1. Stop thinking ‘good food, bad food’
Putting ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labels on what you eat can make you feel a failure if you eat too many of the ‘wrong’ types. And if you feel you’ve already failed or let yourself down for eating a couple of biscuits, you’ll be more likely to end up eating the whole packet. Try eating foods that you’ve previously thought of as ‘sinful’ every day in small amounts. Once you are able to master these foods, instead of them mastering you, the urge to binge on them will go.
2. Get fruity
Slim women, on average, have one more serving of fruit each day than overweight people, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Try eating a whole fruit portion (not juice) before every meal, which is a great trick to cut down on the amount of calories you eat. Keeping fruit on your desk at work will help keep you away from the vending machine.
3. Stop using food as an emotional prop
Naturally slim people will try to solve a problem by talking it through, rather than turning to food. And they’ll get their comfort from other things such as friendship, me-time or non-food treats like a book or listening to music.
To break the comfort-eating habit, keep a food and thoughts diary to identify the exact events or emotions that are most likely to prompt you to overeat. To re-program yourself not to eat as an emotional response, write a list of distracting activities you can do instead and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.
4. Distinguish between hunger and appetite
Naturally slim people are much more likely to eat only when they have genuine feelings of hunger. Appetite can be stimulated by anything from boredom to watching food adverts on the TV, but the key difference between these cravings and true hunger is that the cravings go away.
If you can’t work out whether you are genuinely hungry or not, give it 20 minutes. If you are still feeling the pangs, then go ahead and eat something. If it was just a craving, the urge will have passed.
5. Keep a routine
A varied diet is good, but did you know that too much taste-bud titillation in one meal can encourage you to overeat? If you fill your plate with a mass of different flavours and textures, you’re less likely to get bored, which means you’ll keep eating for longer!
Strike a balance by making 80 per cent of your meals from a narrower range of different foods. Predictability doesn’t have to be boring and it does keep you away from limitless opportunities to over-indulge.
6. Shop like you’re slim
Savvy slim shoppers avoid unplanned supermarket forays, but make a list of what you need beforehand. ‘Impulsive food choices often prove to be unhealthy ones, but if you shop with a list, you’ll be less likely to grab high-calorie foods off the shelf,’ says Dr Schenker from the British Nutrition Foundation.
In the same vein, don’t go to the grocery store hungry, or you’ll soon find yourself lining up for free cheese and dip samples in the deli section.
7. Break the sugar habit
If you take sugar in tea and coffee you might think that you’d never be able to drink it unsweetened, but give your taste-buds a chance to adjust, and you’ll save yourself around 15 calories a time (or 30 if you have two spoonfuls). The same goes for breakfast cereals. A lot of cereals already have a high sugar content, so they should be perfectly palatable without additional sweetening.
8. Drink plenty of water
If you’re feeling hungry, the last thing you may want is a glass of water but try it – it works. When you come in from a long day at the office or a draining shopping trip, you might be tempted to head straight to the snacks in the cupboard to tide you over until dinner. But chances are the pangs you’re feeling are thirst and not hunger.
If you find the taste of plain water too bland, then add a small amount of low-sugar cordial or have a refreshing cup of hot water and lemon.
Substitute water, for high-calorie fizzy drinks too. Not only will it make you feel cleansed and rehydrated, it’s better for your teeth and skin.
9. Get active
Even if you go to the gym for an hour three times a week, that’s still only three per cent of your waking hours spent on being very active. One of the best-kept secrets of slim people is to be on the move a lot during the other 97 per cent of the time. If you’re not a natural fidget, you can consciously plan small bursts of activity , and even small actions add up – such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, standing rather than sitting while on the phone, and walking to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing.
10. Don’t go without
It might sound surprising but people who skip meals are more likely to put on weight than those who have a healthy attitude towards food and eat three meals a day. It’s a mantra we’ve all heard but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
A 2003 study showed that people who ate a nutritious breakfast were a third less likely to become obese than those who went without. One reason for this is that eating first thing helps stabilise your blood sugar levels, which in turn regulates how quickly you burn energy. Of course it also means you won’t be as tempted by that plate of biscuits come 11 o’clock.
11. Ditch the salt pot
Scientists at St George’s University of London have found higher salt intakes mean more sugary drinks.
If we gave up the excess salt, we’d drink 75 fewer cans of fizzy pop each year – saving us 525 teaspoons of sugar and more than 10,000 calories.