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The Key to Healthy Weight Loss

Updated on January 17, 2018
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If losing weight is top of your new year wish list then now's the time to take some positive action to get slim - and more importantly, stay slim forever. And, that means taking responsibility for your excess pounds and making important lifestyle changes for long-term weight reduction.

The secret of permanent weight loss lies in facing a few hard facts. Pills, potions and patches don't work miracles. Crash dieting is not the long-term solution. Losing weight successfully takes time and effort. "The only realistic and healthy way to lose weight for good is by balancing a sensible diet with regular exercise," says Helen Heap, nutritionist with the Women's Nutritional Advisory Service, "Rapid weight loss diets may bring dramatic results at first but the weight doesn't stay off. Once you get on the treadmill of yo-yo dieting then it can become really difficult to lose stubborn weight - and you may even put on more."

Setting realistic goals

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that you should aim to lose a maximum of around 1kg a week. At the start of any dieting regime you will probably lose a little more, largely due to a loss of glycogen and the water associated with it. However, if after a few weeks you are still losing more than 1kg a week then you should reconsider your diet as you may be putting your health in danger and losing lean tissue as well as fat. If you are not shedding any weight then be extra vigilant about what you are eating and drinking. It often helps to keep a food diary to chart exactly how much you are consuming - including those sly snacks!

Keeping motivated

Losing weight obviously takes determination and self-control but many diets fail because of too much denial. We're only human, after all. And as soon as boredom and disillusionment start to creep in then it becomes almost impossible to stay on track. This brings a sense of failure and loss of self-esteem that so often leads to bingeing and the destruction of all your dieting efforts. So be kind to yourself. Food is to be enjoyed. Eating is about sharing and socialising. If there's a favourite food that you really enjoy then build it into your daily allowance. If you want to blowout at a party then simply plan for it in advance and make up for it afterwards. And remember, the occasional lapse won't make any difference so don't feel guilty.

Eating for health

Nutritionist, Helen Heap, suggests considering your changes in eating habits as a healthy option for life rather than a short-term diet to meet a target. "When people start planning menus to lose weight they often neglect the nutritional content of food," she explains, "If you embark on a very low fat diet, for example, there's a risk of missing out on essential nutrients such as fatty acids found in fish oils which give some protection against heart disease. It's important to choose a wide variety of different foods to maintain good health." So aim to use your new eating style as a way of re-educating your appetite and learning how to make the right choices for a healthier future.

Becoming more active

Regular exercise combined with a sensible diet can help speed up weight loss, boost energy levels and tone those flabby muscles. During the winter it's often more difficult to get out and about - but being active doesn't necessarily mean sweating it out in the gym or on the squash court. The Health Education Authority recommend around 30 minutes of activity most days, made up of ten minute chunks if that suits you best. An easy way to get more exercise is to build it into your day with activities such as vigorous housework, gardening or decorating, climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift or walking briskly to the shops. The main thing is to choose an activity that you can stick with - and that means one that you enjoy and fits in with your lifestyle.

Make it fun

Losing weight doesn't have to be torture. With a realistic and positive attitude, and the support of your family and friends, then it can actually be very pleasurable. It may take a little longer reaching your goal but the journey will be much more enjoyable - and above all, you are far more likely to stay in shape.

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