Being on a diet means you’ll be eating less (of course) and that in turn means a good amount of willpower is required. Diet programs will try to convince you that they can keep you feeling fuller for longer, and there are certainly some foods that are better at keeping your stomach satisfied than others. But no matter what diet you’re on, it’s important to remember that YOU WILL FEEL HUNGRY! If you somehow find a magic formula that involves eating fewer than your recommended daily calories and still not feeling hungry, you’re onto a winner – and I’d like to know about it, writes Simon Downes.
So, what do you do about feeling hungry? Well, it’s natural to feel hungry between meals and it’s OK to give into temptation from time to time. Feeling hungry makes it difficult to concentrate (on anything other than food that is), so if you feel like you need an energy boost to get you through the day, you shouldn’t feel bad for eating something. The important thing is that you snack on the right types of foods, and that means avoiding your DIET DESTROYERS at all costs.
What are the diet destroyers? They’re the seemingly harmless foods you start eating with good, small portion, intentions, but can quickly develop into a binge-eating session of epic proportions. In my experience, being on a diet is like walking a tightrope – it only takes one false move and you’ll find yourself plummeting into oblivion. So to avoid falling head first into the dieting doldrums, do whatever you can to avoid these five foods. Everyone will have their own diet destroyers, but these are mine:
You know your diet is going well when you find yourself counting the calories of everything you eat. Of course, some formal diet programs actually require you to do this as a matter of course, but even if you’re not sticking to a strict regime, it’s good to keep count of what’s going in your mouth. It’s easy counting calories when all your eat is protein bars, but try accurately counting the calories of a bowl of breakfast cereal and not freaking out.
Even if you attempt to measure the amount of cereal and milk you’re pouring into your bowl (good luck), you’ll still struggle to reach an accurate conclusion about how many calories you’re consuming. And if you’re anything like me, uncertainty quickly results in a dieting disaster. Before you know it, you’ve given up trying to count calories, decided you don’t care anymore, and have instead resorted to eating two huge bowls of cereal with absolutely no regard for what you’re shovelling down your throat. In the blink of an eye you’ve gone from one extreme to the other – not helped by the fact that the sugary cereal you’re eating is just so darn moreish.
The combination of sweet-tasting cereal and calorie uncertainty is the perfect storm for diet destruction. So, the next time you find yourself craving that bowl of comfort breakfast food, think again.
OK, OK, it seems obvious to say it, but chocolate is the ultimate diet destroyer. Even if you’re not desperately trying to lose weight, but are just trying to ‘watch what you eat”, chocolate is the first thing you’ll cut off your shopping list. It’s the public enemy of diets the world over – the dark temptation that symbolises all that is wrong with your waistline.
The problem is, chocolate is everywhere – even in those healthy-looking snacks you buy. Why do those fruit bars need a coating of chocolate over them, or chocolate chips inside? And why do weight loss shakes need to come in chocolate flavour? We’re trying to avoid chocolate for goodness sake!
Now you can see the problem – that ‘healthy’ snack bar quickly turns into a Mars bar and the rest is diet history. Chocolate has struck again! Oh, and don’t even think about having a jar of Nutella in the fridge – that bad boy will slowly and repeatedly kill your dieting dreams. Death by a thousand finger dips.
Jams and fruit spreads
From one diet-destroying fridge-dweller to another. Don’t let their names fool you, jams and other fruit spreads are the sweetest of all deadly diet foods. If you’re partial to a slice of raspberry jam on toast like I am, you’ll know all too well the calorie cost of these little glass jars of terror. They seem so harmless – sat there all alone on the inside door of your fridge. But be warned – many a successful diet has fallen by the wayside of a jar of strawberry preserve.
The contents of these fruit spreads are only half the problem. Sure, they come with their fair share of sugar, but it’s the other foods you lather up with their sticky goodness that will ultimately be your undoing, including the mother of all dieting no-nos… bread.
To me it seems almost impossible to maintain a diet with the likes of Nutella or fruit spreads in the fridge. But sometimes, you have to learn for yourself.
Free food is a dieter’s worse nightmare. Just in case it wasn’t difficult enough to resist the temptation of unhealthy takeaway food at lunchtime, your employer decides it’s time for free pizza during your monthly staff update! How on earth are you supposed to sit around chewing carrot and celery sticks when they’ve ordered Domino’s? Or worse still, Pizza Capers. You’re a dead diet walking – or sitting, no doubt, because your diet is well and truly out the window.
Any type of free food is a diet death-trap, even something kind of healthy like sandwiches or bagels. It’s not so much the type of food that will hurt you, it’s the amount of food you’re likely to eat. Free food normally means lots of food – and that means you’re diet will be reduced to a distant lunchtime memory once you’re finished gorging.
Willpower is never more important than when you’re presented with free food. If you can pass this test, you can survive anything!
“That’s not strictly a food,” you might say. Well, let me tell you that a glass of beer might as well be a Big Mac with fries and chicken nuggets because it is unrivalled in its diet-destroying potential. Why’s that? Because one beer is never enough. You can promise yourself you’ll stick with vodka and soda water (generally considered the lowest calorie alcohol option) all night, but once you get a little tipsy it won’t be long until your back on the beer – and the night quickly becomes a complete drunken mess.
One beer turns into several, and before you know it you’re queuing up for a kebab and chips in the middle of town at 3am. The realisation of what you’ve done will probably hit you during the taxi ride home. If not, then first thing in the morning. The only thing that’s worse than a hangover is a dead diet hangover. You. Will. Feel. Terrible.
This sorry situation epitomises one of the biggest challenges of dieting – how can you stay on the wagon, while having a good time? No one said willpower was easy, but it is possible.
So, what can you eat?
The standard advice is that all foods are fine in moderation. Yes, that is true. But in the mind of a beleaguered dieter it’s probably best to identify and then avoid your diet-destroying foods if you can. Personally, I’ve found packets of dried fruit, rice cakes and healthy snack bars to be the best bet between meals. These types of foods are easy to keep track of, so you can set yourself a daily calorie snack limit.
A successful diet requires willpower and routine, but it also needs variety. So to avoid falling back into your old habits and back to those diet-destroying foods, you’ll need to find the exact opposite – the foods you are allowed to eat and that really work for you. Once you have a good mixture of healthy snacks that you don’t feel guilty about eating, you’ll be on your way to success.