A new study has found that it may take only 12 months of dieting for your weight-loss efforts to stick.
Most dieters will know the struggle of trying, and failing, to lose weight, hitting the dreaded plateau, or worse, gaining weight. Ever wondered why this happens? Unfortunately, your body is designed to hold onto weight, and releases hunger-inducing hormones, slows the metabolism and stores fat when you try to shed pounds.
This survival mechanism came in handy during times of food scarcity, but now that food is readily available, it makes losing weight and keeping it off that much harder.
It may sound hopeless, but there IS light at the end of the tunnel. New research published in the International Journal of Obesity has shown that the body’s survival mechanism can be overcome after a year of dieting.
A team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen put 20 obese people on a strict eating plan for 8 weeks to help participants lose 2 stone on average.
After following a diet for the next year, the results showed their bodies produced less Ghrelin, the hormone which increases hunger, and more GLP-1, the hormone which suppresses appetite. These long-term chemical changes allow you maintain your new healthy weight.
Dr. Signe Sorensen Torekov, Associate Professor of Biomedicial Sciences at the university told BBC Radio 4: “Most studies show when you lose a lot of weight, then your body fights fiercely against it.
But we actually found if you are able to keep your weight down for this longer period then it seems to adapt to this new set point.”
This spells good news if you’re looking to lose excess pounds and keep it off. Here are some healthy habits you can easily incorporate into your life that’ll help you see off unwanted weight once and for all…
1. Snack on nuts
Ditch the pre-prepared snacks (so-called “health bars” can be loaded with sugar) and get into nuts – peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts. These are some of the top sources of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and great for your skin. But keep to small portions, though – nuts are high in good fats, so they can load on the calories if you are trying to lose weight.
2. Make your own salad dressings
Shop-bought salad dressings can be full of additives, sugar and unnecessary fats. Keep a bottle of Japanese rice vinegar on your desk to add a drizzle of delicious flavour to your lunch box. Or in a jam jar, mix together 3 parts good oil – olive, rapeseed or sunflower – to 1 part wine or balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of mustard. Season, shake and drizzle over salad.
3. Cut down on butter
Yes, totally delicious and natural, but still to be consumed in moderation to maintain heart health. Try dressing green vegetables using our salad dressing recipe (see 2), and whizzed-up cottage cheese makes a healthy topping for a baked potato too.
4. Choose dark chocolate
The good news! Eating a few squares of dark chocolate every week is not only good for heart health but can also help lower blood pressure. It needs to be at least 70% cocoa solids. Time to ditch the cheap and cheerful chocolate and buy something posh. A good dark chocolate should have a clear “snap” when you break it.
5. Eat cheese in moderation
Cheese is good for you – like everything – in moderation. It is a fantastic source of calcium and protein, and vitamins A and D. Hard cheeses, which are labelled “reduced fat”, just have more water in them.
6. Stock up on canned fish
Love your storecupboard and buy in canned fish! One of the healthiest, fastest and most delicious lunches is sardines on wholemeal toast with a few sliced tomatoes. The fish will give you healthy omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, while you’ll get vitamins B and C from the bread and tomatoes. Or why not try anchovies? Have them on sourdough toast with mozzarella, olives and capers.
7. Change your grains
Yes, we all get stuck in a recipe rut, especially midweek. But now you can buy pre-cooked lentils in microwaveable pouches, which can make a delicious change from pasta or potatoes. Lentils count towards your recommended five a day and you can toss them in your favourite salad dressing or drizzle over balsamic vinegar to serve with chicken, lamb or fish.
Want to try a healthy grain? Take a look at our quinoa recipes.
8. Don’t forget calcium
Women, especially, can end up reducing their intake as they worry about calories from fat. But low-fat dairy, soya and tofu will do the job. If tofu is not really your thing, try it in this miso soup recipe, which is ready in just 15 minutes. Soya milk is more drinkable whizzed up in a smoothie. You need calcium for bone health and to maintain lower blood pressure, and it can help with PMS too.
9. Try a morning tonic
Dodgy digestion? Try this simple tonic every morning to give you a great wake-up boost and add antioxidants to your diet. Before hitting the coffee pot, add 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of honey (Manuka has one of the highest antioxidant levels) to a mug of hot water. It’s cleansing too, and is great if you have become dehydrated during the night.