Drop a dress size in six weeks

Judith Wills / 11 October 2017

Want to lose up to 12lb without feeling hungry? Just watch the weight disappear with Judith Wills’ fad-free, healthy diet and exercise regime.



We've devised a healthy, flexible and easy diet plan and exercise routine that can help you lose 10-12lb over 42 days, which is a dress size for most women, safely, and without going hungry.

You’ll follow a simple protein-rich, reduced-carb ‘freestyle’ plan that’s high in the healthy nutrients your body craves. Just choose the breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks that you like and you’ll soon see a difference. Combined with plenty of physical activity, you should also feel full of energy and develop a healthy glow to your skin.

We’ve utilised all the latest knowledge from the leading diet and health professionals across the world. For example, we’ve made sure to include foods known to help the process of weight loss – and there are quite a few! But you won’t find any celebrity-endorsed faddy ideas and expensive or hard-to-find foods, or supplements you’ve never heard of. You don’t need to fast, or ‘spiralise’ raw vegetables, unless you want to.

What you have here is advice that works; that isn’t hard, boring, time-consuming or requiring big lifestyle changes. You’ll find great-tasting and truly good-for-you food and meal ideas that you can choose each day, along with exercises that you won’t have to join a gym to do.

So what are you waiting for? Get started today…

Getting started

Make a plan. Look through this guide and choose your meals and snacks for each day of the first week, bearing in mind:

  • How much time you have to prepare meals.
  • Whether cost is an important factor.
  • Whether others will be eating with you. Some meals are more couple and family-orientated.
  • Whether you have any special food requirements – eg vegetarian, wheat-free and so on? There are choices to accommodate different types of diet.
  • That should include foods to help weight loss each day (see Foods that help weight loss)

Make a shopping list and buy everything before you start.

Equipment

There is no need for special equipment on our plan – either in the kitchen or when you exercise. Accurate weighing scales are important and an electric blender would help for some recipes. A blender/processor would be even better so you can chop and mince as well, but neither is essential.

For exercising, you need comfortable clothing (tracksuit bottoms, T-shirt and a warm top are ideal) and well-cushioned flexible sports-type footwear with secure fastening. A set of dumbbells would be good but not essential.

How often to weigh?

For years the advice from the experts has been to weigh yourself no more than once a week, but recent research suggests that daily weighing can bring a small increase in the amount of weight lost over time. But frequent scale-hopping can be negative. Also, our body weight naturally fluctuates day to day. Leave it at once a week, and see a loss that will spur you on into the next week!

Weighing yourself in the same clothes (or no clothes!) and at the same time of day each week is more important than frequent weighing. You will weigh up to 3lb less if you weigh yourself first thing in the morning rather than in the evening.

You will weigh up to 3lb less if you weigh yourself first thing in the morning than in the evening.

Tips to get you going

List your reasons

Before you start on our plan, really think through the reasons you’d like to drop a dress size – for example, do you have any health problems that would be improved by losing a stone or so? The list of problems weight loss can help with is very long – high blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes, joint pain and some cancers are just a few.

Do you feel it would improve your self-confidence either in your relationships, at work or in your social life? Maybe you have short-term goals, such as losing weight for a holiday or new job, or special occasion. Maybe you simply want to get into your old favourite outfit! Write the list and look at it every day.

Visualise

Every day, see yourself slim: just picture it. Visualising goals is known to help people achieve them.

Think positive, be aware

Every morning take a few minutes to re-affirm to yourself that today you will eat well, you will eat healthily, you will take time to do what you know is right for your body and you. Tell yourself this is your priority; you owe it to yourself. This will help you to stay on track and stop life getting in the way of your goals.

Be hunger-savvy

On our plan you should not feel physically hungry; we’ve made sure of that. So if you do feel you’d like something to eat that isn’t in your plan, it’s probably not actual hunger but because you are either bored, tired, stressed, catching sight or smell of food (for example, baking or confectionary). Don’t let your ‘giving in’ stream win; each time you do, it reinforces that behaviour. Think of quick strategies to avoid eating when you don’t really need to. Think of your goals – say no to the food. Walk away. Try non-food therapies such as a phone call, a magazine or a bath.

Don’t buy

If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. Only get the food shopping you need for your plan. Shopping just after a meal, and taking your list, helps here. Avoid shops where junk food is on the counter. Shopping online saves impulse purchases.

If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it

Healthy food

Plan your menus

Foods that help weight loss

Eggs – brilliant at preventing hunger.
Greens – leafy greens and salads increase the volume of food on the plate and help you to consume less.
Oily fish – helps the body burn off fat.
Other fish and seafood – great source of protein to keep you feeling full.
Yogurt, cheese and milk – rich in calcium, which has been proved to speed weight loss. Full-fat bio yogurt also improves the body’s good bacteria profile to help prevent obesity.
Avocados – help to beat sugar cravings and help to reduce abdominal fat.
Nuts – adding nuts regularly to your diet as a snack increases the amount of weight you can lose.
Chilli and other spices – reduce appetite and speed fat-burning.
Coconut oil – helps to burn more calories.
And possibly ‘sirtfoods’ – foods that may activate the ‘thin genes’ in our bodies. They include apples, citrus fruits, parsley, capers, blueberries, green tea, soya, strawberries, olive oil, kale, rocket, onions and even red wine and chocolate!

Every day pick one breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, plus drinks, from the list. Try to vary your choices as much as possible. Milk is semi-skimmed and eggs are medium free-range or organic. You can also have unlimited leafy green vegetables and salads, fresh and dried herbs and spices, lemon juice and vinegar.

Breakfasts

Yogurt with nuts and seeds. 125g full-fat natural bio yogurt with 1 tbsp each pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts and milled flaxseeds; 1 orange.

Muesli and fruit. 45g oat and nut-rich, no-added-sugar muesli; stir in 1 chopped red-skinned apple and 1 tbsp sunflower seeds; 100ml milk.

Poached egg on toast. 2 poached eggs on 30g slice toasted spelt or wholemeal bread with 2 tsp butter; 1 orange.

Yogurt with muesli. 175g full-fat natural bio yogurt topped with 8 skin-on almonds, 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 2 tbsp blueberries, 1 tbsp oat and nut-rich, no-added-sugar muesli.

Mozzarella and ham. 20g slice mozzarella cheese and 20g slice lean unsmoked ham on 1 dark rye crispbread; 1 orange.

Oatibix with grapes. 2 Oatibix with 150ml milk topped with 1 heaped tbsp chopped hazelnuts and 8 sliced red grapes.

Rye bread and apple. 45g spelt or dark rye bread with 1 tbsp no-added-sugar cashew nut or almond butter; 1 red-skinned apple.

Scrambled eggs, salmon and fruit. 2 eggs, scrambled, with 40g smoked salmon pieces, served on 25g slice spelt or dark rye bread; 1 kiwifruit.

Rye bread with avocado. 25g dark rye bread, 1 sliced small avocado with 25g slice hard cheese; 1 tomato.

Yogurt, nuts and blueberries. Spoon 75g full-fat natural Greek yogurt into a glass sundae dish, sprinkle over 1 tbsp mixed chopped nuts and seeds, then a layer of 1 tbsp chopped fresh coconut or almonds, top with 1 tbsp blueberries; drizzle over 2 tsp coconut oil; repeat the layers one more time.

Egg, mushroom and spinach omelette. Gently heat 2 tsp extra virgin rapeseed oil in a small non-stick frying pan and stir in 2 sliced mushrooms and 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves for 2 minutes. Pour in 2 beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and black pepper; cook for a few minutes without stirring until the base is golden and the top nearly set. Flip over and cook for another minute or two or lightly brown under the grill. Top with 1 level tbsp grated Parmesan cheese; serve with 25g wholemeal or rye bread.

Smoothie to go. Blend 1 mini banana with a handful blueberries, 150ml full-fat natural bio yogurt, 150ml milk, 1 tbsp milled flaxseed, 1 tsp honey. Chill to serve or blend in 2 ice cubes.

Did you know?

Although we know that certain foods (see Foods that help weight loss) seem to help boost weight loss, and that others, such as sugar and other refined ‘white’ carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice, tend to make us put on weight – when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, calories do still count!

Did you know?

It takes about 3,500 calories below your calorie needs to lose a pound of body fat and about 3,500 calories above your calorie needs to gain a pound. So if you can create a daily deficit of around 750 calories, or 5,250 calories a week (which is roughly the deficit our diet plan will give you), on average you should lose around 1½lb a week. Eating plenty of the weight-loss boosting foods within these calorie parameters, and avoiding refined white carbs will help this natural equation.

Our diet plan will give you, on average, around 1,300 calories a day. This is a healthy level, is suitable for most women who need to shed a dress size and will provide the necessary deficit to help you lose 1½lb a week. (You may lose more in the first week as some of this is fluid, brought about by the reduction in calories and carbohydrates.)

Lunches

Lentil, kale and feta salad. Combine half a 250g bag ready-cooked Puy lentils, 50g diced feta cheese, 1 large handful baby kale with 1 large tomato, 2 spring onions and chunk cucumber, all chopped, and 1 tbsp each olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Bean dip with crudités. Boil 100g frozen edamame (soya) beans, drain and blend (or mash) with 1 large clove crushed garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, seasoning and ½ tsp ground cumin. Serve with selection of raw vegetable crudités and 25g lightly toasted spelt bread soldiers.

Chicken and pepper tortilla. Combine 125g sliced cooked chicken breast fillet with 75g sliced roasted red peppers (from jar, drained), 30g ricotta cheese beaten with 1 tbsp full-fat natural yogurt; serve with crisp lettuce leaves, 1 small wholemeal tortilla.

Goat's cheese and beetroot salad. Cut 45g soft goat's cheese into small pieces and scatter over 75g cooked sliced beetroot, top with a handful of rocket leaves and 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts, and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar; 30g spelt or rye bread.

Avocado and prawns. Halve 1 medium avocado (150g) and fill with 75g cooked peeled prawns; sprinkle with 1 tbsp classic olive oil vinaigrette and serve on bed of mixed salad leaves.

Crunchy red salad. Fill a large bowl with red little gem and radicchio leaves, shredded kale, chopped red apple and red onion and 25g chopped walnuts, plus 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds. Stir in a dressing made with 1 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil, 1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar, black pepper, ½ tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp honey.

Salmon and German rye. Place 125g hot-smoked salmon on large salad of chicory, rocket, watercress and baby spinach, chopped cucumber, finely sliced spring onions, 2 tsp drained capers, dressed with 1 tbsp classic olive oil vinaigrette; 25g slice German dark rye bread.

Dressed crab salad. Place 1 dressed crab in its shell, sprinkled with lemon juice, on large bed of dark green mixed salad leaves; 1 dark rye crispbread; 1 pear, 8 red or black grapes.

Avocado egg salad. Halve and stone 1 large avocado; combine 1 chopped hard-boiled egg with 1 large finely chopped spring onion, ½ chopped red pepper and pinch each smoked paprika, salt, black pepper. Pile mix into avocado halves. Drizzle with 2 tsp balsamic vinegar; 1 dark rye crispbread.

Quinoa and nut salad. Toss half a 250g pack ready-cooked quinoa with 6cm cucumber, 1 large tomato, 3 radishes and ½ yellow pepper, all chopped, 1 tbsp flaked almonds, 1 tbsp hazelnuts, ½ tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tsp hemp seeds. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp classic olive oil vinaigrette and scatter with chopped parsley or coriander leaves.

Italian vegetable soup. To make 2 portions: finely chop 1 medium onion, 1 carrot and 2 sticks celery, then sweat in 1½ tbsp olive oil on a low heat until softened – about 20 minutes – adding 2 peeled crushed cloves garlic for the last 5 minutes. Add 200g chopped tomatoes, 150g shredded kale, 200g cooked cannellini beans (or canned and drained), 300ml vegetable stock and some black pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Any ready-to-eat pre-packed single-serving fresh lunch salad of chicken Caesar OR salad Niçoise OR falafel and salad OR sushi plus an apple OR egg salad OR lentil salad – each containing no more than 400 calories and 5g sugar per serving (read the label).

Dinners

Herb omelette. Heat 2 tsp butter in small non-stick frying pan and pour in 2 large beaten eggs; season, sprinkle with 1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (eg parsley, mint, oregano, coriander) before folding. Serve with a large portion of wilted baby spinach and 2 tbsp peas.

Mediterranean fish. Top 175g white fish fillet or Quorn fillet with 2 tsp red pesto mixed with 1 tomato, 2 black olives, 1 spring onion and 2 tsp parsley, all chopped; bake for 15 minutes at 180C (350F/gas 4) and serve with a large portion steamed green beans and 75g skin-on new potatoes.

Vegetable tagine. Dice ¼ peeled butternut squash, 75g broccoli and 2 dried apricots and stir with 100g cooked chickpeas (or canned and drained) into 125ml vegetable stock mixed with 50g ready-made tagine paste. Cook in a small pan on the hob for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Serve with 3 tbsp ready-cooked quinoa.

Salmon with creamy sauce. Grill 125g salmon steak and serve with sauce made by beating 1 tbsp natural full-fat Greek yogurt with 1 tsp mayonnaise, pinch salt, black pepper, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp lemon juice; serve with 100g steamed tenderstem broccoli, 2 tbsp peas and 75g new potatoes.

Veggie burger and salad. Put 125g cooked chickpeas (or canned and drained) in a bowl with 1 finely chopped spring onion, 50g cooked sweetcorn kernels, 1 tbsp chickpea or plain flour, pinch each of ground coriander seed, cumin and salt and black pepper plus a dash of chilli sauce and mash together well with a fork (or use a food processor). Form into one large round flat burger. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan and cook the burger for 5 minutes each side until golden. Add one large halved tomato for the last 2 minutes; large mixed leaf salad.

Kebab and rice. Thread 150g cubes firm white fish OR chicken fillet, sprinkled with smoked paprika, on to kebab stick with thick slices of tomato, onion and sweet pepper. Brush with 2 tsp olive oil and grill until cooked through; serve with 25g (uncooked weight) brown rice cooked according to pack instructions and l level tbsp ready-made tzatziki.

Red and gold traybake. Quarter 1 small orange pepper, 1 small red pepper, 1 medium beetroot and a red onion; cut 1 small peeled sweet potato and 100g peeled butternut squash into 2.5cm chunks, lightly bash 4 unpeeled fat cloves garlic. Toss vegetables plus 2 skinned chicken drumsticks in a little olive oil, season with black pepper, a pinch of salt and mixed herbs; roast the vegetables at 190C/170C fan/375F/gas 5) for 15 minutes then turn everything over, add the chicken drumsticks and bake for a further 25 minutes. Ten minutes before the end of cooking time, pour 100ml vegetable or chicken stock into the pan and stir again. Check chicken and veg are cooked through before serving with a large mixed leaf salad.

Broccoli frittata. Beat 2 eggs in a bowl with 50ml milk and seasoning. Steam 100g small broccoli florets until tender; chop a large tomato and a spring onion; heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small frying pan. Add egg mix and vegetables; cook over medium heat until browned underneath. Sprinkle with 20g Parmesan cheese and brown under grill. Serve with a large portion of green vegetables.

Fish and chips. Slice 1 sweet potato into wedges, toss in extra virgin rapeseed oil, arrange on baking tray and bake at 190C/170C/375F/gas 5 until soft and lightly crisped on the outside. Brush 125g tuna or salmon steak with ready-made red pepper pesto and add to the tray for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with salad or green vegetables.

Chicken and chickpea stir-fry. Cook 40g brown basmati rice. Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp extra virgin rapeseed oil in a small non-stick frying pan and stir-fry 50g baby corn cobs OR sliced red pepper, 50g mangetout and 125g sliced chicken breast fillet OR Quorn OR tofu pieces for 2-3 minutes. Add 75g canned, drained chickpeas (drained weight), 1 tbsp ready-made tandoori paste and 3 tbsp chicken or vegetable stock; stir for 1 minute. Serve with the rice.

Any supermarket ready meal from the healthy range (eg Tesco Healthy Living, Sainsbury’s Be Good to Yourself, Waitrose Love Life) containing no more than 450 calories, served with a large leafy salad or green vegetables.

Snacks

Each no more than 125 calories.

  • 1½ tbsp unsalted nuts
  • Heaped tbsp unsalted seeds
  • 15g Cheddar cheese and 1 small apple
  • 125g full-fat natural bio yogurt topped with 1 tsp runny honey
  • 1 small banana and 1 semi-dried fig
  • ½ small avocado filled with 25g white crab meat
  • 1 dark rye crispbread topped with 2 tsp no-added-sugar peanut butter
  • 1 thin round oatcake topped with 2 tsp almond or cashew butter
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced on 1 multiseed crispbread with tomato slices
  • 1 dessertspoon hummus with 1 stick celery or carrot batons
  • 10 skin-on almonds, 10 large blueberries
  • 20g dark chocolate

Thirst-quenchers

Drink freely

By far the best thing to drink is water – a cool glass of simple, calorie-free tap water.

Drinks to limit

Black tea and black coffee: virtually calorie free, and most research shows that if you drink either in moderate amounts they can have health benefits for most people.

Green and white teas: rich in health-promoting antioxidants but expensive.

Juices: what a pity to drink juiced fruits and vegetables, leaving behind almost all the beneficial fibre and other nutrients in the juicer. What’s left are sugars, some vitamin C and little else. Juices are also surprisingly high in calories. Drink water and eat a piece of whole fruit instead.

Smoothies: better than juices as you retain the goodness of the whole fruit or vegetable and the sugars are more slowly absorbed into your body. Usually high in calories though, so think of them as a meal in themselves.

Milk: no problem with adding a little skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to your tea or coffee if you want to. Dairy milk is a good source of calcium and also contains protein, so it’s a better drink than juice, but full-fat milk as a drink is quite high in calories. Organic milk and other dairy products are higher in healthy omega fats than factory-farmed versions.

Milk substitutes: soya, almond, coconut or rice milks are not high in calories if you opt for the unsweetened versions with added calcium. Use them as you would skimmed or semi-skimmed dairy milk.

Fruit juices are surprisingly high in calories. Drink water and eat a piece of whole fruit instead.

Drinks to avoid

Your body doesn’t need any of the drinks that come in bottles or cans and that contain loads of sugar, flavourings, colourants and little else. Fizzy drinks, squashes, mixers – give them a miss, as all they give you is empty calories. (Low-calorie versions containing artificial sweeteners are little better as they simply encourage your sweet tooth and again contain just empty calories.)

Alcohol

If you enjoy a glass of wine or a measure of spirits in the evening, there’s no need to give this up altogether on this plan. As long as you follow these rules:

1. Have no more than one small glass of wine (preferably red) or a 25ml measure of spirits in the evening, and not at other times of day.

2. Drink with, or soon after, your evening meal.

3. Have a glass of water before you go to bed.

4. Aim to have at least two nights a week without alcohol.

If you do drink alcohol in addition to our plan, you may lose weight at about a quarter of a pound slower than those who don’t drink.

Eating out

Tips for eating out

  • Study a menu before you go
  • Skip bread
  • Decide on two courses, not three
  • Share a pudding with someone else
  • Offer to drive to avoid alcohol
  • Ask for a jug of chilled tap water
  • If there are no healthy choices, ask for a sauce-free version of a dish, such as plain steak with salad
  • You can eat out on this diet plan, but if you go out frequently you need to be more vigilant.

    Where to eat?

    Most restaurants will have some items on the menu that are healthy and not too high in calories. We’ve checked out some of the best and worst options:

    Chains and fast food

    Most have healthy options marked up on their menus:

    Best – grilled chicken or fish with salad.
    Worst – deep fried, anything coated in batter or breaded (small chunks are higher in calories than a large fillet, if you must!)

    Coffee bar

    Many hot drinks will be laden with sugar and calories.

    Best – simple things, such as a plain black coffee with skimmed milk.
    Worst – large caramel fudge hot chocolate with more than 600 calories (more than a main meal!) and up to 100g sugar.

    Italian

    Best – vegetable or seafood antipasto, minestrone soup, fish, grilled meat or chicken dishes served with vegetables.
    Worst – most pasta dishes, especially those with rich/creamy sauces; cheese/meat/pizzas and calzones.

    Greek/Turkish

    Best – souvlaki (pork, chicken or lamb kebabs) with Greek salad; tzatziki; grilled fish; falafel with side salad; dolmades; stifado.
    Worst – moussaka, spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie), pastitsio.

    French bistro

    Best – bouillabaisse, salad Niçoise, omelette, grilled fish; mussels cooked without cream; snails; navarin of lamb; sole with lemon butter; ratatouille/piperade; chicken Basque-style; soup au pistou.
    Worst – cassoulet, French fries, quiche, French onion soup with cheese and bread topping; cheese soufflé; aligot; gratin dauphinois.

    Chinese

    Best – stir-fried prawns or chicken with plenty of vegetables, most soups, steamed dumplings.
    Worst – anything called crispy or battered; sweet-and-sour sauces, fried rice, spare ribs.

    Indian

    Best – tandoori chicken; yogurt-based spicy sauces such as tikka and bhuna; poppadoms.
    Worst – dishes that come with creamy or buttery sauces such as butter chicken or kormas; naan.

    Japanese

    Best – sushi made with fish, tofu or vegetables, sashimi, miso soup, teppanyaki (griddled) dishes.
    Worst – tempura, dishes based on udon noodles.

    Exercise

    Exercise

    As we get older, it’s more important than ever to do regular physical activity to stay fit, tone up and help keep surplus weight at bay.

    Aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise (which gets your heart beating faster and your lungs taking in more oxygen) helps to prevent disease, boosts your metabolism, helps to control body weight, oxygenates blood, increases circulation, reduces stress and boosts mood – for starters! For people over 50, fast walking is perhaps the very best and most convenient aerobic exercise you can do.

    Strength (weight bearing/resistance) exercise (which maintains or builds the body’s lean tissue – muscle) is vital as we age. Muscle loss in sedentary people can be as high as 30% between the ages of 30 and 80 – but muscle mass is vital for weight control as it burns more calories than any other part of our bodies. Strength exercise also maintains bone density and boosts metabolism.

    But you shouldn’t go like a fast train into exercising if you’ve done little over the years. You need to start with a little and build up. That way you won’t hurt yourself and it will be safe – and seeing progress is a great way to help you want to continue.

    Our exercise plan will help you to burn up to an extra 200 calories a day, is graduated to be safe and do-able, and includes exercises to firm your arms, waist and stomach, so helping you to look pounds slimmer. The only equipment you’ll need for the indoor exercises is a chair, an exercise mat/rug/carpet and a set of dumbbells 0.5kg (or 1kg) – 3kg or you could use filled plastic bottles with secure lids. For outdoors, you need walking shoes and comfortable/warm/waterproof clothing. Before you start, read the tips.

    For people over 50, fast walking is perhaps the very best and most convenient aerobic exercise you can do.

    Tips for exercising

    Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. This is vital if you have a physical disability, have done no exercise for a long time, are ill or have a long-term disease or health problem.

    A pedometer will really help you monitor your exercise routine. You can buy them quite cheaply now – you just need a basic one to record time, distance, speed, and if it has a memory that’s good, but not essential. Or, if you like, you could use a Fitbit or one of the many free smartphone walking apps now available.

    When you walk, the idea is that you find yourself slightly breathless – you can hear and feel yourself breathing – but you are not so out of breath that you can’t speak and have to keep stopping. So push yourself, but not too much!

    Try to remember to have good posture when walking. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed, your tummy tucked in, your bottom tucked under, and take long strides.

    Don’t forget to breathe! In through the nose, out through the mouth.

    When you do strength exercise, it is important to do the movements in a controlled way.

    Always know when to stop – if you’re gasping for breath, hurt or feel sick or ill, you are overdoing it. Take a day off, then try again at a lower level.

    Exercise

    A stretching exercise to do every day

    Although stretching (for flexibility/suppleness) exercises won’t do much to help you lose weight, they can help you to improve your posture and help to prevent aches and pains. This stretch is ideal for loosening up your shoulders and ribcage, and helping you stand tall. Long Body Stretch. 

    Lie on your back on a mat, rug or thick towel with arms at your sides and toes pointing forward (no need for shoes for this move). Slowly lift your arms up and back until the backs of your hands are touching the floor behind your head (or as far as you can go). You may need a folded towel under your head for the first week or so. Shut your eyes, breathe deeply and slowly, and relax into this position. You should feel a stretch along your abdomen and shoulders. Hold for 30. Move arms slowly out to the sides keeping them straight, palms upwards, and hold for 30.

    Weeks 1 and 2

    Aerobic

    Week 1 – walk on the level for 20 minutes.
    Week 2 – walk on the level for 30 minutes. Time yourself; make a note of the times.

    Strength

    Week 1 – using 0.5kg-1kg dumbbells or filled plastic bottles with secure lids, do the following 3 moves once a day every other day, repeating each up to 10 times or until your muscles feel tired.

    For back, shoulders and arms

    Standing row. Stand with good posture, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and hold one dumbbell in each hand in front of your hips, palms facing inward toward your body. Lift the weights upwards toward your chin. Remember to keep your core/stomach muscles tight, and avoid arching your back or pulling your shoulders up toward your ears. Return to starting position; repeat 10 times or until your worked muscles feel tired.

    For midriff and waist

    Sit-backs. Sit on a mat with knees fully bent, feet on floor and your arms crossed in front of your chest. Slowly sit back as far as is comfortable (this doesn't have to be a very big movement), using your stomach muscles to keep you secure. Don’t round your back or lift your feet from the mat. Hold for 10; slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 5 times.

    For legs and hips

    Kneeling leg arm raise. Kneel on all fours on a mat with hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Contract your stomach muscles and shift your balance onto your left knee and right hand. In one movement, extend your right leg back behind you and your left arm out in front of you as far as possible. Hold for 2 then return to start. Repeat the move with your left leg and right arm. Repeat, 10 times, alternating sides.

    Week 2 – do the same moves, increasing repeats.

    Weeks 3 and 4

    Aerobic

    Week 3 – walk 30 minutes every day. Time yourself and try to improve your speed over the same distance, so you walk further in the same time.

    Week 4 – walk 30 minutes 4 days a week and 45 minutes 3 days a week, similarly trying to walk further in the same time.

    Strength

    Week 3 – try slightly heavier weights. Increase the number of repeats of each exercise you do by 5. Continue to do all strength exercises every other day. Add in this exercise:

    For abdominal strength

    Ab curls. Lie on your back on the mat. Bend your knees slightly with feet flat on the floor. Put your hands beneath your head with the elbows pointing out to the side. Slowly raise your shoulders and upper back using your stomach muscles. Pause for 2, then slowly lower your shoulders back down. Repeat 10 times.

    Week 4 – increase the number of repeats by another 5. And add this exercise:

    For chest and arms

    Chest fly. Lie on the mat with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Hold dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Tighten your abdominal muscles and, with elbows slightly bent, open your arms out to the sides until your upper arms touch the floor. Return to start and repeat 10 times or until your muscles feel tired.

    Add this stretching exercise to the Long Body Stretch to help relax your spine and lower back

    Spine release. Stand with your back against a wall, heels 3in away from the wall and your back as flat against the wall as it will go, keeping a small hollow in the lower spine. Tighten your abdominal muscles a little and slowly curl your head, neck and upper body down towards the floor, arms hanging straight down. Hang for 10 then curl back up again slowly. Repeat up to 3 times.

    Weeks 5 and 6

    Aerobic

    Week 5 – walk 30 minutes 3 days a week and 1 hour 4 days a week, still trying to improve your speed/distance.

    Week 6 – walk 45 minutes 3 days a week, 1 hour 3 days a week and 1 hour 30 minutes once a week.

    Strength

    Week 5 – increase the weight again if you can. Continue to do all 5 exercises every other day.

    Week 6 – increase the number of repeats you do by another 5.

    And into the future…

    Don’t stop now! If you’re feeling better as a result of exercising, why stop? Most research tells us that regular activity is a huge factor in living longer and in keeping surplus weight at bay.

    Build as much activity into your days as you like. Try dancing to a fitness program on the computer or laptop, or go for a swim or cycle ride. Join a walking group or a cycle club. Or sign up for yoga or Pilates – keeping supple will help you to feel younger and pain-free. Or buy a hula-hoop or a skipping rope – see what you can do.

    ‘Use it or lose it’ is so true.

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    The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

    The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.