Can’t lose weight? 29 reasons why your diet isn’t working

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  • Experts say all you have to do to shift the pounds is eat less and exercise more - so, if you're sticking to your diet why can't you lose weight?

    Sometimes no matter how many gym classes you make it to, and no matter how good you think you’re being with your diet, something just isn’t working.

    What if you’re making a simple mistake when it comes to your diet and exercise that could be stopping you from losing the weight you want to? Life’s too short to spend hours on a cross trainer if it’s not going to make a serious impact on our waistlines, which is why we’ve rounded up the top 20 mistakes you could be making when it comes to losing weight…

    1. You’ve got a calorie ‘blind spot’

    Recent research has revealed that lots of us are guilty of forgetting to tot up the calories in our condiments when it comes to our diets, with jam on our porridge being one of the worst offenders.

    In the savoury stakes plenty of people rarely go without a serving of tomato ketchup with their dinner, which contains 19 calories per tablespoon, while others can’t resist adding mayonnaise to everything they eat – that’s another 94 calories per tablespoon!

    If you’re a condiment queen then we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up the best and worst sauces for your diet.

    2. You’re eating out a lot

    When you cook from scratch, you know exactly what’s in your favourite dish, but eating out is a different story. A study by XLS Medical found that 38% of dieters mess up by going out for dinner because they either eat too much or order the wrong thing. Make it easier by looking at the menu online before you go if you can. Think about how much is on your plate too – most restaurant portions are huge, so take half home with you!

    3. You’re eating shop-bought sushi

    Celebs everywhere may swear by this raw fish and rice lunch, but shop-bought sushi isn’t as healthy as you might think. Most supermarket crab rolls have the same amount of calories as two sandwiches filled with crabsticks, avocado and veg, according to dietitian Rachel Beller.

    That means that when we nibble on two or three of these rolls – as most of us do – we’re eating more than 1,000 calories in one go. That’s half of a woman’s recommended calorie intake for the whole day! Not to mention the high levels of salt, fat and processed (bad) carbohydrate. Best to steer clear if you’re watching your weight.

    4. You’re eating too much salt

    Healthy food can be a bit bland but but before you reach for the salt for a flavour boost, remember that just a sprinkle encourages the body to hold on to water and bloat. And you might not always realise how much salt you’re eating, it’s hidden in almost everything, so make sure to read the tables on packaged products.

    Our salt shockers gallery reveals Baxters Vegetarian Italian Tomato and Basil Soup contains more salt than a Big Mac and fries from McDonalds. For a ‘healthy’ lunch that’s a whole lot of the white stuff.

    Use spices and herbs to make your dinner more interesting instead.

    5. You’re still drinking fizzy drinks

    If you can’t cut out these sugary drinks altogether, here’s a quick low down on the best and worst fizzy drinks for your diet.

    Do your best to limit your intake, no matter which you choose as your vice as they are usually to blame for that uncomfortable feeling in the afternoon. Plus, they contain very little goodness and won’t quench your thirst. If you can, try to stick to water with a little squeeze of lemon juice instead.

    6. You’re eating the same thing

    The only thing worse than bland food is eating the same thing over and over again! No wonder we start craving something naughty. Check out our healthy lunch ideas for lots of simple recipes that you’ll love.

    7. You’re skipping meals

    Our bodies need a certain amount of food to stay in tip-top condition. Missing meals won’t help you lose weight, it’ll just encourage the body to go in to starvation mode – clinging to fat. Eat small meals often instead.

    8. You need more fibre

    The first thing we usually ditch when we’re on a diet is stodgy foods like potatoes or bread, but these foods – when eaten in moderation – will actually help us lose weight. They contain fibre which is important for keeping us full and regular. A jacket potato or tuna sandwich with salad is diet-friendly as long as you hold off on the fattening extras like mayo or butter.

    9. You’re weighing yourself too much

    If you dread getting on the scales as much as we do, then dropping this diet trap will be a welcome relief! Weighing yourself is important when you’re trying to shift those stubborn lbs, but doing it too often will only knock your motivation because our weight changes all the time. Step on the scales in the morning on the same day each week (after you’ve been to the loo) to find out how much you’ve lost instead. Then get on with your day.

    10. You’re too cold

    There’s new research to suggest that the idea that your body burns more
    fat when it’s cold is actually untrue. It might be bad news for your
    heating bills but being warmer could help your body to use up more
    calories. But if you want to cut down on your heating bills, just throw
    on an extra jumper.

    11. You’re not getting enough sleep

    It has been proven many times that lack of sleep can increase your weight. One of the reasons for this is because when we’re tired our natural instinct is to eat more to stay awake. Plus, lack of sleep interferes with metabolism and appetite-regulating hormones, which means your body may store more fat.

    The latest advice from experts says that upsetting the balance of microbes living in your gut (which help keep everything nice and healthy) can cause you to put on weight. This is exactly what a lack of snoozing happens to do unfortunately. It’s not all bad news though, any excuse for a nap, right?

    12. You’re being generous with your portion sizes

    Portion sizes aren’t easy to get right, but if you’re getting it wrong every day then the calories will quickly add up. Experts say that protein (meat, fish, chicken, soya products) should be the size of your palm. A serving of salad and vegetables should be as much as two cupped hands. A portion of cheese needs to be the size of a matchbox.

    13. You’re actually thirsty not hungry

    We’re definitely guilty of this one! Many of us mistake thirst for hunger, so whenever you think you want more food have a drink first, then see how you feel. Also, drinking a glass of water with your meals will help you feel fuller.

    14. You’re eating late at night

    If you’re juggling a job and a family it’s hard to eat at regular times. But eating late at night means that whatever you eat isn’t given a chance to be burnt off, so it turns to fat. Sit down to eat with your family or eat something before everyone else has their dinner.

    15. You’re eating the kids’ leftovers

    No-one likes waste but finishing off everyone else’s dinner will give you a waist you don’t like! Instead of throwing food away make a bit less than usual, start a compost heap for your leftovers or see our leftover recipes for ideas.

    16. It’s your age

    Well this is depressing. After the age of 35 our metabolisms slow down and our hormones change which results in fat accumulating in different places such as around our middle and hips, thighs and bum. Recent research has shown that low-fat dairy products and soya can help to beat weight gain after the age of 35.

    17. You’re doing it alone

    Having a friend to motivate you and share those times when you’re feeling down can make all the difference. Why don’t you set up a WhatsApp group just for those of you that are dieting, so you can support each other and always have someone on hand if you feel like you might wobble? Failing that, you could always join a club!

    18. Staying motivated is key

    If you haven’t set yourself a realistic goal then you’ll easily feel down when you don’t reach it and give up. Start off with a small goal, even just a pound, and you’ll soon feel more able to stick to your diet. Keeping a note will make success even sweeter too!

    19. You’re not eating enough

    Your body thinks you’re starving it so it holds on to fat to survive. Then when you start eating again it’s so confused that it keeps hold of any fat that you eat, and then you put on more weight than you lost originally. Stick to a balanced diet and don’t starve yourself. Isn’t it nice to know that eating too little won’t help at all!? More food please!

    20. Stress is making you fat

    There are two ways stress can make you fat: you eat more when you’re worried about something and when you’re stressed your body makes more of a hormone that actually stores fat. There’s nothing like gentle exercise to help beat the blues and burn calories.

    21. You’re not drinking enough alcohol!

    Yes, it’s hard to believe, but recent research has found that dieters who bin the booze completely put on more weight than those who allow themselves a glass of wine now and then. But you need to be sensible and not go over the guideline limits as this can increase your chances of putting on weight.

    Try a small glass of dry white wine, which has just 116 calories.

    22. You need more slimming minerals

    Vitamins and minerals are really important for overall health, but potassium helps regulate nutrients and feed them into cells and muscles. You need healthy cells and muscles when you’re losing weight because you don’t want your body to start using muscles for energy, you want to be burning fat.

    Potassium also helps your body eliminate waste and toxins from the body, which can help with that stubborn half-a-stone. Potassium-rich foods also tend to be low-fat and filling, such as baked potatoes, pulses, spinach and yogurt.

    23. You’re bingeing

    You’ve had a good week and lost a couple of pounds, so what do you do? You order a takeaway! You might think at the time that one little treat won’t matter, but you can have your whole days’ calorie allowance in just one takeaway meal and several days’ fat allowance too. Of course you can have a small treat or you can eat your favourite foods only adapted to be healthier. But gorging as a reward for losing weight will just set you back and it could kick off some unhealthy cravings too, which could wreck your progress.

    Try making your own version of your favourite takeaway at home, cheaper and healthier!

    24. You’re feeling down

    There is no doubt that many of us eat for emotional reasons but if you’re feeling down you’re more likely to comfort eat, which can create a spiral of bingeing and eating as you feel more depressed because you’re putting on weight instead of losing it. The first step is to forget food and dieting and
    seek help for the emotional problems you have, then tackle your weight. Visit Mind if you think you might be suffering with depression.

    25. You’ve got the wrong goals

    The research is conflicting, some diet and fitness experts think you should aim for the size you want to be, say a 12 or 14, other experts think that you’ll be far more successful if you set an unrealistic goal, such as getting into a pair of size 6 jeans. We know that when you’re dieting it’s so easy to get disheartened if you don’t reach your goal, so we think it’s best to set yourself small goals, just half a stone at a time, because sometimes the thought of having to lose three stone or more is enough to drive you to the cake counter!

    26. You’re still chomping on chocolate

    Yes, chocolate has health benefits and swapping the high-calorie milk variety for dark chocolate is a good idea, however, even the dark stuff has fat and sugar in it and is a high calorie food. It’s best to stay away from it completely as many people feel that just one chunk can lead to a whole bar but if you really have to have chocolate stick to dark chocolate and have just a small portion once a week.

    27. You’re not drinking the right amount of water

    When you’re on a diet drinking lots of water is a good thing, as it fills your stomach but also helps flush your body of toxins. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, with every meal and snack and last thing at night, too. And don’t forget to fill up on high-fibre foods such as brown bread, potatoes with the skin on and brown rice and pasta.

    28. You’re doing half measures

    Losing weight gradually has been proven to give long lasting results. If you’ve decided to diet or get fit, then you have to decide to commit and stick to it. (After all, there’s no point doing five sit-ups and then rewarding yourself with a cream cake!) You need to exercise and cut the fat and sugar from your diet while increasing the vitamins, minerals and fibre.

    29. You can’t stop snacking

    We’ve all been there. You’ve finally sat down to relax in the evening and all you want to do is snack on crisps, nuts, chocolate… It’s important to remember that this is probably boredom and not hunger. Fill up on raw veggies like carrots and cucumber, and hot drinks – they’re more filling than cold.