The amount of energy you burn apart from any specific activities you undertake is variable and you can make a positive impact on it. You can also do the opposite.

If you put your body on a starvation diet just to keep in shape, your body thinks it is starving and takes appropriate action. This is akin to hibernation, although not quite as drastic.

The body simply slows down and burn about 15 – 20 per cent less energy. You will still lose weight on this diet but not in a healthy way.

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Instead of starving yourself, eat a sensible amount each day of different kinds of foods – that is, very little fat, salt, sugar, red meat and processed foods, but moderate amounts of poultry, eggs and fish, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, pulses, wholegrain rice and oats.

By eating your food in six smaller instalments you will find that you burn off more calories than if you ate the same food as three larger meals. Eating little and often can also help regulate your blood glucose levels and appetite.

Also, see: How does physical exercise help us live longer and better?

Remember that if you don’t exercise, you will lose weight more slowly, so take regular exercise. Exercise is, therefore, the key to weight loss. But it is surprising how easily it can be overlooked.