The festive season is here, and if you're anything like us, all manner of healthy lifestyle activities went out the window around the same time the John Lewis advert aired and Pret launched its Christmas menu. The thing is we have a ton of events in the diary over the next few weeks, and we want to feel confident in our party wardrobe. So we're here to prepare you with a few tricks you can slip up that velvet party sleeve of yours.
No, we're not about to recommend you only eat fruit or go on some extreme maple cleanse between parties for the next week. There are healthy, sensible ways to fast-track your weight loss and debloat without any adverse effects like muscle loss, bad breath or general wooziness. We all need to eat and, most importantly, enjoy our lives, but some of us might quite like that waistband on our favourite trouser suit to be a little bit looser.
Keep reading for the seven hacks you need to lose weight quickly, safely and (most importantly) without going delirious from hunger.
Focus on Protein
For starters, you need to eat more. Well, you need to eat more protein, that is. Numerous studies have linked increased protein intake with a decrease in ghrelin production (ghrelin being the hormone that triggers hunger pangs). As with anything, it's all about moderation, so mainlining protein like it's going out of fashion won't do you any favours. If your diet is lacking in protein, increasing your intake to one gram of protein for every one pound of body weight will have a great effect on your hunger, so you won't be reaching for the 4 p.m. sweet fix.
Of course, you can't eat more protein and then eat your usual intake on top. The key is to first calculate how many calories you should be eating daily to lose weight, then work out how much should be protein, carbohydrate and fat (these are otherwise known as macronutrients). You can calculate your "macros" here. Or make like Kim Kardashian West and follow the Atkins diet, which is high protein/low carb and should make you drop the pounds in a week.
Give Your Digestion a Boost
Most diets would have you snacking on celery sticks or carrot batons, but if you want to beat the bloat, then you need to ditch the raw vegetables from your diet pronto. Explains nutritionist Sarah Macklin, "Raw vegetables contain cellulose a fibre that we find hard to digest. Cut down on raw veg, and try it lightly steamed instead, as this breaks down the cellulose enzymes." If you're really struggling, Macklin recommends taking digestive enzymes to help your body process your food more efficiently and to reduce the bloating.
Reason With Your Cravings
We all get cravings. Urges for junk food, especially at this time of year, can be so impossibly distracting that you have to give in to them, or else you'll be as useful in the office as a chocolate teapot (ooh, chocolate). But it is possible to reason with your cravings-addled mind. A study released last year found that if you are blinded by thoughts of chocolate, unspecified postponement worked a treat. Essentially you tell yourself you can have that chocolate… later. Researchers found that postponing the treat indefinitely was far more successful than telling yourself that you can't have it. Interested to know if it works? Byrdie U.S. Editorial Director Faith Xue gave it a try.
Rethink What's Healthy
It's not just raw veg that can cause bloating; fructose found in fruit can bloat you too. "Some individuals may struggle with the incomplete absorption of fructose, which is fermented by the flora in the lower bowel, resulting in the formation of gas," explains Macklin. Pre–beach trip, switch out fruit and get your five-a-day from steamed veg instead. Macklin suggests following the FODMAP diet, which was devised to help IBS sufferers. It's pretty confusing, so if in doubt, ditch garlic and onions, as these are top of the no-no list for those with IBS.
Eat Carbs After 5 p.m.
Yep, you read that right! Jodie Brandman, a nutritional therapist, recommends removing carbohydrates and sugar from your diet during the day. "Just eat protein and healthy fats for breakfast and lunch, then introduce complex carbohydrates in the evening. This will help to balance your blood sugar and reduce nasty bacteria that can cause bloating." Opt for carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and brown rice and give yourself a fist-size portion.
Supplement With Triphala
"Try this Ayurvedic herbal concoction for a gentle bowel cleanse," says Meryl Pritchard, the nutritionist who founded Kore Kitchen. "This is actually one of my favourite supplements. You don't always notice the results from herbs right away, but with Triphala, I always notice a difference the next day—and you definitely notice the effects after a few days of being consistent with it." And don't worry—this herb is not like traditional laxatives, which irritate the bowel. Instead, it tones, strengthens and cleanses the digestive system.
Plan Your Workouts
To get the most out of your week, you need to plan your workouts in advance. There are tons of studies and differing viewpoints out there, but since I have been following Michael Matthews's Thinner, Leaner, Stronger (£11) workout plan, I have dropped a dress size and have kept the weight off. The only catch is that you do need to lift heavy weights, but I promise that you will not get bulky.
For maximum fat loss, Matthews recommends a weekly workout schedule that incorporates the following:
- Three- to five-hour heavy weight-lifting sessions. Here, Mike reveals how to build a weight-lifting routine.
- Two or three 25-minute HIIT sessions. In a recent podcast with physiologist Lyle McDonald, McDonald told Matthews, "Intervals [create a] hormonal response and glycogen depletion, [combined with a diet of] moderate carbs turn your body into a 'fat-burning machine.' Women who do interval training will burn more fat during the rest of the day unless they refuel and put all the carbs back in; [then] that effect goes away."
- Two or three 30- to 45-minute walks per week. Essentially this is a form of the low-interval steady-state cardio that mega fitness influencer Kayla Itsines is a big proponent of.
Follow these simple hacks and you should notice a big difference by the end of the week.
Next up: the short hairstyles that will persuade you into the salon.