Losing weight is often high on people’s agenda as being of a healthy weight not only makes you feel and look well but decreases the risk of many diseases such as:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Sleep apnoea
- Kidney issues
- Fatty liver
- Fertility issues
However there are hundreds of diets out there that will help you lose weight, from Paleo to vegan, to ultra-low fat, to intermittent fasting, which can have great results for many people in the short-term. However, losing weight is only part of the process; maintaining it is just as important. Studies have shown that the impact of yo-yo dieting or weight cycling can be to increase body fat percentage, making it harder to lose weight next time, and increasing the risk of digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux. Additionally, researchers have found that yo-yo dieting disrupts the gut microbiome having a knock on effect to many systems of the body, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The best ‘diet’ or weight loss plan is one that enables your body to find a healthy weight and then stay within a few pounds of that long term.
Getting the Diet Right
Start with Nutritious Whole Real Foods that should naturally bring about weight loss, while healing the body, decreasing inflammation and improving health. Eating in this way ensures you are supplying your body with a steady stream of the nutrients needed to help prevent nutritional deficiencies in your diet.
We have all heard that eating highly processed foods made with simple sugars, trans fats and additives need cutting out. If your diet is packed full of take-away, ready meals, foods with long ingredient lists with things you do not recognise, fizzy drinks and shop bought sugary milky drinks it is unlikely you will reach your weight loss goal or maintain a healthy weight going forward. It isn’t easy if you are used to a diet full of these foods and beverages, but give yourself at least 90 days without them and your brain will have time to reset, reducing the likely hood of having the same cravings. As your taste buds regain their sensitivity you may no longer enjoy the incredible sweet, fatty and sodium rich processed foods to the same degree as before.
Therefore following a fad diet is not the answer, but always following these basic principles will give you a great chance of living a healthy, happy life at the weight your body is at its best:
- Eat plenty of vegetables; having at least 7-9 portions each day, will give you the vitamins and minerals you require, and plenty of fibre and water.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
- Have plenty of fibre in your diet from wholegrains, oats, fruit, veg, legumes and beans.
- Limit sugar and cut out refined foods. For sweetness use natural sources from fruit and dried fruit, molasses, coconut sugar and honey, and eat only in small portions, rarely.
- Cut out take-aways, fizzy drinks, sweeteners and trans-fats.
- Take regular exercise; at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes, plus get out walking every day.
- Be mindful of picking at food and nibbles, as although not a whole meal every little adds up.
- Use healthy fats such as olive, flax and hemp oil and use in moderation.
- Don’t over eat. Eat slowly and chew, chew, chew. Take time to allow your body to register the amount of food your body has consumed. It takes 20minutes for the brain to receive the food and send the signal that it has had enough, so ensure to take time to eat, to listen to your body and stop eating when you are full; not when the plate is empty. You can save most left overs for the next day or meal.
- Be prepared and plan, so you are not left stuck very hungry reaching for whatever you can find, wherever you are.
- Most importantly eat real food; cook from scratch as much as possible and avoid processed, chemical laden foods and drinks.
Following all these guidelines 90% of the time will give you a great starting place to have a healthy weight for life. It is not a quick fix and the weight will be unlikely to fall off quickly, but over the long term you should see decrease in weight and waist size, and be able to maintain it.
This way you are not yo-yo dieting but creating a new lifestyle for yourself so you never have to start a new diet ‘again,’ because the one you are on will help to keep you healthy and your weight stable.
Dietary Recommendations to get started
- Keep good fats in your diet by eating omega 3 fatty acids; helping reduce inflammation within the body that can drive a myriad of symptoms and conditions. Omega 3 has vital roles within the body such as cardiovascular protection and optimizing brain function, therefore it’s important to include them in your plan. Therefore include:
- Oily fish; at least 3 portions per week; salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout. Portion size approximately 140g
- 1tbsp per day of milled flaxseeds; sprinkle on berries, in yoghurts, smoothies, salads, porridge, soups, vegetables
- Organic Cold-Pressed flax oil as dressing for salads or vegetables; add a little apple cider vinegar or lemon/lime juice and herbs for added taste.
- Increase fibre; this will support healthy blood sugar balance helping to reduce cravings and energy dips. It will support the health of the intestine which is important to ensure correct elimination of toxins and excess hormones, it helps to rebalance the gut bacteria reducing occurrence of any overgrowths of unwanted bacteria, fungi or yeasts. So have:
- 7 portions of vegetables each day (fresh where possible); this will enable you to feel fuller for longer, increase your antioxidant status to help reduce cell damage within the body. It will provide nutrients for improved mood, balanced blood sugar and blood pressure and overall wellbeing. Each vegetable has great nutrient value so you are getting the most benefit from each calorie than when eating other less nutrient dense foods. Make homemade soups, stews, smoothies, roast in a little coconut oil, steam and drizzle with dressing, make warm salads, steam to accompany meat, fish, egg or beans or raw as a snack. Use herbs and spices when cooking or sprinkle on when serving.
- Eat whole grains and oats; wholemeal or spelt bread, brown basmati rice, wholemeal or spelt pasta instead of white options. Portions sizes; 1 slice of spelt or sourdough bread or 50g bowel of porridge or 100g cooked brown rice. If you are struggling to lose weight and do not have an active lifestyle reduce wholegrains to only 1-2 portions per day.
- Have a tablespoon of milled flaxseeds daily; sprinkle on evening meal, porridge or in yoghurt; triple benefit as high in omega 3 fatty acid and fibre.
- Include Protein with each meal and snack; this will help you feel fuller for longer and slow sharp rises in blood sugar. Studies have also found a small increase in protein intake and a small decrease in carbohydrate intake to support a healthy weight long term. Additionally proteins are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of each cell of the body, including feel good chemicals in the brain.
At main meals have protein with a plate full of mixed vegetables; this does not have to be meat or animal protein. Try having meat free days to lower your saturated fat and omega 6 intake which may reduce inflammation within the body. A few protein options include:
- Eggs; scrabbled, boiled, poached, omelette (if doing an omelette dry fry in a good non-stick pan at a low temp; eat with a large plate of vegetables or salad for either breakfast, lunch or evening meal; try mashing a boiled egg with natural yoghurt and have with raw veggies (red pepper, celery, carrot, cucumber) or oat cakes
- Beans and lentils try cannellini, pinto, haricot, chick peas, black-eyed, red and green lentils; make vegetarian stews, have in soup, curries, or sprinkle on salad.
- Meat: use lean chicken, turkey, game or beef and preferably free-range and grass fed.
- Oily fish; high in omega 3 fats.
- Adequate fluid intake at least 2-3 litres a day; 8-12 glasses; this will help toxins to be flushed out via the liver and kidneys, support energy levels and help reduce hunger, as sometimes the body can mistake dehydration for hunger. Do this through water and herbal teas. Normal tea or coffee does not count toward your daily intake.
- Carry a bottle around with you, and you can sip throughout the day.
- Have a drink of hot water with a little lemon on waking; will also assist liver detox.
- Add bits of either apple, berries, cucumber, melon, lemon, lime, ginger, mint or cinnamon to hot or cold water.
- Experiment with good quality green and herbal teas, use a good quality brand, such as Pukka, Yogi or Clipper, as taste and benefits increased.
Have 1 – 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar; in a small amount of water before large meals; make sure it is raw and unpasteurised/unfiltered. Brands such as RAW or Biona do good ones. Studies have shown this to reduce blood sugar spikes post meal and increase insulin sensitivity; at the same time long term use may aid weight loss and give relief from joint pain.
Cinnamon and Chromium; if you suffer from sugar cravings then consider adding in a supplement that contains them. Several studies have shown chromium to normalize blood sugar levels, improve blood sugar utilization and decrease insulin requirements. However results have been varied but for some individuals supplementing at least 200mcg can have great results in reducing cravings. Cinnamon has had similar results, so take as a supplement and/or add into your diet through using in foods or drinking as a tea.
Probiotics; having a well-balanced gut flora with a diverse range of good bacteria may support digestion and fat loss while increasing digestive efficiency, preventing fat around the middle, suppressing the appetite, decreasing calorie absorption, reducing inflammation, protecting the heart and supporting mood. You can supplement with a probiotic or use fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.