If you’re dieting but not losing the kilos, these habits could be sabotaging your efforts, writes Charmaine Yabsley.
Eating too much at night
You start the day virtuously with a fresh juice, wheatgrass shot and pot of yoghurt with flaxseeds. Lunch is a healthy salad, with a side order of lettuce. By dinnertime you’re ready to eat anything in sight. And usually do.
“Overeating at night is probably the most common diet mistake of all,” says nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan from Nutrition Australia.
“Researchers at the National Institute on Aging found middle-aged men and women who ate their daily number of kilojoules in one super-size supper produced more ghrelin, a hormone that causes hunger, which could lead to late-night snacking and snacking during the night, compared to when they ate the same number of kilojoules in three square meals.”
“Eat three fairly equal-sized meals throughout the day, eating around 1500kJ to 2000kJ for each,” says Hourigan.
Try: Scrambled eggs, sprinkled with low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin and a glass of juice for breakfast. Soup with wholemeal bread, a glass of juice and fruit is ideal for lunch. And dinner should consist of a protein and vegetables, such as fish, greens and sweet potato.
You change your diet, but not your attitude…
Constantly dieting, but always seem to regain that weight? You’re not alone. According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), 90 per cent of dieters report unsuccessful attempts at weight loss. “This is because your eating habits may have changed for the duration of the diet, but once you’re ‘off’ your diet, you return to your old ways,” says psychologist Peter C. Stroud. “Diets really don’t work,” he says. “The only solution is to understand why you overeat, or crave the wrong sorts of food.”
The NWCR found that people who ate healthy, balanced meals seven days a week were more likely to keep off weight than those who ate sensibly only on weekdays. “Overindulging on the weekend is one of the biggest diet downfalls,” says Stroud. “This is what’s known as ‘reward’ dieting. You’ve been good all week, so you ‘reward’ yourself with a couple of glasses of wine and a takeaway on Friday night.” But this can not only undo all your good work, but can also cause your body to store the extra kilojoules as fat.
Stroud suggests writing a list of your food problem areas. “For example, you may always eat in front of the TV, or eat three chocolate biscuits at 3pm to ward off hunger pains,” says Stroud. “Once you know your danger zones, you can begin changing them, one by one. Eat at a table instead, and have one biscuit instead of three.”
But don’t tackle it all at once. Change one habit at a time. Once you’ve mastered that, move onto the next one.
You stock up on low-fat products
While doing the weekly shop, it’s tempting to load up your trolley with low-fat foods in the belief that you’re doing your waistline a favour.
Wrong, says fat-loss expert Mireille Ryan from Busy Mums Fitness Club. “Dining on fat-free foods may seem like the guilt-free way to lose weight, but a lot of these have the same amount or even more kilojoules than standard versions,” says Ryan.
But don’t beat yourself up about your food choices. Research suggests that when a food is described as a diet food, we’re subconsciously primed to eat more.
When Cornell University researchers offered the same M&M’s labelled either regular or low fat to visitors at a university open house, the visitors ate 28 per cent more of the low-fat snacks.
Ryan recommends checking the food labels for the number of kilojoules per serving. “And keep your portion sizes in check you may be tempted to serve yourself twice as much of the low-fat option.”
Find more healthy food choices in the October issue of New Zealand Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.