How To Avoid The ‘Diet-Trap’

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Sometimes we can be seemingly trying our hardest to lose weight, eat healthily, keep hydrated and introduce some more physical activity but we just don’t get the results that we want.  And it is very frustrating!

When all is said and done, weight loss boils down to the science of burning more calories than you are putting in, so if you are getting that deficit you should be losing weight. However, there could be things that you are doing (or even not doing) that aren’t helping things along, or even damaging your progress. You might have fallen in to some of the common pitfalls, that we might call the ‘Diet-Trap’.

So this week we want to look at some common mistakes to be aware of that might be scuppering your plans, to perhaps reflect on, get some perspective, make some adjustments and set you back on track.

Skipping breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they say, and ‘they’ are right.  Eating breakfast, means that you break your fast. 

Overnight your metabolism (your bodies ability to burn calories) has slowed right down, if you eat a good breakfast, especially one with some protein in it (eggs, oats, 0%fat Greek yogurt, lean meats, tofu, quinoa) you fire up that metabolism, so it can get on with burning calories all day.  Also, the earlier you eat in the day, the longer time your body has to burn it.  People trying to lose weight often skip breakfast thinking that they will miss a meal and therefore eat less, but it will more often than not leave you reaching for a sugar fix mid-morning. Not only that, I think there is an element of kidology involved, in that you kid yourself into thinking you can eat more later in the day, because you didn’t eat your breakfast. And missing a 250 calorie breakfast might result in you eating 500-600 calories in additional snacks later, all because you think you can.

The Binge-Starve Cycle

The Binge-Starve cycle is the process of not eating very much one day, but then eating lots on other days. It can be really damaging, and it will more than likely see that you don’t achieve your weight loss goals, and may even see you gain weight. Because whilst a person doing this won’t eat much for a short period, they will eat a lot the day after, and the likelihood is they will eat far more calories over the two days, than they should be doing – so overall they aren’t hitting their calorie deficit, and therefore won’t lose weight.

Not only will you more than likely, eat more calories than you should be doing over the period of time that you are bingeing and starving, but you will also be confusing your metabolism.

Studies have shown that bingeing and starving causes metabolic dysfunction, to the point where it can damage the body’s chances of metabolising food.  During the starve part of your ‘diet’ your metabolism is essentially working very ineffectively, as it needs food to keep it firing. When you binge, your metabolism can be slow to react, because it hasn’t been working at its most efficient, therefore won’t burn the calories as effectively.  The result – food isn’t burned off and it is stored as fat.

We sometimes get people saying to us, ‘I don’t eat much, honest, I must be eating less than 1000 calories a day’.  Well to be perfectly honest, if you are overweight by a good few stones, there is only one way that it got there – and it wasn’t from eating 1000 calories a day.  What these people probably mean is that they starve themselves, or eat very little one day and then eat a lot more the next. Again, it’s that kidology of allowing yourself to believe that you can have that cake and that mars bar, or the 3 bags of crisps because you missed lunch and tea yesterday, but then what you eat in total throughout the day, is far more than 2 days worth of calories.

The best way to lose weight is to eat regular meals, with regular healthy snacks in between, and get your calorie deficit – this keeps your metabolism firing all the time, crashing through calories and fueling your activity properly.

Buying diet food

Diet foods definitely have their place. Diet drinks for example, are a great alternative to full sugar varieties, and as long as you can tolerate the sweeteners, if it helps you to reduce your calorie intake, without feeling deprived of your favourite drinks then carry on. 

However there are certain ‘diet foods’ that aren’t what they make out to be.  There are plenty of foods out there described as ‘low fat’ or ‘low sugar’ that whilst they are exactly that, what they don’t advertise is that they have as many calories as the full fat or full sugar version because they have just replaced those ingredients with something else to make it taste nice, and it bumps the calories back up.

Then there are the low calorie versions of the foods that you really want to eat.   Low calorie crisps, are a really good example. You have to ask yourself, why you are buying these foods. Is it because they will help you succeed in achieving your calorie deficit? Or, is it because you can have two (or three) of them? Defeating the object of trying to get a deficit.  I know the people that I have spoken to have admitted that it’s because they kid themselves into thinking they can eat more of them. Not only that, these foods are often a poor substitute for the foods you really want to eat, and you never enjoy them quite as much as the real thing.

What we would encourage is for you to look at foods that are going to fill you up more, and use your calories on that, and then on the days when you have eaten a little less and can have a treat, have the proper version – not the diet version, and savour every calorie!

No self-belief

Having no self-belief, I think, is one of the biggest reasons for failure. Not believing in yourself, easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you are going to fail, therefore you will!

This goes hand in hand with thinking you’ll always be ‘fat’.  Again it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you think you will always be big and you are quite happy with that then crack on and live your best life, but if you think you will always be big and it really makes you feel sad, then it is time to make some changes, time to develop some self-belief.

Look back in your life at what you have been successful at previously, draw on these successes and the skills or qualities that you exhibited when succeeding and apply it to losing weight.  When focusing on weight-loss, just because you have failed before, doesn’t mean you will always fail.  Learn from your mistakes, analyse your past attempts and ask yourself why they didn’t work, or why they only worked for a short period of time -understand where you went wrong and do something different this time.

Avoiding tracking and reading food labels

Eating healthy and nutritious foods is a good weight loss strategy, but you won’t lose weight if you don’t know how many calories you are eating.  The only way to lose weight is to get that calorie deficit. And whilst you might be eating healthy foods, if your portion sizes are too big, you will not lose weight.  Tracking (honestly and accurately) gives you an accurate picture of your calorie intake as well as providing you with accountability, and making you think twice about what you are eating. Statistically you are twice as likely to reach your weight loss goal if you track what you eat, than if you just ‘eat better’.

If you don’t read your food labels, how can you know what you are eating? And more importantly, you should read the label before you put it in your mouth, then you can decide whether it’s a good choice or not.  You can pick the healthiest looking sandwich out of the chiller in the supermarket at lunchtime, but it might still be well over your calorie allowance. I’ve seen tuna sandwiches for over 400 calories before now, and would have picked it thinking it was the lowest calorie option. How will you know if you don’t look at the calorie information?

Another issue is not reading the labels properly, for instance, if you read the calorie information, ‘per 100g’ or ‘per portion’, you need to know what 100g or a portion actually looks like, compared to what you are actually eating or planning on eating. If you don’t, you could inadvertently eat three portions, or 400g in the honest held belief that what you are consuming fits in your calorie allowance, do this regularly enough and your weight is not going to reduce.  So read food labels before you make your choice, and take the time to read them properly.

Eating boring food

Eating salad is a great way to increase fibre, and reduce your calories. But if it’s bores you, you are soon going to get bored of eating it every day.  When you eat your mind needs to get some satisfaction from what you have just eaten. You need to look forward to every meal.  We don’t gain weight because we don’t like food, so make sure that you enjoy the food you are eating, make every eating occasion one that you enjoy. It is possible to eat delicious food, that you love, within your calorie allowance, you just have to get smart about it. The best way to avoid getting bored, is to keep the variety in there, and eat a good range of different foods. This may take a little bit of work to understand how many calories are in everything, but once they are in your meal tracker – you can check back and find them again, and just know they will be within your allowance.

Always starting again on Monday

Why put it off? – All you will do is continue to eat really badly until Monday – Why can’t you start now? Get back on the horse and back on track!

Too embarassed to exercise

Taking the plunge and exercising was one of the hardest things we ever did. I was always worried that people would be staring at me or laughing at the fat girl sweating and unfit.  Rick honestly thought that he was simply too big to exercise.

We think that you should do it now! And at every opportunity – it will make you feel better, without a doubt. Both Rick and I can’t live without exercise now, and take every opportunity to do more. I know that when I see anyone exercising, no matter their age, size or shape, I think, ‘Good on them.’  They are doing something that is going to change their life. I feel proud of them, even if I don’t know them. So just get up off the couch and get on with it, let your body decide if you are able to do it rather than deciding that you can’t from the sofa.

But remember!! Keep exercise separate from weight loss in your mind – exercise gets you fit and strong, a calorie deficit by eating less affects weight loss! It is so easy to eat the extra calories from that HIIT session you did this morning, 3 times over in a day. So stick to the calorie deficit that we give you regardless of the exercise that you have undertaken.

Setting unrealistic goals

Setting long term goals is great, but sometimes these goals can just seem too far off. If you have an ultimate long term goal, try also setting smaller, more attainable goals that you can regularly meet to keep your motivation high. Set yourself weekly, monthly and three monthly goals. Once you meet one short term goal set a new one for next week.  Achieving goals boosts your self-confidence and self-belief and, before you know it you will think you can take on the world.

Drinking your calories

You might have cut out full sugar soft drinks, and sugar out of your tea and coffee, but if you are replacing them with ‘healthy’ fruit juices and smoothies, then you are on a hiding to nothing – fruit juices and smoothies can contain as much sugar as Coca-cola.  Alcohol is as bad if not worse, with a 250ml glass of wine usually coming in around 200 calories, so choose your alcohol wisely. Or, are you still going to Starbucks and ordering a large Caramel Macchiato, that meal in a mug has just lost you your deficit. Studies have shown that liquid calories don’t affect the appetite centres in the brain, so you think you are still hungry even though you might have consumed as many calories as in a meal. Check out our calorie reference guide to help you make the right choice when it comes to drinks.

Not taking in enough protein, fibre or hydration

Protein has been shown to help you feel fuller meaning that you eat less.  One study showed that out of two groups, one who ate a diet of 15% protein and one who ate a diet of 30% protein, those who ate the higher protein diet, actually consumed on average nearly 600 calories less than the other group. Protein is also harder for your body to breakdown so it actually burns more calories digesting it and metabolising it, than carbohydrate and fat, in essence increasing your metabolic rate. So make sure you have a good portion of protein in every meal and in some of your snacks.

Studies have also shown that high-fibre diets aid weight loss too. High fibre foods keep your gut healthy but they also help you to feel fuller, by forming a gel in your digestive system that holds water, taking up more space and moving slowly through your digestive tract, therefore reducing your appetite. There is even evidence to suggest that a high fibre diet, can actually help you to absorb less calories from the food you consume.

We are always told that water is the key to weight loss but why? Well there’s a few reasons. Water fills the space up in our tummies making us feel fuller sooner, so we eat less. Water also keeps our body functioning properly, which means our metabolism is functioning properly too, and working at optimum. When this happens we are burning calories at our optimum rate. Even mild dehydration can affect this, so it is important to keep those water levels topped up.

This week!

Just check in with yourself. Are things going to plan? If not, do you need to get a little perspective, and have a look whether there are some steps that you can take to improve things. It’s good to reflect and get some perspective occasionally – when we do, this is how we grow and develop, and pull ourselves back on track.

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