The bulge-buster's guide to weight loss

Health correspondent ( 24 July 2015 )

Top tips to help you on your way to weight loss without radically altering your lifestyle



What's stopping you losing weight?

Most of us don't need reminding that being the right weight can help us live a healthier, and perhaps longer, life. Shedding some pounds, if you need to, can help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis and even some kinds of cancer. But, what if that solid flesh just won't seem to melt? Here are some timely reminders of what you need to do to stay on track.

Make it to the finishing post

Motivation is the number one factor that determines whether you will lose. And according to experts there are five motivational stages involved in any change, like the famous Fry's chocolate boys poster of the 1930s:

Pre-contemplation

When you're happy as you are

Contemplation

When you're thinking about doing something about it

Preparation

\When you're ready to change

Action

When you actively do something to change - such as watching what you eat or increasing exercise

Maintenance

Keeping up the good work

Studies show that when it comes to weight loss many of us get stuck at the first couple of posts and never make it to three and four.

Trim tricks

Kick-start motivation by listing all the benefits of losing weight from being able to wear more flattering clothes to being able to breathe easier or reducing your risk of serious illnesses.

Boost your confidence by reminding yourself of previous successes. Include small triumphs such as such as fixing a computer glitch by yourself as well as major achievements like bringing up a family.

Be specific about what you want to achieve, why and by when. Write your goals down and look at them regularly to reinforce resolve.

Set a start date and write it in your diary. Make sure you've got the right foods in to help you resist temptation. Try to avoid stressful periods or occasions like birthdays, Christmas or holidays when it is likely to be difficult to stick to good intentions.

Low activity levels

Losing weight isn't just about watching what you eat it's also about moving. If you dislike formal exercise then don't do it.

Walking is one of the best ways to burn calories.

In fact, walking 10,000 steps a day, roughly equal to an hour's brisk hoofing, burns around 300 to 500 calories. That's a pound of fat lost for every 10 days, and that's without dieting.

Trim tricks

Get a pedometer These neat little devices available from sports shops and department stores will help you log your step count.

Exercise in chunks If you don't have time to exercise for a full hour, try dividing it into bite-size chunks - say six 10-minute strolls, three 20-minute trips to the shops, or two half-hour walks in a local park or beauty spot.

Boost everyday activity You've heard it before but all those little ways of increasing your daily activity level by walking part of the way to work or an appointment, walking to the newsagents and walking up and down stairs can help burn calories.

Resist it

No, not just that cream cake - resistance or strength training uses weights or your own body weight as in yoga or Pilates. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat - even when you're sitting down doing nothing! Check out local classes or invest in a yoga or Pilates video or DVD that you can do at home.

Too much on your plate?

If you are eating all the right things and exercising but still can't shift the pounds the culprit could be the size of your portions. The trend for supersizing, king-size and 'value' meals means that portion sizes have increased 30% in the last decade. And it's not just restaurants and fast food outlets that are to blame. Dinner plates are bigger than they were, so even at home we're eating more.

Trim tricks I

Visualise it

You don't have to weigh and measure every morsel if you have a mental image of what the right portion sizes look like. As a rough rule of thumb a serving of fruit, vegetables or potatoes is equal in size to half a tennis ball; three ounces of meat, fish, or chicken to a deck of playing cards; an ounce of cheese to your thumb; and a teaspoon of oil to around the tip of your thumb.

Use a smaller plate

Loading up a smaller plate helps fool your brain into thinking you are eating more.

Share it

If eating out in a restaurant share a main course with your companion. Alternatively choose a starter instead of a main or ask for a child's portion.

Pile on the greens

Most green veg such as spinach, broccoli, kale and salad leaves are low calorie but because they are also 'bulky' they help fill up your plate and can help curb your appetite for high cal foods.

Skipping breakfast

Skipping breakfast may seem an easy way to save on calories but most people who lose weight and keep it off actually eat the first meal of the day.

Skipping breakfast slows your metabolic rate and causes a fall in blood sugar which results in rebound hunger. The result is often succumbing to a high calorie snack mid morning or piling up your plate at lunch or dinner.

Eating breakfast may also lower your risk of insulin resistance syndrome, characterised by weight gain and belly fat, an early sign of developing diabetes, according to a study presented at an American Heart Association conference.

Trim tricks II

Get up half an hour earlier so you have time to wake up properly - most people don't feel much like eating very first thing - and make breakfast.

Keep your blood sugar level steady by eating something sustaining such as porridge, muesli, wholegrain toast and a boiled or poached egg.

Smoothie operator If you really can't face eating, whiz up a smoothie with a handful of fruit and some skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt or soya milk.

Get enough sleep

Obviously when you're asleep you aren't eating, which has to be a good thing, but in addition research has shown that lack of sleep is linked to obesity. Sleep deprivation lowers leptin, a blood protein that suppresses appetite and seems to affect how our brains sense when we have had enough food.

Trim tricks III

Eat a light but sustaining meal in the evening - but not immediately before bed - so you don't go to bed hungry.

Exercise during the day so you feel tired at bedtime but again avoid strenuous activity just before you turn in as it can be over-stimulating.

Prime yourself for sleep by having a wind-down routine. Have a warm bath, sip some chamomile tea, read a (non-stimulating) book or listen to some soothing music before going to bed.

Avoid sleep disrupters such as caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol in the evening.

Make your bedroom a calm and pleasant environment Banish the TV and computer. Keep it at a comfortable temperature and get some thick curtains or black out blinds to make it dark and quiet.

 

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.