Nutrition: Stop and think about the food you’re buying – and eating – because there’s more to weight loss than just willpower

Stuck with a weight you can’t shift? Did every diet, but nothing seems to be working for you? Sometimes, despite our best efforts, weight loss can be difficult. If you’re finding that diets that used to work for you aren’t making a difference, it may be time for a change.

In my clinic, I talk to people all the time who say their will power is weak, or that cravings can get the best of them. The way I look at it is that there is more to weight loss and appetite regulation than just willpower. If you crave sugary stuff and never feel full, there may be something missing in your diet – something you need to add, not cut back on.

Here are five possible reasons why losing weight is getting harder.

1. Are you grazing?

Snacking between meals can add up quickly. Even if they are healthy or low calorie, these little morsels can still contribute to weight gain. Ideally, eat three reasonable meals a day and eat enough to keep you going without the need for snacks between meals. If you get hungry between meals, think about why. Did you eat a lot at your last meal? Did you have enough fiber to keep you feeling full? Did you include enough protein to keep you going?

2. Hidden sugars

If you do your best to load your cart with healthy foods, you may be surprised to hear that some of these foods may be part of the problem. ‘Healthy’ cereals such as All Bran and Branflakes are loaded with sugar, ‘skinny’ bread can be high GI, triggers a spike in blood sugar and fat storage, and ‘nutty’ bars are often a marketing ploy to get you buy something that makes you crave more.

Take a closer look at your labels. Choose foods with as few ingredients as possible and put it back on the shelf if it reads like a chemical experiment. Check the sugar content and aim for 5g per 100g or less. You might be in for a few surprises.

3. Stop eating

Give yourself at least 12 hours overnight to rest and digest. Aim to eat within a 10-12 hour window.

To lose weight try to give yourself a break of at least 12 hours overnight to rest and digest

For example if your first meal of the day is at 8.30am, stop eating at 6.30pm. You can change the times to suit you. Don’t fast for too long though, or it will counterbalance the positive effects and can slow down your metabolism. 12-14 hours is fast enough to get weight moving for most people.

4. Rethink your drinks

Step away from the fruit juice, cordials and diet drinks. These drinks are often the root of weight gain for many people.

A glass of orange juice often contains as much sugar as a glass of fizzy pop

A glass of fruit juice is sugar by any other name and a glass of orange juice often has as much sugar as a glass of popsicles. Low calorie and diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners that have been shown to contribute to weight gain in many studies. Aspartame and other sweeteners are also thought to affect the balance of healthy probiotic bacteria in our gut microbiome, some of which are important for healthy metabolism, appetite control and weight management.

Also keep an eye on your alcohol intake, as this can add to the calorie load.

5. Weekend treats

Are you ‘good’ all week and let it all go at the weekend? If you spend a little too much at the weekend, maybe start Thursday evening with a glass of wine and a few nibbles, then this could be part of the reason that weight is not changing. Take an honest look at what you’re eating at the weekend and see how you could change things up a bit.

Olives, nuts, and humous are a healthier option for weekend treats

Cut back on booze, opt for healthier snacks like olives, nuts, hummus sticks and carrot instead of crisps, have a small sweet or two rather than a family bag – you know the kind of thing. Keeping a food journal for a week or two may show you where you can make some small changes to get things moving.

My upcoming webinar on Healthy Weight Loss is on Tuesday May 16. Check out vital-nutrition for more details.

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