Your mind can dramatically help or hinder your attempts to lose and keep off weight. Follow these expert tips
1. "I deserve to eat/drink this because I've exercised/ I'm sad/ I worked hard today..." Using food or drink to cheer you up or to reward yourself rarely works and is a sure-fire way to put on weight. Find alternative ways of treating yourself, such as a long bath or a new lipstick. New thought: What I really deserve is a slim, fit and healthy body I can be proud of.
2. "It's low-fat/low-GI/low-sugar/low-calorie, so I'll have more." Remember the golden rule - if you eat more calories than you burn off you'll put on weight, so no matter how virtuous a food may appear, don't overdo it. Listen to your appetite and stop when you've had enough. New thought: A low-GI/fat/sugar/calorie food won't be of any benefit to me if I use it as an excuse to eat more of it.
3. "I'll never be thin - years of dieting has damaged my metabolic rate." Dr Prentice of the Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge says, "There is no doubt that your metabolic rate goes down when you diet. It's the body's way of fighting back when it thinks it may be facing starvation, but we've found it recovers after a few weeks of the diet ending." New thought: My metabolic rate is functioning normally and I can make it burn an extra 200 to 300 calories with every 30 minutes of exercise I do.
4. "If I ban the high-calorie foods that I love, I'll finally get the body of my dreams." Big mistake. The human mind is a very complex thing. The minute you tell yourself that you are not allowed to eat a certain food, it becomes even more desirable. New thought: Everything is ok to eat - but in moderation.
5. "I can never be thin - I love delicious food far too much." No problem! You don't need to make an enemy of food to lose weight. In fact, quite the opposite - just don't overeat! Use your love of food to try out new recipes, foods and explore healthier ways of cooking. New thought: Good food doesn't need to be covered in calorie-rich creams, oils, fats and sauces to taste great.
6. "My whole family are overweight, so why try to change my weight?" Your genes will play a significant role in determining your natural weight range, but just because your relatives are overweight doesn't mean you have to be. Eat healthy foods, smaller portions, increase your activity levels and exercise more to overcome it. New thought: I can't alter my DNA, but I can make sure I am the best that I can be.
7. "I'm so tired I really need this chocolate/ biscuit/ cake to get me through." When you are feeling tired, a sweet snack will increase your blood sugar levels, which is why it often gives you the quick fix you crave. But this "sugar high" is very swiftly followed by an even bigger "sugar low", leaving you feeling more tired. Try to eat little and often during the day and snack on fruits, nuts and wholegrains. New thought: When I'm feeling tired, it's low-fat, low-GI and slow-releasing foods that I need.
8. "It's a waste to throw this away, so I'll eat it." It goes against the grain to waste food, but remember - if you put it in the bin, it's gone for good; but put it in your mouth and it may hang around on your hips, thighs or stomach for years to come! New thought: If I'm not hungry I simply won't eat any more.
9. "Skipping breakfast is an easy way to cut calories." The temptation to skip breakfast can be great. However, numerous studies confirm that breakfast skippers smoke more, drink more alcohol, take less exercise and consume more calories per day than breakfast eaters. By mid-morning you'll have very low blood sugar and can experience particularly strong urges to eat quick-fix fatty, sugary foods, tea and coffee and even an increased desire to smoke. New thought: "Eating breakfast, even if it is just a low-fat smoothie, some fruit or wholegrain toast will give me far greater control over what I choose to eat throughout the rest of the day."
10. "I've blown it with the main course; I might as well have a dessert." Use the 80:20 rule. If you follow a healthy portion-controlled eating regime 80 per cent of the time, you don't need to worry too much about the other 20 per cent. You're then less likely to sabotage your efforts when you have the occasional slip-up by overeating even more. New thought: "One treat at a time - I've pushed the boat out on the main, so I'll have a low-calorie option like fruit or sorbet."
11. "The label says it's ‘low-fat', ‘light', ‘lite', or ‘reduced fat', so it must be a better option." The words "lite" or "light" tend to lead one to assume that they are either low in calories or fat. However, neither is necessarily true as it may simply mean that product is a lighter colour or texture than another similar product. "Reduced-fat" does not necessarily mean low-fat. One crisp manufacturer makes reduced-fat crisps that are 50 per cent fat compared to 62 per cent in its normal crisps. Both are still high in fat. "Low-fat" may not be as it seems either. As fat gives many foods their taste, manufacturers often replace this with more sugar. New thought: I won't see labelling as a green light for a treat or extra helping.
12. "I do plenty of exercise, so I should be able to eat what I like." If you weigh nine stone, you would need to run for just under an hour to burn off 500 calories. To eat 500 calories would take less than a couple of minutes in the form of a Big Mac, bar of chocolate or a milkshake. Regular exercise will help you regulate your appetite and eat healthier foods, but unless you watch what you eat as well, when it comes to weight loss, you'll be fighting a losing battle. New thought: "No amount of exercise will make up for an unhealthy diet or overeating."
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