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Christmas Weight Loss Tips

Dietitian Juliette Kellow kicks off with a series of top hints and tips to get you healthier and slimmer for the Christmas party season.

Christmas Challenge Weight Loss Tips: Week 2

Christmas Challenge 2015 is now open, the Little Black Dress Challenge and the Little Black DJ challenge - take your pick!

No doubt you're already seeing results - by now you've probably lost a pound or two - and are well on your way in week 2. But what if you're finding it harder than you expected and hunger is frequently getting the better of you?

This week, I've put together some top tips to help beat those hunger pangs.

1. Don't be scared of hunger

After months or years of constantly overindulging and never really feeling hungry, it's easy to forget what that gnawing, empty sensation in our stomach feels like. It's no wonder then that when we initially change our eating habits, hunger pangs make us feel uneasy and uncomfortable - and leave us reaching for the biscuit tin! While many diets claim you'll never feel hungry, this is often an unrealistic promise.

Experiencing hunger, especially when you first start a new way of eating, is quite normal.

The key is to learn to recognise the sensation, not be scared by it, and then deal with it appropriately. Firstly, rather than looking at hunger in a negative way, think positively. Doesn't it actually feel nice to be hungry and to really look forward to a meal or snack? Secondly, before eating, you may find it helpful to identify how hungry you really are: rank your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is fully satisfied and 10 is starving. Only reach for a snack when your hunger ranks at seven or above.

2. Breakfast like a King (and don't skip meals)

Okay, you've heard it a hundred times before, but skipping breakfast (or any other meal) will give you hunger pangs that quickly leave you reaching for chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks to boost flagging energy levels!

Studies at the University of Leeds found that eating earlier in the day helps to prevent people from getting hungry, losing control and overeating in the evening. But what if you never feel hungry in the morning? Chances are, if you can last until mid morning or lunchtime before eating, you're having too much to eat in the evening - I guarantee if you have a smaller dinner, earlier in the evening, you'll wake up with a ravenous appetite! Bottom line: by spreading meals evenly throughout the day - and always eating breakfast - you'll feel satisfied for longer and be less likely to give in to snack attacks.

3. Fill up on fibre

When it comes to kicking hunger, swap all things white for all things brown. This means ditching bagels, white spaghetti, cornflakes and white rice and instead opting for wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain cereals and brown rice.

There are several reasons why high-fibre foods help to combat hunger. Firstly, foods containing a lot of fibre generally take longer to chew. As well as helping you to feel more satisfied, this automatically slows down the speed at which you eat, giving your brain time to register feelings of fullness so that you're less like to overeat.

Secondly, fibre acts like a sponge and absorbs and holds on to water. This means fibre-rich foods swell up in your stomach, helping to fill you up. But best of all, because fibre is harder to digest, it stays in your stomach for longer keeping you feeling fuller for longer, so you're less likely to want to snack between meals.

The following foods are all good sources of fibre:

  • Wholemeal, granary and softgrain varieties of bread
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals, eg. Weetabix, branflakes, unsweetened muesli, Shreddies and porridge oats
  • Wholemeal pasta and brown rice
  • Beans, lentils and peas
  • Fresh and dried fruits - particularly if the skins are eaten
  • Vegetables - particularly if the skins are eaten
  • Nuts and seeds

4. Go for low GI foods

Foods with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) slowly release sugar into the blood, providing you with a steady supply of energy. This leaves you feeling satisfied for longer so that you're less likely to snack. In contrast, foods with a high GI cause a rapid - but short-lived - rise in blood sugar, leaving you lacking in energy and feeling hungry within a short time, so that you end up reaching for a snack. Bottom line: eating foods with a low GI prevents swings in blood sugar, helping you to have better control over your appetite because you feel fuller for longer.

Good low GI choices include most fruit and veg, wholewheat pasta, porridge, wholegrain cereals, lentils, beans, nuts, brown and basmati rice and wholemeal bread.

5. Pick at some protein

Eating small amounts of lean meat, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs may help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Research shows that protein-rich foods help to improve satiety - the feeling of fullness you get at end of a meal - and the more satiated you feel after eating, the less likely you'll be to feel hungry between meals. More research is needed to prove this conclusively. Nevertheless, chances are you'll feel fuller for longer if you swap a couple of biscuits mid afternoon for a skinless chicken breast, tuna (canned in water) or lean ham with salad.

6. Go to work on an egg

According to recent research from the Rochester Centre for Obesity in America, eating eggs for breakfast can help to prevent hunger sufficiently so that calorie intakes are reduced by more than 400 calories throughout the rest of the day!

In the study, 30 overweight or obese women ate either an egg-based breakfast or a bagel-based breakfast, containing the same amount of calories and almost identical levels of protein. The researchers recorded the women's eating habits and found that just before lunch, the women who had eaten eggs for breakfast felt less hungry and ate a smaller lunch as a result. Better still, over the next 36 hours the group eating the egg-containing breakfast consumed, on average, 417 calories less than the bagel-eating group.

It seems that eating eggs for breakfast makes you feel fuller for longer so that you eat less at your next few meals. Combine them with wholemeal toast and a glass of vitamin-C rich unsweetened orange juice, which will help the body make the best use of the iron in the eggs.

7. Eat slowly

The brain requires around 20 minutes to receive the signal you are full, so no matter how much you eat during this time, your satiety signal won't come any sooner. That's why it's a good idea to eat slowly.

Having a low-fat starter is a great idea if you're trying to lose weight as it takes time to eat and will reduce your appetite for the main course. It also explains why it's a good idea to wait a while before deciding whether you really want a dessert or a second helping.

Try these tips to slow down the speed at which you eat:

  • use chop sticks instead of a knife and fork - you can't get as much food onto chopsticks as you can a fork so your meal will take longer to eat.
  • serve food in a bowl so that it stays hotter for longer - chances are the food in the bottom will still be so hot you won't be able to gulp down the last few mouthfuls.
  • don't watch TV or read while you're eating - if you're distracted at mealtimes, chances are you'll shove food into your mouth without paying any attention to it.
  • chew each mouthful slowly - if you find this difficult, set yourself a target of 10 bites per mouthful before swallowing.
  • put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls - it's the oldest trick in the book, but it works!

8. Quench your thirst

Before grabbing something to eat, check whether you're really thirsty rather than hungry. It's easy to confuse thirst and hunger with the result that many people grab a snack or fill their plate for a second time when what they really need is a glass of water. Better still, water is needed for every chemical reaction in the body, including burning fat. And not only will it help to fill you up, it'll work wonders for your skin and hair. For maximum 'filling power' opt for sparkling water - the bubbles will help to fight those hunger pangs.

9. Cut down on caffeine

If you're in the habit of drinking loads of caffeinated drinks because you think they'll rev up your metabolism, think again. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that too much caffeine in the form of diet cola, tea and coffee might have the opposite effect and leave you feeling more hungry. In some studies high caffeine intakes have also been found to prepare the body for storing fat whenever food is eaten. So to prevent hunger, you might be better off swapping cola for a glass of sparkling water and tea and coffee for a cup of herbal or fruit tea.

10. Stock up on low-calorie fillers

Keep your fridge and cupboards stocked with a selection of low-calorie foods that can easily be turned into hunger-busting snacks or tasty starters.

Try the following when hunger hits:

  • bowl of salad with fat-free dressing or balsamic vinegar
  • vegetable sticks with salsa or tzatziki (or make your own yogurt dip by mixing 1 small pot low-fat plain yogurt with 1 clove of crushed garlic, 1tsp mint sauce and 1 tsp lemon juice.)
  • bowl of ratatouille (made without oil)
  • bowl of low-fat soup or a low-cal cup-a-soup
  • slice of melon
  • prawn cocktail with a fat-free seafood dressing
  • Florida cocktail made from orange and grapefruit segments
  • corn-on-the-cob without butter
  • 1/2 grapefruit with artificial sweetener
  • bowl of fresh fruit salad or piece of fresh fruit

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