient in achieving your targets.

Remember, it is impossible to lose weight unless you are in ‘negative energy balance’, which means that the amount of calories that your body is burning should be more than the amount that you are consuming. Calorie restriction of about 500kcal per day, combined with exercise will help to achieve your weight loss goals. You don’t have to count calories or get too bogged down by checking every food label but it only takes a small effort to be more conscious about what you are eating.

Tips for losing weight

  • Eat a diet full of colour. Snack on various fruit and vegetables throughout the day. These are low in fat and calories and it is recommended to have five to seven servings per day. They are packed with vitamins and minerals helping to ensure nutrient needs are met, and they are rich in fibre, which is important for those aiming to feel full. Remember, juicing a fruit removes the fibre, so whole fruits are better if you want to get the full health benefits.
  • Eat regular meals. Eating regular meals as part of a weight loss diet not only keeps your tummy feeling fuller but it also helps to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day. This can prevent sugar cravings later on in the evening. You may think you are saving on calories if you skip breakfast or lunch, but this may end up in a craving for sugary, high-calorie snacks and foods later in the day, which can often lead to an overconsumption of calories.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes. Portion size control can be one of the most important steps to success on a weight loss plan. Simply being vigilant about your portion sizes can prevent passive over-eating e.g. a small, medium and large portion of pasta each contains 150kcal, 250kcal and 375kcal respectively. Choosing a plate with a diameter that does not exceed the length of your hand can be a useful guide. Aim for half of your dinner plate to be made up of vegetables, the portion of meat/fish should be about the size of the palm of your hand and the remainder of the plate should be taken up with a complex carbohydrate such as brown pasta/rice or the humble potato (with skins on). The Department of Health provide a useful guide to portion sizes.
  • Choose ‘balanced’ meals. Try to include a protein, healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate in every meal. Protein and fat will help with satiety and fullness while carbohydrate is required to give us energy. Eggs on wholegrain toast with mushrooms or grilled tomato is a good option for breakfast – the fat and protein present in eggs aids in fullness, while your digestive system will thank you for the wholegrains and vegetables! Another example is natural whole-yogurt, with muesli/granola and mixed berries.
  • Eat more fibre. Fibre is found in oats, fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and seeded bread. It is recommended that we eat 30-35g of fibre each day, so it is important to include fibre rich foods across meals and snacks. Fibre provides bulk, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you naturally eat less but still feel satiated.
  • Choose meals with volume. By choosing foods that are naturally lower in calories per gram, you can have more volume (a bigger portion) which means you get more bang for your buck. These are foods that generally have a high-water content. For example, potatoes have a higher water content and lower energy density than rice or pasta, so you can have a larger volume of potatoes than rice or pasta for the same carbohydrate portion. A stir-fry or leafy salad are great examples of foods with volume – you can sneak in lots of vegetables here, the more the merrier. A large volume of food stimulates satiety, helping you to feel full.
  • Drink water. Often, we mistake thirst for hunger leading to mindless eating and snacking. Aim to drink 8 glasses of water a day throughout the day to stay hydrated. Also, unlike soft-drinks, water is calorie-free! Try sparkling or add sliced fruit and mint leaves to your glass of water for some flavour.
  • Don’t exclude food groups. Limiting entire food groups can put you at risk of losing out on specific nutrients. For example, some keto diets that restrict carb intake are very low in vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables. Dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yoghurt are important sources of calcium and protein in your diet and it is recommended we eat three servings of dairy a day. Dairy is often stigmatised as being ‘fattening’. However, individual foods should not be categorised as fattening without taking into consideration how much of the food is consumed and what the overall diet is composed of. For example, a 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk provides less than 5% of both the calories and fat in a standard 2,000kcal diet. Low-fat milk and cheeses are a good option during a weight-loss plan as these are lower in calories but don’t compromise your calcium requirements. Choose plain, unsweetened yogurts – yogurt is an ideal snack if you feel hungry as it is high in protein which helps keep you satiated.
  • Choose healthier fats. Fat has a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss. However, fat is essential for our health, with several important roles including brain function, cell structure and the absorption of certain vitamins. Including the right type and amount of fat in the diet is important. As fats and oils are high in calories, use these sparingly and try steaming, baking boiling or grilling as alternatives to frying. Choose lean meat, poultry and fish instead of processed meats such as ham, bacon and breaded chicken. Foods with healthy fats such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel), seeds and nuts are a great option and are high in protein too, which helps with satiety.
  • At least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week is recommended for all adults. For weight loss, you should gradually build up to 60 minutes a day, five days a week. Pick an exercise you enjoy and drag a friend along for moral support. Remember, any physical activity such as walking, or housework has health benefits.
  • Keep a food diary. Keeping a food diary of the food you eat and the activities you do will help keep you focused and makes you accountable for your choices. As cliché as it may sound, simply writing down your reasons for losing weight and setting achievable goals can all help instil the motivation required for weight loss.
  • Be optimistic, but realistic. The changes that will come with weight loss will bring you closer to achieving your desired physique, but they will not dramatically transform your natural body shape. Weight loss can’t target specific areas such as ‘belly fat’ and the shifts in body fat distribution can be largely driven by genetics. Weekly goals and weigh-ins are a good way to check-in on your progress, but how you feel in your clothes can also be a great indicator during your weight loss journey.
  • Beware of the ‘beer belly’. Be aware that alcohol contains ‘empty calories’, which means it contains no nutritional value but does provide calories which may contribute to weight gain. As examples, a pint of beer contains about 210 kcals; while a small glass of wine provides about 85 kcals.

 

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