Eating right and exercising regularly is a sure-fire way to lose weight, but when the scales suddenly stop budging for no apparent reason, it can be as frustrating as it is de-motivating. To help stay committed to your goals, you’ll need to find out exactly what’s standing in between you and your dream body. Below we’ve listed the common diet blunders that could be stalling your slimming efforts and some smart ways to get back on track – and stay there!
1 Your diet lacks protein
Upping your protein is the first rule of successful slimming. The amino acids that make up protein all have a specific role in helping to supercharge weight loss and keep you feeling satiated. ‘These amino acids are needed to keep your metabolism up, to boost your energy levels and to produce the happy hormone that can stop you craving comfort foods,’ explains nutritionist Cassandra Burns (nutricentre.com). The richest sources of protein are lean meat, fish and eggs, followed by cheese and yoghurt. ‘You can also include plant foods, nuts and seeds, beans, chickpeas and lentils in your diet. They are high in vitamins and minerals, but bear in mind they do contain less protein than animal foods,’ says Cassandra.
2 You’re not imaginative
Achieving a healthy, happy weight for the future is all about experimenting with good food so that your taste buds don’t get bored. So get creative! How about making your own vegetable crisps? Toss some carrot ribbons and kale in coconut oil and bake them in the oven – et voilà! Or what about some healthy sweet treats like quinoa crispy cupcakes when you’re lusting after chocolate? This healthy take on traditional rice crispy cakes can be whipped up in seconds. All you need is puffed quinoa, melted raw chocolate, a drizzle of honey and a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil. Mix all the ingredients and divide into cupcake cases, placing in the fridge until set. The options for healthy recipes made from minimal ingredients are endless!
3 You miss meals
Eat up and you’re more likely to shed the excess pounds. A 2013 study published in the /International Journal of Obesity/ found that following a pattern of regular eating helps to maintain a healthy BMI. ‘Try to eat three meals and two healthy snacks a day. You will not only eat less at mealtimes, but also speed up your metabolism. Go for tasty and nutritional options – for example, nuts, oatcakes with guacamole or carrots with houmous,’ advises Cassandra.
4 You drink too much coffee
Good-quality coffee is a source of disease-fighting antioxidants, but too much of a good thing can be a real diet wrecker. Caffeine creates a rollercoaster of blood sugar highs and lows, aggravating sweet cravings for a quick energy lift. So instead of your usual morning cappuccino, opt for a cup of green tea. While the average coffee clocks up 150mg of caffeine, green tea contains around 25mg and still provides an fast energy jump-start. ‘Green tea is also packed with antioxidants, which are great for your skin and also increase your metabolism and fat burning,’ says nutritionist Cassandra.
5 You’re a salad fiend
Nibbling on a salad for lunch is a great way to work towards your five-a-day goal, but if you’re eating those lettuce leaves to scale back on calories, you could actually be counteracting your weight-loss goals. If you don’t provide your body with adequate calories, it will automatically think it’s in starvation mode, which will make your metabolism slow down in order to help your body hold onto fat. So don’t be too strict with your diet – make sure your meals and snacks add up to around 1,200 calories a day. This will keep your body’s fat-burning furnace firing on all cylinders. Bear in mind you don’t have to be good all the time, too! Allow yourself one splurge a week. Tucking into a cheat meal will actually help to speed up your metabolism and give you the motivation to stick to your healthy diet the rest of the time.
6 You’re a night owl
If you don’t snooze, you’ll definitely lose in the weight loss game. The University of Chicago’s Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center found that when we don’t get enough sleep we consume around 300 extra calories compared with when we do. We are also way more likely to make poor food choices and give into food cravings. Aim to get around eight hours of rest daily, going to bed and rising at the same time every day to help regulate your body clock and keep the scales steady.
7 You don’t drink enough
While coffee, cola, wine and fruit juice are all out if you’re looking to dramatically up the weight-loss stakes, water, vegetable juice and herbal teas should form a key part of your diet. Water helps to nourish your cells so they function efficiently – and if you pop a few ice cubes in a glass of water it’ll help speed up your metabolic rate, too. Cool water encourages your body to burn extra calories as it warms it up to body temperature. Vegetable juices are also a great way to fill up on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods and work towards your five-a-day, while herbal teas like liquorice and chamomile and honey can really help to curb a sweet tooth. Boost your daily water intake wherever you are with Contigo’s Grace Autoseal Water Bottle, £17.94, amazon.co.uk.
8 You’re scared of the F word
If you’re trying to lose fat, believe it or not, you’ll need to /eat/ fat. Good fats, such as omega-3, actually help your body to burn fat. ‘Omega-3 helps your body respond better to a hormone called leptin. Leptin tells your brain to suppress your appetite, as well as increases your metabolism. This hormone also causes your body to burn fat for energy; however, if your body isn’t responding to leptin correctly then the reverse happens – you’ll be hungrier and you’ll store more fat,’ explains Cassandra. Omega-3 will give your metabolism a boost when you feel like you’ve stopped losing weight. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, is an excellent source of omega-3, but if you’re not a fan of fish, include a supplement in your diet instead. Try Omega 3 by Quest Vitamins, £5.99, questexcellence.com
9 You’re eating too many carbs
Complex carbs are an important part of a balanced diet, but piling your plate with brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholegrain bread is an undoubtable formula for weight gain. Make sure that healthy carbs form no more than a quarter of your meal and cut your consumption down with a few simple swaps. Trade in plain flour for ground almonds in baked goods, load up on leafy greens instead of overdoing it on the brown rice and substitute sandwiches for little gem lettuce hearts stuffed with your favourite healthy sandwich filling.
10 You go back to your old ways
It sounds simple, but if you want to keep the weight off, you’ll need to change your lifestyle for good. If you go back to your old eating habits, weight gain is inevitable. Following a balanced diet with an occasional treat will help you to reach your goals faster.
3 ways to lighten the load
Arm yourself with these quick-fix tips to blast away the excess pounds
1 Make healthy mash
Switch regular potatoes for low-GI sweet potatoes. And add rich creaminess with a spoon of crème fraîche instead of cream and butter. Delicious!
2 Reduce your wine intake
Don’t want to cut out wine completely? Drink out of a champagne flute instead of a large wine glass and you’ll automatically consume less.
3 Avoid sugary fruit juice
Sidestep that carton of OJ and sweeten up a glass of water with a squeeze of fresh orange to scale back on sugar. Try adding in a slice of lemon for a liver jump-start.
4 Sauté veggies the healthy way
Steam your veggies, then place in a frying pan and coat in a teaspoon of coconut oil to finish off. This will cut down on the amount of oil you use in cooking.
5 Bake with xylitol
Use the natural sweetener xylitol in baked goods instead of sugar. This will help you avoid blood sugar highs and lows, but will still give you a sugary hit.