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Beat the diet saboteurs

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So, you’ve cut your portion sizes, you choose low-fat options whenever you can and you have waved goodbye your beloved weekend fry up. You’re really doing your bit and working hard at it, so why aren’t you losing weight? I remember my mother saying to me how much harder it was to lose weight as she got older and now that I’m the age she was then, I know exactly what she meant! There is no doubt that our metabolism changes as we age but that isn’t the whole story and it certainly doesn’t mean we have to accept an ever-increasing waistline as a normal part of ageing. The problem is, sometimes our best intentions can work against us and in this article I’m going to help you recognize those hidden diet saboteurs and how to avoid them…

Low-fat foods
Opting for low-fat foods might seem like a no brainer when it comes to watching your weight but the fact is, fat makes foods tasty. Numerous studies asking volunteers to do blind tastings on identical foods, which only differ in their fat content, have shown that we opt for higher fat content foods because they taste better.  When manufacturers remove fat from their products they need to find ways of making that food just as palatable and more often than not, that means adding sugar and therefore calories, so try to get into the habit of checking food labels carefully before you buy.

Healthy snacks
Swapping unhealthy snacks for healthy options is a great way to look after yourself. Ditching crisps and biscuits for seeds, nuts and dried fruits is undoubtedly healthier and more nutrient rich, but, beware, some healthy snacks can be very high in calories. Swapping snacks in this way is definitely better for you but it doesn’t mean you can eat them in unlimited supply. Get to know the calorie content of your snacks and try to measure out a portion at any one sitting rather than dipping into a bag when before you know it you have eaten twice as much as you intended.

Smaller portions
There is no doubt that we in the western world have become used to bigger and bigger portions and I have often extolled the virtues of down sizing plates and glasses to encourage people to eat less at each meal, but you have to be realistic. If you over restrict yourself you will feel deprived and crave food. All too often I hear people tell me they have reduced their meal sizes dramatically but when we look in more detail they are then compensating by reaching for more snacks between meals and, as we have just seen, the result of that can mean a greater total calorie intake.

If you are watching your weight and trying to eat healthily, the chances are you will leave the fry up or the bacon sandwich and err towards muesli, yoghurt and fruit. Definitely sounds like a healthy option but we are back to sugar content again. Some cereals are high in sugar so keep an eye on those labels. Breakfast is an important meal and missing it can mean you are more prone to reach for high calorie snacks later in the morning, so opt for something with a slow release of energy such as multigrain toast to see you through to lunch.

Human nature is such that as soon as you are denied something; chances are you will become fixated on that very thing. Banning yourself from something you really love is likely to result in failure but worse than that, when you do crack, you are much more likely to crack. I have always said there is no such thing as a bad food but plenty of bad diets. The important thing is that those unhealthy treats should be just that – a treat and not a daily ritual. There is nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying a few squares of chocolate, but succumbing everyday will get you in trouble.

I’m not just talking alcohol here, although alcohol and weight loss don’t go well together. Alcohol is laden with calories and of course a couple of drinks and you willpower is long gone. We all know that and most people trying to lose weight know to watch their alcohol intake. What’s perhaps not so obvious is the high calorie content of many soft or hot drinks and it’s all too easy to forget those when we are totting up our daily intake, so try changing to water and herbal teas.

If you’ve been battling with your weight but the scales and the waistbands simply aren’t giving you the rewards you want, take a look at these common pitfalls and maybe 2017 could be the year you really crack it!

Dawn is a GP specialising in preventative medicine, women’s and family health. She appears regularly on TV and has regular columns in various magazines. More from this expert.

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