Staying trim for a long and healthy life

There are many reasons for people who are overweight to lose weight - to be healthier, to look better, to feel better and to have more energy.

No matter what the reason, successful weight loss and healthy weight management depend on sensible expectations. If you set realistic goals for yourself, you'll be far more likely to meet them and have a better chance of keeping the weight off once you've lost it.

Most overweight people should lose weight gradually. For safe and healthy weight loss, try not to exceed a rate of around one kilogram (two pounds) per week. Sometimes, people with serious health problems associated with obesity may have legitimate reasons for losing weight rapidly - if so, this must be done under medical supervision.

The three pillars of effective weight loss

Start a calorie-reduced but balanced diet - this means basing your diet on plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates together with lean sources of protein, regular healthy fats and at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

At the same time you should also minimise your intake of foods high in saturated fats and sugars.

It's not miracle science - just common sense and finding a range of foods that suit your taste and meet these guidelines.

Make time each day for some form of physical activity

Walking is an excellent and convenient option that can usually be worked into a daily routine without too much of a problem.

You could start by taking the stairs at work, walking up or down an escalator, working some walking into your journey to or from work and parking at the far end of the car park instead of cruising around for the closest spot.

It may not sound like much but it all adds up to your 30 minutes a day and you can always start adding in some regular, structured exercise that you enjoy.

Appreciate the benefits of small amounts of weight loss

Take heart - there's plenty of credible scientific evidence that losing five to ten percent of your weight and keeping it off can significantly benefit your health by improving your blood glucose control and lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as increasing your energy and concentration levels.

When it comes to successful weight loss, slow, steady - and permanent - is by far the best way to go.

Maintaining a healthy weight

It is not uncommon for many people to lose weight while dieting, only to put it all back on (and sometimes even more) once they resume eating "normally". Generally, this happens because they had only made a temporary change to an otherwise unhealthy diet and lifestyle. To ensure weight stays off, you need to make permanent changes. These should include:

• Regular exercise

• Maintaining a healthy diet

• Making changes for the entire household. It is often very difficult for just one member of a family to buy and cook different foods to everybody else, so ensuring the whole family eats healthily makes this easier.

However, this does not mean lowering the enjoyment level of food. It may take a period of time to adapt and enjoy different meals, but this is still very possible, especially if you experiment with textures and flavours. Some people will need more support after they have finished dieting than they did while they were losing weight, so finding local support groups is often a good idea.

It can also be a good idea to weigh yourself once a week, and if your weight increases, you can make positive changes early on.

Handling a lapse

Lapses are very common when losing weight, but they can often feel like the end of the world to dieters. Indeed, many people may have experienced that "I can't be bothered with it anymore" feeling after slipping off track. Lapses are often make or break moments, but learning from them and carrying on rather than giving up completely are often the key to successful weight loss. If you have a lapse, try to think about the following:

• What was behind the lapse?

• What could I have done differently to deal with it?

• What can I do in future to handle the situation in a more positive way?

Often it helps to consider the reason why you wanted to lose weight in the first place. It can also help to think about the positives from when you started to lose weight to where you are now, and concentrate on those in the future. This can help reinvigorate your efforts, and that extra motivation will remind you not to give up.


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