Try Bridget Benelam’s, senior nutrition scientist at the British Heart Foundation, simple weight-loss strategies and tips to stay on track.
Avoid the distractions
Aim to eat at the table with the TV off several days a week. Studies have shown we tend to consume more when we’re distracted. By eating mindfully – sitting down to meals, being aware of the appearance, smell, taste and texture of food, chewing slowly and putting down your cutlery between mouthfuls – you’re guaranteed to enjoy it more. Eating slowly allows time for your brain to send the satiety message to your stomach that you are full. The result? You’re less likely to overeat.
Rearrange your kitchen
Keep the foods you want to eat more of easily available – put a fruit bowl on the table, vegetable sticks in the fridge, and reduced-fat cheese and crispbreads to hand. If you must have calorific foods that will tempt you to snack, keep them up on a high shelf or at the back of a cupboard.
Write a list of the non-food-related luxuries you enjoy. They could include a long, lazy bath, reading a magazine from cover to cover or seeing a new film with friends. Whenever you’re tempted to reward yourself with food, give yourself one of the treats on your list instead.
Change the proportions on your plate
Bulk out your meals with low-calorie vegetables and wholegrains – you could save up to 400 calories just by taking out the higher-fat ingredients and replacing with some of these*. Check out the Eatwell Guide for a simple guide to a well-proportioned meal.
Plan your meals and write a shopping list
Have a rule: if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t make it into the trolley – that way, you won’t be tempted by unhealthy BOGOF offers. Never shop when you’re really hungry.
Soup up your salad drawer
Soup is filling, low-fat and quick to make. Do a weekly salad drawer audit and chop up lingering carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes and salad leaves. Cook with a little oil spray, then add chilli, garlic, a tin of tomatoes and reduced-salt vegetable stock and simmer until the veg are cooked. Whiz until smooth. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Fill up so you’ll eat less
Choose foods that are high in protein, such as fish, poultry, lean red meat and eggs, and fibre, such as wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice, to feel fuller for longer. That way you’ll be less likely to succumb to a snack attack.
Ease off the booze
Alcoholic drinks contain more calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein, while offering little nutritional benefit. Overindulging can also lead to overeating – both at the same time, when your defences are down, or the next day, fuelled by a hangover.
Stick within the Department of Health’s guidelines of a maximum of two to three units a day – a small (125ml) glass of 12% ABV wine is 1.5 units – and aim for at least two alcohol-free days a week. On nights when you do drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with water.
Join an online club
If slimming groups aren’t your thing, join one online to keep track. MyFitnessPal (free from iTunes) has the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database.
Track your progress
If you’ve managed to become more active, try to achieve a bit more each time. Whether you use a pedometer to tot up the distance or a heart rate monitor, it’s very satisfying and motivating to see how you’re doing.
*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.