At some stage in most people’s lives they undertake some form of diet, whether to lose weight for a special occasion, bulk up to assist with muscle growth or even on the suggestion of their doctor to improve their health. Whatever their reason may be, the path to the ‘perfect’ diet is littered with hearsay, poor advice and mistakes that more often than not prevent a successful outcome. Despite starting off with the best intentions, we are often sidetracked by yet another celebrity and their miraculous weight loss or social media influencer recommending the latest diet fad that ultimately only results in the loss of £s rather than lbs!
Possibly the most common mistake people make when commencing a weight loss diet is setting unrealistic expectations. We are constantly bombarded with images of models and fitness professionals who have spent years getting in shape, often with the help of expensive personal trainers and chefs in the case of movie stars, and yet we believe the ‘6 pack in 5 minutes a day’ claims of magazines and the like and are then left upset and demotivated when we have only lost 2lbs in a fortnight! Sustainable weight loss takes time, and so setting a realistic goal and then breaking this down into smaller, achievable goals can be a much more beneficial method of dieting whilst maintaining motivation. Celebrate the small wins; after all a loss of 1lb is still a loss, and each small step taken moves you closer to the overall goal.
This leads nicely onto the quick fix methods, with huge unhealthy reductions in calories or the removal of a particular food group which can only spell disaster long term. Yes, weight will be lost, but these diets are nigh on impossible to follow long term and can in fact be damaging if calories are kept too low or macro nutrients removed from the diet since the body functions optimally on a balanced diet which includes proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Any weight lost will include not only the desired fat, but also water stores and organ tissue including muscle; surely not the desired outcome for any healthy weight loss protocol. Once the diet has run its course, chances are the weight lost will return and it is often the case that more weight is gained ontop, so starting the never ending diet, weight gain, diet cycle that so many people fall into. This method may also label food groups as bad and this is a dangerous route down which to travel. No food is bad when consumed as part of a balanced diet and the benefit of a food can go far beyond just the calorie content; nutritional value, enjoyment and socialising to name three. As long as overall calorie consumption is kept under control, then weight can be lost on a diet containing chocolate, biscuits and the like without the detrimental effects of removing such on our mental wellbeing.
Weight loss (or gain for that matter) does not occur in a linear way and fluctuations will occur throughout the journey. It is easy to become despondent when the scale shows an increase despite your best efforts, but many factors can effect the number on the dial. Water retention is a common factor in unexpected weight gain and this can be particularly true for ladies throughout their monthly cycle (this can account for up to an additional 10lbs!) or be the result of eating a salty meal prior to a weigh in. Building muscle comes with additional water storage as 1g of glycogen within the muscle is stored with 3g of water, so it can be seen that undertaking resistance training can lead to weight gain whilst you are actually losing fat! It is therefore important that we use other measures than the number on the scale as we diet. How are our energy levels? Are our clothes fitting better? Are we simply feeling better? The number on the scale only tells part of the story and does not consider body composition; after all, a fit and healthy rugby player may weigh well over 100kgs, but that does not mean that he/she is not a picture of health and able to perform well both on the pitch and in daily life.
Before starting the dieting process, set realistic goals that are achievable and within a sensible time scale, try not to demonise any food type, avoid starving yourself and being miserable, but instead eat a variety of foods that you enjoy and be aware of your daily calorie intake. Successful weight loss takes time and the journey will not be without bumps in the road, but stick with the plan, accept the odd ‘off day’ and ultimately enjoy your food.
Oh, and please do not get your nutritional advice from Netflix, Instagram or the Daily Mail!