Tuesday 20 February 2018

Operation Transformation dietician Aoife Hearne shares her tips to lose weight without going on a diet

If you want to lose those stubborn pounds for good, 'Operation Transformation' dietician Aoife Hearne has the solution.

Long-term solutions: Dietician Aoife Hearne can help you lose the pounds for good
Long-term solutions: Dietician Aoife Hearne can help you lose the pounds for good

Let me be clear - in case you are under any illusions - my new book The Plan is not a diet book. However, fear not, my plan is here to help you and your family make lifelong changes to improve your food choices and to lose weight.

Over the past 10 years or so in my clinic, and especially over the past few years on TV, I have found that the people who are most successful at losing weight long-term, are those who embraced making a complete change to their lifestyle, and who avoided the pitfalls of falling into a yo-yo-dieting pattern.

My intention with this book is that you will start to think a little differently about how you eat, what you eat, when you eat and why you eat. I want to help you to be successful at making better meal choices for you and your family and, in turn, to lose weight, if that is your goal.


Most people don't know how to focus on losing weight without going on a diet. Did you know that only 2pc of people lose weight successfully when following a diet? The thing is, diets don't work. In fact, most people who follow diets will actually regain more weight than they lost in the first place. My plan gives you an opportunity to take a different approach. That approach is to focus on wellness and lifestyle changes. Instead of focusing on avoiding certain foods, you are placing your focus on the bigger picture of changing your habits and behaviours to make weight loss stick.

Much of current research suggests that this approach will be more beneficial for you and your family in the long term.

Operation Transformation's Aoife Hearne
Operation Transformation's Aoife Hearne

'Just tell me what I need to do!' My top Five tips

Do those words sound familiar? Yes, because this is what most people want - I regularly hear: 'Just tell me what I need to do and I'll do it'. The first important step is to make sure your head is in the right place so that you can get off to the best start.

These are some starter tips, but you will notice other tips along the way to build up your toolbox.

1. Have a strong foundation for why you want to lose weight/make changes. This needs to be something that resonates with your soul, a reason strong enough to stop you having two biscuits on the way up the stairs to bed.

2. Be honest with yourself. If you really want to be successful in maintaining a healthy weight for life, you need to stop believing the 'line' you are telling everyone around you. For example: 'I overeat because I'm lonely/I'm sad/I'm bored'; the list can go on. Or instead of the line: 'I'm too busy to cook', the truth may be closer to: 'I'm not organised/prepared at the weekends to be able to cook midweek, and I don't want to take the time needed to do this'.

3. Make the healthy habits easy to do. Think of the 'triggers' that make the healthy habits/food choices easy to do. For example, if you want to drink more water, rather than focusing on drinking two litres of water a day, what I recommend is to keep the focus on bringing a water bottle with you to work. If you have your water bottle with you (the trigger), you are more likely to achieve your goal (healthy habit).

The Plan by Aoife Hearne
The Plan by Aoife Hearne

4. Build barriers to unhealthy habits. Make it difficult to continue the unhealthy habits that get in the way of your weight-loss goals.

5. Make sure you are not on a 'diet'. Keep your focus on the habits you want to change rather than on an 'all or nothing' approach.

Do I need to count calories?

No! But that being said, at a very basic level, weight loss comes down to calories in and calories out. However, as with everything in life, it's not that simple. Despite what we have been led to believe, all calories are not created equally. Our body deals differently with the calories from refined carbohydrates and simple sugars compared with the calories from fat and protein.

Let's not get into the nitty-gritty of it, but understand that choosing high-fibre, low-sugar carbohydrates is just as important as watching total calorie intake. All of my recipes have been created with these theories in mind. So meals are nutrient-dense rather than calorie-dense. Rest assured, you don't need to take your calculator out and count calories - it has all been done for you right here!

Research also tells us that, for weight loss, people need to limit daily calorie intake to 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day for women and men, respectively. This is just a general guide and, remember, your activity level will also play a big role in your total calorie (energy) needs for the day.

All my recipes have been analysed, but to give you an idea, the average daily calorie intake on the two-week meal plan is 1,300 calories - well within normal ranges.


It is important to be realistic about your weight-loss goals. Of course, most people want a magic wand that ensures whatever changes they make work within a week. Unfortunately, that is not how long-term weight loss works.

In my experience, a realistic target to aim for is 4-5 lbs of weight loss each month. Following this plan the longer-term target would be 14lbs (one stone) every three months and 56lbs (four stone) over an entire year. The best news is that if you lose weight this way, you are more likely to keep it off. No point losing two stone in a month and gaining three stone back in the following few months, right?

Research demonstrates that losing 10pc of weight when overweight/obese can help prevent and manage diseases and conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, raised cholesterol and raised blood pressure.

Therefore, my recommendation is - if you are overweight/obese, set an initial weight-loss target of 10pc of your current weight.

This may be less than your long-term target - but it is a realistic and achievable place to start. When you achieve that, you can set your next 10pc weight-loss target.

So, current weight (lbs) ÷ 0.10 = _________ lbs of weight loss required

The 80PC rule: a rule to live by

The 80pc rule refers to the practice of learning to stop eating when your stomach feels 80pc full. 'I don't even know what that feels like', I hear you shout! You are not alone. Most people go from starving to stuffed in a matter of minutes at mealtimes. This, unfortunately, is a consequence of bypassing your 'full' signals for years.

The good news is that you can reconnect with it. Babies are born knowing innately when they are hungry and when they are full. They feed from their mother for as long as they need and they stop when they are often full. However, as children get older, parents often encourage them to bypass this ability by forcing them to finish everything on their plate. By the time a person
become an adult, they don't know what full really feels like any more, never mind 80pc full.

Intuitive eating or mindful eating is a term given to the practice of being more connected with what and how much you are eating. I regularly run workshops in my clinic for people who want to become more in tune with their 'hunger scale'. This workshop is designed to help people listen to their body, savour their food and feel their best. The good news is that the workshop is easy, and you can use it at any time.

Here's how some of the steps work:

Before eating:

Pause to check in with your body.

Current hunger level: _______

How full do you want to be when you finish

eating? _______

While eating:

Savour and enjoy your food.

Focus on one bite at a time.

Take small bites and chew thoroughly. Set down your fork and savour.

Pause midway through the meal to assess your hunger: ______

When you reach your desired fullness, consider covering your meal or tidying up.

After eating:

Notice how you feel.

Fullness level immediately after the meal: _____

Fullness level 20-30 minutes after eating: _____

How do you feel? Do you feel satisfied and energised? Tired and sluggish?

Day 1


Feel indulgent with this ‘treat’ breakfast option to spice up a dull morning.

Serves 1

1 egg

25 ml low-fat milk

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tbsp butter

2 slices of wholemeal bread

½ tbsp honey


In a bowl, mix the egg, milk and cinnamon.

Melt the butter in a frying pan.

Dip the bread in the egg, milk and cinnamon mixture, soaking each side well.

Now place the bread on the pan and cook on both sides until golden.

Top with honey.


A traditional favourite — great in winter or summer!

Serves 5 x 400ml

1 tsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 red chilli pepper, finely sliced

4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

2 sticks of celery, chopped

1L reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp tomato puree

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (240g when drained)

2 sprigs oregano

1 tsp chopped dried thyme


Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onion. Saute for 10 minutes until soft.

Add the carrots, peppers, chilli pepper, garlic, celery, stock, tomatoes and tomato puree.

Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the drained chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the oregano and thyme, and serve hot.


Marinate the salmon fillets overnight to add more flavour to this meal.

Serves 2

2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

10g grated ginger

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

2 x 120g salmon fillets

100g wholegrain rice

150g asparagus

250g broccoli florets

1 tsp sesame seeds

2 spring onions, chopped

2 tbsp chopped coriander


Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6.

Put the soy sauce, ginger and chilli sauce in a dish and mix together. Put the salmon fillets in the marinade and set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

Put the rice in a pot of boiling water and cook until light and fluffy.

Steam the asparagus and broccoli.

Put the salmon, topped with the marinade and sesame seeds, in a tinfoil parcel and place on a baking tray in the oven. Cook for 15–20 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Stir the chopped spring onions and coriander through the rice, and serve with the salmon and the vegetables.

Day 2


Who doesn’t love pancakes? A great option for kids at the weekend.

Serves 2

125g self-raising flour

15g caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

120g natural yogurt (3pc fat)

1 egg, beaten

6 tbsp low-fat milk

2 tsp butter

2 tsp honey

70g fruit


Put the flour in a mixing bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix 100g of the yogurt, the beaten egg and the milk with a fork.

Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and then add the wet mixture. (You can add more milk if the batter is too thick.)

Place a pan on a medium heat and add 1 tsp of butter.

Pour half of the batter into the pan, turning the pancake when brown on one side.

When cooked — the pancake will be light and fluffy and not very thin — remove it from the pan.

Top each pancake with the remaining natural yogurt (10g per pancake), 1 teaspoon honey and 35g of fruit.


Tuna is a quick option for adding protein to lunch.

Serves 1

60ml water

25g couscous

25g butterhead lettuce

25g spinach

½ red pepper, deseeded

and chopped

½ carrot, grated

50g cherry tomatoes, halved

10g raisins

75g tuna, drained and flaked

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


Bring the water to the boil in a pot. Add the couscous and cover until cooked.

Place the salad leaves, spinach, pepper, carrot and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl.

Mix the raisins with the couscous and add to the salad.

Top with tuna and serve with balsamic vinegar, if liked.


Who doesn’t love home-made chicken goujons? Add home-made oven chips for a treat at the weekend.

Serves 4

100g flour

Pinch of salt and pepper

2 eggs, beaten

150g breadcrumbs

450g chicken breast, cut into

thumb-sized strips

2 tbsp olive oil

400g baby potatoes

200g butterhead lettuce

2 tomatoes, sliced


Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6.

Set up three bowls: the first with flour  and a little salt and pepper to season;  the second with the beaten eggs; and the third with the breadcrumbs.

Dip the chicken strips into the flour, then the eggs and finally the breadcrumbs.

Spread the olive oil over a baking tray, then lay the chicken goujons on the tray and cook in the oven for 15–20 minutes, turning them over halfway.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a pot of boiling water until tender.

Serve with a side salad of lettuce and tomato.

Day 3


Have chopped fruit at the ready to be able to make this fresh breakfast quickly at the weekend.

Serves 2

15g oats

½ tbsp almonds, chopped

1 tbsp granola with raisins

40ml boiled water, slightly cooled

1 kiwi, peeled and chopped

150g pineapple, peeled and chopped

30g natural yogurt (3pc fat)

½ tbsp honey


Combine the oats, almonds and granola in a bowl.

Add the water and set aside to soak for 10-15 minutes.

Divide into two bowls,  layer with the chopped fruit  and top with natural yogurt and honey.


A Mexican-inspired salad with my favourite herb, coriander!

Serves 1

¼ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp paprika

¼ tbsp cayenne pepper

½ clove of garlic, crushed

100g chicken breast

50g black-eyed beans

1 tomato, chopped

40g sweetcorn

1 spring onion, chopped

12g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Zest and juice of ½ lime

2½ tbsp chopped coriander

30g wholegrain rice


Mix the oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic in a bowl and coat the chicken.

For the bean salad, mix the black-eyed beans, tomato, sweetcorn, spring onion, sun-dried tomato, lime zest, juice and coriander in a large bowl.

Put the rice in a pot of boiling water and cook until light and fluffy.

Put on the grill at a medium to high heat. Line a grill pan with foil, place the chicken on it and grill for 5-7 minutes on one side. Once golden brown, turn and grill the other side for a further 5-7 minutes, or until completely cooked through.

Serve the chicken with the rice and the bean salad.


Make the sweet-and-sour sauce ahead of time to make this a quick mid-week option.

Serves 2

1 egg white

¼ tsp five-spice powder

1 tbsp cornflour

1½ tsp flour

1 tsp pepper

2 pork loin chops, cut into strips

1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp cornflour, blended with

1 tsp water

175ml reduced-sodium vegetable stock

80g wholegrain rice

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp ginger, finely chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and


1 carrot, chopped


In a medium bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until slightly frothy.

Beat in the five-spice powder, 1 tablespoon of cornflour, the flour and the pepper.

Stir in the pork so that each piece is coated.

To make the sauce, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, tomato puree, blended cornflour and water, and stock, and set aside.

Put the rice in a pot of boiling water and cook until light and fluffy.

Heat the oil in a wok on a medium-to-high heat.

Add the pork strips and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, or until the pork is no longer pink.

Then add the garlic, ginger, spring onions, pepper and carrot, and stir-fry for 2-4 minutes.

Pour in the sauce and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and the pork is cooked through.

Serve the rice and top with the sweet-and-sour pork.

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