Nutritionist Emma Brown sheds some light on why you’re not shifting the pounds
1. You think healthy equals low calorie
You might think foods labelled as low-fat or reduced sugar are better for you but packaging can sometimes be misleading. Such claims can create what’s known as a ‘halo’ effect, which make us believe that a product is all-round better for us. And, while they might well be a healthier choice than the full fat, high sugar, processed alternative, you still need to check the label and be calorie aware if you’re watching your weight. A reduced fat yoghurt may contain just as many calories as a full fat one because sugar has been added for flavour. Products that highlight their ‘fresh’ or ‘natural’ ingredients, such as salads, cereal bars and handy snack packs, can still pack a hefty calorie punch.
2. The activity you’re doing isn’t really exercise
It’s tempting to treat everyday activities and household chores as exercise but 5,000 steps pottering around the house isn’t going to have the same calorie burn as a brisk walk that elevates your heart rate and makes you feel ever so slightly breathless. Our bodies are designed for efficiency and adapt to activities we do all the time. So, while all movement does burn calories, don’t rely on including activities that are part of your everyday lifestyle. Instead, record activities you consciously do to burn extra calories, and vary your exercise routine regularly to continue to reap the benefits.
3. You’re forgetting the liquid calories
You may be carefully tracking your food intake but are you forgetting your daily cuppa? One mug of tea with semi-skimmed milk has around 20 calories, which doesn’t sound like much but, over the course of a day, five mugs tots up to 100 calories. Plus, there’s that glass of juice at breakfast (55 cals) and a flat white on the way to work (80 cals) – and suddenly that’s 235 extra calories you’ve missed. And then there’s alcohol – it’s the second most calorific compound after fat. We obsess about fat in our diet, but alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat (nine cals/gram). A large glass of wine contains around 190 calories; sink two of these and that’s nearly 400 calories – more than a Krispy Kreme doughnut!
4. You’re not counting nibbles or snacks
You’re at work and the biscuits come out – there one goes, eaten and forgotten. You’re preparing dinner and grate the cheese, popping the last chunk in your mouth. You’re clearing the kids’ plates and before you know it you’ve eaten their leftovers. Welcome to mindless eating – the food that doesn’t even register. Recent analysis by the Office for National Statistics showed that a third of people in the UK underestimate how many calories they are eating – men eat around 3,000 calories per day but believe they’re eating 2,000, and women put away 2,500 calories per day but think they only eat 1,500 calories. Simply guessing at your food intake isn’t usually very successful. Using an app, such as Nutracheck (nutracheck.co.uk), to track what you eat will make you more mindful of exactly what you’re munching – and how much.
5. You don’t remember the hidden calories
When we can’t see exactly what’s in a meal, it’s hard to estimate the potential calorie count. Just one tablespoon of olive oil contains over 120 calories. If you’re following a recipe that tells you to add a ‘good glug of olive oil’, you could end up adding hundreds of ‘invisible’ calories. And don’t forget sauces and dressings – a generous dollop or two of mayonnaise on your salad could add 50 percent more calories to the meal you’re telling yourself is a virtuous choice. So, instead of pouring a steady drizzle, remember to measure oils, dressings and sauces.
6. You’re too sociable
Our social lives are often centred around eating or drinking out with friends, with around one in five meals in the UK now eaten outside the home. Knowing exactly what you’re eating is difficult as it’s not mandatory for restaurants to provide calorie counts on menus. We also tend to eat larger portions and more courses when we eat out. None of this is helped by our obsession with getting value for money. Bigger portions mean better value, right? Well, maybe for your purse, but definitely not for your waist line. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to kill your social life – choose places that do provide calorie information on their menus or have ‘lighter eating’ options so you can make a more informed choice.
7. Your sleeping pattern is inconsistent
Not getting enough sleep can sabotage your diet for various reasons. For starters, less sleep means you’re awake for longer and therefore have more hours in the day to potentially eat. Sleep deprivation can also have an impact on what and how much food we choose to eat the following day. Over time, regular poor sleep patterns could have a huge effect on how much and what type of foods you choose to eat – potentially leading to over consumption and weight gain.
8. Your portions are too small
Not eating enough food could be slowing down your weight loss. Our bodies don’t want to give up their fat stores, even if we have more than we should, as we’re programmed to preserve energy. So, if we follow a very low food intake for an extended period of time, our bodies might perceive this as a period of famine and so make adjustments to hold on to fat stores as much as possible. Our body is only capable of utilising a certain amount of fat each week, so eating a very low calorie intake can force it to use energy from muscle tissue instead. This isn’t what we want, as lean muscle tissue is important for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Try to follow an intake of no less than 1,200 calories on average each day to ensure you can lose weight healthily and sustainably.
9. You’re not eating enough carbs
Low carb fanatics will tell you that all carb consumption is a diet disaster but it’s possible that the opposite is true. Good carbs contain important, dietfriendly nutrients that aren’t as readily available in low- or no-carb foods – particularly fibre. Fibre is hugely important for both our general health and as a potential weight loss aid. Certain types of fibre, such as resistant starch, are as the name would suggest, resistant to digestion. This means they hang about in our gut and help us to feeling fuller for longer. When trying to lose weight, anything that keeps hunger pangs at bay is very helpful. So, don’t tar all carbs with the same brush. Wholemeal varieties and pulses are great fibre filled additions to our diet – just limit white refined carbs.
10. Your plates are too big
Over the last 60 years, the size of our dinner plate has increased by 45 percent. Back in the 1950s, a typical dinner plate measured 23cm, and now it’s 33cm. Research suggests the more food we have in front of us, the more we’ll eat. A US study looked at 1,179 people around the globe to assess their eating habits and found that most people ate 92 percent of what was in front of them. So, if you like to see a full plate, switch to a smaller one. Another good tip is not to leave the serving dish on the table. Studies have found that, when the serving dish was removed from the table and put out of sight, women ate 20 percent fewer calories and men ate 29 percent less than normal.