A third of Americans are obese - and another third are overweight. The global picture isn't much rosier.
Many of us, even if we're not exactly fat, know that we could do with using a few pounds. Whether it's for our health, to improve our confidence, or just because we want to get back into those jeans, we'd like to diet successfully. But so often, our diets end up starting on a Monday and ending before Tuesday.
There are all sorts of diet tips - some useful and some crazy - but these are five big ones which actually work and make a big difference to your chances of success. They're all very simple (which doesn't necessarily mean easy!)
1. Keep a Food Diary
Studies have shown that simply writing down what we eat helps us to cut back. Keeping a food diary - which simply involves noting down everything you eat each day - works because:
- You're more likely to resist that cookie if you know you'll have to record it in black and white
- You can easily identify patterns using your diary (e.g. maybe you always end up snacking mid-morning when you don't eat enough breakfast)
- You'll become more conscious about your eating: if you snack without even thinking (perhaps when friends are passing round chocolate or chips), then you'll start to become more aware of your habits.
Many people are put off keeping a food diary because it seems like a hassle, but the truth is, it only takes five or ten minutes each day. Isn't it worth that to radically boost your chances of success?
2. Don't Crash Diet
Crash dieting - drastically cutting what you eat in the hopes of losing lots of weight fast - is a big no-no. Your body needs enough food in order to function well: it's the fuel which keeps you going. Plus, if you're eating very little, you won't even be getting enough nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc).
We live in a have it now culture where we've come to expect instant results. Unfortunately, dieting just doesn't work like that. For real success, it's best to lose weight slowly and steadily. Trying to rush weight loss will just play havoc with your metabolism, and can often lead to a rebound effect where as soon as you start eating normally again, you'll put all that weight back on, plus extra.
3. Exercise Regularly
Although exercise alone isn't an especially effective way to lose weight, it's a great addition to any diet plan. Exercise burns up calories - boosting your dieting efforts - but it also has a host of other benefits.
Exercising will help you tone up your body and build muscle (which, even at rest, burns more calories than fat). Being active gets you away from the temptations of the fridge - and it also provides a natural mood boost: much healthier than chocolate! Many dieters also find that exercise provides extra motivation to stick to a healthy eating plan - if you've just been jogging for an hour, you'll be reluctant to undo that hard work by eating junk.
4. Don't Ban Foods
Some people think that if you're on a diet, you shouldn't eat any chocolate, cookies, chips, cheese, or any other bad foods you enjoy. The truth is, in moderation, you can eat what you like. Of course your diet is going to be unsuccessful if you're scoffing dozens of cookies each day - but one cookie or one small candy bar isn't going to have much impact.
If you tell yourself that certain foods are banned, it tends to make you crave them more. Instead, just cut back on how often you have those foods. You may find that you appreciate them even more when they're an occasional event rather than a daily habit.
One good tip if you do find yourself eating too much chocolate (or whatever) - tell yourself I won't have any chocolate today. It's much easier to focus on cutting out a bad habit for one day than trying to resist forever!
5. Try New Recipes
Finally, dieting is actually a great time to start eating some new foods. There are loads of super-healthy and super-tasty options that you might never have tried. Start experimenting! Vegetable-based dishes, or recipes from a low-fat cookbook, will give you loads of ideas. You may find some delicious and light alternatives to your usual repertoire.
If you're not very confident about cooking, how about simply trying some different fruits and veggies? It might be as simple as a different type of salad leaf, or a new variety of apple. Rather than seeing your diet as a time where you need to give things up, look at it as a great opportunity to try out some new things and potentially find some new favorites.