When we’re trying to lose weight, our efforts can sometimes be hampered by our general eating habits, as well as our attitudes towards dieting. It can be really helpful to become more aware of how we behave and think, to spot any obstacles we might be putting in front of ourselves.
A common pitfall is ‘black and white’ thinking. In terms of dieting, this can manifest as rigidly following a diet, but then giving up completely following a single lapse, with the belief that you’ve ‘blown it’. This is a really common mindset, and having perfectionist tendencies can be detrimental to weight loss- perfectionists can have the attitude of: ‘It’s got to be perfect or it’s not worth doing at all’. This mindset can result in alternating periods of being far too strict and periods of overeating. The aim is to not think you’ve blown it after a single lapse- this might be a chocolate bar or a piece of cake- and instead to aim for more ‘grey’ eating, based on a ‘grey’ mindset-this involves eating in a more moderate, less restrictive way, with less chance of cravings and lapses. We encounter socializing with friends and family all year round, and a black and white approach to eating doesn’t work. Your aim is to get it right most of the time- this means you can still enjoy yourself whilst losing weight. We can’t put our lives on hold, so it’s important to be patient when it comes to weight loss. Losing weight rapidly with a ‘quick fix’ diet is overly restrictive and you’re likely to put most of the weight back on. What’s the point of a diet that you can only stick to for a few days or weeks?
Another common pitfall is exercise. Although being more active can help weight loss, it can also cause overeating. It’s all too easy to treat yourself to food after exercising- many dieters fall into the trap of thinking they’ve burned more calories than they actually have, and end up eating something quite calorific as a ‘reward’.
Eating quickly is another common pitfall- it doesn’t give your brain time to register the fullness of your stomach. The more slowly you eat, the more likely you are to feel satisfied with less food- and the less likely you are to go for second helpings!
Being ‘good’ midweek and letting go at weekends- sounds familiar? The problem is that two days out of seven is a significant proportion of the week, so if you have a tendency to eat and drink what you like at weekends, despite being good midweek, this can make weight loss stall.
It’s easy to forget about the calories we’re drinking- fruit juices, smoothies, alcoholic drinks and milky coffees are generally high in calories. Whilst you might be watching your food intake, you might be consuming excess calories through your fluid intake.
Many people struggle with their weight due to lack of planning. Planning is such an essential part of successful weight management. If you don’t plan your meals and snacks for the week you’re unlikely to stock up well, which means you can get caught out with nothing healthy at home, prompting poor food choices such as takeaways.
Many people eat oversized portions. They might think they’re eating medium portions, but in fact they’re eating from extra large plates and bowls- downsizing your crockery can really help you to eat less.
Perhaps you keep unhelpful foods in the house for other family members. To avoid temptation, try to get your family eating the same as you-there are now plenty of tasty, healthy snacks about. If they do insist on having less healthy snacks, then keep them out of sight. Don’t let others sabotage your weight loss efforts- ask for support, and request that they don’t entice you with those foods you’re trying to limit or avoid.
The weighing scales can be demotivating. If you’re impatient to lose weight, you might weigh yourself too often. Weight can fluctuate from day to day, so it’s much better to weigh yourself just once a week, to avoid too many disappointing readings.
Some people fall into the trap of starving during the day so that they can eat more in the evening. The problem with this is that you can get overly hungry, leading to overeating later on- you can actually end up eating more calories than if you ate three meals and 1 or 2 snacks over the day.
Think about whether any of these common pitfalls apply to you- awareness is power!