Lose weight and keep it off with our pick of the best diet tricks
Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight (and let’s face it, haven’t we all?) knows that there’s hundreds of different pieces of conflicting diet tips and advice out there.
Whether it’s celebrities swearing by the eating nothing but watercress soup diet’ (like model Liz Hurley), friends giving up carbs to shed pounds or newspaper headlines warning dieters of the perils of eating after 5pm, it can be confusing to know what actually works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to weight loss. Until now, that is.
We’ve consulted the experts and examined the latest research to find the diet tips that will help you look and feel your best.
From how often you should really eat and the foods to eat every day to how to beat the afternoon slump and a simple no-effort trick that will shave off 67 calories per meal, these are the diet tips that will really make a difference.
One of the best new pieces of research out there is how to save calories on your favourite pasta dishes. It turns out that you don’t need to cut back on pasta – just reheat it the next day instead! A new study has found that if we allow pasta to cool and then reheat, our supper becomes much healthier.
The surprising discovery was made by Dr Chris van Tulleken who was researching foods for a BBC TV show. He measured a group of volunteers’ blood sugar levels after eating pasta when it was first cooked and then left to cool and reheated.
Their blood sugar level was raised by half when they tucked in to the leftovers rather than the freshly cooked dish, reducing their chances of putting on weight or developing diabetes. This is because the carbohydrate turns into fibre when reheated so the gut processes and stores it differently. Sounds good to us! Find plenty of easy pasta recipes here to kick start your weight loss.
Ready for the new, slimmer you? Keep clicking for even more clever diet tips…
You can save 67 calories per meal simply by taking smaller bites, pausing between mouthfuls and eating before you're hungry.
Spend lunchtime chained to your desk, catching up on emails? Stop! New research has found that people who eat in the office or staff canteen are more likely to be obese, lacking in vitamins or suffer from high cholesterol. Try taking a healthy, homemade packed lunch instead. Be inspired by our healthy packed lunch recipes.
There is a link between cravings and mineral deficienceies, so taking a supplement makes sense. Try...
GlucoActive by Futurebiotics, £24 for 60 capsules. Balances sugar and fat, while increasing carbohydrate metabolism.
Spirulina Vegetarian tablets, £8.99 for 100. "Helps with food cravings, and for salty foods in particular," says herbalist Meral Prince.
If you hit the vending machine every afternoon at work, try taking two minutes to climb some stairs or go to the post box - a task will make you feel like you're not wasting time.
Resist the sugar fix and strategically snack. Have something that will hydrate, has a little protein and natural sugar for taste. Ginseng tea, a bio yogurt and some unsalted nuts will recharge your batteries.
Ayurveda too exotic for you? Read The Complete Book Of Food Combining by Kathryn Marsden (£10.99 Piatkus). It's a way of taming your digestion and losing weight naturally. We've lost count of the people who've written to us raving about this smart way of eating that sorts weight gain and so many other health problems too.
The way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat, and eat regularly. Eating breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an early afternoon snack then dinner (all of equal size, and mixing the food groups every time) is the ideal way to manage glucose levels.
If you follow a healthy portion-controlled eating regime 80 per cent of the time, you don't need to worry too much about the other 20 per cent. You're then less likely to sabotage your efforts when you have the occasional slip-up by overeating even more.
Portion size is the big buzz in the weight-loss world. Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University, reckons that the tableware we use can increase the amount we eat by a whopping 20%. He advises swapping the plate you are using now for a smaller one, cutting down your eating by 15%. For example, 175g of goulash on a 20cm plate is a good serving, but on a 30cm plate, it looks like a starter. It's all about tricking your eyes and making the illusion work for you!
The 3 D's stand for:
Defensiveness Big bones? Thyroid problems? It's hard to admit to others, let alone yourself, that the extra weight you're carrying is down to over-eating. Try this: Don't involve others in your weight-loss efforts. Stand in front of a mirror and say to yourself, "I accept who I am, I have value, I am loved." Do this every day until you believe what you are saying.
Depression Dee Standley, author of Eat Yourself Slim, says, "Depression can hit when you accept that you don't look or feel good, but it's also common when you're halfway through a diet and become fixated on all the foods you have given up." Try this: If you slip and have a bad day, don't give up and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
Despair You've dieted all week, no slips, but when you step onto the scales, you haven't lost a pound. So what's the point? Dee Standley says, "Despair will always lead to quitting and then we're back where we started." Try this: If you train your body to recognise the signs of hunger and fullness, it will eventually find it's own natural weight.
Dr Christiane Northrup, regular on The Oprah Show, says, "Back in the 80s and 90s, women were brainwashed into thinking that all fat was the enemy. Now we know differently." Increase your essential fatty acids - omega 3,6 and 9 with olive oil, pumpkins and sunflower seeds, linseed or linseed oil, oily fish or fish-oil supplements. "Nuts are also a good source, but only a handful a day," says Dr Northrup.
Water helps eliminate the breakdown of fat. "I keep a jug of decaffeinated green tea in the refridgerator at all times," says Dr Christiane Northrup, regular on the Oprah Show. "It's loaded with antioxidents and contains phytohormones, which have been shown to build bone."
The longer you blend your juice drinks the better - fluffy smoothies contain plenty of air, which helps them make you feel fuller for longer.
The juice of the aloe vera plant helps boost digestion and soothes the lining of the gut (damage to which makes digestive issues more likely). If you suffer bloat big time, add a shot of aloe juice (like Higher Nature's Aloe Gold) to your breakfast regime.
Dr Christiane Northrup, regular on the Oprah Show, says, "The healthiest fruits and vegetables are the most colourful. Pigments in these foods are very powerful antioxidants. Go for broccoli; red, yellow and green peppers; dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinich, and tomatoes and dark berries."
1 Eat only low-GI starchy carbohydrates This means wholegrain breads and cereals, any pasta, new or sweetpotatoes, basmati rice rather than white, or even brown.
2 Have a cup of black or green tea with a meal containing carbohydrates
3 Eat at least one dairy food and one soy food daily
4 Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables at lunch and dinner
5 Have a portion of oily fish Or, alternatively, eat 25g (1oz) nuts, seeds, olives and avocado or oils/other products made from these daily. The healthy fats thesecontain decrease insulin levels.
Caffeine can speed up the way that glucose is made, interfere with insulin and increase adrenaline levels, which in turn encourages glucose levels to rise. Switch to alternatives that naturally have very little caffeine, such as green and white tea.
Don't fry your food! Grilling is fine, steaming is better and if you're stir-frying then stir-fry in a little vegetable stock.
Copying the habits of slim people is a good way to reinforce the messages that help is out when we need to make good food choices. When you have to make a food/portion/exercise choice, ask yourself, "What would ....... do?" Julia Cameron, author of The Writing Diet, suggests keeping a food journal and showing it to your friend. "Even if you feel you've had a good day, she'll spot that maybe you haven't eaten enough veggies or drunk enough water."
It's a good idea to include lots of raw veggies in your diet plan. Raw is juicy, nutrients aren't lost and the fibre will keep your gut happy.
Jill Dupleix, The Times Cook and author of books such as Lighten Up: A New Healthier Way To Cook, says, "Start the day with oats and you won't be hungry for hours." This is a tasty way to start the day that won't make you feel like you are depriving yourself.
Avoiding mixing some foods can help aid weight loss. Drink your morning juice before breakfast, not with it. Make it fresh and, if it's a fruit drink, follow the fruit rules and allow some time before you eat.
Munch some fruit: but not as dessert. Fresh fruit is fine for breakfast and snacking, but try to keep at least a food-free hour on each side of eating - fruit can clash with other foods, giving you gas and making you bloated!
'When you're sleep deprived, there's a rise in the hormones involved in appetite,' says Vivienne Parry, author of The Truth About Hormones (Altantic, £8.99). 'This tricks the body into thinking that it needs more fuel, as it must be daytime. And let's face it, when you crave food, you don't want the good stuff - you want to eat rubbish.' Some experts feel that an extra hour of sleep could cut 100 calories a day from our intake!
Naturally slim people eat only when they're hungry, using those signals to mentally make good food choices before they eat. Weight-loss guru Pete Cohen suggests trying this to manage those hunger pangs: "Imagine a scale in your mind from one to ten. One equals hungry, ten is starving. Before you eat anything, check where you are on the scale - only eat if you're at six or above. If it's not real hunger, have a glass of water or a cup of tea, or go for a quick walk outside. However, don't allow yourself to get to nine or ten - you'll be so hungry you could overeat."
To stop bloating, you should cut out sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy or refined carbohydrates. Try instead:
Breakfast: Homemade museli with oats, seeds, nuts, sultanas, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Soak overnight in soya milk and add grated apple before eating.
Mid Morning Snack: A small handful of raw almonds, soaked in water overnight to aid your digestion and help balance blood sugar.
Lunch: Baked salmon or tofu - marinated with tamari and garlic before baking in 1cm cubes - with steamed broccoli and green beans, sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Mid Afternoon: A soya yogurt topped with a dessertspoon of ground linseeds.
Dinner: Roasted sweet potato (it's best to eat the skin), with hummus, alfalfa sprouts, corn and a leafy green salad.
Compiled by naturopath Sarah Bowles-Flannery
A mind/body therapy like Emotional Freedom Technique - a kind of emotional acupuncture where a therapist stimulates meridian points by tapping with the fingers - is really good at releasing these emotions and resolving the eating problem. "It's highly effective when we're emotionally rather than physically hungry," says practitioner Sally Canning. "Try hand tapping. It's something that I give clients as 'homework'. When a craving starts, simply tap the side of your hand either with fingertips or the side of your other hand in a gentle 'karate chop' and the craving will reduce in intensity."
Hypnotherapist and author Marisa Peer says: "It's not about imagining yourself as Cameron Diaz in a thong. It's all about repeating positive words and images - it takes practice but what the subconscious is told, it accepts." The key is repeating positive visualisations for 21 days. Take a list of negative things you say and make them positive. "I will always be fat" changes to "I am changing my shape". Take time every day to visualise and repeat positive affirmations.
The Organic Pharmacy Detox - Colon Cleanse & Gut Repair (£26.95 for 60 capsules) promotes weight loss and better digestion. Currently a huge bestseller, these detox capsules were created by pharmacist Margo Marrone. Watch out for her new book The Organic Pharmacy (£14.99 Kyle Cathie) which has a fabulous section on detox diets.
Feeling guilty about that piece of cake? 'Instead of thinking, 'Oh, I might as well continue being naughty', try the 'Traffic Light System',' suggests hypnotherapist Ursula James, author of You Can Think Yourself Thin (Century, £9.99). 'Savour your cake mindfully, then imagine a red light to help you stop there. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself a piece of cake is harmless ' but how will you feel tomorrow if you overeat today?'
Detox expert Margo Marrone says, "Weekend detoxes aren't worth the effort - in three days toxins are released into the body and then you stop. You need more time for your body to mop them up, so 10 days is best."
What you need to do to manage your hunger is actually very simple: combine the three food groups every time you eat. That means making sure that you eat some carbohydrate, plus a little protein and fat for every breakfast, snack and lunch every single day.
Drinking alcohol can put you in a place where problems resisting foods might occur. And when you don't, your intake of alcohol will increase, as will your taste for carbs. The compromise is to have one glass of wine from time to time with your main course.
Helen Foster author of fantastic titles like The Weekend Off Diet and Eat All Day Diet says, "Don't overestimate just how much of a difference exercise makes. I gained half a stone training for an ultradistance event - a half marathon followed by a full marathon - as I was over-eating carbohydrates all the time thinking I'm running, it won't matter. It did"
Mint can help overall health, as well as aid weight loss. Dr Sarah Brewer, author of The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements says, "Clean your teeth with a minty toothpaste, it's a good appetite dampener." Chewing mint flavoured gum will have the same effect, controlling your appetite and improving digestion.
Dr Sarah Brewer, author of The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplement, advises on the dangers of shopping - especially when hungry! Never do a food shop on an empty stomach and shop wisely. "If you shouldn't eat it, don't buy it" says Dr Brewer.
Dr Sarah Brewer, author of The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplement says, " Keep the cravings away by drinking a glass of water - hunger is sometimes really thirst." Drink a glass of water before you eat and you may find your hunger pangs reduce or disappear.
"Sunshine, sleep and vitamin D help me keep my weight under control," says Dr Christiane Northrup, a bestselling author and practising doctor in the US who has made empowering women through good health her goal in life."new research suggests we need more of it. Fish oil is a good source and so is the sun. From March to October I sit outdoors for ten to 15 minutes a day - a little longer in July and August. But you must never burn."
There's nothing in them that's good and they give you a gassy, bloated tum.
The almost good news is that stress-related weight gain exists.
Top pharmacist Shabir Daya picks a combo of three supplements that could help with stress-related weight gain:
- Magnolia Phellodendron Complex - magnolia helps eliminate excess cortisol. Take one to three daily.
- Spearole Tea works to enhance calorie burning. Drink three cups a day.
- 10 Day Downsize contains safe, proven ingredients - green tea, guarana, cayenne, aloe vera and slippery elm to clean your gut and flush water retention.
Flower essence therapist Claire G Harvey recommends Petit Fleur Weight Combination (£14.95 for 3.8ml). It's a mix of flower essences that aims to help reduce cravings and compulsive eating habits. Just a few drops a day could see really great results. Available from flowersense.co.uk
The temptation to skip breakfast can be great. However, numerous studies confirm that breakfast skippers smoke more, drink more alcohol, take less exercise and consume more calories per day than breakfast eaters. By mid-morning you'll have very low blood sugar and can experience particularly strong urges to eat quick-fix fatty, sugary foods, tea and coffee and even an increased desire to smoke.
Do you think "It's low-fat/low-GI/low-sugar/low-calorie, so I'll have more." Remember the golden rule - if you eat more calories than you burn off you'll put on weight, so no matter how virtuous a food may appear, don't overdo it. Listen to your appetite and stop when you've had enough. Try this new thought: A low-GI/fat/sugar/calorie food won't be of any benefit to me if I use it as an excuse to eat more of it.
Do you think? "I deserve to eat/drink this because I've exercised/ I'm sad/ I worked hard today..." Using food or drink to cheer you up or to reward yourself rarely works and is a sure-fire way to put on weight. Find alternative ways of treating yourself, such as a long bath or a new lipstick. Think, what I really deserve is a slim, fit and healthy body I can be proud of.
When you are feeling tired, a sweet snack will increase your blood sugar levels, which is why it often gives you the quick fix you crave. But this "sugar high" is very swiftly followed by an even bigger "sugar low", leaving you feeling more tired. Try to eat little and often during the day and snack on fruits, nuts and wholegrains.
So many of us think it's a waste to throw food away, so eat everything on the plate, even when we're full. It goes against the grain to waste food, but remember - if you put it in the bin, it's gone for good; but put it in your mouth and it may hang around on your hips, thighs or stomach for years to come! Just think, 'If I'm not hungry I simply won't eat any more.'
The words "lite" or "light" tend to lead one to assume that they are either low in calories or fat. However, neither is necessarily true as it may simply mean that product is a lighter colour or texture than another similar product. "Reduced-fat" does not necessarily mean low-fat. One crisp manufacturer makes reduced-fat crisps that are 50 per cent fat compared to 62 per cent in its normal crisps. Both are still high in fat. "Low-fat" may not be as it seems either. As fat gives many foods their taste, manufacturers often replace this with more sugar.
When we eat sugar, we experience fluctuations in blood glucose. These lead to hunger and cravings. In other words, sugar makes you want more food, and often more sugar. If you avoid sugar, you greatly minimise sweet cravings, making it easy to enjoy the rest of your food. If you want long-term success in managing your weight, stay away from sugar in all its forms.
...grill instead of roast, roast instead of fry, shallow fry instead of deep fry. Jill Dupleix, The Times Cook and author of books such as Lighten Up: A New Healthier Way To Cook, swears by this mantra - it helped her husband to lose six stone, proving that her advice really works!
Hoodia Gordonii is the new weight loss supplement of choice. It's an African cactus which acts as a natural appetite suppressant. No kidding, this stuff is simply flying off the shelves! Make it easy on yourself and choose The 10 day Hoodia Diet (£9.95 for 30 softgel capsules). It sorts the whole thing for you. Available from victoriahealth.com
Sebastian Pole, Ayurvedic and Chinese Practitioner, recommends Asafoeteda Plus (£13.45 for 90 capsules). It helps to ease bloating, indigestion and cramps. Alternatively, try Guggul Plus (£13.45 for 90 caps) which aims to increase metabolism, clear excess fluids and eliminate waste. Available from pukkaherbs.com
Followed by stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey, nutricleansing sees you cutting out foods like wheat, dairy, meat, salt, alcohol and sugar, and replacing them with soups, salads, juices and smoothies that supply you with masses of nutrients per calorie. It's brilliant at beating belly bloat because it's super low in calories and cuts out the foods that add middle inches. By losing them and replacing them with lots of liquid foods, you'll take the strain from your digestion and automatically start shrinking from within. Definitely enough to inspire you to eat healthily!
Sit up straight to eat all your meals ? studies from the US have found that meals eaten when people are slouching actually spend more time in the digestive tract, increasing risk of bloat. Makes sense when you think about it!
You can still follow your diet and eat out.
Italian: Ask for a bowl of olives instead of a bread basket.
Greek: Ask for a feta salad with extra feta instead of stuffed vine leaves.
Middle Eastern: Instead of pitta bread, ask for celery sticks to dip.
With thanks to New Atkins New You by Drs Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek