5 Totally Outdated Diet Rules That Are Messing With Your Weight Loss
By Maria Lally; Photography by Pexels
Nobody panic, but everything you believed about weight loss may be wrong…
Speak to a seasoned dieter and no doubt they’ll effortlessly reel off the established principles associated with losing weight. And yet despite knowing we need to eat more vegetables, up our protein and ease off the cakes and booze, many of us still struggle to shift excess weight. So, what gives? “Losing weight is largely down to mindset,” says clinical psychologist Dr Lisa Orban, who deals with emotional eating issues. “So while we know what to eat and what not to eat, emotional triggers, like stress and boredom, or ingrained habits cause us to overeat or consume the wrong things. But there’s a new wave of thinking that suggests tiny tweaks to our mindset might be more useful for losing weight and maintaining the results, rather than changing what we actually eat.” Ditch these outdated rules asap…
1. Weekly weigh-ins
Daily monitoring is better. Sure, a weekly weigh-in that charts the kilos as they drop off can elicit killer feelings of accomplishment, but how helpful is it to your overall results? Not as valuable as monitoring your weight loss daily, is the surprising news. While we’ve always been told that getting obsessive about the scales is a bad idea, a study from the University of Manchester found that the more frequently people monitored their weight using digital weighing scales, the more kilos they shed over 12 months. Dr Matthew Sperrin, who led the study, believes that frequently weighing yourself allows you to track the positive – and negative – effects of dieting behaviours more closely. That said, if you do weigh yourself daily, heed the old advice of sticking to the same time of day to minimise fluctuations. “Eating, toilet visits and your menstrual cycle can make a difference,” says Orban.
2. Bad foods are a no-go
Those scare-mongering headlines about eating too many carbs aren’t doing your diet any favours. Researchers from the US found that we’re more likely to make unhealthy food choices when we’ve been warned not to. For the study, participants were given positive, negative and neutral messages about foods before being offered them; those who were warned off sugar-laden puddings ate 39 percent more of them than individuals who received positive or neutral messages. Lead researcher Nguyen Pham believes the findings suggest dieters, like teenagers, are prone to rebellion. “Rather than leading dieters to make healthier choices, messages from the food police are making unhealthy foods more enticing.” Amelia Freer, author of Eat. Nourish. Glow., says, “Don’t label food as good or bad.” She adds: “If you see salad as ‘good’ and chips as ‘bad’, you’re reinforcing the idea that salad is virtuous, but boring and disciplined. Chips, however, will become alluring.”
3. Overhaul everything
Little tweaks get bigger results. You know the drill: when you embark on a new diet, you often throw the baby out with the bath water – except our brains don’t respond so well to that. “Fad diets require drastic changes to our daily eating habits, which only increase the likelihood of gaining back the weight when we return to our old ways,” says Orban. “Instead, identify lots of small changes and do them every day, so they become habits.” Sir Cary Cooper, a professor of psychology and health from the University of Manchester, says, “Habit-stacking tends to be more successful than making one huge change.” He adds, “Big goals are overwhelming. You’re more likely to stick to small, easy changes and the confidence boost you get from successfully making a small change often leads to another.” Professor Peter Rogers, a nutritional psychologist at the University of Bristol, agrees: “Micro-changes are useful when trying to lose weight. So go from two sugars in your tea to one, then none. Think about your food weaknesses and make one small change after another.” A University College London study says it takes two months to form a new habit. So adapt slowly for long-term wins.
4. To falter is to fail
Take a break! We’re only just getting our heads around the fact that weight loss isn’t all about kilojoules. Now it’s time to embrace the latest thinking that the occasional spell of overeating doesn’t always mean the end of a good run. University of Sydney research found obese mice that were fed a consistent number of daily kilojoules shed less weight than those given the same number of kilojoules for five or six consecutive days, followed by unrestricted intake for up to three days. “Despite the traditional belief that any instance of overeating can derail weight loss, our study shows that taking a break from a restricted-kilojoule diet could actually increase the amount of weight lost relative to the effort put in,” explains lead researcher associate professor Amanda Salis. “If you do find yourself sometimes eating more than you intended, it may not have any adverse effects on your overall progress, so don’t get discouraged. Just get back on the wagon and keep going.” Orban explains how this thinking fits in with the idea of being flexible with the rules: “Evidence shows that an ‘all or nothing’ approach is actually self-defeating and often leads to failure long-term. Instead, make your goals realistic, accept that there will be setbacks and meet these with self-compassion.”
5. Thinking every diet will work for you
Follow the “me” diet. There’s a lot of conflicting information about which diet really is healthy and works the best. The studies, stats and personal stories (“I swear this worked for me in less than a week”) can leave you feeling puzzled and basically sipping on hot lemon water because you don’t know what will help with your weight loss. Know this: your body is smarter than you think and knows what it wants. It is engineered to send and receive signals to and from your cells, organs and metabolic processes in order to keep things functioning in a state of homeostasis (a stable equilibrium). So, your body knows what foods give you that Speedy Gonzales energy, what meals make you feel lethargic and what snacks will keep you fuller for longer. Of course, different diets and meal plans will work differently for different people. So it’s important to understand how to read your body’s signals – yes, this means being mindful – so that you can give it what it needs when it needs it. Use a dose of common sense in your weight loss, educate yourself and create the perfect plan that will work for you.