January, the month when we’re conscious of that extra wobble caused by our excessive festive feasting. What’s the best way to shift it? Nutritionist Esther Mills-Roberts explains….
Eat, drink and be merry, they say! There’s always the new year. And then it comes. The post-festive porkiness that makes you wonder why your willpower took a dive and left you feeling downright weighty. And with more people in the UK already weighing in on the heavy side, it’s easy to see why some find it hard to get motivated to lose what’s been gained.
But there are good reasons why you should make the most of getting rid of what’s around the middle, studies show that waist circumference is linked to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you’re carrying weight in this area, irrespective of whether your Body Mass Index appears normal, then it’s nature’s way of telling you that you’re storing too much fat. Great if you’re on a polar expedition, not so great if you’re living and working in the UK.
So, what simple steps can take to get back on track?
Detox plans are great for helping the liver clear excess ‘toxins’ – or what we might more correctly call biochemical metabolites or environmental residues – from the liver. But they can also be a great focus for a slimming plan.
Have a look at what’s available as it’s right that you choose one that’s suitable for you; a three day, week-long or 10 day detox. Some are based on minimal foods or low allergenic options, others on raw-food diet plans. Detox plans are a fantastic way to introduce intermittent fasting, which has been linked to weight maintenance in some studies, and is used by some on a regular basis to re-establish healthy, more restricted eating patterns.
In an ‘obesogenic’ environment like the UK, it’s important to realise that most of us can’t eat like the people around us, as many, many are simply over-eating. As a result, the predicted figure is that 50 percent of the population will be obese by the time we get to 2030. Many find the mental switch from an obesogenic mindset to healthy, more mindful eating is the first step to long-term weight maintenance.
As well as cutting down calorific eating, cutting out excess fat and sugar and being mindful of portion size, there are many different diet programmes that can be chosen. You might prefer to cut your carbohydrates, which many people find also helps with gut symptoms such as wind and bloating. This is one reason why some adopt a diet based around ketogenics, which restricts carbohydrate intake in favour of carefully considered dietary fat. For many, this is a massive switch in dietary habits, which requires a fridge stocked with higher fat goodies such as nuts and seeds, good quality dietary fats and oils and high quality proteins from meat, fish or vegetarian and vegan options based on soya or other vegetable protein. This regime supports thyroid function, which controls metabolism in the body.
For others, a higher carbohydrate diet is needed to maintain energy levels but it is important to make sure that you’re not displacing protein and fat. This is vital, as many people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, which typically come from higher fat foods in the Western diet. In any case, the government advice is that supplementation with 10µg vitamin D daily is beneficial to adults, especially those who spend a lot of time indoors. Carbohydrates not only provide quickly-absorbed energy, but are typically rich in B-group vitamins that feed into energy-producing metabolic pathways.
Proper planning is really important, as success rates drop when good food isn’t there to choose. Likewise, plans based on cutting foods out for long periods of time. This is why dietary supplements for slimming can be really useful. Do have a look in your local natural product stor, and stock up on plenty of nuts, seeds and pulses, good protein sources and wholegrain carbohydrates, which release energy in a much more controlled fashion compared to refined forms.
Broadly speaking, supplements for slimming can be divided into six key types:
- Those that bind to fat in the gut – which effectively reduces calorific intake (but do make sure that a supplement including vitamins A, D, E and K to safeguard dietary intakes).
- Supplements to delay emptying of food from the stomach, keeping you feeling fuller for longer such as fibre, guar or Hoodia.
- Formulas that help to manage food cravings for sugary foods, such as chromium-based nutritional supplements.
- Herbal formulas that bulk up the diet in the digestive tract (often based on fibres of some kind), helping to increase the feeling of fullness.
- Formulas that help to maintain a healthy proportion of fat to lean in the body, such as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
- Supplements to support metabolism, either for their role in metabolism, such as kelp which is a natural source of iodine needed for the thyroid gland, or those taken for their thermogenic effect such as caffeine, guarana, chilli and ginger.
When trying to manage your weight, don’t forget these simple steps:
- Stay hydrated: Many people are under-hydrated and can mistake hunger for the simple need to have a drink. And what you choose to drink can have a dramatic impact on your dietary intake; five cups of tea with an average amount of semi-skimmed milk adds nearly 200kcals and a semi-skimmed medium latte adds over 300kcals.
- Watch what you drink: Carbonated sugary drinks should be kept for special treats only or better still, cut out altogether. There are so many other healthy options. Fruit and vegetable juices can be used as part of the daily goal for fresh fruits and vegetables. Strongly flavoured cordials are a great mid-afternoon boost and their strong flavours such as ginger or elderflower can help to liven up the diet and provide a short burst of simple sugars when energy is flagging (better than carbonated sugar-drinks).
- Increase fibre intake: Research has shown that fibre intake is vital for maintaining healthy weight – not just because it can ease constipation, but because it physically helps to bulk up the diet increasing ‘satiety’ (the feeling of fullness). Use linseeds or psyllium, bran or wholegrain foods. If you do have digestive issues, then a probiotic can help to restore digestive balance and natural mucilages (from seeds or aloe vera) can help. If constipation is commonplace, don’t forget natural laxatives such as senna or fibre/fruit cubes.
- Opt for healthier snacks: Snacking is big danger point for weight gain for many people as our taste buds have, over the years, been seduced by all manner of foods based on refined sugar and cheap fats. The drive to eat them is almost addictive and food advertising doesn’t help. You need to plan for this to stay slim. Always carry low calorie snacks with you based on fresh fruits and vegetables and look out for wholefood options, based on crisps and baked goods based on wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Of course, reach for calorie-free water before you raid the cupboards. One way of restricting snacks is to invest in eating more organic snacks. They might even taste better too.
About Esther Mills-Roberts
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist and registered nutritionist. She is founder of www.allaboutnutrition.co.uk.
Esther studied nutrition and biochemistry at Nottingham University and worked for a number of nutritional supplement companies before eventually setting up as a consultant on nutritional marketing, PR, quality standard, labelling and new product development.
She has also lectured and educated many about the science of nutrition, written for a number of health titles, written her own books and has featured on both TV and radio. Esther is a member of the Guild of Health Writers, London.