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dieting

Nutritionists might encourage us to think of food only as fuel and to eat only when we need to, but the truth is that many of us have a very different relationship with food.

Whether you're a foodie who Instagrams every bite, or a serial dieter who categorises every piece of food as "good" or "bad," for most of us food is about so much more than sustaining our body – and not all of us have a good relationship with our eating habits.

If you suspect your attitude to food and eating could be affecting your weight, your health or other aspects of your life, it's important to recognise where the issues lie and to know how best to fix them.

Here are a few signs your relationship with food is not all good, and some simple fixes, too.

1. The sign: Your eating is tied to your emotions
Do you find you mindlessly polish off a chocolate bar without noticing when you're stressed at work? Or that all your good diet intentions go out the window when you arrive home wrecked in the evening? Many of us turn to food in times of boredom, tiredness, frustration, anxiety or stress, and end up using it as a crutch for other, larger issues.

How to change it:
Next time you find yourself reaching for something to eat when you know in your heart you're not hungry, ask yourself what else your body might be craving. If you're tired, anxious or stressed, try some deep breathing exercises, yoga, a short walk in the fresh air or a nap if possible. If all else fails, a cup of tea or even some hot water with lemon will give your hands something to do and should take your mind off thoughts of food.

 

2. The sign: You lie to yourself (or others) about your eating habits
You only opt for a green salad when you're out for lunch, but know you'll spend the evening working your way through everything remotely tasty in the cupboards if there's no one around to see. Once the wrappers are at the bottom of the bin, it's like it never happened, right?

How to change it:
If you feel you're overeating, it's time to face up to what you're consuming every day. Keep a food diary for at least three days, and you should be able to better identify when and why you binge or needlessly snack.

 

3. The sign: You beat yourself up about food "failures"
You're at home, craving a takeaway pizza. An hour later, you're still craving it, so you give in. The next day it's all you can think about and you feel guilty for letting yourself down. If this sounds like you, it's a sure sign you're in the "food is the enemy" camp.

How to change it:
If you find yourself giving into a craving, accept what is happening, savour the food, and move on. One pizza is not going to ruin things – and we bet it's downright tasty.

 

4. The sign: The number on the scales has a huge affect on your mood
When you're a few pounds up, you automatically feel depressed and worthless, but when it's a few pounds down everything is rosy again.

How to change it:
Water weight, the time of day you weight yourself, and what you've just eaten, all have a huge affect on your weight at any given time. Avoid the scales and focus on being a healthier, more energised you by exercising and eating well. Health is not a number.

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After the indulgence of Christmas, your body (and your bank balance) are no doubt worn out.

If you're feeling sluggish, low in energy or just feel your metabolism needs a kickstart, why not try a short-term detox in the New Year?

Rather than going on a crazily restrictive fad diet, a clean-eating detox simply involves eating more of certain foods and less of others. It may be hard to beat certain cravings, but keep in mind that this is only for a week.

Here are our guidelines on how to get started, what to eat and what to cut out. 

If you have any health concerns regarding diet changes, please do consult your GP or a diet professional.

The guidelines

1. Keep things simple: Don't leave yourself in danger of getting overwhelmed with ingredients lists and buying a cheeky oven pizza at the last minute. Each meal should include a portion of whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats – keep that in mind and you'll be good to go.

2. Check your calendar: If you have an event or party to attend, it might be worth re-scheduling your detox week. While in theory it might seem like no problem for you to avoid the buffet or only eat a light salad while out with friends, when faced with the tempation it's a lot harder to resist. Choose a quiet week with no big indulgent events.

3. Eat regularly: A meal timetable and plan will be your best friend this week. By outlining pre-arranged meal and snack times you're less likely to mindlessly nibble away on food without noticing. Eat small and often.

4. Don't panic: Nobody is made of stone and we all get cravings from time to time. Don't punish yourself for falling off the wagon – it's no big deal. If you decide to eat that bag of crisps, savour them and move on.

What to include

  • Non-dairy milks like rice or almond milk
  • Egg whites
  • Non-gluten grains like brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat
  • Fruit and vegetables: Go for non processed, non-sweetened produce. Eat your fruit fresh or blended into smoothies, and eat veg raw, steamed, sauteed lightly, juiced or roasted.
  • Protein sources like fish, lean chicken, lean turkey, lamb, lentils, beans, chickpeas, green peas and edemame
  • Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds
  • Liquids like water, decaf herbal teas or soda water
  • Non-sugar sweeteners such as stevia or agave nectar
  • Oils and condiments like olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, canola oil, vinegar, herbs and spices.

What to avoid

  • All dairy and egg yolks
  • Grains such as wheat, corn, cous-cous and barley
  • Fatty spreads and sauces like butter and mayo
  • Fattier sources of protein like pork, beef, shellfish and soy products such as tofu.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Alcohol, coffee, tea, soft drinks and other caffeinated beverages
  • High-sugar sweeteners like white/brown sugar, honey and maple syrup
  • Sugary sauces and glazes like BBQ, teriyaki, ketchup, relish and chutney
  • Salty and sugary snacks such as crisps, biscuits, chips, chocolate, sweets and cakes
     
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With so many health and fitness plans out there all about listening to your body and ignoring the scales, it's surprising to hear that weighing yourself regularly could actually be beneficial.

A recent study published by the Public Library of Science showed that people who weighed themselves more frequently while dieting appeared to drop more pounds. The study tracked the daily habits of 40 overweight adults who were trying to lose weight, taking note of how many pounds they dropped during the study and how often they stepped on the scales.

Those who checked their weight more often actually slimmed down more than those who left it more than a week to do so.

Of course, stepping on the scales is not going to aid your body's fat-burning capabilities (we wish), but by frequently tracking your weight you are more likely to make healthier choices to keep things in check.

While it might seem like a great idea to check your weight once or even twice a day, it's important to remember that our weight can fluctuate by around 3 – 5 pounds depending on what time of the day we weigh ourselves, where we are in our menstrual cycle, and if we have eaten any high salt foods which can cause water retention.

If you do plan on checking your weight daily, to jump on the scales at the same time every day, so that you have a regular benchmark by which to track your weight changes.

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Christmas food is all about indulgence, but as with every menu, some things are going to be worse for you than others.

If you're watching your waistline this Christmas season, here are a few festive foods to avoid. Of course, it's hard to say no to our favourites at this time of year, but try to stick to smaller portions of these foods where possible.

On the dinner table

Dark turkey meat with skin
Turkey is generally a low-fat and high-protein meat, but stick to skinless white meat as it contains three times less fat than dark meat with the skin. They both contain equal amounts of protein too so you won't be missing out there! 

Cranberry sauce
This essential turkey accompaniment can be relatively healthy if homemade, but canned and pre-made versions can be extremely high in sugar. Make your own by bringing 100ml of orange juice and 100g of light muscovado sugar to a gentle boil in a saucepan and adding 250g cranberries. Stir and allow to simmer until the cranberries are tender and the sauce has thickened (between 5 and 10 minutes depending on whether the berries are frozen or fresh).

Stuffing
Who can resist a generous helping of stuffing with their turkey and ham? Well, if you're dieting, try to have a not-so-indulgent helping this year. Depending on the recipe, stuffing can be packed with sausage meat and butter – not exactly a dieter's dream.

Creamy mashed potato
Mashing your potatoes isn't going to make them instantly higher in fat, but if you're adding mounds of butter or cream then they're definitely something to eat in moderation. A splash of milk, a tiny bit of butter and some salt and pepper is more than enough for delicious mash.

For dessert

Fruit cake
Given the high fruit content this may seem like a better option than other desserts, but fruit cake is extremely dense and is packed with butter and sugar.

Cheesecake
Any cake made with cream cheese is going to have alarm bells, but stick to fruitier, lighter versions rather than chocolate ones for less of a calorific impact.

Yule log
A slice of this can pack in almost half your day's allowance of calories – we're talking heavy cream, chocolate, butter and sugar all in one go. One to avoid, perhaps!

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So the diet's been going well all day, until 3pm hits and all thoughts of healthy eating go out the window. You're in the mood for chocolate and those biscuits in the cupboard are looking mighty tempting.

When you've got a craving, it can be hard to ignore – but you don't necessarily have to eat something high-fat or high-sugar to satisfy it.

Here are a few suggestions of snack ideas to satisy each and every craving type.

1. The sugar craving

What you want: Something sweet. Haribo jellies, cake, whatever – just give me the sugar.

What to snack on: Tangy fruits contain natural sugars which are better for your body than processed and refined ones. Try some fresh pineapple for a real sweet hit, or some low-fat yoghurt with granola and berries. If you want something more substantial, frozen yoghurt is a great low-fat option – just stick to plain rather than flavoured yoghurt and choose healthier toppings like fruit and nuts.

2. The chocolate craving

What you want: Dairy Milk, Galaxy, last year's Easter egg, basically anything containing delicious cocoa. 

What to snack on: A square or two of dark chocolate is far lower in fat and will satisfy you more quickly than milk or white chocolate. Stick to chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. A chocolate covered rice cake only contains around 60 calories so is another great healthy option. If you're after something really moreish, try light chocolate regular milk or soy milk.

3. The salt craving

What you want: McDonalds or a messy Chinese takeaway. MSG please!

What to snack on: Pistachios will still satisfy your salt cravings and they contain more antioxidants than other nuts. Plus, having to crack open a shell each time means you can't mindlessly eat three handfuls without realising. Pita chips and popcorn are other low-fat salty snacks that will get you through the worst of any craving!

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The festive season really is a time of excess and indulgence, and it's easy to let your healthy habits slip.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid over the next few weeks…

1. Assuming all veg is healthy
Yes, vegetables are generally the best choice when filling up your plate, but be aware of how certain dishes have been cooked. Creamed veg or cream-filled soups should be eaten in moderation, and watch out for veggies that have been fried in butter or that have fatty or sugary glazes.

2. Not eating before a party
It might seem like a stellar idea to skip lunch so that you can make up for the lost calories with an extra cocktail, but eating less throughout the day will mean you're far more likely to overeat in the evenings. Mindlessly picking at plates of finger food is a surefire way to ruin all of your hard work. Keep healthy snacks like raw almonds on hand to keep hunger at bay before you head out.

3. Beating yourself up about skipping the gym
Christmas is a busy, busy time and some days it's impossible to fit everything in. If you've had to miss that spinning class or cardio session, it's not the end of the world. If you're finding that a daily hour long gym session is too time-consuming this month, try to fit in smaller exercise sessions – a 15 or 20 minute jog before your morning shower will do you the world of good.

4. Letting every day be a cheat day
You've promised yourself you'll be on top of your diet plan today, and yet your willpower disappears as soon as your co-worker arrives with a box of Roses. Try to save your indulgences for special treats – your mum's mince pies or that cheeky glass of Baileys.

5. Getting the office nibbles
Okay, you've had one biscuit from that Christmas box. Just the one, though. Until you get up to use the printer. Sure, just one more, so. It's easy to overeat on treats without noticing, so be aware of what you're snacking on and try to make healthier choices!

6. Cramming too much activity in
With friends and family to catch up with, your Christmas social diary can become over packed before you know it. Avoid burning yourself out by only saying "yes" to events you really can't miss.

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Let's face it, when given a plate piled high with delicious food, we're going to make pigs of ourselves. But if you're finding that you feel uncomfortable full after every meal, not just the indulgent ones, you may need to reassess your portion control.

Knowing what the right amount of food is for your weight, height and activity level is key if you want to maintain a healthy weight and body.

Here are a few signs that you might be overeating at mealtimes…

1. You feel bloated straight away
If your stomach feels swollen and bloated immediately after eating, it's a sure sign that your body is struggling with the amount of food you've just eaten. This is fine every once in a while, but it shouldn't be happening after every meal.

2. You're satisifed… but you keep eating
If you find yourself picking at leftovers even after you've put your fork down and pushed your plate away, you're probably on the way to overeating without realising. Experts recommend that we stop eating when we feel around 80% full, to ensure we stay satisfied but not stuffed.

3. You stop enjoying the food
The first few mouthfuls of a meal are generally the ones we enjoy the most – after that, it can become automatic. Try to focus on each bite you take, and when you stop fully enjoying each one, put your fork down.

4. You need a physical break during the meal
If you're eating so fast that you need to stop for a breather halfway through, it's a sign that your body's well on the way to being full. Next time you take a break, spend a moment assessing whether you really need or want to eat any more. You may find that's the perfect moment to push your plate away, rather than leaving it in front of you and mindlessly eating until it's wiped clean.

5. You're going back for seconds
Sometimes seconds (and thirds) are just too much to resist, but again it shouldn't happen at every meal. If you really don't feel satisfied, by all means eat another helping, but try to restrict yourself to vegetables or healthy sides this time around.

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Ever notice that if you try to recreate a restaurant dish at home, the results are never quite as tasty? It's probably because you're putting in normal amounts of salt, butter, sugar and other ingredients, rather then loading them up for flavour.

Even the healthiest of restaurants have certain items that are going to wreak havoc with your diet. The basic rule of thumb when dining out on a diet is to look for large servings of protein like chicken or fish, prepared in a healthy manner. For sides, opt for crunchy vegetable-based dishes rather than white carbs like bread and chips.

As well as that though, there are certain words and phrases that should trigger alarm bells when choosing a healthy meal. Watch out for the following buzzwords next time you're dining out!

1. "Creamy"
What's the best way to make a soup or sauce creamy? You've guessed it – by adding cream or milk. Diet disaster. Even vegan substitutes like coconut milk and cashew milk are high in fat, so be aware when ordering.

2. "Vegan"
Certain vegan and vegetarian foods like quorn and tofu are often used as meat substitutes. As they are naturally lower in fat and sodium than things like red meat or chicken, chefs will have to add in salt and other products to boost flavour. So if that seitan tastes AMAZING compared to when you tried it at home, there's your answer!

3. "Organic" and "locally sourced"
Yes, organic foods are not genetically modified, but they are still the same basic foods. The same goes for locally sourced products. That asparagus spear might contain more nutrients as it's been grown just down the road rather than being flown across the globe, but if it's been pan fried in butter and coated in salt before reaching your plate, it's still going to contain the same amount of fat.

4. "Pan-fried" or "skillet-fried"
The bad news – fried means fried, no matter what type of container it's in!

5. "Gluten-free"
If you're coeliac or have an intolerance to gluten, obviously this is by far the healthiest menu choice for you to keep your digestive system working smoothly. But if you're choosing a gluten-free dish to avoid carbs, beware. Gluten-free foods like rice still pack in a fair amount of carbohydrates.

6. "Low-fat" or "fat-free"
Manufacturers have to add something to ensure your fat-free food still tastes good. More often then not, it's sugar. Be aware that many "high-fat" foods like avocado and olive oil actually contain healthy sources of fat so are not to be avoided.

7. "Glazed," "Sticky" and "Honey dipped"
Yes, honey or maple syrup might seem like a better option than refined sugar, but it's still going to pack a calorific punch. When it comes to glazes like teriyaki or BBQ, it's best to ask your waiter what the sauce is actually made from.

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Now, this is news we like to hear on a gloomy Monday morning.

Food giant Nestlé reportedly has plans to create a drink or pill that recreate the fat-burning effects of exercise.

Scientists at the company's Swiss HQ say they have found a way to potentially mimic the actions of an enzyme in charge of regulating our body's metabolism. 

Nestlé's ultimate goal is to create a product that could help to burn fat without exercise, especially for people with limited mobility, diabetes or obesity. 

The enzyme in question, called AMPK, is like a "master switch" that boosts metabolism and burns fat when our body is low on energy, according to Professor Kei Sakamoto. AMPK is usually activated by exercise, but research has shown that there ways to activate it artificially.

So could it be a replacement for that dreaded Abs Burn class? Not quite – although the enzyme would help to burn fat, it won't tone muscles or give that great endorphin high that only comes after physical exertion.

"Exercise has so many different effects – a cognitive role and physiological function – we'll never be able to mimic all those effects in a single product," says Professor Sakamoto.

All the same, we wouldn't say no to a wonder drink next time the alarm goes off for that 6am spinning class!

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What do half a spoon of peanut butter, a miniscule slice of apple pie and 41g of Cadbury's Creme Eggs have in common? They all contain 200 calories.

If you're watching your weight, you're probably well used to checking the back of wrappers for nutritional information. But if you're eating unpackaged food, making something from scratch or just aren't mathematically minded, it can be difficult to figure our just how many calories you're consuming per portion.

A new app called Calorific aims to simplify healthy eating by showing you just how much food you need to eat to take in 200 calories. While it doesn't specify how food is cooked (eg. fried egg versus scrambled egg), it does give you a pretty solid idea of how much food is too much when you're counting calories.

So you'll now just how much cheddar to put in your lunchtime sandwich, or how many restaurant breadsticks are enough:

And next time you're making a bacon sarnie, you can keep these pictures in mind:

The apps creator, Aterm Petakov, says Calorific will hopefully re-educate people about the food they're consuming. "The truth is, most people eat junk and know that it's junk," he said. "What they need is a way to be held accountable for those choices and change them over time."

Sounds good to us!

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Actress Hilary Duff has opened up about the pressure she felt as a teen to stay thin, and her obsessive battle with her weight.

The former Disney star revealed she was "way too skinny" in the early days of her career.

"When I was 17, I weighed, like, 98 pounds," she admitted to Health magazine. "I was totally obsessed with everything I put in my mouth."

The actress also confessed that her strict diet eventually caused her health to suffer in different ways. "My body wasn't that healthy—my hands would cramp up a lot because I wasn't getting the nutrition I needed."

Hilary has dealt with her teenage body image struggles in previous interviews, saying she resorted to living on steamed veg and grilled chicken to stay thin enough for the cameras. 

The 27-year-old says she wishes she hadn't focused so much on her looks and weight, and had just been content with her body as it was. "That constant pressure of wanting something different than I had? I regret that," she admitted.

Despite her more positive outlook on weight and health these days, the Lizzie McGuire star says that she is still affected by media pressure, especially since becoming a mum to son Luca in 2012. "Everyone was so hard on me because it took me a year and a half to get my body back," she revealed. 

"The second I had Luca, I went to go get my hair blown out at the salon… Then they're like, 'Hilary Debuts Her Post-Baby Body!' I was like, I'm not debuting s**t right now. I'm just going on an errand run! There is way too much pressure on women these days."

Like many women, Hilary admitted she still struggles with those stubborn few pounds. "I feel like I'm always in a 5-pound battle, because being 5 feet 2, everything is going to show on me," she said.

Glad to hear we aren't the only ones with body woes sometimes – it's great to hear a celeb being honest for once!

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If you're trying to drop a few pounds, cutting out sugar where possible is key. A low-sugar diet is generally more nutritious and will leave you feeling fuller for longer.

Even though you might be cutting down on fizzy drinks or chocolate, sugar can still creep up on you in smaller ways – in baked goods, breads, flavoured coffees or juices.

Here are some natural substitutes that make great alternatives…

1. Agave nectar
This plant nectar is becoming more widely available in supermarkets and health shops. It has a similar taste to honey and can be used in baking in place of sugar, or to add sweetness to hot drinks.

2. Honey
Honey is a far healthier alternative to plain sugar, and it has some great nutritional properties too – it aids in digestive function and can help ease a sore throat. 

3. Lemon
Rather than mixing your drinks with sugary cordial or fizzy drinks, use slimline tonic or soda with a slice of lemon or lime. A crisp, fresh taste that is far lower in calories! 

4. Cranberries
Tart fruits like cranberries are great for adding sweetness to cakes, scones and bread without the addition of granulated sugar. They're full of immune-boosting antioxidants too.

5. Stevia
This concentrated sugar substitute comes from the South American stevia plant. It's granules have 150 times the sweetness of sugar, so a tiny amount is all that's needed for sweetening coffee, tea or juices. Many drinks companies are copping on to the benefits of stevia – it's one of the key ingredients in the new Coca-Cola Life drink, which is meant to be a healthier alternative to the regular Coke.

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