Losing weight can be difficult and there is a lot of confusing information around. Here are some handy tips and ideas that are not just the latest fads we read about in the news.
1. Drink a glass of water before you eat a meal
Whilst drinking a glass of water before a meal will not in itself make you lose weight, it can help you to feel full and may help by curbing appetite and avoiding over-eating. A small glass of water before a meal is enough to stretch the stomach in order to send fullness signals to the brain (1).
2. Get plenty of sleep
One study showed that people who are following a weight loss programme and regularly getting between 6-8 hours of sleep per night lose more weight than those who get less sleep. This may be because ghrelin is a hormone in our gut which affects our need for food. Lack of sleep reduces another hormone, leptin, which in turn increases ghrelin, thereby increasing the need for more calories. Therefore, a good night’s sleep of between 6-8 hours could help with balancing these hormones and regulating the appetite.
3. Eat from a smaller plate or bowl
Unconscious processes affect how much we eat. In particular, the size of plates, bowls and glasses can affect the amount of food we consume. For instance, one study showed that a larger bowl resulted in some participants eating 77% more pasta without realizing it. Eating from a medium-sized plate as opposed to a large plate or bowl may help to reduce unconscious eating.
4. Eat mindfully
Possibly more effective than eating from a small plate, eating mindfully has shown to help those who over-eat to avoid doing so by re-training the mind and body to focus on internal rather than external cues to eat. Also, if we eat more slowly, a process known as mindful eating, then cholecystokinin, a hormone released which signals to the brain that we are full, has time to let us know when to stop eating. If we eat too quickly, we can eat too much before the signal reaches the brain, and this may lead to eating more than we need. Here are a few mindful points:
Listening to your body and stopping when full
Eating when our bodies tell us to eat (e.g. stomach growling or low energy)
Eating with others at set times and places
Eating foods that are nutritionally healthy
When eating, just eating (no other distractions)
Considering where food has come from
List is by Dr Christopher Willard PsyD: https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindfuleating/. A separate leaflet on mindful eating is available form Health-Works via the contact details below and you can sign up for our free fortnightly newsletter with more healthy ideas.
5. Increase physical activity
We know that exercise is good for us. In fact, people who increase their exercise lose more weight than non-exercisers. They also tend to be more successful in maintaining their weight loss if they continue the exercise once they have reached their goal weight. Choose an exercise that raises the heart rate, such as walking, dancing or cycling, and do this five or more times per week for at least 30 minutes. Make sure it is an exercise that you enjoy, that way you are more likely to stick to it. Consult your GP first if you are starting to exercise for the first time, have existing health problems or have a lot of extra weight (BMI of 35 or over), as you may need to work up to this level of exercise.
6. Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet
Many diets recommend that we cut out a food group, such as carbohydrates. Whilst these diets often work in the short-term, they can leave us lacking in vital nutrients. Protein helps us to feel fuller for longer which may help with reducing cravings. Therefore, aiming for around 25% protein in our diet at each meal (around 25g per meal or 1.2-1.5gms per kilo of body weight) may help with weight loss. Eat plenty of good quality vegetables and fruit. In addition, aim for half your plate to consist of a range of vegetables and about a third of the plate to contain complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain rice or quinoa, and include about a tablespoon of healthy fats such as avocado, olive or flaxseed oil and include oily fish twice a week if you can. In particular, eating breakfast and planning meals throughout the week are also proven to be part of successful weight-loss strategies.