Many people fail to make healthy choices when it comes to what they eat.
Structuring and controlling a diet can become a struggle, which is why I have put together a few tips and some alternative approaches to eating that I often share with clients to help them gain control.
You don't always have to snack.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked what is a good choice of snack. In my opinion the nation has gone snack-mad. The food industry constantly churns out nutritionally empty foods that will apparently satisfy us in-between meals.
Despite some of these foods being advertised as 'healthy' they often give us absolutely nothing other than something to chew on. They can be full of sugar (even more so if the food is 'low-fat') and will only mess with our blood-sugar levels - increasing our cravings for more of the same types of food.
Of course, there are healthy options if we choose to seek them out. However, I do have another option - wait until your next meal! If you eat three meals a day that could well be enough to keep you going. According to Professor Stephen Atkin, head of diabetes and metabolism at Hull York Medical School, snacking is a major cause of weight gain; "The ideal would be not to snack at all," he says; "It's normal to feel hungry before a meal."
If you do find yourself genuinely hungry inbetween meals then by all means find something to fill the gap, but choose your snack wisely (protein rich with healthy fats as opposed to a high carb) and then balance things out by keeping your meals a little lighter.
Create a routine around your diet.
Generally speaking, I know am going to eat on a daily basis. Not because I am some kind of control freak (well, maybe a little), but to make sure that I can make informed choices when it comes to what I eat.
When we don't plan we can only choose from what is immediately available. This along with the hunger we feel will affect our decision-making and can result in eating something we regret. Always think ahead with meals, plan accordingly and avoid getting caught short.
Indulge out of choice, not weakness!
Plan any indulgences. It is a Wednesday evening as I write this and I already know that come Saturday night I am going to have an Indian meal for dinner, with a glass or two of wine. I am not concerned in anyway about this indulgence as everything I will be eating until then will be fairly sensible and in moderation. I will thoroughly enjoy my meal on Saturday but I will not see it as an opportunity to pig out and eat more than I should as I know that I would regret it afterwards. I shall feel no guilt whatsoever because I will have eaten this food out of choice rather than through giving into temptation.
By choosing the times that you allow yourself treats they will become enjoyable moments rather than moments of weakness you will feel guilty about.
Don't allow that moment of weakness to ruin everything.
Statistically the all-or-nothing approach is one of the main pitfalls of dieting. How many times have you given into temptation only to think: "Now I've eaten that muffin I've completely blown my diet! I guess I'll start again on Monday. Better make the most of it until then and enjoy all the foods I love en masse! It's ok though as come Monday I'll be back on the diet."
Next time this happens why not tell yourself something different? Change your thinking to something more like: "I'll be extra good over the next couple of days, then that muffin won't make much of a difference." This balanced approach is what is known as 'everything in moderation'. Live by this rule and then, if you do indulge you should be able to continue as normal afterwards as opposed to binging like a maniac.
Avoid 'going on a diet', and instead, re-structure your current diet.
When you go on a diet this usually means eating a certain way for a period of time. Often two things can happen. You fail to stick to it or you see it through and lose some weight, but find the new way way of eating difficult to maintain. Eventually old habits sneak back in and the weight creeps back on. Have a look at your current diet, and rather than attempt an extreme change that obviously won't last, begin with one or two things that you can do better that will really start to make a difference.
Look at replacing any foods that keep you from reaching your goals with nutritionally dense foods that help to boost your health and keep you on track. Whatever you do DO NOT WAIT FOR MONDAY to begin your healthy eating plan. A change of diet can start any day of the week. Even a Friday!
Keep food as nature intended.
When choosing what to eat, try to go for food that is still in its natural form, rather than that which has been pre-prepared or processed. Then you will know exactly what you are eating and that there aren't any hidden nasties like sugar, bad fats or other additives. Your body will thank you for it, as foods with anything added aren't as easy to digest and can affect with your mood and energy levels as well as your waist-line.
Stop spoiling yourself!
The nation has become obsessed with food. The media is forever giving us ideas on food choices, through newspaper and magazine articles and recipes, and an uncountable number of cooking shows on television.
We seem to have forgotten that food is fuel and instead feel that everything we eat should taste like heaven and make us feel content and comforted. Controlling a diet can be a challenge when we are used to eating to make us feel good as opposed to satisfying hunger and providing us with energy. !
This way of eating takes away the ability to make informed decisions and we become victims of unhealthy dietary habits. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy tasty, interesting foods, but I can also happily eat some plain chicken breast with salad that hasnt been 'dressed up' without feeling that I have deprived myself of a culinary experience.
Next time you feel you want a boost in mood look elsewhere than the biscuit tin, you may feel like you 'deserve' a chocolate biscuit or a glass of wine after coming in from a hard day at work but your waistline probably deserves something better.
I challenge you to get tough and stop spoiling yourself with food. This way, and through the other methods described above, you will be able to control your diet rather than it controlling you!
Louise Appel, Personal Trainer
LLouise Appel Personal Trainer, St John's Wood & Personal Trainer Maida Vale offers customised, individual Personal Training and Pilates at Lords Cricket Ground, St John's Wood. Personal Trainer Harpenden & Personal Trainer St Albans is located at EsTR Fitness.