Finding the best way to lose weight may seem confusing. Drastic crash diets, meal replacements and cutting out meals do not work in the long term.
10 steps to get the right balance
1. Eat regularly including breakfast
Have three meals a day with one or two snacks in between if you are hungry. Missing out meals will make it harder for you to lose weight.
2. Base your diet on starchy foods
Examples are bread, chapattis, potatoes, yam, plantain, green banana, rice, pasta, noodles, porridge and unsweetened breakfast cereals. Choose high fibre varieties wherever possible. For example wholemeal bread/ chapattis, Branflakes, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, brown rice and pasta. The best choices are those that are highest in water such as pasta, rice and boiled potatoes as these will fill you up without being too high in calories. Try jacket potatoes with the skin instead of chips. These foods are not fattening however the calorie content increases if you add fats or oils or you fry them.
3. Eat plenty of fruit & vegetables
Aim for at least five portions per day. A portion is a small glass of unsweetened fruit juice, a small banana, a medium apple, 2 satsumas, a handful of grapes, small bowl of side salad, 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables such as peas, carrots, and broccoli. Remember a wide variety of colours and textures will ensure you obtain a variety of vitamins and minerals and adequate fibre. Choose from fresh, frozen or tinned (vegetables with no added salt/sugar or fruit in natural juice). Limit fruit juice to one serving a day.
4. Eat less fat
Spread butter and margarine thinly or use a low fat spread. Choose low fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, plain low-fat yoghurts or flavoured yoghurts low in fat & low in sugar, reduced fat cheeses or lower fat cheeses (cottage cheese, light cream cheese). Remove fat from your meat and choose lean cuts, grill or bake without adding extra fat. Aim for no more than 80-110g (3-4oz) of meat as a portion and no more than 110-140g (4-5oz) of fish. Avoid pastry, mayonnaise, Yorkshire puddings and crisps. Replace some meat with pulses like lentils, red kidney beans & chickpeas in casseroles, as they are low in fat.
5. Avoid sugar and sugary foods:
Avoid adding sugar to drinks or cereals, if you have a sweet tooth use a sweetener. Try to limit sweets, chocolates, cakes, and biscuits, saving them for an occasional treat.
6. Be drink wise
Making sure you drink enough fluids is as just as important for your health as eating well. Aim for about 8 drinks a day. Water is the best and cheapest drink. Choose diet or no added sugar drinks and if you drink coffee or tea try it without sugar. Drink alcohol in moderation: Sensible limits are 3-4 units per day for a man and 2-3 units per day for a woman. If you are trying to lose weight you need to cut down even more on alcohol, because it contains a lot of calories. Try to drink more diet/ low sugar soft and non-alcoholic drinks or mix your drink with diet mixers. A unit is: half pint of lager/ cider/ bitter, a small glass of wine (125ml) or a small measure of spirits.
7. Physical Activity
Try to include some form of activity each day. It is recommended that everybody, who is able to, does at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and muscle strengthening activites on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). This is for general good health and will help with weight loss, although aiming for an hour a day is more effective for weight loss. If you can’t do it at once then try it in small bursts of 5 to 10 minutes. Exercise doesn’t mean you need to join the gym, it could be walking, swimming, gardening, dancing or even household activities.
8. Changing Habits
Making small changes will keep you focused on your weight loss plan. Examples are preparing a shopping list in advance, keeping food out of sight, making meals as enjoyable as possible including a variety of different foods, planning what you will do when the meal is finished and planning an extra walk or trip up the stairs each day.
9. Tips to keep you going:
Look at what you have achieved so far
Remind yourself of all the reasons why you want to change
Give yourself a non-food reward for achieving each step towards your goals
Seek encouragement from those who support you.
Some people find it helpful to keep a food diary. This means recording what, when and why you eat so you can understand more about your eating patterns. It can help you to identify triggers for eating and areas for change.
Monitoring your progress by checking your weight regularly, i.e. once a week. Measuring your waist can help to keep you motivated too.
10. Lapses and slip ups
Despite your best efforts to keep on track, it’s quite normal to have times when you have a ‘slip-up’, and are tempted back to less healthy ways of eating. When this happens:
Identify the cause of the lapse
Think about what to do differently next time, to prevent this happening again
Ideally, you need to eat 500-600 calories fewer than your daily calorie needs to lose a healthy 0.5kg/1lb per week – you may lose more if you’re more active.