Simple steps to losing weight and keeping the pounds off long-term

Forget the fads and stay in shape for good with our guide to the actions you can take to reach – and maintain – your target weight.

How often do we go on a health drive in a bid to lose the pounds only to step back into our old habits?

It's an age-old trap that is all too easy to fall into – but that doesn't mean history has to keep repeating itself.

Steps to losing weight

There are some simple actions we can take to develop long-term good habits that will help us get in shape, and stay in shape.

Here's our guide to banishing yo-yo diets, and embracing a healthier future...

1. Face the facts

Keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks (or more) is a brilliant way of tracking your intake. There are now a variety of really useful Apps that help you do exactly that, and will even count your calories and record activity levels for you too so that you know exactly how much you can consume each day without gaining weight. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular calorie counters of the moment, with Lose It!, Noom Coach and FatSecret also among the most used.

2. Manage your portions

It’s a simple fact of life that the more you eat, the more calories you are taking on board. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume, and to maintain weight, the two need to be roughly equal. One instant way to cut calories without overhauling your diet is to practice portion control – in other words, stop eating before you feel full. This doesn't mean going around hungry, but rather serving smaller portions that will leave you feeling satisfied but in no discomfort.

3. Go for goodness

If you have a holiday or big event coming up, the idea of crash dieting may be particularly appealing. But studies have shown that dieters tend to stick to new eating programmes for a matter of weeks only. That's why sustained weight loss and maintenance is best achieved through realistic behavioural change incorporating a more balanced diet, portion control, and increased activity to help us burn calories. Eating more fruit, veg, oily fish, grains and pulses, as well as staying hydrated with water, and cutting down on saturated fat and sugar, are the hallmarks of healthy eating.

4. Don’t skip meals if you’re hungry

When you’re trying to lose weight it can be tempting to cut out meals in an effort to avoid the calories. But, some studies suggest those who don't eat breakfast are on average heavier and less healthy than those who do. And research from the American Heart Association also found breakfast-eaters tend to have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

By going several hours without eating, you may find yourself reaching for a biscuit, or making another poor food choice out of hunger. There is some evidence to suggest that eating breakfast can also make you more active in the morning because you have more energy, and concentration levels are boosted. But, there is another school of thought among scientists that in the absence of concrete evidence around breakfast eating, if you don't feel hungry, you shouldn't force yourself to eat first thing unless you are about to exercise or need extra energy to perform well.

5. Weigh yourself

While you might think weighing yourself daily sounds a bit extreme, it seems regular checks can lead to the most progress. A US study on maintaining weight loss found those who used scales daily were less likely to gain significantly over the next 18 months. And a further study, published in the Obesity journal, revealed those who weighed themselves daily were less likely to increase the amount of fat they consume than those who used scales less than once a week. But, with small fluctuations in weight usual from day to day, don't be disheartened if you appear to gain a pound or two here or there. It's the weekly average you should be focused on.