Almost half of us – 41% – have admitted to putting on weight during lockdown, with the average person gaining 13lbs since March last year, according to a survey by LloydsPharmacy.
The poll also found that those in the 25-34 and 45-54 age groups saw the biggest weight increase, with an average of around 16lbs per person. Gulp!
For one in five of us, increased alcohol intake and more takeaways were to blame.
So, with 90% of those who gained weight saying they want to lose it again, what’s the best way of going about it?
Christine Bailey is a nutritionist and the author of Go Lean Vegan and The Gut Health Diet Plan. Christine insists the key to successful weight loss is getting the basics right.
‘Keep things simple, look at your environment – fridge stocking and impulse buying – ditch the booze and don’t overtrain,’ she says.
‘Get these foundations right and often you will find you are naturally decreasing the calories and balancing blood sugar, making it easier to lose the weight.’
Here, Christine shares her tips for banishing the bloat.
Get your nutrition foundations right
‘People desperately want to believe in short cuts, fat-busting supplements or magic weight loss powders,’ says Christine.
‘The truth is there are no quick fixes when it comes to changing your body composition and shifting fat. A calorie deficit and the right balance of macro nutrients – protein, carbs and fat – are the first areas to look at.
‘When you first start on dietary changes, keep things simple. Cooking from scratch does not have to be complicated and it will enable you to specifically track what you are eating. The foods we eat and when we eat them actually impacts how much we eat, too. Protein-rich foods, for example, improve satiety and help balance blood glucose levels. In addition, ensuring you eat fibre-rich veggies, beans and pulses each day can help curb appetite and cravings.
‘If you are cutting back on how much you are eating, you want to ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients, so quality and quantity are important.’
Get back to your workouts – but don’t overdo it
‘While many people have kept up with their workouts during lockdown, if you have had a break then it is important to start your training slowly and build up gradually.
‘If you are looking to change body composition (lose fat and build muscle) then strength training is a must.
‘Get advice from a personal trainer to ensure your form and workout routine is right for you.’
‘High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is where you alternate between periods of high-intensity exercise and low-intensity recovery. It is a more time-effective way of losing fat than pounding the treadmill for hours.
‘One study found people lost more fat doing four to six 30-second sprints (with four-minute rest periods) than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking.
‘HIIT training works on several levels; it increases your metabolic rate for longer after you finish exercising, improves insulin sensitivity which helps your body utilise the food you eat as energy (rather than storing it as fat) and it increases catecholamine levels, chemicals that mobilise fat for burning.
‘Try including some HIIT training twice a week as part of your exercise programme.’
Ditch the booze
‘Technically, alcohol is termed a macronutrient. However, it is not an essential nutrient.
‘Alcoholic drinks are often referred to as “empty” calories. There are seven calories in every gram of alcohol. This means that they provide your body with a lot of calories, but are devoid of nutrition.
‘Additionally, when alcohol is consumed, it is tempting to start snacking on unhealthy foods. In a study of more than 2,000 people, frequent alcohol consumption was associated with more belly fat.
‘If you’re looking for 1lb of fat loss per week, you need a 500kcal deficit daily – an easy way to start cutting back is simply to forgo that evening drink.’
Hold the sugar
‘We know sugar in its various forms is not great for our health, but it’s also not good for our waistline. Studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat (belly fat).
‘“Natural sugars” such as maple syrup, or agave nectar are no better. Fructose found in many syrups, drinks, fruit juices and smoothies has also been shown to increase belly fat. Xylitol, a type of natural sugar alternative made from plants, is a healthier option.’
Look at your environment
‘If you’re struggling to stick to a diet, manipulate your environment. Our lives can greatly impact our food choices and much of this is in our control.
‘Make sure the fridge is stocked with only the foods we want to eat and clear out the junk. We can also plan our meals each week to avoid impulse buying.
‘If there are tempting chocolates, cakes or sweets in the house, keep them out of sight or not easily accessible, to avoid mindless snacking.’
Up the protein
‘If you’re trying to lose weight and cutting the calories, one thing you should not skimp on is protein. A high protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness.
‘Protein supports a healthy metabolism and helps you retain muscle mass while you lose fat. Various observational studies have shown higher protein intake is associated with less belly fat.
‘Make sure every meal contains a good source of protein, including breakfast – think eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy, beans and pulses.’
Get some sleep
‘Certain hormones govern our appetite and are influenced by our quality of sleep. Researchers have found that depriving healthy men of sleep leads to increases in ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry, and decreases in leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full.
‘Lack of sleep means we compensate for low energy with sugar and carbs and excess calories.’
‘Proper hydration is important, but particularly when the weather heats up or when we’re doing a lot of exercise. Your best choice is water.
‘Dehydration can also increase mental and physical fatigue. Keeping hydrated can stop hunger pangs and cravings, too. Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day – more if you exercise or sweat a lot.
‘Drinking water before a meal can help reduce hunger, so that you naturally cut your calorie intake.’
The power of the compound effect
‘Taking small step, not giant leaps, is more likely to get real results. When you focus on small changes, whether that’s ditching the takeaways or swapping your chocolate bar for fruit, you begin to ingrain healthy habits that are more sustainable. Instead of attempting a complete diet overhaul, skip your daily chocolate bar (thus saving about 250 calories). Do this consistently and the effect adds up.’
‘If you’re setting a goal you need to actually believe you can achieve it. However, expectations must meet reality. There is no point expecting to run a marathon in a few weeks if you have never run round the block.
‘Having a positive mindset that acknowledges you can change is what will help you take action.
‘It also means that when things get tough, or you face opposition, you will see these as challenges that you can overcome.’
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