When it comes to losing weight, even virtuous eaters fall into dietary ‘black holes’ from time to time. Here Emily Berryman reveals some of the most common slimming mistakes – and shows you how to avoid them!
Mistake 1: Not counting liquid calories
You may religiously scan food labels for their calorie content – but what about your favourite drinks?
“Research now indicates that our addiction to sugar is to blame for increasing waistlines, and one of the worst culprits has to be sugary soft drinks” says nutritionist Fiona Kirk. Often called ‘liquid candy’ in the US, sadly this is exactly what many soft drinks are – with the equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar in a can of cola, six in many sports drinks, and as much as 12 in some of the syrupy extravaganzas available in high street coffee chains”.
Love your vino? This is another area we tend to overlook when slimming, but drinking half a bottle of red wine has the same calorific content as eating a Snickers bar! Hmm, maybe stick to hip-friendly vodka and sodas for your hen do then…
Mistake 2: Skipping breakfast
Not having brekkie may seem like an easy way to cut calories – but this often leads us to fill up later in the morning with quick-fix snacks like chocolate and crisps, which are packed with sugar or saturated fat. In fact, studies have found that dieters who eat breakfast every day are more likely to maintain a healthy weight – so vow to make time for a morning munch!
“Eating a protein-rich breakfast is a great strategy to keep you satisfied for longer, keeping blood sugar levels steady and ensuring the metabolic fire burns efficiently,” says Fiona. “Try a couple of boiled eggs with soldiers or a bowl of porridge topped with fruit and nuts. Your energy levels will soar and your cravings disappear.”
Mistake 3: Bad choices at restaurants
Eating out is one of the pleasures of life – but what you choose to nibble on can have a massive impact on your dress size. As a general rule, stay clear of any ‘extras’ sent to your table like the bread basket or prawn crackers, as these tend to be ‘empty calories’ or high in saturated fat. Also fight the urge to order dishes laden with creamy or cheesy sauces and instead keep things simple.
“Choosing a meaty, fishy or beany soup starter is a great slimming tactic to fill you up fast,” says Fiona. “Follow with a main course of plenty of vegetables and some lean, grilled, or roasted meat or fish. If you can’t live without dessert, have one scoop of ice cream or frozen yoghurt – not an entire sundae!”
Mistake 4: Loading up on low-fat
Eating low-fat is not the same as eating low-calorie – so guzzling two low-fat muffins instead of a regular one is just bad diet maths!
“Many processed foods bearing the ‘low-fat’ label have a lot of sugar or salt added to give them some flavour – so not only are you likely to consume too much health-disrupting sugar and salt in a day, you also won’t feel full for long and will need snack all too soon,” says Fiona.
Shunning fats all together? Get your fats straight! “Eating fat is vital for energy production, brain and nerve health, and skin, hair and nail strength, so you need to get your daily dose of good fats – the omegas – and go easy on the unhealthy saturates.”
Mistake 5: Wedding stress snacking
Mindless munching at times of stress can be the downfall of any healthy eating plan, so keep track of all the ‘little extras’ you consume throughout the day.
“The way the body deals with repeated stress is to call upon the hormone cortisol, which encourages us to eat more food and store it as fat to deal with the next perceived ‘emergency’,” explains Fiona. “The answer is to feed the stress by eating little and often and grazing on foods that are going to nourish the body and keep a steady balance of sugar in the bloodstream, thus avoiding hunger and cravings.”
Eyeing up that biscuit tin? Try eating a piece of fruit and a bag of mixed nuts and seeds instead. They’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer, making you less likely turn into Bridezilla!
Mistake 6: Portion distortion
On average, we eat 150 calories more a day than we did 20 years ago due to expanding portion sizes, and interestingly, the plates and bowls we eat from tend to be bigger today too.
“The ‘eat until you are only 80% full’ rule is great in theory but can be hard in practice, particularly if you have been told since your youth to finish everything on your plate,” says Fiona. “Instead, try to get into the habit of eating consciously – without distraction. It takes the brain around 20 minutes to get the message that you are full, so by eating more slowly and enjoying every mouthful you will be less likely to overeat and to reach for seconds.”
Mistake 7: You don’t drink enough
No, this is not an excuse to organise a pub crawl – we’re talking about water, sadly! Research suggests that we often mistake thirst for hunger, so before you give in to mid-morning munchies, have a glass of water first and then ask yourself if you are still hungry. A recent US study found that slimmers can lose an average of 5lb extra if they drink two glasses of water three times a day before meals, as this fills your stomach without adding calories.
“Every biochemical reaction that takes place within the body – from extracting the nutrients from our food to interpreting messages between brain and body cells – need water to make them happen, so the body is sometimes just crying out for a glass or two,” says Fiona. “A rough but good guide is to divide your weight in pounds by two and aim for that many ounces of water per day.” Not only will this help you to achieve the bridal body beautiful – your skin will thank you for it too.