The media draws almost constant attention to the increasing problem of being overweight and obesity, linking it to the increased costs to peoples’ health as well as the pocket of the NHS. The reason for this, frankly, is that being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, puts added strain on the joints, and can have a negative effect on psychological well-being.

So, are there any simple rules you can follow for weight management?

The NHS suggests these simple tips[1]:

Don’t miss breakfast:

Skipping your morning meal means you may end up snacking more, as well as losing willpower and your ability to concentrate, as a result of low blood sugar.

Eat regular meals throughout the day: 

Try to include five portions of fruit/veg a day in your diet (this may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers and stroke).

Make food swaps:

Swap unhealthy for healthy; for example, a tangerine instead of a biscuit. This also applies to the food you buy: try and keep less junk food and more healthy (but appealing) snacks like fruit, nuts (unsalted), rice cakes, unsweetened/unsalted popcorn.

Starchy foods should make up about one third of daily intake:

Wholegrain options are the best; brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, baked potatoes eaten with the skin.

As well as being filling and a great source of energy, the fibre they provide can reduce the risk of some cancers and improve digestive health. They also provide important nutrients like iron, folate and B vitamins.

Drink lots of water:

Signs of thirst and hunger can often be confused so if you feel hungry, have a drink first then wait to see if the feeling subsides. Dehydration can also cause confusion and fatigue. So have a drink before you have a biscuit!

Read food labels: 

The front of pack labels are the quickest way to assess whether a food is healthy or not. Red, amber and green colours indicate whether foods contain high, medium or low amounts of saturated fat, sugar, salt. In short: the healthier foods have more green on the label, then amber, with red having the amount of that nutrient that should be eaten less frequently and in smaller quantities.

Use smaller plates and eat slowly: 

Much of the way we eat is psychological; serving smaller portions may lead to eating less. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes to feel full, so stop eating before that.

Keep active:

Exercise will help lose weight, maintain weight loss as well as other health benefits like stronger muscles, bones and joints. It is also good for the heart. It’s not always necessary to go to the gym: try and walk more, take the stairs instead of the lift, and look out for exercise opportunities offered by the local council, such as ParkLives Southend.

Sometimes boredom and hunger can be confused. If you feel yourself craving food, try and distract yourself; go for a walk or do something else non-food related.

Cut down on alcohol:

Alcohol contains empty calories and can really contribute to weight gain. Remember, a pint of lager can contain as many calories as a slice of pizza and a large glass of wine can be the equivalent of an ice-cream. Alcopops are particularly high in sugar!

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/weight-loss-guide/Pages/successful-diet-tips.aspx 

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