• Dr Sally Norton


It's a classic dieting downfall. We set ourselves up for failure when we opt for the standard dieting approach.

We start off, full of hope that this time will be different, but within a few days the biscuit tin is beckoning and we have slipped up on our new regime. We then think 'what the hell - may as well have the whole packet of biscuits now... and that chocolate bar has been calling to me all week... and now that I've really blown my diet I'll just grab a big takeaway for dinner and then start again next Monday.' Before you know it you have eaten more calories in your post-diet blow out than you saved by the few days of dieting in the first place. No wonder our weight is more likely to go up, rather than down, when we go for that dieting approach.

So, we need to ditch that all-or-nothing mentality... here's how.

Don't set yourself up for it in the first place

1. Starting a new regime from a position of negativity (I'm feeling fat and unhealthy - I must lose that weight), is bound to fail - you need a positive mindset to make healthier choices. So prepare yourself by spending a week or so ditching the junk in favour of nutrient-rich food, get plenty of sleep and get out in the fresh air for some brisk walks. Then your mind will be in a better state to help you.

2. Set your goals low, not high. Don't aim for a crazy diet, that you know will be a struggle to keep to or an unrealistic amount of weight-loss. Instead, choose a healthy but filling eating plan that you can keep up without feeling hungry and deprived and aim for a gentle amount of weight loss, 1-2lbs a week. It's better to reach your goal more slowly than never to reach it at all!!

3. Don't let weight be your only goal. If all you are aiming for is weight loss, then the second you slip up on the 'diet' you will feel a failure. Give yourself more varied goals. Aim to be more toned, fitter, generally healthier too - then even if you slip up on the eating front you know you haven't 'failed' completely as you've still managed a brisk walk, or had your '5-a-day'.

4. Remember that willpower is doomed to failure - it lets us down when we are tired, stressed and hungry. So, don't try to fight it. Instead of a new 'diet' that needs willpower to keep to, just make one or two small changes that, if repeated, will become habits and therefore subconscious, requiring no willpower. Then, make a few more.

And if you do slip up

1. Ignore it. No-one, however slim they are, behaves like an angel all the time. Why think you are any different?! Adopt the 80:20 rule - if you aim to eat healthier for 80% of the time, then you can easily allow yourself a bit of 20% leeway. Once you know it isn't a sin, you can carry on with your 80% without feeling like a failure.

2. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can, often struggling against work deadlines, sleepless nights, maybe juggling kids - you're not wonderwoman. Losing weight is just one part of a busy life - don't let it become an obsession. If today is too hard, just cut yourself a bit of slack, relax a little on the regime and pick it up again tomorrow. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare - the tortoise wins in the end.

3. Learn from it. There will be a reason why you 'slipped up'. What was it? As any yo-yo dieter will tell you, these slip-ups just keep on happening. So spend some time working out what went wrong, and why. If you want to escape the misery of yo-yo-dieting, you have to understand why you are overeating and address that instead. So, don't see a slip-up as a failure, see it as an learning opportunity that takes you one step closer to ditching the dieting mentality for good.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off for good, the all-or-nothing approach just won't work.