Hoping to look and feel a little leaner in time for that holiday or event? Author and sustainable weight loss expert Louise Parker shares her 7-day plan
Total body transformations take time if you want lasting results and you want to really re-set your habits for good – but not as long as you might think. When we ingrain all four pillars of my Louise Parker Method into our clients (think successfully; live well; eat beautifully; exercise intelligently), the method just really becomes part of how they live. The result sticks along with the habit.
The trick is to focus on shifting lifestyle habits, and then the results really look after themselves. We want our clients to enjoy their bodies and to have a life too – not to be obsessing about what they eat or how they look. It’s about freedom from the obsession around dieting and body image.
Saying that, we all want to look and feel our absolute best – and there’s nothing wrong with that. So our job is to educate, sift fads from fiction, fit the method to suit them beautifully, re-wire habits and get our clients a cracking body; and then support and motivate them through the Balance and Lifestyle phase.
It’s normal to store a kilo or two of extra baggage in the winter - I wouldn't class that as ‘yo-yo’ing’
The "summer body" is an outdated concept; our goal is to get each and every client into a body that they are thrilled with, so that they’re ready for any event – our clients want to be really happy in their body all year round. It’s normal to store a kilo or two of extra baggage in the winter – and drop that as you ease into spring. I wouldn't class that as ‘yo-yo’ing’ – just our bodies’ natural way of responding to the seasons, the foods that we eat and how much we move and socialise.
We’re really anti ‘extreme measures’ because we know that doesn't work, it’s depressing and pointless – and it's often a history of fad diets and failed attempts that has people knocking on our door in the first place – and actually the reason behind why I created the method more than 15 years ago. I was a serial dieter – hopping between dress sizes for more than a decade and so I know, like I know the sun will come out tomorrow, that restrictive measures only work against you.
However, I’m no purist and of course, there are tricks of the trade that you can do with just a week to go to a special event. I’m not talking about going on to some sort of ridiculous crash plan here – more sticking to the principles of our existing method to the best of your ability – and just tightening up on some other tips that we don’t expect our clients to follow 50 weeks a year.
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I personally try to stay at a more or less constant body fat level and size. Jeans are tight in January and September for obvious reasons, and I’m totally fine with that – I’ve enjoyed eating too much Toblerone at Christmas and loved a summer of relaxing into more celebration too.
So the good news is, if you have a week to go until you’ve got to bare your flesh, there is still time to make a difference. If you've got a high BMI, it may be that you drop towards a dress size, but if you’re already pretty lean, it’s just going to tighten everything up, put a spring in your step and lean you out as much as we can, without eating into precious muscle (which your body needs for structure and you need for a healthy metabolism) – so we don’t want to take any drastic steps that work against you by the time your tan has faded.
The 7-day plan
Here’s what I’ll personally do (if I need to) with a week to go before a holiday, or coach one of my clients to do, perhaps before a shoot or a press event, which can be really demanding.
1. Let’s start with the obvious and cut out all junk
All of it – not even a little Haribo. It’s actually easier to say a total no to sugars than dabble a bit here and there.
On a longer programme, we’d okay a slice of birthday cake, but if you’ve got a week – we haven’t got time for that.
Swerve around all alcohol, cakes, sugars and junk – we all know what these foods are.
2. Get savvy with where the hidden sugars are
This is where most people go wrong. There’s absolutely no point swerving the Haribo to eat paleo energy balls made of dates and honey. It may be natural, but it’s still a sugar and if your body doesn’t need it or can’t burn through it, it’s still going to end up on your bottom.
Flip the label and save yourself any misconceptions. It’s one thing knowing that you’re scoffing a Kit Kat but it’s soul-destroying to think you’re on a path to leaning out and actually putting in effort, whilst eating ‘gluten-free, natural, you get the idea’ balls that contain just as much sugar.
3. Drop the salt
You need salt in your diet, so don’t cut it out altogether – it can be dangerous – especially if you’re upping your fluids (which we will come on to next). Just keep an eye on it and perhaps use half than you normally would. Excess salt in your diet is going to force your body to store water – which whilst it isn’t fat, will make your limbs appear puffy and not what you want. Again, get savvy and check the label – watch out for soya sauce and miso and anything processed.
4. Make sure you’re staying really hydrated
If you’re training – which let’s assume you are – I’d aim for a minimum of 2-3 litres of water per day. Don’t go bonkers on it though – it can be dangerous to flood your body with water. Cut down to a couple of cups of tea a day or a good coffee you really enjoy and dose up on infused waters and herbal teas.
Drinking more fluid won’t actually burn body fat – but the fat burning process will slow down if you are dehydrated. And we so often confuse thirst for hunger. Your skin really needs good hydration too, especially if you’re flying long haul.
5. Focus on what you CAN add into your Food Plan (we never call it a diet)
If your mindset is on the good stuff, you’re less likely to focus on what you can’t have. Don’t eliminate whole food groups but the one group you can cut down on is refined carbohydrate. You need carbs though – just focus on heaps of vegetables in a rainbow of colours and at least a couple of portions of fruit a day.
Fruits contain fructose (and anything with an ‘ose’ on the end is a sugar) so try to stick to 2-3 portions per day. That way you’re not going without, but you’re not stacking away too much sugar that will slow down your fat loss.
6. Eat 3 meals a day and 2 snacks - ensure every single one contains protein
It’s going to stabilise your blood sugar levels, hormones, appetite and get that fat burning tap dripping. There are hundreds of ideas in either of my Louise Parker Method books – or if you’re following a programme with one of my dieticians, this is personally adapted to get you the best results.
Really simply put, you’re aiming for each meal to have a good dose of lean protein, some fruits or lots of seasonal veggies, and then last but not least, a little bit of healthy fat.
You have to eat fat to optimise burning fat – but it’s just a little dose. You can’t eat endless avocados or pour olive oil like wine over your salads – just a tablespoon of fat at every sitting is perfect.
7. Work out every day that you possibly can
Squats with pulsing side kicks
Our mantra is ‘pay your daily rent’ – so even on the most challenging days, do a little something. With a week to go, you’ve got to put your full arse into it. A few stretches will not cut it. If you could do an hour, that would be amazing, alongside all the other tips.
What you do in that hour is equally important – use it intelligently and don’t zone out on the treadmill watching TV. Your focus should be on full body workouts and using all the large and small muscle groups in your body. Stick to what you know or get instruction – as you’ve no time to lose to injury or paying lip service.
We want to get that fat burning tap going, whilst really working to create extra muscle and give your figure that strong framework. Try to work to 8/10 intensity and keep it up for as long as you can – minimising rest times. I like to keep repetitions high too. We want to sculpt a delicate yet athletic body whilst creating what we call the ‘afterburn’. If you’re focusing on strength work in varied circuits with little rest time, you’re forcing your body to burn fat up to 48 hours after your workout.
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Don’t worry about bulking up – that takes months and eating copious chickens and scary-looking weights. But do add resistance – use your bodyweight, light weights or suspension training.
Most of all, stick to what you know – and it needn’t be complicated. You’d be amazed what a week's worth of squatting, lunging, planking and fine-tuning such as glute and deep core work will do if you are really consistent and living to the rest of the tips. Schedule in these workouts now, or they just won’t take priority and if you possibly can, walk up to an hour a day – it easily clocks up and will help keep that fat burning tap dripping, without burning into precious muscle mass when you're in a gentle calorific deficit.
The Perfect Plank
8. Get plenty of sleep
I’ll leave you with one that you’ll love. Sleep . It’s not hippy nonsense and has a huge impact on results. If you’re knackered, your hormones will be out of whack, your appetite raging and you’re likely to reach for a Pimms and not a plank come Wednesday.
We see that clients who sleep well – consistently 7-8 hours a night – will achieve the great results we expect if everything else is in place. Those who don’t could see a 30 per cent drop in results – so it’s not to be scoffed at. Try to embrace it and see it as a positive too. Cancel your nights out and actually schedule time to be a little nerdy – you’ll feel amazing as a result. Set a bedtime reminder on your phone at 9pm to remind you to turn off Netflix and go and run a bath. I pop some magnesium salts with some lavender, light a candle and really do my best to avoid any screens from 9pm.
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It gives you time to exfoliate and dry skin brush (which is brilliant for increasing lymphatic drainage and getting rid of waterlogged tissues), whack on a face and hair mask and do your gradual glow, hop into bed and get cracking on a beach read that will take your mind off all the things that usually keep you awake at night.
You’ll have eaten beautifully, digestion will be great (whack in a probiotic if you’re not already on one to help with that), worked out until your limbs feel all wobbly and virtuous and you'll drift off into a deep, REM sleep.
Much of the groundwork we do during the day needs the night-time to really allow your best results to take hold.
Louise Parker is a sustainable weight loss expert and author of the ‘Louise Parker Method' and 'Lean For Life’. Her company, Louise Parker, runs lifestyle, wellness and weight loss programmes globally from their London clinics in South Kensington and within The Wellness Clinic at Harrods. Courses are supported by a registered dietician and can be coached worldwide or nationally. Programmes can be supported by her team of fitness professionals in the comfort of your home or in the private studios within Harrods.
Buy The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life, £14.28
Read Susannah Taylor's first diary of trying Louise Parker's method here