Nutrition: Eight ways to help you lose weight well
THERE are so many different diets, meal replacement programmes and eating plans that promise to shed weight and make us skinny that it can be difficult to make sense of it all.
When it comes to weight loss, I always think 'health first', which is why I am not a fan of dieting, calorie counting or any kind of restriction. Instead, my approach to weight loss is to think about striking a better balance and getting back to eating real food. Work out how to eat to be as healthy as can be, and you will work out how to lose weight healthily.
The difficulty can be working out what a healthy diet really means, and our perception of healthy food has been skewed in favour of the messages we have been given by a very influential diet industry.
Over the years we have been told that the only way to lose weight is to restrict calories and cut out fat, or to restrict carbohydrates and eat lots of protein.
Oh, and by the way, while you are at it, you can buy lots of these bars, treats and ready meals to help you out.
Take a closer look at any of these highly processed diet foods and you are likely to find a whole list of ingredients that wouldn't look out of place in a science lab, or a dose of white and refined carbs, with a sprinkle of sugar or artificial sweetener to sweeten the blow.
If you have loaded on the lockdown pounds and are keen as a bean to shed some weight, then here is what I would suggest you do about it:
1. Get moving
When we exercise we feel better, and when we feel better we are more likely to make healthier choices. Move your booty and get exercising for 30 minutes a day. Do what makes you happy - swim, gym, walk or cycle. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you are moving.
2. Eat real food
Get back to basics and eat food in its natural state. Whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, natural dairy products, beans and lentils, meat, fish and chicken and wholegrains like oats and brown rice.
3. Eat three meals a day
Most of us do our best to eat nourishing, healthy meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it can be snacks that throw us off track. Drop the snacks, just for a week and see how you feel. Are you snacking out of habit, boredom or just because it is 3pm? Take more notice of your hunger and you will probably find you don't need to snack so often. If you do get hungry between meals, snack on fruit, raw veg, a handful of nuts or some natural yoghurt - not skinny bars, low fat mousse or other junk foods.
4. Balance your plate
Pack half your plate with a selection of colourful vegetables, pop in a palm-size portion of protein and about a fist-size portion of low GI, higher fibre carbohydrates (in other words brown rice, wholewheat pasta, new potatoes with skins on - you need the fibre to keep blood sugar and insulin levels nicely balanced).
5. Get a good night's sleep
When we don't sleep well, our hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin go a bit out of balance, leaving us ravenously hungry and likely to binge on sugar and refined carbs. Getting a decent night's sleep will help balance your appetite and make eating well an easier choice.
6. Allow your body time to rest and digest
Aim to eat within a 10 hour window - maybe your breakfast is at 8am and dinner at 6pm, or move your breakfast a little later for a week (eat between 10am and 8pm) and see how you feel. When you notice how you feel when you make changes to your diet, you are listening to your body and working out what works for you.
7. Keep a food diary
Write down what you are eating and notice your patterns and routines. Think about why you are eating what you eat, and how that food makes you feel. Then change one little thing each week and see what works for you.
8. Rethink your drinks
Remember that cordials, juices, fizzy drinks and booze will all add up to weight gain, so keep an eye on what you are drinking as well as what you are eating.