Start shedding the pounds in 20 minutes

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Have the summer holidays left your clothes feeling tight? Sarah O’Meara asks Alex Buckley for 20 pain-free ways to get back into shape.

Have the summer holidays left your clothes feeling tight? Sarah O’Meara asks Alex Buckley for 20 pain-free ways to get back into shape.

JUST when your favourite jeans become a little snug and your confidence takes the accompanying nosedive, most diets ask you to give up things that cheer you up, like food and booze.

But according to author Alex Buckley, the moment we begin sacrificing life’s little pleasures, the more likely our pound-ditching quests will fail.

“We’re creatures of habit and need to make small and simple changes to the way we eat and behave,” explains the author of Ssh! Lose Weight in 20 Minutes.

Speaking from personal experience, Buckley, who’s neither a fitness guru, dietician nor a scientist, points out it might be better to accept your own habits, and work around them. “I’m a fundamentally lazy person who enjoys good food and drink and doesn’t want to lose those pleasures from life. But incorporating small changes into our daily routines can contribute to gradual but significant weight loss.” Setting grand diet targets that disrupt your life are a recipe for failure, says Buckley. By making minor adjustments, the writer lost more than three stone over the course of a few months. So see what a little everyday effort could do to your silhouette, here are some of Alex’s surprisingly easy quick-fixes:

Don’t miss brekkie: It really is the most important meal of the day. Apart from anything else, if you eat breakfast, you’ll be less hungry before lunch, meaning you’ll be less likely to snack.

Have a big bowl of soup for lunch: After a low-calorie but filling lunch, you’ll feel less hungry during the afternoon and won’t be tempted by sugary treats.

Slow snacking: Allow yourself a snack - but eat it slowly. The likelihood is you’re not that hungry at all, but are looking for a burst of energy or a sugar rush. If you eat snacks quickly you’ll want another one as soon as you’ve finished the first. So, the more you practise eating slowly, the less you’ll be craving.

Brush those teeth: If you do have a fattening treat, such as chocolate, brush your teeth afterwards. It’ll stop you from wanting more... and more!

Slow down: Eating slowly tricks the stomach into thinking it has had more food than it actually has, because it takes longer to finish the meal. Train yourself to eat more slowly. It really does work!

Dish it out: When dishing up your food, arrange it on small plates. Not only will it look more attractive, but it will encourage you to eat less. Remember,quality over quantity!

Small changes: Cut down on fat, carbohydrates and sugar, but don’t cut them out entirely. Try taking the crust off your toast in the morning, cutting the fat off your bacon or having one and a half sugars in your tea rather than two. Little changes will make a big difference.

Reduce the booze: Alcohol is very fattening, so drink small bottles of beer instead of large ones and use small wine glasses for that evening tipple. Don’t forget: always sip your drinks slowly. It makes them more enjoyable.

Make more: When making a meal with fresh vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower and peppers, prepare more of them than you’re going to eat. Put the extras in a bowl in the fridge so you have fresh, healthy snacks whenever you feel peckish.

Get saucy: If you buy takeaway food, order the main dishes without sauce and vegetable dishes with sauce - as these tend to be less fattening. This way, you get a healthier sauce with the meal.

Drink up: Drink water with every meal, even if it’s an accompaniment to another drink. It helps you fill up more quickly. Water’s also very good for your health and practically free.

Caffeine: Drinking coffee or tea during the day helps control hunger in much the same way as drinking water. But don’t over do it! If you like to drink a lot of coffee, try switching from milk-drenched drinks, like lattes or cappuccinos, to Americanos. They’re less fattening, yet just as satisfying.

Pasta perfect: If you’re cooking pasta - like Spaghetti Bolognese - always give yourself lots of sauce and less pasta than you would usually have. This way you can still enjoy the food and fill up on the less fattening aspect of the meal. Also, swap parmesan for salt and pepper.

Dilute drinks: Fruit juice is packed with calories and sugar. So, if you drink a lot of it, dilute it 50/50 with water. Not only will it last longer, you’ll also consume fewer calories.

Grab a bag: Treat yourself to a bag of grapes. They’re sweet, easy to pop in the mouth and often crunchy - the perfect snack, in other words.

Mix it up: If you can’t give up sugary cereals, mix them with healthier alternatives like fruit or yoghurt. Be experimental and find a way to eat less of them.

Buck the fizz: Try to drop sugary drinks from your diet (at least in the short-term) and if you have to drink them, go for the diet option instead.

The healthy diet: A healthy diet should consist of plenty of fruit and vegetables, starchy foods such as rice, bread, pasta (try to choose wholegrain varieties when you can) and potatoes, protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses, some milk and dairy foods, as well as small amounts of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Step it up: It’s really not hard to be a little more active on a daily basis. And it will really burn those calories. Think about how you can be more active without disrupting your daily routine. It can be as simple as carrying baskets around the supermarket instead of pushing a trolley.

Start cooking: Making a meal from scratch reminds you just what you’re eating. So buy a cookbook and begin avoiding pre-packaged food. Your tastebuds will soon st art craving personalised lunchtime sandwiches and fresh suppers, above bland, salt-heavy supermarket versions.

Ssh! Lose Weight in 20 Minutes by Alex Buckley is published by MX Publishing, priced £9.99. Available now