Start with some small changes
Forget the latest diet fad or totally overhauling your eating habits to lose weight. Instead, try small changes for a big impact. The promise of rapid weight loss might be tempting but, in most cases, those people who are the most successful at losing weight and keeping it off are the ones who make small, sustainable changes to their diet and activity levels – changes that, over time, can add up to lasting success.
If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while now, you’ve probably tried a few different diets. Chances are, you lost some weight but found the diet difficult to stick to long term, so gradually returned to old habits, and then regained the weight you lost. You may even have gained more weight than you lost in the first place. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
The solution: build new habits you can stick to for life.
Manage your portion sizes
Even if you follow a healthy eating plan, if you eat more than you need to, it will be difficult to manage your weight. A good place to start is with getting the balance right on your plate. Aim for ½ a plate of non-starchy vegetables, salad, or fruit, ¼ of lean protein and the other ¼ from higher-fibre, lower glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates. Picking smaller plates (or bowls or cups) can also help.
Be Choosy About Your Carbohydrates
Despite the claims of low-carb and keto advocates, carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to losing weight. However, for both health and weight management, the types of carbohydrates you choose matter. Aim to avoid refined carbs (eg biscuits, cakes, pastries, highly processed breakfast cereals and white bread) and added sugars (eg confectionery and sugar-sweetened drinks) and instead get your carbs from minimally processed wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Ditch Discretionary Foods
These are foods and drinks we choose for pleasure that don’t provide much nutritional value and tend to be high in energy – eg chips, confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries and sugar-sweetened drinks. You don’t need to completely cut them out if they are foods you enjoy, but you do need to keep these to a minimum when trying to lose weight and still meet your nutritional needs. Of course, everyone will be different in terms of how many “extras” they can fit in and still lose weight, and this largely depends on how active you are. However, in a recent national health survey, Australians aged 2 years and above were eating an average of 35% of total energy from discretionary foods and beverages, suggesting plenty of room for improvement.
Fill Up On Fibre
Dietary fibre, found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, can help you to feel fuller, and research has shown that increasing dietary fibre intake is one important change that can help with successful weight loss.
Eat Your Fruit, Don’t Drink It
Fruit contains natural sugars, but this doesn’t mean it’s something to steer away from when you are watching your weight. In fact, fruit makes the perfect sweet snack or dessert. Eaten in its fresh, whole form, where it comes complete with dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, fruit intake appears to be helpful for weight management. However, fruit juice is a different story. Juicing removes the fibre and makes it easy to over consume – just think about how many oranges you need to squeeze to make a glass of orange juice. Whilst you are highly unlikely to eat 3 – 4 oranges it is very easy to drink them in the form of juice!
Get More Protein From Plants
Research has shown that people following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet have a lower body mass index (BMI) and are less likely to gain weight compared to meat eaters. And what’s more, intervention studies have shown greater weight loss with vegetarian or vegan diets compared to other diets. There are many reasons a plant-based diet might favour weight loss, but one explanation is the satiating effect of plant protein. Several studies have found legumes (such as lentils and dried or canned beans) can help with improving satiety and weight loss, probably due to their combination of plant protein, dietary fibre and low GI carbohydrates.
Watch Your Coffee
Many people are careful with what they eat, but forget about the energy they drink, and coffee is a common culprit. A few large lattes per day with full fat milk and sugar can quickly add up the kilojoules and make weight loss more difficult. So, while there is no need to ditch your daily caffeine hit, consider sticking to one per day, switching from large to small, swapping full fat for skim milk and/or cutting out the sugar.
Listen To Your Appetite
Many of us have lost touch with our appetites. We tend to eat for all sorts of reasons other than hunger, including boredom, stress or just because the food is there or someone else around us is eating. Eating when you are not physically hungry will always be a barrier to weight-loss success. Learn to recognise your hunger and fullness signals. You should be hungry when it comes time to eat (but not starving, or you will overeat) and learn to stop when you are satisfied (and not over-full).
Avoid (or Reduce) Your Alcohol
Like with coffee, many people overlook the energy content of alcohol. For example, drinking half a bottle of red wine with dinner is the kilojoule equivalent of adding four slices of bread to your meal. What’s more, alcohol can increase appetite and reduce your resolve to make healthy food choices. If you’re a daily drinker, consider sticking to one glass and incorporating a few alcohol-free days each week.
Consistency Is The Key
A study of more than 1400 participants found that those who had consistent eating patterns across the week and over the year were more likely to maintain their weight loss over the long term. In other words, they didn’t let things like weekends and holidays get them off track. This doesn’t mean you can’t fit in treats and indulge a little on special occasions, but dieting strictly during the week and letting it all go on the weekends or holidays is unlikely to lead to success.