The different lockdowns and “stay safe” protocols resulted in us spending as much as 75% of our time over the last year in relative isolation. It goes without saying that over the 9 month period, in what can only be described as an unprecedented time - our habits are bound to change. During one of the several mental health campaigns #timetotalk we ran a series of corporate wellness talks and saw huge upsurge in enquiries relating to emotional eating and weight loss consultations.
Personally being an avid gym goer and swimmer, I have not really gelled with the Joe Wicks styled home workouts and have admiration for the many who have made that work. I have found other ways of trying to stay fit but as a result of a lot of trial and error - some of the errors being harder to recover from.
Being unable to go to the gym or walk to the office it’s not surprising our habits have had to change. This may be why we find it harder to cope mentally and physically. Mentally our expectations of what to expect (e.g. gyms being open whenever we want to go) have been doctrinated from years of repeated practice (e.g. going to the gym a few times a week for a few years). Physically for many (myself included) - the gym or other habits of fitness were a way to both get stress relief but also to balance out the other vices in our lives like food.
However, as things are starting to open up after lockdown (hurrah), we thought we would give you some top ten tips to help better manage our weight and help you get back to your pre-lockdown (or better) selves.
In my experience of dealing with clients who are trying to manage their weight (either up or down) mental health has a lot to do with physical well being. One thing that is apparent is there is potentially a false illusion that losing weight comes as a result of strict/extreme dieting. The reality is that a healthy diet plays a role, a strict diet led by strict personal punishments is often counterintuitive to weight loss as. This is because it's unsustainable meaning and when the diet wheels come off, we punish ourselves through overeating.
If you are finding yourself overly focussed on weight loss and being rather strict on yourself or if you are finding yourself trying to be “good” but then losing all hope the minute you start to eat more to a certain extent in this ‘new normal’ this is to be expected. Almost like the mouse navigating a maze, our minds have the ability to zone in on particular things often to the detriment of our bodies.
As a result of this counter-intuitiveness - In our experience, we really believe losing weight doesn’t have to be hard, nor do you have to follow strict or extreme diet plans. Often all we need is a bit of guidance from the dos and don’ts to help make your food choices that little bit easier…
Here are our top ten tips for losing weight:
1. Avoid skipping meals.
Skipping a meal may seem like the easiest way to cut the daily calories but research has shown you only end up consuming more over the course of the day.
But why? I hear you ask…
It may seem like you have the willpower to go without your morning brekkie, but our bodies have other ideas. Our bodies need a steady source of glucose in the blood as this is how we keep our brains and bodies working effectively. So, if we fast for too long our bodies will start to have dipping blood sugar levels which often trigger food cravings that are harder to ignore. So, once you hit that wall it can be hard to ignore the body's need for fuel which can mean often you can eat more than then you would if you hadn’t skipped that meal. A small slow-release breakfast would be a better choice than nothing at all as this gives you the energy to start your day and avoids those sugar dips and cravings mid-morning.
2. Focus on balancing the meals with the right mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre.
One of the biggest and common errors is for people to eat carbs with carbs such as
toast with jam, or naan bread with curry and rice. If we add proteins, healthy fats and fibre to eat each meal we not only improve the nutrient balance of our plate but we fill ourselves up quicker, and slow our digestion so we feel fuller for longer.
3. Read the portion sizes on the packet.
It can be really confusing to understand what a portion is (it's so tricky that it is one of my pet peeves with food labels). It is too common to be misled on the packaging of snacks such as crisps, chocolate bars and cakes. Often even the small bags of crisps have 2 portions in, and chocolate bars have a preferred portion size. Over time you’ll become a pro and won’t get tricked by eating the hidden calories, but remember we are here to help provide nutrition advice if you need us.
4. Drink more water.
More times than not we are actually thirsty, not hungry and our brains can’t tell the difference. Aim for 2 litres or 6-8 glasses of water, or herbal teas throughout the day and always ask yourself if you have drunk enough water today?
5. Increase fibre in your diet to feel fuller for longer.
Eating foods high in fibre will help us in a variety of ways. High fibre foods such as whole grains, oats, pulses, and beans improve our digestion, keeping us regular and also help us feel full for longer meaning we aren’t tempted to overeat.
6. Avoid negative self-talk.
Although you may think the tough love is needed often it’s what we are thinking that can make or break our weight loss goals. Do you encourage yourself with positive reinforcements or do you tell yourself you can’t do it so why bother and why not eat the rest of those biscuits?
7. Remember drinks have calories too.
Yes, I know unfortunately calories are in drinks too. Juices, sodas, smoothies or that flat white all have calories. Aim to drink more water and check the calories in your favourite tipple to ensure you know what you are drinking. Knowledge is key to weight loss.
8. Preparation is key.
Preparing foods/meals for when you don’t have time can help you when you are at our busiest and often hungriest! We are all living busier lives now and often on those busy days if we lack time then we often may be starving and feel too exhausted to cook. We can’t avoid the busy days, but you can help plan for those weak moments. Having snacks in your bag, such as a banana or a handful of nuts, a healthy nut bar can be great on the go snack ideas. When coming home if you have healthy prepared meals cooked already in the fridge or even having a healthy ready meal to hand these options can really help avoid the takeaway temptations.
9. Avoid all or nothing thinking.
If you have one too many cakes, beers (insert vice here), what you tell yourself during and/or after eating matters the most. Either you can tell yourself you’re a failure and give up and binge more or you can say it's ok it’s been a bad day now it's time to reframe on why it happened and reset the next day. Most importantly the best advice here is to pick yourself back up and accept you are human and had a slip-up and
continue the hard work the next day. Don’t go extreme with your eating by just eating
lettuce.. just start by taking it easy and return to your normal healthy eating regime again.
10. Learn which cooking methods have hidden calories.
We are a big believer in learning a few healthy tips and tricks to help you keep the weight loss off for good. Even nutritionists aren’t walking calories counters, but we learn simple assumptions that make our choices easier. For example, most white sauces are higher in fat and calories (from cream, cheese and butter) than tomatoes-based sauces. Fried, breaded meats will often have added calories from frying than grilled options without breadcrumbs.
Another helpful tip is to learn some handy portion sizes:
Protein sources like tuna, or chicken for example should be the size of your palm.
Cheese - is a healthy source of calcium and other minerals like phosphorus but it's best to only consume a maximum portion the size of a small matchbox per day
Aim for 1/3 plate to be fruit and vegetables - these are highly nutritious, fill you up and help you lose weight.
We hope these tips help you shed those extra few lockdown kgs. If you need personalised advice, we are here to help give you the tools and most importantly the confidence to help you achieve your goals. Contact Charlotte, at the Bristol Health Nutritionist practice at Clifton, Bristol.
If you feel ready to start your weight loss journey please either speak with us or book your first consultation online.