Are you someone who regularly ‘goes on a diet’ but then gives up, regains the pounds and starts all over again? Or perhaps you need to lose weight for the first time. Either way read on to discover a new approach to reaching a healthier weight and staying there!
Even modest weight loss can make a big difference to the health and vitality of someone who is overweight or obese. Weight loss is a gradual process, so trying the latest crash diet is unlikely to be successful in the long term. These types of diets may be successful in the short-term, but, the weight loss achieved will almost always be regained once you return to normal eating habits. This can leave you feeling demoralised and discouraged about losing weight.
Enjoying a well-balanced, high-carbohydrate diet and some regular exercise is the key to keeping slim. The healthy eating plan recommended in Successful Dieting is designed to be one that you can stick to and enjoy. Once you have lost the desired amount of weight, simply adjust the amount you eat to keep your weight steady. By then your appetite should be better tuned in to guide you on how much to eat.
For most people, excess fat is gained over many months or years. Weight is gained by eating more food (or energy) than is burned off in everyday activities. Excess energy is mainly stored in the body as fat. Over time this often accumulates, resulting in excess weight. To maintain a steady weight the number of calories being consumed must equal the number used up. A sedentary person eating a high energy diet, ie consuming more energy than they are using up in everyday activities, will put on weight.
To lose weight it is necessary to reduce the calories you eat or increase the amount of calories you burn off in everyday activities. Changing dietary and lifestyle habits, instead of simply cutting out certain foods or counting calories, will increase the likelihood of achieving weight loss and preventing weight regain. The human body copes best if weight is lost over several months rather than weeks. This gives you time to adapt to, and enjoy, your new dietary habits and lifestyle.
Set realistic goals
When starting a diet you may lose a few pounds straight away, but this is usually just water. To lose fat takes much longer! It is tempting to be ambitious about how much, and how quickly, you are going to lose weight. Instead, set yourself realistic goals that you have a real chance of reaching. Be prepared for a gradual, steady weight loss from the start. Aim to lose no more than about a pound (half a kilo) a fortnight.
Changing your daily diet
Drastically restricting the amount and range of foods ‘allowed’ will leave you hungry and ‘craving’ your favourite foods. This leaves you open to temptation and more likely to overeat. The diet that will work best for you is one based on foods you enjoy.
Eat a greater proportion of foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat, such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. Carbohydrate-containing foods make you feel fuller and more satisfied, helping to prevent overeating. They also contain less than half the calories of fat (carbohydrate has only 4 kcal per gram while fat has 9 kcal per gram). Do not cut out food types, instead limit the amount of certain foods, such as those high in fat, and replace them with carbohydrate-rich, low-fat alternatives. Eat regularly and do not skip meals.
Healthy eating does not mean eating plain, tasteless foods! You can continue to eat your favourite lunch and supper time meals. Simply adapt how they are prepared and served so that the carbohydrate content is higher and the fat content lower.
Try the following suggestions for popular meals:
- Bangers and Mash: More mashed potato, less sausage, plenty of beans
- Spaghetti Bolognese: More spaghetti, less bolognese sauce, plenty of salad
- Traditional Lunch: More potatoes, less meat, plenty of vegetables
- Curry: More rice, less curry
- Sandwiches: Thicker bread, less meat, cheese or other filling, plenty of salad or pickle
- Try a fruity dessert or a moderate portion of a low-fat pudding
It is important that you eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need and do not feel deprived. To really succeed in changing your habitual diet you need to enjoy your food. Try different types of fruit and vegetables, experiment with high carbohydrate foods and lower fat recipes.
Don’t take a diet to extremes – there is no need to ban high-fat or favourite foods. Instead, try to reduce the portion size or have them less often. Having a small portion of chips with your dinner once in a while will not undo all your hard work. Including favourite foods can actually help you to stick to the diet. This way you can incorporate them into the overall healthy balance of your diet. It is the total number of calories over a few days that counts, not just the amount in one meal or snack.