Obesity

Below is a brief summary of the principles in losing weight.

Before you start

  • Motivation is crucial: no weight loss plan will work unless you have a serious desire to lose weight. You need to be ready and motivated.
  • Monitor your current food intake: it is helpful to know exactly how much you currently eat. Keeping a detailed diary of everything that you eat and drink over an average week is more helpful.
  • Aim to lose weight gradually: it is best not to lose weight too fast. Aim to lose an average of 0.5 to 1 kg per week (about 1-2 lb per week).
  • Set clear goals with a realistic timescale: it is important to set a clear and realistic weight loss goal. As mentioned above, in most cases, health benefits can be gained from losing the first 5-10% of your weight.

 

Aim to eat a healthy balanced diet

Special diets that are often advertised are not usually helpful. This is because after losing weight, if your old eating habits remain, the weight often goes straight back on. It is usually not a special diet that is needed, but changing to a healthy balanced diet, for good. Briefly, a healthy diet means:

  • Making up the bulk of most meals with starch-based foods (such as cereals, bread, potatoes, rice, pasta). Wholegrain starch-based foods are preferable.
  • Eating plenty of fiber in your diet. Foods rich in fibre include wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, oats, peas, lentils, grain, beans, fruit, vegetables and seeds.
  • Having at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day. These should be in place of foods higher in fat and calories. For example, fruit makes a good, healthy snack if you feel hungry.
  • Limiting fatty food such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-cream milk, fried foods, butter, etc. Use low-fat options where possible. Examples are:
  1. Skimmed or semi-skimmed instead of full-cream milk.
  2. Using low-fat, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated spreads instead of butter.
  3. If you eat meat, eating lean meat, or poultry such as chicken.
  4. Try to grill, bake or steam rather than fry food. If you do fry food, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive.
  • Avoiding sugary drinks and sugary foods such as chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes, etc.
  • Limiting other foods likely to be high in fat or sugar such as some takeaway or fast foods.
  • Eating three meals a day and not skipping meals. Always have breakfast. Eat each meal slowly. Skipping meals will just make you feel more hungry, make you think more about food, and make you more likely to overeat in the evening or snack between meals.
  • Trying not to add salt to food, and avoiding foods that are salty.
  • Including 2-3 portions of fish per week, at least two of which should be ‘oily’ (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, salmon, or fresh tuna).

Look at your eating habits

For example:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time so you know what you will be eating.
  • Be careful that your food portion sizes are not too big.
  • Avoid second helpings when you are already full.
  • Switch unhealthy snacks and desserts to healthy ones.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Don’t skip meals.

Be careful about what you drink

Many people use drinks full of calories to quench their thirst. Sugary drinks such as cola, tea and coffee with milk and sugar, milk, and alcoholic drinks, all contain calories. One of the easiest ways to cut back on calories is simply to drink water as your main drink.

Increase your physical activity levels

It is recommended that all adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days of the week. However, if you are overweight or obese and are aiming to lose weight, if possible you should try to do around 60-90 minutes on at least five days of the week. Moderate physical activity includes: brisk walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, badminton, tennis, etc. In addition, try to do more in your daily routines. For example, use stairs instead of lifts, walk or cycle to work or school, etc. Avoid sitting for too long in front of the television or a computer screen. Take regular breaks whilst working. The good news is that you don’t have to do this physical activity all in one chunk. You can break it up into blocks of 10-15 minutes.
Build your exercise levels up gradually. If you are not used to physical activity, try starting with a 30-minute brisk walk every day and then building up from there.

Monitor your behavior and progress

Just as keeping a food diary can be helpful at the beginning of a weight loss programme, it can be useful as a way to monitor your eating during your weight loss. You can use the same diary to keep a track of your physical activity levels as well. It is also important to weigh yourself regularly to monitor your progress. Once weekly is recommended. However, don’t be disheartened by minor weight increases or levelling off for a few days. Look for the overall trend over several months.

Get help and support

Some people may feel motivated enough and feel that they have all of the information that they need in order to lose weight without any help from others. However, you don’t have to try to lose weight alone. There is a wealth of help available. A referral to a dietician may be helpful. One-on-one counselling or group counselling may be available in your area. Ask about groups or programmes to increase your physical activity levels.

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