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Wise up to slim down

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Beat your diet downfalls and lose those hard-to-shift pounds with these figure-friendly fixes

There’s no magic solution to slimmer thighs or a flatter tum, but if you want to shake off that excess weight and look your best for the sunny days ahead, you need a smart strategy. First things first, you have to figure out what might be stalling your weight-loss progress. 

So we’ve rounded up some of the most surprising diet saboteurs to help you avoid them and whittle away those wobbly bits once and for all.  

You’re eating too many ‘healthy’ carbs

You baulk at the sight of a croissant and wouldn’t dream of letting a chip pass your lips, but you start the day with wholegrain rice puffs and fill up on a big bowl of wholemeal pasta at dinner. Sound familiar? We all know that white versions of these kitchen cupboard staples spell bad news for our waistlines, but even their brown counterparts aren’t as virtuous as they may seem. Although complex carbohydrates are an important macronutrient in any balanced eating plan, a carb-heavy diet leads to weight gain by increasing blood glucose levels and making your body more resistant to insulin. This means that instead of burning carbs for energy, your body stores them as fat. Instead eat more protein – a study by Cambridge University and the University of Sydney found that this helps to keep your appetite in check.

Wise up: Pile half your plate with non-starchy veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, one quarter with protein (pulses, turkey or lean beef), and the other quarter with complex carbs (brown rice or sweet potato) and good fats such as olive oil or avocado. 

You’re being too good

You’ve been told over and over that counting calories is the key to successful weight loss. Well, counting calories can certainly help in the battle against the bulge, but totting up your daily intake isn’t really sustainable in the long term. Plus you’ll find your weight will start to plateau after a certain amount of time, as your body fights back by slowing your metabolism and increasing your hunger. Emerging research suggests that if you really want to keep your metabolism ticking over nicely you’ll need to bend the weight-loss rules slightly by ditching your diet once a week. Having a cheat meal can really help you stick to a healthy diet the rest of the time and keep your willpower firing all week long. 

Wise up: Set aside one meal a week to ‘slip up’ and indulge guilt free! Make sure you eat a low-calorie diet leading up to your cheat meal and then splurge on something that you’ve been craving all week. There are a couple of golden rules to follow to ensure this doesn’t foil your get-slim goals, though: schedule your cheat meal earlier in the day – at lunchtime rather than dinner – and stop eating at the first sign of fullness. You may find you get full quite quickly if you’ve been watching your portion sizes while dieting, so don’t feel that you have to clean your plate!

You save your calories for the evening

Eating smaller portions will certainly help to fire up your weight loss, but if you’re making the mistake of saving up your day’s calorie intake for the evening, the scales won’t tip in your favour. Your metabolism takes a dive when you miss meals, as it tries to hang onto whatever calories it can. Plus, skipping meals during the day will make you ravenous come the evening, so you’re also likely to overindulge during a night-time noshing session. This means your body will be flooded with high levels of blood glucose, which your body will store as fat. 

Wise up: Make sure you eat at regular intervals throughout the day, say scientists at the University of Eastern Finland, who recently discovered that skipping meals was associated with weight gain. Your day’s food intake should revolve around three meals, plus two snacks, to ensure blood glucose levels stay stable. Make sure each meal contains a protein source – such as pulses, cheese or meat – to keep you feeling full, and graze on snacks like berries with nuts or oatcakes topped with houmous.

You aren’t dealing with your emotions very well

Are you guilty of eating your emotions? Short-term stress or anxiety can suppress your appetite, as the release of hormones – including cortisol, CRH and adrenaline – makes us feel less hungry because the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode to protect us. However, a prolonged response over time can cause hormones like cortisol to signal to the body that it needs to replenish food supplies. This makes us hungrier for comfort foods and slows down the metabolism.

Wise up: Next time you’re stressed, swap comfort foods for a yoga sesh. Concentrating on breathing techniques and flow sequences will help bring your body back into balance and regulate hormone levels. And, instead of eating when you feel blue, look for other rewards to relieve negativity. Have a massage or call up a friend for a good ol’ chat. 

You have a selective memory

Guilty of mindlessly chowing down in front of the computer? Even if you’re watching what you eat 50 per cent of the time, if you’re not careful the other 50 per cent you’ll pack on the pounds. It’s difficult to keep tabs on what you’re eating when you’re distracted – and when you’re multi-tasking your brain isn’t as efficient at detecting fullness. 

Wise up: Schedule time into your day to dedicate to mealtimes. Make eating an occasion that takes you away from whatever task you’re doing. Eat at the dining table instead of on the sofa and make sure you chew food properly. Spend a few minutes a day writing a food diary of everything you’ve eaten and review it at the end of the week.

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