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The calories in your food and drink give your body the energy it needs. If you take in more calories than your body needs, it will store the extra energy as fat. And, if you take in fewer calories than your body needs, it will burn up the fat your body has stored to make up the difference.
The best way to keep your weight down is to make small changes to your eating habits and to your activity levels that you can keep to for life. In other words, it is more about changing your lifestyle than ‘going on a diet’.
The easiest way to lose weight this is by changing what you eat to consume fewer calories. This is because while it is very easy to consume calories in a snack, it takes a lot of effort to burn the same number of calories through exercise.
For example, there are around 220 calories in a large latte with whole milk or a KitKat, neither of which take long to eat or drink. But to burn 220 calories it takes an average adult 49 minutes of leisurely cycling or over an hour of dog walking.
Eating too many high-fat foods or foods with lots of added sugar can lead to weight gain and can make it harder to lose weight. By making healthier choices you won’t necessarily need to eat less and some simple swaps can make a real difference.
For example if you drink sugar-sweetened drinks swap them for sugar-free versions or water to save on unnecessary calories.
Most of us don’t eat enough fibre. By increasing your intake of fruit and veg and swapping white starchy foods for wholemeal and wholegrain varieties you will increase your fibre intake. Foods containing more fibre take longer to digest and as a result you will feel fuller for longer.
Tips to increase your fibre intake:
- Swap sugary breakfast cereals for unsweetened muesli or porridge.
- Swap white bread and pasta for wholemeal versions.
- Try to include two portions of veg on your plate at lunch and dinner.
- Add pulses (lentils, beans and peas) to your soups and casseroles.
- Snack on fruit and vegetable crudités instead of high-calorie snacks.
Include protein at each meal as this also helps you to feel fuller for longer. Choose lower-fat proteins such as white meat without skin, leaner cuts of red meat, fish, eggs, tofu and other vegetarian proteins such as pulses.
Tip: If you’re making a Bolognese or Shepherd’s pie replacing some of the meat in the dish with lentils or beans keeps the protein content high but also ups the fibre content.
Finally think about how much you’re eating. Even if what you eat is healthy if you eat too much of it you’ll still put on weight. Portions sizes have grown over the years – along with our waistlines.
Tips to control your portions:
- When cooking, weigh your pasta and rice and stick to the recommended servings.
- Use smaller bowls and plates or add vegetables and a side salad to your plate so that it doesn’t look empty.
- Take your time over a meal. You’re more likely to recognise when you’ve eaten enough and stop before you feel uncomfortably full.
Set yourself realistic goals. Aim to lose around 5-10% of your overall weight over a period of 3-6 months. A weight loss of between 0.5-1 kilogram (1-2 pounds) a week is good.
You do not have to reach your ideal BMI weight to see results. Though reaching an ideal BMI is great for your overall wellbeing, losing just five to 10% of your overall weight will already have great benefits, including a lesser chance of having a heart attack or a stroke.
Get help from a friend
It is not always easy losing weight, and you can quickly get bored or give up without encouragement. Get support from your family and friends, or if you think it might help, you could join a weight-loss group. Some people find that having support from other people who are also trying to lose weight can help.