It’s the New Year and we’re into recovery mode after the Christmas excesses. It’s so easy to lose track of what you’re eating and drinking at Christmas and indulge in too many chocolates, desserts and wine. It’s part of what makes Christmas fun! January is the time to move on, get back into your routine, start exercising and develop some good eating habits that can help you to look and feel better without resorting to a ‘diet’.
Here are my top tips for losing weight and feeling good with minimum effort and no deprivation:
1. Become conscious of your appetite. Before you eat, check in with yourself – do you feel hungry or are you eating because you’re bored / it’s your habit to have a snack at 4pm? Are you thirsty? Try having a glass of water or a cup of tea first. If you really want a snack, have a piece of fruit.
2. At mealtimes, don’t eat until you’re full to bursting. It takes 20 minutes for food to reach your stomach and signal that you’re full. Reduce your usual portion size slightly. Leave it 20 minutes and stack the dishwasher / do the washing up. You should find you feel perfectly satisfied and you will get used to eating less.
3. Time your exercise, so you do it before your usual mealtimes. This way your body will dip into its fat stores quicker as there will be less carbohydrate remaining in the muscles to use as fuel. You’re also less likely to replace the calories you’ve just burned off by eating a huge snack because you’re ravenous after a run.
4. Eat oats for breakfast, either as porridge or muesli (check out my home made muesli recipe). Oats help balance your blood sugar and are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you full for longer.
5. Reduce your wheat intake. In alternative medicine, wheat is said to put a ‘strain on the liver’. Whether there is scientific evidence for this or not, wheat can cause bloating and indigestion. Try substituting bread for rice cakes or rye crackers (Ryvita) and pasta for rice dishes or shredded courgette, sweet potato or legumes. Aim to not eat wheat more than once per day.
6. Eat one meal per day (lunch or dinner) that is carbohydrate free or low carb. Think about when you are naturally less hungry. If it’s at lunchtime, eat a bowl of soup or salad. Just make sure it contains plenty of protein in the form of meat, fish eggs or legumes and vegetables. For dinner, casseroles or soups that contain meat and legumes, such as chickpeas, white or butter beans can be filling and really nutritious (see my recipe for mediterranean chicken casserole). Or try substituting shredded courgette for pasta.
7. Cook and prepare meals at home rather than buying or eating out. You can control what goes into home prepared foods far easier than you can with a ready meal or shop-bought sandwich. Take leftovers to the office for lunch or throw some salads, cold meat or cheese into a plastic tub each morning.
8. Reduce your sugar intake. Be strong and say no to biscuits and cakes and eliminate temptation at home by not buying them. Cut out sugary breakfast cereals and eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. After a few days you will crave fewer sugary foods and sticking to it will become easier.
9. Eat nuts as a snack. They’re full of protein, fibre, minerals and unsaturated fats so are very nutritious and studies have shown that eating a handful of unsalted nuts per day does not cause weight gain and can even aid weight loss.
10. Get moving! Use every opportunity to walk and move about – during your lunch break, journey to work or school run, climb stairs rather than use lifts and stand rather than sit whenever possible. All incidental exercise counts towards your daily total.
If you try these tips and lose weight, let me know. Alternatively if you try them and don’t lose any weight, I’d still like to hear! All feedback is welcome. And never forget that it’s what you eat 80% of the time that matters most.