10 things you didn't know were making you fat
Theres nothing more frustrating than dieting like a demon only to find that the scales show your weights going up not down. But there are hidden reasons why your diet could be failing, as Helen Foster reveals
Low vitamin intake
Women who supplement their diet with extra vitamins have lower appetites than those who don't, according to researchers at Laval University in Canada. Exactly why this happens isn't known, but nutritionist Lorraine Perretta says, "It's likely that if your body feels it's low in essential nutrients, it will make you keep eating until it gets them."
The solution: Add a general multivitamin to your diet as an insurance policy - or for a more in-depth analysis of your nutritional needs, visit www.advancednutritionprogramme.com for various tests that could determine what sort of vitamin intake you might be lacking. This may well be the B vitamins - 700mg taken once a day, with food, will help to increase fat-burning and lower your stress levels. Why not try Boots Vitamin B Complex, £2.49 for 30 tablets, from Boots stores?
Read: 'Which supplements to take - and why'
If your best friend gains weight, you are 57% more likely to do the same, say researchers at Harvard University in the US. This happens because you look to your friends to determine acceptable behaviour - if they're having second helpings or ordering dessert, you will too!
The solution: Include your friend in your weight-loss regime by suggesting non-food based outings or by exercising together - researchers say that weight loss is just as likely to be affected by buddy behaviour. If your friend's not keen, do some damage control - order first at restaurants so you won't get swayed by what she's having. "And if all else fails, fib," says Marisa Peer, author of 'You Can Be Thin: The Ultimate Programme To End Dieting... Forever' (Sphere, £9.99). Tell your friend that you think sugar and wheat are causing you to have headaches so you've decided to give them up for a while - or say you've got heartburn at the moment so you're eating smaller meals. They won't try to dissuade you if you say you're cutting back for health reasons.
Find a diet buddy on the Diet & Healthy Eating forum
If you've been eating a daily bowl of Rice Krispies since you were a child, you might be shocked to discover that each 28g serving now contains 10 calories more than it did 25 years ago - enough to trigger a 1lb weight gain every year. And that's not all - today, Dairylea triangles have 15 more calories per 100g than in 2001, while 100g of Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream has 40 more calories than it contained in the 1990s.
The solution:"Even if you eat a food regularly, check the calories before you serve, particularly if it's been recently reformulated," says Neville Rigby at the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "A lot of companies are removing salt from food but then adding more fat or sugar to boost the taste."
Around 10% of UK tap water is fluoridated, which is good news for teeth, but not for waistlines. According to Mary J Shomon, author of 'The Thyroid Diet: Managing Your Metabolism For Lasting Weight Loss' (Harper Collins, £12.99), "Fluoride prevents your body from absorbing iodine, which you need for good thyroid health. If your thyroid is sluggish, your metabolism will be too - and you will gain weight."
The solution: Visit www.dwi.gov.uk/consumer/concerns/fluoride.shtm to find out if you live in a fluoridated area. If you do, switch to mineral water for six weeks and see if this has any effect on your weight.
Your mobile phone
Professor Bengt Arnetz at Wayne State University, Michigan, discovered that using a mobile phone before bedtime appeared to cause insomnia. "We think signals emitted by the phone actually stimulate the brain, making sleep harder to achieve, or more superficial," he says. And insomnia is bad news for dieters. Women who sleep for five hours or less a night are 32 per cent more likely to gain weight than those getting seven hours of rest, possibly because feeling tired makes you turn to sugar for an energy boost.
The solution: Simply stay off your mobile phone for at least an hour before bed - switch to a landline instead.
These seem like a slimming miracle, but according to research by Dr Ravi Dhingra at Harvard Medical School, drinking just one diet soft drink a day will increase your risk of becoming obese by a staggering 31 per cent. A study published in 2008 by the Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, showed that when you consume artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin or aspartame, your body prepares for a large intake of calories. When this doesn't arrive, your body either demands that food by making you feel hungry, or it burns fewer calories.
The solution: Swap diet drinks for naturally low-calorie alternatives such as water, green or herbal tea and black coffee. Ideally, avoid all foods containing artificial sweeteners in order to help reset your body's satiety systems.
Your liver is the major fat-burning organ in your body, but if it's overloaded with toxins such as alcohol or pollutants it's too busy handling these to process fat effectively and so weight stays in place - or even goes up. According to Dr Sandra Cabot, author of 'The Liver Cleansing Diet' (Women's Health Advisory Service, £12.99), up to 15% of us have a sluggish liver that contributes to weight gain.
The solution: Dr Cabot suggests cutting down on liver stressors like alcohol and saturated fat and taking a daily liver-cleansing combination of milk thistle (try Boots Milk Thistle Tincture, £5.99 for 50ml) and lipotropic factors. For a blend of amino acids that actually help remove fat from the liver, try Solgar Lipotropic Factors, £9.45 for 50 tablets.
Try: the nine-day liver detox plan
Over the last 30 years the size of the average dinner plate has increased from 23cm (9in) to 33cm (13in), which means portion sizes have gone up accordingly. "Most of us have actually forgotten what a normal portion looks like," says Scottish nutritionist Fiona Kirk (www.fionakirk.com).
The solution: Fiona recommends sticking to carb or protein portions no bigger than your fist and filling the rest of your plate with fruit or vegetables. Alternatively, you could try the Diet Plate, which takes all the guesswork out of portion sizes by marking them out, £17.02 plus p&p from www.thedietplate.com. They say that you can lose 1-4lb a week just by swapping it for your regular dinner plate.
No, not the ones that make you queasy, but the natural bacteria that live in your digestive system. Scientist Peter Turnbaugh at the Washington University School of Medicine looked at two types of bacteria found in the gut: bacteroidetes and firmicutes. He discovered that obese people had a higher proportion of firmicutes, and that when they were put on a diet, the proportion of firmicutes decreased and the bacteroidetes increased, in line with their loss of body fat.
The solution: While nothing so far has yet been found to specifically boost bacteroidete levels, increasing general gut bacteria levels will also raise the numbers of carb busters. The best way is to increase your intake of prebiotic foods that fuel healthy bacteria levels - these include leeks, onions, garlic and bananas - and avoid antibiotics, which can kill them. You could also take a daily probiotic drink such as Danone Actimel Original drinking yoghurts, £2.48 for eight, which contain L.casei Imunitass.
Researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands found that people who think positively when they begin a diet are more likely to shed pounds than those starting with doubts. Vitality coach Alyssa Abbey, (www.livewithenergy.com) and the author of 'Stop Making Excuses And Start Living With Energy' (Capstone, £10.99) agrees: "If your brain thinks you're doing something that will make you miserable, it will attempt to put a stop to it." So you'll notice every cream cake you walk past!
The solution: Alyssa suggests focusing on why you want to lose weight and telling yourself you can do it. You may stop noticing the bakery and see the new gym next to it. It also helps to list your weight goals on a card. "I tell my clients to do this and to always check the card before they do something that tests their willpower," says Valerie Waters, personal trainer to Hollywood stars like Jennifer Garner. "It just keeps you more focused."