weighingA good diet in the generic sense is important for everyone, whether or not weight loss is a target, as it impacts on health, looks and a general sense of wellbeing. There is no magic formula to dieting, and there are no diets promoted here. Instead you will find realistic and constructive suggestions to create an approach to eating which will make a diet more effective, and if you are not on a diet will improve your eating habits generally. Will they turn back the clock? No they won’t, but they just might slow it down!

The key to any successful diet regime, no matter what you opt for, is removing temptation and motivating yourself to stick to it. Diets fail not because “they don’t work” but because the slimmer doesn’t stick to them. So as long as you genuinely follow your chosen diet it will give you results. To make it work, and lose weight quicker, you also need to build in exercise –but it doesn’t have to be madly energetic.

Also lets be sensible about dieting, which for some seems to become a permanent hobby. If you are obese then yes you need to diet, but “normal” can be anything from a size 8 to a size 14 depending on your height and build, and crazy dieting can often lead to disappointment as the weight returns when you stop the diet because you haven’t addressed your core eating problems.

Make it easy to commit
This is the part to focus on ahead of worrying about the actual food issue.

Set yourself realistic goals so that when you reach them you feel good about yourself and encouraged to do more. Stay off the scales for a while – the fact that clothes are looser, or you go down a dress size is more important. It may take you a couple of weeks to get into your stride, so if for example you want to lose 12 kg, at a rate of 1kg/week it will take you 14-15 weeks.

Make small changes, as they will be easier to achieve. Added together, small changes make a big difference, and they are more likely to become habit forming. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, or you will quickly become disillusioned and give up. On the other hand, small changes are habit forming and more likely to become ingrained into a healthier lifestyle. For example, every time you get up from a chair do a few stretches or lunges, then step it up a notch and add in another exercise. Dont ban chocolate, but do break off only one square and put the packet back in the cupboard.

Do it with a friend. Research shows that exercising or dieting with someone makes it much more likely that you will succeed. If that isn’t possible an expensive option to make yourself commit to exercise, but certainly an effective one even if you just use it to get started, is to use a personal trainer (share the cost with a friend).

Register with a diet club to keep encouraged and motivated. Click here for some diet club links.

Keep a diary for exercise. Decide when you are going to exercise and develop an exercising habit. Book time every other day for exercise of some sort and no matter how busy you are do it as a priority. It doesn’t need to be a gym – by the time you have got there and back you could have done 30 minutes brisk walking, or a DVD workout. If you feel more ambitious with your exercise that’s great. Just make sure you get hot, sweaty and out of breath. Vary what you do so you don’t get bored, and book in some group activities so that you have to commit to other people. Nordic Walking is great for all over exercise .

Visualise how you want to look. That way you have a clear picture of where you are aiming – maybe you want to get into a particular pair of trousers.

Cut down on alcohol. 1gram of alcohol is 7 calories – a gram of fat is only 2 more calories.

Get family support. You don’t want them eating tempting treats in front of you!

Use ‘intelligent scales’. They distinguish between fat and water, so tell you how much actual weight you have lost.

Try some ‘alternative’ support. You may think a CD using hypnosis techniques a bit weird, but coming at it from another angle could help if you are flagging, and your commitment is waning. For more information click here.

Have your diet delivered. Several companies now offer a home delivery service for food packages, and they are a good way to kick start a healthy, weight loss or detox diet. They remove the temptation to buy and eat extras, as you just eat what is provided. It’s a great way help to cut out bad eating habits if you lack self discipline, and you get valuable guidance on portion control. More importantly the food is well balanced and includes snacks, so you don’t get hunger pains. So lock up your larder and sign up!

  • Pure Package has a delivery service in the M25 area and is extending nationwide. Early each day you get a fresh cool box delivery of nutritious tasty food, and you eat that and nothing more. The downside is the cost at £30/day. You have a call with a consultant first to choose your package (weight loss, healthy skin, detox etc), avoid food you don’t like and assess your goals.
  • Bodychef offers 8 weight loss plans and delivers the food, all measured out, twice a week. At a reasonable £16/day you get good instructions on what to eat and when, and the food tastes very good. Portions are quite generous but the weight still drops off.
  • Jenny Craig is a much cheaper option, covering the UK and for £300 per month delivering a month’s food (not fresh obviously, but you just augment it as directed with salad or vegetables) You also have access to a counselling session each month for advice and motivation.
  • Soulmate Food lifestyle costs from £25/day, delivers two days food at a time and also offers packages for vegetarians and those who suffer food intolerances. Lots of vegetables and salad mean you lose some weight even if that wasn’t you main aim.
  • Raw fairies only delivers in central London, and is an expensive £30/day low calorie ‘botanical cuisine’ made from raw ingredients made into delicious smoothies and salads. Portions are relatively small, so you need to be disciplined to stick to it. A good weight loss option following a body cleansing diet.

Some simple rules:veg

Don’t buy it. A good rule, because if you don’t buy food that isn’t good for your body then it won’t be sitting in your cupboard enticing you to eat it. Avoid readymade meals & swap the carbohydrates in your shopping basket for fresh fruit and healthy foods. Walk past the biscuit shelves in the supermarket and head for the fruit. Then next time you need an energy fix grab a piece of fruit, or some dried fruit and nuts.

Plan your menu a few days in advance and shop with a list. By planning your meals for the week ahead, and making a shopping list of what you need, you can then just buy the essentials for your meals and you will avoid popping unhealthy food into your trolley.

Serve your food on smaller plates. If you do want to lose weight the most effective method, to state the obvious, is not to eat so much, so this is a bit like the “don’t buy it” rule – if it is not on your plate you won’t eat it.

Chew it well. Chew it properly (10 or 12 times) and your body will flag up the full sign earlier than if you wolf it down. You will also eat less as you will get fed up with chewing like a demented rabbit!

Don’t starve yourself – eat small meals every few hours otherwise you will be tempted to binge.

Enjoy what you are eating – monotonous tasteless meals of crispbreads and low fat cottage cheese wont work for long, so make meals tasty, nutritious and delicious, albeit small! And aim to buy food to grill or bake rather than fry.

Cut out carbs after 5pm, as our metabolism slows towards the end of the day, and you want to make sure the carbs you eat get broken down

Slow down. Many people eat way too fast, so focus on what you are doing and try to really appreciate and taste your food as you eat it. Putting the cutlery down between each mouthful helps.

Don’t eat too late. Eating heavy meals in the evening is not great, as your digestive system works slower later in the day.

Drink more water. Often when you feel hungry it is actually thirst – so drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes before heading for a snack. Drinking enough water each day is essential for your body both inside and out. Your brain works better, your body functions become more efficient, and your skin plumps up and glows – one wrinkle down! In reality, even with the best of intentions it is really difficult for most of us to drink the recommended 1.5/2.0 litres a day on top of our teas and coffees so do one of two things. Either fill up a large water bottle and try and drink it each day – for some reason it always seems easier to drink water poured from a bottle than from a tap, and you know exactly how much you have drunk. Or get into the routine of drinking a glass of water whilst you wait for the kettle to boil for your tea or coffee.

Maintain levels of key nutrients. Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement each day to avoid feeling run down, which could lead to comfort eating. A lack of essential nutrients, which are key to the health and daily repair of our bodies, is common nowadays. The refined foods in our diet are a cause, as are the lower nutrient levels found in the soil. Increasingly widespread nutrient deficiency does seem to have a direct relationship with the increasing incidence of chronic degenerative disease. For basic health boosting see the section on  Nutritional Supplements.

Get more sleep. Your body repairs and renews itself whilst you sleep. Your batteries get recharged, your brain rests and you avoid a late night snack.

And finally beware of extreme diets. They can be very effective in giving a boost to a diet as the pounds fall off quickly. However with a diet that gives you an unbalanced nutritional intake for any period of time you do run the risk of starving yourself of essential nutrients, resulting in a gaunt face, an ageing skin pallor, slower brain activity, and impaired bodily functions. Too much weight loss always shows in the face – and as you get older you definitely don’t want to deepen any wrinkles.