2020 as a whole was one of the most collectively stressful years on record.
As we emerge blinking in the 2021 dawn, the most obvious place it shows is on our waistlines. Pandemic-triggered stress and anxiety coupled with boredom snacking, and swapping form-fitting clothes for forgiving elasticated loungewear means millions are stepping into the new year with a heavier foot than normal.
A new study by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI found that nearly half - 48 per cent - of respondents found that they had put on weight during lockdown. The same number reported feeling more anxious or depressed than usual, while 29 per cent admitted to drinking more alcohol.
Of course, that’s all completely understandable in times like these. We should all be kinder to ourselves, especially as Covid restrictions continue. Health and happiness matters the most, but if you’ve found yourself reaching more for unhealthy foods and want to change, now is the time for action.
For those looking to wrestle back control of their plates and wardrobe, there are plenty of new programmes that place as much importance on coaching, eating well, and mental and physical wellness as dropping pounds. Think of them less a diet plan, more a lifestyle recalibration.
We take a look at five of the best.
With a strong social media ad campaign, there are few of us who haven’t noticed new player Noom on our feeds. The company aims to create long-term weight and lifestyle changes through habit and behavioural change, rather than restrictive dieting.
Weight loss, lifestyle and fitness tips are dispatched through an app and promote small changes that you’re more likely to keep. All of this is supported by a virtual health coach who is designed to offer encouragement and help when temptation comes calling. There’s also group chats with other users in the same boat as you, to support and share tips and recipe ideas.
When it comes to food, nothing is off the menu, but foods go into a traffic light system depending on how calorie dense they are. Reds are rare treats, while you’re encouraged to stock up on yellow and green-labelled food. You log every morsel in your online diaries, and there are recipes for inspiration too.
With questions and quizzes all delivered via app, it’s a well-rounded approach to wellness as well as weight loss, suited to people with busy lifestyles who respond well to quick, bite-size tips. A free 14-day trial is available.
This programme has been used by NHS professionals to help Type 2 diabetes patients bring their weight down. Like Noom, it focuses on long-term habit changes so you slim at a slower, healthier pace rather than rapid weight loss - initial medical trials saw patients lose an average of 7kg over six months.
Second Nature combines mentoring with daily articles that explain how certain ingredients, like sugar, affect that body, rather than simply labelling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This helps users feel informed about what they’re choosing to put on the menu, make commited habit changes and keep the weight off for longer.
You can try a risk-free 14 day trial to see if it's right for you before fully taking the plunge.
FITMATE health coach
Slow and steady change is the name of the game at FITMATE. The programme also focuses on adapting existing eating, exercise and lifestyle habits rather than crash yo-yo dieting. New actions are introduced gradually to give you time to adjust and all at a pace that your lifestyle allows.
This plan focuses more on food and fitness thereby changing lifelong bag habits, so it could work well for people who have all the right information but just need a nudge to stay on the right track. You’ll get a dedicated coach (experienced, certified health & fitness coaches, according to the website) and communicate via Whatsapp.
WW, formerly Weight Watchers
What started out in 1963 in Queen, New York, is now one of the most popular slimming programmes in the world. Today, there are Weight Watchers chapters in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.
Once likened to early-Internet sensation MySpace, the company rebranded in September 2018, transforming from the Weight Watchers your mum might have joined to WTW, or WW; Wellness that Works. With the appetite for purely scales-based results faltering, WW now focuses on overall health and wellness offering a 360-degree approach to today’s slimmers.
With in-person meetings out for the time being, you can get everything from advice, to coaching and meal logging through your myWW+ profile online.
Used by some of the UK’s biggest companies, PAM Life has gone from corporate to commercial. You’ll work with a PAM Life coach to revamp your eating and lifestyle habits, so you can expect a tailored approach to your weightloss and wellness journey.
Right now it’s offering four weeks free trial, with further discounts on subscription afterwards too.