If you’re a hopeless dieter that never seems to drop that dress size, the problem maybe not the way you eat, but the way you think. Here are the ten most common ways we think ourselves fat, and exactly how to change them
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘Going to the gym has earned me fish n’ chips’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘I’ve worked hard, I deserve the VIP treatment.’
Research shows that even dieticians underestimate their caloric intake from food and overestimate what they burn during exercise. If you overeat after working out, you will even gain weight – remember it takes a ten stone woman an hour’s jog to burn off the chips in that dinner alone. Make sure you have a protein snack before the gym, such as a banana or a handful of almonds, to ensure you’re not famished afterwards. If you’re really hungry post-gym, you’ll get the same satisfaction from an indulgent dinner of roast chicken and potatoes, with steamed vegetables – and much less fat. Then rethink how you reward yourself. Instead of food, try a warm bath or book a day spa.
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘I’ve had a bad day at work, Burt’s crisps always make me feel better’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘What do I really need to feel better?’
Who hasn’t felt the occasional urge to self-medicate with Nachos and chocolate pudding. Scientists have shown that compulsive eating is regulated by emotional centres in the brain, so we overeat to feel better. ‘But after the crisps or the chocolate or the cake you’re still tired’ says Ursula James, hypnotherapist and author of You can think yourself thin (Century £9.99). ‘Instead of numbing your feelings with food, ask yourself what you really need to feel better. If you’re stressed that could mean taking a walk at sunset, then writing down all the things you have to do. If you’re sad it could be listening to bluesy music and crying it out’.
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘I’ve cheated with that piece of cake. I’ll eat whatever I want for the rest of the day and start again tommorrow’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘A piece of cake is harmless, a day’s mindless bingeing isn’t’
‘The extra calories from one piece of cake won’t even show up on the scale by the end of the week,’ says Dr Judith Beck, a cognitive behavioural therapist specialising in weight loss and author of The Beck Diet Solution (Constable £10.99). ‘But if they go on to eat crisps, ice cream and pastries, the scale will go up the next day. It doesn’t make sense to compound one small slip up with ten more.’ Try the ‘Traffic Light System,’ urges Ursula James. Have your cake mindfully, then close your eyes and imagine a red light. Take a few deep breaths, tell yourself a single piece of cake is harmless. But how will you feel tomorrow if you continue to overeat.’
FAT-THINKING TRAP: I hardly eat anything, so why can’t I shift this weight?
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘If I am overweight there must be a reason. I’m taking responsibility and am going to eat mindfully everyday.’
‘People who can’t shift weight could have a medical disorder such as low thyroid function so it worth checking with your doctor,’ says Dr Beck. ‘But it’s far more likely they’re taking in more calories than they’re burning off, without realising. Try a ‘Future Eating Diary’. Planning and preparation cannot only help you feel in control of your eating, it can help you keep track of exactly what you’re consuming. ‘For three days at a time, plan all your meals and snacks,’ advises nutritionist Naomi Beinart. ‘Include healthy foods you also enjoy, and have the time to prepare. Then buy the ingredients you need so you’re ready for a healthy weeks’ eating.’
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘If I had the life of a celeb, with trainers and personal chefs I’d be thin too’.
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘I’ll get my inspiration from everyday people who also keep slim.’
If you think all celebs have reached body image bliss, think again. ‘Every single celebrity or model I have ever worked with is unhappy with their bodies,’ says Naomi Beinart. ‘Being slim doesn’t make you happy, being healthy does, and that doesn’t cost anything.’ Try the ‘healthy hook up’. ‘If you think only celebs stay skinny, look around at people at work or a friend who maintains a healthy diet and see if you can hook up with them for a daily morning power walk. Healthy lifestyles are catchy,’ she says.
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘From tomorrow, I’ll stop all ‘bad’ foods.’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘Harsh, crash diets haven’t worked for me in the past. I will plan small to eat small amounts of my favourite foods.’
‘This is a typical sabotaging thought for dieters, says Dr Beck. ‘This all-or-nothing thinkikng gets people in trouble because they will eventually return to eating what they see as ‘bad’ foods ad start gaining the weight back.’ Dr Beck suggests planning to eat 200 calories a day of your favourite foods in different forms, at the beginning of each week. ‘When you’re tempted by a sudden offer of cookies, you can think about the ice cream you’ve planned to have tonight, how much you’re going to enjoy it. And how guilty you’re not going to feel because it’s not tipping your calorie allowance!’
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘I’m tired and hungry, but I can’t break my diet by snacking. I’ll keep going with an Americano.’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘Coffee will only make me more tired and hungry. What will really boost my energy?’
The trick, suggests medical nutritionist Naomi Beinart, is the ‘Mental Fast Forward’. ‘Before you resolve to grab that black coffee, visualise how you are going to feel after the adrenalin high has worn off – tired, irritable and within hours, famished. Always drink coffee after eating, not alon between meals or it will only make you hungrier, later.’ Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand to have mid-morning and mid-afternoon to help keep your blood sugar stable and ensure you don’t overeat at your next meal. ‘Far from making you fat, a handful or raw nuts will keep your metabolism boosted and ensure you don’t stuff yourself unwittingly at lunch.’ ‘And if you’re really tired all the time, what you need is more sleep not more food,’ James suggests. ‘Give yourself permission for a lie-in or even a full day of doing absolutely nothing.’
FAT-THINKING TRAP: ‘I will ban fat from my diet to lose weight.’
THIN-THINKING SOLUTION: ‘My body needs fat to feel satisfied after eating. I can have a little at every meal.’
Most fat-thinking women are also seriously fat-phobic, and could be scuppering their weight loss efforts as aresult. ‘All fats are not created equal’, says Nigel Denby, consultant dietician and author of The GDA Diet: Shop Yourself Thin, (Capstone £7.99). In fact, banning all fat can lead to both sugar and fat cravings, as you body attempts to regain lost nutrients. ‘You need to shift your fat-phobia and accept that the right type of fat can actually help you lose weight,’ says Denby. ‘Peanut butter on two slices of granary toast contains unsaturated fats and is rich in fat burning Monounsaturated fatty Acids or MUFAs. And, just one handful of unsalted nuts eaten in the morning have been shown to reduce food cravings later in the day.’
ARE YOU THINKING YOURSELF FAT? Your weight problem is in your head if you:
- Are always on the latest diet Yet the number on the scales never budges
- Use food as a reward When you’re happy, sad, stressed or angry you turn to food, then only feel guilty – not better
- Cut out all your favourite foods As a result you focus on them so much, they end up with uncontrollable cravings
- Have forgotten what true hunger feels like You tend to eat in response to the smell or sight of food, not true hunger.
- You eat first, think later You find it difficult to stick to a diet plan and tend to eat impulsively. Slim people think first, eat later.
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