Ditch the diet

Healthy chicken and mushroom pasta bake

Want to shed those pounds for good? Then forget about dieting. Victoria Taylor reveals the weight-loss strategies that really work.

After all the turkey trimmings, mince pies and hours glued to Christmas TV specials, your waistband may be feeling a little tighter than usual. Of course, you’re not alone – losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

And finding diets that promise to get you trim in the blink of an eye isn’t exactly hard in January, from the celeb-endorsed Dukan to the quirkier Raw Food and Caveman.

But if you’re aiming not to be back at square one again in 12 months, going the diet route may not be the answer. While you’ll probably lose weight to begin with, many diets – even sensible ones – are difficult to maintain, and studies have shown that many people who follow them put the lost weight back on again within a year or so.

While any weight loss will require a change to eating habits, it shouldn’t mean missing out on nutrients

So what’s the problem? Government research into obesity shows that lifestyles, families and our environment all play a part in how we eat, so trying to fit your life around a pre-planned diet is always going to be tricky.

Added to that, some involve removing – or severely limiting – specific foods or food groups that are nutritionally important.

The more extreme high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets limit fruit, vegetables and fibre, particularly in the early stages, while faddy diets based on single foods (cabbage soup, anyone?) involve eating a lot of one type of food and not much of others. While any weight loss will require a change to eating habits, it shouldn’t mean missing out on nutrients.

Short-term fix

Some diets also drastically limit calorie intake so you get results fast. However, losing weight too quickly can leave you tired and hungry, so you give up, regaining the weight as quickly as it came off.

National guidelines recommend that for sustainable weight loss, a reduction in calorie intake of about 600 a day should be combined with stepping up physical activity levels. This could lead to a weekly weight loss of around 0.5kg (1lb).

While it may not sound a great deal next to the promises of many quick-fix diets, it allows you to incorporate healthy eating habits into your lifestyle permanently, so you’re more likely to keep it off for good.

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