The days are getting longer and you are tempted to bare some flesh. You have accumulated rather a lot of it over the winter and it is not a pretty sight. If only you could slim down; but there are so many diets out there you just don't know where to start.
Live on a regime of fast foods, fatty snacks, soft drinks and alcohol; and you are likely to be carrying excess weight. Studies on populations worldwide confirm this observation. High in added sugar and fat, this pattern of eating is energy rich, very palatable and leads to overconsumption.
There is virtually no limit to the amount of fat that you can accumulate. But it is not just fat that causes fat build up - over-eat any type of food and you lay down fat. To break it down you must under-eat. Exercise helps, but not nearly as much as cutting down on the amount you eat and drink.
Go on a faddy diet and lose weight, but once you inevitably stop, it goes back on again and you end up a little fatter than before you started dieting. Then you go on another diet, lose again, stop, and you end up even fatter. This is how most crash dieters gain more and more weight over time. It is not your fault; the body thinks it is starving so it switches on all the mechanisms it has to store food.
The only diets that have been proven effective for long term weight loss focus on higher amounts of protein and vegetables, and limit carbohydrates to those that are harder to digest.
Current government nutritional recommendations for a healthy diet are for 15% of your calories to come from protein, 35% from fat and 50% from carbs. But double your protein calories to 30%, reduce your fat intake to 20% and obtain 50% of your calories from carbs that are harder to digest, and you lose weight without feeling hungry because protein suppresses your appetite. By including carbs in your diet, you avoid a common pitfall of low carb dieting which is food craving.
This evidence-based diet is the one I advocate in my lifestyle diet book CAN I HAVE CHIPS? fill up, lose weight, feel great. It is simple to follow, affordable, sustainable and it works. You don't need to count calories, you don't need a degree in nutrition, you just need to eat real food three times a day and stop snacking.
The easiest way to reduce your fat intake to 20% of calories is to cut out fat rich processed foods and snacks. Prepare food from scratch with minimal added fat, and when eating out choose dishes such as grills, or salads without oily dressing.
Replace easy to digest sugary carbs with harder to digest starchy carbs such as pasta, heavy bread, potatoes, basmati rice, quinoa, couscous and millet. Sugary food is ubiquitous and most of us love it. Cutting out sugar is much more difficult than cutting back on fat.
Step one is to ditch the sugary soft drinks and juices and stop adding sugar to tea and coffee. Step two is to cut out foods containing added sugar like cakes, biscuits, desserts and confectionery.
Three protein rich meals a day supplemented with a standard mug (250ml) of cooked starchy food, unlimited vegetables and fresh fruit triggers weight loss in all but the smallest builds. Proteins include meat, fish, eggs, pulses, dairy products, nuts and seeds.
Find you are not losing weight? Restrict yourself to half a mug of starchy food. Losing too much? You should be so lucky! No need to worry that you are eating too much protein. There is no evidence that a high protein intake - up to 35% of calories - increases the risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, cancer or cardiovascular disease, and once you reach your ideal weight you can reduce your intake.
Take each day at a time and gradually you will habituate to your new way of eating. Soon when offered a cupcake or doughnut with your tea you may come to realise why 'no' is the only answer.