Weight loss has become a thriving industry and we’re bombarded constantly with unhealthy FAD diets, weight loss programmes, influencers selling teas and pills all promising to help us lose weight. Many of these are promoting quick fixes which are not advised by doctors or dieticians. It can be really hard to know what information to trust. To help navigate the sea of information (and misinformation!) surrounding weight loss, we have asked one of our GPs, Dr Belinda Griffiths, and our dietitian, Ruth Kander, their advice on how to lose weight safely and successfully.
Firstly, it is important to note that weight loss should be consistent and gradual as it can be dangerous to lose too much weight too quickly. Dr Griffiths suggests that “a safe weight loss is 1-2 lbs or 0.5-1kg per week… Greater weight loss than this per week can lead to malnutrition, exhaustion, increased risk of gout and gallstones.” There is also an increased risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with food which, in extreme circumstances, could lead to eating disorders.
Ruth added, “Losing weight gradually and at a healthy rate is key.” Remember, it’s all about consistency! Perseverance will amount to healthy lifestyle changes which will allow you to achieve your weight loss goal.
Don’t underestimate diet
Both Dr Griffiths and Ruth agree that diet is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss. As Ruth explains; “having a healthy balanced diet that is lower in calories than our body uses is a good way to start the weight loss journey. If we don’t reduce calorie intake, one won’t lose weight:.” – this is known as being in a calorie deficit. The amount of calories that will result in weight loss will vary from person to person and depend on the amount of exercise the individual does. In order to lose weight, you will need to burn more calories than are consumed and therefore restricting your calorie intake is the simplest way of losing weight.
Foods to focus on
Ruth recommends that “people should focus on a variety of foods when trying to lose weight”. While Dr Griffiths suggests, “focusing on a range of lean proteins (including meat and fish), vegetables, high fibre foods (such as quinoa, bran flakes etc) and fruit in moderation”. Vegetarians can substitute in lentils, nuts, beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. In general, high calorie foods such as fried food, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sugary drinks should be avoided.
Let’s get physical!
Although weight loss is still achievable without much exercise, incorporating exercise into your lifestyle will not only aid weight loss, but will generally improve your overall health. Any exercise is better than none whether it be tennis, swimming, or even walking, “whatever you are capable of, just do it!” is Dr Griffiths advice. Ideally, a combination of exercise is best for weight loss – this includes cardio / fat burning and resistance or weight training. Get those steps in! An easy way to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine is by aiming to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. This easy change can make a big difference and remember, as Dr Griffiths says “the more exercise you do, the greater calories are burned” – it’s as simple as that!
Don’t forget about NEAT movements!
NEAT (or Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) movement refers to the physical movement we do day-to-day that isn’t necessarily planned exercise and “encompasses the energy that we expend by simply living”.This includes the calories we burn breathing, eating, sleeping etc. Dr Griffiths suggests that “you can increase NEAT movement easily in your everyday life by making simple changes such as taking the stairs rather than the lift, by standing rather than sitting, by walking instead of taking the train/ bus/ tube or even by carrying bags rather than having items delivered”. It all adds up! These simple swaps will increase the number of calories you burn and help facilitate weight loss.
What to do when you plateau
The first stint of weight loss can make it seem a little too easy as you tend to lose weight more easily in the beginning, but a common issue lots of people face is when weight loss reaches a plateau. This is where you stop losing weight to the same extent you were before, or stop losing weight for a period of time. This can feel disheartening and more often than not, people tend to give up at this stage. Dr Griffiths states at this point “it is a case of persevering with calorie restriction and regular exercise and gradually weight loss will resume.” If it doesn’t, Ruth suggests “ looking at what you’re eating to see if anything has slipped”. She states “maybe you’re not taking into consideration extra calories here and there” but they all add up. See if there are any areas of your diet where you could be a little stricter, or consider starting or upping your exercise.
Sleep and Stress
A good night’s sleep and keeping your stress levels down will be your friend when it comes to weight loss. “In order to lose weight, you need to be in the correct frame of mind and life circumstances” says Ruth. Research has shown that you tend to eat more and make poorer food choices, including seeking comfort food, when you are sleep deprived. This is because not getting enough sleep “disrupts the hormones in your brain (Leptin and Ghrelin) that control appetite” says Dr Griffiths.
Stress can also play a part in weight loss as Dr Griffiths explains that “stress increases cortisol levels which increases gastric acid output and makes you feel anxious and hungry”. Ruth adds “there is also a theory that being stressed can limit weight loss in terms of hormonal activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis which can lead to the release of hormones that can limit weight loss”. Keeping it simple, “to lose weight, good sleep and minimal stress would be ideal”.
Trying to lose weight can seem complicated, confusing and difficult, but when you really break it down, the ingredients to losing weight successfully are actually very straightforward. If you stick to these simple rules and you are patient and consistent, the weight will come off and you will achieve your goals.
If you feel that you are doing everything right and you still aren’t losing weight, or are even putting weight on, there could be something else causing this. You may have an undiagnosed underlying medical condition and we’d advise you to visit your GP to make sure everything is well.