Want to lose weight using the best expert advice? Nutritionist Rob Hobson has picked the most useful, realistic steps for dropping pounds, his 20 best weight loss tips ever
Weight loss can be a minefield and only you know when you’re in the right frame of mind to commit to shifting the pounds. Everyone’s different and there are lots of ways that people have successfully lost weight. Leaving very extreme methods out of the picture, there is no right or wrong way to go about it and the most effective diet is one you can stick too. Whether you chose a diet that’s low in fat, high in protein or low in carbohydrate, the bottom line is about trying to reduce your calorie intake and avoid feeling hungry.
The low fat versus low carbohydrate debate for losing weight causes much controversy. Whilst cutting down on carbohydrates seems to get quicker results (1) as the body turns to fat for energy both diets can still result in significant weight losses (2,3).
If you’ve struggled to lose weight in the past then a dietitian, registered nutritionist or weight loss group can provide help and support.
Here are my top 20 weight loss tips:
1. Keep a food diary
Dietitians and registered nutritionists can help here or you can use an app to work out your daily calorie intake. This only works if you’re completely honest with yourself! Most people change their eating habits or underestimate their food intake when keeping a food diary, which can render the exercise a complete waste of time. If you really want to see what you’re eating, then record everything on a typical day, better still, try keeping a few days and include one at the weekend as we eat differently during the week. Everything counts, even the odd nibble at your kids plates, biscuit at work or spoonfuls of tasting whilst cooking. Seeing everything written down can identify where the extra calories are coming from and help you to make the necessary changes to your diet.
2. Make small changes you can stick with
Diets are often seen as short term with an end goal and most dieters will be able to tell you the names of countless books they’ve followed. However, most people revert back to old eating habits once they’ve lost the weight. If you find diet regimes unsuccessful then try making small changes you can stick with in the long-term to reduce your calorie intake.
These changes may include:
- Choosing low fat dairy or switching to lower calorie, plant-based alternatives.
- Cutting out bread and pasta.
- Keeping sweet foods to a ‘once-a-week’ treat to look forward too and avoid soft drinks.
- Choosing healthy snacks that include savoury and naturally sweet.
- Filling your plate with more vegetables.
- Sticking to lean proteins such as shellfish, tofu or turkey and chicken breast.
3. Set realistic goals
Some people prefer to embark on a diet that has a structure and rules to follow. If this is your thing then pick one you can stick too and remember to think about how you’re going to keep the weight off once the diet ends. There are lots of opinions about dieting such as low carbohydrate, low fat or simply reducing your portion sizes. The bottom line is you need to reduce your overall calorie intake and partner this with an increase in activity. The last thing you want is to feel hungry so aim for 1200 – 1500 calories per day and set a realistic weight loss goal of 1-2 pounds per week. If the gym isn’t for you, then even simple changes in your daily routine can help burn calories such as walking to work or using the stairs. The more realistic your goals are the less chance of giving up.
4. Cook food from scratch
Try cooking from scratch, as this is the easiest way to control what goes into the food you eat. You don’t need to be the best cook, keep it simple and try cooking a little extra for the following day to save time.
Dish ideas can include:
- Grilled meat or fish (flavoured with spices or spice blends) with veggies and an optional serving of complex carbohydrate such as quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato.
- Combine a cook-in-sauce (check front-of-pack labels for healthy options) with a protein, veggies and optional serving of complex carbohydrate such as quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato.
- Pre-packaged salad bag with a protein (poultry, prawns or canned tuna), additional veggies, healthy fats (nuts, seeds or avocado) and canned pulses.
- Stir-fried veggies with a protein (poultry, prawns or tofu) and handful of canned pulses or cooked complex carbohydrate such as quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat noodles.
5. Increase intake of protein and fibre.
Increase your intake of protein and fibre to help keep you full. Include a serving of protein with each meal and if you’re eating carbohydrates then opt for high-fibre, unprocessed varieties such as quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat noodles.
6. Watch the booze (it adds up!)
Don’t forget the booze! A glass of wine (175ml) contains 130 calories and a pint of beer adds 215 calories to your daily intake. The reality is that most of us enjoy the odd drink so try and save for the weekend. You can make your glass of wine last longer by adding soda water. Avoid binge drinking as it adds a huge amount of calories to your diet as well as encouraging you to eat unhealthy foods.
7. Be mindful about the way you eat
Research into mindful eating has shown that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tends to make people eat more at that meal and that paying attention to a meal is linked to eating less later on (4). It has also been shown that people who eat mindfully eat fewer calories. The concept is less to do with calories and more about being fully aware of what and why you’re eating food. Set time aside for meals, it doesn’t matter how busy you are, we all have 20 minutes to eat.
Try and sit at a table or if eating at your desk then switch your computer off. Eat slowly and chew your food properly. Try and avoid grazing in front of the TV, serve small portions and leave some time before contemplating going back for seconds. A good example is if you’re going to have a sweet treat. Serve a small portion on a plate, eat slowly and enjoy every mouthful to feel satisfied without guilt or the need to go back for more. It takes practice, especially if you’re an emotional eater, but you need to develop an understanding of when you’re hungry, food satisfaction and when you’re full.
8. Avoid skipping meals.
It sometimes feels intuitive that if you skip a meal you cut calories but running on empty with low blood sugar levels is likely to lead to hunger pangs, cravings and overeating that will cause mood swings, bloating and a short lived commitment to losing weight.
9. Include meals with high water content
Dishes such as soups or tomato and stock-based stews, curries and casseroles can help fill you up on fewer calories. Add proteins such as lean poultry, tofu or pulses to increase their filling effect. Pile your plate with veggies as they’re high in fibre and water making them low in calories as well as being a rich source of valuable nutrients, which is essential when you’re limiting your food intake to eat fewer calories.
10.Ditch the sugar and white carbohydrates
These foods have a high glycaemic load, which can cause spikes in insulin levels and blood sugar ‘crashes’, that may encourage hunger pangs, cravings and fat storage if eaten in excess (especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle). Check food labels and look out for hidden sugars that appear under other names in the ingredient list such as corn sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, molasses or sucrose. If you’re including carbohydrates in your diet then opt for small servings of high-fibre, unprocessed varieties such as quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat noodles.
Cutting out sugar is tough and going cold turkey may not be the best idea, especially if you currently eat lots of it. Reduce your intake gradually and remember there is room for a little sugar in a healthy diet.
Try these tips for cutting down your sugar intake:
- Check the food labels for green and amber traffic lights, especially foods such as breakfast cereals, yoghurts and cook-in-sauces.
- Try cooking from scratch to limit the amount of sugar in your food.
- Cut out fizzy drinks and opt for watered down fruit juice or naturally flavoured water (try cucumber, herbs or citrus fruits).
- View sweet snacks and desserts as occasional treats and try to eat with main meals to avoid blood sugar highs and lows that can lead to hunger pangs and cravings.
- Use ingredients such as coconut, vanilla pod and cinnamon for natural sweetness.
- Swap sweet cakes and biscuits for fruit buns or malt loaf served with low fat spread
- Instead of using honey, marmalade or jam as spreads, opt for mashed banana, low-fat cream cheese or nut butters.
11. Add carbs to your main dish rather than the side dish.
Add your carbohydrates to dishes rather than treating them as an accompaniment to help reduce your calorie intake. Reducing your carbohydrate intake can help with weight loss but if cutting them out completely is not how you prefer to eat, as advocated by some diets, then try cutting down by adding a handful of cooked quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, spelt or pulses to stir-fries, soups, salads and stews, serving as one-pot dishes.
12.Only snack if you need to
Many dietary regimes advocate a number of meals and snacks throughout the day. Snacking is great to avoid hunger pangs but if you’re not hungry then leave them out as it’s just another opportunity to overeat. If you can, then try and opt for nutritious snacks over shop-bought, low calorie items that often offer a short-lived satiety with little nutrition. If you need to include snacks then keep something healthy to hand.
Healthy snack ideas include:
- Boiled eggs
- Dips with chopped veggies
- Tomato, stock or miso-based soups
- Small handful of nuts, seeds or dried fruits
- Low fat natural yoghurt topped with berries
- Lean sliced poultry such as turkey
- Canned tuna with a handful of pulses or salad
13. Factor in portion sizes
Switch to using a smaller plate or bowls to serve your food. Research shows that opting for smaller serving plates can lead to significant weight losses (5). Meals often have a different calorie load per portion size as they may contain a different mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins but using a smaller plate, as a rule of thumb, is a useful strategy. You’ll find useful examples of average portion sizes of individual foods by searching sites such as NHS choices or Weight Watchers.
14. Choose eggs for breakfast
Research shows that opting for eggs leads to greater satiety than grain-based breakfasts, making you less likely to reach for snacks mid-morning (6). If you don’t eat eggs then try another protein-rich breakfast such as smoked salmon, scrambled tofu or yoghurt with seeds and nuts.
15. Limit intake of nuts, seeds, and oils
Remember that most healthy, highly nutritious foods are high in calories so watch your portion sizes of foods such as nuts, seeds, oils, dried fruit and avocados. The supermarkets are filled with ‘healthy’ snacks such as fruit and nut bars as well as ‘on-trend’ products such as fresh nut milks. Although these foods offer a good source of nutrients, they also add calories and are of no additional benefit to you if you’re diet is already packed with other healthy nutritious foods.
16.Don’t fear fats!
Fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat and although higher in calories than protein or carbohydrates, eating too much of any food will promote weight gain. Certain diets favour fats and proteins over carbohydrates that can be difficult for some people to control in their diet. Choose small servings of healthy fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and oils such as extra virgin olive and coconut.
17. Get support from family and friends
It can be tough losing weight, especially without a little support and encouragement. Try getting friends or family members involved. You could also get work colleagues involved in a weight loss challenge or sign up for a charity sport event so you have something to aim for.
18. Don’t become a slave to the scales!
Weigh yourself weekly or set yourself a goal such as getting back into a favourite pair of jeans or dress. Try not to get disheartened if it takes a little longer than you hoped and don’t beat yourself up over the odd relapse, just pick up where you left off the following day.
19. Vary the food in your diet
Make sure your diet contains a variety of foods. Eating fewer calories can make it even more difficult to glean all the nutrients you need. Include foods such as pulses, oily fish, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, plenty of vegetables and wholegrains (if including carbohydrates). You may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement whilst dieting as a back-up such as Healthspan, Multivitality Gold, £4.95 for 90 tablets on their website.
20. Develop strategies for social events
Examples could be:
- Never turn up hungry at a buffet event and eat something before you go out.
- Seek out raw foods such as crudités and dips (small serving).
- Make socialising the focus of your event, not the food.
- Limit your intake of foods from buffets to a few handfuls or count the cocktail sticks.
- Water down the alcohol as it encourages hunger.
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Nutritionist Rob Hobson runs consultancies RHNutrition and HOPE (Helping Older People to Eat Well) and has built a reputation as a trustworthy and inspirational source of information working for the NHS, private clients and leading food and nutrition companies including supplements provider Healthspan. An obsessed foodie and skilled cook, Rob regularly cooks for celebrity clients and contributes to national press including Stella, Daily Mail, Grazia, Harpers Bazaar, Runners Fitness, Healthy magazine and Women’s Health.