How to transform your eating habits for good

    Whether you’re a sneaky snacker or a fad diet lover, now’s the time to change your eating habits for good

    Four Vitality members – Kevin Moseley, Samantha Bates, Jamie Barnes and Sharon Salter – worked with our expert nutritionists to transform their attitudes towards food, losing an amazing 5st between them.

    So, whether you’re a constant grazer or clueless about calories, find out how you can learn from their transformation and improve your lifestyle for good.

    Are you a sneaky snacker or mindless muncher?

    You pick at snacks throughout the day, not really being conscious of what you’re eating or how many calories you’re consuming.

    Samantha Barnes, Vitality member, who lost 1st 1lb in 10 weeks, says: “I benefited so much from learning to eat more mindfully, such as sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork, rather than slumped in front of the TV. My nutritionist showed me that I also needed the support of my friends, family and colleagues and I needed to be specific about it – I asked them not to bring biscuits into work and swapped restaurant lunches for a walk with my work friends at lunchtime. Takeaways and ready meals were always tempting but I made sure to stock up on ingredients so I could quickly create healthy meals no matter what time I got home.”

    Fiona Hunter, nutritionist, says: “Constantly grazing and snacking throughout the day can make it hard to eat a healthy balanced diet, mainly because most snacks are high in fat, salt or sugar and short on vitamins and minerals. I suggested our transformers start a daily food diary. It helped them to identify triggers – such as stress or boredom – that caused them to snack or make poor food choices throughout the day. This is called behavioural modification and essentially meant they were more mindful about those snacks.’’

    Do you boycott breakfast?

    Do you find yourself running out the door every morning with nothing but just a quick coffee? Then you’re among around half of us that admit to regularly skipping breakfast.

    Kevin Moseley, Vitality member, who lost 2st 2lb in 10 weeks, says: “I never used to eat breakfast, but I now make sure to eat a piece of toast and peanut butter. It’s the fuel I need for my daily runs.”

    Fiona Hunter, nutritionist, says: “I told Kevin that skipping breakfast is a bad idea for many reasons. Firstly, he was missing the opportunity to make a positive contribution to his diet. Studies show that people who eat breakfast in the morning are more likely to have a better intake of vitamins and minerals compared with people who don’t. Plus, eating a wholegrain cereal for breakfast can provide a good intake of dietary fibre, which is something only 1 in 9 adults eat enough of. Also, if you don’t eat first thing in the morning your blood sugar can start to plummet mid-morning, meaning you’re more likely to reach for a snack.”

    Are you clueless on calories?

    Do you exercise regularly but find you can’t shift that muffin top? You could be making one huge mistake that a lot of us are guilty of.

    Emily Cole, Virgin Active trainer, says: “When I start training with a new client, we spend a lot of time talking about their activity levels and their eating habits as well as what their fitness goals are. Often it’s clear that my clients are exercising a lot but they’re eating too many calories. You could train every day, but it you’re not burning more calories than you’re taking in, you won’t shift the pounds. I encourage clients to write down what they’re eating every day, as well as what activity they’re doing. That way you can clearly see the mistakes you’re making – perhaps you need to eat less and move more.”

    Fiona Hunter, nutritionist, says: “It’s important to spread calories throughout the day. Having three small meals plus a couple of healthy snacks helps to keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent hunger pangs. Once blood sugar starts to drop this sends signals to the brain to stimulate hunger.”

    Do you give up at the first hurdle?

    Do you find that you beat yourself up if you do well for a few days and then say ‘yes’ to that tempting takeaway or piece of cake? What’s the point in carrying on? We’ve all been there.

    Jo Hemmings, behavioural psychologist, says: “Resilience is key. Don’t let temporary failures be an excuse to give up. There will be the occasional bad day when you might fall off the wagon, but don’t be too hard on yourself – just use it to strengthen your resolve rather than abandoning your goal altogether.”

    Fiona Hunter, nutritionist, says: “Two weeks into the diet, Kevin went on a cruise – which could have been a complete disaster in terms of his weight. But I spent time talking to him about the sort of things he could eat while he was away and explained if he couldn’t stick to his diet as strictly as he would at home, he should make use of the facilities on the boat and his free time to exercise more – which is exactly what he did. And he lost weight! It’s always important to cut yourself some slack, but use every opportunity you can.”

    Do you set yourself unrealistic goals?

    Whether it’s a weight-loss goal or to cut something out of your diet, you might be doing yourself more harm than good with unrealistic goals.

    Kevin Moseley, Vitality member, says: “I wanted to make real and lasting lifestyle changes, so I stopped seeing myself as a victim. Once I began to take control by identifying what’s good and bad for me – including ditching the 20 cups of sugary coffee per day – it gave me the confidence to make more impactful decisions and make real goals. I took up running, which I’m now addicted to!”

    Professor Jane Ogden, health psychologist, says: “It’s really important to set yourself small, achievable goals, so that you can see how far you’ve come and celebrate the small successes along the way. If, for example, you want to lose weight, aim for 5 per cent of your body weight, or 1 or 2lb a week. Or, even better, focus on your behaviour, not your weight. That way, you can be proud of eating better or being more active and will be more likely to stay focused and stick to your goal, tackling it one week at a time.’’

    Are you a diet junkie?

    You’ve done everything from the Atkins to the 5:2, but nothing seems to work and you’re constantly finding yourself back at square one.

    Jamie Barnes, Vitality member, who lost 1st in 10 weeks, says: “I learnt that variety is important, because no single food or food group contains all the nutrients your body needs. I made the effort to mix up my fruit and veggies because my nutritionist said they all contain different nutrients, plus all the colour made eating them so much more appealing.”

    Fiona Hunter, nutritionist, says: “Fad diets can be very tempting, because they promise so much and imply you can lose a large amount of weight quickly and easily. But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fad diets are a quick fix cure to a problem that requires a long-term solution and although they may help you lose weight in the short-term, studies show that any weight you lose is usually regained once you stop the diet. Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets when it comes to losing weight. The best and most effective way to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off, is to eat less and do more.”

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