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How to maintain a healthy weight

Useful tips and snippets to keep your weight under control

Author: Doreen Corbey August 13 2009

man standing on scales

Obesity is a rising problem in western societies. In the UK, according to NHS Statistics (published in Feb 2009) for the year 2007, 24% of adults (ie those over 16) were classified as obese, an increase of 15% from 1993, and 37% of adults had a raised waist circumference (over 88cm for women and 102cm for men) compared to 23% in 1993.

It is estimated that in America, at any given time, about two-thirds of the population (at a ratio of two women for every man) are on a diet (ref: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), with only 5% successful at keeping off the weight lost.

According to a government report there are grim predictions about the growth of obesity in Britain, with 60% of the population expected to be overweight by 2050, compared with 28% today, and 70% of girls and 55% of boys expected to be overweight or obese in 40 years' time.

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So for those of us concerned about our own weight, here are some general facts that could help you understand why you’re gaining weight or not losing the excess.

1) Feast and famine. Someone once recounted to me how he would eat virtuously during the week, then pig out at the weekends on fat-laden and calorific foods. He would look forward to and, indeed, plan the weekend feast. Perhaps this is an extreme example, but one that rings guilty bells with some of us. Those who do this are more likely to regain any weight lost on a diet, whereas if you eat consistently every day, you are more likely to stay slim.

2) Fat-free clothes. There are many people with fluctuating waistlines who would confess to having ‘fat’ clothes and ‘thin’ clothes. If you’ve lost weight and the ‘fat’ clothes no longer fit, get rid of them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only worn them once, if you keep your ‘fat’ clothes, you’re just allowing yourself to put the weight back on because you’ll have something else to slip into. As Mary Portas has recently said, charity shops are crying out for donations of quality clothes. I know someone whose entire wardrobe consists of well-fitting clothes, so if she puts on more than a couple of pounds, the clothes don’t fit and there’s nothing else to wear.

3) Eat properly at the table. Eating your meal sat in front of the computer is as bad as eating in front of the telly. You’re more likely to gain weight because you continue to snack.

4) Don’t buy food in bulk. According to researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, the greater the quantity of food we buy, the more we will eat. They claim that 50% of the snack foods bought in bulk are consumed within 6 days.

5) Don’t force yourself to eat everything on your plate. We’ve been brought up to not leave food on the plate and it’s a practice we pass on to our children. However, when you start to feel full, you should stop. If you consistently feel full and there’s still food left over, you know you have to decrease portion size. Babies and small children are very good at knowing when they are full (although it can be hard to tell as an adult whether they are just playing up). However, as we grow up and, if we are used to eating to over-filling, then our sensations of initial fullness become dampened. In some parts of Japan, the people routinely eat until they are 80% full and no more. 6) Break before dessert. Try to get into the habit of stopping after a meal, perhaps to clear away, before deciding whether you really need pudding. If you are full, the dessert could be eaten later when you can appreciate it better. But if you go straight from main meal into pudding, you are hardly leaving time for the brain to receive ‘full-up’ signals from the stomach.

7) The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight. This could be down the fact that as we age, we start to lose muscle. As each pound of muscle burns 50 calories while at rest, it’s sensible to try to maintain that by exercising. If you do a rapid weight-loss diet, you will lose some muscle, as well as water and fat. However, once you start eating as normal, you gain more fat and the muscle is harder to regain.

8) Reverse your meals. Eat a hearty breakfast, a good lunch and a pauper’s dinner. See my article for more details.

9) Have yoghurt and cheese. Researchers in Denmark discovered that consuming high-calcium dairy products helped you lose fat. One theory put forward is that the calcium combines with the fat, this cannot be absorbed in the intestines so is excreted out of the body in the faeces. Not everyone upholds this theory, and a study in Perth, Australia is currently underway to see if taking a dairy supplement would help with weight loss. This is the first study being undertaken exclusively on overweight people as almost all previous research was done on lean subjects. In the meantime, you could try the dairy fat-loss theory yourself, although low-fat is best if you are aiming for fat loss.

10) An amusing tip I got from nutritionist Patrick Holford concerns eating out while on a diet. If you’re afraid of throwing away all your best efforts on one meal then do this: think of a country where most of the population are thin. Then choose the restaurant that serves that country’s food. Most commonly these are: Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese.

11) If the words ‘diet’, ‘fat’ and ‘weight’ are always hovering in your conscience, this should put a smile on your face. A Canadian study just out says that being a little overweight can add years to your life! While being underweight and obese cuts your natural life expectancy, people who are a few pounds over the average can live longer than those of a normal weight! The study was based on 11,326 adults over 12 years.

That's it for now - good luck with the dieting!

About the Author

Doreen has had a passion for massage since she was 15 years old. She still has that passion, and offers massage, specialist facials and other beauty treatments in her home-based salon in Surrey. With any energy left over she will devour all the beauty pages of all the magazines she can lay her hands on!

Doreen's homepage: Bellessence

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