Have you spent endless weeks eating salads and fruit, only to find you’ve hardly lost a pound? You’re not alone. In fact, there are a number of classic mistakes that many women make, which leave them so demoralized that they abandon their weight loss plans altogether.
Here some of the top dieticians reveal 10 classic diet mistakes – and how to avoid them.
The only way to sustain weight loss is to think of it as a lifestyle change, according to Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association. ‘People who starve themselves for short periods of time will only give up in the end because they find it too hard,’ she says. ‘The only answer is to go on a healthy balanced diet that you can sustain.’
Most dieticians now recommend that a woman should eat 1300-1500 calories a day if they want to lose weight. If you go on a diet of just 1000 calories a day you are more likely to give up and binge because you are hungry. On a diet where you are allowed slightly more calories you will also be allowing yourself a greater variety of foods and therefore a greater variety of nutrients.
Going on a celebrity diet.
It may be tempting to try to look as good as Jennifer Aniston, but nutritionists have universally condemned the rash of celebrity diets that have been so popular this year. Experts claim it is far from ideal because it restricts carbohydrates – an essential part of any balanced diet – and ups the amount of protein – which can cause the body to lose calcium. As most celebrity diets work by restricting one type of food or food group, nutritionists warn they are also unrealistic to sustain.
Instead, aim to go on a low-fat diet containing both carbohydrates and protein such as fruit and vegetables, poultry and fish and wholegrain such as brown bread, pasta and rice.
Deluding yourself about what you’ve eaten.
You may think you are following your diet to the letter. But if you’re not losing weight you may be kidding yourself about what you are really eating, according to many dieticians. Many women forget the extra little treats they have eaten during the day which could be a few biscuits or a Mars Bar every day that you are used to having, or a piece of cake at a birthday party.
Women often seem to forget they have eaten these things or somehow hide from themselves the fact that they have eaten them. But they add up. If you are having trouble losing weight on your diet keep a food diary for a week. You should write down everything you have consumed – both food and drink. At the end of the week you should be able to work out where your hidden calories are coming from.
Not including exercise in your regime.
Far too many women simply cut down on their calorie intake when they go on a diet, without adding exercise to their regime, according to Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association. But exercise will boost your metabolism meaning your body will burn calories faster. Also, for each pound of muscle you add to your body you need an extra 75 calories to maintain it, so toning up your muscles will also help you lose weight – and look more honed. Many women think going to aerobics once a week or going to the gym is all the exercise they need. But the best way to keep your metabolism going is by exercising for around 20 to 30 minutes a day.
Tips include getting off your bus or train a stop early on the way to work to walk for 30 minutes, gardening and cycling. Even getting up to change over the TV channel rather than using a remote control will, on average, burn 200 calories a week.
Banning certain foods.
You may associate diets with denying yourself your favourite foods. But if you want to maintain your diet long-term it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it if you think you’ll never eat the food you love again. The trick is to allow yourself to eat a small amount of your favourite foods every so often. Women should have a treat otherwise they will be miserable. If you are sticking to your diet and doing well allow yourself a treat once a week.
You’re on a diet, so if you’re too busy to eat one morning or one lunchtime, you may think that skipping that meal is just an added weight loss bonus. But dieticians say you are only fooling yourself.
‘When we skip meals our blood sugar level drops which in turn increases our desire for sweet foods,’ says a spokesman from Weight Watchers. ‘This means that later in the day you will feel desperate for a sugary snack – which will often be more fattening than the food you would have eaten at the meal you missed. Research has proved that women who skip breakfast actually eat more calories a day than those who don’t.
Thinking healthy food is always low calorie food.
Women often think healthy foods are low calorie foods, thus they will go to a shop see a pack of organic crisps and think these are therefore good for them – and slimming. Well, they are not.
Classic ‘healthy food’ diet slip ups include olive oil, nuts and avocados. While fine in moderation – because all these foods are very good for you – it’s important to limit how much you eat because of the their high fat content. Just a tablespoon of olive oil contains 100 calories, for example, an avocado contains 190 calories and almost 20 grams of fat, and a handful of peanuts contains 150 calories – and 13 grams of fat.
Another classic mistake is eating chicken – a staple diet food – with its skin. Chicken skin is where all the fat is contained and leaving it on will add up to three times the amount of calories. Salads covered in fatty dressings can be another hidden danger. And sandwiches smothered in mayonnaise will contain at least another 100 calories.
‘Going large’ on portions.
Weighing out portions is one of the most off-putting aspects of dieting. But according to Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George’s Hospital in London, one classic mistake many dieters make is ‘going large’ on portions after several weeks of dieting.
‘After a while many dieters think they know the size of portions they should be eating, but don’t realize that little by little their portion sizes are increasing.’ To avoid this don’t buy more food than you need at the supermarket – to avoid the temptation of ‘finishing off’ large portions. If you are tempted to cut really thick slices of bread, buy sliced bread.
Forgetting drinks contain calories too.
You may be eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner and avoiding snacking throughout the day. But Dr Frankie Robinson from the British Nutrition Foundation claims many dieters can’t lose weight because of the hidden calories in their drinks. ‘If you have a standard cappuccino on the way to work you will be boosting your intake by 120 calories – and 8 grams of fat,’ she says. ‘If you really want a cappuccino choose a skinny one with cinnamon on the top instead of chocolate. These contain just 60 calories and hardly any fat.’
Alcohol and fizzy drinks are other big calorie traps. Alcohol contains as many calories as fat and, according to a study at the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, America, also boosts appetite. In tests subjects who had alcohol with a meal ate 350 calories more than those who did not.
Dieticians say you should try to limit your drinking to one or two nights a week at most and to stick to spirits with low calorie mixers and wine. Other tips include alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks and drinking a small glass of white wine with fizzy water to make a spritzer instead of drinking a large glass of wine.
Weighing yourself too often.
There’s nothing more encouraging than seeing the proof of all your hard work reflected on the scales. But dieticians warn that weighing yourself too often can actually make weight loss more difficult. Many women find that their weight fluctuates throughout the month because of water retention during their menstrual cycle ,because of this they may worry that they have put on weight at certain times of the month when they haven’t.
Weight loss on a successful diet is usually slow and steady and if you are toning up the scales can be misleading because muscle is heavier than fat. Dieters should weigh themselves once a week at most and at the same time of the day – first thing in the morning. You should also remember how significant each 1lb is that you lose. In fact 1lb in weight is the equivalent to 3,500 calories – meaning you have eaten 500 calories less a day than normal over a week.