Forget the diet myths and miracle fixes – nutritionist Janie Buchanan, author of “Eat Well, Sleep Plenty, Lose Lots ” reveals the real way to shift fat for good.
So, what is the secret to staying slim? It’s the question that fuels the sales of myriad fad diet books, exhausting exercise videos and whizzy smartphone apps. But the truth is being able to lose weight and keeping it off isn’t about adopting the latest quick fix.
Instead, follow these eight smart but simple stay-slim strategies and you will never need to eat cabbage soup again just to lose weight.
Strategy #1: Balance your blood sugar
Why? If you can keep your blood sugar stable, your weight will be stable, too. This is because blood sugar that goes up and down like a roller coaster promotes fat storage. Stable blood sugar helps you burn fat and reduces sugar cravings.
How? To balance blood sugar, adopt a low-GI diet, which means eating foods that release sugar into the blood slowly. Swap white bread, pasta and rice for wholegrain varieties. Eat more vegetables and beans, and go easy on the sweet fruit and fruit juices.
Strategy #2: Eat a protein breakfast
Why? Breakfast lights the fire of your metabolism, meaning it’ll burn calories more effectively all day. If it is the right breakfast, it also gives you a sense of ‘starting the day as you mean to go on’. You feel in control of your eating and motivated to continue.
How? The secret is to eat a protein breakfast, because this stabilises blood sugar and keeps you feeling full. An omelette, yoghurt and berries or even a bacon sandwich are all good, as long as that bacon is grilled, back and unsmoked. Choose cereals and porridge that are low in added sugar and watch the portion size.
Strategy #3: Scale down your starches
Why? No one ever got overweight from eating too much grilled chicken. Instead, it’s the potato, pasta, rice and bread (even brown) that do the damage. One way to put yourself off eating too many starches is to think: ‘Is that how I want my thighs to look?’ because eat too much mashed potato, sticky rice or spaghetti carbonara and that is exactly how they will look – white and lumpy.
How? Divide your dinner plate into quarters. One quarter should be lean protein and half should be veggies or salad, with just a quarter for starches.
Strategy #4: Eat good fats, but don’t go mad
Why? The news that healthy fats are good for you is finally getting through, but the danger is that some people think they can use extra virgin olive oil like a hosepipe in a car wash. That oil is made of olives – not magic! Essential fats are indeed essential, but only in small amounts.
How? Aim for no more than one tablespoon of olive/linseed oil, a tin of sardines or a fillet of salmon a day, with maybe a palmful of nuts and seeds.
Strategy #5: Eat a third of your food raw
Why? Eating more raw food not only increases your intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it will also keep the calorie count down. A big bowl of salad may only contain 100 calories (without dressing), less than an average chocolate biscuit.
How? Add a salad to lunch and dinner and eat fruit and nuts between meals. Raw food also takes longer to eat because you need to chew it more, which stimulates the release of the hormone grehlin to help you feel full.
Strategy #6: Skip dessert
Why? Apologies to all those trendy home bakers, but regularly eating cupcakes, even if accompanied by marathon training, is not a recipe for slim hips. The simplest way to keep your daily calorie count under control is to skip pudding, replacing it with a piece of fresh fruit or a little bit of dark chocolate.
How? Pastry, sponge, custard and the like are packed with bad fats and sugar. One idea for the dessert-aholic is to try alternatives. You can make pastry from potato or ground almonds, use courgette, spinach and egg white to make bread and swap custard for yoghurt. OK, it’s not tiramisu, but if you want to do up your favourite dress…
Strategy #7: Reduce snacking
Why? While it is important to keep yourself fuelled throughout the day, treating the fridge as an all-you-can-eat buffet is a quick route to disaster, Constant grazing will interrupt your digestion and could cause bloating.
How? Eat three balanced meals and two protein/carb snacks a day (e.g. celery and cottage cheese or an apple and a yoghurt) to keep your weight under control.
Strategy #8: Be consistent
Why? This is the most important rule of all. However fantastic your diet or exercise regime, if it only lasts a couple of weeks because it’s too stringent to stick to, you won’t keep the weight off.
How? Adopt an 80/20 approach, aiming to stick to your goals 80 per cent of the time, with 20 per cent for ‘cheating’. Over the long haul, you can have cheats and a few ‘off days’, but your weight will stay where you want it to be.