Reasons why you just can't shift that weight
WORSE than the age-old adage 'no pain, no gain' is its lesser known distant cousin 'all pain, no gain'.
It's a scenario we dread: scarfing chick-peas and celery, and living on a treadmill, while the dial on the weighing scales isn't for budging. Not only is it massively disheartening, it's also part of the reason most of us have a mental block about starting a new regime.
We've long been told that eating less and exercising more will get us a great body, which makes it all the more frustrating when the pounds don't shift. Well, put down the halo you've been polishing and take a look at the innocent mistakes and wrong advice that stand in your way.
counting calories way too carefully
Cutting down calories is better than overdoing it, right? Alas, the debate is a lot more complex than that.
"Some people find certain methods easier than others, including counting calories," says consultant dietician Sarah Keogh (www.eatwell.ie). "Personally, I believe that counting calories makes people a little obsessive. Food should be easy, not an enemy. If you're counting calories, you can end up fighting yourself. It's better to trust your appetite. If you reduce your calories, your metabolism also drops a little."
The other carnal sin is taking in too few calories, according to personal trainer Paul Byrne (www.bodybyrne.ie): "If you're eating fewer than 1,300 calories, you go into 'famine' mode," he explains. "If you dip below 1,300 calories your metabolism slows down and you lose muscle.
"It's important for that reason to eat every two hours. One big meal a day is lethal."
You emphasise quantity, not quality
Less is more when it comes to the gym. "Training every day is pointless," says Paul. "My clients train twice a week and do intensive weight training. Cardio just burns calories but weight training tones muscle and boosts your metabolism."
Ultimately, anyone going to the gym needs to give it some serious welly for an hour, and no more: "Never train for more than an hour, but when you do, really got for it. If you over-train, you get tired and weak."
Your hyper-healthy regime isn't all that good for you
Newsflash: not all healthy ways of living are good for you if you pursue them to extremes. "I met one girl who was going mad into juicing, drinking 1.5l of juice every day," says Sarah. "But that amounts to 700-800 calories.
"The trick is everything should be done in moderation."
You're not in the right mindset
If your head and heart aren't in the game, it's time to rethink your strategy.
"The big obstacle is people who want to lose weight but go into it half-heartedly," warns Sarah. "They eat Special K for breakfast, then tuck into chocolate in the evening. They're not saying, 'right, this is it, I'm going to do a certain amount of exercise too'. It's like giving up cigarettes; it's best to do it properly, not just cut down.
You're an 'all or nothing' sort of person
Instead of becoming a diet bore, small changes need to be made in order for your new regime to be sustainable . . . and enjoyable. Sarah says: "My advice is, make a small change but a permanent one," she continues. "Pick one thing to change. Have a look at what you're eating using a food diary, and see where you're falling short. After a few weeks, this will be established as a habit. After that time, make another change and go at it one issue at a time. Even if it takes six months, you'll see the results."
You're stuck in a rut
Your body needs new challenges and stimuli in order to develop. "By keeping the same routine for too long, your body will adapt and become bored," says Paul. "As well, your body will be susceptible to injury from repetitive strain."
You're treating yourself the wrong way
Another pitfall is tucking into energy bars and drinks in the misguided belief that they're healthy. "Energy bars and drinks have about 500 calories in them," advises Paul. "Unless you are working out for longer than two hours, you don't need energy bars or sports drink."
You've forgotten that Rome wasn't built in a day
Never mind tabloid headlines about actresses who have lost a stone in a month; they're kidding themselves.
"It's only scientifically possible to gain or lose 2lbs of body fat a week, no matter what you do," reveals Paul. "You hear of people losing a stone in the first week, but what they're losing is muscle and water."
You're ignoring the concept of portion control
Often, we believe that if something is healthy, we're allowed to have tons of it.
"Instead of a proper dinner, people have a healthy sandwich, a yoghurt and fruit, and there is probably more calories in all of that than in a regular dinner," says Sarah. "We also believe we need to be stuffed as we've all been raised to clean our plates. When you start to feel full, that's when you know it's enough."
You're fine as you are
"People start to want perfect bodies," says Sarah. "But we have a warped idea of the perfect body. The perfect body we see in magazines doesn't exist; even the model in the photo wants that body.
"If you want to go from overweight to a perfect bikini body, it will take three years of hard work at the gym.
"It takes a long time for muscles to get in perfect shape."