By Anna Hart
Your healthy-eating halo has slipped. Yes, you’ve carefully chosen 300-calorie lunches, said “no” 19 times to pudding, and eaten so much grilled chicken ‘n’ salad, you’ve started dreaming about it. But you’re still having to lie down to do up your fave jeans. How so?
“It’s frustrating to feel like your diet efforts are a big fat waste of time,” says nutritionist Amanda Hamilton. “Most of us think we’ve eaten healthily, but in fact we’re underestimating our portion sizes, not counting picking at leftovers, and forgetting about the handful of crisps we nabbed off a mate.”
Official diagnosis? Diet amnesia. Self-confessed subconscious snacker, writer Anna Hart (pictured), 31, faces up to her foodie forgetfulness – and helps you cure it too!
Anna’s food diary
I think I’m good food-wise, but have some fitting-into-my-clothes issues. So I challenged myself to write down everything I eat for a whole week:
Breakfast is an omelette. Lunch? A Pret Superfood Salad, but I grab an orange juice and a bag of dried fruit as an “afternoon snack”. At 4pm, some Krispy Kreme doughnuts arrive. My colleague cuts them into bite-size quarters and I eat, er, four. But they’re small, so it doesn’t count, right? Dinner is my boyfriend’s curry. Watching TV, I eat a handful of his crisps, smug I didn’t open my own bag.
With a work deadline looming, I’m up at 6am and munch on a bowl of gluten-free muesli at the computer. Then another. By 2.30pm I discover the 500g box is empty and it’s 434 calories per 100g. Wah! Feeling guilty, I have a salad at 3.30pm, with toasted pine nuts, chomping half the 150g bag while making it. Wah again. Dinner is an Innocent veggie pot.
Determined to be better, brekkie is eggs on toast. Lunch is home-made quinoa salad with chicken and a couple of oatcakes. After work, I meet friends for sushi. I drink green tea and skip dessert. But back home, I’m hungry and eat five oatcakes at the kitchen counter.
Brekkie is eggs, but at 11am I have a fat slice of lemon drizzle cake for a colleague’s birthday. It’s a low-cal sandwich for lunch, but by 4pm I’m starving. A Diet Coke just doesn’t cut it, so I eat three Hobnobs. At home, I scoff a muesli bar before going round to a friend’s. I have two White Russians, two glasses of white wine then a huge slice of her takeaway pizza. Oops!
I start with porridge and honey, then lunch is home-made vegetable soup, so I buy a 200g bar of organic chocolate and plan to eat just a few squares. Then work gets stressful and I scoff the lot. After work, I hit a bar. Two wines later, I’m light-headed, so when someone orders chips, I can’t resist. At home, I finish off my boyfriend’s takeaway curry.
Breakfast is mushroom omelette, then I visit my aunt and, even though I don’t fancy anything sweet, I eat two ginger nuts to be polite. Dinner is salmon, veg and potatoes. At night I have five vodka and sodas – they’re practically calorie free.
I’m late to visit my sister, so I buy two cereal bars and a big bag of wine gums on the train. At hers, I eat two slices of toast. I skip dinner, nibbling on carrots, celery and two-thirds of a tub of houmous.
My week in food OMG – there’s a diet devil in me. Writing down what I eat has made me realise I can eat quite mindlessly half the time. I have quite healthy meals, but by snacking and guzzling on booze I’m packing another 500 cals a day. Diet disaster.
- Mum-nesia We know it’s hard to resist those leftover spaghetti hoops and fish fingers on the kids’ plates. The solution? Do the washing-up right away, squirting Fairy Liquid over tempting morsels.
Fix your food memory blanks
You think you’re being “good” by not ordering chips or dessert, then nab someone else’s leftovers. “We’re taught not to waste food,” says Amanda. “Studies show people will even eat stale popcorn at the cinema.” Even out-of-date calories count.
Snack out of it When eating out, order something filling, like Niçoise salad, so you don’t feel entitled to “free food”.
Snacking to make time go faster
“Eating when you’re bored or stressed is a sure-fire way to notch up calories,” says Amanda.
Snack out of it Get wise – a big pack of sweets doesn’t satisfy you any more than a small one. “Buy a 200g bar of chocolate if you can make it last,” says Amanda. “If you only want a few squares, buy a smaller bar.”
I can eat loads if it’s healthy food
“Although they’re healthy, cereal and houmous are calorie dense and a portion size is actually smaller than what we usually eat,” warns Amanda.
Snack out of it Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – and never trust your tum. “Researchers at Cornell University tricked people into eating more than double the amount they thought they had by serving soups from bowls that sneakily refilled from below,” says Amanda. “Your stomach won’t tell you it’s full until it’s too late.” Taking your time allows you to recognise whether you’re still hungry. Download the Piatto Portions Matter app (69p, iTunes) to plan your plateful.
Drinks are OK
We all know smoothies are calorie-packed, but other soft drink options are no angels either. “A 250ml orange juice contains around 100 calories, as does a 330ml can of fizzy drink,” says Amanda. “Drinking one a day could lead to a 20lb weight gain over a year.”
Snack out of it “Eat whole fruit instead. It’s more filling and has fewer cals because your body breaks down the sugar,” says Amanda. “Don’t be fooled by diet drinks either – they don’t overcome sweet cravings.”
If I chomp on the run, I won’t eat as much
“Eating straight from the fridge or standing up is never smart,” says Amanda. “It makes portion control impossible.”
Snack out of it Only ever eat from a plate, and not too quickly.
- Keep a food diary for a week and discover your weak spots – studies show keeping a food diary can double your overall weight loss.*
- Download the My Diet Diary app (free, iTunes) to keep on track.