Sand beneath your toes, cocktail (or two) in hand and always room for dessert… ring any bells? The trip may hold wonderful memories (and many, many of us are suffering the post-holiday blues just now) but there’s a good chance that our jeans are feeling that bit tighter, and that the waist that we cultivated so carefully before departure has disappeared.
Grace Fuller has spoken to the experts for their top tips on how to shift those extra pounds…
1. EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
Dr Marilyn Glenville says: “Try to keep your blood sugar levels and energy levels stable by eating something every three hours. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid morning and one mid afternoon, with no longer than three hours between. Try not to eat carbohydrates after 6pm.
“This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As the blood sugar steadies, so will the mood swings,” explains Dr Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com).
2. DETOX YOUR KITCHEN, CAR & DESK
Nutritionist and weight loss expert Lily Soutter suggests that if you find yourself polishing off a whole packet of cookies, it may be time to eliminate them from your living space. “Processed foods can be highly addictive, so why torture yourself by keeping them within arm’s reach?” asks Lily (www.lilysoutternutrition.com).
3. DON’T EAT ON THE RUN
“It gives your body the message that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient. Make a point of sitting down and eating your food as calmly as possible,” advises Marilyn.
4. TAKE UP PILATES
The reason that Pilates is so good at trimming inches off your waist is because one of its key fundamentals, alongside alignment and breathing, is centring.
“In Pilates you learn how to use your deep core muscles to support your spine. These muscles wrap around your waist like a natural built in corset. It’s been called your ‘girdle of strength!’ Every exercise you do in a Pilates session teaches you how to work from your centre, helping to reduce our waistlines,” explains Lynne Robinson, author of Pilates for Weightloss and founder of Body Control Pilates (to find a teacher near you, visit www.bodycontrolpilates.com).
5. SKIP THE FAD DIETS
“Fad diets, especially those that miss out whole food groups, may work temporarily, but are usually too difficult to maintain for more than a couple of weeks,” says Marilyn.
6. HYDRATION IS KEY
“Often when we think we’re hungry we’re actually thirsty.” explains Lily. “Drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes before reaching for a snack.” You may just find you don’t need something to eat, after all.
7. SPEND AN EXTRA HOUR IN BED!
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause us to eat 300-400 more calories the next day. And in order to keep energy levels high, we tend to choose sugary or starchy quick fixes.
“Just one extra hour of sleep each night can increase leptin, the hormone which suppresses appetite,” says Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson, of SuperfoodUK.com – online destination for health & wellbeing.
8. DON’T CUT OUT ALL FAT
For years, ‘low fat’ was the watchword for those watching their weight, but the truth is – of course – more complex than a simple soundbite. Extensive, long-term studies have shown that this way of eating is a very poor choice, not least because many manufactured ‘low fat’ foods are loaded with sugar.
“Fat is an essential part of our diet and should not be avoided. We need to eat the right kind of fats: oily fish, nuts, seeds and seed oils in order to obtain essential omega 3 and 6 fats which are necessary for our health. What we should be avoiding are the processed fats found in junk food and bakery products,” says Marilyn.
9. TAKE A TEASPOON OF CINNAMON A DAY
Cinnamon helps to keep our blood sugar levels balanced, minimising insulin spikes after meals which can lead to hunger and further carbohydrate cravings.
“Try sprinkling cinnamon onto food, or sipping cinnamon tea,” recommends Shona.
10. EAT YOUR CELERY
Nutritional therapistist Cassandra Barns is a big fan of this crunchy vegetable. “Celery is an excellent diuretic, due to its high potassium content, so it can help with water retention,” she says. “Add celery chunks to salad… look for a good recipe for celery soup… or use celery as one of the ingredients in a vegetable juice.”
11. ADD PROTEIN TO EACH MEAL
“Protein slows down the rate the stomach processes food and slows the passage of the carbohydrates with it. As soon as you add a protein – be it animal or vegetable – to a carbohydrate you change it into a slower releasing carbohydrate, which is a Very Good Thing,” Marilyn tells us.
12. DON’T USE FOOD TO CHANGE YOUR MOOD
“Emotional eating never resolves the underlying issue and leads to guilt and shame,” points out Lily, who recommends always having a list of non-food related self-soothing activities to hand for immediate help when chocolate brownies call in a moment of crisis. “By having a relaxing bath, taking a walk or watching your favourite programme, you can lift your mood in a natural and healthy way,” she says.
13. CLEAR THE KITCHEN SPACE
“Clear the kitchen space immediately after cooking. If food isn’t left out, you’ll be much less likely to go back for seconds,” says Lily. And you’ll feel like a domestic goddess, too.
14. SNACK ON A HANDFUL OF ALMONDS A DAY
“Almonds are rich in protein and healthy fats, giving you the energy boost you need whilst balancing blood sugar. This snack is exactly what we need to prevent carbohydrate and sugar cravings,” says Marilyn.
15. SEEK OUT DIGESTIVE SUPPORT
Sauerkraut is the answer. No, really. “Bloating and gas due to poor digestion can make your tummy look bigger than it should be. Try eating fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut and kimchi,” suggests Cassandra. “I’d also recommend taking a probiotic. Try Pro-Ven Adult Probiotic 25 Billion (£13.95, Boots), which contains Lab4, the most comprehensively studied group of friendly bacteria of any product in the UK. This provides real benefits in supporting digestive and immune health.”