Dry January, Veganuary and – strictly for ladies - Fanuary (Google it); New Year’s Resolutions are all around. What kind of promises are you making to yourselves this year? Chances are they involve shedding a few pounds or toning up those problem areas we all have (and ignore for 11 months of the year). There's also a good chance you’ve made these very same resolutions before but failed to stick to them. Good intentions are great but faddy diets, cravings and temptation mean they can be difficult to make a reality. Fortunately this year the experts at the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (or BANT) have unveiled their secrets of healthy, long-term weight loss that can make 2014 different.
- Eat protein with every meal and snack: protein is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. It also keeps you feeling fuller for longer leaving you less tempted to snack. Go for protein-rich fish, chicken and lean meats, or beans, pulses and nuts.
- Don’t skip meals: the body needs a regular supply of fuel, if you skip meals it sends your blood sugar and energy plummeting leaving you tired, hungry and tempted by sugary snacks or caffeine to re-energise.
- Switch white foods to brown: white pasta, white rice and white bread provide very few nutrients and are quickly broken down in the body to sugar, leaving you hungry and craving a sugary pick-me-up.
- Moderate stimulants: ideally don’t drink coffee or black tea, but if you do keep it to one cup a day and have it on a full stomach. Stimulants like tea, coffee and cola consumed for an energy boost actually have the opposite effect. They give you a blood sugar rush, but then a corresponding dip, leaving you lacking energy and looking for your next caffeine ‘fix’. Choose water, herbal tea and the occasional diluted fresh fruit juice as healthier options.
- Deal with stress: it wreaks havoc with hormones slowing down your metabolism and making the body store more fat – especially around the middle. Did you know that stress has the same impact on your body as eating sugar? Stress causes cravings for the wrong foods, particularly salty, high fat and sugary snacks. Try to relax when you eat, chew your food and focus on what you are eating rather than reading, watching TV or using the computer.
- Eat five or six times a day: have three healthy meals and two or three healthy snacks a day to give you sustained nutrients and energy and keep hunger pangs at bay. Choose unprocessed, low sugar snacks like a small handful of unsalted nuts, hummus with carrot and celery sticks or oat cakes.
- Don’t be afraid of fat: there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats like oily fish, avocados or unsalted nuts are essential for the body to function well and support the weight loss process. Bad fats on the other hand should be avoided, especially trans fats found in many biscuits, cakes and other baked goods with a long shelf life.
- Sleep: when we are tired we eat more and reach for instant energy fixes from caffeine, sugar and fat. Try to get to bed early or deal with sleep problems should you have any. A good night’s sleep is really important for overall health as well as weight loss.
- Stop calorie counting: listen to your body rather than counting calories, eat slowly and stop eating when you stop feeling hungry. Keep portion sizes under control, your stomach is only around the size of your fist so meals shouldn’t be larger than your cupped hands put together.
- Exercise: this is important for overall health, energy and mood as well as a support to maintaining a healthy weight. Start slowly with a brisk walk in the park, take the stairs instead of the lift or get off the bus a few stops earlier than normal and walk the rest of the way.
See www.bant.org.uk for more information.