If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t rush it. The healthiest and permanent way to lose weight is slowly and methodically. Set yourself small day-to-day goals and don’t be tempted to crash diet. If you do, you’ll lose water, which the body quickly regains when you start eating normally again.
It’s safe to lose 1-2Ibs a week, according to independent medical website Netdoctor, which means cutting out 300-500 calories a day. Over the year this equates to three stone. The basic rule is to expend more energy than you consume. Swap saturated fats for good fats (essential fatty acids), and move around more during the day. Aim to be ‘good’ 80% of the time, says nutritional expert Dr Marilyn Glenville, and treat yourself regularly. Reduce your stress levels, too.
Here are my top 20 tips for healthy weight loss:
1. Sweet treats
Swap pastries and cakes for a wholemeal scone or hot cross bun. If you love chocolate go organic and swap milk varieties for dark or nibble on chocolate or yoghurt coated raisins. Dark chocolate contains plant compounds called flavonoids, which lower blood pressure levels. Studies show that 1-2 servings a week can promote good health. Cut out sugar in coffee/tea or substitute with natural alternatives such as Stevia or honey.
2. Sauce it up
Make your own pasta sauces using fresh tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil. They taste far superior to shop-bought varieties, which often contain sugar and other additives. Make a batch at the weekend and freeze for quick suppers mid-week.
3. Low GI (Glycemic Index)
The Glycemic Index measures the impact of carbs on our blood sugar levels. The body quickly breaks down white carbs, supplying quick energy. Look for low GI options (wholemeal foods), which will fill you up for longer and give you sustained energy. Nutritional expert Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules has the following mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He told Healthy magazine* that white flour is now closer to sugar than a plant food. “It turns to sugar as soon as it hits your tongue. There are benefits in wholegrain that you don’t get in white flour.”
*Source: Healthy magazine: “Eat Smart by Jane Druker” (September 2010)
4. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Cider vinegar has numerous health benefits and according to various studies, can support weight loss. It helps to balance blood sugar, lowers cholesterol levels, and fills you up if consumed before you eat. Here’s more info from an article by health and nutrition writer and blogger Elizabeth Walling.
5. Watch your portion size
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a Prince, and dine like a pauper.” It’s better to eat larger meals earlier in the day to fuel your body so it has chance to burn off the calories. Your activity levels are higher during the day so it makes sense to have a bigger breakfast. If you eat a heavy meal before going to bed your body is still metabolising as you sleep, which can feel uncomfortable.
6. Drink milk
Milk is a great source of calcium and research shows it can help you to lose weight, says Weight Loss Resources dietician Juliette Kellow. She explains that researchers at Purdue University, India studied women who consumed 1,000mg of calcium a day (1.5 pints) over a period of two years. They lost 6IB during this time. Other studies support the role calcium plays in weight loss. If you can’t tolerate cow’s milk, try goat’s milk – it has a lighter and fresher taste.
7. Soup it up
Experiment with homemade soups – they’re filling, packed with nutrients, low fat, and portable. Take a flask of soup to work for lunch and serve with a hunk of wholemeal bread. The New Covent Garden Food Co Book of Soups has tons of inspiring recipes.
8. Go to work on an egg
Studies show that eating eggs for breakfast can help you lose up to 2Ib a month. Weight Loss Resources Dietician Juliette Kellow explains that new research from the Rochester Center for Obesity in the US has found that eating eggs can limit overall daily calorie intake by 400 cals because they keep you full for longer. One egg contains 85 cals and scrambled, poached or boiled is best.
9. Move around more
Exercise boosts our serotonin levels, which makes us feel positive and happy.
Think about ways to incorporate exercise into your day. Aside from workouts, this includes walking, housework, sex, playing with the kids, and shopping. Go for a short walk after dinner to help your body digest what you’ve eaten. A 15-minute walk burns 52 cals, according to Weight Loss Resources.
My old flatmate used to go for a 45-minute run every day and reckoned she could eat whatever she liked because of it.
10. Improve your posture
Research shows having good posture can help you to lose weight. It makes the body more efficient: aids circulation, stretches the muscles, aids flexibility, and reduces tension in the body and pressure on joints and muscles. Try balancing a book on your head. Carry less stuff in your handbag. My personal trainer, Claire Waughman, has some helpful suggestions about pre and post-baby posture, and exercises to improve it.
11. Keep a food diary
Keeping a food diary is a great way to focus your mind and bring attention to any emotional eating patterns. It will help you get to know your body – when you are naturally hungry, and what fills you up, so you can differentiate between boredom and real hunger. Nutri Diary is a free online resource to help you keep a food diary.
12. Emergency supplies
Keep a stash of nuts, fruit, chopped veg, seeds, and oatcakes in your handbag or desk drawer at work so you aren’t tempted to reach for a bag of crisps or chocolate bar. Eating small amounts regularly during the day will keep your metabolism going and you’ll burn more fat. If you deprive your body of regular meals it goes into starvation mode and hangs on to fat stores for longer. Graze is a new online service (UK-based) delivering healthy snack boxes to your home/office. The first box is free.
13. Avoid mindless eating
Relish food: chew slowly, deliberately and thoroughly. Make meals a proper occasion (sit at the table, candles for supper). Don’t slump in front of the TV; eat on the hop, or in front of the laptop. Follow the “eat until you’re ¾ full principle.” If you eat on the go, your body thinks you’re stressed, and will struggle to digest food properly.
14. Drink more water
Water has numerous health benefits. It curbs hunger pangs, helps your body detox, aids concentration, clears the skin, reduces cellulite, and gives you energy. Swap fizzy drinks for sparkling water and elderflower. Try Vitaminwater. Aim for 6-8 glasses of filtered water a day.
15. Think thin
Try a session of Hypno-SLIM with Rosie Harness – a one-session hypnotherapy programme that works with individuals to help them lose weight without yo-yo dieting.
16. Explore aromatherapy
Certain essential oils can help to reduce food cravings, lessen stress, lift your spirits, and energise you, says Weight Loss Resources’ staff member Helen Griffiths. She suggests the following: vanilla for food cravings, and jasmine, frankincense, lavender, or sandalwood for stress and self-acceptance. Book an aromatherapy massage and ask the therapist for suggestions.
17. Eat Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
EFA’s (omega-3 and omega-6) are essential for our health says nutritional expert Dr Marilyn Glenville. Our bodies cannot make them so food is the only source. She explains that they do the following:
• They make carbs slow-release, reducing the speed at which the stomach empties.
• Boost metabolism
• Make you less insulin-resistant
• Reduce inflammation in the joints.
18. Practise visualisation and affirmation
It might sound airy-fairy but a daily affirmation or visualisation exercise will reinforce what you’re trying to do and make it happen. It’s about the law of attraction and taps into the ideas explored by Rhoda Byrne in her bestselling book The Secret. On many levels, our thoughts create our reality. Doing positive mental exercises will raise your energy levels and help you to relax. Choose a strong statement that works for you and say it out loud regularly or write it down.
19. Keep yourself busy
Keep yourself busy and active so that there’s no time to obsess over food. If your mind is occupied, you’re less likely to snack from boredom and will eat when you’re hungry. Join new groups, challenge yourself, learn new skills, and get out and about. See food for what it is: a regular way to nourish the body and plan mealtimes if you know you’ll be home late. As my friend Rebecca Dunphy, a wine events organiser says: “I don’t have the time to snack!”
20. Avoid negative stress
Dr Marilyn Glenville believes that the stress hormone Cortisol is a major contributor to ‘fat around the middle’ – the type of fat that is harmful to our health and difficult to shift. She has devised a lifestyle plan to help you get rid of it for good. She explains that when we get stressed our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol (fight or flight syndrome). This gives us an instant boost of energy to help us stay safe. The problem is that our bodies interpret all kinds of stress in the same way – from everyday “I’ve missed the train” scenarios to more threatening situations.
Unless you work off the excess energy physically, the body will store it as fat and glucose around the middle, so that it can quickly be converted to energy if we need it (fight or flight). Being stressed also increases our appetite, so it’s a vicious circle, as you constantly feel hungry.
Marilyn’s solution is explained in her e-book and involves changes to diet, exercise routine, taking supplements, and stress management. She explains that when cortisol levels fall, we feel calmer and happier.