The last year has no doubt been a challenging one for us all, with many of us finding that boredom or stress has led to craving high sugar and high-fat foods causing us to pile on a few unwanted extra pounds.
Don’t despair as you are not alone! These top tips will help you to get back on track so that you are feeling more energised and body confident, just in time for summer and post-lockdown celebrations.
Eat enough protein
Protein is an especially important component of the diet, particularly when you are trying to lose weight. Protein can help to keep your blood sugars steady, keep you feeling full and prevent cravings. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, tofu, Quorn and soy protein meat alternatives. As a starting point aim to include a source of protein in at least 2 meals per day.
Don't forget about carbs
In recent years carbohydrates have been largely demonised in the media and as a result, many believe that the key to losing weight is to significantly reduce them or cut them out altogether. Contrary to this, carbohydrates are the bodies primary energy source and therefore an important component of the diet. Without them you would find yourself feeling quite lethargic and potentially very hungry.
Aim to base your meals on a source of starchy carbohydrates such as potato, rice, pasta or bread. Limit refined carbohydrate options such as added sugars found in biscuits, cakes and sweets. As well as being high in calories, these can also lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels which can leave you feeling hungry.
Fill up on fibre
Similarly to protein, fibre can help to keep you feeling full for longer. Dietary sources of fibre include whole grains, pulses, beans and fruit and vegetables. including plenty of vegetables on your plate, in particular, will add bulk to your meals and leave you feeling satisfied whilst helping to keep your calorie intake down. Fibre has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
Fat in the diet is important for several reasons including supporting cell growth, hormone production and helping the body to absorb nutrients. When you are trying to lose weight, however, portion control is key as fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient. In the UK many of us already consume too much fat as it is contained in many of the foods we already eat. Be careful not to add too much extra fat to your food and choose lower-fat protein and dairy options such as fish, poultry, lean mince, tofu or reduced-fat cheese.
Get the balance right
To lose weight successfully, and more importantly keep the weight off you should aim to eat a well-balanced diet whilst eating in a calorie deficit. At your lunch and evening meals try to fill up ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with starchy carbohydrate and ¼ of your plate with a source of protein. This will ensure you get the right balance to optimise your energy levels, keep you feeling full whilst losing weight at the same time.
Include some healthy snacks
Including 2-3 healthy snacks between your meals can support you with keeping your energy levels up and keep cravings at bay. Try to choose snacks for approximately 100 calories or less. Good options include low-fat Greek yoghurt, oatcakes, a cereal bar, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Our dietitian Tabitha has written her top healthy snacks to help you lose weight.
Staying hydrated is especially important for many reasons. Firstly, dehydration can leave you feeling tired and more likely to gravitate towards high-calorie foods. It is also easy to confuse thirst with hunger. Next time you think you might be hungry try having a drink first. Watch out however for hidden calories found in juices, sodas and hot drinks. We should all aim to drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid per day.
Set yourself a target this week to listen to your body and eat according to your hunger. There is a difference between true hunger and a craving. Hunger is a physical sensation that builds gradually over time. You may notice sensations such as your stomach rumbling or struggling to focus. Cravings tend to come on very quickly and involve the urge to eat a specific food, for many of us this is for something sweet. As well as coming on quickly cravings also tend to pass quickly so if you can distract yourself, even for 10-20 minutes you may find the craving passes. Learn more about intuitive eating and how to silence your inner food critic.
Challenge your inner ‘food police’
Have you frequently found yourself falling into a pattern of yo-yo dieting? Challenging your feelings and attitudes towards certain foods may help you to break free from this cycle.
When we are trying to lose weight our inner ‘food police’ may be telling us that certain foods are completely off bounds. Restricting certain food groups can be counter-productive and lead to us craving these foods, binging on them, and then returning to old habits. Remember all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, even chocolate! Next time you want to eat something you think you shouldn’t, challenge your thoughts by asking yourself, am I hungry? Do I feel like it? And if so, how much would be enough?
Take part in exercise
Ultimately, losing weight is all about burning off more calories than you are consuming. Increasing your physical activity levels can therefore help to speed up your weight loss. A combination of both cardiovascular and resistance training exercise will give you optimum results. Aim to start slowly initially. Did you know that just by including an additional 20 minutes of walking per day the average person would burn enough calories to lose almost 1 stone of weight in a year?!
If you need support and want to start your weight loss journey you can book an appointment today.
Caroline is an award-winning HCPC registered dietitian and nutritionist with vast experience working for the NHS in both community and acute settings and the private sector. Caroline is passionate about food and nutrition and the role it plays in optimising health and wellbeing. She offers holistic and practical individualised dietetic care and ongoing support to help you achieve your goals. Her areas of expertise include weight management, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and plant-based diets.
Visit Caroline's profile to request her expertise.
You can find further information on losing weight by clicking on the links below.