How to lose weight and sustainably keep it off

Whether you are trying to lose weight or just eat healthier to improve your general lifestyle or life expectancy, then this post is a must-read article for you.

How to lose weight and sustainable keep it off will cover the following points:

  • What are your diet saboteurs?
  • When and why our bodies store fat and how to avoid it.
  • How to recognize the hidden sugars found in our foods.
  • What are the good foods and where to find them?
  • How much exercise do we really need?
  • What’s the relationship between fat and calories? 
  • Will I lose weight if I eat low-fat foods?

Now I don’t want to body shame, anyone, here. This post is not about achieving the perfect body shape or getting a six-pack. Nor is it about the perfect diet or health regime. It is however about slowly reducing weight in an easy and controlled simple manner that is both healthy and sustainable.

Remember that this is about you, your body, your mind and how they will react to your experimenting with diets and exercising at this point. You may have emotional triggers, food allergies or dark moods which will inspire you to stop, but don’t despair.

Just know that losing weight is a challenge for everyone, even Ronaldo has admitted to struggling with his weight, there just is no easy fix. 

The Diet Saboteurs

In truth, diet saboteurs are familiar to all of us. They are the warm feeling comfort foods that we crave most often and feel the addiction to. These foods include white rice, crisps, white bread, pizza dough, fries, pasta, pastries, and sugary desserts.

However, you don’t necessarily have to give up on all these foods to achieve a sustainable weight loss. Indeed subtle tweaks to your diet will enable you to eat all these things but with no to little weight gain. It’s just a matter of understanding how these foods interact with your body and reacting accordingly.

What Do All Of These Foods Have In Common And Why Are They Diet saboteurs?

All of the above-mentioned foods are largely made up of refined or simple carbohydrates. That is to say that the carbohydrates in these foods have been stripped of all bran, fibre, natural sugars and nutrients in the processing process. 

To make them more appealing to the pallet, high levels of sugar, salt, and other additives are then added. The result is a food product with an extended shelf life but one of poor nutritional content.

These foods then appeal to our taste buds due to the high sugar content and quickly become a staple food in our diet. Of course, due to the low nutritional content, our bodies soon become hungry and our consumption rate increases.

So that’s the first part of our weight gain problem. To satisfy our hunger we instinctively eat more instead of eating correctly. This is why Refined or simple carbohydrates are not good for sustainable weight loss.

Simple carbohydrates – that’s refined sugar and flour!

When And Why Our Bodies Store Fat And How To Avoid It

weight gain on woman in street fat
woman eating ice cream cone

When you eat refined carbohydrates and sugary foods they are very quickly digested by the body and processed. The sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and causes a very unhealthy spike in blood sugar levels.

This spike then triggers the pancreas to then excrete insulin to reduce the blood sugar level back to its normal level. Insulin is the bodies hormone that reduces the blood sugar level by converting the excess sugar directly into fat for storage.

This sudden increased sugar level has also given your body and mind an instant energy boost or rush. This can be evidenced by an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, a sudden euphoric mood swing, and even hyperactivity.

Unfortunately, the extra Insulin removes the sugar causing an instant energy crash, mood drop and feeling of tiredness. Next, your adrenal glands will then begin to secrete adrenaline. This is to boost your blood sugar levels to combat this energy and mood drop and stabilize the body.  

Your brain is also trying to counter this drop in energy and mood so it invariably points you in the direction of a sugary drink or chocolate bar and so the cycle begins again. Phew, you can see how difficult it can be to keep the weight off when you eat refined carbohydrates and sugar. They really are the diet saboteurs!

How To Avoid Excess Fat Storage

Now you know the cycle of eating unhealthily you can recognise it and interrupt that cycle at any point in its path. This knowledge alone will help you to lose weight but it’s simply not enough. We need to know more and we need to employ and use our formidable will power.

There is no need to completely cut out all those foods that we love but there is a need to cut them back. Cutting out processed foods, sugary snacks, drinks and treats may seem like a daunting task and it is, this is why so many diets fail!

There is one common factor in all healthy diets which is the absence of sugar and all simple carbohydrates.

If you want to avoid excess fat storage and reduce your weight in an easy and controlled manner then cut back, not cut out. Cutting out can come later when it’s more manageable and you are ready for the task.

baby sleeping on dad's chest

Another top tip for avoiding fat storage is to not eat between the hours of 8 pm to 8 am or at least for twelve hours through the night.

This is because if the body regularly fasts for twelve hours overnight then it enables the liver to burn fat more efficiently.

Ditch The Refined Sugar

Always remember the following statement and think of it when you make your grocery purchases;

Sugar makes you fat. 

Refined sugar converts to fat quicker than fat itself because it raises your insulin levels which leads directly to fat storage. Moreover, up to forty percent of the sugar you eat is converted to fat. Not only that but if you are overweight that figure can be as high as 60 percent!

Therefore it’s helpful to remember that the, (AHA) American Heart Association’s recommendations for sugar intake. Men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day. For women, the number is lower: 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day.

Consider that one 12-ounce can of soda contains 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar! There goes your whole day’s allotment in one slurp.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) should be avoided at all costs as these are the worst type of sugars. The reason for this is demonstrated by a study conducted in America at the University of Pennsylvania. This study found that HFCS encourages the release of fat-storing hormones.

Furthermore, it also increases the hunger hormone which encourages you to eat yet more sugar. (A DOUBLE WHAMMY)!

Refined Sugar, The Hidden Enemy

As we stated earlier a 12-ounce can of soda contains 32 grams of added sugar. This is a surprising amount and not so obvious, this is why it’s not always easy to see where sugar lurks. With this in mind here are a few other foods with high sugar content that should be struck from your diet. 

White carbs like pasta, bread, rice (not basmati), pizza dough and breakfast cereals. The sugar in these foods digests quickly and causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels. Remember that the bloodstream is suddenly flooded with sugar, causing the pancreas to then excrete insulin to reduce the blood sugar level. 

Sugar also stops your body from burning fat which makes dieting and exercises even harder and to some extent futile. Futile from a fat-burning perspective but I would argue that any exercise is primarily good for you. The other bad thing about sugar is that it is addictive, once you start it’s very difficult to stop.

Can you eat just one biscuit or stop at half the chocolate bar?

Refined sugar is the worst offender when it comes to excess fat storage and it’s hidden in so many foods.

Hidden Sugars: The Worst Offenders

sugar hidden in drinks
  • White refined sugar – The kind you get in small packets or bowls to add to your coffee.
  • White carbohydrates – Found in rice, bread, pasta, muffins, and cereals.
  • Cereal bars – Look closely at the ingredients list here as even the healthy bars can have hidden sugars within them.
  • Cakes, Biscuits, Ice Cream – The sugar levels here can be extreme. 
  • Low-Fat Foods – Manufacturers often take out the fat and replace it with sugar or sweeteners.
  • Any ingredient ending in “ose” – Sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, dextrose, lactose…  
  • Syrup – Basically a very fattening sugar hidden in plain sight.
  • Alcohol – Unfortunately it’s basically all sugar 

Calories obtained from fructose are more likely to add weight to your belly and abdominal area. So if you want to lose belly fat then look out for high fructose levels hidden in many food products. 

How To Cut Down On Sugar

Scary thought eh!

Cutting down or even cutting out sugar altogether is actually one of the best things that you can do for your body. Nature provides all the sugar that we need to survive within a varied diet. We have just grown very accustomed, (addicted) to the high levels of sugar given to us each day.

Addiction may sound like a strong word but refined sugar is now more dangerous to our health than any other food product. 

So what are the quick fixes?

Eat plenty of Chromium which is found in broccoli, eggs, liver, whole grains, nuts, and asparagus. Chromium is a trace mineral that’s present in our food and considered essential by many nutrition experts for the healthy functioning of the body. If you’re suffering from diabetes or trying to lose weight, there are well-researched benefits to taking a chromium supplement. This is because it helps to control blood sugar levels which in turn helps to reduce the sugar cravings.

Cut back before cutting out. Refined sugar is addictive and like any addictive product, it’s always easier and more sustainable on the body and mind to reduce the cravings first.

Avoid sugary, low sugar and even diet versions of drinks. Artificial sweeteners can still be a strong trigger for refined sugar cravings. Try replacing these drinks with fresh fruit or smoothie varieties. 

Take glutamine supplements. Whilst I am not a fan of supplements it has been shown that glutamine can reduce sugar cravings. Simply add one tablespoon to a glass of water to combat the craving.

Avoid or simply cut out or cut down on processed foods. These foods are very low in nutritional value but very high in added sugars and simple carbohydrates.

Buy fresh and cook at home. By buying fresh produce you can access the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals whilst being able to control the sugar content. Cooking at home is also beneficial to your mental health and family bonding.

Be careful when eating away from home. Choose meals that are freshly prepared and be aware of those with hidden carbs and sugar.

Carry healthy snacks with you. You can easily satisfy your sugar fix by eating naturally sweet products such as fruit, peanut butter or homemade flapjacks. 

Check labels on every foodstuff. Remember sugar comes in many forms and is hidden well so become a sugar detective!

How To Spot The Hidden Sugars Found In Our Foods

Every time you eat a cream bun, a croissant, a biscuit, a hard-boiled sweet or muffin you are eating large amounts of sugar. You are also eating hidden, pure sugar when you see any of these descriptions on food labels:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Syrup -Maple, Invert, Golden, Invert… 
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Corn sweetener
  • Honey 
  • Dextrose
  • Lactose 
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  •  Maltose
  • Palm sugar
  • Treacle
  • Molasses
  • Dextrin
  • Cane crystals

Sugar is hidden in many processed, packaged, fast food meals and grocery staples. It can be found in bread, cereals, canned goods, pasta, pasta sauces, frozen foods, and low-fat products amongst others!

It can be added to a wide range of products and in higher quantities than you would imagine. This means that you are often consuming more than your daily amount of it without being fully aware. This is why it is vitally important that you always read the labels and access the amount before buying.

Always remember the, (AHA) American Heart Association’s recommendations for sugar intake when shopping. Men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day. For women, the number is lower: 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day.

Also, remember that manufacturers often use different types of added sugars which are then scattered amongst the list of ingredients. However, all these small doses of different sugars and sweeteners still add up and count towards your inevitable sugar rush. Not only that but all this added sugar is going to turn to fat and will only defeat you in your efforts to lose weight and keep it off!

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What Are The Good Foods And Where To Find Them

I look at it like this; if your food still resembles its natural state then the chances are that it’s one of the good foods. It is as simple as that! 

So if it has come straight from the sea, field, air, bush or tree and arrived on your plate then it’s good food. If however it has been processed through a factory, cooked, pressed or reformed and shaped, then it’s a portion of bad food.

Bread, crisps, pasta, cake, and most tinned products will fall into this category. These foods are usually full of simple carbohydrates, added sugar, salt additives, and coloring and they lack any true nutritional value.

Non processed foods include fruit, nuts, vegetables, milk, and fish which all include natural nutrients and sugars. There is absolutely no need to add sugar to any of our meals as the natural world provides all of that for us. 

You don’t need a fad diet you just need good food and to eat in moderation! 

There is one common factor in all healthy diets which is the absence of sugar and all simple carbohydrates.

Complex Good Carbs Vs Simple Refined Bad Carbs

pizza slice
sushi on a plate complex carbohydrates weight loss
bowl of salad good carbs vinegar and lemon dressing kills germs
bad carbs crisps
hidden sugar bad carbs burger in a bun

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy as they are broken down into glucose (sugar). This is then absorbed into the bloodstream and is used by your body primarily for its fuel. If more glucose is absorbed than can be used then it’s converted into fat for later use.

Do you know that the human brain consumes 20% of the daily glucose production every day!

This is why we should be eating the good carb foods, (unrefined or complex carbs). Not the refined or processed sugary ones, (refined or simple carbswhich we can’t effectively regulate our intake of.

You can find healthy sources of good carbohydrates, which are also high in fibre, in fruit, vegetables, and beans. These healthy foods are also rich sources of other nutrients that the body requires. This nutrient-rich food source then aids in sustaining a manageable weight program by combating hunger.

Bad, simple or refined carbohydrates, by comparison, are low in nutritional value and are high in sugar content. This combination puts stress upon the body and its organs through a yo-yo effect of eating and blood sugar balancing. 

It is this stressing of the organs which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Diets high in refined carbs and sugar have also been linked to high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity, mood swings and hyperactivity.

However, cutting out all the bad carb refined food is not the answer to achieving a sustainable weight loss regime. As I pointed out earlier if you completely cut out all the ‘fun and sugary’ foods from your diet then you won’t be able to maintain it. 


Compromise is the key and you should only cut back, then gradually phase out these bad carbs if you want to. By cutting back on these diet saboteurs you won’t feel the absence of them in your mind. Your will power will then increase along with your general happy mood and so will your health!

The key is choosing the right carbs, the ones which will satisfy the sweetness rush and the hunger pains without putting your body or mind through the stress.

Good carbs include;
  • Oats
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried Apricots or Raisins.
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Beetroot
  • Avocado
  • Yogurt (fat-free or low fat may have added sugar so be careful)
  • Bananas (in moderation due to the high sugar content).
  • Carrots
  • Spelt
  • Wild/Brown or Basmati Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Butternut Squash

Here is a quick suggestion of good carbs to eat in one day:

  • Breakfast –  Banana, hot oats or cold whole-grain cereal with natural yogurt and fruit
  • Lunch – Spelt or whole grain bread with a veg-based soup 
  • Dinner – Sweet potatoes, grilled fish and seasonal veg, salad or beans
  • Supper – Whole-grain cereal with milk
Fruit, Vegetables, And Fibre

Some might say that fruit is full of sugar and so is not good for losing weight however they would be wrong.

Bananas are full of sugar and do set off the fat-storing hormone so they need to be eaten in moderation. However, they are the exception to the rule and if eaten correctly can be an aid in losing weight.

This is because they are also full of nutritional value and fibre, aid our bodies in many ways and offer a slow release of sugar. Think of them as a supercharged energy battery for the body. 

One medium banana (7-8 inches long) has about 105 calories so don’t eat too many as you will lose the benefits and gain the pounds. 

Most other fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, nutrients, and water, essential to our overall health. They take a long time to digest, make you feel fuller for longer and are the body’s natural fuel. This makes fresh fruit and vegges the perfect snack and main course food for any diet plan, so how can we make the most of them?

Don’t overcook them. These foods are best when eaten raw as the cooking process destroys the goodness so don’t overcook. 

Use them as snacks. When you need a sugar fix or feel hungry try eating blueberries, apples or carrots. You will still enjoy the sweetness or full sensation but with fewer calories, less sugar and more fibre.

Bulk up your main course. This will add flavor to even the blandest of dietary meals and will satisfy the hunger cravings for fewer calories. 

Start your meal with salad or soup. This excellent first course will fill you up so much that you won’t even want the dessert.

Bulk out sandwiches. Add healthy vegetable and salad choices to your sandwich and feel fuller and more energised for longer.

There is nothing new here but the point is that by thinking about how good and versatile fresh produce is, you can change your habits and free yourself from the sugar addiction. 

How Much Exercise Do We Really Need?

woman in canoe exercise example

Smart dieters combine exercise and healthy food choices to lose weight and maintain a healthy body. Not so smart dieters do one or the other or worse still overcompensate in one area. In all cases please seek medical advice before starting a weight loss program.

Research by the American College of Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you get between 150 and 250 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week to lose weight. As a general rule of thumb, (a non-scientific thumb), exercise will only work for weight loss if you are working up a sweat.

The (ACSM) also states that to achieve significant weight loss the organization recommends over 250 minutes per week.

How Much Exercise Per Day To Lose Weight

  • To achieve a modest weight loss, you should be doing about 150 to 250 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That’s roughly 22 to 35 minutes of exercise each day.
  • To achieve a more substantial weight loss you should be doing 250 plus minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. That’s roughly 35 minutes of exercise each day.
  • In order to modestly improve weight loss, you should combine a moderate diet restriction with about 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
  • Resistance training does not enhance weight loss, however, it may aid in the loss of fat mass and therefore reduces associated health risks.
  • To prevent weight gain, you should maintain a healthy diet regime plus exercise moderately for a minimum of 150 to 250 minutes per week. That’s about 22 to 35 minutes each day.
  • Please remember that no two people are the same and the figures above are taken from an average. Please seek professional advice before starting a new diet and exercise plan.

Weekly Exercise Recommendations

Since 250 minutes per week of exercise is recommended, you might think that you have to work out every day to lose weight. But that’s not necessarily true. You can exercise every other day or even every third day and still lose weight effectively. In fact, some people prefer it that way.

It’s important that you tailor your needs to your lifestyle and do what’s right for you and not for anyone else, your exercise is yours so own it! Break down the 250 minutes however you want to and have fun. 

Remember that if you exercise for 35 minutes each day then you will meet the expert recommendations for weight loss. As a bonus, you will also benefit from a healthier body, mind, and outlook on life.

When you combine healthy eating, a moderate exercise plan and your preferred way of doing things then the results can be amazing! Just please make sure that you achieve your 250 minutes per week in a way that suits you so that you don’t get bored and discouraged. 

How Much Exercise Per Day / Week To Lose One Pound?

You need to burn about 3500 calories to lose one pound or 0.45 kilograms of weight. The activities laid out below would help a 150 pound or 68-kilogram person to burn roughly enough calories to lose a pound. 

  • 5 hours of running (10-minute mile) or roughly 40 minutes per day
  • 14 hours of walking ( 3.0 miles per hour) or 2 hours per day
  • 5 hours of swimming or about 40 minutes per day
  • 6.5 hours of biking (12-13 miles per hour) or just under an hour each day
  • 7 hours of the physically intense aerobics class or 7 one-hour classes per week

It looks daunting, doesn’t it? Just losing one pound with exercise alone is not an easy thing to do and it’s also very time-consuming. This is why most dieters tend to combine diet and exercise for sustainable weight loss.

What's The Relationship Between calories and fat?

chocolate cake slice
calories and fat woman measuring waist

A calorie is a unit of measurement, just like a teaspoon, an inch or a mile. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down (digests and absorbs) food. Therefore the more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body.

When you eat more calories than your body physically needs then your body will store any extra calories as body fat. 

Calories In

The best calories come from mother nature’s own food. If it has come straight from the sea, field, air, bush or tree and arrived on your plate then it’s good food. This means that it’s fully nutritious and the calories are good and manageable against fat weight gain.

If it has been processed through a factory, cooked, pressed or reformed and shaped, then it’s a portion of bad food. Nutritionally poor has various additives and is not easily manageable against fat weight gain. I would also add to that by saying that if it’s pre-cooked, microwavable ready and fast delivered then it’s also highly calorific. 

It is also true that eating any food in excess can lead to a calorie surplus. This will, therefore, result in fat storage and weight gain however eating natural foods will help to minimise this.  

Calories Out

Know that limiting your calorie intake to less than the amount you can burn off is essential to the fat weight loss goal.

What type of exercise is up to you, but it is now clear that there must be some exercise involved. This exercise would hopefully fall under the 22 to 35-minute timescales as previously mentioned. Remember though that as it is hard to burn off calories a poor diet will quickly negate all that hard work.

You cannot out-exercise a poor diet! 

Why do one hour of intense aerobics to burn off approximately 500 calories only to consume more than that by eating two slices of home-delivered pizza!

Will I Lose Weight If I Eat Low-Fat Foods?

By now you should know that it takes more than more than just limiting your fat intake to lower your body weight. If you want to effectively lose weight and sustainably keep it off you have to turn into a sleuth and look for hidden sugars. Be aware of your diet saboteurs and avoid the yo-yo blood sugar ride that processed foods can give you.

Eat and then fast for twelve hours overnight to give you liver the time to process and start burning off fat. Carry healthy snacks and exercise moderately for about 22 minutes each day. Cook your meals using fresh ingredients and be aware of the extra sugar content in those little extras when dining out.

In short, choosing the low-fat option is a good idea to help lower your total caloric intake but that alone will not help you to lose weight. 

To lose weight, you need to have a happy healthy lifestyle which will lead to a calorie deficit. 

If you take note of all the points noted in this post then I am sure that you can achieve that. 

(Consult with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise or diet program.)

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sustainability dad

Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019. 

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He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.