The weight-loss journey is different for everyone. The way you go about yours will depend on several things: how much you want to lose, why you want to lose it, when you want to lose it by, what your current eating habits are like, and how active you are.
That said, there are certain tactics that should prove helpful for pretty much anybody who is trying to lose weight. This article lays out 10 of them.
1) Control Your Portion Sizes
Each meal should leave you feeling satisfied rather than stuffed. Indulging to the point of discomfort is something we all do from time to time (Christmas dinner or summer barbecues, anyone?), but it can easily become a day-to-day habit if we’re not careful.
Regular overeating, as you’d imagine, causes the stomach to enlarge – and the bigger the stomach, the higher the volume of food it needs to feel full. So, ironically, an overlarge stomach is both the cause and the effect of oversized portions.
Try experimenting with smaller portions for a week or two, or make a conscious effort to stop eating once you begin to feel physically full (yes, even if there’s food left on the plate!).
None of this is about starving or punishing yourself – it’s about regulating your stomach and learning to listen to your body.
In a nutshell, it means that we don’t feel full in real time when we eat, because there’s a considerable delay between our stomachs and our brains. The hormone that tells us we are full is called leptin, and it does not circulate immediately. Eating too quickly can therefore lead to eating too much in total, because it means that you clear your plate before your brain gets the chance to tell you that you’ve had enough.
With this in mind, try to chew your food more thoroughly, and just generally take your time with each meal. You might have to work hard at this to begin with, because speed-eating is a lifelong habit for many people, but you should feel the positive effects once you discipline yourself.
3) Reduce Your Intake of Carb-Heavy Foods
Western diets are typically carb-intensive. In the UK, we love our breads, our pies and pasties, and our cakes, plus all the pasta- and rice-based dishes we’ve imported from foreign cuisines.
The problem with a high-carb diet is that it teaches your body to burn carbs for its fuel, leaving your body fat untouched.
Snacking is where many dieters undo all the hard work of refining meal content and controlling portion sizes.
A bag of crisps here or a chocolate bar there might not seem like a big deal, because they’re only 150 or 200 calories each, but it’s not about calories. The problem with these types of snacks is that they are nutritionally void, and given their high carb content they induce crashes shortly after you have them.
And ‘healthy snacking’ doesn’t have to mean raw carrot or celery with no dip. Quite the opposite, because there are actually plenty of delicious nibbles you can make:
A nutritious breakfast kickstarts your metabolism for the day, and it stabilises your blood sugar. When you choose a healthy breakfast over a sugary or carb-heavy one, your body releases the energy slowly instead of sending you crashing down mid-morning.
Unfortunately, many yogurts and cereals are misleadingly advertised as healthy when they’re not. Common examples include Ski pots and Cheerios, both of which are packed with refined sugar.
Here are some healthy options:
Full-fat Greek yogurt – either on its own or with muesli base (i.e. the natural stuff, not the sugar-loaded high-street brands)
An omelette with cheese – to which you could add peppers, mushrooms, or bacon if you want
6) Drink More Water
Water fills you up, aids your digestion, and even increases your metabolic rate – all of which are helpful in the weight-loss journey. But you need to drink enough of it – around two litres throughout the course of each day.
If you’ve not been a big water-drinker before, see how you get on and adjust your daily volumes accordingly. Everyone’s different, so you might want a bit more or you might want a bit less. Just experiment.
And if you’re worried about it being a bit boring in terms of taste, treat yourself to some sparkling San Pellegrino or Perrier, or infuse a jug of tap water with cucumber slices.
7) Drink Black Coffee and/or Herbal Tea
Although there are no direct weight-loss benefits to coffee and tea, they can suppress your appetite when you’re craving sugary snacks, and they each contain acids that help your digestive system. But have them in moderation, because too much caffeine can make some people feel nauseous or anxious (or both!).
And of course, don’t add any sugar. To begin with, don’t add any milk either, because lactose is a sugar and therefore a carb too.
8) Reduce Your Sugar Intake
We’ve already talked about sugar a few times in this list, but it deserves a section of its own.
Sugars are carbohydrates, and when you habitually eat sugary snacks, you ride what we call the blood sugar rollercoaster. There’s also longer-lasting damage. Countless scientific studies have made correlations between high amounts of dietary sugar and serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
Frustratingly, sugar is now used so liberally in food manufacturing that we often don’t even realise it’s there. Everybody recognises and expects it in overt ‘sweet treats’ such as chocolate bars and cakes, but it’s also present in products like jarred pasta sauces and curry sauces, crisps, and certain types of bread. And it’s these hidden sugars that cause the weight to pile on or stay put.
To avoid them, you’ll need to take a closer look at ingredients labels, and you may even want to start making some things from scratch. But you should find that you start to reap the benefits quickly. Being aware is half the battle – once you know that certain products have unnecessary sugar in them, you can opt for the healthier alternatives.
9) Exercise Regularly
The more active you are, the more body fat you’ll burn off. You don’t need to run half-marathons or squat twice your bodyweight in order for the exercise to be worthwhile – any additional activity is better than none.
Many of us have fairly sedentary jobs these days, sat in offices all day in front of computers. If this sounds like you, try going out for strolls at lunchtime before or after you’ve eaten. On top of the obvious physical benefits, you’ll probably find that you feel better mentally too.
If you can muster the motivation and find the time to go running, cycling, or weightlifting, great. Just make sure you give yourself enough fuel.
10) Treat Yourself
(Not necessarily with food or drink!)
Changing your eating habits for the better is a challenge; there’s no way around that. It requires willpower and discipline, and at times it can be tempting to have a quick binge on junk food, so you should make a point of rewarding yourself in some way when you’ve resisted these cravings. A nice pair of shoes or trainers, that new book you’ve been eyeing on Amazon, a smoothie-maker – whatever’s going to give you that pat on the back and that extra push forward.