You may be one of the many optimists who began the year with a commitment to a diet of some description, forcing down weird “teas” brewed from maple syrup and lemon juice, or grimacing your way through a lunchtime bowl of cabbage soup. Whether you adopted one of the more sensible regimes or one of the more lunatic fads, you may even have reached this point in the calendar having achieved a vastly more satisfactory reading on the old bathroom scales. Job done!
Or rather, job not done at all, because as soon as you declare the diet concluded, back come those kilos, often with a spiteful few more than you originally started with – your body’s way of punishing you for daring to interrupt the flow of biscuits. So if you’ve shifted the timber and achieved your target weight, now or in the future, what can a person do to avoid becoming another anecdote of dieting failure? Here are eight portly pitfalls to be avoided.
1. Going back to your old ways the second you hit your goal
Once you’ve successfully navigated the obstacle course of tempting pizzas and flirtatious muffins, and reached your target weight, who can resist flinging their head back in wild celebration and getting straight back on the grog? Big mistake. The experts will tell you that this is the time to put an even stricter regime in place. Start incorporating what nutritionist Rebecca Pilkington calls “positive life choices”. You’ve done the short-term bit; now you need to make a long-term deal with yourself to be more conscious of what you eat and when you eat it. A good start is to only eat food made with fresh ingredients.
2. A lack of variety
Whatever got you down to your target weight has served you well thus far, but it’s important to keep your mind and body active, don’t just rely on the old tried and tested. “Set yourself a new goal,” says Jeremy Johnston of Do More Movement. “Whether it’s to do with your weight, your waist size or completing a 10km, ensure you have a new target to keep yourself motivated.”
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3. Giving yourself entire weekends off
You don’t want to bid a complete farewell to your old life, but there is a world of difference between hitting 6pm on a Friday and running mouth-first through a debauched weekend, and exercising a little restraint to stick with your new regime. “Make it a cheat meal, not a cheat entire weekend,” says Johnston. “It’s far too easy for a Friday night beer to morph into a Saturday fry-up, then pizza and then a Sunday curry.” Be disciplined.
4. Putting faith in diet drinks or diet foods
“I’d be wary of anything advertised as ‘diet’, ‘low-calorie’ or ‘low-sugar’,” says Pilkington. “Usually they’ve taken those things out and replaced them with something worse.” The key with maintaining your shape is to stick to a healthy balanced diet, so give the fad foods a wide berth, and head instead for the “tasty fresh ingredients” aisle at your local vegetable dealership.
5. Not enjoying your new regime
“I remember reading somewhere how if you look at the first three letters of ‘diet’ it says ‘die’ and to some people that really sums it up,” says Pilkington. “You have to enjoy what you’re doing and commit to making good choices that make you happy. So don’t feel that you can’t have a steak, just have it with salad instead of chips.” The key here being that going on a massive health overhaul needn’t take away everything you love. You just need to keep adapting to your new lifestyle.
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6. Not investing in the change
If you’re going to make a commitment to reinvent this fresh, new, slimmer you, you’d be wise to demonstrate this by showing the colour of your money. “Invest in your well-being,” says Johnston, “whether that means buying a NutriBullet to make your own juices, or investing is some new gym kit or running shoes. If the money helps to build good habits and a good routine, then it’s money well spent.” Plus you’d feel like a real jerk if you spent all that money then didn’t put your back into it.
7. Getting stressed if you fall off the wagon
Don’t mistake yourself for a professional athlete, because you are not (unless you are one, in which case ignore this paragraph). Chances are that you’re losing weight to simply look and feel a bit better about yourself, so if you make a few dietary wrong turns, don’t stand in front of a mirror perplexed and shouting at yourself – just accept it. “You’re only human,” says Johnston, “so don’t panic if you fall off the wagon. Just remember what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it, and go again.”
8. Lying to yourself
If you’ve dedicated yourself to losing weight and you’ve achieved your goal, you will know about the effort it took and the discipline required – it’s easy to get complacent and make little deals with yourself, promising to make up for it in future. But don’t. Be strict to start with, and then eventually choosing the healthy direction should come naturally to you. Be completely open with yourself. Unless you really want to pile the weight back on, of course.
And if none of that works…
Make it really difficult to start eating again
If you want to curb your eating, incorporate a few symbolic “mealtime is over” techniques. “After eating, do the washing-up so you don’t eat more food,” says mealtime enthusiast Nic Mids. Another would be to immediately brush your teeth, as nothing tastes nice combined with the flavour of toothpaste.
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Don’t eat with a large group
A recent study in the Journal Of Physiological Behaviour decreed that people eat considerably more in the company of other people. This is thought to be down the perception of dinner party etiquette, where it would be the height of rudeness not to wolf down everything on your plate.
It’s a simple equation: you just have to spend more calories than you consume. Anything that makes you work up a good sweat will do, so why not take yourself somewhere swishy and start throwing shapes. Or run up escalators where you might normally stand, or get off the bus/tube a stop or two early and walk the rest.
Only ever eat in front of mirrors
Scientific studies have suggested that eating in front of your own reflection can cut your food intake by around 30%. Presumably because staring yourself dead in the eye while you grunt and eat chips is a horrible wake-up call.