Many of us in the UK are carrying a few more pounds than we should be. In fact, according to government figures in 2014, 61.7% of us were classified as being overweight or obese.1
There are plenty of reasons why those of us who are overweight should consider shedding some timber. Dropping around 10% of your body weight can have a hugely significant impact on both your physical and mental health, and quality of life. On paper, 10% doesn't sound a lot, and many dieters set themselves much higher targets, but the key to weight loss is one goal at a time, and 10% is a great starting point.
Losing 10% of your body weight can help your health in a number of areas, which include:
1. Improving your blood pressure
2. Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
3. Lowering cholesterol
4. Improving sleep quality
5. Easing joint and back pain
6. Improving the quality of your breathing
7. Giving you more energy
8. Helping to improve your sex life.
Fantastic! So where do I start?
The hardest step is getting started as there is no perfect weight-loss programme. Your best bet, therefore, is to take an approach that focuses on diet AND exercise, rather than one or the other, while getting enough rest is equally important. A key thing to remember as you get started is that losing weight is not a race. You are far more likely to shed weight and to keep it off by taking a gradual approach, so view it as a journey instead.
The bad news is that you'll no longer be able to eat as much of your favourite foods as you like. However, that doesn't mean you have to cut them out altogether if you can manage your meals successfully.
It can be helpful to view your new diet a little like going back to school. You will learn and understand how many calories your body needs and how active you should be while losing weight, but it takes time to develop these skills, much like education.
In modern life, most of us have busy schedules, so a little bit of jigging things around can help provide time to concentrate on a weight loss programme. This is especially important if you need to get extra sleep, as people who don't get eight hours sleep a night often find weight loss more difficult. If sleep is problematic, it is worth speaking to your doctor to help improve both the quantity and quality you get each night.
With every meal you have, you should consider not just the type of food you have, but the amount you make as well. It is often easier to do this if you use smaller plates, bowls and cups, and if you eat outside the home, ask for a doggie bag before ordering. You can then split your meal when it arrives, helping you to avoid overeating.
Are you hungry or just craving food?
Forgive the obvious sounding point, but another important step is to ensure you eat when you're hungry, rather than just because you feel like it or have a craving. A growling stomach is a sure fire sign that you need fuel, so listen to your body. If you still feel hungry after eating, this could be because it takes our brains 15-20 minutes to register that we are full, so delaying eating again is often wise.
If it is a craving, you won't feel any physical symptoms of hunger. While you can still eat at this time, the best bet is to make sure it is a small, healthy snack; otherwise they are just wasted calories.
It can also be helpful to take steps such as eating at the dinner table, which can help to manage meal times more efficiently. Sitting in front of the TV, it can be easy to mindlessly eat more than you need, but setting aside time specifically to eat can help avoid the problem.
Another useful tip can be to use a food diary, which helps you keep a track of what you've eaten and can make planning meal times easier, which is a great way of ensuring you don't over eat.