Getting started

1. Make small changes

Instead of vowing to live on green salads, make lots of small changes, such as limiting sugary treats, instead. Remember: it’s better to take many small steps in the right direction than one great leap forward, only to stumble backwards.

2. Set specific goals

Don’t think vaguely, ‘I must get healthier and slimmer.’ Break your goal into small, achievable steps. Stop skipping breakfast or aim to get fit for a 5k run. Specific goals are easier to stick to than general ones, which don’t offer much direction or incentive.

3. Be positive

Focus on what you will do, rather than what you won’t. So instead of saying, ‘I won’t touch chocolate again’ (you will), say, ‘I’ll only have it twice a week.’ Make your goals positive (and realistic), which will keep you motivated.

4. Have a time frame

Don’t think, ‘I want to lose weight.’ Instead, think: ‘I want to lose half a stone in six weeks.’ Apply a time frame so you have something to aim for. A loss of 1–2lb a week is healthy (although you may lose more in your first week).

5 Plan ahead

Arriving home from work hungry to find an empty fridge will send you straight to the biscuit tin. Get organised so your kitchen is stocked with quick, healthy meals and snacks.

See our sweet snack suggestions and savoury snack suggestions.

6. Remember to  reward yourself

Stay motivated by planning rewards – but make sure they don’t revolve around chocolates and wine. If you lose 2lb in a week, treat yourself to a manicure. Making it to the gym three times a week? Buy a new top. 

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In the kitchen

7. Downsize dinner plates

Using smaller plates helps you eat 22% fewer calories, according to researchers at Cornell University in the US. Why? Because it tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating a normal amount (even though you’re eating less). Cunning!

8. Cook smart

Grill meat rather than roasting it in oil to save calories. And poach or scramble eggs instead of frying them.

9. Limit water when cooking

Compared with boiled veggies, steamed veg retains its colour, flavour and crispness better – and you’ll enjoy eating it more.

10. Follow the iPhone diet

If you have an iPhone, download the free MyFitnessPal app –which scans food barcodes to display the fat and calorie content. Handy when temptation strikes at the supermarket.

11. Switch spoons

Instead of a soup spoon or dessert spoon, use a teaspoon. A study by Cornell University, US, found it was hard to overeat using a small spoon.

12. Sidestep salt

‘If you reduce your salt intake to 3g a day, your body will release more than a litre of water, which will result in a weight loss of 2–3lb*,’ says Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Amanda Ursell. ‘When you eat salt your body retains water to dilute it. Instead, use healthier flavourings such as lemon juice and herbs.’

Read our 7 ways to up the flavour without adding salt.

13. Mix in extra veg

So simple and so effective. Replace or complement meat with vegetables or pulses in stews and casseroles and you’ll feel fuller on fewer calories. Dishes will go further and cost less, too.

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14. Ditch your peeler

Wash veggies well rather than peeling them. The skins contain fibre (and extra vitamins), which keeps you healthy and full.

15. Go pan shopping

Invest in a good non-stick frying pan – you’ll use less oil, which means fewer calories overall.

Tiny tweaks that make a big difference

16. Swap breads

Ditch white bread and choose brown, grainy loaves. They contain more fibre, which keeps you fuller for longer. The result? You’ll be less likely to reach for the snacks.

17. Lose the butter

…and margarine. Go without them on sandwiches and you’ll be surprised to find you don’t actually miss them.

18. Rethink breakfast

Don’t settle for toast alone. It doesn’t contain much protein, which is important if you want to stay full until lunch. Introduce protein in the form of eggs, smoked salmon, natural low-fat yogurt, skimmed milk or nuts.

Check our list of high protein breakfasts.

19. Add dairy products

Studies show low-fat varieties speed up your metabolism, thanks partly to the calcium they contain, so have some low-fat yogurt or a shake with semi-skimmed milk.

20. Go nuts

Eat nuts and seeds daily. Researchers from the University of California found that nuts contain an oil called oleic acid that may help to curb appetite. Have as a snack or sprinkle on salads.

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21. Take fish oils

Some studies show omega-3 fats can help burn more fat, so take a fish oil supplement or eat more oil-rich fish.

22. Keep a daily food diary

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that dieters who note down what they’re eating lose twice as much weight*.

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23. Enjoy salad days

Take some chopped raw veg such as peppers, cucumbers or carrots with you to work to add to your lunch.

24. Switch off the TV

Overweight adults who halved their viewing time over three weeks burned an extra 119 calories a day – that’s 12lb* a year!

25. Stay busy

Don’t stand or sit still for too long. At home, tidy up as you go along and stay busy – the extra calories burned really add up.

26. Enjoy ‘micro-treats’

Instead of eating a whole chocolate bar, break it into pieces and eat over several days. Think of it as prolonging the pleasure.

27. Drink yourself slim

‘Avoid liquid calories,’ says Amanda Ursell. ‘Have water instead of fizzy drinks or juice and you’ll save calories without noticing.’

Get your body moving

28. Zumba

If you’re getting bored of your exercise routine, try Zumba. A high-energy, feel-good class that mixes various dances such as salsa and reggae, it could help you burn around 350 calories a session. Around 10 million Americans do it – even Michelle Obama is a fan. Look out for a local class – or try virginactive.co.uk for more information.

29. Ballet

Hot on the heels of Zumba comes another dance fitness  zhenomenon – ballet, which combines cardiovascular benefits with a focus on core muscles. ‘It’s an intense workout that sculpts the whole body,’ says Hollywood trainer Michael George. Try Ballet Fitness with Nicky McGinty (£7.99, amazon.co.uk) and read about the new barre trend on p112.

Barrecore

30. Take the stairs

It’s tempting to take the lift, but climbing a few stairs can make a big difference. A study at the University of Ulster found climbing stairs for an average of six minutes a day led to a 10–15% drop in cholesterol and a 10–15% increase in fitness after seven weeks. Scientists from London’s University of Roehampton also found that climbing five flights of stairs five times a week (an ascent of around 15 metres) burned an average of 302 calories per week – and it’s a fantastic bottom and leg-toner, too.

Here’s our suggestions for more ways to get active every day.

31. Go shopping!
What Americans call ‘mallercise’ – integrating a workout into your shopping spree – is starting to catch on over here. Researchers at the University of Calgary found that an eight-week mall-walking programme, with bursts of speed walking around the shopping centre, led to weight loss and a 63% increase in motivation to exercise. Just keep away from cake shops!

32. Put a skip in your step

Skipping is a fantastic total body workout, burning around 120 calories in 10 minutes. Add variety by jumping on one leg for a while, or try some tricks like skipping backwards or crossing your arms on alternate jumps. You don’t even need a rope – an imaginary one works just as well.

33. Try squats

We’re used to thinking of squats as part of a workout, but personal trainer James Duigan recommends a different approach. ‘Do 20 squats before breakfast, lunch and dinner,’ he says. ‘It sounds tough, but it only takes two minutes and helps your body to use food as fuel, instead of storing it as fat.’

Watch our video on how to do the perfect squat.

Swap shop

34. Swap full-fat milk for skimmed

A simple swap that’ll save you 17 calories per brew, which adds up to quite a lot if you’re a big tea drinker.

35. Swap cheeses

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean giving up cheese, just choose stronger-tasting varieties, such as parmesan r grana padano. Even though parmesan has more calories than cheddar, the fuller flavour means you’ll use less.

36. Lose fatty mayonnaise

Reduced-fat mayos can still contain high amounts, so ditch it completely and replace with low-fat natural yogurt mixed with lemon juice for less fat and fewer calories.

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37. Ditch sugar in favour of spices

When you’re baking, use mashed up berries instead of sugar, and try spices to sweeten dishes. Good choices include cardamom, ginger and nutmeg.

De-stress yourself slim

38. Calm down…

‘Stress releases cortisol, which encourages the body to cling to fat,’ says trainer James Duigan. ‘Try a de-stressing exercise such as yoga or pilates to help you relax.’

Find out which type of yoga is best for your lifestyle.

41. Chew!

Chew your food properly. It helps to release the nutrients from what you’re eating, plus you’ll be less likely to gulp down air, which can leave you feeling gassy and bloated.

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42. Try a new kind of cuppa

Caffeinated drinks stimulate the nervous system if we drink too many of them. Try herbal teas such as chamomile or rooibos tea to aid relaxation.

43. Give yourself a break

If you fall off the wagon and have too many biscuits or an extra glass of wine every now and again, don’t give yourself a hard time. As long as you’re eating well for 80–90% of the week, you can afford to be less strict the rest of the time.

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