Whether due to stress, baking endless banana breads, or ordering lots of takeaway food (to support local businesses, obvs!) – it seems that, for one reason or another, lockdown has caused us to make a few too many unhealthy choices.
With the world starting to feel a little more normal once again, now is a great time to break those unhealthy habits we may have fallen into and lose the lockdown lbs!
But remember, quick fixes and drastic diets don’t work long-term and aren’t healthy! So we asked our team of nutritionists for some advice on how to lose weight safely and effectively…
The Eatwell Guide is designed to ensure we get all of the nutrients we require for good health, both mental and physical.
The foods inside the circle are what we call ‘Positive Nutrition’ – this means they have a job to do in the body – they do something good for us.
Eating a good balance of foods from within the ‘Positive Nutrition’ circle can really help with our fullness signals, as well as keeping those pesky cravings in check – both super helpful when we’re trying to shift a few pounds!
The foods outside the circle, we call “The Corner Foods”, and these are foods that don’t have a function in our body. However (phew!) we do have a psychological desire for them, so we don’t aim to cut them out completely. Instead, we take a look at how often we eat them, how much we eat, and the reasons we’re eating them.
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What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of calories? As a nutritionist I often hear “calorie counting”, “2000-2500 kcal a day max”, “500kcal reduction” etc – loads of numbers to track, and the need to control it.
Balancing our ‘energy in’ from food and drink in and ‘energy out’ through moving and just living can sound simple, but there is a bit more to it. Take a few seconds now to think about all the reasons why you eat or drink….
Ok, had a go? How many are due to a need to eat? I would wager maybe 1 or 2 on the list. The influences on the energy we take in are complex and therefore the methods to help us reduce some energy have to be a bit more robust than just ‘try and eat a bit less’.
Popular calorie tracking tools might be tempting and can be really helpful for some and to initially work out what food means to our bodies. However, it can quickly become a time-consuming chore with some guesswork, meaning we are likely to fail, have a ‘What the Hell’ moment and, yet again, feel like it didn’t work.
Instead, how about using hand size measures to work out portion sizes? For example, the BNF portion-wise guidance covers lots of different foods, as well as suggests how many of these portions to have in a day too. This means the measures are appropriate for YOU, can be done easily by YOU with your own hands, and don’t need any fancy calculating or tracking skills. Why not print them out and stick on the fridge, or have them saved on your phone?
The change from where you are now to the recommended amount doesn’t have to an overnight, all-or-nothing change either. Gradual reduction is more sustainable and again is less likely to lead you to a “What the Hell” moment where you are so fed up of tiny portions and feeling hungry that you grab the nearest biscuit pack! But if that does happen, don’t worry, you’re not a failure. It’s a natural part of learning to find what actually works for you.
Being active has so many positive health benefits…and no, you don’t have to be lifting giant weights at the gym to get them. The word exercise can be intimidating. Whether you are just starting to put activity into your day, or you are already quite active, there is loads that you can do to just get your body MOVING and that is the most important part.
Things like gardening, cleaning, or dancing around the house are good ways to not only feel productive and move but also to clear the mind. If you are looking for something more structured, you could try home workouts on YouTube. They have a wide variety of online workout videos, for all abilities… including yoga, dance, HIIT, seated exercise and bodyweight workouts. Find something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick with it!
If you struggle implementing movement into your day think about how you might plan this in and make it stick – would it be helpful to prepare your clothes and trainers the day/night before and leave them by the front door? Are you able to do it alongside a family member, or a friend for social support and accountability? How about making a playlist of all the online workouts you want to try, so you don’t have to use your workout time scrolling through all the options – they’re ready to just hit play?
Identify what is keeping you from being active and make a plan to help bring you closer to your goal!
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The average daily energy requirement for a man is about 2,500 kcal and 2,000 kcal for a woman. As a general rule of thumb, this energy intake can be split up through the day according to the 400-600-600 rule, where we aim to have 400 kcal for breakfast, 600 kcal for lunch and 600 kcal for dinner.
The remaining energy can be found in low fat, low sugar, low salt containing snacks which fit with our Eatwell Guide.
We can also ask ourselves these three questions before we decide to have a snack:
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then it may be worth rethinking the snack.
Some snacks which fit our criteria include fruits and vegetables, low fat hummus and pitta bread, nuts, low fat yoghurt and unsalted popcorn.
Additional tips to help increase the likelihood of our snacks being healthy:
We should all be aiming to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. Water is the best option, but low-fat milk and sugar-free drinks count towards this daily total too. It’s important to look at the labels of different drinks because they can be a source of hidden sugar and energy.
Most adults in the UK are consuming too much sugar and are getting a large proportion (21%) of their sugar intake from non-alcoholic drinks. These can easily and quickly add up because we don’t realise how much sugar and energy we’re getting from our drinks – and often they don’t make us feel full, leading us to grab food as well.
When we have sugary drinks, our blood sugar rapidly shoots up. Our body tries to quickly lower this level of sugar in the blood, but will often overcompensate, causing our blood sugar levels to dip. When our blood sugars dip, we start to feel hungry and lethargic, and our body automatically starts to crave and seek out foods that will help get our blood sugar back up to stable levels – often sugary foods!
Cutting out or reducing the amount of sugary drinks we consume is a simple way to cut down on that extra sugar and energy (as well as those snacks we reach for after a blood sugar dip!). Try to slowly reduce the amount of sugar added to your tea or coffee, swap your fizzy drinks for their sugar-free alternatives, and try to limit fruit juices and smoothies to no more than 150ml a day.
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Establishing a healthy lifestyle is a multi-faceted process, for many years attention has focused on exercise and healthy balanced nutrition as the main key components to maintaining a healthy weight. However, after years of research the spotlight has broadened to include another daily event which we all engage with in one way or another…sleep!
Research has shown that there is a relatively strong connection between weight gain and inadequate levels of sleep. It is thought that a lack of sleep plays a role in changing hormone levels in the body which are responsible for controlling hunger, which can therefore lead to overeating foods which tend to be higher in energy and more processed.
These hormones are called Ghrelin and Leptin, both of which work in opposing ways. Ghrelin stimulates and increases hunger and appetite whereas Leptin has an inhibiting effect. When the body is experiencing a state of sleep deprivation levels of ghrelin increase and leptin levels appear to fall, therefore creating a feeling of increased appetite. It is reported that people who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day compared to those who sleep for eight hours.
Limited sleeping time not only play havoc with hormonal hunger cues but also increases the window of time for eating throughout the day therefore establishing a healthy sleep routine can be a really powerful player when looking to lose weight in a sustainable healthy manner.
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