12 expert-approved weight loss tips good for both body and mind
With messages of 'getting fit for summer' cropping up everywhere, it's common for weight loss to enter our minds at this time of year. But with 'fad' or 'crash' diets being both unhealthy and unsustainable, we've compiled a list of expert-approved tips for those wanting to lose weight. Find the hacks that feel right for you...
1. Calculate your BMI
First up, before you even think about making changes, you can use the body mass index (BMI) calculator to find out whether you're a healthy weight for your height. Measure your waist as well, to check you're not carrying too much fat around your stomach, which can increase your risk of disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes.
If you're a 'healthy weight' you should aim to maintain that weight.
If you're classed as 'underweight', the NHS advises you to see a GP to rule out other illnesses and to consider whether you're getting the calories you need.
If you're 'overweight' the best way to lose weight is with a combination of diet (see tips below) and exercise.
If you're 'obese', you should seek further advice from your GP.
It's also important to remember there are limitations of the BMI, as it can't tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone, or how healthy a lifestyle you have.
2. Drink plenty of water
Hungry or thirsty? Sometimes you can end up overeating when drinking more water – proven to help reduce calorie intake – might have been all your body was craving at that moment. We should aim to drink six to eight cups of fluid a day.
3. Get enough sleep
While many of us skimp on sleep, getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night (for an adult) is a key component of weight loss.
Research published in Nature Communications found sleep deprivation is more likely to make us crave high calorie foods, with tiredness also affecting our brain in a way that prevents us from recognising when we're full.
4. Don't skip breakfast
No matter how rushed you are in the morning, it's worth getting something down you, to avoid the risk of snacking more throughout the day because you're hungry.
However, while some research makes the case for having breakfast to help prevent obesity, other research isn't so sure this always makes us healthier. This is why enjoying healthy breakfast recipes rather than cereals high in sugar, for example, is also key.
5. Load up on fruit, veg and fibre foods
Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, but high in fibre [helping to keep you full], which the NHS describes as the "three essential ingredients for successful weight loss".
They're also rich in vitamins and minerals. When trying to reach your five a day, remember both frozen and fresh fruit and veg count.
6. Don't ban foods
Foods often villainised like carbs, can be good for us in healthy forms (e.g. starchy wholegrain rice and pasta).
And while healthy eating is a big part of losing weight, balance is key. Cutting out certain food groups, especially the ones you enjoy, will only make you crave them more and potentially lead to binge eating. If trying to lose weight, you can still treat yourself from time to time, while aiming to stay within your daily calorie allowance.
7. Eat with smaller plates
Using small plates and bowls is shown to help you gradually adjust to eating smaller portions, without getting hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full, hence why we sometimes don't realise in time that we've had enough. Slower eating can also help with this.
8. Do the exercise you enjoy
The most effective ways to lose weight include combining exercise and healthy eating, of course – being more active can help you burn off the calories you can't with diet (and boost wellbeing).
"There are many types of exercise for this [HiiT, intervals, cardio training, power training, dancing] but the one you enjoy the most is the one you will keep doing," says Matthew Hirst, personal trainer at Powfitness.
Read more: A man's guide to doing battle with belly fat
9. Work out in the morning
While working out at any time is great for losing weight, a workout first thing (for those able to) has been shown to help with curbing cravings, preventing overeating and using up more energy from your fat stores.
One study found 45 minutes of physical activity in the morning not only produced lower brain responses to images of food, but also led to an increase in physical activity that day, regardless of BMI, and didn't result in eating more food in the rest of the day to 'make up' for burned calories.
10. Cut down on alcohol
Unfortunately, a normal glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate and a pint of lager has roughly the same as a packet of crisps. Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount – not more than 14 units a week – can cause weight gain, as well as health problems.
This doesn't mean you can't have a drink, but try to drink less, and wisely. See the NHS' tips for avoiding weight gain when drinking.
11. Don't eat too late
While it can be easy to do after a long day, it's commonly thought late night eating can lead to weight gain.
Researchers from the University of Alabama in the US found that only eating between 7am and 3pm, as well as a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and exercising can massively help with losing the pounds and improving health.
However, this is quite extreme, and more research is needed on intermittent fasting in this way long-term. A more manageable suggestion, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, told The Telegraph is that people should eat breakfast no later than 11am, to allow for a large window of fasting if they have dinner at 8 or 9pm.
12. Use an individualised eating programme
An individualised diet programme that helps you to create your own plan based on targeted levels of protein and fibre without excluding food groups has shown promising results for keeping weight off, according to a study last year from nutritionists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
It found flexibility is key to achieving and maintaining weight loss for six months.
Watch: Dr Michael Mosley speaks on the importance of exercise in weight loss