1. Cheat days
It's a comforting theory: allow yourself a little of what you love on a regular dedicated 'cheat day,' whether it's chocolate or ice cream, and you'll be less likely to cave in and polish off a slab (or two) or lick out the tub… But who has the willpower to stop at a single square or scoop? Ask any reformed alcoholic: abstinence is simpler and safer than fooling yourself you can stop at 'just one drink'.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Explore healthy substitutes, advises Durban-based registered dietitian Hlanzeka Mpanza. Back home, stave off a chocolate craving with a drink of hot or cold chocolate made from low-fat milk, cocoa powder, vanilla essence and a little sugar.
Fend off an ice-cream craving with frozen bananas (peel and slice on a sheet or greaseproof paper) -- eat from the freezer, or blitz in a blender, perhaps with a teaspoon of cocoa, she suggests.
The only exception to ‘cheating’ may be when you’re eating out with others. Try sharing a dessert -- social pressure will stop you flattening more than your share, and somehow even the biggest bingers usually restrain themselves from hogging the last tempting bit in public.
2. Fad diets
Restricted diets are invariably unbalanced and therefore unhealthy. But beyond that, they just don't work. “Very low-energy intake diets slow your metabolism, as your body instinctively works to conserve its reserves, and you end up regaining weight lost and more,” explains Mpanza.
By taking you from familiar ways of eating, these diets can also alienate family and friends, affecting your social life. And because the right vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and essential fatty acids are needed for optimal production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are responsible for your moods, these diets can leave you feeling low and depressed -- a prime trigger for binge-eating.
“What's more, serotonin signals your brain when you’re satiated after eating, so interfering with levels of this can encourage weight gain,” adds Mpanza.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Keep to a healthy, balanced way of eating, incorporating complex carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits), fatty acids to help keep you feeling full (oily fish such as salmon and sardines three times a week, or flax seeds and a few walnuts), lean protein and low-fat dairy. And drink lots of water.
3. Blaming others
It's far easier blaming other people or outside circumstances for our being overweight, than accepting responsibility and addressing it ourselves. Tory Johnson, author of The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life, confesses to blaming her early obesity on everything from her mother keeping junk food at home, to fast-food outlets stocking greasy cheeseburgers, to having 'fat genes'. (This obviousy doesn't apply to people who do have a disorder that affects their weight adversely.)
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Honestly assess yourself and the reasons you are overweight, says Mpanza, then take responsibility – and sensible steps to change. Get professional guidance from a registered dietitian and your doctor and even a personal coach. When Johnson faced up to the fact that it was she, and no one else who decided what she ate, and became accountable, she finally changed her ways – and size.
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