ONCE the over-indulgence of Christmas (fabulous though it is) has come and gone many of us find ourselves drawn to diets that promise extreme results in short time periods.
We talked to four experts on diet and nutrition to get their advice on the best way to stay trim in 2017.
Forget starving yourself
According to Dr Eva Orsmond, starvation is the biggest issue with those attempting to lose weight.
“When trying to lose weight, we should be changing our lifestyle, rather than following a fad diet for a few weeks,” she says. “Most people associate going on a diet with starving themselves. With the right diet plan you won’t feel like you are starving. Be realistic, and follow a plan that your lifestyle can withstand.”
Identify small goals
Elsa Jones, nutritional therapist and best-selling author of Goodbye Sugar
says that identifying small goals will set you up for success. According to her, “weekly challenges work well. Think, ‘this week I will eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day’ or ‘instead of eating a full bar of milk chocolate every evening, I’ll have two squares of dark chocolate instead’.”
Stop the all-or-nothing thinking
“One of the most common traps I see people fall into is ‘all or nothing’ thinking,” says Jones. “This is when you tell yourself you’ve blown it by eating one biscuit, so, you may as well eat the whole packet.”
The best way to counteract this, she says, is to ditch the whole notion of being ‘on a diet’. “If you’re not ‘on a diet’, you can never ‘blow your diet’.”
Eat within an hour of waking
Recognising your body’s need for fuel is an essential component to dropping excess weight, according to nutritionist Mary Carmody.
“It is so important to eat within an hour of waking up,” she says.
“Just like a car, you wouldn’t dream of driving it without putting in fuel first.”
Eat for life
Focus on eating for health rather than pure weight loss, says Jones. “When you listen to your body and feed it with nutritious foods that give you energy and vitality you’ll be in a much stronger position, physically and mentally, to make healthier choices.”
Eating a rainbow of food every day will make sure that you are eating food that is rich in nutrients and will have your body operating at its highest potential, says dietician, Orla Walsh.
Don’t count calories
While cutting calories theoretically means automatic weight loss, Carmody asks her clients to keep note of what they eat instead.“I prefer people keeping a food diary as that will show you exactly what you are eating and how much.”
Walsh agrees, adding: “We really don’t need to be counting calories when we already know that our problem is caused by needing to eat less cake.”
Stocking up on the right food is one of the hallmarks of successful weight loss, says Jones.
“If you’re trying to lose weight, make it easy for yourself and remove all the trigger foods from your house particularly at the beginning of your journey.”
Dr Orsmond believes awareness is core to weight loss. “For example, one chocolate muffin can have the same amount of calories as a slice of salmon with plenty of veg. One is just a snack where the latter is a full meal.”
Drink more water
Drinking appropriate amounts of water, says Carmody, is one of the most important parts of a weight loss journey. “A study published in Annals of Family Medicine explored the relationship between hydration and weight. Researchers from the University of Michigan observed 9,528 adults (aged 18- 64) and found that a third of them were dehydrated and those with higher BMI’s had greater hydration needs than others.
“I often encourage patients to drink more water. Filling a large bottle with water and ensuring that you finish it by the end of the day is a nice visual prompt that encourages you to drink more.”
Say goodbye to ELF
The Eat Less Food diet is not necessary, says Walsh. “Instead, choose food that is naturally lower in calories per bite. That way you eat less calories while still eating the same amount of food.”
Fat can be your friend, says Dr Orsmond. “Don’t be obsessed with fats,” she says.
“While there are good fats and bad fats, this concept of low fat is not the right approach to lose weight. Fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds have higher satiety levels than carbs, so if you don’t include them in your diet, you will find yourself hungry… and that is not a good thing.”
“Weight loss boils down to energy in being less than energy out, ” says Walsh. “By working on the ‘energy out’ part we can boost weight loss.”
Walsh says that 10,000 steps per day is a realistic goal for most of us and is a relatively easy amount to incorporate without making our days extra long. Taking 10,000 steps adds up to about five miles for most people at a walking pace and fulfills WHO guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week for healthy adults.
Find the right way of eating for you
Carmody says that there truly is a correct diet for each individual. “These days there are so many diets — gluten-free diet, dairy-free, paleo, ketogenic diet — it’s about learning how to eat and what suits your body.”
Preparation is key
Get collecting your Tupperware containers, because Jones is positive that by preparing your meals in advance, you will avoid dreaded temptation and stay on track.
“Plan your meals in advance and stock up on the healthy foods you need — you’ll be so much likelier to succeed if you have the right foods to hand,” she says.
“Always have healthy snacks like nuts and fruit in your handbag, car, desk drawer, so you have no excuse when temptation strikes. I’m also a big believer in batch cooking/freezing healthy meals for the days you know you’ll be tired or time-pressed. It’s such a life saver.”
Little and often
Carmody says it’s essential to eat little and often, always combining protein with a carbohydrate to avoid an energy slump. “For example, eggs and one slice of wholemeal toast for breakfast, some nuts and a handful of berries for a snack. Aim to eat at least every three hours.”
Slowly does it
Losing more than two pounds a week is not usually a long-term solution. Setting realistic expectations is the key to lasting success, says Jones. “If you have a long term goal to lose one and a half stone, start by setting yourself an initial shorter term goal of a half a stone and put a time frame on it, like around six weeks.”
Eat veg above ground
“They are the lowest in carbohydrates and calories,” says Dr Orsmond. “They are also high in fibre, which bulks up your meals, slows digestion and makes you feel fuller for longer. You also get plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients from vegetables.”
“Those that eat slower have been show time and time again to eat less,” says Walsh. “As well as this, drink a large glass of water before each meal so that you don’t confuse thirst with hunger.”
Watch portion sizes
You won’t splurge with large portion sizes if you eat regularly, says Carmody. “Another trick is to make sure to eat sufficient protein at each meal, which is harder to digest, so keeps you fuller longer. For example, a breast of chicken/darne of salmon with a half plate of green vegetables and half a sweet potato is a good main meal.
Don’t forget booze
Alcohol counts too. “Each pint of beer or glass of wine contains the same amount of calories as two to three slices of bread,” says Walsh. It’s sobering point worth remembering the next time you consider a second glass of your favourite tipple.
Make these easy food swaps to make your weekly shopping basket beam with healthy pride.
Swap white bread, pasta and rice for wholegrains
Wholegrains not only keep you fuller for longer, but they keep your heart healthy and keep you in a great mood.
Swap root vegetables for green leafy vegetables
Green veg is full of vitamins and minerals and very little hidden sugar or carbohydrate.
Swap sunflower oil for olive and coconut oils
These oils are lower in saturated fats and are actually good for you!
Swap low-fat crisps for healthy fats like avocado and nut butters
Apple slices spread with a nut butter or some homemade guacamole with veg dippers are a much better option than low-fat products.