You could lose weight with that new crash diet, or opt for the ‘perfect 100 per cent of the time with your diet’ approach. But deep down you will know that these ‘all or nothing’ diets don’t last for long. Nor are they healthy – for body, mind or soul.Dietitian Lyndel Costain gives her top diet tips to lose weight and keep it off.
1. Stay clued upKnowledge is power. By arming yourself with the facts about healthy diet, and ignoring the fads, you are more likely to build confidence in your abilities and achieve your weight loss goals.
WLR can help! Long term weight control is about being realistic, and enjoying healthy eating and exercise habits for life – and reaping all the benefits.
3. Keep a food diaryWriting down what you eat and drink and any thoughts linked to that eating helps you become more aware of your eating habits and problem areas. Recognising what is going on and understanding more about yourself is a powerful way to start planning changes to your diet and puts you in control.
Keeping a food diary, even intermittently, also helps you stay on track, and lets you look back to see the great progress you’ve made. (You can try WLR's online food diary free for 24 hours.)
4. Weight goalsLosing 5-10% of your weight is an ideal target, according to research. This can be broken down into smaller manageable steps, for example, 4-5lbs at a time. Remember too that just keeping your weight stable is a great achievement in itself these days. Losing modest amounts of weight are not just easier to keep off but bring big health benefits. For example, if you are overweight, losing 5-10% of your weight can halve your risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. Set realistic goalsWhen making changes to your diet and exercise habits start small and set a few realistic goals. If they are realistic, you are more likely to achieve and stick with them and feel successful, which in turn boosts your self-esteem and self-confidence for ongoing success.
6. Work out how to achieve your goalsSetting a goal ideally includes a plan for how to achieve it, and how to overcome things that might get in the way such as trigger eating (see below), poor food choices at work, eating the kid’s leftovers or too many takeaways. Writing your goals and action plans helps enormously.
7. Trigger eatingMuch of the eating we do when we aren’t hungry, or the cravings we have, is a habit-like response to a variety of triggers. These can be external, such as the sight or smell of food, or internal and emotion-led, such as a response to stress, anger, boredom or emptiness.
A food diary helps you recognise this ‘trigger’ or ‘non-hungry’ eating, which in turn places you in a better position to deal with it. For example, make a conscious choice to eat (or not to eat - see below) a food. Or plan ways to avoid triggers in the first place, for example, keep ‘binge’ foods out of the house or join an evening class to keep you away from the TV, crisps and wine bottle!
8. Be a conscious eaterTry to make conscious choices about what you eat, especially when tempted to overeat. For example, ask yourself, ‘I can eat this if I want to, but do I really feel like it?’ You can then choose to eat it (or some of it), or not, as you will have considered the consequences. Not only will it help you feel in control and achieve your goals, it will stop you feeling deprived.
9. Coping with cravingsIf unwanted food cravings do strike, acknowledge them – have a chat to them even – then distract yourself, for example, with a chore, a more involving task, go out for a walk, call a friend or colleague, play with the kids, or paint your nails. Like a wave, cravings rise then ebb away. By waiting 15 minutes and ‘surfing’ the craving, you should find they pass away – and your conscious choice becomes simple.
10. Eat regular mealsRegular meals, starting with breakfast, help you to regulate how much you eat by stabilising blood sugar levels and allowing you to recognise natural feelings of hunger and fullness. They also stop you worrying about hunger as you will know your next meal or snack is not far away! And a healthy breakfast, is not only linked to long term weight control success, but a healthier, more nutritious diet overall.
11. Plan aheadPlan ahead to ensure the right foods are available at the right time. Think about breakfast, lunch, healthy snacks and an evening meal. Have some ready meals in the fridge (serve with extra veg) for those emergency moments. Planning can take extra time and effort, but it will soon become a habit that will really make a difference.
Losing weight healthily can be easy and doesn't have to cost a fortune if you plan ahead. Try our Budget Diet Plan to get you started.
12. Beware ‘all or nothing’ thinking’You know that feeling when you really overdo the chocolate or a night out and think you’ve blown it so may as well give up – and keep on eating… The blow out isn’t a problem, but your reaction could be.
Lapses are a normal part of change. You can’t be, nor need to be perfect 100% of the time to lose weight. Doing well 80-90% of the time is great progress. Rather than feel you have failed and give up, look at what you can learn from a bad day or week and plan to do things differently in the future. Then forgive, talk positively to yourself about what you have achieved already, and get back on track.
13. Build in some fave foodsIt’s fine to build some fave foods into your healthy diet plan. Successful slimmers do it as it helps them avoid feeling deprived. Make sure you choose quality foods that you really feel like eating (do you fancy sweet, savoury, crunchy, creamy at that time?), sit down, eat slowly and savour them.
Deciding on what you will truly enjoy (and knowing that you can have it again another time if you want to) adds satisfaction and means you’re likely to be happy with a small amount.
14. Reward yourselfIf you have set yourself some specific goals, for example, to have regular meals, or lose 3lbs in 2 weeks or eat your 5 a day, reward yourself when you have achieved it for example, with a new CD, seeing a movie, a new hairstyle, or outfit. It will also help to plan a big reward for when you have achieved your longer term weight goal. You will definitely deserve it.
15. Get some supportIt could be from a friend, partner, colleague at work, self-help group, health professional, health club, slimming group, book, tape or video, diet ‘buddy’ or chat room. Have a good chat with your supporters about how they can best help you. Getting the right support is a vital part of long term slimming success.
16. Keep it balancedMake meals automatically healthy, balanced and satisfying. Half fill your plate with plenty of vegetables and salad and divide the other half between lean protein-rich foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, pulses, Quorn or tofu and healthy carbs such as pasta, new potatoes, Basmati or brown rice.
17. Eat without distractionsDon’t let your best efforts to control how much you eat be sabotaged by doing something else during meals. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate while listening to a story on the radio ate 70 calories more than women who ate with no distractions.
18. Avoid crash dietsThey may be tempting, but a crash diet ultimately leads to rebound weight gain and feelings of failure.
The American Heart Association has "declared war" on crash diets, which they say "can undermine people’s health, can’t be followed for long, cause physical discomfort, and lead to disappointment when people regain the weight soon after." Still tempted?
19. Be activeBeing more active and staying that way is one of the key strategies for long term success. Finding something you enjoy, and can fit into daily life helps ensure you keep it up. Walking suits many people (see below), but gardening, dancing, team sports, gym workouts, martial arts, any active hobby all count. Doing it with someone else boosts motivation too.
20. Step 10,000Aim to walk briskly for a total of 45 minutes each day to burn around 2000 calories a week (250 to 300 calories a day). Or buy a pedometer from a sports’ shop or via the internet and build up to doing 10,000, then if you can 15,000 steps – over the day. Research now shows that this level of daily activity is most effective for weight control.
21. More good reasons to be activeRegular physical activity, especially if you include some strength training, not only burns calories and boosts mood and energy levels but can build muscle. Muscle burns loads more calories than body fat, and just a 3 pound increase in the amount of muscle in your body can potentially burn enough extra calories to lose an extra 10lbs over a year.
22. Spice up your cooking skillsCut fat but not flavour with herbs, spices, lemon juice, tomato paste, wine, low fat fromage frais, olives, capers, chilli, and sauces with less than 5g fat per 100g. Grill, stir fry, bake, steam, char-grill, BBQ or microwave. A low fat cook book helps too – not to mention WLR’s fab recipes.
23. Read food labels – carefullyCheck portion size, numbers of portions per package, and calorie content to make sure you aren’t getting more than you bargained for. Check and compare similar products too – as there can be big calorie differences between brands. And remember that ‘low fat’ doesn’t mean ‘low calorie’.
24. Fill up on low energy density foodsFoods like vegetables, salad, fruit, chunky soups, low fat pasta sauces, low fat dairy foods, porridge, vegetable-based casseroles, beans, fish and lean meat are great building blocks of every meal and snack. They have a low energy density (low number of calories per bite), most have a low GI (glycaemic index) and all are not only healthy but help you feel fuller for longer.
25. Drink plentyHave at least 6-8 glasses or cups of low calorie drinks over the day – more if you are hot or exercising.
The aim is to keep your urine a light straw colour – if it’s dark you need to drink more. Drinking plenty helps you feel fuller and stops you confusing thirst with hunger, and eating when you really just need a drink. Spicy tomato or vegetable juice or a berry fizz (puree some fresh berries and top up with fizzy mineral water) are great, low cal between meal (or early evening) satisfiers to stop the nibbles – or the wine, if you want to cut back.
26. Practise saying ‘no’We are often pressured to eat when we aren’t hungry. If you really don’t want to eat something, learning to say ‘no, thank you’ takes practise as we may feel we are upsetting others. But you are in fact looking after your own needs. First practice saying ‘no’ at home by yourself. It will soon get easier.
27. Keep food out of sightFood is everywhere – on TV, magazines, shops, petrol stations - and can trigger cravings. At home, keep weakness foods out of sight, or out of the house! Serve meals onto plates rather than from dishes on the table. And steer clear of buffet meals – studies show they encourage us to eat more.
28. Watch portion sizesKeep a careful eye on portion sizes, when eating out or serving up your own meals at home.
The WLR approach will automatically help you with this, while you keep your calorie tally over the day. It isn’t always what you eat that can make weight loss tricky, but how much. This can be especially true for dishes like bowls of pasta or fruit smoothies – their intrinsic ‘healthiness’ makes it easy to forget the portion size and calorie content.
29. Eat out wisely
- ‘Bank’ some calories for your meal out
- Try not to view every meal out as an indulgent treat – eating out is now a regular part of life and restaurant food can be high in calories
- Skip high fat butter, dressings, garlic bread, cream or cheese sauces, pastry, deep fried, battered foods and indulgent pudds (unless served with 4 spoons!)
- Pile your plate with vegetables or salad
- Watch the booze – quench thirst with water
30. Believe in YourselfThis final diet tip is just as important as the tips about eating and exercise.
If things go wrong don’t panic. Learning new habits takes time. Think back to when you learned to ride a bike. No-one expected you to do it the first time. You no doubt fell off a lot and needed picking up, with help along the way. Step by step you took control of that bike and learned how to keep it on course.
How you think, affects how you feel, and in turn the actions you take. Believe in yourself every day. Focus on what you want – being fitter, healthier – rather than how unfit you are. Setting realistic goals and having positive expectations will make all the difference.