Another new year, another diet? Here we go again! Forget the fads, time to get real with what actually works:
Whether you try alternate fasting days, 5:2 or a few days of 16:8, there is no doubt, that done properly, intermittent fasting will result in weight loss. If you are fasting your fasting days should be just that – fasting – nothing more than water, black tea or coffee. Make sure you stay well hydrated as it will take the edge of your appetite and reduce feelings of fatigue. If you must eat, then eat no more than 400 calories, e.g. a banana and a handful of almonds. If you chose 16:8, then it really is nothing except water, black tea and coffee for 16 hours. Eat normally when not fasting, you don’t have to ‘diet’ but it is not a licence to indulge.
Advantage – highly effective
Disadvantage – requires willpower
More protein, less carbs
Protein foods are both satiating and satisfying. Satiating means you feel full quickly, so you stop eating. Consider the difference between a bowl of boiled eggs and a bowl of pasta. It’s likely after eating 2 or 3 boiled eggs, you will have had enough. Whereas with a bowl of pasta (of equal calorie count) it’s easy to eat the entire bowl and still want some more. Protein foods are also more satisfying, in other words they help to keep you feel fuller for longer, compared with carbohydrate rich foods. This avoids the temptation to snack between meals.
Advantage – helps to control your appetite
Disadvantage – cuts out foods most people love
Bigger portions, fewer meals
A key aspect of good nutrition is to include a range of foods that provide all the nutrients your body needs for good health: vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre…but when we diet, we often miss out on the full range as we restrict what we eat. Poor intakes of these vital nutrients can cause fatigue, irritability and loss of motivation. Therefore it’s better to eat a couple of larger nutritious meals, such as brunch and dinner, that can provide everything you need to maintain good health and cut out one meal and unnecessary snacks.
Advantage – ensures a better intake of nutrients
Disadvantage – you may feel hungry between meals
Consuming fermented foods has been shown to significantly improve health through the positive improvements in balancing intestinal permeability and barrier function. Gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance of the intestine) is associated with inflammatory disorders including obesity and diabetes. Regular consumption of fermented foods can help to prevent these proinflammatory effects of gut dysbiosis. A healthy gut is linked with many aspects of health including mood and behaviour, perceived energy level, weight, food cravings, hormone balance, immunity, and overall wellness.
Advantage – improves gut health
Disadvantage – acquired taste
Good hydration can help regulate appetite and aid weight management. Common mistakes that hinder weight control are confusing feelings of mild hunger with that of mild thirst. This can lead to unnecessary snacking and taking in unwanted calories instead of taking in more water. The mid-afternoon slump can also lead you to crave sugar in an attempt to boost energy levels. In fact, the opposite occurs and a sugar spike caused by eating a sugary snack can leave you feeling even more sluggish. Maintaining optimum hydration throughout the day reduces cravings between meals and regulates appetite at meal times preventing you from over-eating.
Advantage – maintain good hydration improves energy levels
Disadvantage – more loo breaks
Early morning exercise
Exercising on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, has been shown to be more effective in mobilising fat stores which can aid weight loss. Unless you are training for an endurance event such as a triathlon or marathon, you do not need to eat before or after your workout or take energy drinks; water is all you need. The point of exercise, if you want to lose weight, is to create a calorie deficit i.e., use up more calories that you take in, so to maximise that deficit, don’t take in calories from snacks or drinks before or after.
Advantage – effective for weight loss
Disadvantage – early wake ups
In the long-term a blend of these methods can help to sustain your weight loss, puts you in control and keeps life interesting. This gives you a combination of lean days – days when you restrict carbs, calories or both – and flexible days – days when you eat normally. For example, you may choose a low carbohydrate day, followed by a flexible day, followed by a semi fasting day, a flexible day, then a couple of two meals only days, one with carbs, one without and finally another flexible day or a semi fasting day depending how you feel.
Once you start to lose weight you don’t have to stop, you can dip in and out of the different methods as a way of maintaining your new weight. That way if you feel you’ve indulged over a weekend, you can have a couple of lean days to help balance things out.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2022!