Thursday, 5 February 2015

The main reason diets fail and what to do about it - Part One

Here's the thing - you have been on a weight reducing diet for a few weeks, sticking to it rigidly even to the extent of refusing invitation out to dinner because you don't want to stray off the diet path.  You are possibly weighing and measuring all your food and counting calories. You may be weighing yourself once a day, or even twice. You are euphoric when you see the number on the scales go down and miserable if it hasn't moved, or worse and moved up. You might have joined a weight loss class and are buying all their special 'diet' foods and magazines. You think about your diet a lot and talk about it with friends who also might be joining you on the quest to lose some weight.

Then comes an occasion that you can't dodge, a family birthday, your birthday, Christmas, a good friends party. You go to the party/restaurant/dinner party and there is an amazing array of food there. You start to tuck in and end up eating a lot of food, chips and cake maybe as you haven't had them for so long and drink a few glasses of wine or beer or some sugary soft drinks. You go home feeling full and a little bit cross with yourself for 'breaking the diet' and vow to start again the next day.

But, and this is the big but and cause of many diet failures, you find that you can't get motivated the next day to eat 'diet' foods or even healthy foods. It's like a switch has gone off in your brain and you want to eat all the time, sabotaging your weight loss efforts. You think 'oh well I've broken my diet, I'm hopeless at dieting, I can't lose weight, I might just as well eat what I like'.

A TV programme in the UK on BBC2 demonstrated this very phenomenon in a very clever way. A group of people who had been on a diet for around 8 weeks were split into two groups and each offered a slice of cake as a reward for doing so well for the last two months. The first group were told the truth about the cake, that it was highly calorific at 700 calories per slice; the second group were told that it was a special low fat and sugar cake and only contained 190 calories. All the participants ate the cake but something very interesting happened afterwards. Both groups took part in cake making classes later on in the day and were told they could eat what they had made. The group who thought that the original cake was low calorie and compliant with their diet ate EIGHT times less cake than the ones who thought they had broken their diet.

It's clear that many people have an 'all or nothing' mentality around what they eat. They are either 'on a diet' or eating whatever they like, often unhealthy processed foods that taste good but aren't filling or nutritious and can be highly addictive. So, how can you get off this merry go round?

Firstly find an eating plan that contains mainly fresh unprocessed foods. Ditch all 'diet' foods. Eat protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese) with every meal. Eat some good fats like nuts, coconut oil, butter, avocados. Eat high carbohydrate foods (pasta, rice, bread) sparingly. Avoid foods containing sugar and sugar derivatives whenever possible. Eat like this 80% of the time and you should be able to indulge in little treats without sabotaging your weight loss.

So what do you do when you do go out and indulge? How do you make sure you can stick with the 80/20 and not throw in the towel and go back to old habits. Look out for part two of this post which will give you strategies to manage the day after the night before!

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