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Weight loss tips to help you stay on track

Siski Green / 16 February 2019 ( 12 January 2022 )

From eating when you’re stressed to that mid-morning slump, find out how to defeat your diet demons and get back on track with weight loss.

Woman preparing vegetables
Keep a selection of quick, healthy meals you enjoy up your sleeve to deter you from reaching for the ready meals

1. You end up stress eating

Like reaching for a cigarette or a glass of wine, grabbing a chocolate bar or wolfing down a buttery muffin when you’re on a diet is classic stress-related eating.

The stress makes you feel bad and your internal logic goes something like, I’m unhappy so if I treat myself with something yummy I’ll feel better. But there’s more to it than emotions because when you’re stressed cortisol levels rise, which increases your appetite.

How to beat stress eating

Preventing the stress in the first place – with regular yoga or meditation, or swimming or some other form of exercise – is obviously ideal. But if you’re already in the stress zone, try this:

  1. Grab an apple and take a bite, chewing slowly
  2. Stop, take ten deep breaths
  3. Then take another bite, chewing slowly again
  4. Repeat until you’ve eaten the apple

This snack attack plan works on three levels:

  1. It brings your stress levels right down with the slow breathing which slows your heart rate,
  2. The apple is full of filling fibre which will help prevent you giving into your craving,
  3. Plus, one small medical study published in Headache Quarterly found its scent can help reduce headaches.

What causes stress and how can you beat it

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2. You get hungry between meals

A late night combined with an early start can sometimes be enough to make you reach for the easy-energy foods, the chocolates, the carbs, the very foods you’re trying to avoid eating too much of. This usually happens in the middle of the morning or the afternoon.

The problem with feeding yourself with quick-energy foods when you’re tired is that you’ll then experience a slump after the ‘high’ when you’ll find yourself reaching for more sugar or carbs.

Beat sugary snacks

Allow yourself a sugar hit, but make it a small one and add in a lot of filling fibre and some protein too to make sure you don’t then suffer with a blood sugar drop.

Porridge with milk and honey is great as it provides fibre and protein. Similarly a fruit and yogurt smoothie will give you some sweetness along with protein in the yogurt and fibre in the fruit.

You can also reduce snacking between meals by making sure the meals you're eating are satisfying enough. Wholegrains, fibre-rich vegetables and a good balance of proteins and fats should keep you fuller for longer and reduce hunger during the day.

Discover the best healthy snacks

3. You're too busy to cook healthily

Who’s got time to whip up a healthy low-fat low-calorie yet-delicious-and-filling dinner every night?

Dieting takes up more time because you have to think carefully when you’re shopping, checking all the labels, and then research recipes, not to mention the prepping and cooking of them. It’s so much easier to grab a ready made meal or rely on recipes you know, which may well be higher in fat and calories than you need.

Beat high fat ready meals

Get prepared and cook in bulk, then freeze meal portions to stick in the microwave whenever you need them.

Pulses (haricot beans, chickpeas, lentils etc) which are low in fat but high in protein and fibre make excellent diet food. Cook up a big batch and simply freeze them like that, or by tinned (but unflavoured) beans. When you want a quick, healthy meal, you can use the beans in a soup, in a salad, or as a side to some fish or low-fat meat.

Make batches of foods that freeze well, for example dahl, chilli and soups and keep a stash in the freezer for when you need them.

Have a selection of quick, healthy recipes up your sleeve for those days when you haven't got anything healthy in the freezer and might be popping to a shop. Don't even look at the ready meals with questionable nutritional value, instead go for the staples you know you can whip up quickly. An omelette stuffed with roasted vegetables and served with a salad, a chicken and vegetable stir fry, or make up your own buddha bowl with lots of tasty salad items with avocado and quinoa.

4. Your low self-esteem is sapping your willpower

It’s not logical but when you feel bad about the way you look and what the scales are telling you, it can make you eat more rather than less. It’s a kind of, “It’s hopeless, so why even try!” situation that leads you to give up on the diet and eat whatever you feel like, usually high-fat high-calorie foods.

Beat the willpower saboteurs

Don’t focus only on the scales but assess your success in several ways so that you can always feel good about your diet.

For example, measure your waistline, your hips and even your arms and thighs at the start of your diet, so you can celebrate every time you see a difference there too.

And celebrate the hidden ways you’re changing your body too – when you eat more fruit and vegetables and less carbohydrates and sugars, everything improves. From your heart to your lungs, your skin, nails and hair, the extra vitamins, minerals and fibre will help them function better, making you less prone to illness, disease and even injuries.

You might also be noticing a positive impact on your physical health - perhaps you can walk or jog further than you used to, or no longer get winded when you take the stairs instead of the escalator. Try to celebrate these wins and reward them in non-food ways, such as setting time for yourself to enjoy a bath or watch a film, or treat yourself to a bunch of flowers to brighten the room.

Learn more about strengthening your willpower

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.