Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Diet dilemmas

All the questions you always wanted to know about dieting are answered by guru Judith Willis, in her new book The Diet Bible

By Emily Shelley

IF YOU'RE one of those people who starts a diet every January, you'll be alarmed to learn you could spend more than £150,000 in your lifetime trying to lose weight.

A recent poll found that, pound-for-pound, those who splash out in the new year on gym membership, diet books and DVDs, fitness equipment, new trainers and food supplements, spend an average £807 for every pound they lose.

What's more, the average woman who tries to slim loses a maximum of 3lbs in any one year, most of which she puts back on.

So instead of shedding the wrong kind of pounds in 2008, make a simple healthy diet stick by working out a problem-solving strategy before you start.

Judith Wills, author of best-seller The Diet Bible, which has just been revised for 2008, has practical advice for staying low-calorie.

- The new edition of The Diet Bible, by Judith Wills, is published by Quadrille on January 4 2008, priced £12.99.

Q: What is the most reliable and easy way to slim and maintain weight loss?

A: A reduced-fat, low sugar, natural diet low on highly-processed foods, such as a Mediterranean diet or a low-GI diet, is the easiest and most reliable way to get and stay slim that is also nutritionally sound and healthy, advises Judith.

The World Health Organisation agrees on this, and much recent research concurs.

You need to take regular exercise, too. All studies show that people most successful at keeping weight off are those who do.

Q: Can you recommend a strategy to beat comfort eating on carbohydrates?

A: Eating carbohydrate foods for comfort may have some basis in physical need and science. For example, eating foods very high in sugars and starches and low in protein may increase the activity of the mood-booster serotonin in the brain.

So, in effect, you may be 'dosing' yourself with carbs to try to treat depression.

Another possible cause may be that you aren't eating regularly enough and a sudden urge for carbs may be because you have low blood sugar.

If you just eat for comfort when you feel fed up, the following strategies may help:

› Eat small regular meals, so that when you feel below par you may be slightly less inclined to overeat. Don't be over-strict about food or skip meals.

› Prepare alternative 'comforters' ahead of time. If you know you regularly eat bread and jam in a crisis, think of alternative things that may help you to feel better, such as soothing music. Decide in advance what you'll try instead of the food, so that you aren't caught out.

› If hungry outside mealtimes, have a small amount of low-GI carb, like an oatcake, or a piece of protein, such as cheese or fresh nuts. Avoid hanging around the kitchen. Force yourself to go out for a walk.

› Remember, just because you have a craving, it doesn't mean you have to do anything about it. Keep telling yourself you are in control and eventually you will be.

› Reflect on what is causing you to comfort eat and see what can be done to alter or improve the situation. This is the most important part of the strategy in the long term. If food is filling a hole in your emotional life, or acting as a support system or a mask for problems, then you may not find it easy to control until you sort out the underlying reasons.

Q: I've got no willpower at all, so I can never stick to a diet. Have you any tips?

A: First examine your own motivation and come up with the main reasons you want to slim. Next, set a sensible target weight, so that you aren't trying to diet yourself too low. Now pick a suitable food intake level so that you aren't permanently hungry.

Then you need to make sensible food choices, ones which will also help you to feel sated and happy while you slim.

There are always ways around temptation incidents. For example, if you are going to a friend's house for coffee, ask him/her beforehand please not to put out any cake. End of problem.

Think of your most frequent tempter times and see if you can think of strategies to defuse them now.

In the long term, realise that we are not living in times of famine and that you don't need to stock-up calorie supplies at home.

You may find the support of a slimming club helpful to you.

Q: I'm invited to dinner in people's homes most weekends. How do I eat fewer calories while I'm dieting without causing offence?

A: There is nothing worse than turning up for a carefully prepared dinner and announcing that you are on a diet. Or perhaps there is - bringing your own food.

If you know the host well, have a word beforehand, so he/she isn't offended if you have smaller portions.

For anyone who dines out rarely, an occasional evening's over-indulgence isn't going to make a great deal of difference to your total calorie input in the long term.

Otherwise, here are a few tips:

› Avoid more than one pre-dinner canape. No-one will really notice.

› Avoid like the plague nuts, crisps and other high-fat savoury nibbles left out in bowls. Again no-one will notice.

› Sip drinks very slowly, putting your glass down between sips.

› If food arrives on a 'self-service' basis, take only small portions of the high-calorie items.

› If your host dishes food out at the table, when they are dishing yours out smile and say, 'That's lovely thank you,' before they get a chance to dish too much out.

› If seconds are offered, smile ruefully and decline gracefully.

› Many hosts don't feel offended if you skip dessert. If yours insists, it is fine to ask for a small portion and if there is a choice, go for the fruit.

› Avoid the cheeseboard and after dinner chocolates.

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