As you head into the Christmas season chances are you'll put on a couple of pounds. With the average Brit consuming a massive 7,000 calories on 25 December alone and the festivities extending well into the following week these days, it's not surprising that the season of goodwill is also the season for straining waistbands.
Now, being a Dietitian, I'm going to resist advising you to eat tangerines instead of chocolate over Christmas or telling you to skin your turkey to cut down on fat. I'm going to accept that you'll do what you want to do over the holiday- in fact have a good time and enjoy yourself with my blessing.
Come January I know you're going to have a rush of motivation to clean up your act and shed the excess poundage. And this is where I will share my pearls of wisdom.
In the New Year you'll be bombarded with every type of quick fix diet, magic wand formula and wacko therapist telling you they can be the answer to your problem. Special offer flyers for gym memberships will be piling up behind your door and the latest Z list celebrity exercise DVD will weighing down the bestseller shelves- don't get sucked into the January dieting madness!
No best seller diet, no potion, no therapy is the Nutrition Nirvana and certainly no celebrity is the Diet Dalai Lama - You hold the key to uncovering cause and solution for your weight issues. Only you can make the decision to change your ways and to uncovering what needs to change. And, it's only you who really knows all the secrets about how, what, why and when you eat-
The chocolate eaten on the way home from work so no one sees.
The children's treats foraged away for those desperate moments.
The grazing over ingredients while cooking the dinner
And of course, the calories which don't count after you've been to the gym.
If you do need to lose a few pounds I promise you it's not because you are greedy or lazy so don't beat yourself up. Neither do you have a weight gain inducing food intolerance or need a colonic so don't hide behind those. And your persistent pounds can't be blamed on a slow metabolism or are big boned either. Wake up, smell the coffee- you are most likely overweight because you eat too much and/or don't move around enough. Now that we've got that out of the way we can get over it, and get on with with doing something about it.
• Chances are the eating too much is down to one or two can't resist foods, unconscious eating and grazing or over- sized portions.
• Let's say you can't resist chocolate, crisps or baked goods like muffins? There's no shame in that!- You just need to learn some techniques to reduce quantity, frequency or even avoid your problem foods altogether for a while.
• It might be that you don't eat proper meals and just graze your way through the day thinking you don't eat much?- This regime might have helped at one stage when you nibbled on raw vegetables, but now your grazing foods are all high calorie snacks and equate to more than the calories you'd get of three square meals.
• Or you might go for long periods without eating eating at all then finish they day with super- sized portions and wonder why you can't lose weight because you only eat once a day?
These are of course just examples of the types of issues I see in my clinic's day in day out- whatever your food problems are you will almost certainly not be alone. I've never seen a patient who is overweight because they stuff themselves on pies and donuts all day. Similarly, nobody goes to bed one night thin and wakes up the next morning with a weight problem- it's a gradual thing caused by gradual changes in behaviour which lead to too many calories being consumed and not enough being used through activity. Once you accept this fundamental point you can begin to find where your issues lie put things right.
If you want to lose weight in 2015 and keep it off first you need to find out what needs to change- by far the easiest way to do this is to keep "a warts and all food diary" for a few days. Record everything you eat and drink as you go through the day. Do what you normally do, not what you think you ought to do and be honest. You'll start to see the patterns which cause the calorie excesses. Biscuits with your cuppa, wine in the evening, mayonnaise on everything- whatever it is this information is all you need to prioritise the most effective changes.
Let's say you do your diary and see:
• You never eat breakfast but always have a muffin with your cappuccino at 11am.
• You also notice that your soup or salad "diet" lunch leaves you feeling really hungry by the time you're on your way home
• Still starving, and after one glass of wine, you nibble all the way through cooking dinner and still manage a full portion anyway.
When you see it like this, the solutions are simple-
1. You need to eat breakfast
2. Ditch the muffin
3. Have a more satisfying lunch or a snack on the way home.
4. Only have wine with dinner and not before
5. And never eat anything while you're standing in the kitchen in the evening.
How are you going to put this into practice? You need a plan-
• So you want to start having breakfast? What do you want to have? Cereal? Toast? Fruit and yoghurt? Decide what you would feel like eating, buy it, and then get up slightly earlier (about 10 minutes earlier) in time to eat it.
• If you want to ditch the morning muffin- you might need a new, planned snack. Perhaps some fruit, a slice of fruit bread, or a couple of rye and dried fruit crackers- these need to be bought, packed and taken with you to work. You might need to put a reminder on your computer calendar too to prompt you to eat your snack until the new habit is formed. Maybe also choose a new place to get your cappuccino too so you are not tempted by your old friend the muffin.
• It's fine to grab a salad or some soup at lunch but you need some carbs and protein to go with it- these will help fill you up a little better. It could be a simple chunk of bread with some light cream cheese, a couple of oat cakes with some hummus. Or you might want to add a small portion of cheese and a couple of crackers?
• If you feel peckish towards the end of the working day allow yourself a snack similar the suggestions for mid- morning.
• Then when you get home it's a big glass of fizzy water, diet tonic water or something similar while you get dinner ready- No wine yet!!!!!
• A glass of wine is fine when you are eating dinner- oh and make sure your dinner portion is about the size that would fit into your cupped hands.
• One last thing- on your way to or from work or at lunchtime get off the bus or go for a walk for about 20-30 minutes and that's it!
• This simple, common sense plan save up to 1000 calories a day, guarantees between 1-2lbs a week weight loss and most importantly can be maintained in the long term.
Now don't try and be smart and just follow this plan- It's not yours, it's our fictional dieters plan, it's based around them, their issues. They have decided what the solutions should be. You need to go through the process from start to finish, to develop your plan.
The key to diet success isn't rocket science, its common sense. A wise man once told me "common sense is only common when it's shared". When people come to see me for weight loss advice, I don't prescribe supplements or weight loss aids, there's no intolerance testing, hypnosis or crazy eating regimes to follow. We start by finding out what's caused the weight gain and then come up with personally tailored solutions to address those causes. My job is to support my client through their change.
You can create your plan for yourself with a food diary, some honesty and by applying SMART goals to make your changes. Goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Specific.
Remember if you battle with your weight the problem is not what you eat for a couple of days over Christmas, it's what you do the rest of the year- The very best diet for you and the one most likely to get you where you want to be is the one that's based on you and your lifestyle. Nobody knows you better than you so that's the best place to start.