Do you yearn to be able to wear all the clothes in your wardrobe, and gaze at your skinny friends with envy wondering how they manage it? Welcome to the club. Yet the reason is clear, they eat less, just observe them at mealtimes or look into their shopping trolleys - no matter how much you are deluding yourself to the contrary.
Well surely you can do that? All you need to do is to go on the latest celebrity endorsed diet and hey presto you can squeeze back into your favourite jeans. But hang on a minute, there is one vital difference. Your skinny friends do not diet; they remain vigilant about what they eat on a daily basis. In other words they have healthy eating habits.
No matter how tempted you are to follow the latest celebrity endorsed diet, you may come to regret it. Here's why:
• Faddy diets lead to rebound weight gain because they adversely affect your metabolism
• Counting calories, cutting out carbs or intermittent fasting make you fixate on food
• A temporary change in diet does not correct the root causes of your weight gain
Improving your eating habits is the key to losing weight and weight maintenance. Not glamorous but essential.
As portion sizes grow and plates groan with food, it is inevitable that you expand as well. Breakfast at the Ritz, dine at the Dorchester or frequent your local burger bar and chippie, it makes no difference; if you want to weigh less, you must cut back on calories whatever their source, or start training for the marathon.
Let swapping be your lifeline if you hope to step off the diet treadmill. Call on it every time you eat out, go food shopping or prepare a meal. If you always head straight to the fridge for a sugary dessert after your takeaway, this habit helps. Swap yummy processed foods for filling and satisfying real foods. Dump the ready meals and switch to a virtuous diet of proteins supplemented with a moderate amount of carbs - grains, pulses, pasta, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.
Create some useful strategies to help you eat less. Stand on the scales regularly - a quick reminder of any indiscretion. Stop buying fizzy drinks, biscuits and little treats; out of sight is out of mind. Pay attention to what passes your lips. Distractions like watching TV or reading when eating lead to an increase in the number of calories consumed at that meal and later on in the day. Off to do your weekly shop? Prepare a shopping list and stick to it. Cook from scratch and you are bound to think twice about how much fat, sugar and salt you are eating.
Use your intuition to tune in to what your body actually wants you to eat. It knows when it needs refuelling, if not corrupted by your addiction to junk foods or influenced by family habits and cultural customs - like leaving your plate clean no matter how much is piled on it, using sweet and fatty foods as a reward, scoffing excessive portions, raiding the fridge at night, always having dessert or never refusing seconds.
Stop turning to sugary, fatty foods or alcohol to cheer yourself up. Try finding value in all that life throws at you. It boosts self esteem and makes you less inclined to want to fill your body with mood enhancing foods. Even your dieting hunger pangs can be seen as having an upside - they are an encouraging sign that you are losing weight, so do not rush to stifle them.
In my lifestyle diet book Can I Have Chips? fill up, lose weight, feel great, I describe how improving your eating habits is as important as dieting in the battle against the bulge. Combine the two and there is nothing to hold you back from the body you desire.