You might have seen articles like this in countless high profile magazines before. “10 easy steps to weight loss”, “lose 2 stone in 2 weeks”, “follow these simple tricks to your perfect body” etc., etc. Some of you might have tried one or more bizarre suggestions, like ”drink a litre of diet coke before your meal to fill you up” or “have black coffee on an empty stomach to kill your appetite”. As you will have discovered, not one of these ‘miracle’ tricks works and they are impractical and unsustainable.
Here is a somewhat different list for you. To follow are the 10 steps I suggest to my clients who are looking for a lifestyle change and long term weight loss! When you embark on your journey towards a slimmer YOU, keep in mind that a healthy fat loss consists of 2 to 4 pounds a week but don’t become a slave to your bathroom scales. The fit of your favourite pair of jeans or inches lost around your waist are a far better and more accurate measurement!
The ‘Perfect Plate’
Before you consider what you eat, consider how you eat it and most importantly how much of it. Portion control is the cornerstone of every successful fat loss programme but there is no need to count the grams. No matter if you are having breakfast, lunch or dinner, half of your plate should always be filled with vegetables of all colours and shapes. One quarter of your plate should be made up of good quality protein such as eggs, organic meats, beans, pulses or nuts and seeds. The remaining quarter should be a small helping of complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice or other cooked grains such as quinoa, millet or barley.
Protein should be your best friend and feature liberally in every meal. Your body cannot turn protein into fat so it will be used to produce energy and regenerate every cell in your body. In addition, it slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, preventing sugar spikes and sweet cravings. An apple with a few nuts on the side will keep you fuller for longer than just fruit alone!
The devil is sweet
Sugar really is your Enemy Number One! Your body only needs the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar circulating in your system at any one time. Any excess WILL be converted into fat, without exception. It is not just the sweet, white crystals that should stay firmly locked away in your cupboard because this particular baddie has many guises. Glucose syrup, fructose, malt and even healthy sounding alternatives such as agave, rice and date syrup count as sugar and so does tropical fruit as well as white bread and pasta! Switch to natural alternatives such as Stevia or Xylitol and stick to apples, pears and berries for your daily serving of fruit.
It is important to keep your blood sugar levels steady through regular meals to prevent cravings, but constant snacking can be counterproductive. Most snacks labelled ‘healthy’ are full of sugar and artificial ingredients and many products sporting the words ‘diet’, ‘light’ or ‘fat free’ should be avoided like the plague. Choose, instead, a small handful of nuts or a little hummus with some carrot sticks. Aim for a gap of at least 3 hours between meals and snacks when nothing but water passes your lips.
Go full Fat
This might be the hardest part to get your head around because it is the exact opposite of what you have been told for the past 20 years: fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does! The dreaded F word has such a bad reputation even though it can actually help you lose weight. Coconut oil for example actively supports weight loss and thyroid function. Fat fills you up, satisfies and provides tons of energy as long as it is natural and not heated. Drizzle cold-pressed oils over your salad and vegetables, choose small amounts of butter instead of margarine and always go for full fat dairy products!
Whet your appetite
Hydration is often the forgotten part when it comes to shifting the pounds. Your body needs a ready supply of liquid to work at optimum levels. Plain water with some lemon squeezed in is the ideal drink to kick-start your metabolism. We also tend to confuse thirst with hunger so before you reach for the snack drawer, turn on the tap first!
Taking time to sit down for your meal and savour every bite is the best solution to curb overeating. It takes about 20
minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it is full, prompting you to stop eating. Wolfing down your lunch in a rush bypasses this feedback loop and allows you to eat far beyond satisfaction.
Forget the calories
Consider this: a Mars Bar and a fillet of salmon contain roughly the same amount of calories but they behave very differently in your body. One nourishes your cells while the other is swiftly converted into fat stores. Liberate yourself from the burden of calorie counting, stick to your ‘perfect plate’ philosophy and give sugar a miss!
Do it like the kings
The age-old saying of breakfast like a king and dine like a pauper rings true once more. The hormone cortisol is high in the morning, stimulating digestion and metabolism. Now is the time to eat and exercise, turning your body into a fat burning machine. Your metabolism naturally slows down in the evening and is more likely to form fat stores at night than in the morning!
This seems old hat by now, but some things just never change. Exercise is the firm foundation of every weight loss programme but you will be pleased to hear that sweating on the treadmill for an hour IS a thing of the past. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the fastest, most time-effective and simplest way to burn fat, build muscle and challenge your cardiovascular system. Start with 20 seconds of high energy movements (star jumps for example) followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat this 8 times and you will have mobilised more flabby pockets in under 7 minutes than during hours of cycling. Yes, it is exhausting but a few repetitions of HIIT 4 x a week is all it takes!