How to lose weight forever

PUBLISHED: 16:04 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013

Exercising is crucial to weight loss

Exercising is crucial to weight loss

It's no fun being overweight and it's bad for your health. But you know that don't you! If you're thinking of starting a diet here is some guidance from the experts.

It's no fun being overweight and it's bad for your health. But you know that don't you! If you're thinking of starting a diet here is some guidance from the experts.

Look at old news reels from the 60s and 70s and you see a stark difference with today - very few people are fat. In just a few decades we have gone from a situation where overweight people were in the minority to now, where overweight people are almost the norm.

Today, 60 per cent of all adults are overweight and one in five is obese. What's really sad is that one in five children is also obese or overweight. It's one of our most pressing health problems because being overweight raises the risk of serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, joint problems, to say nothing of the lack of self-esteem and depression that many obese people suffer. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, severe obesity is linked to a 12-fold increase in mortality in 25-35 year olds when compared to lean individuals. A recent report estimated that in England 30,000 deaths per year are obesity-related. On average, each person whose death could be attributed to obesity lost nine years of life. A sobering thought.

So if you're overweight how do you lose weight and keep it off? First, don't be tempted by quack doctors offering quick fix cures. You're in this for the long haul. It's a slightly daunting thought that to lose just 1kg of weight you need take in 7,000 fewer calories (or combine more exercise with eating less). You're not going to do that overnight which is why experts recommend that you aim for a weight loss target of 0.5 to 1kg a week which equates to around 500-1,000 fewer calories a day.

Getting started

Keep a food diary. Before you start write down everything you eat and drink for a week - that's everything including the sneaky half fish finger that the children left on their plate to the glass of wine while you're cooking the evening meal. A food diary really helps concentrate the mind.

Set two or three goals to achieve in your first week. You might set a goal of taking a ten minute walk three times a week. When you have achieved this you can set a higher goal.

Think of something you will do when you feel the urge to munch. If snacking is your downfall you need something to do when the urge strikes. It could be a quick walk around the block or cleaning your teeth or jogging on the spot.

Get help. It's hard to lose weight on your own so find a reputable slimming organisation - they really do help.

What do you want to achieve?

Be realistic. You're not going to safely lose a stone in a week. Aim for 0.5-1kg (1-2lb) a week. Over a three to six month period this will result in a significant amount of weight loss.

Aim to lose fat not muscle. Overweight people have more fat than lean tissue. That's obvious, but what's less obvious is that when you lose weight you need to be careful not to lose too much of this lean tissue. How? By taking exercise as part of your weight loss programme. Research has shown that in sedentary women who lose 10kg over a three month period, 22 per cent of their weight loss will have been lean tissue, compared with 17 per cent in women who take exercise.

How are you going to do it?

Eat less and do more is the basic principle but it's sometimes not easy to achieve. Many of the foods we eat are extremely energy dense - that means a small portion of food is very high calorie in relation to its size. You may not be able to tell which foods are fattening and which aren't just by looking.

The British Dietetic Association recommends the following for losing weight:

* Start the day with a healthy breakfast. People who do find it easier to control their weight.

* Eat regular, balanced meals. Try to have meals and snacks at planned times during the day.

* Aim to include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day - have some at every meal.

* Half fill your plate with veg/salad and divide the other half between meat, fish, egg or beans and carbs like potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.

* Choose foods and drinks that are low in fat and sugar and limit sweet and salty snacks.

* If you drink alcohol cut down your intake. It's high in calories

and dissolves good intentions.

* Watch your portion sizes, especially when eating out.

* Avoid eating at the same time as doing something else, for example, when working, reading or watching TV.

* Eat slowly, concentrate on and really taste what you are putting in your mouth.

* Finally, it takes time for your brain to know your stomach is full so wait at least 5 -10 minutes before deciding if you need more.

* Get active, aim for at least 30 minutes daily of moderate activity. If you can mange more than that even better - ideally aim to build up to 60 minutes a day!

Need some help?

We highly recommend the following websites: and

both have been designed by dietitians and the information is independent and scientifically sound.

For information on other aspects of diet and nutrition the website of the British Dietetic Association is a mine of information: (check out their food facts section).

Lighter Life is aimed at men and women who are at least three stone overweight, and is one of the fastest growing weight loss businesses in the country. It uses nutritionally complete food packs, weight management counselling and education about healthy food and exercise, plus support., which has links to local branches.

Weightwatchers is based on strict portion control using a points system. It's open to anyone who wants to lose weight, even those who are only a few pounds overweight. It's tried and tested and reports great success.

Slimming World uses a system of 'red' and 'green' foods to allow users to control their portions.

'Low fat' means that the product should have no more than 3g of fat per 100g. 'Reduced fat' means that the product has at least 25 per cent less fat than the standard variety - so it may still be a high fat food. For example, reduced fat crisps may contain 30 per cent less fat than traditional crisps, but still have around 20g of fat per 100g

'Low fat' does not necessarily mean 'low calorie.' Some low fat biscuits and yoghurts have similar calorie levels to standard foods because they contain extra sugar.

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