Spring is in the air and the baggy jumpers and oversized coats will soon be banished to the back of the wardrobe. If only it were that easy to be rid of your winter flab! You would go on a diet but you always put it straight back on again plus a little more for luck. It's not your fault: weight loss triggers hunger - more than 95% of dieters regain their lost weight within five years.
No need to panic though, there is a way you can slim down and stay that way without the need to count calories, embarrass yourself at a slimming group, starve two days a week or develop a taste for quinoa or pomegranate seeds.
Short term faddy diets are not the answer. They almost always lead to rebound weight gain because your appetite remains raised until you have maintained your new lower weight for at least six months. The key to becoming slimmer is to adopt a lifestyle diet that helps you permanently change your eating habits.
Choose wholefoods and home-made meals, rather than buying takeaways, ready meals, puddings, cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Sugary, fatty foods stimulate the appetite and are energy dense, and soft drinks add a lot of calories to your diet. Drink water instead - that's the stuff that comes free out of the tap. Cut out sugar in tea and coffee and reduce your intake of alcohol as excessive drinking makes you fat.
Favour meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, beans, nuts, heavy bread, potatoes and wholegrains. These are the foods your grandparents ate when obesity was rare and convenience foods didn't exist. If you look very carefully you will find real food in a far flung corner of your local supermarket. You may not have eaten this way since you were at primary school, but only by going back to basics will you have a realistic hope of achieving the body you desire.
Three protein rich meals a day help you resist the temptation to snack. Eating more protein makes you feel fuller which compensates for the increase in appetite caused by weight loss. Include some starchy carbs with your meals. They prevent the food cravings that sabotage many diets. Vegetables provide bulk, so don't just leave them on the side of your plate. A piece of fresh fruit after a meal provides sweetness now you are no longer eating desserts.
In my book Can I Have Chips? I explain how this simple, realistic and affordable way of eating is as effective at triggering weight loss as any trendy celebrity diet, and because it is easy to sustain you needn't worry about regaining your lost weight.
No need to give up bread or potatoes. They do not impede weight loss, and you can even have a few chips if you like them. Potatoes are 75% water and much less fattening than pastry. It is foods containing concentrated sugars and added fat that are the bad guys because it is hard to stop eating them once you take the first bite.
Rather than breakfast on a croissant and jam or a bowl of greasy granola, try baked beans on toast or a ham and tomato omelette. At lunch forgo the mayonnaise-laden sandwich on white bread and make a tuna and cucumber sandwich on grainy bread. For dinner, instead of your favourite takeaway followed by a sugary dessert, have a steak or chicken breast and thick cut chips with some green leaves, or some grilled fish, vegetables and rice.
Just remember to use minimal sugar or fat in cooking, ruling out those delicious-looking calorific dishes recommended by some TV cooks.
It is very tempting to follow the latest trendy diet for a couple of weeks and lose a few pounds for a holiday or special occasion. That way you can convince yourself that you can carry on enjoying unlimited pizza or curry and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. But by next year you'll be needing to lose even more weight before you can squeeze into your holiday clothes.
Faddy dieting may work for a while, but as you get older and diabetes, fatty liver disease and even cancer become a distinct possibility, there may come a time when you decide you are ready to lose weight for good.