If you’ve already made the most of that all-inclusive buffet on holiday, or if you’re counting down the days for your summer get-away but your clothes are feeling just that bit too tight – don’t stress. Our experts share their top tips for those who want to shed those stubborn pounds, with healthy and sustainable steps, to help you keep the weight off long term.
1. Ditch the scales
Body composition is about more than weight alone. Body fat percentage – or how much of that weight is fat and how much of it is muscle or bone – is actually more important. This is where your weight on the scales – and even your BMI – can be deceiving: you can have a low body weight or BMI but also a higher-than-normal body fat percentage and a low muscle mass, which is bad news for your health. Or you could be losing weight, but the weight that’s coming off is actually muscle: also bad news.
“Your body weight can go up, but at the same time, body fat percentage is decreasing and muscle mass or bone mass increasing – which is usually a good thing! This can happen if you increase your exercise, for example. So you may feel discouraged because it looks like you’re gaining weight – and you are – but you can be losing fat and inches around your waist and improving muscle tone at the same time,” explains Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author ofFat Around the Middle.
2. Sit in silence
Instead of scrolling through your phone or watching TV, switch off and observe your food, noting the flavours, textures, feelings and thoughts that arise in you.
“Try a silent dinner if you are eating with a partner or family. This may sound pretty easy, but it can be challenging! The health benefits are remarkable, with mindfulness said to help reduce stress and overeating and potentially even increase our nutrient assimilation from the foods we eat!” explains Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Amy Wright working with itsu [itsu.com], the healthy pan-Asian eatery.
3. Find a class you love
“Exercising on your own, whether it’s working out in the gym or going for a run, can be a joyless experience. But exercising with others in a class can be motivating and much more fun, especially if there’s great music too. When you try a class, give it two or three chances before you decide whether you want to continue or move on to something else: sometimes it takes a few weeks to start to learn the moves, feel comfortable and really get to love it,” explains Fitness Instructor and Nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
4. Sleep the pounds off
“Sleep is a major factor for weight gain. Not sleeping enough or having bad quality sleep pushes our nervous system into an alarming state and as a response the body will slow the metabolism down and shifting pounds can become very difficult,” explains Martina Della Vedova, Nutritionist at Natures Plus (naturesplus.co.uk).
Try Natures Plus KalmAssure Magnesium Powder (£22.50,www.naturesplus.co.uk) taken in the evening or before bed, to provide your body with healthy magnesium levels, which can assist in, better sleeping patterns.
5. Be realistic and keep track of any progress
There’s no point making fitness goals that are unachievable and unrealistic. Cassandra explains, “For example, you might have an initial goal of losing weight. Decide and write down how much weight you want to lose and in what time frame – a fitness instructor or trainer can then help you work out a realistic goal. Take measurements at the beginning of your journey – for weight loss, this could include waist circumference and ‘before’ photos as well as simple body weight on the scales. Then take new measurements every two weeks so you can see how you’re progressing towards your goal.”
6. Switch white for wholemeal
Marilyn suggests, “Swap to whole grain alternatives that release energy slowly. The carbohydrates in wholemeal bread are broken down slowly over several hours and so do not give any sudden flooding of sugars into the bloodstream. Also, this gradual release helps you to feel full for longer, suppressing your appetite and stopping you craving sweet foods because you are not on the blood sugar roller-coaster.”
7. Kick-start your weight loss with protein
Protein-rich foods are more satiating than carbohydrate-rich foods – in other words, they can fill you up more quickly and for longer. “They do this by slowing down the emptying of the stomach and by reducing the release of hormones such as ghrelin that stimulate appetite. The result is that you’re likely to eat less over the course of the day, making it easier to control your weight,” explains Nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
8. Boost your metabolism with your gut
Our stomach is made up of good and bad bacteria, called gut flora, which have a controlling influence over many body functions, including metabolism and fat reduction. However, our lifestyle habits (taking antibiotics, having a diet high in sugar, feeling stressed) can contribute to damaging our gut bacteria, so it’s important to limit the bad bacteria and encourage the good bacteria to grow.
“Feed the good bacteria with fibrous foods and probiotics, which you can find in fermented foods (such as Kombucha tea, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and apple cider vinegar) or include a supplement in your diet, such as NHP Advanced Probiotic Support (£31.78, www.naturalhealthpractice.com). Probiotics may help to reduce the number of calories you absorb from food,” advises Cassandra.