Sometimes losing weight can feel like an uphill struggle; the scales don’t budge as much as you’d like, and reaching your ideal weight can seem a very distant goal. So what can you do? We’ve listed the eight most common reasons why diets don’t work, to help you get back on track to success and achieve the body you’ve always wanted.

1. Not eating after exercise
It’s easy to be inspired by totting up the kilojoules you burn on a run, and then trying to stave off hunger for as long as possible afterwards, fearing that you’ll simply put the calories straight back?in. Unfortunately, this is short-term thinking that’s likely to send you straight?to the biscuit tin, as your blood sugar plummets after training. The only way to control your inner cookie monster is to eat a healthy snack as soon as possible after training, to aid recovery and rebalance your blood sugar.

Swap
Muffins for sushi.

Why?
It can be tough watching your friend tuck into a cake or pastry while you refrain. Sushi is often available in coffee shops, and provides a tasty protein-rich snack to keep you on track.

2. Focusing on quantity over quality
Simply relying on counting kilojoules as a way of losing weight can encourage?the wrong type of eating. There are fewer calories in?a bar of chocolate than a bowl of porridge and fruit, for example, but the latter?is likely to fill you up for much longer, reducing the amount of kilojoules you’ll consume over the course?of the day. And, needless to say, the porridge is far more nutritious. Choosing foods that fill you up, such as fibre- rich wholegrains, fruit and lean proteins, is more likely to set you up for healthier eating patterns throughout the day. Meaning you’re much more likely to see the results you want.

Swap
Fry-ups for two poached eggs on toast.

Why?
Reduce your saturated fat intake by choosing two poached eggs on one slice of wholegrain toast for a filling breakfast.

3. Saving kilojoules for the evening
If you don’t eat much during the day in an attempt to save your kilojoules for a large meal in the evening, you’re not doing your body a favour. This is really counterproductive. Long periods without eating cause your body to compensate by releasing fewer metabolism- boosting hormones. If your body has been starved of food during the day, it’s more likely to store the fat from your evening meal as part of its natural survival mechanism. If it thinks food is in short supply, it responds by storing fat for future ‘lean periods’. Over time, this is a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism and gain fat. Not what you want!

Swap
Butter for an olive oil-based spread.

Why??
Delivering less saturated fat, olive oil is a heart- healthy spread, helping you reduce your saturated fat intake.

4. Eating too few kilojoules
Consuming too few kilojoules accelerates muscle loss, as does missing meals. Not only will this affect your running and body tone, because muscles are more metabolically active than fat, you’ll burn fewer kilojoules. Aim for a modest reduction in kilojoules, ideally between 1046 and 2092 per day at most. Generally, eating fewer than 5,020 kilojoules is difficult to sustain, and is unlikely?to leave you with enough energy to exercise. Hardly the way to support a healthy lifestyle!

Swap
Wholemeal bread or toast for wholemeal pitta.

Why??
At 196 kilojoules per pitta, rather than 753 for two slices of wholemeal bread, you can fill pitta with a lean protein, such as chicken breast, and complement with salad for a filling, but kilojoule-saving, lunch.

5. Relying on the scales
When you measure your progress on the scales, a sensible diet is likely to only deliver very modest results on a day-to-day basis. For example, a loss of half a kilo after one week on a new eating plan can easily be masked by an extra half kilo of fluid, which doesn’t offer much motivation to continue. Don’t use the scales as the only indicator of how much weight you’re losing. Instead, take bust, waist, hip and thigh measurements. This will allow you to see changes in your size that are sometimes not visible on the scales, and this will provide you with greater motivation to continue.

Swap
One tall café latte for one tall brewed coffee.

Why?
You’ll be surprised by the amount of kilojoules in coffee shop drinks. This simple swap will save you 193 of them.

6. Being thirsty!
Water is vital for weight-?loss as well as for your general health. If you’re dehydrated, your body will mobilise fat less efficiently and make you even hungrier! When you’re hungry or thirsty, your brain releases hormones that trigger your appetite or a desire to drink. But thirst signals can easily be confused with hunger signals, making it harder to keep to your eating plan.

If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so?avoid this by drinking water regularly throughout the day. Six to eight glasses is plenty, with an additional 750ml of fluid for each hour you spend running.

Swap
Mid-afternoon chocolate or chips for nuts and fruit, or carrots and hummus.

Why?
Both of these options provide a satiating combination of protein and carbohydrate, plus some healthy fats too.

7. Not being prepared
If you don’t have healthy food with you at the office, it stands to reason that avoiding the office doughnuts is going to be more of a challenge. Make?a weekly shopping list and buy all you need for healthy packed lunches and snacks, so if you’re at work or away from home for any length of time, you won’t be tempted by unhealthy, fat-laden foods. And keep cupboards at home well-stocked with nutritious snacks, so evening munchies won’t ruin your good intentions.

Swap
Sugary cereals for wholegrain varieties or porridge and complement with fresh fruit.

Why?
Eating a wholegrain breakfast with fibre-rich fruit will deliver energy steadily, fill you up for longer than a sugary cereal and help keep cravings in check.

8. Having no time out
If you have a penchant for particular foods, it can be difficult to totally avoid them. According to research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, building in a ‘re-feed’ day once every week to 10 days, where you simply eat what you like, not only provides a mental break and the freedom to treat yourself occasionally, but also stimulates your metabolic rate to burn more kilojoules, helping you avoid weight-loss plateaus.

Swap
Full-fat cheese for cottage cheese.

Why?
Rich in casein protein and the amino acid tryptophan, enjoying a low-fat cheese treat in the evening can assist you in getting more quality sleep.

Words: Lynn Clay