If you’ve decided that you’d like to take control of your weight and not sure where to start, there are some small things you can start to incorporate into your daily life that will make an immediate difference. It's really important to have a starting point so you can track your progress when you decide to make lifestyle changes. You can register for access to your patient dashboard where you will see you latest diabetes test results. Have a look at some of the things you can start doing now:
Keeping a food diary
Keeping a diary of your food, mood and activity levels is one of the key things you can do to get started. It lets you keep track of what you’re eating when you’re eating and how you’re feeling. Is there a particular time of day that you seem to be very hungry? Do you respond to stress or periods of low mood by eating particular types of food? Are there times where you feel motivated, or feel in a good mood? If so, what were you eating or what activity were you doing at this time?
Have a look at the example below:
Keeping a diary helps focus your mind on your eating habits and can be very helpful in planning your next steps. You can do this by downloading a diary sheet or there are many apps such as MyFitnessPal where you can keep a track of what you’re eating.
Reducing your portion sizes can make a big difference in helping to manage your weight. A good practice to get into is weighing your food, particularly for things such as cereals, pasta and rice as it is very easy to underestimate your portion size. You may find that what you’re classing as one portion, may actually be two or more and this makes a considerable difference to the calorie content of your meal. Have a look at the difference in calories for different portion sizes of spaghetti bolognese and tiramisu below:
Reducing your portion size of foods doesn’t mean that you need to go hungry. If you’re cutting down the amount of pasta or rice you are having with your dinner, add more vegetables to compensate as they are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Beans and pulses are also a good way to bulk your meal out. For further resources to help you with portion sizes, have a look at Carbs & Cals or the British Dietetic Association’s guide here.
Methods of cooking
The way that you cook food has a big impact on the calorie and fat content. Poaching, steaming, grilling and baking are all much healthier ways of cooking as you don’t need to add any fat or oil to them.
Any method which involves you adding fat to cook it, such as roasting, pan-frying or deep-fat frying will significantly increase the fat content of the food, which also increases the calories.
Sometimes the body can confuse feelings of thirst as hunger so you can end up consuming extra calories when it is water that your body needs. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres of fluids a day. Stick to either water or no added sugar squash.
Plan your meals
Planning all of your meals and snacks is a really important strategy when you’re trying to lose weight. Think about a time where you’ve been tired, stressed and didn’t have time during the day to think about or buy ingredients for making dinner. The chances are you will pick up something quick and convenient, like a pizza, ready meal or a takeaway just to make life a little easier. Now think about if you’d planned your meals for the week in advance and had all of the ingredients in to make that meal, chances are you will make it.
Getting into a routine with meal planning and shopping may seem like a bit of extra work to begin with but you’ll find it makes your life a bit easier in the week ahead and keep you on track.
Don’t buy junk food
Junk food is best described as foods that are highly processed, offer little nutrition and are often high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Examples of these are burgers, chips, pizza, fried chicken, foods that are battered, full sugar fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and sweets.
This may seem like an obvious one but if it’s there in your house, then you are far more likely to eat it. The sugar and fat that is present in high amounts in junk food actually has a physical effect on our brain and can stimulate our reward system by releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals. One of these chemicals is the neurotransmitter dopamine, which the brain interprets as pleasure.
As humans, we are instinctively programmed in seeking out behaviours that cause this release of dopamine and for some people, that reward pathway between junk food and a moment of pleasure is well established. So, if junk food is a temptation for you then it’s best not to have it easily available.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol can be described as ‘empty calories’ as you get very little nutrition from it, just calories. 1 gram of alcohol has around twice as many calories as a gram of carbohydrate or protein. Drinks that contain mixers such as fruit juice or sugary drinks add to the overall calorie content. When you have an energy imbalance, so you are taking in more than your body can use, it will be stored as fat in the body and you will gain weight.
So how does this affect either the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or if you already have it, the impact on your diabetes management? As we know one of the major risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes is weight gain and if you look at the examples below, you can see the equivalent in calories between alcohol and food.
Gaining weight when you have type 2 diabetes already, will make it harder to manage your diabetes. Drinking too much alcohol can also reduce your body’s sensitivity to insulin which means it doesn’t break down glucose as well as it should. This will result in higher blood glucose levels, which again makes diabetes harder to manage, or puts you at an increased risk of developing type 2.
You don’t have to completely cut it out of your life if having a pint of lager or a glass of wine is something that you enjoy. Keep it as a treat and reduce the amount you drink or try switching to something that contains fewer calories. Clear spirits with diet drinks, such as a gin and slimline tonic contain 115 kcals. To minimise the health risks, the guidelines state that both men and women should not consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week. For further information about alcohol units, and ways to reduce your intake, have a look at the DrinkAware website.
Be kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself is probably one of the most important elements of weight loss and having a lapse doesn’t mean a total collapse. How many times have you been on a diet, then had ‘something naughty’ and it leads you down a path of thinking ‘I’ve blown it now so might as well have this too’? Having occasions where you go off track is just part of the weight loss journey. Accepting that this is completely normal and not beating yourself up about it or feeling guilty will help you get back on track a lot sooner.
It’s also helpful not to deprive yourself and to treat yourself from time to time. For example, if you love desserts and you’re out for a meal and would really like one then think about what changes you can make so you can still have your treat but not go completely off the rails. You may decide not to have a starter or to choose a healthier main course or do some more exercise during the day so you can have the dessert and really enjoy it. It’s all about balance and making these small changes will become an established part of your daily life.
You can also register to access your diabetes-related health records through this site which includes all of your clinical results for measures such as BMI, HbA1c, eyes screening and much more.