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dieting

Actress Amanda Seyfried fits the Hollywood norm – she’s a tall, slim blonde with a stunning face and great style. But she recently opened up about the struggles she faced – and still faces – to stay thin enough to satisfy movie bosses.

“Fun fact: I almost lost out on several roles in my career because I was overweight. Wrong, America,” wrote the 28-year-old on Twitter earlier this month. While it’s clear to see that the Mamma Mia star is nowhere near overweight, it’s sadly not a shock to hear that she, or any actress, was turned down for a role because they weren’t rake thin.

Hollywood’s ideals of beauty are something that not only affect the elite big screen names. The pressure to fit into a certain slim and “beautiful” mould is something that has filtered through to everyone else, too.

Each time we open a magazine or turn on the TV we are greeted with images of bodies that are so far removed from what is actually normal that we constantly feel inferior and as if we can never compete. Stars like Lena Dunham and Christina Hendricks are celebrated for having curves – but they are simply the exception to the rule that being thin is the aim of the game. This Victoria's Secret ad caused huge controversy recently for suggesting that the "perfect body" could only belong to a size zero lingerie model:

Another huge misconception we need to deal with is the belief that not only are all those Hollywood stars thin, but that it takes no effort whatsoever for them. It’s just the product of good genes, not the result of a hugely restrictive diet and an exhausting exercise regime.

Amanda has spoken openly about what it takes to keep her figure red carpet worthy – but she seems to be one of few. In a 2010 interview, the star said she felt overwhelming pressure to stay slim.

“If I didn't run and work out, there's no way I would be this thin," she said to Glamour magazine. "But I have to stay in shape because I'm an actress. It's f**ked up and it's twisted, but I wouldn't get the roles otherwise.”

In another interview that same year with Esquire, the actress admitted her diet for Les Miserables was “intense” and “awful,” adding that her lunch that day had consisted of “Spinach. Just spinach. Spinach and some seeds."

While it’s great to hear someone speaking honestly about the pressures of being in the media spotlight, it’s sad that the issues are generally brushed under the carpet by others. There’s no shame in going to the gym, or denying yourself that bar of chocolate. However many celebrities prefer to pretend their incredible bodies are down to a combination of fast metabolisms and good luck, as if by being famous they suddenly become blessed with the power to stay effortlessly toned and lean.

Society’s view of what is beautiful might change someday, but it won’t be any time soon. In the meantime it would be great if there was at least some more honesty out there – so that the rest of us know we’re not the only ones who worry every so often about what we see in the mirror.

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Be it McDonald's, Abrakebabra or the local chipper, there's no denying that our cravings for greasy food intensify by approximately 150% when we are drunk.

Much as it might be immensely satisfying at the time, eating fatty, greasy food will only increase the likelihood that you'll be dying tomorrow. Your liver will be so busy breaking down all that fat that it won't be able to work on cleansing your body of alcohol. The result? You'll not only be dehydrated from consuming excess salt, but you'll also have a killer of a hangover.

If you're hitting the town tonight, try these food swaps to keep you satisfied without the pain tomorrow! And don't worry, we haven't included anything EXCESSIVELY healthy. No-one expects you to start knocking back shots of wheatgrass when you're drunk – save those for tomorrow!

1. If you're craving… a burger

Try…
A grilled chicken sandwich or peanut butter on toast. 

Why?
Too much fat is bad for your digestion and will leave you bloated tafterwards. Toast or a light sandwich still contains some fat, but the protein you'll get from chicken or peanut butter will do your body far more good than a greasy burger.

2. If you're craving… pizza

Try…
A veggie panini or grilled cheese on toast.

Why?
The main problem with pizza is not the dough, it's the huge amounts of cheese and greasy toppings like pepperoni (nom). Cut down on fat and calories by swapping pizza for a sandwich with lighter toppings. If you're really in the mood for cheese, melt some cheddar on toast at home – that way, you're in charge of the portion control AND you can eat it in your PJs while dancing to Taylor Swift in the living room.

3. If you're craving… chips

Try… 
Light crisps or pita chips with a dip like hummus

Why?
You'll still get some salty, tasty goodness of chips but without the excess grease. Plus hummus is full of protein and will leave you feeling fuller for longer.

4. If you're craving… chocolate and biscuits

Try… 
Fruit like cherries, oranges or bananas

Why?
Fruit still gives you a sugar hit from fruit but without the guilt tomorrow. Cherries are reportedly great for easing pain – we'll try anything to help with that Sunday morning hangover. Oranges and other citrus fruits are hugely hydrating, while bananas will replenish the potassium that alcohol can deplete.

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Some days work is just too hectic to make proper time for lunch, and the only option is to inhale  a ready-made sandwich at your desk while trying to get other tasks done.

However a new study discovered that eating meals away from home on a regular basis could contribute to weight gain, loss of nutrients and higher cholesterol.

Researchers focused on over 8,000 participants in the UK during the course of five years and discovered that where we eat our meals has just as much impact as what we are actually eating.

"We found participants who ate six or more meals a week away from home had a higher body mass index and lower concentrations of high-density lipoprotein – a molecule that removes excess cholesterol from the blood," said Ashima Kant, the leader of the study. 

She noted that the results did not just relate to those who ate fast food but also those who ate healthy pre-prepared choices.

According to recent figures, almost one third of Irish women are overweight, and over one quarter are obese.

While it can be impossible to eat fresh, homemade food at your kitchen table for every meal, perhaps the key here is to at least try to eat breakfast and dinner at home if nothing else!

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A new study has found that crash diets may actually be one of the most effective ways to lose weight.

Researchers recently carried out a study on 200 obese adults in Australia, dividing them up into two groups. The first group were put on a rapid weight loss scheme, or ‘crash diet’, where their calorie intake was dramatically cut over the course of 12 weeks.

Their counterparts were then placed on a different diet, one which saw their calorie intake slowly reduced over a 36-week period, and which went by the national health authority’s guidelines for healthy weight loss.

The findings of the study proved quite surprising, with researchers discovering that the first group – the one that undertook the ‘crash diet’ approach – were actually more likely to hit their targets and maintain their desired weight than the other group.

To get right down to the statistics, 81 percent of the ‘crash dieters’ hit their target weight which, in comparison to only 50 percent of the gradual dieters, is a huge difference.

We know what you’re saying now, though – we bet the crash dieters put all that weight right back on again straight away.

Well, you would be wrong! When the researchers checked up on all 200 subjects three years later, they discovered that both groups had gained around 71 percent of the weight they had initially lost.

Given how we have always been advised that losing weight slowly, over a prolonged period of time is the best method, this new study definitely provides food for thought.

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If you find that you’re still starving no matter how much you've just eaten, it could be the food itself that is the problem. Your body needs fuel to function properly, and making wise choices can be the key to overcoming those after-dinner cravings.

Take note of these five foods that will only leave you feeling hungrier…

1. White bread
Still hungry after that lunchtime sandwich? Your choice of bread could be the problem. White flour is made by removing the most substantial part of the grain, meaning you’re not getting the filling fibre content that whole grain breads have. Swap your ciabatta for some brown soda or rye bread and you’ll notice you feel far more satisfied.

2. Crisps and other salty snacks
Next time you reach for that bag of Tayto to curb those hunger pangs, think twice. The simple carbs in crisps and pretzels are broken down easily by your body, meaning you’ll be hungry again before you know it. The high salt content can also lead your brain to crave something sweet afterwards, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the chocolate.

3. Sushi rolls
Sushi might seem like a healthy meal choice due to the presence of raw fish and veg – but be careful what variety you go for if you’re not going to be eating anything else. Many sushi rolls contain mainly sweetened white rice with only a small amount of filling. Once your body has broken down the rice you’ll start to feel hungry again. Try brown rice sushi rolls instead, or skip the carbs entirely and go for sashimi which is just thinly sliced raw fish.

4. Diet drinks and artificial sweeteners
When you sip a Coke Zero or put some Splenda into your coffee, you might be skipping on sugar but you’re just confusing your brain into thinking it’s about to get an energy-filled calorie hit. For this reason, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can actually trigger sugar cravings.

5. Sugary breakfast cereals
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so plan it wisely. Rather than reaching for sugary cereals that are bursting with simple carbs, go for a whole grain option that will fill you up for longer.

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