Controlling my weight has become an issue for me in recent years. Up until my early 30s I enjoyed a hearty appetite and skinny figure, but these days I’m rather more curvaceous and have to watch what I eat.
Along the way, I’ve tried numerous diets and different approaches to healthy eating. The diets didn’t work, but what has helped are a few simple lifestyle changes that I’ve managed to incorporate into my life very easily.
Of course, I’m assuming that if you’re trying to control your weight you already know that bingeing on chocolate or chips is not the way to go. If you really don’t want to try another diet and are willing to make a few lifestyle changes, here are my 5 Top Tips for Weight Control.
1. Eat Breakfast and Healthy Snacks
It’s true – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. It’s essential for keeping your blood sugar levels on an even keel. If you miss breakfast you’re likely to experience extreme hunger around mid-morning and crave something sweet or overeat at lunch.
It’s much better for your weight control if you have a breakfast that contains some protein, a little fat and a slow-releasing carbohydrate like oats or wholegrain rye bread. Both protein and fat help regulate blood sugar levels and keep hunger at bay. (See my post on my favourite breakfast for more ideas on what to eat for breakfast.)
It’s also a good idea to eat little and often – include healthy snacks like fruit and nuts or houmous and oatcakes mid-morning and afternoon to keep your blood sugar levels balanced and reduce cravings. I find I feel best when I eat something every 3 – 4 hours. At every meal and snack remember to combine carbohydrates with protein to prevent carbohydrates from being too quickly absorbed.
2. No Starch after 6pm
If you’re used to large helpings of rice, pasta or potatoes with your evening meal, this may take some getting used to. Before I tried it I often used to feel uncomfortable, bloated and tired after my evening meal. Leaving starch off your plate means that there’s more room for carbohydrates in the form of vegetables.
Now, my typical evening meal consists of roasted or baked chicken, fish or red meat with a healthy helping of salad and/or steamed vegetables. Saving room for more vegetables means that I definitely eat my 5-a-day as I usually have 2 – 3 different vegetables and it also ensures a good supply of vitamins and minerals. The other advantage is that compared to starchy foods, steamed vegetables are very low in calories and eating more of them keeps you satisfied for longer.
3. Drink Water
Sometimes when we feel hungry we’re actually thirsty. Confusing, I know. That’s because the part of the brain that controls both hunger and thirst, the hypothalamus, sends the same signal whether you are hungry or thirsty. So the next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first and see if it helps. If you still feel hungry after 15 minutes and you know it’s been several hours since your last meal, then it’s probably time to eat. I also find that drinking a large glass of water 20 minutes before a meal fills me up and prevents me from overeating.
4. Keep Moving
You don’t have to go overboard on exercise in order to lose weight. A recent Danish study found that young men who exercised for half an hour a day, burning 300 calories, lost more weight than those who exercised for an hour a day. Researchers thought this was because the men who burnt 600 calories in their hour long workouts were probably compensating by eating more and were too tired to move much during the day. Those who exercised moderately (running or cycling) became more active, taking the stairs and moving more generally. Over time, all these little things add up.
5. Get Enough Sleep
You may be wondering what sleep has got to do with weight control and the answer is ‘a lot’. Research presented to the American Heart Association earlier this year found that those people in their ‘sleep deprived’ group consumed an average of 549 additional calories per day. People who are tired often have food cravings and tend to look to high calorie foods to give them an energy boost.
What all these tips have in common is that they are simple lifestyle changes. Making a permanent change is far more likely to help with weight control in the long-term than a fad diet which you only follow for a short time.
I’ve found all of these steps very helpful and I hope they can be of use to you too. I’d love to hear how you get on. If you’d like to share any weight control tips which have worked for you please leave a comment below.