Losing weight is never easy and there’s no one tip that’s going to change that. However, it doesn’t have to be as complicated a process as many of us make it, like counting every calorie or stripping our diet of entire food groups while trying to follow aggressively restrictive diet plans.
Instead of adopting a radical or all-encompassing approach, try adopting a series of healthy habits and making them an integral part of your eating routine. As these habits start to become ingrained, you may well find that losing weight and, crucially, maintaining a healthy weight become natural to you. And you’ll get to keep on eating carbs throughout.
Public Health England (PHE) and the UK government recently launched the Better Health campaign to help people lose weight. There are several tools available on the campaign website that can help, and we also asked for some weight-loss tips from people involved in the campaign: PHE nutritionist Orla Hugueniot, former footballer John Barnes and TV presenter Gregg Wallace. We also have more expert tips from dietitians and registered nutritionists further down the page.
You don’t have to try to take on all of the tips at once. In fact, we’d definitely advise against trying that, because you’ll overload yourself and may lose motivation. Pick a few that you think you can manage to start with, then keep coming back and adding more into your lifestyle.
11 Weight-Loss Tips
1. “Make sure that half your plate contains vegetables or salad,” says Hugueniot. “The other half should be protein and carbohydrates.”
2. “Try to make sure you are eating meals at regular times, with healthy fruit and veggie snacks in-between, and drink plenty of fluids,” says Hugueniot. “This will help stop you snacking on unhealthy foods, and keep you more full during the day.”
3. “Figure out what physical activity will work with your lifestyle,” says Barnes. “Perhaps a kick-about in the park with some old mates will get you raring to go, or perhaps you start off with something a bit simpler, like brisk walking for ten minutes a day.”
4. “When eating out, ask for smaller portions or go for starters rather than a large main,” says Hugueniot. “Another helpful tip is to ask for a sauce or dressing to be on the side, because this is often where a lot of the calories come from.”
5. “I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” says Wallace. “You don’t need to cut the things you love out of your diet completely – just don’t have a sweet treat every day. There’s loads of delicious foods that can be enjoyed instead of crisps or chocolate!”
6. “Aim for home-made over ready-made,” says Hugueniot. “You could try doing your own burgers: add chopped kidney beans, some chopped onion and an egg to the leanest beef mince you can get, grill it and serve with salad – making a much healthier meal than a traditional burger and chips.”
7. “Tell your friends and family you’re trying to lose weight,” says Barnes. “Their support will help you keep going. Remember, it’s never too late to get started.”
8. ”The best snacks are those containing veggies,” says Hugueniot. “But if you’re having packaged snacks go for those with around 100 calories and stick to two a day at maximum. Healthier snacks include: fresh fruit, low-fat and lower-sugar yogurt with fruit, plain rice cakes or crackers with lower-fat cheese, unsalted nuts and seeds, veggie sticks with lower-fat dips such as reduced-fat hummus and salsa, malt loaf, fruit loaf or a currant bun, crumpets and scotch pancakes.”
9. “Home-made versions of your favourite snacks and meals can be delicious and healthier alternatives to shop-bought food,” says Wallace. “Check out the Easy Meals app for some inspiration!”
10. “Swap sugary colas, juice drinks, milkshakes and fizzy drinks for no added sugar or sugar-free drinks, lower-fat milks and water,” says Hugueniot.
11. “Try using smaller plates and bowls to help reduce your portion sizes at mealtimes,” says Hugueniot.
Public Health England has launched the Better Health campaign to support people to live healthier lives. Visit nhs.uk/BetterHealth for free tools and support to kick-start your health today.
More Expert Weight-Loss Tips
12. Be Realistic
“Time and again, patients say to me that they are disappointed that they have ‘only’ lost a pound in a week,” says George Hamlyn-Williams, principal dietitian at The Hospital Group. “The reality is that one pound (454g) of fat equates to around 3,500 calories. This means that over the week the pound was lost, they have eaten on average 500 calories less per day – a massive achievement! It’s so easy to eat or drink an additional 500 calories – two standard 50g bars of chocolate would do it. However, to eat 500 calories less is much more difficult and to be consistent with it is even more challenging – so give yourself a break and pat yourself on the back if a pound comes off. Remember, if you keep going, that’s 52lb (23.5kg) over a year – over 3½ stone!”
13. Get Familiar With Portion Sizes
“If you’re mindful of portion sizes you can say goodbye to calorie counting,” says Kerri Major, a registered dietitian and SENr sports dietitian, and author of The Dietitian Kitchen. “It can be useful to look at the recommended portion size on food packaging and see what you’re eating in comparison with this.
“Using your hands to get a rough idea of an appropriate serving size can also be a really useful tool. This is never going to be 100% accurate but it’s a simple and useful way of helping you get the right portion sizes.”
Here’s Major’s general advice for the portions that make up a balanced meal.
- Protein 1 palm-size portion
- Carbohydrates 1 handful of complex carbohydrates, typically wholegrain varieties
- Vegetables 2 handfuls of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, mushrooms or salad leaves
- Healthy fats 1 thumb-size portion
Additionally, a portion of fruit is one piece of whole fruit, like a banana, or one handful (approximately 80g if you have scales to hand), and Major advises aiming for three portions of dairy or dairy alternatives a day. “Portion sizes of dairy vary depending on the product,” says Major. “Again, I recommend checking the food label, which usually indicates an appropriate serving size.”
Of course, what’s exactly right for you depends on a number of things, including how active you are. If you’re unsure how much you should be eating, Major suggests seeing a registered dietitian.
14. Start Small
“When setting new goals, focus on two to three small, realistic goals at a time and work on achieving them before working towards any more,” says Major. “If you want to start exercising more, don’t go from zero to 100. That will be a shock to the system and something that is hard to stick to. Plan to exercise once or twice a week initially, at a time that is good and maintainable for you, before you plan to increase your sessions further. Make sure whatever the goal is, it is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Based.”
15. Don’t Rely On Motivation
“Many people rely on motivation to keep them going when it comes to exercising and eating well,” says Major. “However, motivation comes and goes, and it’s never there when you want it or need it most. The key is to create healthy habits and become disciplined – two things that can bail you out when motivation is low.
“Healthy habits can be something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of taking the car. Being disciplined is showing up and doing something even if motivation is at an all-time low. We all know that we usually feel a million times better for doing something that we know is good for our health than not doing it at all.”
16. Don’t shop hungry
“Shopping hungry leads to bad ideas,” says registered nutritionist Sophie Thurner. “We all know it and yet we all still do it. That three-for-two offer looks so tempting, and then you end up getting three of the not-so-healthy things, which you’ll have to finish, because none of us like to waste food. Have a precise list of items you need for a targeted, efficient approach without the risk of buying things you don’t need.”
17. Keep good food close
“Make sure you have healthy snacks available,” says Thurner. “That can be anything from hummus or cottage cheese with carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers or celery, or a hard-boiled egg and a wholegrain cracker, to some Greek yogurt with fresh berries. Stock your pantry with nutritious staples such as tinned chickpeas and tinned tuna, and have some frozen veg and herbs in the freezer.”