The perils of yo-yo dieting

Let's be honest, dieting is dull - and losing weight at the recommended rate of 1-2 lb a week can be frustratingly slow.

Hardly surprising, then, that so many of us are tempted by 'miracle' diets which guarantee you'll be down to a size 10 in weeks. Sadly, my mother taught me well - if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and crash diets are no exception.

If you drastically restrict your calorie intake, you're more likely to lose muscle rather than fat - if you put the weight back on, it'll likely come back as fat than as muscle. That means you won't beat the flab and you could affect your strength and balance. You'll also run the risk of getting deficient in vital vitamins and minerals - this carries a chance of osteoporosis in later life, to name but one.

But perhaps most importantly, drastic diets aren't sustainable. Keeping the weight off can be harder than losing it in the first place (90% of dieters put all the weight back on within a year). The key is not to go on a diet; it's to 'adopt a healthier lifestyle' which you can stick to in the longer term. That's all about minor healthy switches which add up, eating a little less and moving a little more.

5 steps to your ideal weight

1) Every little helps. Be realistic - even losing half a stone can have a real positive impact on your health. If you aim to lose half your body weight, you're bound to be disappointed

2) Buddies are best. Regular aerobic exercise (like brisk walking, dancing or cycling) tones your muscles and heart as well as helping with weight loss. But you're more likely to stick to an exercise regime if you pair up with a friend

3) It's not what you eat today; it's what you eat every day. If you have an event coming where you know you might eat more (parties, dinners out etc) factor that into your diet. Accept this and use it as an incentive to eat carefully in the week before and after rather than being demoralised that you've 'broken' your diet.

4) Veg out. Set a target to eat at least two extra portions of veg a day - fresh, frozen or canned. They're filling, packed with nutrients, low-calorie and delicious!

5) Portions, portions everywhere. Many people struggling with their weight eat healthy food but too much of it. Use a smaller plate; weigh out portions for a better idea of calorie content; and eat slowly (sitting at the table) to let your brain register when you've had enough.

With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Egton Medical Information Systems Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.