Overweight and obesity are major concerns for many people these days. Trying to lose weight and keep it off is a challenge and much advice seems conflicting and contradictory. It seems clear that there are pitfalls to look out for in the quest to be achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Here are five tips on mistakes that people frequently make that will hinder realistic long term control of weight.
# 1 DIETING
This might seem illogical but diets don’t work. Think about it. If there was even one completely successful diet, then all our problems would have been solved long ago. In fact, dieting is a business and needs customers. It’s true that many ‘diets’ work short term, but in the end the old habits creep back and we are once again ‘shopping’ for a new diet. Studies suggest that this cycle of losing and re-gaining weight may actually be unhealthier than simply being overweight. The worst diets of all seem to be ‘crash’ diets, where the dieter drastically reduces their food/calorie intake in an attempt to rapidly lose weight. This leads to a loss of muscle as well as fat, a reduced metabolic rate and usually a very bad temper!All of which are unsustainable. Only a permanent switch to a healthy diet combined with physical activity will produce long term benefits.
# 2 AVOIDING FAT
Yes it is true that fat has the most calories per gram, so it does seem to make sense to cut it out of our diet if we are trying to lose weight. However there are good reasons to be cautious about this approach. Firstly fat helps our bodies to know we have eaten properly and hence stop eating a meal. In other words fat is satisfying and having fat in a meal helps regulate how much we eat at any one time. Also fats contain important vitamins which our bodies need and essential fatty acids which are vital for our health. So while we need to be sensible and eat moderate amounts of healthy fats (fats from fish and olive oil and yogurt), cutting back too much can leave us feeling hungry and may lead us to miss out on important dietary micronutrients. Also, research shows that in an effort to avoid fat, people tend to eat more sugar and carbs which are now associated with weight gain and often lack other important nutrients.
# 3 EATING PROCESSED/PACKET FOOD
Prepared or ‘ready’ meals are certainly convenient and can be a quick way to eat in a busy day. However many of these foods are high in calories and low in quality. They are designed above all to be something you will buy again and again. During processing and storage, prepared and packet food also suffers from a loss of quality and reduced nutritional value. This may reduce the ability of these foods to satisfy us and ultimately we may eat more as our bodies continue to ‘seek out’ the nutrients it requires. Overall we are better off keeping these convenience foods to a minimum and choosing fresh food items wherever possible.
# 4 EATING IN A HURRY
Many studies indicate that eating too fast can lead to eating more than we need. When we eat it takes time for our body to understand that we have consumed calories and nutrients. If we eat too fast we may eat more food than we actually require before we have had a chance to absorb the proteins and fats that signal to our brain that we have eaten. So by making time for our meals and eating more slowly, we can properly recognize the nutrients we have ingested and hence know when to stop eating! Eating with others, chewing more and avoiding eating ‘on the go’ can all help to slow us down and overall eat less.
# 5 OVER-EXERCISING
Of course exercise is important and has many health benefits, of which weight control is just one. However our bodies are very clever and when we expend a great deal of energy we are very efficient at compensating by eating more later on. Recent research indicates that rather than many hours spent in the gym, we may benefit more from targeted exercise which increases our muscle mass and tone. This raises our metabolic rate 24 hours a day and provides an effective means of burning calories round the clock. Also there is evidence that simply avoiding sitting down too much is associated with being slimmer, fitter and more healthy overall, so simply walking more may be the most achievable means of weight control.
# 6 EATING OUTSIDE THE HOME
There is lots of evidence that people who habitually eat outside the home tend to have more problems with controlling their weight. Fast food, restaurant food and shop bought snacks and prepared meals are certainly a part of life now, but there are important things to consider. When you eat at a restaurant for example, the food may be delicious, but you may well eat many more calories in a meal than you would if you prepared your own food, as well as more salt and sugar. When it comes to fast food too we need to be aware that these tasty options are designed to keep you coming back for more!Those people preparing their own food, or eating home prepared food with friends and family tend to have better weight control and to be slimmer and healthier generally.
By avoiding these 6 common mistakes we can see that sustainable weight control is not about going on crash diets and slaving away at the gym. What is important is being aware of eating fresh, good quality food, home prepared where possible and taking our time about eating. So enjoy your food, keep active and don’t ‘buy in’ to quick fix weight loss schemes, no matter how cleverly they are marketed.