Drink Plenty of Water
Water is crucial for life. Water consumption increases energy expenditure (increased rates of lipolysis) and reduces total energy intake, thus helping weight management and loss (1).
Epidemiologic and clinical studies show that water drinkers have a significantly lower energy intake than non-water drinkers. A recent systematic review showed that water consumption intervention over 12 weeks, including increased water intake, replacement of caloric beverages with water and pre-meal water load, resulted in a 5.15% weight reduction. Replacing calorie beverage consumption with water has been reported as the most effective way (2).
Eat High-Fibre Foods
Fibre intake leads to improved glycaemic control and decreased appetite. Therefore, foods high in fibre help you feel fuller for longer and thus help weight management (3,5).
According to government guidelines, daily fibre intake for adults should be 30g per day. Fibre consumption as part of a healthy balanced diet can help digestion and reduce the risk of bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease (4).
Fibre is only found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta (5).
Eat Plenty of Protein
Proteins are the ‘building blocks’ of life as they help the body repair and grow.
A number of studies have investigated the effect of dietary protein consumption on appetite and hormones that regulate appetite. Since appetite is one of the determinants of energy intake, increased dietary protein intake is thought to be beneficial for body weight management. There is a growing body of evidence showing that diets higher in protein also increase energy expenditure due to the increased thermic effect of dietary protein (7).
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2021 showed that protein-rich diets, ranging from 18-59% of daily energy intake, had a beneficial effect on body weight management in overweight and obese individuals (6). Another systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2020 reported that protein consumption suppresses appetite and increases satiety. In addition, protein intake reduces ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, and increases GLP-1 concentrations, which improves glycaemic control and stimulates satiety (7).
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Research suggests that alcohol consumption may represent a significant factor in weight management. Alcohol has been found to account for approximately 10% of the total energy intake of adult drinkers in the UK (8).
Several studies have found that the size and strength of a drink per drinking occasion are positively correlated with BMI, while the frequency of drinking is negatively correlated, suggesting that frequent light drinking might offer a protective effect. Besides, it has been reported that only excessive or heavy drinking is correlated with increased measures of adiposity (10).
According to NHS guidelines, men and women are advised to not regularly drink more than 14 units a week to avoid weight gain. Below are examples showing the amount and strength of alcohols, their units, calories and estimated food equivalents (9).
- Standard 175ml glass of 12% wine = 2 unit = 133kcal = 3 Jaffa Cake biscuits
- Pint of 5% strength beer = 2 unit = 239kcal = 1 standard size Mars Bar
- Double measure (50ml) of 40% gin = 92 unit = 5kcal = 1 standard size Milky Bar
Get More Active
There is strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you live a healthier and happier life (11).
Based on health promotion and weight gain prevention goals, current recommendations for amounts of physical activity for adults are at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking, riding a bike, dancing) per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (running, swimming, aerobics) per week, spread evenly over 4 to 5 days per week, or every day (12,13).
People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Research also shows that physical activity reduces stress levels, depression, risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and improves self-esteem, mood, sleep quality.
Do not Ban Foods
Banning foods that are considered unhealthy and high in calories will make you crave those foods even more. There is no point in completely avoiding any food that is consumed occasionally and not excessive (5).
One study reported that a less strict diet on weekends compared to weekdays was associated with long-term weight management (14). Another study reported a strong relationship between flexible dieting and the absence of overeating, lower body mass and lower levels of depression and anxiety. Conversely, strict dieting was associated with overeating and weight gain (15).
Therefore, eating everything in moderation will help you stick to your diet in the long run and therefore better control your weight.
Only some lifestyle changes can greatly help you manage your weight. Drinking plenty of water, consuming high-fibre and high-protein foods, reducing alcohol intake, being more physically active and avoiding strict diets will help you stick to a healthy and balanced diet for life, manage your weight more comfortably and be healthier and happier.
- Muckelbauer, R., Sarganas, G., Grüneis, A. and Müller-Nordhorn, J. (2013). Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(2), pp.282–299. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.055061
- Jiménez Cruz, A., Bracamontes-Castelo, G. and Bacardí-Gascón, M. (2019). Effect of water consumption on weight loss: a systematic review. Nutrición Hospitalaria. Available at: https://doi.org/10.20960/nh.02746
- Jovanovski, E., Mazhar, N., Komishon, A., Khayyat, R., Li, D., Blanco Mejia, S., Khan, T., Jenkins, A.L., Smircic-Duvnjak, L., Sievenpiper, J.L. and Vuksan, V. (2020). Effect of viscous fiber supplementation on obesity indicators in individuals consuming calorie-restricted diets: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Nutrition. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02224-1
- NHS (2022). How to get more fibre into your diet. uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/digestive-health/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/
- NHS (2021). 12 tips to help you lose weight.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/12-tips-to-help-you-lose-weight/
- Hansen, T.T., Astrup, A. and Sjödin, A. (2021). Are Dietary Proteins the Key to Successful Body Weight Management? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Studies Assessing Body Weight Outcomes after Interventions with Increased Dietary Protein. Nutrients, 13(9), p.3193. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093193
- Kohanmoo, A., Faghih, S. and Akhlaghi, M. (2020). Effect of short- and long-term protein consumption on appetite and appetite-regulating gastrointestinal hormones, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Physiology & Behavior, 226, p.113123. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113123
- Shelton, N.J. and Knott, C.S. (2014). Association Between Alcohol Calorie Intake and Overweight and Obesity in English Adults. American Journal of Public Health, 104(4), pp.629–631. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2013.301643
- NHS (2022). Calories in alcohol. nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-advice/calories-in-alcohol/
- Traversy, G. and Chaput, J.-P. (2018). Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update. Current Obesity Reports, 4(1), pp.122–130. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-014-0129-4
- NHS (2021). Benefits of Exercise.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/
- NHS (2021). Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults Aged 19 to 64. nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults-aged-19-to-64/
- Swift, D.L., Johannsen, N.M., Lavie, C.J., Earnest, C.P. and Church, T.S. (2014). The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 56(4), pp.441–447. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012
- Jorge, R., Santos, I., Teixeira, V.H. and Teixeira, P.J. (2019). Does diet strictness level during weekends and holiday periods influence 1-year follow-up weight loss maintenance? Evidence from the Portuguese Weight Control Registry. Nutrition Journal, 18(1), pp.3. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-019-0430-x
- SMITH, C.F., WILLIAMSON, D.A., BRAY, G.A. and RYAN, D.H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid Dieting Strategies: Relationship with Adverse Behavioural Outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), pp.295–305. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.1998.0204
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium; Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al., editors. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 3, Overview of Vitamin D. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56061/
- Lambert R (2021) The Science of Nutrition(1st edition). Dorling Kindersley Ltd.
- Malabanan AO, Holick MF. Vitamin D and bone health in postmenopausal women. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Mar;12(2):151-6. doi: 10.1089/154099903321576547
- Wagner, C. L., Taylor, S. N., Johnson, D. D., & Hollis, B. W. (2012). The role of vitamin D in pregnancy and lactation: emerging concepts. Women’s health (London, England), 8(3), 323–340. https://doi.org/10.2217/whe.12.17
- Garland, C. F., Garland, F. C., Gorham, E. D., Lipkin, M., Newmark, H., Mohr, S. B., & Holick, M. F. (2006). The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. American journal of public health, 96(2), 252–261. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2004.045260
- Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 59(6), 881–886. https://doi.org/10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755
Contribution by Associate Nutritionist, Beyda Beteri BSc ANutr