The obvious answer to the question of how to lose weight is to cut down on calories and be more active. But cutting calories isn’t always straightforward. Although dieters often think first of cutting out fat, processed carbohydrates – especially sugar – are likely to be the real problem. This is because it isn’t just about total calorie intake – how long the food takes to digest is also important.
Fat versus carbs
Fat is very calorie dense – it has over twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrate so cutting down on fat seems like an obvious step to take for weight loss. Although fat intake should be within the recommended healthy levels, the reason a lot of people struggle with their weight is carbs rather than fat. Quickly absorbed carbs cause a rise in blood sugar which the body can’t tolerate. Insulin levels rise to take the sugar out of the blood. Some is stored in the liver and muscles, but any excess ends up as fat. Then the sudden drop in blood sugar can lead to feelings of hunger and sugar craving, which starts the cycle off again.
Should you go carb free?
No – it’s quickly digested carbohydrates that are the problem. These include sugars (in both food and drink) and refined white starchy foods. The following 3 steps can go a long way to helping with weight control.
How to lose weight – 3 changes that will help
Eat more wholegrains
Wholegrains are literally the whole grain – or seed – and have not had the outer (brown) part removed. A lot of the fibre is in this part. Due to the higher fibre content, wholegrains take longer to digest and so don’t cause blood sugar spikes. This means that choosing brown bread, pasta rice etc. will help with weight control. If you don’t like the brown versions, try a mixture. There are lots of half and half breads available, or you can mix a bit of brown rice or pasta in with the white. Although this isn’t as good as going completely wholegrain, it does make a difference.
Look out for hidden sugars
Maybe you know you’re eating too many sweet foods, but what about the ones you don’t even realise are high in sugar? Some of the worst are breakfast cereals, cereal bars, fruit yoghurts, salad dressings and cooking sauces. Always check the labels and remember that there are many types of sugar (as shown above). The total amount of sugar will be under “carbohydrate” on the nutritional breakdown.
Cut down on calories from drinks
Keep a log of the calorie content (from labels) of everything you drink for a few days and then add up how many calories are coming from your drinks – this is often surprising. Fruit juices have quite a lot of sugar, fizzy drinks have even more, milky drinks have fat and sugar and alcoholic drinks are very high in calories.
Ideas to reduce calories in drinks
- Dilute fruit juice with sparkling water or soda water
- Dilute white wine with soda water to make a spritzer
- Obviously cutting down on sugar in hot drinks will reduce calories, but it can be difficult to just leave it out if you’re used to it. Better to cut down slowly so that you don’t notice so much.
- Make milky drinks with skimmed milk or almond milk
Ideas to make water more interesting
The best drink is plain water of course, but this isn’t always very appetising. Make water more interesting without adding many calories by:
- Drinking fruit and herb teas
- Adding frozen berries, which also act as ice cubes
- Adding a slice of citurs fruit, cucumber or mint
- Using ice cubes made from fruit juice
For more information on understanding your diet and what foods might be making you gain weight, see this post.
For information on exercising to lose weight, see these posts: