Lose weight the healthy way

woman  only feet to be seen ...Pic: Shutterstock / Kzenon

When it comes to shifting pounds, quick fix diets are all very well, but it's rare that you'll maintain your weight once you stop. The key to losing weight healthily is a good and varied diet and regular exercise, and these simple tips will help you to supercharge your slimming plan without too much hardship.

Early days
It is likely that your exercise regime and diet will need attention, but start gently. For example, reduce the amount of sugary sweets, fizzy drinks and fried foods in your diet, and cut down your consumption of meat. Instead of thinking about what you can't have, aim to increase the amount of vegetables, especially leafy greens, you eat. Opt for small meals more frequently through the day, rather than the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Similarly, if you are unfit, try to exercise three times a week for just 20 minutes. Too much too soon will put an unnecessary strain on your body. As your fitness levels rise, so too can your weekly exercise.

Research and learn
Many of us dive into the latest fad diet without much more than a celebrity endorsement. Instead, learn all you can about healthy diet - what it means and what it does for your body - about calories, fats and carbohydrates, and about the best exercise for healthy weight loss. You might be surprised to find you're eating things that are higher in calories than you realise. For example, fresh and dried fruit is healthy but it is still high in natural sugars, so you'll need to watch how much you eat.

In the same vein, start reading those nutrition labels when you shop. Tedious it may be, but it will help you to avoid high-salt, high-fat, high-calorie foods and those containing trans fats. Instead opt for those rich in fibre and vitamins.

You should also watch the amount of carbs in food. While complex carbs are good for giving us energy, if you don't burn them off through exercise, that energy will be laid down in the body as fat. Fill your plate with veggies and lean protein (such as chicken and fish) before adding pasta, rice or potatoes.

Before and after snaps
It's a technique that helps to motivate many slimmers, and in those darkest diet hours, it will remind you why you're doing it. Take a snap as soon as you start, and when you reach each of your goals, take another. The first will keep you on the right track, and the second will show you clearly that what you're doing is working, and make it more likely that you'll continue. Try not to compare yourselves to those perfect (often airbrushed) celebrity pictures or the amazing weight loss photos on the web. The last thing you need during a diet is to feel inferior.

Set goals...
...but make them realistic. Remember this is not a quick fix - it's about healthy weight loss, so aim to lose a couple of pounds a week, and make a note of how your energy levels or body shape is changing as you go. If you are prone to exercise boredom, try a different workout or fitness class. Variety could help to keep you on the straight and narrow, and you're also more likely to find a regime that suits you best.

Get support
Friends and family may be only too happy to offer usually conflicting advice. You can take it on board of course, but for many, a support group, either online or via a slimming club, can really help to keep that motivation up and let you know you're doing the right thing. Furthermore, a 2012 study at Michigan State University suggested working out with a friend makes us push ourselves harder and get better results, so team up with an exercise buddy to shift those excess pounds quicker.

Remember, it took years of making poor diet and exercise choices to gain the weight - so you can't expect to lose it overnight. Don't give up - keep making healthy eating choices and increase your activity levels, and eventually the weight will come off.

Have you successfully reached your weight loss goal? What advice would you give to others starting out? Leave your comments below...
How to Choose Healthy Foods for Weight Loss