According to a leading weight-loss aid manufacturer, Brits planning to get their bodies in shape for the party season should start their diets today.
So forget all thoughts of autumnal comfort food, starchy roast dinners and deeply satisfying gulps of Pinot Noir -- it's time to open that diet diary and start recording the reality.
A diet beginning on September 24 allows party-goers sufficient time to lose weight the healthy and sensible way over a 12-week period, so by the time Christmas celebrations are in full swing, they will have achieved their winter weight-loss goals.
Research by XLS-Medical reveals that more than half (51%) of the population want to lose weight in the run-up to Christmas.
Eat Protein At Every Meal
Brian Quebbemann, M.D., of the NEW (Nutrition, Exercise, Wellness) Program of Orange County, Calif., says that a quarter of your calories should come from lean proteins, such as eggs, lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy. Why? Protein helps you feel fuller longer, recharges your muscles after intense workouts, and according to recent research at the University of Illinois, sheds more fat than muscle. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gifrancis/2651888583/" target="_hplink">gifrancis</a></em>
Eat A Filling Breakfast
It really is the most important meal of the day: More than 10,000 successful dieters who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year say that eating breakfast is a key part of their plan, according to the National Weight Control Registry. The best breakfast is one that contains both protein and fiber to boost your energy levels and help you stay satiated throughout the day (think nonfat Greek yogurt and fruit, toast and nut butter, or an egg scramble with vegetables). <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/averagejane/3604928038/" target="_hplink">Average Jane</a></em>
Downsize Your Serving Dishes
Sticking with weight loss is often mind over matter, says endocrinologist Eva Cwynar, M.D., author of "The Fatigue Solution", which is why smaller plates, bowls and utensils can be the key to cutting calories. When you're eating from a salad plate (about 7 or 8 inches) rather than a dinner plate (10 to 14 inches), you think you're still eating a large portion. The proof: Researchers from Cornell University found that people given larger bowls at breakfast ate 16 percent more cereal than those given smaller bowls, yet they estimated that they were eating less. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/6168915839/" target="_hplink">Dinner Series</a></em>
Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
Time and time again, research has shown that eating more vegetables is essential for long-term weight loss, which is why you should aim for five to nine servings a day. Vegetables fill you up with the fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients important for overall good health in a low-calorie, high volume package. Fruits are also bursting with fiber and antioxidants and can be a good way to treat your sweet tooth. One key to applying this weight-loss rule is to substitute fruits and veggies for higher-calorie foods -- for instance, layer lettuce, tomato, and cucumber rather than extra meat or cheese on your sandwich. Use chopped vegetables in place of rice or pasta for dinner and as recipe "extenders" -- a Penn State study found that when dieters added pureed vegetables to their favorite dishes, they felt fuller and ate less. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmuffins/5031555039/" target="_hplink">Canned Muffins</a></em>
So often, when you think you're hungry, you're actually thirsty. So make it a weight-loss lifestyle rule: Stay hydrated. "Drink a glass of water before every meal," Quebbemann suggests. "That way you know you're not thirsty when you're eating." And yes, water is still your best beverage bet. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people had modest weight loss simply by replacing high-calorie beverages with water and drinks with zero or very few calories. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/widnr/6589979029/" target="_hplink">Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources</a></em>
If you want to lose weight, you need to get at least seven hours of shut-eye every night. When you lack sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger and causes you to retain fat. "Also, you tend to make wrong choices when you're exhausted," Cwynar says. Sleep-deprived people might actually eat an extra 500 calories a day compared to their well-rested peers, a small study presented at an American Heart Association meeting found. Plus, researchers at the University of Chicago Sleep Research Laboratory found that dieters who slept well lost more fat than non-fat body mass. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/calleephoto/4529718556/" target="_hplink">calleecakes</a></em>
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
This may seem surprising considering all those yellow, pink, and blue packets we use, but artificial sweeteners do little for weight loss and could actually cause you to pile on the pounds. The problem, Quebbemann says, is that "they're so intensely sweet that they seem to exacerbate a person's addiction for sweets." Researchers at Purdue University found that rats given food sweetened with artificial sweeteners ate more calories than rats given food sweetened with normal sugar. So skip the diet sodas and the artificially sweetened cakes, cookies and other treats. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vmoney/146523132/" target="_hplink">Vanessa Roanhorse</a></em>
Eat More Often
Old thinking: When trying to lose weight, don't eat between meals. New thinking: Don't go more than five hours without eating. If you let yourself get too hungry, it's harder to make the best food choices. "When you're starved, you're more likely to grab fast food," Cwynar says. Eating smaller meals more often also keeps your blood sugar steady and can therefore lower your cravings, whereas skipping meals makes it much harder to control your appetite, researchers at the University of Missouri found. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-travelling-bum/5864314419/" target="_hplink">The Travelling Bum</a></em>
Keep Moving All Day
This top 10 commandment should come as no surprise: Make time for exercise. "Exercise will help you reach your goal faster and safer," says Jim White, R.D., a fitness instructor in Virginia Beach and a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But it's the combo of diet and exercise that works best. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that postmenopausal women who dieted and did 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise five days each week lost more weight more quickly than those who did just one or the other, shedding an average of nearly 11 percent of their body weight. The women who dieted shed just 8.5 percent and the women who exercised only, 2.4 percent. Exercise is an important part of a weight-loss lifestyle, White says, helping you to maintain any weight loss, too. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddebold/6328272078/" target="_hplink">donjd2</a></em>
The last but not least of the 10 commandments has benefits for weight loss as well as your general well-being. A study by Kaiser Permanente researchers found that people with the lowest stress levels were the most likely to lose at least 10 pounds. Stress also causes the body to release more cortisol, the hormone responsible for storing body fat. Cortisol has also been shown to increase cravings for fatty foods. Cwynar suggests combating stress with one of her favorite weight-loss tips: Eat in beautiful surroundings. "There are studies that show if you have beautiful surroundings your brain becomes more satiated and you don't want to eat as much," she explains. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chumpolo/511227025/" target="_hplink">Matt Seppings</a></em>
In addition, stats suggest that a woman's ideal dress size increases with age.
Those in the 18-34 age bracket stated that they would like to fit into a size 10 while women aged 35+ said they would feel most comfortable as a size 12.
Dr Matt Capehorn, clinical director at the National Obesity Forum, comments in a statement: "Starting a diet now gives dieters a reasonable time frame in which to lose weight steadily by Christmas.
"It's important not to fall into the trap of last minute crash dieting, which is often unsuccessful and can play havoc with blood sugar levels and appetite cravings."
"As a result, dieters can end up gaining weight as they struggle to cope with changes brought on by such extreme measures.
"Undertaking a healthy eating and exercise plan now with a realistic goal in mind will ensure dieters are not only looking good but feeling great this party season."