Get answers to some of the most common weight loss questions and find how to make a diet plan that best suits you.

How important are calories?

The buzz word of any diet or weight loss programme is usually calories. Essentially calories is the numeric measurement by which we calculate how much we eat and what we need or not need to eat to lose weight.

In a simple formula the basic foundation to losing weight dictates that if our bodies burn more calories than we consume, our bodies then use its fat stores for energy and therefore lose weight. But weight loss has much more depth than purely eating calories, as important as they are, there is more to losing weight.

Culture has branded calories as our enemy, yet our bodies need fuel and food to function efficiently. One of the keys to any diet is not being afraid of calories but knowing how to consume them healthily and sensibly.

What is your metabolism?

Your metabolism is the process of chemical reactions in the body, most commonly associated with the conversion of food and fuel stores into energy for movement and functioning. A higher metabolism is most beneficial for weight loss, as the more chemical reactions and fuel burnt ultimately means more fat used up and more weight lost.

A variety of options are available to speed up or ignite your metabolism, increasing the rate of weight loss such as eating more frequently, eating outside your usual eating pattern, having a hearty breakfast and so on will all aid the weight loss you are aiming for. 

To what extent do genetics affect weight loss?

When you've been dieting and exercising for some time and the results do not appear with as much haste as you had hoped, it is easy to give up and accept defeat, casting blame upon your genetics. Some blame can be attributable to your genes as some people are naturally predisposed to slower metabolisms, making weight loss a harder or longer process, yet our genetics are no excuse to give up on weight loss.

Weight loss is not determined by one factor alone but instead a combination of healthy eating, lifestyle, exercise and so on, providing options for those naturally disposed to hold those unwanted pounds. 

Do fad diets work at keeping weight off?

Many of us dread the summer season and the looming thought of the beach body, and so look to fad diets for a relatively quick and easy solution to lose weight without months of hard work and self control. Countless quick fix diets and detoxes have been churned out claiming to offer an easier alternative to healthy living. They allude that a dramatic reduction or exclusion of certain foods will result in weight loss over a shorter period of time.

Examples such as Atkins, The Juice diet, The Lemon-syrup diet and others, all tempt us into believing that there is an easy solution to weight management, which will eventually bring us right back to square one. This is because our bodies require a balanced diet of a range of nutrients which cannot be sustained through fad diets. Eventually when you revert back to eating a variety of foods your body will begin to store the foods it has been deprived of. To lose weight and keep it off, requires a healthy sustainable change to your lifestyle over a reasonable period of time. 

Should you count calories or fat to lose weight?

Much debate surrounds whether it is better to cut calories or fat when losing weight, and although neither is healthy in excess amounts, it would be reasonable to assume that to lose fat you have to stop consuming fat. This however is wrong, fat, especially good fats, are a necessary part of a balanced diet and when consumed through healthier foods such as avocados, nuts, eggs and so on, fats can improve your diet for a healthy lifestyle.

Calories on the other hand, is the focus of weight management. Although efficient calorie counting is not the only way to ensure weight loss, some people prefer to keep a food journal to estimate calorie intake, though a healthy diet and regular exercise will suffice in providing results.

How can you avoid splurging and control your appetite?

There is no easy way to resist the fatty foods our bodies are programmed to crave. Only willpower and developing techniques can help you curb your appetite and resist binging on tasty treats.

We are all programmed to crave unhealthy or fatty foods because sugars and fat are broken down quickly into an immediate source of energy, more so than healthier foods like vegetables and so on. This is accompanied by the fact that usually high sugar or fat foods taste significantly better than a plate of broccoli.

But all is not lost despite our subconscious callings, as many tips and tricks exist to help control our appetite and cravings , healthy soups for example fill up the stomach and pass into the gut slowly, extending the feeling of fullness. Also learning when your body is actually hungry, instead of just dehydrated or in need of psychological satisfaction, are just a few of the tips available to resist those tasty treats. 

Are diet foods actually good for weight loss?

There is a misconception that if you choose the ‘diet’ version of a product that you are still being healthy and assisting weight loss, but not all low-fat or sugar products are doing what they claim to be. Some foods such as low fat yogurts and cheeses still provide the nutritional sources whilst satisfying hunger, yet quite often, diet foods actually contain high quantities of ‘bad’ ingredients, increasing your intake of salt or sugar which have the adverse effect to what is on the label.

Diet sodas are a prime example of products that do contain less fat figuratively, but are counteracted with copious amounts of artificial sweeteners, flavours and colours that trick the body into preparing for sugar. In this absence of sugar the body then craves it from another source, encouraging you to eat other foods to compensate. Some diet products can significantly help your diet, but it is worth remembering that natural products are always better and the label may not always tell the truth. 

When is it best to eat?

When you eat can be a contributing factor to how effectively you’re losing weight. It is generally considered that eating breakfast and avoiding large amounts of food before bed will benefit your diet most effectively. Eating first thing in the morning is the best way to kick start your metabolism and encourage the burning of calories and fat.

Skipping your breakfast can trick your body into starvation mode, causing the body to slow down its metabolism and store any food you do eat when it comes to lunchtime. At night time just before bed your body should not be taking on a large amount of calories as this will encourage the slowing down of digestion and your metabolism. A pre-bedtime snack can also decrease the quality and length of sleep, creating a vicious cycle of lethargy, a higher desire for high energy foods such as sugar and fat, and a decreased willpower to resist unhealthy foods, all disrupting your weight loss. 

How many meals should you eat in a day?

Once you have chosen your healthy foods, it is then a question of how often you should eat them to ensure maximum productivity of your metabolism. Ideally you should aim to eat around five smaller meals a day to maximise weight loss, as these more frequent but smaller meals will encourage your metabolism to keep burning efficiently, control hunger and cravings, provide a steady supply of fuel and prevent your body from reverting to starvation mode.

Consuming large quantities at one time can also be bad for weight loss as digestion and metabolism can slow, storing more food as fat, whereas taking a grazing approach to food will keep your system burning steadily. Five meals may not be ideal for your lifestyle or hunger pattern, so it is best to devise an eating plan that works best for you, catering to your plans and needs, whilst ensure the ideal consumption of calories. 

Can skipping meals help in weight loss?

It is highly advised not to skip meals for a number of reasons, many people assume that if you skip a meal that means less calories consumed and more fat is burnt therefore more weight lost, but actually in reality, when you skip a meal a number of things happen. Firstly your hunger is likely to increase, meaning when you do come to eat your next meal you will consume more food, compensating for the food missed earlier. Your body will also be requiring an easy and quick source of fuel, causing you to reach for more sugary and fatty foods, as this is the easiest source of glucose, energy.

These foods tend to be most highly packed with calories and fat, disrupting your progression of weight loss. Secondly depriving your body of fuel causes it to revert to a state of starvation, making it store any food you do consume immediately as fat stores and burn muscle instead, this slows your metabolism down considerably. Missing meals can sometimes be unavoidable, though to encourage weight loss it is best to avoid the body reverting to this state of starvation. 

Can you lose weight without exercising?

Weight loss at its basic level boils down to calories; how much we eat and use, and so you can lose weight without having to exercise purely by changing your diet. Exercise however significantly benefits you when trying to lose weight as a session at the gym, going for a run or even doing exercises in your living room burns a much higher yield of calories than just day to day living.

The more calories burnt, the more fat is used up and more weight lost, serves as the fundamental importance of exercising when trying to lose weight. Along with building up strength, flexibility, fitness and general health, exercise is an ideal way to lose weight. If changing your diet a difficult option, exercise alone can result in weight loss but for the best results, a combination of the two is ideal. 

What exercise routine will help weight loss?

Whether high or low intensity, cardio or weight training, all forms of exercise will be beneficial in contributing to weight loss , but essentially no workout is better or worse as each individual responds differently to different forms of exercise. It is important to try different types of exercise and explore which workouts work best to fit your lifestyle and preferences.

If high intensity, short workouts are too exhausting or longer workouts are difficult with your schedule, you have the option to choose an alternative and still reap the benefits upon your weight. Misconceptions are associated with certain exercises for example; weight training makes women bulky and even gain weight, but any form of exercise will encourage weight loss, even weightlifting, and exercise is a vital component to include when trying to lose weight. 

Will carbs stop me losing weight?

There is no single food that will cause weight gain or loss, but instead a suitable balance is ideal to ensure weight loss. Many athletes and diets cut out carbohydrates for a period of time, as reduced carbs will cause the body to use fat and protein stores for fuel, resulting in fat loss. But these diets are only intended for short periods of time and cannot be sustained long term.

Our bodies are designed to work most efficiently with a balanced diet of carbs, proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables, and cutting out or increasing different sources can work well initially, but if continued for an extended period of time can cause other health issues, including heart and kidney damage. To promote ideal weight loss the body needs a healthy balance of all nutrients including both fats and carbs.