So you've over-indulged a bit, and the waistline has expanded again. But here's a novel way to start your year - forget about dieting! It's just a short-term activity that might get you quick results. Success in the long term will only happen if you make positive, sustainable changes to how you eat and how active you are.
- Take your waist seriously . There is a wealth of evidence that suggests that if you have excess abdominal fat, where your waist is bigger than your hips, you could be more at risk of conditions like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So don't feel helpless when you look down at that tight waistband; give it some serious thought and take action. Decide today to take one small step - it could be one of these tips, or something you've been meaning to do for ages. Even losing 5% of your body weight could make a significant difference.
- Choose just one goal. Often we set ourselves targets that are unachievable in the long term, so we end up feeling deflated, disappointed and perhaps guilty. This year, simply choose one change that you believe is realistic for you. Keep it up for a month, and pat yourself on the back for maintaining it.
- Become a neater eater. When you look at your plate and dive in for another forkful, consider whether you could be a bit tidier with your dining. But, why on earth would that make a difference to your waistline? Well, it's all about conscious eating. By concentrating on how neat your food looks, you have actively engaged your brain. Being aware of what and how you're eating is a great way to help train your brain to think twice before you overindulge.
- Eat little and often. Regular meals help to keep your blood glucose steady, which is particularly important if you have diabetes. Eating regularly also means you won't be waiting too long until the next meal or (healthy!) snack, which can reduce the temptation for a cake as you pass the bakery. Eat smaller meals at regular intervals and avoid large, rich meals, especially late in the evening.
- Move more . You don't need to join a gym or do a fitness class, unless of course you want to. Get into the habit of adding simple and easy activities into your daily routine. It could mean you lose the TV remote control, or use the stairs instead of the escalator. Even walking up the escalator is better than standing still. Consider using a shopping basket rather than a trolley in the supermarket - it might help you avoid unnecessary spending too!
- Tuck it in . Your posture has a lot to do with your waistline. Try this now: sit up tall, push back your shoulders, hold your tummy in (but make sure you're still breathing). Imagine you have a belt on that has 10 holes. Fasten your imaginary belt to the 10th hole, so it's really tight. Now release it so you're on about hole 4. Get into the habit of staying at hole 4 as you do your daily tasks. Your tummy muscles will get a mild workout and your upright posture could help you feel more confident. Clothes also tend to look better when you carry yourself well.
- Downsize your plate . Something as simple as choosing a smaller plate can help you to eat less. Filling up a smaller plate tricks your brain into thinking you're still getting a lot of food. You could find that you are actually satisfied with less food and it might help to prevent you overeating. Smaller cutlery also helps to slow down your eating.
- Go dense. You may have heard of "energy density". In simple terms, low-energy-dense foods, weight for weight, are lower in energy/calories than other foods. They tend to be bulky and filling, so you can feel fuller, but at a lower calorie cost. So eating foods that have a low-energy density can help to fill you up and yet have fewer calories. Fruit and veg have a low-energy density, then foods like beans and bananas are next in line and, hardly surprisingly, foods like butter and burgers are higher and give you the most calories per 100 g. Check out the British Nutrition Foundation's Feed yourself Fuller chart.
- Slowly does it. Eat consciously rather than hurriedly, or on the go. Rushing your food whilst you're punching a keyboard or scurrying from one place to another isn't going to do your digestion any favours. Try sitting down whenever you eat, and use a plate where practical. Put your fork and knife down after every mouthful; perhaps have a sip of water in between.
- Make a note. Write down what you're eating, making a note of what you ate, how much, what you were doing at the time, and what your mood was like. Do this for a few days and look to see if there are any patterns. Do you overdo it when you're bored, or upset, or at night in front of the TV? People who keep a food diary tend to be better able to manage their weight.
Azmina Govindji is Patient's award-winning resident dietitian. She's appeared regularly on This Morning, The Wright Stuff and The One Show. Azmina is also a best-selling author and co-founder of the award-winning RDUK twitter chats. Azmina is a mum of two and understands the pressures of family life. Tweet your comments to @AzminaNutrition
This article has been adapted from http://www.theismaili.org/nutrition/five-ways-trim-your-waist by Azmina Govindji