We’ve all been there. Day two of your new diet and you’re already tempted by bakery windows filled with cookies, donuts, and cakes. You enter a vicious cycle of feeling hungry, snacking on the wrong things then finding yourself back at square one. But by identifying the top reasons that diets fail, you can try to avoid the pitfalls of dieting and start a more permanent journey to weight loss.
The hunger pangs
The number one mistake people make when trying to lose weight is to eat a lot less than they usually would, cutting out all snacks and trying to get by on the bare minimum. But in fact, our bodies surprisingly need more food to function. It’s so important to fill up on protein and fibre-rich foods, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and providing us with the nutrients and vitamins to keep our bodies moving.
Ways to combat those hunger pangs are:
- Have a stash of healthy snacks prepared for any occasion, this could be fruit, sticks of veg or rice crackers.
- Ensure your plate is made up of 50% vegetables, 25% protein such as meat or meat-substitutes, and 25% of good starches such as sweet potatoes or brown rice – this will make sure you don’t feel hungry between meals.
- Drink plenty of water – most of the time when we feel hungry it can just be dehydration, so before reaching for more food, have a glass of water and wait 20 minutes to make sure it is actually hunger.
Eating out/social pressures
When you’re striving to lose weight, it can be those pesky meals out, special occasions, or Friday nights in with a bottle of wine that can throw you off the wagon. But if you can plan for these eventualities and limit the indulgence, you can still stay on track. You don’t have to miss a night out with the girls or movie night with the kids, it’s just about being sensible with your choices.
- Swap sugary pre-packaged popcorn for homemade and save on the calories
- Opt for light spirits such as vodka and gin with diet mixers as a better alternative to wine (light-coloured spirits are also less likely to give you a hangover, win-win!)
Having an “all or nothing approach”
Many of us manage to eat well for a couple of days, start to feel healthier and more energetic, only for it all to be thrown away after we’ve given in to a sugary treat or two. This approach puts too much pressure on yourself to stick to your diet, making it more likely that you’ll fall back into your bad eating habits. Take a gentler approach and recognise that one off-plan treat isn’t the be-all and end-all to your diet – there’s always tomorrow.
There are small things you can do to help manage this, such as:
- Allocate a “treat” each day – it might be a banana and peanut butter or a small square of dark chocolate. Having a little snack that you consider indulgent will make you feel like you’ve treated yourself, but it is actually still healthy
- Just because you’ve dipped into the biscuit barrel, it doesn’t mean your whole diet is ruined and it doesn’t give you the license to eat even more food because you feel guilty. Draw a line under it and start again tomorrow
Lack of clear goals or targets
Before you start your weight loss journey, it’s important to set out why you want to do it. Is it to feel better in your clothes? To give you more confidence? Or is it so you can run around with the kids more comfortably? Whatever your reasoning, write it down and set a time-specific target. You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down as it forces you to be clear about what you want to accomplish.
Letting your emotions get the better of you
Linking how you feel to what you eat can be a slippery slope and counter-productive when trying to lose weight. By retraining your brain to see food as energy to keep your body moving, it might help to turn how you feel about food on its head. The emotional eaters amongst us will often turn to unhealthy foods when we’ve had a bad day or even when we’re feeling happy and want to celebrate with a treat. However, the more we can separate our emotions from what we put on our plates, the easier it is to think rationally about staying on the straight and narrow when it comes to weight loss.
Tips for controlling emotional eating include:
- Make a food diary to help you keep track of your emotions and how this impacts what you eat. If you can spot your triggers and work out why you’re turning to unhealthy foods, be it stress, boredom or childhood habits – you can get a hold on it
- Find other things to do when you feel stressed or bored – welcome distractions such as taking a walk, calling a friend or a nice hot bath can be great ways to manage how you feel
- Swap out “food” treats for something that won’t add calories but will make you feel good about yourself, for example having your nails done or buying a new lipstick