Weight loss - what works?

Weight loss diets and trends come and go. From low fat diets, to calorie counting and low carb to high protein, it seems that every passing fad is a short term fix. Over the years, I have noticed a few trends that have stood the test of time. If you want to change your diet to shift a few pounds, then try some of these ideas for size.

  1. Stop dieting! Forget crazy fad diets and get thin quick plans. Crash diets don’t work, and may in fact be bad for our health. A much healthier way to lose weight is to eat more – more vegetables, more fish, more healthy, unprocessed, nutritious food!
  2. Don’t count calories. Healthy food is so much more than just the sum of its calories. We need a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrate to nourish us, as well asa whole range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients provided by a healthy, balanced diet packed with a variety of foods.
  3. Keep a food diary, and be honest with yourself. Write down everything you eat and drink for one week, then take a look back and see where you could make some healthy changes. Decide to change just one small thing at a time. This way, you are not ‘on a diet’, but rather making healthy changes little by little. We are more likely to stick to small changes than if we put ourselves on a restrictive diet.
  4. Eat more fat. Not all calories are equal. Most low fat (low calorie) diets restrict fat, without acknowledging that fat is an essential nutrient. We need omega 3 and omega 6 in our diet just as much as we need minerals like zinc and iron, or vitamins like vitamin C or B vitamins. Eat some good fats every day to help regulate appetite, support a healthy metabolism and help you feel more satisfied by the food you eat. A handful of nuts, some oily fish, humous, avocado or olive oil are all sources of healthy fats.
  5. Eat less sugar. Sugar makes us fat. Cutting back on the sweet stuff is one of the best things any of us could do for the good of our health, not to mention the girth of our waistlines!
  6. Eat more vegetables. Pack half your lunch box and dinner plate with a colourful variety of vegetables. Fresh, frozen, or as a salad, vegetables are packed with fibre to help fill us up, as well as the wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they supply us with. The more variety and colour you can get into your diet, the better. The Mediterranean diet represents the epitome of good health, and a lot of this has been attributed to how many vegetables are packed into each meal.
  7. Swap out refined carbohydrates for low GI varieties. Fibre rich choices like brown rice, jumbo oats and wholegrains are much better for our health and weight than the white, refined, high GI alternatives.
  8. Eat within a 12 hour zone, For example, if breakfast is usually at 8am, then finish all your meals for the day by 8pm.  Restricting eating to a 12 hour zone has been shown to help with weight loss, insulin balance and inflammation.
  9. Eat three square meals. Most of us do our best to make healthy choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it is often our snacks that let us down. Try having a little more protein and vegetables with main meals, so you are less likely to be hungry, and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods between meals.
  10. Watch what you drink. Remember that fizzy drinks, juices, cordials and alcohol all have the potential to pile on the pounds, so keep one eye on drinks and make the switch to more water instead.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 25th May 2019.