How many of us make New Year's Resolutions, which gradually get swept under the carpet by mid-January? If your goal this 2017 is to shift those extra few pounds, be more active or generally just feel healthier, try to make some of these manageable tweaks to your eating and lifestyle habits.
1. Eat to feel full, not to clear your plate
"Pay attention to how your stomach is feeling and eat slowly, don’t get sucked into the pressure of clearing every scrap of food on your plate. Eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed," advises nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
2. Read food labels
Make time to read food labels, so you know what you’re putting into your body, and avoid being persuaded by the likes of ‘sugar free’ or ‘low fat’ products in the hope that these can help shift those stubborn pounds.
"If a food or drink is described as ‘low sugar’, ‘slim line’ or ‘diet’, it will usually contain an artificial sweetener. These sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression, and it has been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite," explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist andauthor of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
3. Add protein to each meal
If your diet is lacking in protein then you may be more inclined to go back for seconds. “Including protein in your meal helps slow down digestion, leaving you feeling more satisfied and fuller for longer. This in turn can help with weight loss, as you’re less likely to have as many calories.
"To ensure you’re getting your daily dose of protein try a plant based protein powder. They are easy to digest and can be kept low-calorie. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savory foods such as stews and soups,” says Cassandra."
4. Speed up your metabolism with salmon
"Salmon is a great superfood to help with weight management. Salmon is an oily fish and is therefore packed full of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. We know that the EPA and DHA content of Omega 3 have many health benefits, but one is assisting with weight loss. Studies link weight loss to omega 3 fatty acids. The oils from the oily fish, such as salmon, appear to enhance weight loss by increasing fat metabolism. Salmon also has the great benefit of being a lean source of protein. The protein content will help with your appetite by making you feel fuller for longer," explains Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com.
5. Don’t eat on the run
"It gives your body the message that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient. Make a point of sitting down and eating your food as calmly as possible," says Marilyn.
6. Go vegan once a week
"Veganism wouldn’t be my first protocol for weight loss. This is because vegan diets tend to be lower protein and higher starchy carbohydrates, which is less successful for those trying to lose weight. However, if a diet has been previously rich in unhealthy processed foods and, veganism stimulates a change to incorporate more fresh vegetables, whole grains and pulses then weight loss will be inevitable," explains Shona.
7. Pilates to trim your waist
Taking part in regular Pilates classes can help your weight loss journey. "The reason Pilates is so good at trimming inches off your waist is because one of the key fundamentals of Pilates, alongside alignment and breathing, is centring. This involves learning how to control all your movements from your centre.
"In Pilates you learn how to use your deep core muscles to support your spine. These muscles wrap around your waist like a natural built in corset. It’s been called your ‘girdle of strength!’ Every exercise you do in a Pilates session teaches you how to work from your centre, helping to reduce our waistlines," explains Lynne Robinson, author of Pilates for Weightloss and founder of Body Control Pilates.
8. Cut down on booze
"Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, versus sugar’s 4 calories per gram! Alcohol binges are a classic way to set up a cycle of cravings for sugary, stodgy foods the day after," explains Shona.
9. Have soup as a starter
"If you have soup before a meal you will end up eating fewer calories during the meal because soup stops the cells in the stomach producing your hunger hormone ghrelin and turns off your appetite.
"Studies show the body registers greater satisfaction when food is liquidised and soup moves out of the stomach more gradually than a solid meal would, leaving you feeling more satisfied for longer," explains Marilyn.
10. Exercise with a friend
Exercising is an appetite suppressant. "It stimulates the release of feel good hormones- the same ones, which are released by sweet or ‘junk’ foods, stopping the need for the food you are craving," says Cassandra.
"Working out with others means you can have a laugh, spend quality time with friends or meet likeminded people, but instead of sharing a drink at the pub you can be getting fitter and healthier," adds Katie Booth, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitssi, the new social fitness app.
11. Skip the TV when eating
Do you eat your meals in front of a screen? Marilyn explains why you should turn if off: "You can eat up to 70% more if distracted by watching the TV or in a cinema. Research has shown that eating lunch in front of your computer makes it harder to remember what you have eaten and then you don’t feel as full. As a result, you will then be looking for something else to eat. In one study, computer users then ate twice as many biscuits half an hour later than the non-computer users eating lunch!"
12. Time of the month? Don’t over-indulge
When surfing the crimson wave, do you constantly think about food and allow yourself to binge on all your favourite treats? "The chemicals in our body- dopamine, serotonin and cortisol all play a role in appetite regulation. These are affected by hormones in your body, including sex hormones. This is why when you have hormonal fluctuations, such as just before menstruation, you may find yourself with a bigger appetite and in search or sweet or fatty foods. To help beat the fatty cravings try a snack including protein and complex carbohydrates. Try eating a boiled egg with some vegetable sticks or some oat cakes with nut butters," says Shona.
13. Don’t ‘save yourself’ before a meal out
"Don’t miss meals leading up to eating out, for example don’t miss lunch thinking that it is going to helpful in avoiding extra calories because you are eating out that evening. If you miss meals, your body will think there is a shortage of food, slow down your metabolism and hold on tight to your fat stores. And there is nothing more guaranteed to rev up your appetite so that you end up eating more at the meal," says Marilyn.
14. See the benefits with broccoli
"Broccoli is a great choice to help with weight loss mainly because it is so low in calories. Broccoli is also high in fibre and water – this helps create bulk without calories. The fibre helps make you feel full and also slows down digestion, which is a great way to help you to stop snacking".
"If that’s not enough, broccoli also contains several micronutrients. These are known to help support weight loss. One of the main ones is chromium, which helps balance your blood sugar levels and prevents those pangs of hunger. Broccoli also contains phytochemicals, which have the ability to help breakdown fats. Eat plenty of broccoli every day!" says Shona.
15. Chew well
"The chemical cholecystokinin (CCK) is released as food enters your stomach. It tells your digestion to slow down and subsequently gives the message to your brain that you are full, allowing your appetite to naturally decrease. This message takes about 20 minutes, so if you eat quickly you could end up eating far more than you need to before your body gets around to telling you to stop.
"You should also leave time at the end of a meal for your body to register that you are full before you think about dessert because you may realise that you don’t actually need it,” says Marilyn.
16. A teaspoon of cinnamon a day keeps the carb cravings away
"Cinnamon helps to keep our blood sugar levels balanced, this minimises insulin spikes after meals which can lead to hunger and further carbohydrate cravings. Try sprinkling cinnamon onto food, or sipping on cinnamon tea," says Shona.
17. Stop your sweet tooth
Are you reaching for the biscuit tin by 3pm to help beat your energy slump, rather than opting for a healthier alternative? Take the challenge this year of fighting your sugar fix and really feel the benefits.
"Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates (scrambled eggs with rye bread) and continue later during the day with vegetables; this helps to maintain a steady flow of blood sugar. This means, that by the time you get to 4pm, your blood sugar should not have dropped so much that you need that quick sweet fix," says Marilyn.
"As you eat, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released. If you are eating refined sugar and carbs they will hit your bloodstream fast and cause an imbalance in blood sugar. Your body will release more insulin to deal with this rapid rise in blood sugar. Once dealt with, the blood sugar levels will drop, but because you’ve generated the release of so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you will soon feel like snacking on a bar of chocolate. The more sweets you eat, the more you will crave them – it is a catch 22,’ adds Marilyn.
18. Reach your 10,000 steps a day
Try taking the stairs, not the escalator or walk to your local shop rather than taking the car. These little tricks can all help us reach the 10,000 steps a day, which the NHS recommends.
Dave Wain, Carnation Footcare Podiatrist also recommends: "Discover your local area. Visiting somewhere for the first time or perhaps changing your route to work can be a great way to explore, whilst also getting you walking more".
Dave also suggests: "If you’re a bit of a desk jockey, set a reminder to make sure you have a brief walk around the office to get yourself moving to help you up your paces and reach your target number of steps".
19. Have more sex
Struggling to find some couple time and keep up with a fitness regime? Why not combine the both, through lovemaking? Not only can this help to burn calories, but it can also help you have a great sleep! "Sex or masturbation can help to relieve tension and help you go off to sleep faster," says Marilyn.
20. Spend an extra hour in bed!
"Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause us to eat 300-400 more calories the next day. And in order to keep energy levels high we tend to choose sugary or starchy quick fixes.
"Just one extra hour of sleep each night can increase leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite," says Shona.