Slow and steady weight-loss is a difficult challenge for a lot of people. Succumbing to fad diets, or entering onto a dangerous yo-yo roller-coaster of weight-loss and weight-gain is both unhealthy and disappointing. Luckily, there are some simple things you can keep in mind to help you get weight off and keep it off. These basic tips apply whether you are a confirmed omnivore, a vegetarian or vegan, or have an otherwise restricted diet due to food allergies.
1. Variety is key
Eating five servings of apples a day is not as effective as eating five different fruits a day. Whilst there are basic staple meals that you can turn to time and again, try varying up the fruit and veg that you eat so that you can get a range of nutrients and vitamins. Equally, humans need a combination of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to function at their optimum. Don’t cut out an entire food group! While skipping carbs might help you lose weight, over time the craving for what your body require will increase – and eventually you will succumb. Instead, find the healthiest versions of each food, and stick to those. So instead of white rice and white bread – both empty and sugary sources of carbohydrates – stick to sweet potatoes, multigrain and wholewheat bread, porridge oats, and other nutrient and fibre rich carbohydrates.
2. Learn your proportions
While we all need protein, fats, carbs etc… we all require different amounts. Vegetables should always compromise the largest part of your diet, but a person doing weight-lifting and muscle-building workouts will need more protein than someone who is relatively sedentary. Listen to your body and do your research – there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer here, but common sense does apply. Someone who is still growing needs more calories than someone who is older, and more active people require more food than someone who is less active.
3. Ditch the bad stuff
There are some foods and drinks with no redeeming features. Soda pop is one – it’s just sugar and artificial flavors, with no nutritional value and can lead to blood sugar spikes – and lows. Diet soda is not much better, with sweeteners not having been proved conclusively safe. High fructose corn syrup is another element in soda, and is generally considered to cause diabetes. Don’t give up a proportion of your daily calorie intake for this – it makes it harder to get what you do need and stay within your calorie ‘budget’.
4. Keep treats as treats
Chocolate, candy and cakes are nice, but fall mainly into the above category of bad stuff. Keep the quantities small, and make it a real treat – either save it for once a week, or keep it for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t keep it in the house! If you feel like you need a sweet fix after food, try a piece of fruit, or a small fruit-juice Popsicle. Or just wait twenty minutes – cravings often pass if you wait.
5. Weigh Yourself Regularly
Some people weigh themselves daily, some weekly. The key is to track any fluctuations and stay on top of them – before they become a major problem. It is easier by far to lose one pound than it is to lose fifteen. So once you hit your ideal weight, stay there! If you overindulge one day, make up for it the next.
6. Focus on what you enjoy
It’s easy for a diet to feel like an exercise in self-discipline and deprivation. If you’re choking down a bland and unappetising meal three times a day you won’t last, and will soon be turning to the doughnut counter or the chinese take-out. Instead, find foods that you enjoy and are good for you. For example, I love pineapple, so I use it as a treat and a dessert. I also love veggie burgers, especially spicy ones! Find the healthy foods that you like, and don’t feel like you have to eat handfuls of spinach or choke down a mouthful of brussel sprouts if you really hate them.
In the same spirit, focus on getting your seven-servings of fruit and veg each day, and you’ll soon find there’s not much room left for the cake and pastries. It’s all about looking at what you can have, instead of thinking about what you can’t.
7. Plan your meals
Planning meals – either weekly or a couple of days in advance – makes eating well a lot easier. Calculate your calorie needs, plan your meals around that, and you won’t find yourself stuck with nothing but drive-thru for dinner. There are lots of sample menu plans out there with a range of calorie goals.
Remember: a healthy and balanced diet will help you not just lose weight, but also feel healthier, more energetic, let you live longer, improve your skin and hair and make you happier. So don’t rotate through extreme diets, instead focus on finding healthy, low fat meals that you love!