By Matt Boyles
- You see it as a ‘diet’
This isn’t your fault: the diet industry and British diet culture has, for the last 50 years, made it seem like a diet will fix you and solve all your problems. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with you. Secondly, work on viewing the term ‘diet’ as your overall, long term approach to food and nutrition that compliments the other things you do for your health (exercise, meditation etc), as opposed to a quick fix that you dip in and out of.
- You’ve gone ‘all or nothing’
On one hand, this is admirable: you’re determined to make a difference this time and see the changes you want to happen. So on Sunday night, all the biscuits, crisps and chocolate go in the bin and you have a chamomile tea before bed. This is fine for the first day. Less fine on day two and godawful on day three. After your bowl of All Bran at breakfast, lunch seems like a distant mirage. You have some walnuts and a cup of green tea and… No! No, no no! It’s not possible, I’m having a Twix. By cutting out your favorite foods, it suddenly seems like you’re on a regime – one that is so far aware from your real life that it’s impossible to stick to. Instead, aim for balance and don’t deny yourself the things you enjoy, just work them into the overall snapshot of what you’re eating that day.
- You ‘eat clean’ (or similar) Sunday to Thursday… Then binge
This follows on from above; even if you can make it through five days of how you think you should be eating, you’ve heard that you can have cheat days and, well, you deserve a reward for being so damn good during the week, so you splurge on everything and anything that comes your way from Friday lunch onwards. In theory, this shouldn’t be the end of the world, however many people go so far the other way that it does counteract the calorie deficit they had created over the previous days. Plus, hungover people usually find it harder to workout or go to the gym.
- You’re guessing
As with a physical exercise plan, if you’re not keeping track of what you’re eating, you can’t know if it’s too much, too little or just right. This isn’t to say you have to track your food intake all day, every day, forever, but if you want to get started with burning some fat or building some muscle, knowing how much you’re eating is pretty important. Download MyFitnessPal and let it guide you and educate you about what you eat.
- You let ‘slip ups’ derail you entirely
Ok, you’re tracking food, you’ve taken on a healthy balanced approach (ie. no crash diets and no banned foods) and you stick to it for 10 days and are starting to see some positive changes. Then you go on a friend’s birthday weekend away and have cake and prosecco for breakfast, and it’s downhill from there. Fun, but downhill. You’ve ruined what you’ve achieved over the last 10 days, so you might as well give up and go back to eating what you want during the next week too, right? No! You can absolutely pull it back! A weekend of fun, off plan isn’t going to change things too much (unless it’s every weekend, see point 3).
- The plan you have is too rigid
100g omelette at 7am (just the whites!) with 55g spinach and 8 almonds. 180g of chicken breast with 150g of sweet potato and 55g spinach and 7 almonds at 11.15am. Look this approach is needed for some level of athlete, however for the man in the street – and I fully class myself in that category – just eat what suits your needs, when you’re hungry and when you can.
- You jump from fad to fad
Keto! Southbeach! Apple cider vinegar! Appetite-suppressing lollipops! 5:2! It’s bloody confusing out there, and the Fitness Industry is the main cause of it. It loves when you’re confused, because then you’re more likely to fall for a crappy diet pill or some other snake oil that you just don’t need. Track your calories, take a balanced approach, don’t be too hard on yourself and you’ll see the changes you want.