Dieting is one of the many, many things human have over-complicated. 

There are zillions of diets to choose from. Trends change all the time (at the moment, as far as I can tell, it's all zoodles and cauliflower rice) and yet obesity isn't falling. People keep getting frustrated because they can't stick to a limp lettuce and celery diet so they give up, eat a slice of pizza and then think "well, I've already ruined it. May as well eat an entire double chocolate cake, four bags of crisps, a massive plate of pasta and a small village".

The problem, I think, is actually very simple. A lot of people eat junk filled processed foods and snacks most of the time, and then when they get on a particular health kick they occasionally eat healthier food. And the secret (prepare yourselves!) really isn't rocket science. It's just the other way around. You are meant to eat a healthy diet full of veg, fruit, protein and (if you eat meat) healthy lean meats, and then occasionally you can have some junk. A healthy diet shouldn't be an occasional thing you try out at new years or when you've eaten a particularly big lunch. You should be following a healthy diet as part of your day to day life, because only then can you reap the benefits. Plus, contrary to popular belief, a healthy diet does not have to be unpleasant, and you don't have to give up crisps forever.

A bag of crisps, or a pizza, or a bowl of pasta won't make you fat if they aren't part of your everyday lifestyle. Occasionally indulging in your favourite foods isn't only okay, it's recommended. A lot of people feel they can't stay on a healthy diet long term because it's too restrictive. This gives rise to fad diets and 'quick fixes', which are just not going to work long term. Not just because people give up on them quickly, but because if you are starving yourself or not getting enough calories, and you're not doing strength-building exercises, you will lose muscle. And when you lose muscle, your metabolism slows, which makes it harder for you to lose weight.

Your body will also think your starving if you are eating too little calories, and so it will try to hoard the fat you already have. Of course, if you starve yourself long enough you will appear to lose weight, but what you have actually lost is a quite a lot of muscle and water. The fat you may lose will pile back on when you give up. And you will have to give up, or you will get very sick. 

You don't have to starve to be the right body weight for you.

So what should you do for long-term weight loss, a healthy happy life and a quick metabolism?

The answers really aren't that scary.

1: Dieting doesn't mean starving. At all. Dieting means healthy eating, which is about a lot more than limp, flavourless vegetables and the occasional egg. It also doesn't have to mean zero carbs, just as long as they aren't the main attraction in a given mean. What it does tend to involve is a lot more home cooking, because that way you know what you are eating and you avoid unnecessary sugars and fats that your food doesn't need. You can still have flavour, you can still eat until you get full, and you can still enjoy your food. 

Why not make a vegetable stir fry with some olive oil, soy sauce and rice? Or a simple curry using beans, vegetables and/or meat with some spices? Or roast vegetables with potatoes. Or baked potatoes with chilli? The truth is you can eat most meals (with the possible exception of macaroni and cheese, although even that's okay very occasionally) as part of a healthy diet. Don't eat massive portions, don't go crazy with the cheese and oil, but you can and should eat proper and filling meals.

You just need to limit your carbs (so have more sauce and less pasta, or try zoodles instead of pasta a few tiems a week), eat a hearty meal so you get fuller quicker, and try to base your meals around vegetables and protein rather than carbs and pointless fats. Obviously, deep fried food, creamy food, and exceptionally cheesy food can't be an everyday thing. Substitute deep fried for baked, try tomatoey sauces rather than cream based ones and don't eat cheese every day. You don't need to cut out carbs (unless you want to, of course), but don't eat pasta  and bread every day. Try zoodles once in a while, and try to mix things up so you eat  potatoes, rice and vegetables a few times a week instead of bread and pasta. You may think it's impossible, but if you fry the zoodles in some herby olive oil, serve with vegetables and top with cheese, it is actually a nice and filling meal.

The main problem that I have isn't so much my meals, which do tend to be healthy ish as I normally cook them myself. My problem was snacking. Basically, I just love crisps and salty things. I could eat them all the time, and more often then I'd like to admit after a healthy (ish) meal I would end up eating an entire bag of crisps. Not out of hunger, just out of greed and general boredom. And, obviously, that's not good. But snacking in itself isn't a bad thing, you just need a bit of discipline when you go shopping.

Don't buy crisps.

Just don't buy them, at least for the first few weeks. After that, you can buy a small packet every once in a while, as long as it is every once in a while and not every day, every second day or even every week. If you have more of a sweet tooth, don't buy a whole bag of chocolate or a packet of doughnuts.

Buy berries.

Yes, they can be expensive so you can't buy loads of them, but they have the winning combination of being low in calories and yet uber tasty. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc are good for you, unlikely to make you fat (unless you ate a ton of them), and are ideal for snacking. So next time you're buying snacks, try buying some berries or small portions of nuts and see the weight melt away.

2: Exercise. And by exercise, I don't just mean leaving the sofa for a quick walk once in a while, although that in itself is still a good thing.  Sedentary diets promote obescity simply because we eat for energy, to help us do things during the day, so if we are eating way more food than we are using we are just going to store the fat. Walking more, going to exercise classes (or dance, swimming, and/or yoga) are all very positive. The best thing you can do for yourself is to ensure you are moving around, plus sunlight and air are pretty good for you. But if you really want to lose weight in the short and long term (and you are following a healthy diet), you should consider joining the gym.

The problem with the gym is that people get discouraged when they realise it's not a miracle worker. Simply turning up at the gym, getting on the treadmill or exercise bike for a while and then having a pizza to reward yourself isn't going to help you lose weight. Even turning up at the gym and getting really hardcore will all the cardio machines won't make a huge difference.  

Cardio machines like the treadmill are good in that they burn quite a lot of calories whilst you are using them, they raise your heartbeat and make you sweat, and they do work towards making you fitter. They are good, and should be incorporated into your workout. But the problem with them is that they tend to only burn calories whilst you are using them. This isn't the worst thing in the world as you can burn up to 100 calories per ten minutes on one of those things, but it's not ideal if you are then going to go home and lounge around for the rest of the day. If you want to burn calories in the gym and increase your metabolism so that you burn more calories whilst lounging, eating and even sleeping, then you need to start lifting weights.

Weights aren't as scary as they sound. Of course, when you first enter a gym and you see the corner with all the muscley men lifting weights with their massive biceps, it's not exactly enticing. Most of us may feel intimidated, and we don't want to look stupid and/or break ourselves, so we leave the weights alone. But using weights whilst doing some simple exercises isn't actually that hard and can be hugely beneficial. Squats, military presses and dead lifts (amongst others) are very helpful because they exercise a lot of muscles in your body beyond your arms. Squats, for example, uses your bum, legs, core and arms. That means you are building metabolism by growing muscles, you are working out your whole body and you are burning fat. If you do those exercises combined with some cardio and some of your favourite weight machines (leg presses are quite easy, and you can text whilst you do them), as well as following a healthy diet, then you will see results within a month. Exercise also gives you a really nice and truly natural high. Seriously. The effects have been compared to heroin. You will feel great when you leave, you will sleep better, and you'll be more relaxed for the rest of the day.

Diets do not have to be unpleasant and scary. A proper diet should leave you satisfied, happy and healthy, and will still let you eat all the best things in life, just with a bit of moderation and substitution. Hopefully this article has given you some inspiration. What are your weight loss secrets? Let me know in the comments.

Published by Sophia Moss