We all know by now that lifting heavy weights is going to add on weight (even if it doesn't add size), but if you're not regularly hitting up the weights area in the gym and you're eating right, drinking plenty of water and generally being "good," then not seeing a downward spiral on the scales can send you into one in real life. But before you throw your scales out the window* and reach for the nearest packet of Oreos or bottle of wine (drastic times…), you may just need to make a couple of small tweaks. We called on Lorna Driver-Davies, a nutritional therapist at London health and well-being club Grace Belgravia and founder of Feel Better Nutrition, who revealed that some of the diet choices we think are healthy are actually wrecking our weight-loss chances.
*Oh, and those scales: Chuck them in the bin (not out the window). A more reliable way to track your progress is with a tape measure.
"While beneficial for many, gluten-free food can be laden with extra sugars, and the types of sugars tend to be more refined than those found in products containing gluten or wheat," says Driver-Davies. So if you're eating gluten-free products because you think they are healthier, you could be way off. If you suspect you have an intolerance to gluten, Driver-Davies suggests you "work with a professional to create a suitable eating plan. If you are celiac or gluten-intolerant, then I would recommend learning to make homemade gluten-free foods instead."
"Don't assume all labeled products which say 'gluten-free' are automatically healthy."
"Just like gluten-free foods, these tend to contain more sugar. Fat makes things taste good, so if you remove it, the taste may be less exciting, which the companies resolve by adding sugar," Driver-Davies explains.
"Fat actually fills you up, so don't miss out on things like avocado, oily fish, small portions of full-fat dairy (if tolerated), coconut oil and olive oil with meals." When it comes to nuts, you do need to tread with caution, warns Driver-Davies. "Eating lots of nuts has become trendier over the years, and while [eating] some is good, don't go overboard. They can hamper weight loss for some people, so stick to between six and 10 nuts per day when dieting."
It's all about quality, not quantity. "Full-fat products contain all the beneficial fat-soluble nutrients your body needs that are often lost in the low-fat versions. Eat full-fat foods, but just in moderation; you want to be filling up on fresh vegetables, healthy proteins, and fiber-rich fruits instead."
Whether you're adding Splenda to your coffee or fueling your afternoons with Diet Coke, you need to think twice. And it's not just because they're unhealthy choices—they're also detrimental to your waistline. "Despite containing no sugar, our body isn't adept at discerning between the sweet taste of a low-calorie food and that of a doughnut. All elicit production of insulin, a fatty hormone, and when it's overproduced, it often sits on your tummy," Driver-Davies says.
"On a diet, if you feel like you need something sweet, try these healthier options:
1. Three tablespoons of full-fat yogurt with cinnamon sprinkled on top and a sliced date.
2. Chocolate avocado shake: coconut water, half avocado, one teaspoon of plain chocolate powder/cacao powder, optional one teaspoon maple syrup.
3. Two squares of unrefined sugar-free raw chocolate.
4. Even cinnamon or licorice tea can be enough to satisfy a sweet urge!"
Regardless of whether you think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what's crucial is the breakfast foods you choose. "Research has shown that higher-protein breakfasts may support weight loss," Driver-Davies says. "Not everyone has the same body, metabolism or capacity to process carbohydrates just eaten on their own."
"Try a protein-rich breakfast, such as eggs on toast with a side of greens, and see if this helps you feel fuller for longer. Cereals tend to be sugar-based, so avoid those."
"Snacking and over-grazing do not always help weight loss," Driver-Davies says. "Unless you have blood sugar issues, try to stick to main meals.
"Studies show gaps between meals support weight loss, especially alongside two days per week on lower calories."
"Try eating nutritionally rich meals at set times (to avoid in-between meal snacking) and experiment two days a week with fasting and calorie restriction. There are lots of good books and recipes to support that kind of diet."
It's also worth considering counting macros rather than just calories.
"I don't recommend this as a staple food for women unless they going through menopause," Driver-Davies says. "Soya contains plant estrogens, and some women with hormone imbalances will not benefit from extra estrogen in their diet. Oestrogen imbalances in some women may cause them to put on weight or find it hard to shift excess weight."
"Some soya milk or tofu here and there is fine, but cut back if it’s more than three times per week."