The Slim Down

Lose up to a stone in a month without crash dieting

Want to look great for summer but can't bear the thought of another diet?  Take a look at Rachael Anne Hill's no-nonsense, top tips for fast, healthy, weight loss.

Take up juggling
No, not the ball throwing variety - I'm talking food juggling instead. Juggling the ingredients of your favourite meals by reducing the carbohydrate content slightly and increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables can be a highly effective way of cutting calories and controlling blood sugars whilst doubling your nutrient intake into the bargain.

For example, a spaghetti bolognaise made in the usual way of frying mince and onions, adding a tomato based sauce and serving on top of a plate of spaghetti amounts to approximately 600 calories.

If however, you juggle the ingredients by using 50% less meat and spaghetti and add in more vegetables in the form of peas, sweet corn, tinned tomatoes, mushrooms and grated carrot (which dissolve within the cooking process to give the tomato sauce a fabulous, smooth, rich, velvety texture) you'll not only create a far tastier, healthier, more filling meal, you'll halve the calories to approximately 300 per serving too.

Apply this process to all your favourite meals and watch your waistline whittle away.

[See also: Four workouts to target body trouble spots]

Zero calorie your drinks
The calories within drinks really can stack up so just for this month ditch the lattes, sodas, juices, wine and beers for water, herbal or green teas instead.  You'll not only save over 500 calories a day you'll find you become far more hydrated too which is a real bonus as research shows even mild levels of dehydration can cause the brain to confuse thirst with hunger and substantially increase the likelihood of over eating.

Curb your carbs
Carbohydrate based foods are essential for energy but not all carbs are equal.  Refined carbohydrates such as cakes, biscuits, most breads, pastas and cereals are often lacking in nutrients and can send blood sugars rocketing resulting in increased appetite, cravings and lethargy so they are best avoided wherever possible. Instead, focus on more unrefined, lower GI alternatives but still keep servings sizes small.

For example, swap white breads for rye or stone ground, whole meal varieties.  Switch from plain pasta to whole meal, white rice to brown rice and add in more beans, pulses and oats to your meals and snacks. Bulk out your meals and snacks with extra fruit or vegetables wherever possible too as these also contain carbohydrate but digest at a slower rate helping to prevent blood sugars from spiking.

[Useful: Can you spot the healthier option?]

Move!
Exercise is not only key to getting the weight off, studies show it also greatly increases the chances of it staying off.  Aerobic activities such as walking, running, dancing, cycling, skipping, skating and swimming all increase your metabolic rate and burn calories.  Aim to do at least 30 minutes a day and always take five minutes before and after exercising to warm up and cool down thoroughly.  Work at a level where you are breathing heavily but could still hold a conversation if required.

If you are a confident exerciser try adding in short 30 to 60 second bursts of higher intensity exercise every 4 to 5 minutes. For example, when jogging, walking, cycling or swimming increase your pace for 30 to 60 seconds or, if exercising on a cardio vascular machine, increase the speed or the resistance you are working at. This is called interval training and can help to burn up to 30% more calories per session.

Impose a calorie curfew

Skipping breakfast and eating little or no lunch can leave you feeling tired and lethargic throughout the day. Then, when dinner rolls around you are far more likely to overeat.  Instead, have a good sized breakfast, followed by a substantial lunch and a light evening meal.  If, you feel the need, add in a small mid morning and mid afternoon snack such as a piece of fruit, a low fat yogurt or a small handful of mixed nuts and seeds or dried fruits.

Down size your dinner service
To avoid feeling hungry or deprived try eating off a smaller plate. Researchers at Cornell University found it really does work! They took a group of 85 nutrition experts—a population with extensive education about healthy eating habits and gave them either a 34 oz. or 17 oz. bowl.

They were then invited to serve themselves from a selection of different ice-creams.   Interestingly, the nutrition experts who had been given larger bowls served themselves 31% more ice cream resulting in an average calorie intake of 225 calories compared to the 144 calories eaten by those with smaller bowls. This only goes to show that, because we automatically eat approximately 92% of the foods we put on our plate, switching to a smaller one and ordering child or starter sized portions in restaurants really is a highly effective way of tricking ourselves into eating less without feeling deprived.

Get fussy with fats
Avoid all high fat foods such as cream, chocolate, take outs, crisps, chips, puddings, cakes, biscuits and cheese.  However, don't try to cut out fat altogether as the right sorts of fats such as those found in oily fish, small amounts of olive, sunflower or flaxseed oil, avocados, nuts and seeds and reduced fat dairy contain essential fatty acids — vital for a strong immune system and all round good health.  Studies show that they can also help to curb appetite and prevent over eating.

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