We’ve all been there… You go to slip into your slinky black party dress only to find it’s shrunk in the wardrobe. What do you do? Wear magic knickers and suck in your breath all night? Swap it for something you don’t like half as much? Go panic-shopping for a new dress in a depressingly roomier size?
Scrap that. The more sensible option is to opt for a spot of pre-party season fat-busting. It doesn’t have to be radical – no starving yourself, no drinking weird shakes, no 10K runs before a bowl of gruel for breakfast. Instead, we’re talking about five days of focused healthy eating and exercise for instant body confidence.
Some of the ‘weight’ you may feel you want to shift may not be fat at all, but water or gas, and you can do a lot of improve both of those in five days. Plus, this plan includes foods that will nurture your skin and hair from within. Start on Monday and you’ll be looking and feeling fantastic in time for the weekend.
How to do it
Follow these rules for best results
Leaving long gaps between meals and snacks messes with your blood sugar which can upset your energy and mood, leading to sugar cravings and stress eating. It can also mean that when you do eat, you’re so hungry you stuff yourself. Large meals can lead to food fermentation, which creates gas, expanding your waistline. Aim for the ‘little and often’ approach.
Wheat foods tend to be high in calories (pizza, bread, biscuit, cakes…) so avoiding it can really save your butt! It’s also a common source of intolerance reactions which can cause bloating, so removing it may help you look and feel slimmer quickly, as well as reduce skin redness and breakouts. On this plan you should avoid:
Bread (except 100% rye)
Cakes, pastries and biscuits
Couscous and bulgar
Breakfast cereals (except porridge and puffed brown rice)
Eat some grains
You’ll be exercising this week, so it’s important that you have some fuel in the tank. A small amount of slow-release carbs from non-wheat sources will give you the get-up-and-go you need for the gym.
You can eat grains twice a day on this plan, but the serving size is modest as even these non-wheat foods can pull water into the body. Choose two items from this list:
1 slice rye bread or 2 rye crispbreads (Ryvita)
1 teacup cooked porridge oats or 3 oatcakes
1 teacup cooked brown rice or quinoa
Vary your dairy
Most dairy foods are made from cow’s milk, a known intolerance trigger in many people. Cow dairy foods can also be high in fat, and therefore calories. The more often you eat something, the more likely you are to become intolerant to it, so it pays to vary your dairy. Switch to goat’s or sheep’s dairy, or soya or nut milks.
Focus on lean protein
Lean protein helps you feel full so it should be the cornerstone of any weight-loss plan. The most common cause of poor-quality hair is also a low-protein diet (hair is made from the protein keratin). Eating more protein can help you lose weight and get your hair in great shape for the party season – win-win! You should aim to eat 200g-300g protein every day. This means you need to eat two items from this list:
100g Greek 0% fat yoghurt
100ml skimmed milk
2 organic eggs
1 skinless chicken/turkey breast or 100g turkey mince
100g lean pork fillet
3 rashers unsmoked back bacon
100g white fish, such as cod, haddock or pollock
100g oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel
100g tofu, Quorn
Say no to beans
Beans and lentils are brilliant, healthy foods, but they have a major downside – they create gas. So, if you want to look and feel slimmer fast, for the next five days you should avoid:
Chickpeas or houmous
Kidney, cannellini, butter or flageolet beans
Eat good fats
Boosting essential fats is a fast way to moisturise skin from the inside. Just a few days of adding extra omega-3 and 6s will really show in your skin. Plus, you need some fat to burn fat! The easiest way to add good fats is to drizzle oils over salad, eat oily fish or snack on nuts and seeds. Aim for one serving a day from the following list:
1 tablespoon olive, linseed, walnut or rapeseed oil
50g oily fish
2 tablespoons pumpkin or sunflower seeds
6 almonds or 6 half walnuts, or 3 brazil nuts
Go easy on fruit
Fruit is nutritious and the high antioxidant content makes it great for skin. However, it’s also high in sugar, which can stall weight loss. Choose low-sugar fruits and don’t eat them after a meal where they can sit and ferment in your stomach, creating gas. Fruit should be eaten as a snack or at breakfast, but not as a pudding. Eat up to two of these per day:
2 tablespoons berries
1 slice melon
Salad with everything
Vegetables and salad are healthy and low in calories, so this is where you can bulk up your meals. However, eating too much of anything can create bloating, so watch your portion size. Aim for a fist size serve of salad or veggies with every meal and no more. Steer clear of white potatoes, turnip, swede, parsnip or beetroot.
Alcohol is fattening and a nightmare for your skin, so if you want to look amazing by the weekend, give it a miss during week. Instead, drink lots of water, herbal teas or green tea.
Eat from a plate, not a bowl
Bowls encourage overeating. You’re more likely to reduce your portion size if you eat from a plate.
Make a conscious effort to chew your food thoroughly. This will not only allow your brain time to register the food you have eaten, switching off your appetite and preventing over-eating, it will also kick your digestion into gear.
Salt causes water retention, which can really show in your body-con dress. To look and feel slimmer fast, don’t add salt to food and avoid salty condiments such as Marmite and soya sauce.
Go for watery veg
Diuretic foods cause you to lose water from your body so they can really help to beat the bloat. Most vegetables are diuretic, especially cucumber, celery and asparagus.
Exercise burns calories, lifts mood and gets your digestion moving. It’s especially beneficial after eating to aid blood sugar balance. You may not feel like running a marathon after lunch, but making time for a walk or a quick workout will help digestion and also stop you over-eating as it’s uncomfortable to move about if you’ve eaten too much.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation increases appetite and plays havoc with your pores. Get eight hours a night to give you plenty of energy to exercise and allow skin time to heal itself overnight.
Your 5-day slim-down plan
Apple porridge with pecans and cinnamon (see recipe)
1 apple, 6 walnuts halves
Mediterranean tuna salad
Combine a small bag of salad leaves with 6 cherry tomatoes, 2 chopped spring onions, 1 chopped cucumber and 6 pitted black olives. Top with ½ can tuna in spring water, drained. Dress with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette
2 sticks of celery with 50g low-fat cottage cheese
Quorn stir fry
Heat a wok and spritz with oil. Fry 1 chopped clove garlic, ½ red chilli and 1 teaspoon ginger paste. Add 100g Quorn pieces and brown. Set aside. In the same pan, add a handful each of sugar snap peas, carrot sticks and broccoli and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and steam until cooked. Add 1 tablespoon low-sugar soya sauce and combine with the Quorn. Serve.
Apple porridge with pecans and cinnamon
150g porridge oats
400ml semi-skimmed milk
2 Pink Lady apples, cored and diced
2tbsp soft brown sugar, or to taste
2tbsp pecans, roughly chopped
Place the oats, milk, water and cinnamon in a heavy based saucepan. Bring up to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently, and cook for 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. Add a splash more milk or water if it is getting too thick.
Stir through the diced apple, cooking for just another 30 seconds or so to warm the apple through.
Spoon into bowls, sprinkle brown sugar to taste and scatter on the pecans. Serve immediately while piping hot.
1 slice rye toast topped with ½ avocado, mashed. Drizzle with a squeeze of lemon, sea salt and paprika to taste
1 pear and 3 Brazil nuts
Winter superfood salad (see recipe)
Cucumber sticks with 2 tablespoons low-fat yoghurt, mixed with fresh mint and lemon juice to taste
Feta and asparagus frittata
Spritz a frying pan with oil. Fry ½ chopped onion and 3 asparagus spears, chopped. Add 1 tablespoon water and cover until the asparagus is tender. Add two beaten eggs, salt and pepper and cook till eggs are firm. Sprinkle with 25g feta cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh mint and serve
Winter superfood salad
1tbsp olive oil
225g sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
225g turkey fillets, sliced
1 orange pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1cm piece root ginger, grated
Zest and juice 1/2 orange
1tbsp soya sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large handfuls mixed watercress, spinach and rocket leaves
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Place the oil, potatoes, turkey and peppers in a large roasting tin and toss together. Roast for 20 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger to the turkey and vegetables and roast for a further 15 minutes or until the turkey is golden and the potatoes tender. Add the orange zest and juice, soya sauce and honey and mix well. Cool slightly. Season to taste.
Put the salad leaves in a large bowl, add the turkey mixture and lightly toss to mix. Serve straight away.
2 eggs and 1 slice toasted rye bread, cut into soldiers
1 slice melon with 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Radish and rare beef roll-ups (see recipe)
2 sticks celery with 50g low-fat cottage cheese
Hot and sour apple and prawn stir-fry
Radish and rare beef roll-ups
450g fillet steak (1 long thin piece works best)
4 spring onions
2cm root ginger
2tbsp sesame oil
40ml soya sauce
½tbsp wasabi paste
Black sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Season the steak with salt and white pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot and sear the steak on all sides so it’s quite dark on the outside but still feels soft and rare on the inside. Wrap it in cling film and place it in the freezer for 1 hour.
Chop each radish into 8 wedges and slice the spring onions length ways into thin slivers.
Finely grate the ginger and combine with the sesame oil, soya and wasabi paste.
Unwrap the steak and slice as thinly as possible, you should get 16 slices out of it. Place a few pieces of radish and spring onion along with a sprig or two of watercress at one end of a slice of beef and roll it up. Repeat this until all of the beef and vegetable are used up.
Arrange the beef rolls on a plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve with the dipping sauce. This recipe makes 16 rolls – save the leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for another meal.
Lowri Turner is a nutritionist with two London weight loss clinics. For more information, go to lowriturner.com Recipes and pictures: British Leaf Salad Association, makemoreofsalad.com; Pink Lady Apples, pinkladyapples.co.uk; Love Radish,loveradish.co.uk