Our personal trainer, Jess, answers common questions about different weight loss methods. Discover the best way to lose weight as Jess separates weight loss facts from fiction.
Unethical elements of the diet and fitness industry try to shame people into losing weight. This is so counterproductive. Bullying yourself into losing weight is not sustainable or healthy. Faddy diets and supplements just don’t work.
Before trying to lose weight, check whether you
Cutting out dairy may help you reduce your calorie intake. But it is important to avoid dairy replacements that are high in sugar. Other than dairy, and perhaps meat, I wouldn’t recommend cutting out food groups. Particularly, carbs. As I’ll go on to explain, low/no carb diets are unhealthy and unsustainable.
Intermittent fasting can be a useful way to eat more mindfully and reduce your overall intake. But it doesn’t suit everyone. The key is making changes you can stick to in the long-term. Making sustainable, long-term changes will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Read on as I bust weight loss myths and explain the best way to lose weight:
Are consuming excess calories through lots of simple carbs? If so, addressing this will help you lose weight.
Some people feel lighter and more energised if they cut down on carbohydrates. I wouldn’t recommend cutting them out completely.
Some low/no-carb diets work in the short-term and can cause weight loss. But they aren’t sustainable. We need carbohydrates to function.
Instead of cutting carbs, consider the type of carbohydrates you are eating. Switch processed carbs for whole carbs.
Whole carbs include those from vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, potatoes and whole grains. Try to eat more of these. Processed carbohydrates include white rice, sugary foods, fruit juices and white bread. These are best avoided.
Cutting out dairy can reduce the number of calories you consume. It’s a quick way to cut out a lot of fat in your diet. Fat has a higher calorific value than other macronutrients.
We have so many plant based alternatives available to us now. Cutting out dairy no longer means you need to avoid cheese, creamy coffees or milky tea.
But some of the dairy-free replacement products can contain added sugar and salt. So if you use them to replace dairy, choose unsweetened versions. Keep an eye on your salt intake.
There are a host of other health benefits that people report from giving up dairy. From digestive issues, to skin problems. Dairy can lead to inflammation in our systems. It may also increase mucus. For allergy sufferers, it can be really helpful to cut out dairy around hay fever season.
I wouldn’t recommend a client, or anyone in fact, to embark on the Keto diet. Or any of the offshoots. These include Paleo, South Beach and Atkins.
On the Keto diet, fat makes up at least 90% of a person’s daily calorie intake. It was developed to treat epileptic seizures in children in the 1920s.
The Keto diet forces the body into ketosis. This is where the body no longer fuels itself through carbohydrates. Instead, it relies on ketones. Ketones are a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
Following the Keto diet involves many health risks. For example, constipation, nutrient deficiency, heart disease and kidney stones.
I believe that the Keto diet promotes disordered eating and antisocial eating habits. It drives people to fear social events, meals out and eating with friends and families.
The majority of the time people put the weight back on, sometimes more than they lost. This is because Keto teaches you nothing about healthy, sustainable long-term dietary changes.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has a number of health benefits. Many studies show that IF improves metabolism, lowers blood sugar and reduces inflammation.
IF can aid weight loss. As well as boosting the metabolism, it reduces the time frame for calorie consumption. I believe this makes people more conscious of what they are eating. Overall, they tend to eat less.
Usually, I will snack while I make pack lunches for my kids. Or pick at bits in the cupboard. But during fasting, I’m much more conscious of what I’m eating.
IF can help address the mindless eating you do when you aren’t hungry. This is when we tend to binge, or eat food that’s rubbish.
When fasting, particularly during the evenings, there isn’t a too and fro of should I/shouldn’t I. Instead, you practice not going there. You find something else to do — perhaps a walk or a home workout.
As you are only allowed to eat during a specific window of time, you have less space to eat rubbish food. When it is time to eat, you can focus on eating the right foods, in the right quantities.
I am a fan of intermittent fasting. Try it and see how it works for you. The most important thing is finding an approach that works for you long-term.
Protein is an important part of your diet. But eating more protein is not a fast-track to weight loss.
My mind is boggled by the absurd addition of the word protein to many processed foods. Like the term natural, the word protein has become a buzzword. It doesn’t actually indicate how healthy something is. Something can be high in protein but packed full of sugar.
You don’t need to go mad with protein. You just need to eat the recommended amount of protein for your body weight and exercise levels.
Here’s how to calculate what you need:
Multiply the values given per kg of your body weight.
You should distribute your daily protein intake evenly, across meals. This helps to ensure a steady level of intake into the bloodstream.
Unlike fats and carbohydrates, there is no long-term storage solution for proteins that you don’t use. If you eat more protein than your body can use, it may be stored as body fat. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen as easily as with unused fats and carbohydrates. Excess protein is also excreted in our urine which puts a toll on the kidneys.
The bottom line? Just eat the protein you need. No more, no less.
A few years ago it was touted that people who skipped breakfast tended to be overweight. Breakfast skipping was linked with a crash in blood sugar levels. It was thought to cause bingeing in the second half of the day.
I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Not everyone binges if they miss breakfast. If you aren’t a breakfast person, just make sure you eat healthily the rest of the day. And keep up your exercise regime. Do this, and missing breakfast shouldn’t affect your weight loss goals.
If you recognise that you do tend to binge when you miss breakfast, having a smoothie is a good option. A light fruit and yogurt smoothie can help to keep your blood sugar levels up. Adding oats and seeds, like flax and chia, can help you feel full until lunch.
It is possible to lose weight through exercise alone. But only if you’re able to create a calorie deficit through exercise. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you can consume. This can be a challenge without dietary changes.
Is your diet high in calories, saturated fats and refined sugars? You are unlikely to achieve a calorie deficit through exercise alone.
Exercise can help you feel better. You’ll gain cardiovascular fitness. Your sleep will improve. You’ll have more energy and feel a boost in your mood. But without making dietary changes too, you probably won’t see a big change in your weight.
It is possible to lose weight through diet alone. You can create a bigger calorie deficit through diet than is possible through exercise. But an improved diet and exercise will make the biggest changes to your body composition.
I recommend eating a healthy calorie-controlled diet and exercising more. This is an effective way to create a calorie deficit. What’s more, you will build muscle and increase your overall health while you lose weight.
You can lose weight by becoming vegan. But it really depends on how you go vegan. Some people simply replace meat and dairy products with meat replacements. For example nut milks and vegan cheeses.
If this is the only change you make, you may not lose weight. Many meat replacement products are packed with sugar, salt and trans fat. They often have an endless list of ingredients, designed to mimic the texture and taste of meat.
If you want to lose weight, I’d recommend you limit the number of meat replacements you eat.
As a vegan myself, I do crave that springy protein vibe and once or twice a week. So, I do eat meat replacements. But I’m super picky. I check the ingredients and get the “cleanest” product I can find.
I avoid cheap meat replacement products as they tend to have more salt, fat and sugar. I find shops like Sainsbury's or Waitrose, or local whole food shops, have the best options.
Tofu is a healthy choice. Marinade it overnight and it can really scratch an itch for something “meaty”!
If you find yourself craving meat frequently, it is a good idea to check your iron levels. Iron is needed to make red blood cells. A deficiency can lead to tiredness.
As a vegan, you can top on iron by eating plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables. For example, spinach and kale.
I wouldn’t recommend any form of weight loss supplements. They are often unregulated. Their use is not based on scientific research. They are normally popularised by misinformation and hearsay.
Weight loss supplements don’t promote healthy long-term weight loss. They don’t help you make sustained improvements to your diet or exercise more. What’s more, these supplements often have detrimental effects on your metabolism, mood and overall energy regulation. Definitely best avoided!
The best way to lose weight is through a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and exercise. You need to create a calorie deficit by moving more and eating less. Put simply, burn more calories than you consume over a sustained period, and you’ll lose weight.
Using a calorie calculator can help you work out how many calories you burn normally, depending on your activity level. Deduct 500 calories from this and this is how much you’ll need to eat to create a deficit. A daily deficit of 500 calories is what most people need to lose weight.
Here are some healthy meal ideas to help you make positive changes to your diet. And if you’re new to exercise, here’s a workout routine to help you build an exercise habit. Already into your exercise? Here’s a workout regime to take your fitness levels from intermediate to advanced.
It is also important to take time to address your relationship with food. Understand when you tend to turn to food for comfort. Find other ways to nurture yourself when you have that need. Practice self-care and remember that the journey to a healthy weight is a gradual one. Celebrate your achievements along the way. Always put your well-being first.
Learning more about nutrition is an important part of your weight loss journey. It will help you understand the mechanics of what the body needs. You’ll find more advice and nutrition resources in my post 10 Weight Loss Tips from a Personal Trainer.