Commence Operation Best Self
With the festive feasts and treats behind us, 2020 brings a fresh start as many of us consider a healthier approach to our diet and exercise habits. This New Year (and New Decade!), The Complete Natural provides some helpful hints for sensible slimming.
1. Eating Wisely for Your Waistline
This time of year, ‘fad’ diets which promise quick-fixes for weight loss tend to do the rounds – but be sceptical – especially of those which encourage the elimination of entire food groups. While a certain reduction in calorie intake is advised for weight loss, it is essential that the diet remains balanced and that nutrient requirements are still met. Sustaining fad diets can also prove difficult; therefore, a balanced approach is wiser for long-term goals and overall health.
It may seem awfully sensible and mundane – but balance really is key for success! The Department of Health’s Food Pyramid provides healthy eating guidance and is a helpful tool for achieving a balanced diet. Foods are categorised into six different groups with guidelines on the number of servings to be eaten from each food group on a daily basis. It is advised to choose a variety of foods from each of the bottom four shelves every day to get a good range of vitamins and minerals, limiting foods from the top shelf which are high in fat, sugar and salt.
2.Controlling Calories: Top Tips to Try
Most weight loss diets are focused on reducing calorie intake, with a rate of 0.5-1 kg of weight loss per week considered safe and sensible. As this is often achieved through a reduction in overall food intake, it is essential that the diet still provides all of our daily nutrients. Some tips include:
- Develop a structured eating routine and avoid skipping meals.
- Eat slowly to avoid temptation for second helpings – it can take 15-20 minutes for the brain to realise we are full. Using a smaller sized plate can also trick the mind into thinking we are eating a bigger serving than it actually is!
- Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables daily as part of meals and snacks as these are nutrient-rich but low in calories.
- Don’t ditch dairy! Some may mistakenly believe that they should avoid or limit their intake from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group to lose weight. Due to the term ‘full-fat’, there is a perception that whole milk is high in fat. However, whole milk is standardised to have approximately 3.5 % fat (63 kcal per 100 ml) ; low-fat milk is generally less than 2 % fat (typically 1.5 %); and skimmed milk is less than 1 % fat (typically 0.5). To put this in context, a 200 ml glass of low-fat milk provides just 92 kcal and 3.4 g of fat. This equates to less than 5% of both the calories and fat in a standard 2000 kcal diet. What’s more, milk, yogurt and cheese provide us with a range of nutrients important for our health. For example, calcium, protein and phosphorus assist bone health; protein contributes to muscle growth and maintenance; iodine and riboflavin play roles in skin health; while phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12 assist with energy metabolism.
- Include protein foods (e.g. poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, lentils) across meals and snacks. These are filling options and protein is an important nutrient during weight loss in order to help maintain muscle mass.
- Reduce intake of fried foods – opt to bake, grill or steam instead.
- Keep processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt e.g. crisps, sweets, biscuits for occasions and opt for smarter snacks instead. Examples: fruit (e.g. apple, banana, berries); handful of plain, unsalted nuts; rice/oat cakes with peanut butter; natural yogurt; chopped vegetable sticks (cucumber, carrots, peppers) with hummus.
- Limit sugary drinks e.g. lemonade, cola, energy drinks and alcoholic drinks as most are high in calories with little nutritional value.
- When dining out, choose healthier options such as salad or vegetable side orders and ask for no sauces/dressings, or for them to be served on the side.
- Before you go to the supermarket, make a list and try to stick to it. If possible, don’t shop on an empty stomach as this may tempt you to the treat aisle!
3. Putting Fun into Fitness
There is always a surge of gym memberships in January – often followed by a wane of enthusiasm by February that leaves memberships redundant! A gym session can be the ideal work-out for some, but may not be feasible or enjoyable for everyone. There are many other ways to incorporate exercise into your day –the top tip is to choose an activity you enjoy as you will be more likely to stick to it. Why not benefit from a brisk walk in the evening or a light morning jog? Sport or fitness/ dance classes can be a great way to meet new friends with a common interest. Putting extra effort into daily chores such as housework can also count towards your activity levels – a gleaming home as a result, as well as gleaning the benefits of a housework workout!
4. Maintaining Motivation
Remember, practice makes permanent! With persistence, positive lifestyle choices will soon become part of your everyday routine. Give yourself time to instil changes gradually, and don’t be discouraged if old habits creep in; simply treat as a temporary set-back and not a reason to give up altogether. As well as your own motivation, benefit from the support of family and friends – even better; encourage them to join you in making positive changes to their own lifestyles.