Why you should start your diet before January – and how to do it

Don’t wait till January to try to shed the Christmas pounds

If, like most people, you’ve overindulged at Christmas, you may well be thinking about going on a health kick. But when is the best time to start?

There’s no reason to wait until January, says British Dietetic Association spokesperson Alison Clark – and if you’re worried about all the festive temptations still in the house, just give them away. It might hurt to do it, but it’s absolutely the best thing for your body!

“I often get asked what’s the secret to not piling on weight over the festive season, and my best tip is to keep your overeating to two days and then give all your leftover chocolates and mince pies away – give them to the homeless,” she says.

“If in sight you’ll eat them! Plan to get rid of all the extra treats in the house as soon as possible.”

Here are Clark’s tips for shedding the pounds immediately after Boxing Day.

No fruit is forbidden

Have plenty of fruit around, keeping the fruit bowl in sight so any time you feel a little hungry you can reach for handy, healthy snacks – like satsumas.

Go nuts

Buy nuts and seeds as snacks either in the handy portion sizes, or bigger bags and decant them into 30g portions to snack on. Research has shown nuts can reduce waist circumference, and we don’t absorb about 10% of the calories from nuts. So if you’re thinking they’re a high-calorie option and you need to stay away from them, think again!

 Healthy leftovers

Use lots of leftovers from Christmas dinners to make healthy soups and bubble and squeak.

Lose weight the best way for you

Research has shown the best way to lose weight is anything you can stick to. So if that’s reducing the sugar in your tea, exercising a couple times a week, preparing your own lunch to take to work to avoid the chips at the canteen, or reducing portion sizes, then go for it.

Avoid fad diets

Remember to avoid any of the fad diets. Sensible weight loss is 0.5-1kg per week through a healthy, well-balanced diet. Fad diets are best avoided as they are a quick-fix to weight loss. What I find in practice is that people lose the weight very quickly, go back to their usual way of eating and then all the weight piles back on, and more.

Food diaries can help

Keep a food diary to determine if there are any vulnerable times of the day or week or month when you overeat, and put in strategies to help you stop this overeating.

Eat a healthy plateful

For a healthy, sustainable way of eating think of a plate the size of your outstretched hand, with 50% made up of low density foods such as salad, fruit or veg, 25% lean protein, and the remaining 25% low GI carbs, wholegrain where possible.

Don’t forget protein

Look at your protein intake. Research has suggested it’s a good idea to ensure you have enough protein in your diet when losing weight to preserve lean tissue mass. This is what burns calories at rest – your friend!

Eat wholefoods 

To ensure you have wholegrain, look for the word ‘whole’ on packaging whether that be front or back of pack. So for example, wholewheat, oat or rye.

Motivate your way

There are lots of ways you can maintain your motivation – the key is finding one which works for you. Can you enlist the support of family and friends to help you keep active? Can you put up a photo of yourself at the weight you once were, and perhaps of the weight you’d like to be? Can you keep something you’d like to wear when you’ve lost some weight?

Embrace resistance

Incorporate some resistance workouts into your week to maintain or build lean tissue. This is essential as it burns calories even while you’re sleeping.

Regular rewards

Reward yourself with non-food treats every week you lose weight.

Keep doing what you’re doing, but…

After you’ve lost weight, keep doing what you’re doing, but you can afford to relax a little as you don’t need to be in calorie deficit any more. If you find yourself putting on weight, you know you need to look at the energy deficit once again and you might need to cut down on what you’re eating, or increase activity.

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