I know how demoralising it is when you realise diets don’t work, especially when you end up heavier than you were a few years ago. It’s particularly frustrating when you keep trying to lose weight, but then regain it. Deep down you know why diets don’t work – yet it can feel like you’re a failure when you don’t lose weight—but it not you that is the failure. It’s simply that dieting is the wrong approach. Diets will never work in the long run mostly because you ‘go on a diet’ your expectation is that it is only for a certain period of time and then you will stop dieting. Of course you then go back to how you used to eat—and so the weight goes back on. Dieting forever is not the answer either. It has to be a change for life. Let me come back to this in a moment. First lets look at the 5 main reasons diets fail—again note it is the ‘diets’ that are failing—not you.
- Diets are mostly restrictive and prescriptive, which often leads to cravings and feeling hungry and/or being bored of the food choices. These diets often make you feel miserable or that you are being punished for being a ‘bad’ person for eating too much. They often require you to count calories, or point, some even have ‘sins’ — which is totally counter-productive in terms of making you feel good about yourself. These diets will always fail: for no-one can keep punishing themselves in this way for long.
- Diets rarely explain why they are making certain recommendations – so misunderstanding about weight loss leads to poor food choices. For example, choosing a low-fat food because it has less calories not realising that these often have far more sugar. The body processes fats and sugars very differently. Eating more ‘low-fat’ foods can lead to weight gain, not weight loss.
- Your body is unique. Your energy requirements (calorie intake) is determined by you gender, age, height, genetic make-up, hormonal balance, stress levels, gut bacteria and how physically active you are at work and in the sports/activities you do. With so many variables, no-one can work out your exact daily calorie requirement. Any diet based on counting of calories will fail because you are probably not the ‘average’ person these diets were designed for.
- Emotional eating plays a huge role in weight gain and the difficulty in losing weight. Without healing the emotional side of eating behaviours, you are unlikely to be successful in maintaining your natural, healthy weight.
- Very few diets take into account what to do for Christmas, Easter, other religious celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. Because of this, you are far more likely to go off track, then eat far too much because ‘what does it matter’ if you have already gone off track?
Albert Einstein so eloquently defined insanity as: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I really want for you to let-go of the dieting yo-yo that is: ‘diet/put weight back on/diet’ and repeat until the cows come home. It’s time for a very different approach.
If dieting is not the answer to healthy weight loss, what is?
To become and stay slim means changing your relationship with food and your body. It means making changes that are life-long—not just the period of a diet. And absolutely, this does not mean dieting for life for it is very important to be able to enjoy treats and to enjoy festive foods at Christmas, Easter, other religious holidays, summer holidays and birthdays. In the grand scheme of things it is never about what you eat on one day: it’s what you eat most of the time. So, I would love for you to begin making those changes by adopting the following ideas and philosophies of Clean Eating. After the first tip—which is the most important, choose 2 or 3 of the TIPS and work on getting them embedded into your life: then tackle then next until you have them all nailed (or for much quicker results, join one of my Eat Well—Be Well programs to work on every aspect of healthy weight loss so in 3-months time you will be in a significantly different place). The more of the tips you follow, the more weight you will lose, but it isn’t an instant fix: then neither was your weight gain overnight. By losing weight more naturally, you are far more likely to have lost it forever. So, decide you can do this—for I know you can!
- TIP 1. Cut out or really minimise all of the things you know are not helping you; food/drink with added sugar, cakes, biscuits, crisps, deep-fried foods, excessive butter, cream, sausages, heavily processed foods, sweeties, alcohol, chocolate and ice-cream being the main things. Note you can enjoy these as occasional treats, but remmeber treats are not an everyday occurrence.
- TIP 2. Radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat—especially coloured ones. Fill half of your plate with veggies as part of your main meal. As well as being incredibly nutritious, they add bulk (so are more filling) and fibre to improve the effectiveness your digestive system. Every day there is a certain volume of food that you can eat. If you eat more vegetables, you will naturally have less space for other richer foods—and this helps you balance your meals, your calorie intake and improve your health.
- TIP 3. Reduce the amount of processed and convenience foods you consume whilst increasing the amount of fresh, natural whole foods you eat. Time is usually the reason given for not eating more fresh foods: but there are loads of recipes online that take very little time to prepare and cook. Also see my Clean Eating Recipes for ideas.
- TIP 4. Start your day with a breakfast that contains a little protein, a tiny amount of good fats and some fresh (or frozen) fruit and vegetables. I know how manic mornings can be, but with just a thought, it doesn’t have to take long. Porridge with nuts and seeds takes only a couple of minutes, oats or chia pudding can be made the night before and protein smoothies are just a whizz away. See my breakfast and smoothie recipes
- TIP 5. With every meal and snack you eat, ask yourself; ‘Where is the protein?’ Protein is found in many foods, but in particular; meat, fish, eggs, dairy produce, beans, peas, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds and quinoa. Protein from animal sources will also contain fats, so with the exception of fish (which contains good omega 3 fats), keep the portion size small, but always have some protein. It takes your stomach much longer to break-down protein than carbohydrates, which means food stays in your stomach longer, lessening your hunger levels, reducing your need to snack.
- TIP 6. Take time to eat, especially if you eat lunch at your desk, whilst checking emails. Make it a New Year’s Resolution to take a proper lunch break. Take time to look at your food before eating, as this stimulates your saliva which helps your stomach get ready to digest your food. Notice how your food tastes. Is it good? Or are you just in a hurry to fill your hunger gap? Try taking your own packed lunches—last night’s left-overs, home-made soup and hearty salads are good choices.
- TIP 7. Stress significantly changes your body chemistry. For our ancient ancestors, it was fear of the Saber Tooth Tiger. Today it’s more likely to be fear or anger with your boss or family stressing you out. Yet your body still reacts as if it was the tiger you needed to escape from. Adrenaline, cortisol, blood sugar levels change to help you survive a potential attack. Your body considers survival to be more than digesting your food. So living with constant stress will make your digestive system less effective. Relaxing and reducing stress is key part of weight loss for most people. Try taking daily mini meditations with a phone app to help let go of stress, boost your productivity and help your waist-line. Also see my article: Can stress cause weight gain?
- TIP 8. Drink more water. Soft drinks, wine, beer are increasingly part of every day consumption. They also account for the biggest intake of sugar. If I asked you to eat 9 teaspoons of sugar in the space of 10 minutes, I doubt you could do it. But you could easily drink a fizzy drink in 10 minutes without realising what you have just consumed. Wine and beers often have a high sugar content too. Begin carrying a bottle of water with you, place it on your desk. Proximity helps remind you to drink more water. See my article on ‘Are you drinking enough water?’.
- TIP 9. Love yourself—just as you are right now. Please let go of thinking you are a failure, that you are not good enough in some way or that you don’t have enough willpower. You are more than good enough just as you are. It takes time to change your eating habits, but the more you do it, the more natural will become. It’s never about what you eat on one day. So if you have a ‘bad’ day, forgive yourself and simply again choose more healthy foods tomorrow.
I hear you asking is that it? If I do these things, will I lose weight? Yes you will. On the Eat Well—Be Well programs, it begins with a 4-week Body Cleanse – 4 weeks of pure Clean Eating. During this time participants generally lose between 6-14lbs (2.5—6.5 kilos) – without being hungry at all. Most people are eating more in volume than they did before and they feel much healthier too. By the end of the 3-month program, people typically double their weight loss of the first 4 weeks. It’s true they have my support, but even under your own steam, now you know why diets don’t work, you too can achieve simply by following these tips. As these are changes for life, then your losses will stay off. In this way, you can become slim and stay slim.
If you would like to fast-track your changes, join me on one of my Eat Well—Be Well programs. In very small groups, I teach, coach, motivate, and encourage you to fully understand about the changes I’m asking you to make and show you how to put the changes into practice. The programs use the 7-Steps of Healthy Weight Loss, which are:
• Clean Eating
• Heal Emotional Eating
• Learn about nutrition and digestion
• Adjust portion sizes
• Understand food cravings
• Check for wheat and dairy intolerances
• Find your way to exercising
Join me on my next Eat Well—Be Well Program. It will be fun, informative and will help you change your life.
I am always interested to hear your thoughts, views and ideas. Get in touch via the comments box below.