New Years Weight-loss tips

We’ve all made that New Year's resolution to diet and lose weight properly this year. We all know it’s difficult to do well and even harder to stick to. We’re tempted to rapid weight loss programmes endorsed by this celebrity or that supermodel and we never get the results we’re after, sure we sometimes drop to our goal weight, but then it all goes straight back on, leaving us locked in an endless cycle of yo-yo dieting that causes permanent damage to our health and leaves us disheartened and turning back to those old staples of chocolate and chips.

These drastic weight loss diets include:

  • Low-calorie diets – 1,200 calories
  • Very-low-calorie diets – 800 calories
  • Fasting – going without food for a period of time per day (usually 16-20 hours)
  • High levels of exercise
  • Having nothing but meal replacement supplements – things like Complan, Slimfast etc
  • Colonics and enemas
  • Detox diets – these involve cutting out food groups
  • Single food diets – sometimes based on blood group or genetic type
  • Keto diet
  • Paleo diet
  • Atkins diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Military diet
  • Dash diet

All these fad diets are designed for short term weight loss and frequently have no basis in scientific fact. They also don’t alter the primary cause of obesity: we live in a world of easily available, highly processed foods. Snacking at our desks has reached an all-time high (I admit, Christmas doesn’t help). Quick snacks like crisps and our favourite chocolate bars and quick meals like microwavable ready meals or a sneaky trip to the local chippy is so convenient we don’t even stop to think about the hazards they pose to our long term health.

Health problems associated with rapid weight loss are as many and varied as the fad diets themselves. Dehydration, malnutrition, gallstones, dry mouth, thinning hair, diarrhoea, constipation, cramps, dizziness, headaches, muscle pains, low energy levels are all some of the most common immediate side effects of simply losing weight rapidly. There are other side effects that happen as a result of the vitamin and mineral deficits that such diets cause.

What’s the best way to lose weight then?

The best way to lose weight is to change your dietary habits. Eat fewer take-outs, have smaller portion sizes and exercise. Weight loss will happen when your calorific intake is less than what you burn in the day. It is healthiest to lose weight gradually, as this will not leave your body craving certain vitamins and minerals. If you change your diet and aim to lose 1-2lb (0.5 – 1kg) per week, this is considered to be a healthy rate of weight loss. It takes longer, but you are more likely to keep the weight off as it is easier to continue for long periods, leading to a greater overall weight reduction.

What if my doctor has recommended a low-calorie diet?

Sometimes drastic low-calorie diets are recommended by doctors due to surgical weight safety, or as a way to combat things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. These are always done under the supervision of medical professionals: your doctor and a dietician, who will be in contact with you throughout the process and may stop the diet partway through if they feel your health is suffering. These medically supervised diets are short term only and are not advised unless there was an absolute necessity for them.

So, what can I eat if I’m trying to be healthier?

The same as usual, but in smaller amounts. Many dieters find that a healthy portion size can look ‘mean’ when on their normal plates and leaves them feeling as if they have not eaten what they feel they need. Swapping to smaller plate sizes is a quick, easy way to trick your brain into thinking it has had the same amount it would otherwise have had.

There are also some easy ingredient replacements that can turn a regular, unhealthy meal into a healthier alternative. Oats are very filling and low in calories and changing that portion of chips into a medium-sized baked potato can slash that calorie intake while still being a complete meal (no extra fats means no empty calories!)

We’ve trawled the internet and put a few of our favourite, tried and tested, and retested, surprisingly low-calorie recipes below (in order of how much we liked them):


Healthy snacks

  • Baked apple – Chop the top and bottom off an apple, core and bake until softened. You can sprinkle a little cinnamon over for extra flavour.

  • Some brands of microwave popcorn – Some brands have just 100 calories for 750g of popcorn, they are so filling we’ve stopped snacking on anything else

  • Mini quesadilla – Low-fat cheese sprinkled over a corn tortilla, fold and microwave until gooey

Healthy Meals

  • Overnight oats – mix equal amounts of rolled oats with milk (50g=50ml) with your flavour of choice and leave in the fridge overnight for a tasty breakfast – you can add whatever flavours like: we loved adding Greek yoghurt, a teaspoon of honey and a drop of vanilla extract to ours, feel free to experiment.
  • Soup – swap to soups that are broth or stock-based rather than creamy soups to minimise the extra saturated fats these can contain Veggie ramen – mix ginger and chilli slices in water and bring to the boil, stir in low-sodium soy sauce, add noodles, cook for 3 mins, add sliced mushrooms and bok choy, remove from heat and add snow peas.
  • Pressure cooker lentil chilli – blitz chipotle chillies, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes until roughly chopped. Sauté onion, green pepper and chilli powder in the pressure cooker, add your chilli-tomato mix, 1 litre of low-salt stock, 250g brown lentils and a sprinkle of salt. Cook under high pressure for 12 minutes. Serve. We found that the leftovers can be reheated for a warming winter lunch.

Remember: sweetened drinks, such as Cola, can contain nearly 200 calories each and leave you feeling hungrier later on. Other calorie-heavy drinks are: alcohol, some coffees, fruit juices and smoothies. Drinking plenty of water can help reduce the feeling of hunger throughout the day. Diet or low sugar variants are available but they have been linked to increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

You can find meal replacement supplements online, in pharmacies and at supermarkets – these should only be used once or twice a day in conjunction with a healthy balanced meal. You can find healthy diet recipes that are both delicious and filling online by the thousand.