If you read my ‘Diets Stripped Bare’ blog, you will now be equipped with some facts about ‘dieting’ and understand how most ‘quick-fixes’ don’t work in the long-term. This is all well and good, you may think, but what steps do you need to take now and more importantly, how do you keep the weight off? Good questions!! But before I attempt to rock your world 😉, I would just like to reiterate why your ‘diet’ keeps letting you down – which I am guessing is the case if you are reading this:
1. Once the novelty has worn off or you have been lucky enough to achieve your goal, old habits creep back and the weight piles back on! The inflexibility required doesn’t allow us to establish the lifestyle changes necessary to long-term success.
2. They lead to a continuous cycle of yo-yo dieting where if we ‘cheat’ or have a bad day, we have a mini-melt down, feel like a failure and throw in the towel. Then we rinse and repeat! Phew, exhausting just to think about…..
In addition to this, research has suggested that “rigid dieting strategies, but not flexible dieting strategies, are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMI in non obese women”, Stewart et al (2002)……really scary stuff!!!
So whilst I can’t transform your life overnight with some super sexy, mega fast weight loss formula, I do want to equip you with some solid, evidence-based strategies that when consistently implemented will lead to a happier, healthier you. As the amazingly intelligent nutritionist Alan Aragon puts it (no, he isn’t paying me!), “adherence is the make-or-break factor in any diet.”
So lets get down to business….
Tip Number 1 – Don’t call it a diet, make it a nutritional lifestyle
The word ‘diet’ is becoming increasingly loaded within society and often conjures up negative thoughts, feelings and emotions. The idea of living by a set of rules makes us anxious yet when we disobey them, we are filled with guilt and fear. But we set ourselves up for this! Fundamentally ‘diet’ is all about mindset – tell yourself you can’t have that twix and it will be all you can think about, even if you don’t like them!! When you were a kid, if your mum or teacher told you not to do something did it make you want to do it more?? Catch my drift? The same applies to dieting; it becomes a psychological battle within ourselves which more often than not we lose. So I suggest that you reframe the notion in your mind – decide to make smart lifestyle changes instead of living by a set of rules and I can almost guarantee that you will succeed.
Tip Number 2 – Set realistic goals
We have all been there, determined to drop a dress size or lose that stone like now!! But this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make; you are either setting yourself up for failure or about to become miserable! Husbands, wives, children, pets beware……
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease, you should instead aim to steadily lose around 1% of body weight a week. Do the maths, set a realistic goal with an achievable timescale and then track progress. Write it down, measure, take pictures and reflect on them regularly to remind yourself of the commitment you made.
Tip Number 3 – Stop eating so often!
Eating small meals regularly will NOT speed up your metabolism or help you burn fat quicker, Kinabo et al (1990)! If anything, this approach will make you think about food even more and will never leave you satisfied! Not to mention the impracticalities of having to prepare 6 meals a day. Yes, irregular eating can have a negative impact on metabolism but that doesn’t mean you need to eat constantly! Find an approach fits in with your day, doesn’t promote overeating and stick with it!
Tip Number 4 – Eat more protein
Not only does protein help us preserve precious muscle that is necessary to maintain a higher metabolism, it also keeps us fuller for longer. It is the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients (the others being carbohydrate and fats) so it would be sensible to include it at EVERY meal.
It is recommended that you get 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight, more if you train but this is very generic figure and needs to be personalised.
Tip Number 5 – Eat more whole foods
Whilst processed foods are certainly not the enemy (halleluiah as they are pretty hard to avoid and who would want to anyway?), it is advisable to have them in moderation and ensure that your diet is high in minimally processed foods. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans and lean meats are high in dietary fibre which, according to Howarth et al (2001), can help to regulate our weight. Similar to protein they often also keep you fuller for longer.
Tip Number 6 – Take a break!
Losing weight is rarely easy; it doesn’t happen quickly, demands discipline can be downright rubbish! So be kind to yourself and take a break from time to time. Try relaxing the rules once a week or taking a week off (yes a WHOLE week) every now and then; if you maintain consistency for the most-part then you will not ruin your progress. Think 80/20 – if you can master this then your weight loss journey has a higher chance of success because believe it or not, you will be happier! Having something to look forward to has huge psychological benefits so have that cake once in a while. Having said this, don’t self-sabotage by going totally off track all weekend, every weekend – come on you know this!!
Tip Number 7 – Don’t drink your calories
In a scientific study led by DiMeglio et al (2000), sugary drinks led to more weight gain than eating sugary sweets! There was no magic reason for this; those eating the sweets were simply more mindful of what they had put in their mouths and so reduced their calorie intake. Those that drank the liquid didn’t so had an excess of calories which of course led to weight gain – not rocket science! So in other words, stop mindlessly consuming ‘empty calories’ by swapping sugary drinks for sugar-free versions or don’t have them at all! And no, diet drinks when consumed in moderation are not detrimental to your health!
Tip Number 8 – Do it ‘your way’
A meta-analysis by Johnston et al (2014) concluded that:
The weight loss differences between individual named diets were small with likely little importance to those seeking weight loss. This supports the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight.
So try different approaches to find what works for you and remember that just because one way might work for one person, that doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. The key is adherence, there is no secret formula – it is predominantly about calories in vs calories out.
Tip Number 9 – Exercise (yep, you can’t escape it)
Whilst it is absolutely possible to lose weight by simply adjusting your calorie intake in the short term (notice how I make it sound so easy…), exercise plays a fundamental part in keeping you trim! When Anderson et al (2001) reviewed a number of studies, they concluded that those who ‘exercised more had significantly greater weight-loss maintenance than did those who exercised less’.
Just like your diet, find an approach that works for you to get you moving more. You don’t have to lift weights or do hours of cardio – if you don’t enjoy it then you wont stick to it anyway! Try walking, swimming, yoga….it doesn’t matter as long as you are burning those cals!
Tip Number 10 – Sleep!
I am going to end on what I think is the most under rated factor affecting weight gain SLEEP!!! Lack of it not only gives us a longer time-frame for eating, it affects our circadian rhythm which makes us lethargic so we move less. Furthermore, it affects our hunger hormones, ‘grehlin’ and ‘leptin’ thus making us, yep it guessed it, hangry!! Sleep deprivation severely attacks our physical and mental health; it is used as a form of torture for good reason!
Don’t be a martyr, look after yourself and get some kip!!! Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it!
So to conclude, there is no perfect nutritional approach. The key is to find a balance through selected strategies that fit in with your lifestyle, match your goals and are scientifically proven. Remember if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is and after all, CONSISTENCY TRUMPS PERFECTION EVERY TIME! Thanks for reading folks 😊