Fifty percent of women are on a diet at any given time, but despite our best efforts, sometimes the numbers on those scales just won’t budge. We look at what you can change to boost your weight loss…
1. You’re not spotting the hidden sugars
Excess sugar is the main culprit when it comes to weight gain. When we have too much sugar, our body is programmed to store the excess as fat cells. You might avoid the obvious suspects of chocolate and cookies, but if you’re replacing these with honey or dried fruit, your sugar levels could still be too high. The reality is that sugar is sugar, no matter how ‘healthy’ the form.
TRY: Run a sugar audit for a few days. Keep a log of your diet – you may be surprised by just how much you’re consuming. Try weaning yourself off gradually, cutting back on sugary treats one at a time.
2. You’re not moving enough
We drive around, sit at desks and use moving staircases, but the human body was designed to move. If you’re exercising a couple of times each week but still not seeing results, take a look at what you’re doing the rest of the time. Your workouts should be extra exercise on top of an active lifestyle. Studies have found that 80% of people fail to meet the government target of around 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
TRY: Introduce free exercise into your life – take the stairs, walk the dog, bike to work if you can, or park your car further away from your destination so you have to walk the last part of your journey. It could be just what you need to kick-start your metabolism.
3. You’re not chewing food properly
If you don’t make time to eat mindfully, it can impact on your waistline. Breakfast is often eaten on the go, with 60% of people wolfing it down in under five minutes, and it’s common to eat lunch at our desks too. Plus, Brits eat six out of 10 of their meals in front of the TV – meaning we’re not thinking about eating, and the average person only spends around 23 minutes per day chewing food.
This is bad news for our digestion. Our gut contains hormones that control appetite and tell us when we’re full, so taking the time to chew food properly helps activate these mechanisms.
Try: Challenge yourself to chew food for longer, aiming to be the last to finish when eating friends – you’ll notice that your internal STOP button is more effective.
4. You’re having too much of a good thing
You’ve probably cut down on the obvious fattening foods, but are you paying enough attention to portions of healthy food? We often assume that you can’t have too much of a good thing, but a large portion of nuts, seeds or pulses can add up to a hefty calorie intake. While nuts do contain essential fats and are more nutritious than biscuits, they’re also very moreish and a handful of walnuts can contain 500 calories.
TRY: If you think it’s time to monitor your portions, then try the nifty kitchen gadget Mealkitt (£39.99 from Mealkitt.com). With slots to weigh out carbs, oil, protein and veg, it’s a handy tool for retraining yourself to eat sensibly.
5. You’re not getting enough sleep
Craving carbs and sugar after a bad night’s sleep is common. When you’re over-tired, the reward receptors in your brain kick in, encouraging you to look for comfort food. Sleep deprivation also impacts hormone levels that regulate appetite, meaning the hunger hormone increases and the appetite suppressant decreases. A staggering 63% of people say they are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get, with only 8% stating they wake up feeling refreshed.
TRY: To ensure a better sleep, stick to a sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even at weekends!). Give yourself a bedtime countdown, so you can start winding down an hour or so in advance.
6. You’re too stressed
Most of us juggle too many things: jobs, families, shopping, cooking… the list seems endless. Stress is supposed to be a short-lived alarm response, but our busy lives can mean it’s a permanent state, rather than a passing mood. When you feel stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol, which floods your body with a glucose energy supply for that ‘fight or flight’ moment.
The bad news is that cortisol causes your body to take healthier fat from places like your bum and thighs, and relocates it to the abdomen, where it becomes unhealthy visceral fat that puts pressure on your internal organs.
TRY: Try to include some calming activities in your life, such as crafting or yoga.
Factoring ‘me’ time into your schedule could make a big difference to your weight loss regime. For on-the-spot destressing, eating a banana is good, because the potassium helps to regulate your blood pressure.