WHETHER it’s your first ever “diet” or your millionth, starting a weight loss journey can be pretty overwhelming.
Everyone claims to have “the secret” to fat loss – from troves of experts on social media to your best friend.
It can lead down a path of yo-yo dieting, drastically dropping pounds using the latest weight loss hack, before piling it all on again.
Cut through all the noise, and long-term weight loss has some very basic foundations.
And it doesn’t have to involve completely overhauling your current way of eating or cutting out entire food groups (we’ve all been there).
That’s according to Graeme Tomlinson, known as The Fitness Chef and author of Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind.
The former personal trainer rose to stardom on Instagram – now with one million followers – by giving people the tools they need to successfully lose weight without becoming miserable on a strict and trendy diet.
On Monday, Graeme explained why 10 of the most common and popular diet tips are nonsense, from cutting out sugar to carbs and everything in between.
So what should you do instead? Graeme reveals the cornerstones of losing weight in a sensible and simple way:
1. Reduce calories
The number one rule of losing weight is: you have to be consuming fewer calories than you are burning, called a “calorie deficit”.
“If you're somebody who's confused, and you don't know where to start [with weight loss], it makes sense to understand how many calories you're eating and get a bit of an education,” says Graeme.
“For a lot of people, it's a wake up call.”
He explains: “A chicken salad seems healthy before you realise the 25ml of olive oil you’re adding is 200-300 calories.
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“You can reduce that to 5ml without starting a whole new diet, it’s just a small tweak.”
Don’t panic though – you don’t have to count calories by weighing all your food and using a tracking app forever, promises Graeme.
“Calorie counting is a temporary education,” he says. “Whether you do it for two weeks or two months, you have that knowledge for the rest of your life.
“And you can begin to eye-ball portion sizes instead of having to weigh stuff all the time.”
2. Make small, slow changes
The "easy" route is a crash diet that lasts only a month or two, with quick results.
The harder route, which could take a year or more, is making gradual, sustainable changes to your diet, says Graeme.
He warns against “ripping up your entire diet and starting a new one” – because who needs that kind of stress in their life?
Instead, take a look at your favourite meals and think about how small changes, little by little, can help reduce calorie intake.
For example, buy 50% lower fat cheddar cheese and, as a result, cut potentially hundreds of calories from your pasta bake.
Graeme says: “A more gradual approach maybe doesn't seem as attractive because it might take a little bit longer, but there's maybe more chance of sticking to it because you're able to enjoy it a little bit more.
“If you go gradually, ultimately you'll end up going faster by going slower, which sounds ridiculous.
“But this is because you're just able to keep going with it. It's more sustainable.”
3. Be flexible – and enjoy treats
By striving for perfection every day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, Graeme says.
His approach to weight loss is to look at the bigger picture.
Instead of looking at calories each day, consider them over the week.
Graeme explains: “Say if somebody had a daily target of 1,800 calories, which is 12,600 over a week. Some days you might have 2,000, some days it might be 1,600.
“It's just having that flexibility as opposed to being fixated on the next meal being 435 calories exactly.”
Being flexible also allows you to leave room for treats.
But it comes with a degree of accountability – if you decide to blow-out on a big takeaway, simply readjust your calories later.
The next day, “have a light lunch and a walk” suggests Graeme.
“I would avoid calling it a ‘mistake’ because you've eaten it and just move on with the next choice to stay on track.”
4. Fill up on fibre and protein
Stop thinking about the foods you need to “cut out”, and focus on those you need to fill up on.
Fibre and protein-rich foods are your best friends while trying to lose weight.
Graeme says: “Eating 25g of fibre per day can reduce the risk of colon cancer significantly.
“For fat loss, it helps fill you up because it's quite hard to digest, therefore decreases the likelihood of overeating and also it's really good for your overall gut health as well.
“You can get it from all fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses and greens.
“Things like keto diets, which ban a lot of carbs, can be really detrimental because you'd be missing out on a lot of fibre needlessly.”
Protein is similarly a filling food choice, but also repairs muscles you’re working in the gym and burns “more calories during digestion than carbs and fats”.
Graeme says: “Around 25 per cent of the protein you eat you will burn digesting it, which means you're actually consuming fewer calories.”
5. Do activity you enjoy
Exercise can seem daunting to someone who prefers a sedentary way of life.
Keep it simple by avoiding anything you despise (after giving it a fair try, of course).
Don’t fall into the trap of doing exercise classes that claim to be the key for weight loss if you can’t stand the idea of doing it.
Graeme says: “The key is adhering and sustaining exercise, long term.
“If you enjoy walking and you can hit 10,000-15,000 steps a day, then you're probably going to help achieve your goal more than if you went to the gym [which you hate] and hung about for 45 minutes and then left.”
He adds: “Things like cooking, fidgeting, ironing and household chores can all add up.
“Even if you're at work and take a 15 minute walk at lunch rather than just sitting at your desk, parking further away from the office or choosing the stairs instead of the lift.
“They seem really insignificant, which is the great thing about it, because it's not having any kind of impact on your life, but over time, it really adds up.”
Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by Graeme Tomlinson (£16.99) is published by Ebury Press. Out January 20.
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