The New Year is a great time to reflect on where we want to be with our weight and health. So, this year, rather than looking for a quick fix, how can we go about making long-term changes that will enable us to lose weight healthily and keep it off for the long-term?
Carolyn Pallister, Slimming World's Public Health Manager and a Registered Dietitian gives her top tips for long-term weight loss success.
1. Set an ambitious weight loss target
While current NHS guidance suggests people should be 'realistic' and set a target of losing 5-10% of their starting weight, new research shows that people who set ambitious targets lose almost twice as much weight. A study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests that the route to success is to decide the weight that you really want to be – your dream weight – and get support to achieve it. If it's really the weight you want to be, you'll be far more motivated.
2. Choose filling everyday foods, not just salads
Hunger is one of the main reasons people give up on a weight loss plan as people often assume they need to live only on salads or tiny portions or special diet foods to lose weight. In fact, satisfying your appetite on everyday foods like pasta, potatoes, rice, fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs, beans and pulses – as well as fruit and vegetables – is ideal for weight loss as these foods tend to be low in calories for their weight and they're filling too.
[pullquote align="C"]If you really want to make a long-term change, then it should be something you're happy to keep up for life![/pullquote]
Trying to live on salads, soups, meal replacements or juices alone in order to reduce your energy intake isn't sustainable or healthy and, if you really want to make a long-term change, then it should be something you're happy to keep up for life! A healthy, balance diet should leave you feeling satisfied and energised.
3. Don't try to ban your favourite foods.
If there's one way to guarantee you'll spend hours craving chocolate, cake or a glass of wine, it's by trying to ban them completely. And the good news is there's no need to! Still enjoying a little of what you fancy is a great way to ensure you never feel guilty or deprived around food. It's all about balance and by satisfying your appetite on healthy, filling foods while still giving yourself the freedom to enjoy controlled amounts of any higher calorie foods that you love, will give you the best chance of finding a healthy way of eating that's sustainable.
4. Get support from others like you
Losing weight on your own can be hard and sharing challenges, support and ideas with other people who are in a similar boat can increase your chances of success. It's like having your own personal cheerleading squad!
Psychological research suggests social support can help weight loss and that a group approach helps, at least in the short-term.
5. Engage with your weight loss journey
However you decide to lose weight, how often you engage with it could dictate your chances of success. A study published in the journal BMC Public Health, found that people who attend most of their weekly group sessions (if you've joined a slimming club) lose almost three times as much weight in three months as those who attend few sessions.
Committing to making a whole lifestyle change and spending time each week making plans for the week ahead will help you to maximise your chances of making healthy changes a life-long habit.
[pullquote align="C"]Activity plays a big role in improving the way you feel mentally and sustaining weight loss...[/pullquote]
6. Introduce activity to your life – when you're ready!
Just because you've decided that you'd like to lose weight doesn't mean you need to be running for miles or completing a high intensity workout from the get-go. Research has shown that making changes to eating habits is often the easiest and most effective way for people to lose weight initially.
If you're intimidated by the thought of getting started, try redefining what counts as activity, as anything that gets you moving more – housework, washing the car, walking – contributes to your overall total, then introduce exercise gradually. While changing what you eat is the best way to lose weight, activity plays a big role in helping you to maintain your weight loss, improving the way you feel mentally and emotionally and is incremental in boosting your health in general.
7. Learn to recover from lapses – we all have them
When you're on a weight loss journey it's inevitable that, every now and again, life will get in the way. Our research shows that 98% of slimmers will lapse at some point on their healthy eating plan but what's important is how you respond to this. Rather than being critical of yourself, which we found increases the likelihood of going off track or even giving up completely, our study found that it's better to be kind to yourself.
People who recognise that they're 'only human' and that everyone makes mistakes reported getting back on track more quickly and were more likely to be successful with their weight loss long term.