Weight Loss

How to satisfy a sweet tooth and still lose weight

Keeping a check on those sweet cravings may not be as hard as you think. Try these tips…

Think you can’t resist chocolate or cakes? Bear in mind that you’re more likely to indulge a sweet tooth if you’re hungry. So always eat three well-balanced meals, spread evenly, and have healthy ingredients, such as fruit, nuts or low-fat yogurt to snack on. Eating regularly keeps blood sugar levels topped up, preventing dips that send you racing for the biscuit tin. When you do decide to treat yourself, use these tricks to stop you going overboard.

Watch serving sizes

Often we just need a little taste to satisfy a craving, so don’t automatically reach for the standard-size version of your favourite sweet treat. Are you able to get it in a smaller size? Go for one scoop of ice cream rather than a double, or a treat-size bar of chocolate instead of the regular one.

Make a healthier swap

Sugary foods are often high in fat, so if you can’t resist, satisfy your sweet tooth with the food you fancy – but choose a lower-fat or lower-calorie variety. If you crave a creamy hot chocolate, choose a low-fat instant hot choc. And, instead of that handful of chocolates, have a few fat-free jelly beans.

Pick the seasonal best

It’s a lot easier to opt out of the office chocolate run if you keep a bowl of fruit on your desk – but it needs be at its best to be an appealing alternative to a biscuit. Fruit that’s in season tastes sweeter. Stock up on citrus fruits, apples and pears in autumn and winter, and in spring and summer choose delicious sweet berries and stone fruits, such as peaches and nectarines.

Let the sweet message sink in

After eating a satisfying main course, many of us will still end a meal with a pud – which may appeal but not suit any weight-loss plans. The key is to wait at least 15 minutes before having dessert to give your brain time to recognise your stomach is actually full. If then you still feel like something sweet, choose a low-fat treat such as fruit salad, sugar-free jelly, baked apples or lemon sorbet.

Don’t rush things

We often eat sweet food on the go – something we’ve picked up at the supermarket on the way home from work or a sweet drink gulped down as we’re walking. If you’re going to have a sweet treat, take the time to enjoy it: sit down, relax and eat it slowly, so you get maximum pleasure from it.

Brush your teeth

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, but when sugar cravings hit, get your toothbrush out. Toothpaste leaves a fresh, mint flavour in your mouth that actually spoils the flavour of classic sweet treats such as biscuits and confectionery.

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.

Fill up on fibre to lose weight

Fibre-rich foods make you feel fuller for longer, so you can ‘trick’ yourself into eating fewer calories. Find out how to get more

THERE IS SOME EVIDENCE that suggests people who have higher intakes of wholegrains, which tend to be rich in fibre, may take in fewer calories overall – and the reason is simple: they fill us up.

‘High-fibre foods are a good way to bulk out your diet without adding too many calories,’ says HFG nutrition consultant Juliette Kellow. ‘For example, having a smaller portion of meat and filling the space with lots of extra veg will mean your plate still looks really full. This is important because studies show that we tend to consume the same quantity of food each day rather than the same amount of calories, meaning it’s possible to ‘trick’ ourselves into consuming fewer calories without feeling any hungrier.’

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has recommended that the current daily guideline fibre intake be increased from 24g a day to 30g. However, on average, British adults only manage to eat around 18g fibre a day – and some experts believe this may be part of the reason we’re struggling to control our weight.

Increase your fibre intake over a few weeks so your digestive system can adapt. At the same time, drink more water – more fibre means you need more fluid.

How to get more fibre into every meal

This is the amount you could add every time you eat…

• 1tbsp chia seeds 5.6g
• 40g Bitesize Shredded Wheat 5.2g
• 30g bran flakes 4.5g
• 2 Weetabix 3.8g
• 40g porridge oats 3.6g
• 80g frozen berries 2.5g
• 1 slice granary bread 2.1g
• 1 grilled tomato 1.6g
• 1 banana 1.5g
• 1tbsp peanut butter 0.7g

• ½ x 400g tin mixed beans 7.4g
• 200g tin or snack pot baked beans 7.2g
• 4 rye crispbreads 6.8g
• 200g jacket potato 5.4g
• 1 pear 5g
• 1 wholemeal wrap 4.3g
• ½ medium avocado 3.3g
• 1 slice wholemeal bread 2.8g
• 1 cereal bowl of mixed salad 1.9g
• 1tbsp mixed seeds 1.4g

• 230g cooked wholemeal pasta 10.7g
• ½ x 400g tin lentils 7g
• 200g cooked quinoa 5.6g
• 80g frozen peas 5.4g
• ½ x 400g tin chickpeas 4.9g
• 180g cooked brown rice 2.9g
• 200g cooked couscous 2.8g
• 80g carrots 2.7g
• 80g broccoli 2.5g
• 80g sweetcorn 2.2g

• 1 orange 3.6g
• 50g reduced-fat hummus 3.3g
• 30g almonds 3.2g
• 30g dried apricots 2.5g
• 1 apple 2.4g
• 3 handfuls (15g) plain popcorn 2.2g
• 1 reduced-fat hot cross bun 2.2g
• 80g blueberries 1.9g
• 3 celery sticks 1.3g


*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.

Are you trying to lose weight but finding it tough? Spot the familiar but easy-to-make mistakes you’re making below, and find out how to overcome them…

Lack of variety

‘It’s easy to get into the routine of eating the same thing day in, day out. If this sounds like you, chances are you’re missing out on valuable nutrients because you’re not eating a varied enough diet,’ says HFG nutritionist Amanda Ursell. ‘Plan ahead and shop with a list so it’s easier to have plenty of different meals over the week.’

Leaving it to chance

‘Men tend to leave for work with just their wallet, keys and phone. Then at lunchtime they buy whatever’s convenient – likely to be a pasty from the local shop, lasagne in the canteen or a high-calorie sandwich,’ says HFG expert Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum. ‘If they thought ahead and considered there may not be healthy options nearby, they could make a nutritious packed lunch at home.’

See food, eat it!

‘Some men eat whatever they’re served,’ says Amanda. ‘If they order a large pizza and get a free side of fries, they’ll eat it all, hungry or not.’

Exceeding the coffee quota

It’s not so much the coffee that’s the problem but rather the extra calories from milk and sugar that sneak into your daily intake.

Too little fibre

‘Constipation is a common complaint in men who don’t eat nearly enough fruit, veg, wholegrains and other fibre-rich foods, such as beans and other pulses,’ says Amanda. ‘Not getting enough fibre will hinder your weight-loss efforts, too, because fibre-rich foods keep you fuller.’

Drinking it in

‘Drinking lots of soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks or alcohol is another common way men take in excess calories without realising,’ says David. One pint of (ABV 4%) lager has around 180kcal and a typical sports drink has around 140kcal – have one of these every day and you’re looking at gaining over 1st a year.


*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.

Lower Fat Potato Soup

Recipe by:BENAUD

"This is a low fat, yet delicious soup, good for either a main course or as a soup course. I shared it with my weight loss group, and they loved it too!"

  • 1 onion, chopped

    Onions Yellow, Organic 
    1 lb For $0.99 - expires in 6 days 

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans fat-free chicken broth
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

    Potatoes Yellow 
    1 lb For $0.89 - expires in 6 days 

    Potatoes White 
    1 lb For $0.89 - expires in 6 days 

  • 1 pinch dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup potato flakes
  • Prep

    10 m
  • Cook

    45 m
  • Ready In

    55 m
  1. Coat a large pot with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and saute for 10 minutes, or until onion is tender. Add the broth and potatoes and stir well. Now stir in the parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, stir in the potato flakes and allow to heat through.

How to fix your exercise mistakes

We help you correct the 10 most common causes of aches and strains


POORLY PERFORMED MOVES can result in aches, pains and strains. To get toned without feeling sore, check your technique and follow our simple exercise fixes.


Works The upper arms
The mistake Trying to lift too heavy a weight, which takes the focus from the biceps and on to the shoulders.
Get it right ‘For general strength training, pick a weight with which you feel comfortable performing 15–25 reps fully and slowly without losing control,’ says personal trainer Ruth Stone. ‘The last few reps should feel like real work, but shouldn’t be so tough that you compromise posture or technique. Make sure your back is stable and your shoulders are relaxed. Always confine the movement to the elbows and make sure you go from full extension to full flex every time. Also, avoid pushing your elbows in at the waist – this will transfer the weight from the arms to the torso.’



Works The biceps and all the major muscles of the upper back
The mistake Hunching your back forward while straining against too heavy a weight.
Get it right ‘Keeping the long line of the spine is imperative here, and engaging the stomach muscles, as you do for the plank, helps you do this,’ says Ruth. ‘The chest should be “open” throughout – visualise your shoulder blades as two pages of a book closing towards the spine to achieve what’s needed.’



Works Muscles through the body, especially abdominal and back muscles
The mistake Letting your body sag, which puts stress on the lower back.
Get it right ‘The body needs to be kept straight, with taught abdominal muscles and glutes,’ says Ruth. ‘If you can do this in front of a mirror, it helps. You want to avoid a banana-shape body – there should be a straight line running from your shoulders, through your hips, to the knees and on to the ankles. I always advise participants to visualise themselves in swimwear and someone taking a picture of them. Invariably, they engage their core and can achieve better posture and endurance as a result.’



Works Leg muscles, including, quadriceps (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of thighs) and glutes (buttocks)
The mistake Poor posture puts too much strain on the lower back and not enough emphasis on the legs.
Get it right ‘Ensure your heels remain rooted and your spine keeps its length,’ says Ruth. ‘The bend should come from the knees and there should be a natural flex of the hips to keep you balanced as you squat. If you’re new to squats, I’d advise keeping your legs wider apart to begin with, gradually working towards hip distance between the feet as your technique improves.’



Works The muscles in your back and upper arms
The mistake Pulling the bar behind the neck, which puts a heavy load on your spine instead of working your muscles.
Get it right ‘The bar should be pulled to the front of the body and level with the chin,’ says Ruth. ‘And try to keep your head up. Be careful with your weight selection and ensure you have as much control on the way up as you do on the way down. Aim for slow, continuous movement to initiate greater control and better results.’

Take your time. Learning correct techniques will help you get results faster



Works Pectoral chest muscles
The mistake Failing to keep the shoulders back, and squeezing the chest muscles together when bringing the weights in.
Get it right ‘Imagine your shoulder blades are the hinge and your arms the doors. So the hinges stay still in space while the door moves. If you squeeze the shoulders you’re narrowing the door frame, which is what you want to avoid,’ says Ruth. ‘Concentrate on keeping your shoulders back, while resisting the temptation to punch out with your arms – ensure you really push from your pecs. Also, keep your elbow joints soft when the arms are long because if you lock them, the load will leave the muscle and go to the joint.’



Works All the major muscles in your lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes
The mistake Putting your knee over your toe, with the pressure on the ball of your foot, which will make you unbalanced and prone to injury.
Get it right ‘As with the plank, a mirror is sanity, not vanity,’ says Ruth. ‘It’s best to start in the low position to get your footing right: both knees should be at a 90° angle, with the front one positioned over the heel and the back one under the hip. As you advance the exercise, you can work smarter by peeling the toes of the front foot off the floor.’



Works The abs
The mistake Straining with your neck as you curl up.
Get it right ‘Speed is more important than range here, so keep it slow and low to avoid putting strain on your neck,’ says Ruth. ‘Watch out for rounding the shoulders and keep your elbows level with your ears (don’t bring them forward). Try to exhale through the mouth as you lift and inhale through the nose as you lower. Also, be wary of any lightness or lifting in the legs – this is an indication your hips are assisting.’



Works Leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes)
The mistake Setting the seat in the wrong position, so you go ‘too deep’, with the danger of putting too much stress on the lower back and locking your legs as you come back up.
Get it right ‘Bending to a 90° angle at the knee is adequate here – you should keep the knees aligned with the heels,’ says Ruth. ‘If you’re guilty of locking your knees when your legs are extended, try slowing the movement down and stopping with the legs just shy of full extension.’



Works Muscles in the hips
The mistake Thinking you’re working your abs when you’re meant to be working your hip flexors.
Get it right ‘This one is not so much about technique as muscle focus,’ says Ruth. ‘If you want to strengthen the hips, stick with it, but if you’re looking to work out your core (abdominal area), try leg extensions instead. Lie on the floor with your feet up and knees bent at 90°, then progress to extending your legs away from you and bringing them back to the start position.

Easy ways to get active every day

If you’re not in the habit of exercising, don’t be put off starting – no one ever got fit overnight. Use our easy tips to build activity into your daily routine

ANY ACTIVITY IS BETTER than none. Gradually increase the amount you do and the effort you put in – walk for five minutes longer each week, say, and up the intensity. Walking at a brisk pace can burn 100 more calories per hour than just strolling. Try these anywhere ideas…

Work exercise into your commute Walking, running or cycling even a part of the journey will do wonders for your wellbeing, boosting mood as well as shrinking your waistline. Find out if your company participates in the Cycle To Work bike scheme (lending you funds for a tax-free bike), and if they don’t, suggest they join up. Check out cyclescheme.co.uk. An average user burns 8,391 calories a month this way.

Leave your desk Make office life less sedentary – instead of sending internal emails or making calls, walk over to your colleagues and have face-to-face discussions. Volunteer for the morning coffee run, which will get you a dose of fresh air and exercise.

Turn dull chores into a workout OK, so we’re never going to look forward to doing the housework. But why not kill two birds with one stone? Vacuuming or floor-scrubbing is a lot less tiresome if you stick the radio on and up the pace in time to the music.

Don’t talk yourself out of it Just remember you’re no different from anyone else – some mornings you’ll wake up and think, ‘I don’t want to exercise.’ But fitness trainers have long been telling us that if we can take the first step and get to the gym or fitness class, after just 10 minutes all that ‘I don’t want to do it’ will have gone and you’ll feel happy you did it.

Make the school run count Instead of automatically hopping in the car after the school run, set tasks and go to places that keep you and the children active. Can you walk home via a park, or take them swimming? Getting the family more active will help your own efforts to get fit – for ideas see flora.com.

Embrace active gaming If your family are fans of games consoles, switch to games that get them off the sofa. Try fitness-inspired, active games that all the family can play together. We love the Zumba Fitness range for Xbox 360 and the My Fitness Coach for Wii series, available from Amazon.

Swap the indoors for out Research carried out by Mind, the mental health charity, found being active in the fresh air benefits our mental and physical health, increasing self-esteem and decreasing tension and depression. Keep a weekly record of how much time your family spends being sedentary, then commit to switching just one hour each week to outdoor activities: anything from walking the dog to playing tennis.

Rewire your past You may have hated netball at school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start to love it now. Give sporty things you previously disregarded a go and you’ll probably surprise yourself. It’s worth a try.

Take a break ‘Mounting evidence points to a sedentary lifestyle as one of the biggest risk factors for obesity and chronic disease,’ says Healthy Food Guide expert and GP Dawn Harper. Always get away from your desk at lunchtime to stroll outside.

Get the itch Some people are always thinking ‘Right, what can I do now?’ By thinking yourself more active it will gradually become your mindset and you’ll find yourself building more activity into every day.

Try a 10-min fix If you’ve told yourself you don’t have time to exercise, the latest research shows that exercising in short bursts is an effective way to improve health and strengthen and tone your muscle groups. Got to pick up a few groceries? Leave the car at home and cycle down the road to the shops.

DIETARY FIBRE IS FOUND in plant foods such as cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables.

DIETARY FIBRE IS FOUND in plant foods such as cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. Until recently, it was thought to be completely indigestible, but we now know that some fibre can be broken down in the large intestine by gut bacteria. For the best health benefits, eat a variety of fibre-rich foods each day. There are two main types of fibre:

Soluble fibre

This is found in good amounts in fruit, veg, oats, barley and pulses such as beans, lentils and peas. It forms a gel in the intestine that’s thought to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose.

This means it helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, preventing dips that can leave you reaching for sugary snacks. A certain type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, found in good amounts in oats, binds with cholesterol and prevents it being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, lowering the risk of heart disease.

Insoluble fibre

This tends to be found in larger amounts in cereal grains. Wholemeal flour and bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta are all good sources. This type of fibre is vital for a healthy digestive system – it’s been linked to helping to prevent bowel complaints, from constipation to cancer – as it assists the smooth passage of food through the body.

Insoluble fibre

DIETARY FIBRE IS FOUND in plant foods such as cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. Until recently, it was thought to be completely indigestible, but we now know that some fibre can be broken down in the large intestine by gut bacteria. For the best health benefits, eat a variety of fibre-rich foods each day. There are two main types of fibre:

Soluble fibre

This is found in good amounts in fruit, veg, oats, barley and pulses such as beans, lentils and peas. It forms a gel in the intestine that’s thought to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose.

This means it helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, preventing dips that can leave you reaching for sugary snacks. A certain type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, found in good amounts in oats, binds with cholesterol and prevents it being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, lowering the risk of heart disease.

Insoluble fibre

This tends to be found in larger amounts in cereal grains. Wholemeal flour and bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta are all good sources. This type of fibre is vital for a healthy digestive system – it’s been linked to helping to prevent bowel complaints, from constipation to cancer – as it assists the smooth passage of food through the body.

Mediterranean olive oil and homegrown rapeseed are fighting for our attention on supermarket shelves – but is one better than the other?

The nutritional lowdown

Olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any other oil – the type that helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. That’s why it’s often touted as one of the healthiest oils. Extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols, too, which act as antioxidants in the body. Different oils are best suited to different uses. For example, extra-virgin is perfect for dressings but less ideal for cooking as it has a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and break down, losing its quality, flavour and health benefits).

If you’re regularly eating for reasons other than hunger, working out which sort of eating personality you are will help you recognise your triggers

You may be perfectly content and not feel hungry at all, but you indulge freely when food is at hand. The legacy of our caveman genes drives us all to eat this way – it was a survival mechanism in a world where the food supply was often uncertain. But in the modern, western world, we’re surrounded by temptation, so environmental eating works against us. Think of the chocolate at the checkout, the biscuit jar in the office kitchen, or the nibbles on offer at parties. In situations like these, there’s an automatic hand-to-mouth action that’s not so healthy.

Professor Brian Wansink is renowned for his award-winning research into eating behaviour. In 2006, as director of New York’s Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, he conducted a study on how environmental factors can influence why we eat. When Brian put lollies in clear and opaque bowls on office workers’ desks, the workers ate more lollies from the clear bowls. Hardly surprising, you may think, but they still ate more lollies from the clear bowls even when they were further away than the lollies in the opaque bowls.

Unfortunately, our society has made unhealthy food so accessible that environmental eaters are at risk of harm from excessive weight gain.

How to tell if your pet is overweight

The link between obesity and disease is the same for dogs and cats as it is for us. Now vets are saying we should rethink the way we feed them, to avoid serious health problems


Some 95% of vets agree the weight of our canine pals is now their biggest concern for pet health and suggest around one in three domestic dogs is obese. The figures aren’t much better for cats – the organisation International Cat Care estimates around 20% to 25% of cats are obese.

Why worry? Vets explain that the risk of disease associated with carrying too much weight is exactly the same for dogs and cats as it is for humans. That means a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, for example, as well as lack of stamina, joint problems and breathing difficulties.


Signs your dog is overweight:

*You can’t see the ribs clearly and you only feel them with significant pressure.

*The waist isn’t easily visible behind their ribs when viewed from above.

*You can feel fat over the spine and base of the tail.

*The abdomen isn’t tucked up when seen from the side.

Signs that your cat is overweight:

*The ribs are hard to feel.

*There is a moderate to thick layer of fat covering all the bony prominences.

*The cat has a pendulous ‘skirt’ (bulge under the abdomen), with no waist.

Tips and facts for keeping your pet fit:

1 Keep a record for a week, noting down everything your pet eats, including nibbles and treats in-between meals. This record will be useful when discussing your pet’s nutritional needs with your veterinary practice.

2 Reward your pet with a game of fetch or an extra snuggle instead of a treat.

3 Switch to healthy snacks. Most dogs will be happy with raw or cooked carrot sticks or, for an occasional treat, small pieces of wafer thin ham or chicken. Tiny slices of chicken are ideal for cats, too.

4 Any diet – including a weight- loss one – needs to be a complete diet, with the same level of nutrients but fewer calories.

5 Sudden, rapid weight loss can leave pets prone to other serious health problems, so talk toyour vet about a sensible plan.

6 Encourage your cat to go out. Dogs love walking, so make time for it on a daily basis.


Remember, any significant weight gain will reduce your pet’s quality of life and make the exercise they need less enjoyable (due to lack of stamina). It also means they’ll suffer more in the summer heat than their slimmer friends.

Olive oil vs rapeseed oil… Which is healthier?

Mediterranean olive oil and homegrown rapeseed are fighting for our attention on supermarket shelves – but is one better than the other?


The oil of choice in the Med is made from pressing whole olives from the native olive tree – different grades include blended, virgin and extra-virgin.

The nutritional lowdown

Olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any other oil – the type that helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. That’s why it’s often touted as one of the healthiest oils. Extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols, too, which act as antioxidants in the body. Different oils are best suited to different uses. For example, extra-virgin is perfect for dressings but less ideal for cooking as it has a low smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and break down, losing its quality, flavour and health benefits).

            Olive oil                                               vs                                          Rapeseed oil




Bright yellow rapeseed crops are now widely grown in UK fields. The oil is extracted from the seeds of the rapeseed plant to produce a golden oil.

The nutritional lowdown

Rapeseed oil contains the least saturated fat of all oils – and that’s good, as current advice confirms a diet high in saturated fat is linked to poorer heart health. It has less monounsaturated fat than olive oil, but a bigger proportion of polyunsaturated fat, which helps to lower LDL cholesterol. Plus, rapeseed oil contains considerably more vitamin E than olive oil – a tablespoon provides a fifth of our daily need for this powerful antioxidant. It’s also a good choice for cooking as its high smoke point allows it to retain its nutrition credentials.


Rapeseed oil. It’s lower in saturated fat, higher in vitamin E and has a higher smoke point, making it the better choice for cooking. However, it doesn’t have the polyphenols that extra-virgin olive oil contains. Opt for rapeseed oil for cooking and olive oil for drizzling, but use both sparingly as they’re high in calories.

Weight-loss star: Lisa Spink

Our weight-loss star, Lisa Spink, lost 3 stone. Here’s her inspiring story

My dieting wake-up call
After seeing how a colleague lost weight and thinking how fantastic she looked, I knew it was time for me to change. I wanted to feel good about myself, which I hadn’t since my mid-20s. I’d lost 2st when we moved house six years ago – but that was mainly due to all the stress of moving, unpacking and setting up our new home, as well as being a mum and housewife and everything that involves. It wasn’t down to any healthy eating plan or exercise, but more a case of me skipping meals and trying to cut out the wrong foods. This way of eating didn’t last long, of course, and I soon piled extra weight back on.

What worked for me
My shape has changed due to regular exercise classes, and for the first time in my life I can now fit into size 10–12 clothes. My confidence has grown and I’ve learned to both like and love myself again. I have more energy, both at home and at work, and love nothing more than being on the move and keeping busy. I can honestly say that the exercise classes are a major part of my life now and that I absolutely love going to every single one of them.

weightloss-table-L spink

My advice for staying on track
Keep strong, especially in the first week. Once you find you’ve lost weight in the second week, you’ll get a much-needed boost of confidence and the willpower to carry on. Take one day at a time and keep thinking about the end result. Accept that one of the hardest parts of any weight-loss programme is not just about losing the weight, but also maintaining it and keeping it off.

Your 5 step plan to ease the pain of arthritis

This chronic joint condition affects around 10 million people in the UK, but we don’t have to accept symptoms as an inevitable part of ageing. Here’s how simple diet changes could help

SUCH IS ITS PREVALENCE, particularly among the elderly, that you’d be forgiven for thinking of arthritis as something that creeps up on you over the years – along with grey hairs and middle-age spread. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce your risk and to minimise its effects if you become a sufferer.

What is arthritis?

For a start, arthritis is not a single disease, but an umbrella term for a group of conditions that cause pain and inflammation in and around the joints. It affects people of all ages, including children, and there are many types, with a range of symptoms – although the most common are pain, tenderness and stiffness around the joints; reduced movement and function; inflammation, redness and warmth; and muscle weakness around the joints.

By far the most common form is osteoarthritis, estimated to affect 8.5 million people in the UK. While usually detected in those over the age of 50, it can occur at a younger age following injury, over-exertion or as a result of another joint problem. It’s caused by wear and tear – the cartilage protecting the bones around a joint becomes thin, leaving the ends of the bone exposed. This makes movement painful as the bones rub together. Osteoarthritis is most often found in the joints of the hands, knees, hips and spine.

The second most common form – rheumatoid arthritis – is more severe but less prevalent, affecting around 400,000 people. It’s most likely to arise between the ages of 40 and 50, and is three times more common in women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Movement may be reduced and bones and cartilage broken down.

Other forms of arthritis include gout, lupus, fibromyalgia and spondylitis. While there’s no cure for arthritis, there are various treatments that can successfully slow its effects and minimise joint damage. Plus, there are some adjustments you can make to your diet and lifestyle to stay mobile and pain free. Here’s how to give your joints some TLC.


The five-step plan

1. Work with your healthcare team
There isn’t just one way to manage arthritis – you need to work out a treatment plan that best suits you. ‘You’ll need to work with your GP and monitor your symptoms in order to develop the most effective treatment plan,’ says HFG expert Dr Dawn Harper. The plan should incorporate all aspects of your wellbeing and may involve any of a long list of healthcare professionals: rheumatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, orthotists, podiatrists, dietitians, nurse specialists, psychologists and chiropractors. Medication for osteoarthritis can include painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Rheumatoid arthritis patients may be given painkillers and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). ‘Don’t suffer in silence,’ says Dawn. ‘See your healthcare team regularly to make sure any medication and treatment you’re receiving is the right type and dosage for whatever symptoms you have at the time.’

2. Manage your weight
Many people with arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, are overweight, while others may gain weight as a result of their restricted mobility. Being overweight puts extra strain on already burdened joints, especially the ankles, knees, hips, feet and spine. ‘Maintaining a healthy weight can help relieve the tension in your joints, reduce pain and maintain or improve mobility,’ says Dawn. ‘And if you’re overweight, slimming down can help slow the progression of arthritis. Talk to your GP about a diet plan to start losing weight.’

3. Exercise 
According to Arthritis Research UK, everyone can benefit from some form of exercise, even those with arthritis. Your healthcare team can help you find the type to suit you. ‘Arthritic people who exercise have higher levels of fitness, better muscle strength, a greater ability to do daily tasks and improved mood and emotional wellbeing,’ says Dawn. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels, and some specific exercises may help to improve bone strength. Aim for a mix of strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise.

4. Consider complementary therapies 
There are many options that may lower the physical and emotional toll of arthritis, although it’s a matter of trial and error and finding a therapy you feel is worthwhile and affordable. Some approaches known to offer relief include the Alexander technique, acupuncture, aromatherapy, wearing a copper bracelet, homeopathy, magnet therapy, relaxation, meditation and hypnosis, manipulative therapies such as chiropractic or osteopathy, wax bath therapy and herbal medicine. ‘Tell your doctor about any therapies you want to try, and continue to take your prescribed medication,’ says Dawn. Also, tell the complementary practitioner about your condition before receiving any treatment.

5. Try new ways to manage pain 
Even when you do all of the above, there may still be times when you experience arthritic pain. Experiment with techniques to manage it: apply an ice pack, take a warm bath, listen to music, meditate or try deep breathing exercises. An Australian study has found psychotherapy may be an effective intervention for people with rheumatoid arthritis. They found patients given cognitive therapy showed greater improvements in inflammation and joint tenderness than a control group who remained on a waiting list. Arthritis Research UK believes this shows the importance of psychological and emotional support for patients. If you feel you’d benefit from counselling, speak to your GP about a referral or contact the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy. Talking to other people who share your symptoms and experiences may also help. See below for a list of organisations with online forums and phone services that can put you in contact with others

5 easy ways to avoid putting on weight

If you want to avoid putting on weight, use our strategies to avoid temptation

MANY ROADS LEAD TO OVEREATING – but there are ways to turn your back on them, get yourself back on track to good health and avoid putting on weight

1 Beware those bargain offers

In food outlets and restaurants, we’re often urged to upsize our orders. Resistance is hard but slimline strategies will pay off:

Use your mind On your way to work, in the coffee shop, say no to the £3 muffin on offer to you for £1.
Save it for a rainy day Set aside any money you saved by saying no to ‘better value’ (often unhealthy) offers. Use it to treat yourself to something that makes you feel happy – a manicure, cinema seats, new shoes.
Think nutrition HFG expert Helen Bond says: ‘Ask yourself, “Do I need this? Does it fit in with my healthy eating intentions?” If the answer is no, move on.’

2 Don’t give in at social gatherings

Workplace leaving dos, dinner out with friends, nibbles with drinks are prime occasions where we eat for the wrong reasons. Time to rethink a little:

Plan ahead If you’re going for a meal out, check the online menu and decide what you’ll have. If it’s a party, ask the waiter what’s on offer and decide how you’re going to play it. And fill your plate just the once!
Choose wisely Go for two starters instead of a main; avoid the bread basket, watch what you drink and share a pud. And don’t be shy about asking for a doggie bag, either.
Rethink your social life It doesn’t have to be all about food and drink. Arrange to go for a walk or to a museum with a friend and be wary of friends who try to push you into eating cake with your coffee.

3 Avoid supermarket offers

The worrying deals are those that encourage you to buy foods that weren’t on your shopping list. Don’t let them override your healthy eating intentions:

Shop smart Write a shopping list and stick to it. Simple as that.
Plan your route If you write your list in aisle order, you’re more likely to avoid the unhealthy options. Or you can always shop online.
Pick your offer Only go for bargains on healthy foods you actually need.

Studies found that people consume 22% fewer calories when switching from a 12in to a 10in plate


4 Consider location

If you’re living close to fast food outlets, try to walk on by and seek out healthier food shops.

Shop around Explore your area for local greengrocers, delis or health food stores – or order a fruit and veg box to be delivered to your home.
Get growing Use your garden, balcony or window to grow fresh produce.
New routes If you regularly pass a bakery, takeaway or ice cream shop, you might need to reset your sat nav… or at least discover a new way home.

5 Think small

Giant portion sizes now look normal and they’re affecting our weight. Here are some strategies to help:

Be size conscious Serious weight watchers may need to weigh their portion sizes. Another useful idea is to think of portions in terms of everyday objects.
Love your leftovers Serve up a healthy plate size and immediately pack up any leftovers for another day.
Fill up on veg At least a third of your plate should be filled with non-starchy veg such as carrots or green beans. Check out the Eatwell Plate for a handy guide to a proper healthy plateful.
Use smaller plates and glasses Studies by Cornell University in the US found people consume 22% fewer calories when switching from a 12in to a 10in plate.

Top weight-loss tips

Try our simple weight-loss strategies and tricks to stay on track


Avoid the distractions

Aim to eat at the table with the TV off several days a week. Studies have shown we tend to consume more when we’re distracted. ‘By eating mindfully – sitting down to meals, being aware of the appearance, smell, taste and texture of food, chewing slowly and putting down your cutlery between mouthfuls – you’re guaranteed to enjoy it more,’ says Bridget Benelam, Healthy Food Guide expert and senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. Eating slowly allows time for your brain to send the satiety message to your stomach that you are full. The result? You’re less likely to overeat.

Rearrange your kitchen

Keep the foods you want to eat more of easily available – put a fruit bowl on the table, vegetable sticks in the fridge, and reduced-fat cheese and crispbreads to hand. If you must have calorific foods that will tempt you to snack, keep them up on a high shelf or at the back of a cupboard.

Rethink rewards

Write a list of the non-food-related luxuries you enjoy. They could include a long, lazy bath, reading a magazine from cover to cover or seeing a new film with friends. Whenever you’re tempted to reward yourself with food, give yourself one of the treats on your list instead.

Change the proportions on your plate

Bulk out your meals with low-calorie vegetables and wholegrains – you could save up to 400 calories just by taking out the higher-fat ingredients and replacing with some of these. Check out the Eatwell Plate for a simple guide to a well-proportioned meal.

Plan your meals and write a shopping list

Have a rule: if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t make it into the trolley – that way, you won’t be tempted by unhealthy BOGOF offers. Never shop when you’re really hungry.

Soup up your salad drawer

Soup is filling, low-fat and quick to make. Do a weekly salad drawer audit and chop up lingering carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes and salad leaves. Cook with a little oil spray, then add chilli, garlic, a tin of tomatoes and reduced-salt vegetable stock and simmer until the veg are cooked. Whiz until smooth. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Fill up so you’ll eat less

Choose foods that are high in protein, such as fish, poultry, lean red meat and eggs, and fibre, such as wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice, to feel fuller for longer. That way you’ll be less likely to succumb to a snack attack.

Ease off the booze

‘Alcoholic drinks contain more calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein, while offering little nutritional benefit. Overindulging can also lead to overeating – both at the same time, when your defences are down, or the next day, fuelled by a hangover,’ says Bridget. Stick within the Department of Health’s guidelines of a maximum of two to three units a day if you’re a woman, and three to four units daily for men – a small (125ml) glass of 12% ABV wine is 1.5 units – and aim for at least two alcohol-free days a week. On nights when you do drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with water.

Join an online club

If slimming groups aren’t your thing, join one online to keep track. MyFitnessPal (free from iTunes) has the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database.

Track your progress

If you’ve managed to become more active, try to achieve a bit more each time. Whether you use a pedometer to tot up the distance or a heart rate monitor, it’s very satisfying and motivating to see how you’re doing.

3 types of walking & how many calories each burns

The calories you can expect to burn with…

How many calories do I burn by walking

General walking

This is what you do when you’re out shopping or strolling through the park. It’s low intensity, but still good for you and a sensible entry point. Most lifestyle walkers move at an average of 2.5–3.5mph – that’s one mile every 17–24 min. To burn 1,500 calories a week you would need to walk around 10–20 miles.

On average, a woman weighing 10st will use 3 calories per min; a man of 12st 7lb will burn 5 calories per min.


How many calories do I burn by walking

Fitness walking

This could be on a treadmill or walking at a brisk pace outdoors. It’s great for moderate weight loss, improved health and energy. Fitness walkers move at 3.6–4.3mph, covering a mile in 14–17 min. This level of exercise works the abdominals, upper body muscles, bottom and hips.

On average, a woman weighing 10st will use 4.5 calories per min; a man of 12st 7lb will burn 6 calories per min.


How many calories do I burn by walking

High-energy/power walking

A great calorie burner and muscle shaper. You’ll zip along at a pace of 4.4–6mph, covering one mile in 10–13.6 min. This has a similar calorie intensity to running but with a lower injury risk.

On average, a woman weighing 10st will use 8 calories per min; a man of 12st 7lb will burn 10 calories per min.

Get our top tips for power walking.


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