Ten Top Tips

Weight Concern has joined forces with Cancer Research UK to develop Ten Top Tips.

Ten Top Tips is a simple leaflet-based intervention which focuses on forming healthy habits for weight management.

The leaflet is designed for overweight adults and can be ordered or downloaded free of charge.

Ten Top Tips Leaflet

Ten Top Tips leaflets

Leaflets can be ordered from the Cancer Research UK website. Please click here

Alternatively, you can download a pdf of the leaflet

The Background of Ten Top Tips

Many people are familiar with the idea of getting into bad habits and how difficult it can be to change. By understanding how habits are formed, it is possible to develop new healthy habits which can have long-lasting, positive effects on our health.

Ten Top Tips promotes the formation of healthy eating and activity habits, such as eating regularly, swapping to low fat foods and walking every day. Once healthy habits are formed, we are more likely to continue the healthy behaviour.

Research into Ten Top Tips

Research into Ten Top Tips was undertaken at University College London and funded by the Medical Research Council's National Prevention Research Initiative. A large randomised controlled trial of over 500 patients from 14 GP practices across England showed that those who received the Ten Top Tips leaflet lost significantly more weight than those who received usual care over the short term (3 months). Furthermore, patients who received the leaflet reported a greater increase in the automaticity of the target behaviours, which suggests Ten Top Tips was more effective at establishing new habits.

Over the longer term (2 years), patients maintained the weight they had lost at 3 months but there was no longer a difference in the amount of weight lost between the Ten Top Tips and usual care groups. Usual care in most practices included a referral to a commercial programme, such as Weight Watchers. This suggests Ten Top Tips is a low-cost, low intensity option for long term weight loss.

Weight Concern is currently working with researchers at University College London to develop and test a mobile phone app of the Ten Top Tips, which also includes advice on breaking habits.

The science behind Ten Top Tips

The scientifically-based programme involves adopting ten simple steps and using a weekly checklist over eight weeks to monitor progress and help reinforce the new habits.

The set of scientifically-based guidelines is designed to help people adopt healthy habits that can be sustained for long-term weight maintenance. Based on psychological theories of habit formation, these easy-to-follow tips can be incorporated into people's everyday routines without major lifestyle change. A key part of successfully losing weight on the programme is using a simple 'tick sheet' tracking tool which accompanies the tips and has been shown to help behaviour change.

Details on the Science Behind the Tips (pdf)

Introduction to Ten Top Tips

For more information about the tips, click on the different sections below.

General Information

Weight loss does not have to involve huge changes, or take up too much time or money. Small changes, like Ten Top Tips, can help you to work towards a healthier body weight, but require a long-term commitment.

To help the Ten Top Tips become habits so that they become automatic things you do on a day-to-day basis, you need to plan, be prepared, and build the tips into your daily routine. Without doing these things, it is extremely difficult to make healthier changes that will carry on into the future. These pages have lots of helpful ideas to make the Ten Top Tips part of your daily life.

Make a plan

To help make these tips part of your routine, try to plan ahead.

  • In the first week or two, spend time working out in advance how you are going to stick to the tips
  • Focus on what you actually plan to do, not just the result you are hoping for
  • Concentrate on the tips that you think will be most difficult for you
  • Modify your plans over time as some things work better than others
For example rather than:

"I'm going to try hard to eat five fruit and vegetable portions a day"

A better plan would be:

"I will have a piece of fruit at breakfast, or after lunch and dinner to increase my fruit intake".

Be prepared

Being prepared will make it easier for you to keep to the tips. For example:

  • If you plan to walk to the train station, allocate extra time for your journey
  • If you plan to eat fruit at home, make sure you buy fruit when you go shopping
  • Write a list before you shop, even if it's just for a few items, and stick to the list

Sticking to a Daily Routine

To make a tip part of your daily routine, you need to do it again and again, in a similar situation or at a similar time. This way, things should get easier over time.

Research shows that people who keep track of what they are doing are more successful at developing healthy habits.

You can use the tick sheets provided to do this.

Fill in your tick sheet on a daily basis and make a note of anything that is helping you to achieve each tip.

Use a new tick sheet every week and keep them as a record of your progress.

Continue doing this until the tips have become automatic.

You can look at the example tick sheet to show you how to fill one in.

Using the tick sheet will:
  • help you identify which tips you are already following
  • identify if you have achieved any of the tips on 5 or more days in the week
  • highlight the tips you may need to focus your plan on
  • help you to check if your plan has worked and make any necessary changes
  • help you keep a record to look back on, tracking improvements and difficulties you may have had in doing the tips

When you are following the ten top tips programme, it is recommended that you keep a record of your weight on a regular basis, anything from once a week to once a day.

This will show you what effect your healthy changes are having on your weight and help you to adapt your plans accordingly.

Studies have shown that daily weighing increases the chances of successfully controlling your weight.

Some people find daily weighing is less worrying than weighing less often once you get used to it.

Tracking your weight daily allows you to see if it is going gradually up, staying stable, or going down.

There is a space for you to record your weight on the tick sheet.

The Tips

Click on each tip for more information.

Try to eat at roughly the same times each day, whether this is two or five times a day. If you create a regular routine it will help your body to learn when your next meal is due and prevent you from getting too hungry between meals.

  • Keep to the same pattern of eating every day.
  • Pick a pattern that fits in with your own daily routine and stick to it. If you haven't eaten like this for some time, or if you never have, it will require effort.
  • If you are someone who snacks, try to snack at around the same time each day.
  • Try planning when you intend to eat and check at the end of the day if you have achieved this.

It is easy to overeat on foods like butter or spreads, salad dressings, mayonnaise, cheese, pastries, chips, biscuits and crisps. This is because high fat foods contain a lot of energy, even in small portions. So without actually eating large amounts of food, you could be eating more calories than you can burn every day. And because you've not eaten that much, you may still feel hungry.

  • Eating less high fat food and choosing reduced fat food where possible will help to reduce your calorie intake. This will also benefit your heart health.
  • Go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk and choose reduced fat versions of dairy products like spreads, yogurts, cheese, fromage frais, and custard.

Changing to semi-skimmed milk could save you 60 calories a day or 420 calories a week.

  • Use a minimum amount of oil when cooking. Spread margarine or butter thinly on your bread, even low fat versions. If possible stop using them entirely.
  • Try to cut down on food that has been cooked in lots of oil or batter. For example, try steamed fish instead of fried fish, bruschetta instead of garlic bread and steamed rice instead of egg fried rice.
  • Cut back on, or better still, cut out pastries, chips, pork pies, sausage rolls, cakes and puddings except for special treats.
  • Try to avoid sauces based on cream or coconut milk. For example, you could have tandoori instead of a korma, a stir-fry or steamed Thai dish instead of a green curry, or a marinara instead of a carbonara.
  • Try to avoid salads with high fat, creamy dressings, or ones that contain fatty ingredients like bacon, cheese or croutons. And cut down on vegetarian food that includes high fat ingredients like coconut milk, batter, and full fat dairy products like cheese or butter.

Walking is so flexible that you can fit it into your daily routine. You don't need to buy special walking shoes or join a gym – just try to walk a little bit more throughout the day.

  • If you can, walk to or from work. If you take public transport, try getting off a stop earlier and walk from there. After all, most of us would like to spend as little time as possible in the rush hour crush!
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift. If you work on a high floor, try getting off the lift a floor earlier and walk up. You can then increase the number of floors you climb, as you get fitter.
  • Go for a short walk at lunch-time rather than sitting for the whole break.
  • Walk to the shops instead of taking the car or bus.
  • Take a walk with friends or family - enjoy the countryside, local parks or a trip to the shops on foot.

You don't have to walk for a long time - every little bit adds up. And don't worry if you think you're unfit. Build up the amount you walk gradually.

Try using a pedometer. A pedometer is a small step counter that you clip to your belt or waistband. It contains a pendulum that registers every step you take so that you can see how much walking you do each day. Some pedometers also work out the distance you have walked and the calories you have used. But these measurements tend to be inaccurate. So you only really need a pedometer that counts the number of steps you take.

Set yourself a target of 10,000 steps. Some people find targets helpful when they are trying to increase their walking. Aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a good target. This is not a magic number and you may want to try for more or less steps. But taking around 10,000 steps a day is a useful guide if you want to become physically active and maintain a healthy body weight. Find out the number of steps you take on a 'normal' day before you try to increase your walking. This will give you some idea of how many more steps you need to do. Keeping a log of the steps you do each day can help you monitor your progress.

  • Snacking need not be unhealthy. Ditch the fatty crisps, chocolate or biscuits – they are very high in fat and calories. Instead try some portions of fresh fruit, tinned fruit in natural juice, dried fruit or strips of raw vegetables, like carrots, cucumber or peppers. Having a banana instead of a chocolate bar could save you 225 calories.
  • Drink a delicious home-made fruit smoothie – they can count as a portion of fruit and vegetables a day. But be careful of shop varieties, which can have added milk, yogurt or sugar.
  • Healthy savoury snacks include whole-meal scones, oat cakes, crackers, rice cakes, crumpets, muffins or slices of toast. All are suitable with a low-fat spread. Or try some breadsticks with a cup of low-calorie soup.
  • Sweeter healthy snacks include low fat yogurts (under 100 calories a pot) or fromage frais, a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, a small slice of malt loaf or a fruit scone.

It is not always possible to tell how nutritious a food is by its appearance. Looking at food labels can guide you to make better food choices. The nutrition information box lists the amounts of calories and nutrients, such as fat, in different foods. But it can be difficult working out whether the values in these boxes are good or bad. To help you, the Food Standards Agency has produced a set of guidelines for the most common nutrients:

  A lot A little
Sugars 15g 5g
Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 0.5g
Fibre 3g 47
Salt 1.5g 0.3g
Sodium 0.6g 0.1g

Look at the fat, sugar and calorie content per 100g. How do they compare to the guidelines in the table above? You should be aiming for more products that fall into the 'little' category. And only eat products that fall into the 'a lot' category sparingly.

Check the ingredients list. The ingredients in a product are listed in order of weight. The first ingredient on the list is present in the greatest amounts and the last ingredient in present in the smallest amounts. If fatty ingredients or sugars are fourth in the list or lower, the product is likely to be a lower fat/low sugar option. Fats and sugars can go by many different names; for a full list, go to Weight Concern's page on understanding food labels. Nutritional food claims can be misleading. 'Light', 'diet' or 'reduced fat' food may have less fat than a similar product but they can still be very high in calories, fat or sugar.

For example:

'Low fat' spreads have about half the fat content of butter or margarine but are still 40% fat.

So while they have less fat than so-called ordinary spread, they are still high fat foods - use them sparingly.

'Low fat' crisps, biscuits, cakes and sausages can still be high in fat, sugar or both.

Many supermarkets have introduced 'healthy eating' ranges. These may have reduced levels of fat, sugar, salt or calories, but different places will use different criteria. So even for these products, it is worth checking the label to make sure you're actually making a healthy choice.

Research has shown that people eat more if they are given a larger portion of food than they would normally have. You can't always rely on your body to register all those extra calories and adjust your appetite throughout the day. So to stop yourself putting more weight on and maybe lose some weight, you will need to keep an eye on the amount of food you eat, and think about cutting it down. Here are our ideas for being portion-savvy.

At home
  • Eat off a smaller plate – you are more likely to eat less food.
  • Fill your plate up with lots of vegetables (except for potatoes). They are low in calories, good for you, and will help to fill you up.
  • Be careful when you read . A 'portion' of food as defined by the manufacturer may not be the same as a healthy-sized portion.
  • Cook smaller quantities of food. This will reduce the temptation for second-helpings.
  • After you've served yourself, refrigerate or freeze leftovers so that you're not tempted to have seconds.
  • Don't eat from the bag – place foods in a bowl so you can see how much you're eating.
Eating out
  • If you're eating out at night, think about what you eat during the rest of the day. Don't skip meals – this might make you overeat later. Instead, plan to eat lighter meals earlier on in the day so you don't take in too many calories.
  • Have a salad as a starter. And don't commit yourself to ordering a dessert until you've finished your main course.
  • If you're eating a meal with lots of dishes, like tapas or dim sum, be careful how many you order.
  • If you have a choice, order regular portion sizes instead of large ones.
  • Try splitting a starter or side dishes with a friend – it's sociable and will cut down on your calorie intake.
  • Do not feel you have to clear your plate. It can help to decide in advance what you're going to eat and push the rest to the side of the plate.

Spending long periods of time sitting down can contribute to weight gain. But breaking up the time you spend sitting will help you control your weight. Even small bits of activity are good for you. You can be more active each day by doing bits of housework like cleaning or washing, doing chores like putting the rubbish out, changing your working day so you spend less time sitting down, or even fidgeting. When it comes to activity, every little bit counts if it means you are sitting less. Incorporating small changes into your lifestyle will increase the amount of movement and activity you do each day. If you lead a very inactive lifestyle, your first goal should be to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down. Try and seize the small opportunities to work a bit more activity into your schedule. Here are some tips for doing this:

At home
  • Don't use the remote control, get up and turn the channel over using the TV set.
  • Stand up for 10mins in every hour of watching TV, do the ironing or put the washing away. This will burn extra calories each hour than just sitting.
  • Stand and wash the dishes after each meal, rather than letting a day's worth build up.
  • Break up your sitting time by doing your chores like putting the rubbish out or doing the washing up.
  • Some activities can be done in front of a TV, including lifting free weights, stretching or rope skipping.
At work
  • At work, break from sitting at your desk; collect work from the printer, or deliver a message, rather than sending an email or phoning.
  • In morning breaks at work, take the post to the post box rather than waiting until the end of the day.
Getting around
  • Stand on the bus or train, rather than sitting. This burns an extra 70 calories for every hour of travelling.

Drinks are not calorie-free. Many soft drinks (including fizzy and sweetened soft drinks) contain a lot of sugar. These drinks are said to have lots of 'empty calories' – they can contribute to weight gain but don't have much nutritional value. You could aim to cut down on these types of drink. Unsweetened fruit juice contains lots of vitamins and minerals, and can count towards your five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. But they are low in fibre and high in natural sugar, so they should only count for one of these portions on any one day.

High street coffee shops are becoming more popular, and offer a wide choice of drinks. Large drinks with lots of cream, milk or sugar can be loaded with fat and calories. Try buying smaller sizes, and asking for 'skinny' drinks that use skimmed milk. Try to avoid cream, flavoured syrup or sugary toppings. Use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk if you're making hot drinks at home too.

Alcoholic drinks are very high in calories. So if you want to lose weight, you'll need to consider reducing the amount you drink. Alcohol also increases your appetite - some people notice that they tend to eat more when they drink alcohol. In terms of overall health, women can have up to 2 units of alcohol a day and men can have up to 3 units a day. However to help you lose weight, we recommend that women should have no more than 1 unit of alcohol each day and men should have no more than 2 units of alcohol each day.

Choose dry versions of all alcoholic drinks – for example dry cider or dry white wine – as these are lower in calories than sweet versions. Opt for low-calorie mixers where you can.

Use the information below to guide you on how many calories and units of alcohol there are in your drinks.

Drinks kcal
1 pint strong cider (8.5% ABV) 574
1 pint strong ale 409
1 pint draft beer (3.5%) 182
1 alcopop (275ml bottle) 180
1 glass (50ml) cream liqueur e.g. Baileys 165
1 alcoholic cocktail (e.g. a bloody Mary) 120
1/2 pint sweet cider 119
1 small glass (125ml) sweet white wine 118
1/2 pint dry cider (5%) 102
1 flute (125ml) of champagne (12.5%) 95
1/2 pint of lager 90
1 small glass (125ml) red wine 85
1 gin and tonic (25ml gin) 85
1 small glass (125ml) dry white wine (12%) 83
1 vodka and diet mixer (25ml vodka) 56

1 unit of alcohol =

1 small glass wine(100ml) of 10% ABV – N.B most wines will be stronger than this

half a pint (284ml) of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider

¼ of a pint of strong lager, beer or cider

1 single measure of spirits (25ml)

1 single measure of vermouth or sherry (50ml)

Focusing on your food will help you to control your portion sizes. Research has found that you are more likely to eat more calories while watching television. And if you eat while doing something else, such as walking, it is easy to eat much more than you realise. The following tips may help you focus on your food and help you to eat less:

  • Eat your meals at the table it will help you focus on the amount of food you eat.
  • Eat slowly. It takes time for your body to register how much food you've eaten and how full you are.
  • Don't eat while walking, wait until you get there and take time to concentrate on what you are eating.

Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. By following the 5-a-day guidelines, you could reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

What is a portion?

A portion is about 80g of fruit or vegetables.

  • 1 large slice of melon or pineapple, or ½ grapefruit
  • 1 whole apple, banana or orange
  • 2 whole plums or kiwis
  • 1 cupful of raspberries or grapes
  • 7 strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons of stewed apple or canned peaches in juice
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of sultanas or raisins, or 3 dried apricots
  • a glass (150-200ml) of 100% juice (fruit or vegetable juice or smoothie), max 1 per day
  • 3 tablespoons of broccoli or spinach
  • 3 tablespoons of carrots, swede, or parsnips
  • 3 tablespoons of peas or sweetcorn
  • 1 small corn on the cob
  • 1 side salad (the size of a cereal bowl)
  • 1 medium tomato, or 7 cherry tomatoes

Fruit juice can also only count towards one portion a day. This is because they are high in nutrients but low in fibre. And extracting the juice releases sugars which are bad for your teeth.

Mushrooms can also count towards your portions. But try not to fry them in lots of oil as they will readily soak it up.

Dried or tinned fruit, and tinned or frozen vegetables can all count towards your daily portions. But try to eat tinned fruit kept in natural fruit juice rather than syrup. And check the salt content of tinned foods, as it can sometimes be high.

The fruit and vegetables in ready meals or takeaways can also count towards your portions. But these foods are often high in fat and added salt and sugar, so try to eat them in moderation.

Potatoes are nutritious but are classified as starchy foods, so for these purposes, don't count towards your portions. And chips certainly don't count either!

Variety is the spice of life. Different types of fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables will ensure that you get a good mix. A good rule of thumb is to eat fruit and vegetables of different colours. Often the chemicals that are responsible for the colours are the same ones that are good for health.