Want to unlock the secret to long-term weight loss? Louise Pyne discovers exactly what’s standing in the way of your slimming goals
‘No matter how much you cut back on calories, you won’t lose weight unless you get your liver health on track’
‘We often consider sleep more of a luxury than a necessity, but getting adequate time in the hay is vital for keeping your figure in check’
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to successful weight loss. We all have our own unique individual make-up, which means we’re prone to carrying pounds in different areas of our bodies. ‘The causes of obesity are complex and multifaceted. Genetics certainly play a role, but the extent of this impact over other causes such as diet and lifestyle choices is difficult to assess,’ says Sophie Enever, nutritionist at Upbeat. Here, we discover the most important pieces of the beat-the-bulge puzzle.
Discover your fat type
1. Slim fat
What’s happening: Being slim on the outside doesn’t always equate to good health. Research by Imperial College London estimates that up to 40 per cent of Brits are carrying dangerous levels of internal fat. These fatty deposits, known as visceral fat, accumulate around organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. ‘Visceral fat is linked to an increased risk of many health complications, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke,’ says Sophie. Scarily, you can be a slim size 8 but carry excess levels of this disease-causing fat.
What to do: Some of us are genetically more susceptible to visceral fat, but science shows that living a healthy lifestyle can actually manipulate the way the body stores the podge. Reduce levels of refined sugar (white bread, pasta and sweet treats) and increase a variety of veg, lean protein and good fats in your daily diet for a health boost.
2. Toxic fat
What’s happening: If you can’t seem to shift the flab around your middle, you may have a sluggish liver. This organ is the golden ticket to good health. It filters toxins like alcohol, medication and environmental nasties from your body, and keeps your digestive system working properly by producing bile to break down and absorb fat. The liver also aids absorption of certain vitamins and minerals and also regulates hormones like oestrogen and insulin. ‘Considering it has such a big role, it makes sense to protect the liver to keep it functioning effectively,’ says Sophie. When this multitasking organ becomes overworked, toxic by-products can build up, especially around the abdominal area, and no matter how much you cut back on calories, you won’t lose weight unless you get your liver health back on track.
What to do: Start your day with a cup of hot water and lemon to kick-start your liver first thing and incorporate cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower into meals. These contain special sulphur compounds that help to effectively eliminate toxins from your body. Cut back on alcohol, and avoid foods that contain any additives, such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or artificial colours.
3. Stressed fat
What’s happening: Stress increases cravings, reduces digestive function and lowers the metabolic rate. Research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry demonstrated that women who were stressed burned 104 less calories after a high-fat meal than those who were more chilled out. Chronic stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol, which makes it harder to lose weight. This is because cortisol increases appetite, hence the reason many of us reach for sweet treats when we’re stressed out.
What to do: Overhaul your diet, cutting out processed foods and increasing levels of soothing foods. Kiwis and blueberries are high in vitamin C, which is depleted through stress, while omega 3-rich fish like sardines and salmon help to keep cortisol levels balanced, so it’s worth eating more of these. Finally, meditation, even if it’s for just a few minutes a day, can be a great way to squash stress.
4. Sleepy fat
What’s happening: These days we tend to consider sleep more of a luxury rather than a necessity, but getting adequate time in the hay is actually vital for keeping your figure in check. In 2013, experts at the University of Colorado Boulder found that being sleep deprived could lead to weight gain of up to two pounds in under a week. This is because the less people slept, the more they binged on unhealthy snacks. Another study published in the Journal Of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that insufficient rest increased levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and lowered levels of the satiating hormone leptin. Sleep deprivation was also shown to decrease insulin sensitivity, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
What to do: Forget counting sheep and sort out your bedtime routine if you want to see the scales moving in the right direction. Try to go to bed around the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning in order to regulate your body clock. ‘Avoid caffeine close to your bedtime to make sure your body is not too alert,’ advises Sophie. ‘Recent evidence also suggests that although a nightcap can help us drop off more quickly, it actually reduces the amount of time spent in REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep), which may lead to a less restful night’s sleep,’ she adds.
5. Fit but fat
What’s happening: Healthy diet? Check. Regular exercise? Check. If you can’t shed the excess pounds no matter how hard you seem to try, you might need to kick your workouts up a notch. ‘Many people believe that cardio exercise is the best way to burn calories, but research shows that although steady-state cardio might help improve your overall fitness, it isn’t actually that effective in changing your body shape for the better. Weight training, on the other hand, can be a more effective workout than traditional cardio activity, and the heavier you lift, the more impact this will have on fat loss,’ says Amy Betts, fitness and nutrition expert at The Training Room.
What to do: Vary your routine in order to get the best results. Take a spinning class or try interval training on the treadmill along with a couple of weights sessions twice a week. ‘If you’re working towards any workout goal it’s a good idea to consult a PT or trainer at your gym, even if this is just a check-in every few weeks. A personal trainer can make sure you’re on the right track and modify your routine when needed to boost results,’ adds Amy.
5 top slimming buys
Up the weight loss ante with our super-buys:
1. Elemis Contouring Silhouette Body Enhancement Capsules
This algae-based supplement helps to melt away the excess pounds by revving up your body’s fat-burning capacity.
2. Vitabiotics Ultra Omega-3
Hit a weight loss wall? This premium-quality fish oil is a great source of EPA and DHA essential fatty acids, which help to regulate cortisol levels.
3. Waitrose LOVE Life Camomile, Limeflower & Lavender Infusion
Can’t seem to get into a proper slumber routine? Sleep yourself slim with this super-relaxing herbal infusion.
4. Upbeat High Protein Dairy Drink
Rev up weight loss with this protein-packed smoothie, which blends together 20g whey protein with British milk and fruit. It’s the perfect workout buddy!
5. Solaray Bloat-X
This amazing blend of herbs, digestive enzymes and probiotics helps to flatten your tum and keep your digestive system healthy.
3 figure-fabulous tips
Nutritionist Sophie Enever shares her tricks to keep you looking your best:
1. Everything in moderation
This is so cliché, but it’s a saying that will stick around for the long run. Depriving your body of something you enjoy will only make you want it more. Don’t say no, but be sensible with how often you have that treat.
2. Choose foods wisely
Think of their nutritional value. Calories are important, but nutrients are equally important. Food that’s rich in protein can help you feel satisfied for longer, so make sure you have these spread throughout the day, but especially in the morning.
3. Exercise more
Having healthy muscles – through regular exercise and optimal protein intake – can help raise your metabolic rate, as it is in our muscles where we burn a lot of our energy.
3 diet mistakes
Make sure you don’t fall into the weight-gain trap with these essential tips
1. Skipping breakfast
Going without breakfast will send your body into starvation mode, which makes it hold onto fat rather than burn it off. So boost your metabolism first thing with a healthy protein-rich meal like scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast.
2. Guessing portion sizes
Portion control will help you reach your weight-loss goals faster. So, instead of guessing measurements, use measuring cups and spoons when cooking. Also, make sure the majority of your meals are made up of veggies with a sizeable helping of protein and a small helping of complex carbs and good fats.
3. Mindless eating
Slotting in mealtimes with TV catch-up can really hurt your weight-loss aims. Instead, schedule in time for meals without any distractions so you can really focus on every bite.