Friday, 7 November 2014

Diet fails: Excuses and how to avoid them

When I started this blog, I tried to give useful tips on how to stay focused on a diet and one of the important things I said was 'No Excuses!'. Well alright, but if you're really stuck in the habit of making excuses, how do you recognise them and work around them?

I think the first and most important thing to realise is that if you're trying to lose weight, then you are unhappy with your size and it is your old/current lifestyle that put you in this position. You don't gain weight by accident, as nice as that would be to believe. Even if you are happy with your size but would like to be healthier, then it is still your old/current lifestyle that needs changing. 

Therefore, the next thing to realise is that you need to eat healthier and exercise more - it actually is as simple as that. Your lifestyle isn't working and you cannot carry on as you are, end of. Whatever the excuse for eating those crisps or burgers, this is what you need to be telling yourself.

I am far to aware that it isn't always that easy though. I didn't fail at so many diets over the years because I could just tell myself this and magically solve my problems. You do need to get yourself in the right frame of mind however, or it won't work. I can't stress this enough. If you're not willing to be strong and just get on with it, then you will fail. I know this sounds blunt and harsh but it really is the truth.

So, here are some excuses that were given to me by my lovely facebook group members, ones that we all tell ourselves when we really just want to eat badly or not exercise. I'm hopefully going to try and help with what you should be telling yourselves and ways to combat them to keep you on track.

I'm too tired I've been in work all day/Fed up and need comfort food/Not enough time

We've all been there, well I know I have many times. You've spent all day working hard or have just had a really rubbish day and nothing seems worse than coming home and cooking a meal. All that chopping, slicing, boiling, frying... meh, I'll just get a takeaway.

First things first, you need to remind yourself of what I said above - I'm not happy so I need to change my lifestyle. Ask yourself the following questions - have I had bad day recently that I need to make up for? Have I pigged out at lunch or have I eaten well today?

Do you have anything easy you could throw on instead? Things I kept in the cupboard for days like this were Maggi sachets that involved literally just bunging some chicken in the oven covered in a spice sachet. You could even just have grilled chicken that literally takes 5 mins a side to grill (or 5 mins in total if on a George Foreman grill), covered in any spices from your cupboard. Another alternative is chicken parcels, cover chicken in a sprinkling of any spices you have in, wrap it in foil or baking paper and put in the oven for 25-30mins. Easy peasy and hardly any prep.

Easy but healthy accompaniments are couscous (soak in stock for 10mins), basmati rice (boil with a stock cube for 10mins, for extra healthy points throw in some frozen peas/sweetcorn), even oven chips if weighed out to the recommended portion size on the packet. If you want veg as well to be extra healthy, most vegetables will boil in 10 mins. Keep some tinned carrots in the cupboard so you don't have to prep, or frozen peas. You can also get little pre-portioned packets of mixed veg that keep in the freezer then microwave in a couple of minutes.

Another option is when you do cook a meal, make an extra portion to freeze then on days like these you can just re-heat one.

However, sometimes all of this will fail. Its only natural. I did have occasions where I had takeaways or frozen pizza and still lost weight. You just have to be really careful about what you chose and think about what would be a healthy choice, not just have whatever you fancy, and do not let yourself give in to temptation more than once a week, and don't do it if you know you have an occasion coming up where you know you will over eat or be unable to chose too healthily (such as a function or family meal).

As well as the above, here are some things to remember when all else fails:

Avoid: Stay away from the average 'American/Italian' menu such as fried chicken, burgers and pizza. Just don't do it. You know they're really high in calories, its not rocket science. Do not have a starter, try to minimise the damage and don't make it worse than it has to be. Avoid anything on the menu that mentions the following words 'fried, cheese, cream, oil, crispy, pastry'.

Aim For: If you go for a chinese, stick to plain rice, not fried, and a main that is in a tomato based sauce or specifically states it has plenty of veg in it. Aim for chicken over other meats. A good option is chow mein which is noodles in a plain sauce with veg, some give the option to have it 'dry fried' but then it will be fried in oil which is not as good. 

Most indian curries will be cooked in cream or ghi (clarified butter) so are best avoided. However, most indians will do something called a 'shashlik' which is basically a tandoori chicken kebab and is a brilliant option. It will come with salad so don't order any rice with it. If you have to go for bread, go for a chapati over a naan. If they don't have the shashlik, look for tandoori chicken which is basically the same thing.

Don't like the gym posers and the fees/Wet weather/Too tired to exercise. 

Exercise. Its the toughest part right? It always has been for me. It is so much easier for a lazy girl like me to sit on the sofa and do nothing.

As I said above, this is probably what got you to where you are now and you need to keep that at the very front of your mind. Exercise is tough, I will not lie to you and tell you its easy. What I will tell you is the results are worth it. And I mean consistent exercise, not just once a week or now and again when you can be bothered. I mean 2-3 times a week, at least 30 mins a time, where you are shattered afterwards and feel it the next day. Remember this when you don't feel like it.

So to combat some of the exercise excuses I will add in these top tips -

  • If you don't like the gym or classes, don't go. If you hate something you won't do it. This is not leeway to do nothing however, it means you find something else. Try classes, try jogging, try exercise videos or apps on your phone/tablet, research exercises on the internet and put your own routine together, if you have the money buy some home gym equipment and sit in front of the TV on a crosstrainer or exercise bike. Do not give up! Keep trying until you find something that fits.
  • Wet weather - again, as above, try something else. Do a home work out or have a day of yoga and/or stretching. Do anything other than break your routine.
  • Too tired - sorry this is just a time you have to suck it up and get on with it. You have to push through to get to the stage where you have more energy and you won't feel so tired. I have pushed through exercise before with a stinking cold or a day after recovering from a stomach bug, and yes I found it tough, but I felt better afterwards. Just don't push yourself as hard but don't give up.
  • You can do effective exercise in just 25-20min sessions. High intensity exercise all out for this time is more effective than a half-hearted hour long session. Research this on the internet and look into what exercises work best. I have heard it said a few times that if you are doing more than 45 mins, in the gym particularly, you will be wasting a lot of your time. The key time seems to be 30 mins of intense exercise that leaves you breathless and sweaty, several times a week.

I need it! 

Do you really? Or do you need the boost of losing a pound on the scales more? Do you need the benefits of healthy eating more? Do you need that feeling of accomplishment because you were strong and said no? I think the answer to this one is obvious!

One day won't hurt I will start again tomorrow.....  


We would all love this statement to be true wouldn't we? Sometimes it can be, but be honest with yourself. Is it really just one day? What about a couple of days ago when you forgot to make your lunch for work and had that naughty sandwich from the canteen? And what about the other night when you couldn't be bothered making tea and had some chips? And then what happens tomorrow as you know you're going to have a busy day in work and will be tired when you get home? And then there's that night out this weekend where you'll be drinking. 

The truth is, its never just one day. You also know that once you stop, its too easy to give up altogether. Remind yourself of that dress you want to get into, or how good it feels to get on the scales and have lost a pound. Remind yourself that you need to make changes if you're not happy where you are now.

This also ties in to 'I'll start again next week' - the more bad days you have, the more damage you will do. Try and minimise this as much as possible by getting on track as soon as you can, the very next meal ideally. Don't ruin your hard work.

Night shifts and then the change to days

I found the solution to this hard to put in to words so bear with me while I try and explain it. A good routine for someone who works shifts will not relay on times of the day. For example, lunch won't be 12-1 and tea won't be around 6pm. It would probably go something more like this -
  • Wake up, have breakfast
  • 2 hours later, have a small snack such as fruit or low cal baked crips type snack
  • 2-3 hours later have lunch
  • 2 hours later have a snack
  • 2-3 hours later have tea
  • 2 hours later small snack, ideally a couple of hours before bed to allow it to settle
Therefore your day will not be based around the clock so it doesn't matter what time you have your meals, you just work them around your day and shift pattern. This is obviously just a rough example and you can adapt it to whatever your routine is on any given day. 

The main rule to remember is that you should be eating around every 4 hours to avoid your body going into starvation mode and storing fat. Adding in snacks like above will keep your sugar levels on a level and also will avoid you getting so hungry at meal times that you binge, whatever time that may be.

With regards to exercise, the best solution I can think of here is think about when you are most likely to stick to exercising - are you better doing it when you wake up or a couple of hours before you go bed? Alternatively, are you best slotting it in the middle of your day on your days off? Work out what works best for your and work this into your routine.

I eat like a pig which is fine when working cos it's a very physical job and burns lots of calories but I do nothing on days off but eat the same if not more.


The thing to remember here is that you should eat consistently no matter what you're doing. If you are sticking to a caloried controlled diet, then that should be the same no matter what you are doing, don't allow yourself extra calories to accomodate exercise but think of it as extra calories burned. If you are lacking in energy on busy days then have foods that are more carbohydrate based for energy, such as pasta. As mentioned above, working healthy snacks into your routine can be uselful as it will keep your sugar levels on a level and prevent a crash that sends you scrabbling for chocolate.

Also, as much as I know how nice it is to do completely nothing on your days off, you should try and work in some form of light exercise to keep your metabolism on track, even if its just a walk around the block.

I want instant results, if I haven't lost weight as I would like why bother to carry on, it's not happening.

I am one of these people. It has happened in the past where I haven't got results quick enough and I've just given up completely. The truth is, if you are doing it right, you will get results right away. If you can't figure out why you haven't, do some research. For example, my first week of this diet resulted in nothing happening and I was really disheartened and felt like there was no point. It turned out I was over exercising so I tweaked my routine and by the next week the weight started coming off. It really can be that a small tweak to what you're doing will make all the difference. Focus on finding the answer rather than giving up.

I'll cut out a big dinner and just eat snacks.

This is never a good idea. A lot of snacks can be empty calories or high in things like sugar which will just make you hungrier overall. Put in the extra effort and eat something more substantial and more nutritious, it will ultimately be more satisfying and less calories. If you can't face a big meal, then make something small like a sandwich or a small portion of pasta, or best of all some soup. Anything that has a bit more body and weight to it to put something in your stomach. 

If all else does fail and you do fall off the wagon, then acknowledge what you've done and stop it there and then. As i say above, do not start again tomorrow or next week, start again right then. The best thing you can do is fit is some extra exercise somewhere to try and undo some of the damage, but if you can't do that then at the least just stick to your diet plan and don't give up!!