How many people do you know who at some point in their lives have been ‘on a diet’? And how many have kept the weight off? The dieting industry in the UK is estimated to be worth over a billion pounds each year, and most of us are likely to have contributed to this in one way or another, through buying meal replacements, books, diet plans and so on.

When you start to deny yourself of your favourite foods, they become even more desirable. So the trick is to allow yourself small amounts of those foods, but to enjoy every mouthful and to be very conscious of your habits.

As the UK nutritionist for popchips, I’ve been looking at research on people who have successfully managed to lose and maintain their weight. Such people tend to have healthy strategies and generally don’t follow rigid diets. They eat regular meals (and a few snacks!) and they use support from family or friends. It’s possible for us to learn from this research by taking on some of their healthy habits, so I offer a few tips here.

We often eat to fulfil an emotional need rather than a physical hole. So your thoughts and mood can have a great influence on which foods you choose to eat and when. Those people who succeed in keeping to a healthy weight tend to believe that this is something they do have control over. So, for starters, begin by believing you can achieve your goal; start believing that even if you snack you can lose weight, it’s just about what you choose to snack on. Everything you do is preceded by a thought. So begin, today, to Think Slim.

If you continue to try out the latest quick fix, you’ll continue to fall into a ‘dieting trap’. Instead, decide today that you’re in the driving seat. Try this 10-point plan to get you started:

  1. Write down your goal. Make it specific. For example, “I will walk for 20 minutes four times a week”.
  2. Be prepared for the urge to snack. Have lower calorie nibbles accessible: popchips, olives, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, popcorn, carrot sticks, low fat yogurt, fresh fruit.
  3. If you do overindulge – enjoy it! It frees you from feelings of guilt and anger, which make many people abandon their diets. Simply get right back on track.
  4. Keep a food diary to show what you ate, where, why and how you felt at the time. You may find that you eat in response to stress or emotions.
  5. Become more active. Walk or cycle to work instead of driving, use the stairs instead of the lift, and take the dog for a walk (or borrow a neighbours!).
  6. Try to make each meal an occasion at the table rather than stuffing down snacks at work or as you do the housework. Get into the habit of putting your fork down after every mouthful – it works wonders in helping you eat more slowly.
  7. Get your family and friends to support you. Tell them that you really want to be slimmer and healthier.
  8. Brush your teeth after very meal or snack – it helps you stop wanting more as you don’t want to lose that freshness in your mouth.
  9. Recognise your own triggers. Sometimes we tend to reach for unhealthy foods when we’re upset, bored, tired, and so on. Start noticing what happens just before you reach for that chocolate chip biscuit!
  10. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can only succeed. Keep a daily achievements list and record every success, no matter how little – just deciding to walk up an escalator is a success.