Summer’s approaching and it’s around this time of year that everyone gets super body conscious. It’s okay – you’re not alone. Love handles and stubborn fat are a problem for practically all of us. So, if you want to look and feel great, there’s a lot of things to consider. Whilst diet and exercise are two powerful tools in the pursuit of a healthy body, sleep patterns, stress levels and body confidence all have their own part to play. Learn how to make the most of what you’ve got (and disguise those love handles) with our top expert tips.
Eat up, slim down
Always thinking about your next meal? Not anymore! The secret behind fat-loss success lies in properly fuelling your body with nutrient-dense food. Number one on the list is fibre – both the soluble and insoluble types. Fibre helps slow down digestion and recharges your body with a steady stream of energy, but worryingly, a whopping 90 percent of us don’t have enough roughage in our diets, according to a study by Warburtons.
To win the war against wobbles, it’s important to go back to basics. Eat meals high in protein, which helps preserve lean muscle mass and omega-3 fatty acids. These turn on fat-burning enzymes in your cells and help regulate the appetite hormone leptin, which keeps you feeling satiated. Finally, spice up your meals for the ultimate metabolism kick. Chilli and paprika both contain a compound called capsaicin that helps speed up weight loss, while cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
Fight fat: Government guidelines say we should consume 30g of fibre daily, so fill your plate with a variety of colourful fruit, veg and whole grains to ensure you reach your quota. Boost your omega-3 intake with nuts and fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, and add chilli, paprika and cinnamon to soups, stews and curries.
Sleep easy, stay slim
The secret to maintaining your slim figure? A good night’s sleep! The link between sleep and staying slim is often underestimated, but you can double your chances of reaching your ideal weight if you get between six and eight hours sleep a night. ‘One third of the population of the UK is sleep deprived and this puts people at an increased risk of being overweight,’ says naturopath Sybille Gebhardt (sybille.co.uk). ‘Your body derives its energy from food and sleep. If one is lacking, then the other needs to increase to sustain your body’s necessary energy levels.’ A study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation plays havoc with fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to the blood sugar balancing hormone insulin by 30 per cent.
Ever wondered why a bad night’s sleep leads to a day of bingeing? Lack of sleep also lowers levels of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, sending signals to the brain to increase appetite. When you get enough sleep, leptin levels are higher – so you’re more likely to feel full when you eat.
Fight fat: Make sure you get a proper night’s rest by going to bed at the same time each night to help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm. Apply a spritz of lavender essential oil to your pillow and enjoy a soak in the tub before lights out to increase your chances of shut-eye.
Beat stress, lose weight
Being dedicated to your job may improve your career prospects, but it might not be such good news for your waistline. Even if you eat healthily and exercise regularly, leading a stressful lifestyle can stop you from losing inches. When you’re under stress, your body pumps out adrenaline and high levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol affects appetite, causing you to crave sugary, high-fat foods that stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This has a soothing effect on stress, but, obviously, it’s terrible news for your body. A high level of cortisol also promotes fat around your middle, known as visceral fat. This fat surrounds organs and releases fatty acids into your blood stream, raising insulin levels and increasing your risk of diabetes over the long term. ‘Many of us reach for food when we’re stressed,’ says Sybille. ‘Try meditation or yoga to calm your mind.’
Fight fat: Melt your muffin top with stress-soothing foods such as oily fish, which helps to regulate cortisol levels, or turkey, which increases serotonin levels. Practice yoga at least twice a week.
Feel confident, look great
Your biggest fat-loss obstacle? You’re looking at her in the mirror! Looking good is all about feeling good, so if you boost your body confidence you could send your fat-loss rate soaring. A study by scientists at the Technical University of Lisbon and Bangor University discovered that women are far more likely to shed pounds if they work on improving their body image issues. You might not have your dream body (yet), but embrace your best bits and you’ll look and feel your best.
Fight fat: Been blessed with long legs but a paunchy tum? Opt for skinny jeans with a smock top and a wow-inducing pair of heels. Hate your bingo wings but love your killer cleavage? A long-sleeved top with a scoop neckline will give you a lift.