Raise your hand if you have ever found yourself saying at least once in your life: “I want to loose some weight”. Right, we have all been there.
Loosing weight is not easy, and it is not a joke either. It is not easy because there are a lot of factors that stop us: we love our food, we don’t have enough self discipline, we are tempted by friends and family who keep offering us succulent meals and treats, unaware of how we feel, most of all, tempted by the huge amount of food on display in shops, the way they are presented to us, the offers…they are just there to say: “Eat me!”. And so we grab it, because the “buy 1 get 1 free” bright label told us to buy (and eat straight away) two chocolates instead of one.
It is not a joke because trying to lose weight in the wrong way may have an adverse effect on your weight itself and on your health in general.
First thing first, healthy eating means a varied and balanced diet so forget about the various diets that come out every season that have the only purpose of making money for the Doctor (and sometimes not even a Doctor!) who invents them. We have seen quite a bit: Atkins, Cambridge, vegetarian, vegan, zone, ketogenic, raw food… All of these may help you to loose weight in the short run, but each one carries risks in the long run.
Nutrition is such a fascinating but complex topic that one article is not enough to give all the information, so in here I would like to give you just a few tips to get you started. These tips are general, they are not intended for people who want to achieve specific goals such as drastically reduce body fat (as in the fat % in body composition) or build muscles, they are meant for those people who have a few extra kilos they want to shed and want to take things gradually.
Here are my tips:
1 – Be patient, don’t try to loose too much weight too fast. Safe weight loss is about 0.5 kg to 1 kg per week (of course this depends also on your starting weight).
2 – Weight yourself, record your weight on a diary and then hide the scale in the cupboard for the next month.
3 – Don’t skip breakfast. After you have been sleeping for (ideally) 8 hours, your body needs some fuel to start the day. Skipping breakfast thinking you will save a few calories, will tell your body that it has to store more fat in order to give you enough energy to go through the day. Moreover, you will be feeling ravenous at lunch time and will eat more, bringing the calories count up again.
4 – Eat regular smaller meals rather than two or three large meals. Ideally eat every three or four hours, this way your energy levels will be more stable and you will not have high picks followed by low picks forcing the body to constantly adapt.
6:00 am – breakfast
9:00 am – snack
1:00 pm – lunch
4:00 pm – snack
7:00 pm – dinner
5 – Drink enough water. The amount you drink depends on your type of activity and how your body responds to it, however, try to drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters a day. Water will help to flush toxins, keep you hydrated and will also help you to feel less hungry. If you can’t stand pure water, add a slice of lemon. Also try adding a slice of cucomber, you will have a light scented and flavoured drink that will surprise you!
6 – Cut down on alcohol and sugary drinks. We are often under the assumption that drinks don’t bring many calories. Unfortunately, even what seem to be healthy fruit juices, contain a lot of sugar and cause calories to add up very quickly.
7- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. More vegetables than fruit as fruit contain a lot of sugar. Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals which are essential for the body and they also help to absorb the nutrients provided by other types of food.
8- Eat plenty of fibers. Insoluble fibers, found in wheat bran, wholegrain breads and cereals and a variety of fruits and veg, hold water in the digestive tract, thus increasing bulk. This stimulates the muscles of the digestive system to contract and maintain their tone. It helps with constipation and also give a sense of fullness so that you feel less hungry. Soluble fibers, found in oats, beans and other legumes, are partly digested and it seems that they help lowering blood cholesterol levels.
9- Be portion aware. Don’t get carried away with the amount of food you eat, even if this is healthy food. Every calorie counts. Use smaller plates and try to always keep a balance of carbohydrates, fat and proteins.
The Eat Well Plate is a good visual tool to help you keep on track
If you like it, you can use apps that help you keep track of the calories you consume on a daily basis, together with the break down of carbs, proteins, fat and other nutrients. They require a bit of work but they are free and they are worth it. Try :
10- Don’t ban any food. If you feel like having a treat, you can. It is better, especially in the beginning, not to keep stock of junk food in the house to avoid eating the lot. Again, unless you are on a restricted, supervised diet for a specific goal, a small treat every now and then will not do you any harm but it will help you stick to your new regime. With time, you may even learn not to crave that food anymore.
11- Plan your meals in advance. If you plan the day before, it will be easier because your mind will be already set on what you are going to eat. Planning will also help you with your shopping so that you have all the necessary and you don’t end up ordering a take away.
12- Increase your activity. Do some exercise, just find anything you like, the important thing is that you keep moving. Something as simple as a brisk walk every day for 30 minutes will make a difference when combined with good nutrition. Exercise helps burning calories and burst your mood.
13- Learn to say no. Focus, think about what you want to achieve. Say no to a second serving, say no to the family size treat, say no to the high sugar, high fat, say no to anything that can undermine your efforts. Remember, you can still have a treat, just say no to the everyday temptation.
14- Get professional help. All the above should be enough to get you started, you should start seeing your energy level going up and feel less bloated. However, if you are still struggling, maybe you need a more targeted food plan. Get in touch with a registered Dietitian or Nutritionist, they will design a proper food plan taking into account your calorie intake needs, any food intolerance or allergies you may have and your preferences.