Dieting like a demon and exercising like hell but still can’t shift the excess bulk? Here’s why.
1. You don’t eat cake or other treats
Paradoxically, having a list of forbidden foods can lead to binge eating, say experts.
Solution: Allow all foods but eat just small amounts of treats.
2. You’re stressed
Stress encourages excess cortisol production, which communicates to the body’s cells that there’s a scarcity of food. The body responds by laying down fat, slowing down metabolism and prompting you to eat more.
Solution: Practise yoga or meditation and take regular “sanity” breaks.
3. Your stomach’s stretched
Make a fist. That’s the size your empty stomach should be. Now consider how much food gets crammed into it every mealtime. Dr Libby Weaver, author of Accidentally Overweight? (Allen & Unwin),says once your stomach’s used to being a certain size, it’s primed to be that way every day. So when you eat less, your gut signals that you’re still hungry.
Solution: Reduce food portions. It’ll take about four days for your stomach to shrink back.
4. You’re drinking too much coffee
Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenalin which can elevate blood sugars. If you’re sitting around, those unused blood sugars can end up stored as body fat.
Solution: Switch to green tea, says Weaver.
5. You’re eating five small meals a day like the diet book told you to
Although the theory is that it stokes up your metabolism, there’s evidence this doesn’t work. When put to the test by researchers at Australia’s Newcastle University, the plan didn’t pan out at all for weight loss.
Solution: Eat only when you’re hungry. Chowing down when you don’t feel like it is an insidious diet wrecker.
6. You eat the same old, same old
We require at least 30 different types of food each week to get all the nutrients we need, according to Associate Professor Amanda Sainsbury-Salis, weight loss researcher at Sydney’s Garvan Institute. If your diet is deficient in just one nutrient, your body will push you to eat until you meet that need, she adds.
Solution: Find a new recipe book and ensure you get a good mix of proteins, vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes.
7. You stick to your diet no matter what
If you go on a diet and lose, say, five kilos, it’s likely you’ll suddenly find yourself ravenously hungry. That’s because the hypothalamus in the brain is reacting to food shortage. It responds by turning you into a fat-storage machine, making you too lethargic to exercise and slowing down your metabolism. The harder you stick to your diet, the harder it is to lose weight.
Solution: People who lose weight in increments (seven-week bursts of diet and exercise interspersed with breaks of up to six weeks during which they eat larger but nutritious meals) lose as many kilos after four months as those who follow their regimen continuously, Sainsbury-Salis says. Lowering your weight bit by bit allows the body to adjust so you lose the kilos and keep them off permanently.
8. Junk foods have affected your brain
Fatty, high-energy, low-nutrient foods change the brain in ways similar to those seen in drug addicts. If you think you need a chocolate fix to feel normal, that’s why, says Sainsbury-Salis.
Solution: Eat nutritionally – you’ll soon stop craving the bad stuff.
9. You’ve just moved in with your partner
This is a danger point for women. They start eating meals that don’t allow for varying content such as pizzas or curries and have the same size portions as their pie-eating partner.
Solution: Put different dishes on the table so people can naturally select the macronutrient and kilojoule content they need. Make sure there are always plenty of salads and vegetables to choose from. Women may also find it helps to eat from a smaller-sized plate, and science backs this.
10. You don’t fidget enough
Researchers have found that extreme fidgeters can burn around 380 calories more per day than couch potatoes – that’s the equivalent of a six-kilometre jog, Turner says.
Solution: Get up from your desk, pace around, jiggle, and walk over to talk to people in the office instead of emailing.
11. You need more fat
Eat carbohydrates and it takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to signal we’ve eaten – by which time we might have consumed too much. Eat fat and protein and the satiety centre of the brain starts receiving signals within five minutes so you’ll feel full quickly, says Weaver.
Solution: Put oily dressings on that salad and eat plenty of lean meats, fish, eggs or tofu.
12. It’s in your genes
Blame your parents: scientists have found that people with certain variations of the “fat mass and obesity-associated gene” have a larger appetite and are significantly heavier than those without.
Solution: Exercise and eat wholesome foods as both lessen the influence of those genes.
13. You’re doing one-speed workouts
Studies from both the University of Guelph in Canada and the University of NSW are among many that have found that injecting bursts of speed into your run or cycle will burn more fat than doing the same distance at one moderate pace.
Solution: Add some intervals to your running route. For example, sprint between lampposts or traffic lights.
14. You’re taking prescription drugs
Some prescription drugs cause weight gain due to their effect on mood, appetite and metabolism. These include many of the new generation of antidepressants, corticosteroids and even some blood pressure medications, according to Professor Garry Egger, co-author of the book Planet Obesity (Allen & Unwin) and a consultant on obesity for the World Health Organisation.
Solution: Check with your doctor if you’re concerned, or simply ask about alternatives to the medication.
15.You’re not lifting weights
Do this to boost fat burning and build muscle, exercise physiologist Joanne Turner says. Every kilo of extra muscle you develop will burn an extra kilo’s worth of fat per year.
Solution: Get a set of dumbbells or resistance bands, pick a weight that has you struggling after eight repetitions and squat, lunge, press-up and pull-up.
16. You’re reading too many magazines
They’re full of celebrities and models with no hips or bottom and promote diets that tell you you need to look like that too, Egger says. Many women become psychologically distressed when they put pressure on themselves to achieve that shape and give up trying when they can’t.
Solution: Go to an art gallery and look at some medieval portraits. That’s the shape healthy women should be – pear-shaped or hourglass shaped.
17. You’re not eating enough calcium
Calcium has been found to spur weight loss, according to Melanie McGrice, chairperson of the Dietitian Association of Australia Obesity Interest Group. Eating sufficient amounts appears to stifle the desire to eat more while not eating enough seems to spur food intake.
Solution: Include three serves of low-fat dairy products or fortified food such as soy milk in your daily diet.
18. You’re making moral judgements
Food isn’t good or bad, junk or rubbish, and people shouldn’t feel bad about food it’s normal to eat occasionally, according to Dr Rick Kausman, author of If Not Dieting, Then What? (Allen & Unwin) and an AMA spokesperson on weight management and eating behaviour. If you label food, you’re often labelling yourself – you’re not a bad person if you eat chocolate any more than you’re good if you eat an apple, Kausman says.
Solution: Classify food as “everyday” or “sometimes” food. It’s fine to have cake or chocolate sometimes, just not every day.
19.You wear high heels
Research shows that 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity a day (such as walking) will maintain weight loss. Wearing high heels may deter you from getting up and walking around.
Solution: Go like Carla Bruni – invest in ballet flats or just pack a pair of trainers to make walking easier.
20. You eat on the run
If you leave decisions about what to eat until the last minute, you risk going with whatever’s available.
Solution: Before leaving home in the morning, prepare a range of healthy foods that you enjoy and take them with you.
21. You eat in the dark
There’s evidence that we should eat during daylight hours because in the absence of sunlight our body doesn’t handle energy as efficiently, Professor Katherine Samaras, head of diabetes and obesity clinical studies at the Garvan Institute, says. When sunlight hits our retina the message is transferred to the liver to start metabolisingm fats more effectively.
Solution: Eat your main meal at lunchtime and avoid having dinner late at night.
22. You eat with the TV on
Researchers from the University of Birmingham found that people who eat in front of the TV were less likely to focus on their meal nor remember what they ate and so were more likely to snack later. Scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine report that overweight children ate 50 per cent of their meals while watching TV compared to 35 per cent of normal weight kids.
Solution: Eat meals slowly over 30 minutes at the dinner table.
23. You’re not getting enough sleep
The US Nurses’ Health Study which tracked 68,000 women found that the less sleep women got, the more likely they were to become obese. Lack of sleep influences a number of hormones, Professor Paul Taylor, exercise physiologist and nutritionist, says. Cortisol and ghrelin levels rise which makes you hungry and lay down fat, while leptin, the satiety hormone, goes down.
Solution: Get seven to eight hours shut-eye every night.
24. Your house is too hot
Studies show that reducing room temperature from 27 degrees to 22 degrees results in an extra 239 calories burned per day.
Solution: Turn down the heat to increase thermogenesis and make the body work harder.
25. You’re bored
Eating when you’re not physically hungry usually comes down to emotional eating, says Kausman.
Solution: Check in with your body – are you really hungry or just bored, upset or lonely? If so, find a healthier way to deal with these emotional states, such as by walking.