How to lose weight... unsuccessfully

I've just googled 'how to lose weight quickly'; it makes me want to add that little monkey face emoji with its eyes covered! If, like me, you've ever done this, you'd be forgiven for feeling completely confused and thinking this could be the most complex project you've ever undertaken.

The weight loss and diet industry is one of the largest grossing industries in the world and the average woman will spend over £25,000 over the course of her lifetime trying to lose weight. With such a price ticket, it's even sadder to note that the average dieter 10 years on weighs more than they did BEFORE they dieted. So, what's going wrong? How is it possible that we can spend so much money on these solutions and yet find them so unsuccessful in the long term?

Now, I'm not proclaiming to know the answer to this, but in my humble opinion I believe our 'have it now' culture is the reason so many of us are so UNsuccessful at losing weight. We expect everything to happen immediately and when it doesn't we're disappointed and we quickly give up. From our shopping arriving the same day we've ordered it to being able to download the full boxset of a TV series before it's even aired, we're a society that has come to expect results now.

Not surprisingly, it's for this reason, we're drawn to such proclamations as 30 days, just 15 minutes, prepared for you... As we fill our days with more work, more 'relaxation' and ultimately more sitting, we're actually ignoring the most successful strategies because they don't sound sexy, they require more effort and - perhaps most importantly - they don't produce instant results.

So, if you want to drop some body weight in the short term - perhaps for a holiday - but aren't bothered about actual fat loss or the longevity of your success, here's how to do it...

1. Get into Ketosis

If you've heard of the Atkins, South Beach or Keto diet then you've heard of the theory that carbs make you gain weight - not excess calories - and therefore it's carbs which are making us fat.

The fact is that you can lose fat on a low carb, high fat diet however the reason for the fat loss is not because you have put your body into ketosis but because you aren't consuming carbs (usually the biggest portion on your plate and the go-to snack choice for those of us living in the modern western world) and therefore you are now in a calorie deficit.

Make no mistake, if you eat more calories than you need, you will gain weight whether you have found the magic ketosis or not. And this is where people tend to go wrong; ideas such as large fry-ups, food cooked in lashings of coconut oil and adding butter to your coffee will gradually add those calories back into your diet and you will gain weight.

fried brekkie

The Keto brigade are quite a large voice in the diet world though and, as with anything we've had personal success with, confirmation bias will ensure that anyone who's 'lost weight' on this diet will assure you that there's no other way to do things. You can even drop half a stone in your first week on the diet! Yes, actually you can! However, don't be fooled into thinking that's fat - it's impossible to metabolise 7lbs of fat that fast - rather it's fluid; now you are no longer consuming carbs, you're also no longer converting those carbs to glycogen. For every gram of glycogen stored in your body, you store 3-4g of water. Quite easy to drop 7lbs then? Useful if you need to make weight for a sport, but largely pointless if fat loss is your goal.

If you're still unsure whether you want to keep those pesky carbohydrates in your diet, because Bob who posts on the internet a lot has told you they'll make you fat, check out this recent clinical trial conducted by DIETFITS - the researchers who hypothesised that our bodies' response to carbs is what makes us fat - which concluded that there was 'no significant difference in weight change between a healthy low-fat diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate diet.'

If you enjoy a low carb diet then by all means go for it, but JUST cutting the carbs whilst still consuming too many calories overall will lead to unsuccessful fat loss!

2. Just fast for 2 days then eat what you like

The 5:2 diet made fasting a popular option amongst dieters and there are many ways of organising your fasting hours. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with fasting and it can have additional health benefits past that of potential fat loss. In fact, there are many people - shift workers in particular - who find that fasting works well as a way of controlling the amount of calories they consume in a day.


What doesn't work however is the second part of this - eat what you want on non-fast days. People will often find initial success with the 5:2 diet but, just like those who add in a 'cheat day' every week, the calories can very easily creep up when you choose to pay no attention to what you're eating.

Fat loss is as much a psychological effort as it is a physical one and we are all susceptible to the feeling that we deserve to 'treat ourselves' if we haven't eaten for a while or have felt recently deprived. If you are someone (like me) who finds food enjoyable, who lives for their next meal, and who quite happily would spend the entire day grazing on delicious snacks without ever really feeling like you've filled yourself and then treating yourself to a night of pizza and G&Ts, then this is why your fasting diet or extreme low calorie diet with 'cheat days' isn't working for you.

Two day fasts can work but you HAVE to keep track of what you're eating on the other 5 days of the week. Otherwise before you know it, that 3,000 calorie deficit you created at the start of the week, has now been replaced by that fun night out and drinks with your friends! And remember, we already established that it's calories that count!

3. Remove gluten from your diet

I have friends with celiac disease; they can quite literally die from eating gluten. It's a horrendous disease which makes life hard. What to the rest of us is an enjoyable night out at a restaurant can become a full-scale investigation into the foods which are safe to eat, not to mention an exercise in trust that the waiting staff know what they're talking about and you're not going to be suffering a short while later... and that's just a scratch on the surface of what it's like to live with it.

There are other reasons why a very small number of people may need to restrict gluten from their diet, but fat loss is not one of them. In fact the 'gluten-free' products now widely available in our supermarket aisles such as bread, biscuits and bars very often contain more sugar, fat and overall calories than their gluten-filled counterparts.

Occasionally, gluten-free diets are also held up as a healthy alternative to the way we currently eat. Again, this is not the case; removing any food group from your diet when you have no need to is in no way 'healthy'. When you remove gluten, you're also taking away all the fibre, nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are provided within it.

If you do think you may have be sensitive to gluten, for whatever reason, you should see a registered Dietician or ask your GP to refer you for tests. Celiac disease is extremely serious and those who have not been diagnosed properly often have other undiagnosed symptoms which simply removing gluten from the diet will not rectify. And remember, removing any food group from your diet will not magically lead to weight loss -it's the good old calorie deficit that does that - and worse still, it may leave you with nutrient deficiencies.

Cutting gluten from your diet will not automatically lead to successful fat loss; however consuming less calories than you use in a day will and you can certainly eat gluten to achieve that.


How to lose weight successfully

Unless you've just scanned down the page to this part, then you will know that I've already given you the answer to this. All together now...


Start small. track what you're eating now then cut 100-200 calories from it. This could be as little as a pint of beer each day or that Costa chocolate croissant.

Don't be lured by the myriad of gurus, potions and fixes promising you the latest fad or quick fix. Unfortunately, we just have to accept that if it took you 2 years to put that weight on, it's not coming off in 3 months... How could it?

Plus, quick fixes don't work in the long term. After all, it may be possible to lose a significant amount of weight in 3 months by only eating lettuce but the question you have to ask yourself is 'can I live like that for the rest of my life?'; if the answer is no, what will you do? Because as soon as you start eating 'normally' again, that weight you lost will go straight back on and the only way you'll know to get it off again will be to go back to the lettuce. Sound like fun?

calorie deficit

Instead, change your lifestyle, one small step at a time. Literally. Walk a little more every day; join a gym; take up swimming; find an exercise class; use the stairs; cut out those mid week glasses of red; reduce the chocolate; swap the croissants; cut the sugar from your tea...

All of these things will lead to fat loss if you keep doing them, build on them and make them a part of your life, for the rest of your life.

Trying to lose weight but aren't sure why things aren't going to plan? Are making one of these common mistakes?