We’ve all been there haven’t we? Planning on ‘being good’ from Monday, starting the health kick because summer is coming. Then before we know it the sun starts shining on our face a bit warmer than usual one day and we realise summer is actually already here. Argh! Next thing we know we’re frantically googling crash diets, juicing regimes and cut-price liposuction.
This spring, after a winter of being cooped up indoors with frankly more need for comfort food than ever before, it’s no wonder most of us are emerging from our lockdown cocoons carrying a little more weight than we were this time last year.
But before you go into panic mode after trying (and failing) to fasten up your skinny jeans, let’s consider whether a crash diet is really the answer to your weight woes? Amongst other negative side effects, the NHS lists hair loss, low mood, halitosis, dizziness and a weakened immune system as potential outcomes of crash dieting. Suddenly not sounding too appealing is it!
As a personal trainer of 15 years, I’ve seen and heard of some weird and not-so-wonderful crash diets. And up to now I haven’t had a single client who has managed to sustain weight loss beyond the first initial few weeks whilst on one of these diets. Sadly I see lots of people who are on a crazy carousel ride, bouncing from one weight loss fad to the next. They become demoralised and demotivated and damage their metabolism in the course of their efforts.
The good news is you can still make changes to your diet and lifestyle which will reap rewards quickly. More importantly, these are all changes which are sustainable and will help you reach longer term goals. Hold onto your hats folks; here are my top tips for losing weight; without resorting to crash diets.
Look at what you could do without
Cutting out an entire food group is a big no-no as far as I’m concerned. Yes, losing carbs will initially make you lose weight. But chances are within a couple of weeks you’ll be exhausted and irritable and in need of a big hit of energy.
Yes cutting out dairy might help you lower your calorie intake, but it’ll also drastically lower your calcium intake, unless you carefully and meticulously replace it through other means. Instead of cutting out an entire food group, how about cutting out a food you’re not particularly bothered about?
I am a big crisp fan… if you told me I couldn’t eat crisps for a month I’d be having crisp-related dreams every night and waking up in tears. But I can do without ice cream and biscuits. I’m just not wild on them you know?
So if I decide I need to lose a little bit of weight, I will commit to not wasting calories on foods I don’t absolutely love. I can still enjoy my beloved crisps, but I won’t mindlessly dunk a biscuit into my tea just because someone offers me one. All those pointless biscuits add up!
Choose nourishing foods that will make you feel happier
Crash diets are notoriously low in calories. And eating too few calories has been proven to alter our mood for the worst. So instead of weeping your way through your cabbage soup, take the time to shop for and cook with foods that are high in nutrients and fibre and will increase your quota of happy hormones.
In the long term, cultivating a good relationship with healthy food will bring you far more benefits than the buzz you may get from a short-lived weight loss.
Eat mindfully and pay attention to portion sizes
One thing that is common to most crash diets is that they tend to demonize certain foods or food groups. Carbs are dangerous, sugar is evil, dairy is the devil… you get the gist.
The truth of the matter is that no food is going to send you hurtling towards obesity, if you eat it in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Try your best for the first few weeks of your weight loss mission, to eat your meals in relative peace and quiet without too many distractions.
Chew your food properly, stop when you are full and get back in touch with how much food you actually need. In our time-poor modern life we have learned to override the receptors which tell us when to eat and how much to eat. Just bringing awareness back to this area of our life can have a huge effect.
Alongside this, it’s worth checking out what the recommended portion sizes/servings we should be consuming are. If you discover you’re eating way beyond what is recommended, don’t panic! Reduce your portion sizes gradually over the course of a few days. A little bit less here and there will cut some calories, without being too much of a shock to the system!
Make exercise a habit
I’m a big fan of the saying ‘You can’t out-train a bad diet.’ It really is true! I hear clients all the time telling me they ate all the food and drank all the wine this weekend… so they’re going to do an extra workout this week to burn it off.
If only it was that easy eh? Depressingly, it takes 22 minutes of fast running to burn off one standard size chocolate bar. But making exercise a habit will undoubtedly support your weight loss journey by improving your muscle mass and raising your metabolic rate.
Some people are lucky enough to control and manage their weight just through diet, others just with exercise. But these people are few and far between and the clients who see the best and most long-lasting results are the ones who do both in conjunction.
With lockdown presenting us with a huge amount of opportunities to exercise virtually, we don’t even have to drag ourselves to the gym to stay fit these days…so there’s really no excuse!
Look at your alcohol intake.
If you want to lose a few pounds quickly… and look a bit more fresh-faced in the proces, a great way to do it is by eliminating or reducing your alcohol intake.
With 83 calories in a standard glass of wine, it’s easy to see how across the week, you can be stacking up lots of ‘empty’ calories; i.e calories that have no nutritional value for your body. Being a big fan of a wind-down vino once the kids have gone to bed, I wouldn’t eliminate it completely for myself!
But if you’re one of those lucky take it or leave it types, then leave it for a few weeks! Your waistline will feel the difference and you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed too. Bonus!
Written by Sarah Hughes.
Sarah writes about all things happy and hopeful at www.thegoodthingisthough.co.uk