The UK's Obesity Crisis: 13 Lifestyle Changes To Get Your Weight Under Control
A recent health report revealed the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe. If you're constantly struggling to keep the pounds off, or even feeling a little heavy still post-Christmas, these 13 lifestyle changes will help you get on track...
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe. Its annual Health at a Glance report, published in late 2017, shows that 26.9% of the UK population had a body mass index of 30 and above, the official definition of obesity, in 2015. The cause of the rapid rise in obesity levels has unsurprisingly been blamed on our ‘modern lifestyles’, with watching TV, social media, desk-bound jobs and high-calorie food all taking their toll on the nation's health.
Here, some of the UK's top nutritionists and other experts share their top lifestyle tips for slimming down and staying healthy.
1. Manage your emotions
“Emotional or ‘comfort’ eating can be a key cause of weight gain. Because it doesn’t depend on hunger, comfort eating can often be uncontrolled – you don’t necessarily stop when you’re full. What’s more, the most ‘comforting’ foods tend to be sugary foods and carbohydrates, which are easy to overeat and can quickly lead to weight gain when consumed in excess,” explains Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor, Cassandra Barns.
“Learning to manage your emotions in a different way can help stop emotional eating and help you lose weight if you need to do so. Exercise can be a great way to channel and relieve stress – you may do well with relaxing exercise such as yoga, or something more strenuous to ‘punch it out’ such as kickboxing. Journaling is another popular way to express yourself and let emotions come out,” adds Cassandra.
2. Balance your metabolism
Do you constantly struggle to maintain a healthy weight? Find what works for your body by delving deeper into your DNA. Nutritionist and Weight Loss Coach, Pippa Campbell, runs a three-month Metabolic Balance programme that is 100% personalised and actively supports a person’s own biochemistry and nutritional needs (£890, pippacampbellhealth.com). To begin, a blood sample is taken from the client, which is then analysed by medical experts, so that a customised and unique plan can be prepared. The programme aims to strengthen and balance your entire hormonal system, so that you are able to naturally manage weight loss specific to your body.
“Metabolic Balance is a long-term approach to feeling and looking in peak health and is backed by 20 years of research by physicians and nutritionists, that has helped over 600,000 clients in 28 countries worldwide. The plan entails eating three meals a day of normal, wholesome foods,” explains Pippa.
3. Exercise with a buddy
Even just a small amount of exercise, such as a simple walk, can make a big difference to your weight. Cassandra Barns explains, “Exercising is an appetite suppressant. It stimulates the release of feel-good hormones – the same ones that are released by sweet or ‘junk’ foods, stopping the need for the food you are craving.”
Cassandra suggests to find a work out buddy or a fitness class that you love, so that exercising isn’t thought of like a chore. “Exercising on your own, whether it’s working out in the gym or going for a run, can be a joyless experience. But exercising with others in a class can be motivating and much more fun, especially if there’s great music too. When you try a class, give it two or three chances before you decide whether you want to continue or move on to something else: sometimes it takes a few weeks to start to learn the moves, feel comfortable and really get to love it. If the gym is more your thing, try and find a buddy to work out with so you can support and motivate each other.”
4. Snack on the right foods
If you feel like you are constantly grazing through-out the day, then you could be adding unnecessary calories to your diet. “Snacking is important as it maintains my metabolic rate and staves off awful hunger pangs, which can sometimes lead you into temptation. The key is to snack often, but ensure that you are eating healthy snacks in small portions. Midmorning I have a small handful of nuts which are a rich source of protein, helping me to stay fuller for longer. Mid-afternoon I like have an oat biscuit or two with a generous topping of avocado, cream cheese or hummus,” says Alix Woods, nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma.
5. Keep your body moving
Sitting eight hours at a desk without breaks means you’re losing out on physical activity that can help you burn calories; it also decreases activity of the fat-burning enzyme lipoprotein lipase. You should try to keep your body moving wherever possible; walking around the office, taking the stairs and getting off the tube a stop earlier to walk the rest of the way. “Set a reminder to make sure you have a brief walk around the office to get yourself moving and always opt to take the stairs,” says Carnation Footcare Podiatrist, Dave Wain.
6. Read the labels
Do you choose the ‘gluten free,’ ‘sugar free’ or ‘low fat,’ option in the hope that it can help shift those stubborn pounds? Unfortunately, that's exactly what could be increasing our fat around the middle. “If a food or drink is described as ‘low sugar’, ‘slim line’ or ‘diet’, it will usually contain an artificial sweetener. These sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression, and it has been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite,” explains leading Nutritionist, Dr Marilyn Glenville, (marilynglenville.com), author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
7. Plan ahead
“Plan your meals a few days or a week in advance. By already knowing what you're going to eat, you eliminate the factor of spontaneity and uncertainty. If you don't have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings,” explains Pippa.
8. Eat to feel full, not to clear your plate
“Pay attention to how your stomach is feeling and eat slowly, don’t get sucked into the pressure of clearing every scrap of food on your plate. Eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed,” advises Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
9. Switch the morning coffee
We’re not going to tell you to ditch the caffeine all-together, but making the switch from your morning latte to a cup of hot water and lemon can help to activate your digestive system for the day ahead. Alix explains, “I switch to a healthier morning habit of having a mug of warm water and lemon. Lemons are alkalising and water is detoxifying, which is essential to hydrate all our cells. The lemons mixed with the warm temperature of the water act as a digestive aid and helps the body to eliminate toxins.”
10. Get more sleep
“Interrupted or impaired sleep can cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight. What we eat and don’t eat plays a very important role on sleep, for example, eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed as this can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production. In addition, avoid before-bed snacks, particularly starchy carbs and sugars as these will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low, you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep,” explains Pippa.
11. Boost your protein intake
If your diet is lacking in protein then you may be more inclined to go back for seconds. “Including protein in your meal helps to slow down digestion, leaving you feeling more satisfied and fuller for longer. In turn, this can help with weight loss as you’re less likely to have as many calories. To ensure you’re getting your daily dose of protein, try a plant-based protein powder. They are easy to digest and can be kept low-calorie. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savory foods such as stews and soups. I’d recommend Natures Plus Almond Protein Powder (£40.50, naturesplus.co.uk),” suggests Cassandra.
12. Lower your stress levels
Do you struggle to control your stress levels? This can have an impact on your waistline. “After a stressful event, cortisol levels in the blood often remain high for a while, effectively increasing your appetite because your body thinks you should refuel after all this fighting or fleeing. This means people under constant stress quite often feel constantly hungry. Worse, their body urges them to stock up on the foods it thinks will be most useful after all that ‘activity’ – carbohydrates (like sugar) and fats,” says Marilyn.
Siberian Ginseng can be very helpful in reducing stress levels. This herb is said to help increase the body’s resistance to stress and improve your energy levels. Nutritionist Cassandra Barns recommends Siberian Ginseng by Quest Nutra Pharma (£7.69, qnutrapharma.com) to help support your body’s stress response and help keep your body feeling energised.
13. 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,” says Marilyn.