Following all the excesses of the Christmas period, it’s little surprise that one of the most common New Year resolutions people make is to lose weight.
There are a wide array of diets and eating plans which are designed to beat the fat, not to mention the vast range of exercise programs out there, so it can be pretty daunting knowing what the best course of action is to take when you’re looking to kickstart a healthier lifestyle.
However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of reaching your healthy living and weight loss goals.
Here, we’ve laid out some of the best.
New Year New You - Part 1: How To Motivate Yourself After Christmas
Forget The Guilt
Before you get started, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve gained weight due to a particularly binge-filled Christmas. You’re not alone!
Remember, it’s what you eat day-to-day that affects your long-term weight, not the extra helpings of pigs in blankets and Christmas pudding on December 25th.
You might feel that because you’ve eaten an excess of fatty food during the festive season, you may as well carry on as it is too late to reverse the habit – but don’t fall into this trap.
A short period of treating yourself over Christmas is perfectly fine, so embrace it and don’t regret a bit of over indulgence!
Clear Out Leftovers
If the food isn’t there, you can’t eat it, it’s a simple as that! If you know there’s cupboards full of cake, biscuits and salty snacks, you know you’ll eventually give in to temptation.
Once the festivities are over, clear out your fridge, cupboards by freezing leftovers or give them away – there’s bound to be someone willing to snap them up.
Restock your supplies with healthier snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetables and raw nuts which you can reach for when peckish and having a post-Christmas craving.
Once you cut off the processed stuff, you’ll feel motivated knowing that you’re not needing it anymore.
Avoid The Scales
After a week or so of Christmas eating, it’s likely that you weigh a bit more. In many cases, this is not because you’ve gained body fat, but because you’re retaining water due to the extra salt you’ve consumed in your festive food.
Don’t think about stepping on the scales regularly to see what your weight is. Instead, focus your attention on the steps you’re taking to get your eating habits back on the right track.
If you continue to get on the scales and putting pressure on yourself to lose weight, you’re more likely to lose motivation to continue with your healthier plan if you feel you’re not hitting those pressurised goals.
Staying away from processed foods and upping your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus drinking plenty of water, will reduce the festive bloat.
Balance Your Eating
You might think that the best way to address a festive blowout is to go all out on an extreme detox or diet, but this can prove to be ineffective.
Yo-yo dieting and restricting your calorie intake sharply can slow down your metabolism, effectively impacting your ability to lose weight in the long term.
In addition to this, when you restrict calories, your levels of hunger go up, increasing your appetite and making it more difficult to stop falling off the wagon.
Try Different Things
The idea of going to the gym or going out for a morning run may not appeal to you, but a dance class or playing a sport might.
If you are not convinced by joining a gym, there are other plenty of ways to improve your fitness that do not involve a lengthy commitment. Studio based sessions such as Zumba or Pilates and even outdoor boot camps work out cheaper and are more sociable.
Consider mixing up the activities you take part in, so that your exercise routine doesn’t become stale. Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and try a new class every month, or even every week. You’re sure to find one you’re motivated for.
It’s easier to remain motivated by planning your workouts and meals. Take your own food to work with you, carry some fruit or energy bars and look to plan your meals in advance for the week so that you avoid going hungry and reaching for a convenient meal that might not be the most nutritious.
The New Year is a good time to make positive changes to your lifestyle, but the prospect of taking on the challenge after a Christmas of excess can be difficult.
These tips will give you a push to make the improvements and hit your personal goals, offering smaller changes and tips you can use to make the process that bit easier.
Soon you’ll find your healthier habits become part of your everyday life, so setting yourself up for success will keep you motivated on your path to weight loss and improved wellbeing.
In the second of our four-part series, we show you how to stick to your weight loss goals and avoid falling off the diet wagon.
If you’ve decided to lose weight this January, there’s a good chance you’ve made a positive start with a few weeks’ healthy eating in the bank and you’re looking forward to continuing it through the month.
You’ve made your plan, outlined realistic goals and given yourself a diet that you can follow in the long-term.
However, sticking with it can prove tricky. As temptations pile up and the initial enthusiasm begins to wane you can easily lose track and end up back where you started by February.
The following tips will help you stick to your healthy eating plan and let you banish the excess pounds for good.
New Year New You - Part 2: Never Ruin Your Diet Again
Plan in advance
A lack of organisation will soon see your diet go off track. If you come home from work following a long day to an empty fridge, you’ll be tempted to order a takeaway or snack for the remainder of the evening.
To ensure you remain on course, plan meals and snacks in advance. One idea is to batch cook on the weekend to make simple, nutritious lunches for work and meals you can bung in the fridge or freezer, ready for you to heat up in no time.
If you head out for something to eat, the temptation to treat yourself increases when you’re faced with a menu full of delicious dishes. To eat more sensibly in restaurants, look at the menu in advance to figure out what you’ll be ordering.
Make yourself accountable
It can be easy to lose track of what you’re eating. A few snacks on the side might not seem much, but once you’ve eaten them and forgotten about them, they’re extra calories that add up and have the potential to ruin your hard work.
To help you remain focused, particularly when progress might seem to be slowing down, having a system of accountability in place will help you continue on your journey.
Keep a food diary and make a list of everything you eat and drink every day. This will keep you committed and prevent mindless snacking. You can keep a physical copy on paper or, if you prefer, use an app to keep your eating habits on the right path.
You may also decide to check in with a friend, family member or colleague who is also on a similar plan though email or phone; this will make you more determined to stick to the goals you’ve set out.
Regularly noting your journey helps you to track your progress and you’ll start to see more clearly what works for you and what doesn’t.
Keep weighing yourself at regular intervals too, as seeing progress on the scales is motivation to keep you going.
Know what hunger is
Feeling satisfied after eating – that of you’re no longer hungry but don’t feel full – is something that many people do not know.
For many, the signal we’ve had enough to eat is that of feeling full, even stuffed to the point where you can’t move.
The next time you think you’re hungry, ask yourself if your stomach feels empty or if you don’t feel full. Think about how you feel before you eat, do so again halfway through your meal and after you finish eating. Stop eating when you feel satisfied.
Allowing yourself to become overly hungry makes it more tempting to grab whatever food is to hand, which is more likely to be a carb-loaded, salty snack or a calorific cake or chocolate bar.
Aim to eat three balanced meals each day, beginning with breakfast.
Skipping breakfast or lunch, or eating too little early in the day, can trigger hunger pangs and cravings later on.
A good way to manage your hunger is to introduce snacks between meals. Go for smaller 150 to 200 calorie snacks that provide protein and complex carbohydrates for longer lasting energy.
Think of a small Greek yogurt, baby carrots with hummus, an apple with cottage cheese, a handful of cashew nuts or almonds or a nutritious energy bar.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleeping might not stand out as a weight loss step, but getting a good night’s sleep improves your healthy lifestyle.
Your body uses fat for energy while you sleep, so you’re more likely to burn it off the more hours you get in.
A study by Forza Supplements surveyed 1,000 people across the UK aged between 18 and 65 who were attempting to lose weight. It found some clear differences between the participants who got their designated shut-eye and those who had erratic sleeping patterns, including how it affected their eating habits and dieting success.
74% of participants who slept for seven-and-a-half to eight hours every night stated that they didn’t struggle to stick to a diet or lose weight.
Participants who slept for less than seven hours each night were almost four times more likely to snack between meals than their more-rested counterparts (64% vs 17%) while 72% of those that got enough sleep found that they could stick to a diet plan, compared to just 42% of poor sleepers.
When you’re working hard and reach your targets, celebrate your achievements. Every month keep track of your weight, strength and your overall progress and set a target you’ll reward yourself for when you reach it.
For example, for every half-stone lost reward yourself with a new fitness top, a new pair of trainers or gym accessory. These smaller treats can help you to remain on track and reach your final goal.
In part 3 of our New Year New You series, we look at how a small change to your eating habits can have a big effect on your waistline.
A lot of people eat their food fast and without thinking. Often the temptation is to wolf down a meal, especially if we’re hungry following a long day.
However, eating slowly may be a much better approach.
Research has suggested that eating speed and other eating behaviours, such as snacking between meals, affected weight gain.
Here, we explore the benefits of slowing down while eating, both in terms of weight gain and general wellbeing.
New Year New You - Part 3: Eat Slowly, Lose Weight
Can fast eating cause weight gain?
A study in New Zealand discovered that people who describe themselves as fast eaters tend to be heavier than those who say that they eat more slowly.
Fast eaters are up to 115% more likely to be obese, compared to slow eaters, the research conducted in 2009 discovered.1
They are also more likely to gain weight over time, which may be down to eating too quickly.
A 2018 report2 published in the journal BMJ Open found that out of 60,000 subjects studied in Japan, those who ate slowly were roughly 42% less likely to be obese than those who ate quickly.
People who ate a slower speed were around 29% less likely to be obese than a fast eater.
For the study, experts analysed health insurance data from people with diabetes in Japan who had regular health check-ups between 2008 and 2013.
Eat less by eating slowly
Your body’s appetite and calorie intake is largely controlled by hormones.
After eating, your stomach suppresses the ghrelin hormone, which controls hunger. It also releases a number of anti-hunger hormones that relay a message to the brain, letting you know that you’ve eaten and nutrients from your food are currently being absorbed.
This reduces your appetite, makes you feel full and satisfied, which in turn helps to stop you from eating more.
This process takes roughly 20 minutes, so slowing down as you eat gives your brain the time needed to receive these hunger-suppressing signals.
Eating too quickly can often lead to overeating, as your brain does not have the time to receive the fullness signals.
If you are eating quickly, you can pile more food away in the 20 minute window and increase your calorie consumption as a result.
Eating slowly has been shown to decrease the amount of food consumed in a meal, which is down to an increase in the level of anti-hunger hormones which occurs when meals are not rushed.
A study of obese young people aged 9-17 showed higher levels of satiety hormones when consuming a meal slowly.3
Eating slowly means you have to chew your food several times before swallowing it.
This has been shown to reduce your calorie intake and help you lose weight.
Studies have shown that people with weight issues are more likely to chew their food less than those of a healthier weight.4
It has also been shown that increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduces the size of the meal eaten.5
Not only does it mean you consume fewer calories, but it makes you feel more satisfied after eating.
Over time, this can lead to weight loss.
Benefits of eating slowly
As we’ve discovered, eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly can make you feel fuller and help you lose weight through eating fewer calories.
Eating more slowly can also increase your enjoyment of food, improve digestion and help you to absorb nutrients better.
When you eat quickly, you’re more likely to swallow air as you swallow your food and this excess air builds up in your stomach, causing bloatedness and indigestion.
To prevent that uncomfortable feeling, take more time over each mouthful and be mindful of how quickly you swallow your food.
How to eat slower
There are a number of good ways you can start to eat more slowly. Here are a few of the most effective.
Avoid extreme hunger
It can be very hard to eat slowly when you’re very hungry, this is where it becomes tempting and, in fact, very easy to shovel food down because you’re ravenous.
To prevent becoming extremely hungry, keep a few small, healthy snacks to hand to keep you ticking over until your next meal time.
A good tip to increase the amount of chews you take before swallowing is to count how many times you normally chew a bite of food, then double it.
Try to avoid screen time during eating. Watching TV or focusing on tablets and phones can lead to quick, mindless eating where you consume more than you realise.
If you must watch TV, choose a 20-30 minute programme and make your food last the entirety.
Set down utensils
Following a good practice during meal time helps in the speed of your eating.
For example, using a knife and fork and setting them down between bites will help you to eat slower and make the most of each mouthful.
Water is great for filling you up without adding to your calorie intake. Sip plenty of water as you eat to break up the routine of mouthful of food, followed by mouthful of food and to fill you up sooner.
Eating too quickly can lead to weight gain and stop you from enjoying your food as much.
However, by slowing down your eating habits, you can increase that feeling of fullness and promote weight loss.
It is a good habit to continue in the long term, as it means you’re less likely to put on weight once eating slower becomes second nature.
So, take it slow and enjoy your food. You’ll feel the benefit!
In Part 4 of our New Year New You series, we show you how you can stick to your diet plan in the final weeks, when cravings threaten to derail your progress.
You’ve stuck to your January diet plan so far, making progress and seeing results. However, a common issue people face after a few weeks of eating healthier foods is the temptation to overindulge.
After a period of going without your favourite snacks and treats, you may be tempted to treat yourself by enjoying them again. However, one biscuit can soon into several, a few crisps can soon turn into a whole bag and before you know it, you’re at risk of undoing all your hard work.
So how can you see that weight loss plan through to its end? We have a few tips that might help.
New Year New You - Part 4: Stick To Your Diet In The Final Weeks
Eat blander foods
The palatability of a food envokes a sense of pleasure and enjoyment from eating it. It might be stating the obvious but, the better a food tastes, the more you crave it.
If you get a craving for your favourite cake, for example, you’ll stop at nothing to get it, even if that means driving to the supermarket at 9pm! For you, it’s a highly palatable food.
When you have a big dinner, do you still notice that you can ‘make room’ for dessert? This “dessert effect” describes the willingness to ignore your body’s satiety signals when presented with a highly palatable food.
The better you think a food tastes, the more you enjoying the experience during and after eating it and the more likely you’re going to eat more of it, despite how big or fulfilling your last meal was.
This is why having access to those highly palatable foods during the final weeks of dieting is not helpful to your cause.
If you remove highly palatable food from your diet, you’re more likely to experience fewer cravings and a reduced need to overindulge. Research has shown that people who are subjected to more palatable foods for a starter ate more than those who were given a blander starter, and they still felt hungrier in the hours that followed.1
If you want to continue burn off weight, don’t include your favourite foods in your meals.
Remove that defeatist mentality
If you’ve had an unhealthy meal or snacks one day, say at a party or when treats are brought into the office, you’ll decide that your diet is ruined for the day so you might as well go all out on unhealthy foods.
Instead of considering the day ruined, put it in the past and concentrate on eating whole, unprocessed foods for the remainder of the day.
This will help you to feel full, satisfied and less likely to become frustrated.
In the long term, a few off-plan choices won’t make much of a difference unless you let them. As long as you balance these choices with healthier foods, you’ll remain on track for the remainder of your plan.
Ditch the “all or nothing” train of thought and stay positive.
Keep track of your progress
Making a note of the foods you’re eating into a food diary or app is a good way to ensure you don’t veer off course.
By writing down or making a note of everything you’re consuming, you can see where you may have made unhealthier choices and hold yourself accountable by balancing those choices out with healthier options.
You could also check in with friends, colleagues or family members who are in the middle of similar plans, to reaffirm your commitment to the plan you’ve set out.
You may have expected to lose more weight than you have so far, but this is no reason to give up on your goals.
A variety of factors come into play when it comes to weight loss, from your metabolism, level of physical activity, age, to gender.
If you pressure yourself to lose weight too quickly, your plan may backfire.
Setting more realistic and achievable goals is the better way to go about it. These smaller targets can keep you from becoming disenchanted and could in the longer term lead to increased weight loss.
Diets that drastically reduce the amount of food you eat are not simple to follow. The longer you try to stick with them, the harder they’ll get and, as the days and weeks pass by, the more your hunger cravings will ebb away at you.
This increases the chances of overindulging and breaking your plan.
You can stay with the final weeks of your healthy eating plan if you reduce the palatability of the foods you eat; but prepare to do so first.
Choose ‘blander’ foods such as raw vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, plain chicken and unflavoured porridge. These still provide you with a number of health benefits.
Eat less of what you eat often. For example, prepare to make a staple meal of chicken, brown rice and vegetables and have it as a regular part of your diet for the final few weeks.
Try to not tickle your tastebuds too much with rich, sugary marinades and sauces, even if you feel that you need to inject a bit more flavour into what you’re eating. Keep flavourings more low key until you’ve hit your targets.
It’s important to remember that you’re dieting; it’s likely that you’ll have periods of feeling hungry. But, by avoiding the foods and flavours you enjoy, you’re much more likely to reach your goal and feel satisfied in the long term.
To continue your weight loss journey and see it through to the end, you need to maintain the levels of discipline you’ve shown so far.
Realise that it can take time for you to adjust to your new healthier lifestyle, there’s no quick fix. Once you’ve stuck with it long enough, those healthy choices and exercise become automatic.
Don’t become discouraged. The final few weeks of hard work will be worth it when you see the results you were looking for.