Maintaining a healthy weight is more important than ever, as Cancer Research UK reports that obesity leads to an even greater risk of some forms of cancer than smoking. We asked nutritionist May Simpkin for her 10 golden rules to weight loss
When life runs away with you and you’re aware that you’re not on track when it comes to your meal and food choices, you’ll also be aware that you don’t feel great!
All too often this can lead to a cycle of battling cravings, low mood, fatigue and tiredness and inevitably followed by despair. Sound familiar?
Current research tells us that obesity leads to chronic disease. Cancer Research UK has reported that bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to have been caused by being overweight than by smoking.
About a third of UK adults are obese – and with the conflicting advice about weight loss I see so often on the internet, magazines and media, it is no surprise that losing weight can lead to frustration and limited success.
Avoid the notion of embarking on a diet
That was before and this is now! In the first instance, avoid the notion of embarking on a diet, which implies a specific regime for a certain time frame, after which, you are likely to revert back to the negative eating habits that were contributing to your weight gain.
Instead, follow these 10 golden rules and you will soon regain control of your weight, but the best bit is that it will soon become effortless and simple a way of life.
Avoid speciality aisles such as gluten- and dairy- free
Unless you have been specifically tested for an allergy, there is no need to choose foods that are processed to eliminate individual ingredients. By choosing these foods, you are invariably choosing a more expensive, highly processed food that will not, in itself, help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Although you may think that by avoiding whole food groups, you are more aware of your food choices and therefore more likely to choose healthier options but your choices become much more limited, more expensive and less appealing. Try this naturally gluten & dairy free Creamy Carrot, Ginger and Coriander soup.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Fizzy drinks contain up to 10 spoonfuls of sugar
These are found in most diet foods and in particular fizzy drinks that can contain up to 10 spoonfuls of sugar. You may think that by choosing a diet version you are making a better choice. Yes, in terms of calories, you are not initially consuming the huge number of calories as part of the food or drink. However, when you consume these artificial sweeteners, the brain still perceives the sweet taste and responds similarly as it would to a non diet version, but it does not register any calories associated with this perception. It therefore encourages the appetite so that you consume the calories to compensate for this.
Avoid Dried Fruits
A whole fruit, for example a grape or apricot, in its original form contains plenty of water, but in its dried form, this water has been removed. What remains, as well as the vitamins and minerals, is fibre but also concentrated levels of sugar. In addition, as much of the bulk of the fruit has been reduced, it is easier to eat bigger quantities of dried fruits and therefore more sugar. Choose the whole fresh fruit instead and limit your fruit intake to a maximum of 2 portions per day, due to their high sugar content.
Avoid Snacking and Eating in Between Meals
Once you’ve finished your evening meal, close the kitchen until breakfast
Whereas we were once encouraged to eat three meals per day with two snacks in between, research now shows that snacking can contribute to weight gain. This is because each time we eat, insulin is released to remove the sugars that are enter the blood. Insulin is our fat storing hormone so if insulin levels in the blood are high, due to constant snacking, this will encourage the fat to be stored and will lead to weight gain. Leave at least 4-5 hours in between meals. Focus on eating three good quality, balanced meals a day and once you have finished your evening meal, apart from herbal teas later in the evening, “close” the kitchen until breakfast the following morning. This “fast” will also help with weight loss.
We have become accustomed to regular alcohol consumption as part of our lifestyle and the amount consumed is slowly increasing; a glass of wine or cold beer whilst cooking, sharing a bottle over a meal and perhaps opening another whilst relaxing during the evening. Alcohol is very high in calories and sugar and can be the most significant saboteur in your efforts to lose weight.
Your liver will repair and function more efficiently
Instead, work towards changing these habits and try to dispel the association of alcohol with meal times and relaxation. Aim to limit alcohol to your meal only and try to have at least 3-4 days (if not more) during the week where you avoid alcohol altogether. As well as reducing your calorie and sugar intake, this will also allow the liver to recover and repair so that it can function more efficiently.
Carbohydrates are essentially sugars and we only need sugars to produce energy. If we eat too many sugars (carbohydrates) without the energy requirement, for example, you’re sitting at a desk all day, stuck in the car or relaxing on the sofa, your energy requirement is minimal. The excess sugar consumed will be converted to fat and stored, usually around the middle.
Limit carbohydrate foods such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes to less than a quarter of your plate
Limit carbohydrate foods such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes to less than a quarter of your plate and ideally choose wholegrains in their natural forms like wild and brown rice, quinoa or starchy vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potato, peas and sweetcorn.
Reduce Portion Sizes
We are eating more than we actually need
Portion sizes have been steadily increasing over recent years and as such we are eating much more than we actually need. It is important to consider how much you eat at each meal; serve your meals individually rather than from a serving dish at the table, use a smaller plate, don’t have seconds and consider freezing leftovers for a convenient meal on another occasion. Ideally, you can avoid desserts unless it’s a special occasion. As a rule of thumb, your protein should be small palm-sized or the size of a pack of cards, a carbohydrate (including starchy vegetables) serving should be of similar size to a tennis ball and a cheese portion matchbox sized.
your protein portion should be small palm-sized or the size of a pack of cards
Limit Starchy Vegetables
Very often we favour vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes. These vegetables taste sweet and indeed contain high amounts of starch and therefore sugars. Limit these vegetables to only one portion a day and include leafy greens such as broccoli, cabbage or spinach alongside.
Never buy sweets…
That little packet of mints or “much deserved” chocolate bar contain a huge number of empty calories, no nutrients and plays havoc with your blood sugar levels; therefore encouraging fat storage and consequently weight gain. Avoid having these in the car or in your handbag and instead keep fruit and measured portions of nuts (around 9-10). If you’re looking for an energising treat for those days that you’re on the run and likely to miss a meal, try these healthy protein-packed Granola bars that are guaranteed to keep you going.
Forgive and Forget
It’s all very well to have rules but if you’ve over indulged and haven’t made exemplary choices, do not despair! In moderation, these excesses can be weathered and will not sabotage your otherwise good choices. Forgive and forget and move swiftly on to the next meal – and make sure that one’s a good choice.
As well as eating habits, other lifestyle measures must also be prioritised. Ensuring at least 7-9 hours sleep, including at least 30 minutes exercise each day ideally, for example a brisk walk and drinking plenty of water or herbal teas are all important and will help with your efforts to lose weight.
Slowly incorporate these rules as you become more comfortable
Remember there is no magic potion that will make it easy for you you to achieve all of these rules at once! Aim to focus on one or two of these rules at the outset and slowly incorporate the others as you become more comfortable and confident with the changes you have made. With renewed vigour and energy, you will soon find that you are on the road to achieving your weight loss goals!
May Simpkin is a UK qualified Nutritional Therapist with a Masters Science degree in Personalised Nutrition. She is an experienced clinician, practicing functional medicine from an evidence base, providing the latest research into nutrition. She is a registered practitioner, bound by the code of ethics in clinical practice and has met the strict criteria required for BANT, the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and the CNHC, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, which is the council recommended by the UK Department of Health for complementary and natural healthcare services. She is also Chair of the Continual Professional Committee at BANT. In addition, she is registered with AFMCP, The Institute for Functional Medicine – Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice™ and a member of the RSM, The Royal Society of Medicine.