While following crash and fad diets can be an effective short-term solution to shifting a few pounds by cutting out certain types of food, they often lack the source of nutrients and vitamins that are essential to keeping your body healthy long-term.
Naturopath Sarah Bowles-Flannery and top nutritionist Jennie Brand-Miller believe that understanding your cravings is the key to achieving sustainable weight loss. The diet gurus have pinpointed seven ways in which you can enjoy long lasting weight loss while ensuring you maintain a healthy intake of nutrients and vitamins, and without depriving yourself of your favourite foods.
Addressing your eating habits, cravings and lifestyle, these top tips will prevent you from getting stuck in a 'yo-yo dieting' rut. Instead of following extreme diet after extreme diet and slipping straight back into unhealthy eating habbits in between, take control and ensure your healthy weight is maintained by following these top tips on how to get slim, and stay there.
Balance your blood sugar
There's a school of thought that reckons those who crave sugar are looking for more excitement in their lives. 'Sugar stimulates the same neural pathways as drugs, like morphine and heroin', says Sarah. 'In the short term, it makes us feel good, but just like any other drug, we need more fixes and bigger doses just to feel 'normal'.'
The worst thing you can do? 'Going cold turkey is doomed to failure. too painful.'
Try this instead: Add protein to each meal, kissing refined carbs goodbye and knocking alcohol on the head. This will balance your blood sugar and help regulate those pesky cravings.
Avoid a low-fat diet
If dairy is your downfall you might be reaching for butter and cheese as a way to beat the blues. No surprise as some substances in milk match those used in anti-depressants. 'Eating fat is good for us - if it's the right kind', says Sarah.
'Deficiencies in essential fatty acids - omega-3, 6 and 9 add to your fat cravings.'
Try this instead: Adjust things instead and every day include oily fish - mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon - raw nuts, seeds and butters, cold pressed olive oil, natural yoghurt and a little cheese made for sheep or goat's milk.
Opt for sea salt
When salt is a must-have it could be down to too much angst - stressed-out types seem to love a crunchy, salty, fast-food bite. 'If you crave salt, it could be adrenal fatigue', says Sarah. You know the signs: you feel stressed, foggy, lethargic and in need of a salty snack.
Try this instead: Avoid refined table salt and processed foods loaded with salt. Replace crisps and snacks with homemade popcorn sprinkled with a little sea salt.
Studies show that people whose diets are rich in pulses, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, have a lower body mass index (BMI) and carry less fat around the middle.
The reason? Pulses are rich in soluble fibre, which makes your body sensitive to the effects of insulin, the hormone which removes excess glucose from your system. 'The more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more fat you will burn', Jennie says.
Try this: Add
more oats, barley, vegetables and fruit to your plate.
Go meatless one day a week
'The beta cells of the pancreas, which make insulin, are under constant assault from our modern way of eating', Jennie explains.
'Too many high-GI carbs and inflammation-encouraging red meat, saturated and trans-fats - which in turn increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.'
Try this: 'One meat-free day a week gives your pancreas a rest.'
Go to bed slightly hungry
During the day, your body burns some of the carbs you consume for fuel and deposits the rest in your liver as glycogen, a storage form of glucose. At night, glycogen is converted back in to glucose to keep blood sugar levels stable while you sleep. Once stored glycogen is used, you start buring fat - but this takes time. Late night snacks followed by an early breakfast mean your body never has time to start fat burning.
Try this: Try to fast for 12 hours so your body can burn fat. It's your call how you do it - if you have a big lunch, skip dinner or have nothing between 8pm and 8am.
Studies from the University of Chicago show that a lack of sleep can stimulate over eating by causing changes in the hormones involved in hunger, appetite and the way your body uses glucose.
Try this: If you know you're going to be having a few late nights, pencil in some early ones, too. Have a camomile tea before turning in, ensure your bedroom is cool and avoid stimulating activities close to bedtime.
Eat smart then walk it
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your blood sugar.
'Research shows that if you skip breakfast you eat more over the rest of the day', Jennie says. Low-fat plain Greek yoghurt topped with blueberries and a little honey is a wise choice because it has the ideal 2:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrate.
Then get walking. According to research from the University of Glasgow, people who walked for an hour before having their first meal of the day were more sensitive to the effects of insulin, and burned more fat and carbs than those who walked after breakfast or didn't walk at all.
Try this: Get off the bus a few stops early then tuck in to your breakfast at work.
Get to grips with GI
Most of us have heard of the glycaemic index (GI), but here's a reminder of the science: glycaemic index grades carbohydrates according to how fast they break down into blood sugar. Those broken down slowly, causing a gradual release of blood sugar, have a low GI, while those broken down fast have a high GI.
People imagine pasta has a high GI, but even when it's made with white flour, it is low GI. One the other hand, most rice - except basmati - is high GI. Gen up on what's high and low GI, and see the results in a trimmer waistline.
Try this: Choose low-GI carbs as a side with a portion of protein and veg or salad. When cooking, measure out carbs like pasta until you know at a glance what a 50g portion looks like.