Registered nutritional therapist Kate Delmar-Morgan, head of clinics at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, explains why nutrition and lifestyle plans should be tailored to you and reveals her top five nutrition and lifestyle tips to help you lose weight healthily…

THE ‘EAT LESS, MOVE more’ mantra is entrenched in weight loss culture but it isn’t always that simple. Adopting a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellbeing fails to take into account your unique biochemistry, lifestyle, emotions, or goals – so can be doomed to fail.

People who struggle with their weight can have different underlying issues and will, therefore, require nutrition and lifestyle guidance tailored specifically to their needs.

A person trying to lose weight may simply need some sound dietary advice and the tools to implement changes – or they may have an underlying hormonal, gastrointestinal, metabolic or nutritional imbalance that’s hindering progress.

Shifting focus away from the bathroom scales towards optimum nutrition promotes long-term health benefits – weight loss becomes a secondary bonus.

Make long-term changes that work for you

I work with weight loss clients to develop a personalised plan that’s specific and targeted. The aim is to ensure your body is receiving the nutrients it needs to work efficiently. When that happens, body weight starts to regulate properly.

Within a consultation, I take a full medical, lifestyle and dietary history in order to tailor recommendations. The dietary plan takes into account what you are already doing, and what other health issues may need addressing.

While generic diets may work for a time, they are often not sustainable, especially if focused solely on reducing food intake and calories. However, there are things you can do to optimise your food intake, starting with the following…

5 ways to lose weight healthily

1. Exercise portion control

Meals should leave you pleasantly full, not stuffed. Many have lost sight of what constitutes a standard portion – compared to previous generations, people’s plates are often bigger and fuller. It’s important to reconnect with your body’s own natural hunger signals.

Aim to serve a portion of protein that is about the size of your palm, and a portion of complex carbs (wholewheat pasta, brown rice, potato) the size of a tennis ball; leafy vegetables should take up half the plate.

A good tip is to use smaller plates, so you naturally eat smaller portions. Aim for quality not quantity, too. And it’s helpful to pack leftovers away so you don’t go back for seconds, and avoid eating in front of the TV.

2. Focus on blood sugar balance to lose weight healthily

Insulin is the hormone that keeps blood sugar (glucose) levels within a tight range, and it is responsible for driving the storage of fat when too much sugar is consumed. Eating too many refined carbohydrates in the form of white bread, pasta, pizza, cakes and biscuits can lead to impaired blood sugar control and weight gain.

Replace these with complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice and vegetables. Watch out for hidden sugar in foods marketed as ‘healthy’, such as yoghurts, cereal bars or even soups. Sugar comes in many guises, so check the labels for ingredients such as dextrose, corn sugar, maltose, fructose and molasses.

To support blood sugar balance and satiety, include a source of protein with each meal, ie red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses.

Despite having a bad reputation in some weight loss circles, some fats are essential to good health and should be included in the form of oily fish, avocados, olives, nuts, olive oil and coconut oil.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Poor sleep often equates to poor food choices. It is not uncommon to reach for caffeinated, sugar-laden, nutrient-poor products when sleep deprived, but they can create a perpetual cycle of poor sleep and quick fixes.

Getting good quality sleep can motivate you to make healthier choices – both in terms of food and exercise or movement. Practising good sleep hygiene means implementing a consistent bedtime routine and keeping your bedroom environment calm, quiet, comfortable and free from disruption.

Turn off electronic devices and avoid anything that may induce stress just before bed. Similar to sleep deprivation, chronic stress can also lead to weight gain by promoting poor eating habits and impacting hormone and blood sugar balance. Thus, stress management should also be considered if needed.

Related: Why stress prevents weight loss – and how to beat it

4. Avoid snacks between meals to lose weight healthily

Frequent snacking can compromise the quality of main meals, so try to avoid it. Many snacks are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats, and won’t help support blood sugar regulation. Don’t forget your drinks too, replacing syrup-laden lattes with water or herbal teas to stay hydrated.

Eating regular, nutrient dense main meals means you shouldn’t go hungry but, if you do, opt for a small snack that contains protein, such as a few nuts, natural yoghurt, or veggie sticks with houmous.

It is also worth considering whether you’re confusing thirst with hunger – try a large glass of water before eating anything to see whether that helps.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Weight loss should not be about deprivation – and if it is, it’s not sustainable. Forget about calorie counting and focus on nutrients instead; aim to eat a wide variety of colourful vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices that provide health supporting phytochemicals. Set realistic goals that focus on health and wellbeing, and don’t forget to nurture your emotional needs. Remember, this is about long-term benefits as opposed to short-term gains. Don’t forget to move your body, too – physical activity supports mental and physical wellbeing, and can help keep you motivated. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself. There are many reasons why people struggle to lose weight, and they are rarely to do with poor willpower. If you do hit a proverbial wall, you might want to consult a nutritional therapist. Together, you can come up with a personalised plan that is tailored to your needs.

About The Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION)

The Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) is a leading, independent education provider and registered charity based in Richmond, London. In addition to a range of courses for healthcare professionals and the public, ION delivers fully accredited courses, validated and awarded by the University of Portsmouth.

Founded in 1984, ION’s mission is to “educate and enthuse, instilling optimum nutrition as the foundation of health for all”, with a food-first approach designed to empower people to support their health and wellbeing through nutrition.

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