Top tips to battle the bulge - Nutrition

Jane McClenaghan highlights some key points to consider if you are struggling with weight loss

Dancing is an effective way for overweight and obese people to lose weight, a review of 10 studies suggests
Weight loss can be a tricky business... (Chris Radburn/PA)

Weight loss can be a tricky business and there are any number of reasons why we can find it hard to shed the pounds. If you have been struggling with weight loss despite all your best efforts, here are eight things to consider.

1. Are you eating enough?

It seems obvious that cutting back on calories will result in weight loss, but sometimes the reality is not that simple. When we restrict calories, we are sending a signal to our body to slow our metabolism and trigger fat storage. Think about nourishing yourself better, rather than cutting calories. Pack your plate with colourful vegetables, a decent portion of protein, some wholegrains and healthy fats like olive oil, oily fish or seeds to help support a healthy metabolism and help to promote weight loss in a sustainable and healthy way.

2. What are you drinking?

Fruit juice, diet drinks, alcohol, lattes and cappuccinos will play havoc with your weight loss goals. Keep well hydrated with enough water (about one and a half litres will do the trick), some herbal teas, green tea and if you drink coffee, go for an Americano or filter coffee instead.

3. Is sugar sneaking into your diet?

Are you loading your trolley with skinny bars, diet foods and low calorie drinks in a bid to lose weight? Take a closer look at the nutrition panel on the back of these packs and you are likely to find a load of sugar hidden behind the health claims. Look for foods containing 5g or less per 100g and drinks with 2.5g or less per 100ml.

4. Are you getting a healthy balance of fat?

Back in the 1990s, we were encouraged to eat a low-fat diet if we wanted to be healthy and lose weight. The assumption was that the fewer calories we ate, the skinnier we would be. But when you consider that fat helps to regulate your appetite, supports a healthy metabolism and is essential for balancing blood sugar and inflammation (two key drivers for obesity), then fat doesn’t look so bad after all.

We need fat to burn fat, so keep levels of your essential omegas topped up with some oily fish a couple of times a week, some nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed and chia) most days and a little olive oil as dressings and drizzles.

Think less about low fat diets and more about eating better fats
Think less about low fat diets and more about eating better fats
5. Are you snacking too much?

Swap your habit of eating little and often to eating three meals a day. If you tend to feel hungry between meals, take a look at what you are eating and check you have some protein on your plate, you are choosing high fibre wholegrains over white and refined carbs and that you are eating a meal, not a snack.

Cutting snacks helps to improve insulin sensitivity to help promote weight loss. When we are constantly grazing we tend to have higher blood glucose levels, making us less responsive to insulin, meaning we need more insulin for the same effect. As insulin is a storage hormone, this can lead to weight gain.

6. Are you eating enough protein?

Most of us don’t hit the mark for protein. Think protein first when you are planning your meals and aim for a palm-sized portion. Eggs, meat, fish, chicken, natural yoghurt, cottage cheese, tofu, nuts and seeds and pulses are all good sources.

7. What sort of exercise are you doing?

Mix your exercise up and aim to include a couple of strength sessions a week, alongside your cardio. Get moving as much as you can. Take regular breaks through your day and take a stretch or get your steps in. The more you move, the better.

8. Are you stressed?

Stress is often the missing link when it comes to weight gain. When we are in fight-or-flight mode, our blood glucose levels can spike, insulin takes a hit and cortisol promotes abdominal fat storage. That’s one of the reasons why so many people find themselves with weight around the middle, despite not changing their diet. Make time to build some rest and relaxation into your week.