We’re used to our weight creeping up and down occasionally – after all, the occasional holiday indulgence is completely normal, and there are times in the year (like summer) when we feel more motivated than ever to drop pounds.
What’s frustrating, however, is when you stick to a healthy eating regime and – brilliant nutritional benefits aside – still manage to pile on weight, regardless of your good intentions. We caught up with Sally Norton, NHS weight loss consultant, to identify the potential pitfalls:
‘First of all, eating healthily is important for far more than managing weight – so keep doing it! But if you find that all your efforts in healthy eating are not helping you to lose weight, then consider the following.’
Good foods need to come in good portions
‘Nuts are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. In fact, studies show that a handful of almonds a day can reduce your risk of heart disease – and other nuts have similar benefits too. However, the key is sticking to a handful! Nuts are high in calories – and are very moreish…so before you know it you can consume a quarter of your recommended calories for the day. Same goes for dried fruit; a handful constitutes one of your 5-a-day, but get carried away and the calories soon tot up. Beans, whole grains, yoghurt, fruit, olive oil – all carry loads of health benefits but check you aren’t eating them to excess.’
Good foods should be as unadulterated as possible
‘Scan the shelves of a health food shop and you will find bags of dried fruit that have more sugar added. As if the natural, concentrated sugar within the dried fruit needs adding to. A big bowl of delicious salad or veg can more than quadruple its calorie count from the added dressing. Sometimes with extra salt and sugar too and don’t forget smoothies with more sugar than a can of coke. Not quite so healthy now.’
We are being duped
‘Clever manufacturers know that healthy food is a market winner. We are often happy to pay more if we think that a food is good for us. Problem is, unless we look carefully at the small print, we may simply be persuaded to buy when we spot a label that says natural sugars, healthy, organic, whole grain and the like. Yes, it may tick some ‘good’ boxes – but wholegrain muesli bars full of fat and sugar may do us more harm than good. Organic may be good for the environment but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for our weight. Natural sugars are sugars like any others with no added nutritional value – simply empty calories. And low-fat, which for years we associated with dieting, may simply mean chock-full of sugar or other agents that improve taste, but add calories.’
We may eat more if we feel virtuous
‘How many of us feel that we were so good in choosing the salad for main that we deserve the dessert after? Or that in resisting the chocolate bar in favour of the fruit flapjack, we are allowed an extra snack later? It is very easy to fool ourselves that we are eating so healthily that we can indulge more as a result. It’s well recognised – diners told that they are eating healthy food tend to consume larger portions than those who are given the same food but without that information.’
What’s the answer?
‘First of all, keep eating that good food – the benefits of a healthy diet extend beyond your weight alone. But if the pounds are steadily creeping on, your body will start to complain eventually however, many nutrients you are giving it. So, take a few steps to ensure your weight stays healthy too.
Be aware and don’t be manipulated. Check labels carefully to ensure those ‘healthy’ foods are all they are cracked up to be.
Remember that healthy calories from nutrient-packed foods are better than calories from processed, junk food…but are calories nonetheless and need to be counted if you are trying to lose weight.
And finally, use a bit of portion caution – it is possible to have too much of a good thing after all!’
With thanks to Sally Norton (www.vavistalife.com)