The holiday season is over, so it’s time to lose those extra kilos. Use our nine easy tips to make a change
The festive season has probably taken a slight toll. After all, it is virtually impossible to go to the gym or stick to a diet when the sun’s shining and those leftovers are calling. Not to worry: personal trainer Michelle Winn and registered dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson Nathalie Mat have some tips for shaking that holiday flab.
Cut out junk and processed foods
Michelle says exercising will only take you so far – it’s actually a good diet that is the key to losing weight. She suggests cutting out as many processed foods as possible. This means ‘anything that has been processed by a factory to get to its current form. I’m talking about fizzy drinks, chocolates, baked goods, chips and even breakfast cereals. All those products didn’t start out in nature that way.’
Eat more vegetables
Maybe you think cutting out all the processed foods is a bit too much to ask, but then at least make sure you eat more vegetables. ‘I don’t mean potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn,’ says Nathalie. ‘They have a nutritional composition similar to starchy foods such as rice. I am talking about fresh vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes and lettuce; and also cooked veggies like squash, broccoli and cauliflower.’ Meats and starchy foods contain more kilojoules than vegetables, so always make a point of filling half your plate with vegetables first to help lower your total kilojoule intake.
Develop good eating habits
With any diet plan, always ask yourself, ‘Could I sustain this for the rest of my life?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then don’t do it. According to Michelle, ‘“Quick off” usually results in “quick back on plus a little extra”. Restricting yourself is not the answer. Rather develop healthier eating habits. And I mean actual food. Not shakes and protein bars or energy bars; these are processed foods.’
Nathalie adds, ‘The most important factor is not how often, but how much food you eat in total for the day. Some recent studies have shown a benefit in overweight women eating three times a day with no snacking in comparison to eating more often. The key to how often you eat is how hungry you are between meals.’ The trick is to get in touch with your body.
Nathalie says that how quickly you eat can also influence how full you feel. ‘It takes a bit of time for the “stop eating” signal to reach your brain, so, if you’re a fast eater, you may well find yourself eating more than you need to.’
Get enough rest
While getting enough sleep may not directly impact your weight, Michelle says that lack of sleep impacts your eating choices. ‘When you are tired, you tend to go for the high-sugar or high-fat foods and beverages to give you an energy boost or a lift in mood.’ Getting anything from five to eight hours of sleep per night is ideal and should help you make better choices about food.
The benefits of water are many and, in our quest to get rid of the holiday flab, it benefits you in the following ways: it helps control caloric intake, energises the muscles needed for exercise and helps maintain normal bowel function. Michelle recommends a minimum of two litres of fluids per day.
Learn to read nutritional labels
How many times have you just taken something off the supermarket shelf because you saw it said ‘Low Fat’ on the front? According to Michelle, you must not be fooled by sugar-free and fat-free products.
‘Look at the ingredient list on the back and see what is being replaced and how it’s been processed,’ she says. Reading the nutritional label is a must. ‘Pay attention to the order in which the items are listed. The list of ingredients is in descending order by weight, so the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first.’
It’s a beautiful day and you’re going to … gym? Yawn! Michelle suggests getting outside and doing your exercise in the fresh air rather. If you live on the coast, go for a walk or run on the beach. And if you’re close to a forest or mountains, how about going for a hike or giving mountain biking or trail running a try? Living in the city is no excuse: just find a nice park. ‘Gym can wait until winter,’ Michelle says. ‘Try something new and fun for now.’
Mix up your exercise
To lose all that holiday flab, Michelle recommends doing a combination of cardiovascular and weight training. ‘Cardio helps you lose weight because you are burning calories, while weight training helps maintain your lean body mass.’ She suggests doing three to four sessions of cardio every week, as well as four to six sessions of weight training to get you back in shape