7 reasons why your diet could be failing

Reasons why you might have struggled to stick to your diet

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


04 January 2019

1 – It’s too extreme

One of the main issues we have with all the new diets come January time is that they’re too extreme! Whilst it’s tempting to opt for a ‘quick fix’ to try and lose some weight, in order to really keep it off we need a regime we can stick to. Some tips from me to help avoid anything too extreme are as follows:

Don’t go hungry

There’s only so long you’ll last if you leave yourself feeling ravenous. If you’re desperately hungry you’re much more likely to make poorer food choices, experience uncomfortable cravings, and let’s be honest; feel pretty miserable! It’s also counterproductive as if you throw yourself into starvation mode your body will do everything it can to help conserve energy: your metabolism will drop off and it will be even harder to shift excess weight. 

Don’t be tempted by fad diets 

Although it can be helpful to stick to some sort of plan, to give you recipe ideas for example, try not to get bogged down by anything too extreme that you won’t be able to stick to in the long-term. Cutting out whole food groups, for example, not only risks affecting your metabolism quite significantly but you can also risk missing out on a good variety of nutrients too, unless you’ve given this some proper thought. Whilst we want you to get the majority of your nutrients from your diet, our Balance Mineral Drink can help support you during a time of change or recovery.

Every little helps!

Even small, positive changes to your diet or lifestyle can make a big difference to how you look and feel. You don’t necessarily need to jump in all guns blazing as you’re more likely not to last. Even small habits such as drinking more water, cutting down on caffeine or cooking more from fresh can make all the difference and once you’ve mastered one thing, you can more easily move onto the next step whilst feeling positive. Remember, losing a pound or two in weight a week is more realistic and suggests that you’re making progress that’s more likely to be long-lasting.

2 – It’s not all about calories

If you’ve embarked on a new diet in the past you may know only too well how bogged down and obsessed even, you can become when it comes to counting calories. So, I’m here to tell you that actually, it’s not all about calories! 

As much as reducing your energy expenditure and moving more can in many cases be beneficial when it comes to weight loss, you can do this naturally without having to worry too much about the numbers. Fresh foods are generally less energy dense than processed varieties anyway, so by cooking more and watching your portion size you can often achieve those goals just fine without the calories taking over! Head over to my blog on ‘6 reasons why calorie counting is a bad idea’ to get inspired. 

3- Falling for the halo effect

The ‘halo effect’ is often a problem nowadays when it comes to dieting and in simple terms, this means that people are eating more foods that they assume are healthy, which in fact, might not actually be doing their waistlines much good. 

Much of this is down to the inclusion of more processed and packaged foods. Don’t get sucked in by lame marketing terms claiming foods are ‘low-calorie’ or ‘low-fat’, the truth is we need sufficient calories and fat to fuel us as otherwise we can be left feeling hungry and even undernourished. If the fat has been removed from foods, you can guarantee something more unnatural has replaced it – something which may well have negative effects on our hunger or worse!

My advice is dodge the claims as much as possible by eating less packaged food and more fresh ingredients - like those our ancestors would have recognised years ago! Any unidentifiable ingredient lists? Don’t go there! Read more on the halo effect in my recent blog to help identify some of the  main culprits worth avoiding.

4 - You’ve put all your eggs in one basket

In some cases people will try one particular method in a bid to lose weight, such as diet and exercise and if it doesn’t work straight away, and they give up. It’s important to understand that we’re all individual and a number of factors may be contributing when it comes to our body weight. We have diet, exercise, genetics but other habits such as stress, social or work patterns, poor sleep routines or medications could also be contributing.

My advice is to make some lists of the different areas of your life that could be having a negative influence on your weight and make suggestions as to simple steps you could take to help improve on them. This way, you can approach it from a few different angles, find what works well for you and decide which changes are more sustainable in the long-term. 

5 – Struggling with stress

Stress may not be something we automatically consider when assessing our body weight but it reality, it could be having an impact in more ways than one; let’s talk through some of the common themes when it comes to the impact of stress:

Extreme measures can backfire

Whether it’s a crash diet or a crazy exercise regime, these are actually sources of stress on your body. Then, unfortunately, in times of stress your body may not respond in the way you’d like to when it comes to adhering to those weight loss aspirations – go figure! 

An extreme reduction in calories or a relentless training regime will fire up your body’s innate stress responses. This involves an increase in stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol and this can change the way your body uses and stores calories. Stubborn tummy fat is a classic response to stress as it is a sign of us conserving energy close to your liver – exactly where it needs to be if we need it mobilised in the time of an ‘emergency’. Of course, this is most likely to be the very place you don’t want to be carrying any extra weight! Therefore, learning to relax could do just the trick and help you on your weight loss journey.

Mood swings 

If you’re putting yourself under too much pressure, eventually the cracks could begin to show and your mood could be the failing of you when it comes to your new regime. Neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine have an important role to play in controlling aspects of your mood but also food cravings; the two very much go hand in hand. If we’re happier and more relaxed, we’re less likely to fall victim to erratic and unhelpful food choices.

Social pressure 

This is an interesting point. Without even realising it you may be under pressure from others to eat or drink in a certain way and this could be having adverse effects on your weight loss journey. Take note of how you eat in work, at home, or with friends and aim to identify any key stumbling blocks. Once you’re more aware of any sticking points, you’re more likely to be able to address them appropriately.

6 - Not enough planning

Planning is key for many aspects of our life, but actually it’s an important part of maintaining a healthy weight too. Making shopping lists and sticking to them will help ensure you don’t give in to unnecessary added extras in the shops, or be tempted to buy fast food or ready meals on the way home when you know you have the ingredients for your dinner sitting waiting for you. Plus, an added bonus is it will also help you stick to a reasonable budget – something everyone will benefit from in January. Whilst I don’t believe meals should be too prescriptive, planning the week ahead and stocking up on the fresh ingredients you’ll need can be a really useful tactic.

7 – You’re fighting fatigue

With a change in diet it’s quite common to feel a little out of sorts for a while, however, if you feel fatigued for a lot longer, something might not be quite right. This all goes back to the likelihood that something is too extreme, so just be cautious if you’re finding you’re struggling to keep your eyes open. 

Cutting your calories too drastically could result in your metabolism to dip and we know that fatigue is a common symptom of this. Alternatively, a new regime could be affecting your nutrient status in one way another – common nutrient deficiencies that can give rise to fatigue can include iron, iodine, protein, B vitamins or vitamin D, to name a few. If you’re in any doubt, be sure to have a chat with your doctor to help identify any potential deficiencies.

Finally, if you aren’t sleeping properly you’re blood sugar is more likely to wobble and it could result in unhelpful food cravings and potentially sabotage your weight loss efforts. Aim to get sufficient shut-eye to help keep your diet on track.

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