20 simple ways to lose that stubborn extra weight

Susie Burrell

Over the past two weeks our Core Balance Diet has shown how simple lifestyle changes can help you shift those pesky last few pounds. Here dietician Susie Burrell (right) sums up the ethos with her 20 weight-loss golden rules

Susie Burrell feature

1 Don’t try to do everything at once

Too often we overcommit ourselves, becoming slaves to unreasonable goals and feeling disappointed and frustrated when we don’t achieve them. We expect to lose weight in an instant, train for hours on top of long working days and family commitments, have a vibrant social life, and prepare restaurant-style dinners and nutritionally balanced lunches for the following day. No wonder we fail. But if you make one or two sustainable and modest health changes to your day – snacking on vegetables, say, or having a smaller dinner – they will add up over the long term, and so too will your weight loss.

2 Plan ahead

Planning is the key to success. Most of us know what we should eat, but
in our busy lives healthy eating regimes go off the rails when we find ourselves hungry and without any good food choices on hand. Sometimes we may be able to ignore the hunger pangs and wait until we stumble across an apple, but more commonly the deep desire for food sees us searching desk drawers or attacking vending machines for high-fat, high-sugar, carbohydrate-rich foods that feed our low blood-sugar levels like a drug feeds an addict. The simple act of planning ensures that we are never caught off guard. Ideally, we should start each day knowing what we will eat for every meal and snack, what foods we need to take with us and what we are going to buy.

3 Clear out your cupboards

Few people can keep tempting foods such as chocolate, biscuits and crisps at home without eating them. It’s human nature to eat food when we see it, so replace these with key items for those nights when you get home late. Tinned tuna, eggs, pasta and pasta sauce, low-fat cheese, frozen veg and potatoes can be turned into numerous quick, nutritious dinners. Limiting your opportunity to eat treats is imperative and will make the process of reaching your diet and lifestyle goals much easier.

4 Soup it up

Any diet that contains fewer calories than you are used to leaves you vulnerable to hunger. A simple trick is to eat a thick vegetable soup to provide bulk without many calories. A soup based on leeks, celery, onions and garlic will not only provide nutrition but also help to draw excess fluid from the body, leaving you feeling light
and less bloated.

5 Drop the drink

Giving up alcohol in the early stages of weight loss is vital. If you are serious about shedding the pounds and are a regular drinker, going alcohol-free for a month may be
the kick-start you need to see a change in the scales, to discover how much you really have been drinking, and to consider if you are drinking for enjoyment or out of habit.

6 Go nuts

A portion of ten nuts each day ensures that you get a good dose of healthy fats, protein, fibre and vitamin E. Have them with a piece of fruit as a late-afternoon snack, which will help to ward off the pre-dinner munchies. When it comes to which type to choose, walnuts stand out as the clear winner as they contain exceptionally high amounts of good fats.

7 Veg out

Eating plenty of vegetables wins hands down when it comes to keeping body weight in check. Always have a couple of vegetables in your handbag to snack on, whether it’s carrots, some celery sticks or cherry tomatoes. Not only will you always have something to satisfy hunger pangs, it also means you are more likely to hit the minimum three portions of vegetables or salad adults should have every day. Unlike
fruit, which is carbohydrate-based, vegetables consist mainly of water, so they have virtually no calories, which means you can eat as many as you like without gaining weight.

8 Don’t skip breakfast

After going without food for eight to 12 hours during the night, the body is ready to refuel. Putting off eating until 10am or 11am, or skipping breakfast altogether, slows down your metabolic rate and can ultimately lead to long-term weight gain. Recent research found that people lost twice as much body fat when they consumed half their daily calories at breakfast. Good choices include wholegrain toast with one or two poached eggs, low-fat cheese, baked beans on toast, or muesli with yoghurt and fruit.

9 Halve your dinner

Reducing the size of your evening meal is a powerful way to lose weight – and it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it sounds. Simply cutting down the portion of protein you normally eat and aiming for a much larger serving of vegetables or salad is all you need to do. So, for example, instead of eating spaghetti bolognese have three meatballs and salad. Alternatively, swap your dinner for soup a few nights a week to reduce your calorie intake, and still enjoy a hearty meal the other nights.

10 Start with a salad

Eating a large green salad before dinner can reduce your energy intake by as much as 120 calories. It’s that simple. The humble lettuce not only gives the diet bulk and helps you to eat less, it also improves the nutritional profile of your diet in general.  

Susie Burrell feature

11 Say night-night to temptation

Avoid high-energy treats, such as ice cream and desserts, late at night. They can contain as much as a quarter of an adult’s total daily recommended calorie intake, and are being consumed at a time when far fewer calories are used. Cutting them out is often the difference between losing weight and not. In fact, you should avoid eating any food after 8pm to fit in with the body’s natural digestive rhythm.

12 Be smart when eating out

Some cuisines offer better options than others. Indian, Chinese and Thai food tends to be extremely high in fat, whereas Japanese and Greek restaurants have a much wider range of healthier choices. Any sort of raw fish, grilled meat or seafood is great, especially when teamed with a large portion of vegetables or salad. If you are trying to lose weight, be direct with friends when choosing places to eat out and encourage them to visit restaurants which you know have healthy choices.

13 Give yourself a break

Your body doesn’t respond well to long periods of stringent calorie restriction and is powerfully driven to seek food, which may be the reason why someone on a diet faces the intense hunger that makes it so tough to stay on track after experiencing initial weight loss. An easy way to overcome this is to include one meal each week in your regular diet plan that has more calories than you limit yourself to for the other six days of the week. Not only does this give you the freedom to enjoy a special meal, it also gives your body the message that it is not starving and should burn up energy and extra fat as usual. Please note that the idea is to have one meal off, not a whole day, and you should aim for no more than 200-250 extra calories. Such a change
will not adversely affect weight loss; in fact it may even enhance it.

14 Go slow

It takes the stomach at least 20 minutes to register that it has had enough food, which is often a few hundred calories after we’ve put our knife and fork down. Research found that people who chewed each mouthful at least 20 times, in addition to placing their knife and fork down in between mouthfuls, consumed 20 per cent fewer calories during a meal. Always aim to be the last to finish your meal, and take a sip of water in between mouthfuls.

15 Get your friends on board

If your friends are lean, fit and healthy, you are much more likely to be as well. If, on the other hand, they could all lose a bit of weight and you are more likely to catch up over coffee and cake rather than a run and vegetable juice, that’s a problem. It doesn’t mean you have to ditch your friends, but being more aware of the powerful influence they can have over your daily food and activity decisions will help you make changes. If you always meet for a meal or snack, suggest that exercise becomes part of your get-togethers. 

16 Shake it up

If you’ve eaten the same breakfast, lunch and snacks for the past five years and your body’s not changing, it may be time to mix things up. It’s likely your body hasn’t had to work hard to digest your food for some time, so the best thing you can do to kick-start it is to change things around and get it working a little harder. If you always eat cereal and fruit for breakfast, swap to eggs and toast for a while. If you usually enjoy a big breakfast with no snacks, change to a small breakfast and add in a mid-morning snack instead. If you have three square meals, go for six small ones.

17 Beat those sugar cravings

Drinking green tea or iced water with a lemon slice are great ways to kill a longing for sugar, as are chewing sugar-free gum and mints. Brushing your teeth is also a proven technique to quell cravings.

18 Keep moving

Move for an hour each day. This doesn’t mean you have to flog your body or see a personal trainer – just move. Learn to incorporate incidental exercise into your daily life, no matter how small – walking to and from the station, taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop early, picking up the children from school on foot, whatever takes your fancy. The easiest option if you are just starting to exercise is to walk for 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning. A walk just once a week, every week for the rest of your life, is going to be much better than a gym class you do for two weeks and never go to again.

19 Don’t be a slave to the scales

Never weigh yourself more than once a week, and always do it first thing in the morning. Weighing yourself several times a week, or even every day, can make you give up, as failure to see progress often leads to a feeling that the diet isn’t working.

20 Get a pedometer

An adult needs to take at least 10,000 steps a day just to maintain their weight. If you want to lose weight, you need to bump that number up to between 12,000 and 20,000. The average office worker who drives to and from work will be lucky to manage 2,000 steps each day. If you have no idea how many you are taking, invest in a pedometer. If you discover you need to increase the number, a great habit is to go for a 20- to 30-minute walk after dinner.

Adapted from Losing the Last 10lb by Susie Burrell, published by Hardie Grant Books, price £9.99. To order a copy for £8.99, including free p&p, call YOU Bookshop on 0845 155 0711 or visit you-bookshop.co.uk.

You can also order by post from YOU Bookshop, PO Box 582, Norwich NR7 0GB, making cheques payable to YOU Bookshop


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