The top five excuses for not eating healthily – and how to overcome them

As a health and wellness coach Joanne Henson spends a lot of time listening to people talk about their health, fitness and weight loss goals, and about why they are struggling to achieve them. Joanne has found that the same excuses come up over and over again, and as a result her focus as a coach is generally on analysing what’s behind the excuses, gently challenging them, and then helping clients to overcome them with some creative thinking and an open mind.

Joanne is author of ‘What’s your excuse for not eating healthily’ and here are the top five most common excuses for not eating healthily, plus some suggestions on how to start thinking differently and put the excuses behind you:

1. Healthy food is boring 

Most people think cottage cheese (particularly the low fat version), rice cakes and low calorie ready meals are healthy foods. But they aren’t. They are more processed than the normal versions, have less flavour and have more sugar, artificial flavourings and sometimes salt – none of which is heathy. 

If you find a food boring, don’t eat it. Look around your supermarket and try something new and natural – fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses and lean proteins. Buy a healthy cookbook. Healthy food can be tasty, varied and satisfying if you look beyond the usual (not healthy) suspects. 

2. I don’t have time to prepare healthy food 

Food is advertised as “Ready in a few minutes”, “For snacking on the go”. The implication is that we are all too busy to prepare and sit down to eat real food. 

Stop believing this and write down how you spend a typical day – getting up, showering, working, drinks after work, watching TV, checking Facebook and Twitter, chatting, painting your nails, gaming…..? What activity could you remove or reduce to make time to prepare real food? 

And healthy food can be quick; you could do a stir fry, make an omelette, assemble a salad, grill or pan fry some meat or scramble some eggs – and it won’t take you any longer watching a ready meal rotating in a microwave or fetching a takeaway. 

3. I can’t stick to diets 

Being on a diet will always be hard. You’re following a set of rules devised by someone who doesn’t understand your lifestyle, you’re restricting your food intake and you’re going without foods you love. That’s never going to feel great. 

Diets are not the same as healthy eating. Diets are restrictive, and when something is declared off limits, guess what? You can’t stop thinking about it. 

In contrast, healthy eating is about improving the quality of your food, rather than reducing the quantity. It’s about nurturing your body not punishing it. Eating well improves the way your body functions and changes the way it stores or burns fat, so if you do have excess weight to lose, you will lose it. 

4. I’m eating out 

Do you see eating out as a break from “normal” eating? It’s not. Your body doesn’t process the food eaten in restaurants any differently to the food you eat at home. 

So whilst you might not want to abstain totally, you don’t have to have everything you like. You don’t have to have several pieces of bread from the bread basket, you don’t have to choose three unhealthy courses, you don’t have to order a side dish of fries to accompany your main course, you don’t have to steal fries off your partner’s plate, you don’t have to eat everything on your plate(s) despite being full. 

Instead, try reaching a compromise with yourself. If you want a burger, have it without the bun, ask for salad instead of fries, or share a portion of fries. If you want a dessert, don’t have a starter. If you want a stodgy main course have a salad for starter. Make some healthy choices to give yourself permission to enjoy an unhealthy one. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. 

5. I just can’t resist… 

Many salty and sugary foods are purposely formulated to be moreish. The problem isn’t you, it’s the food. Don’t be duped into feeling you’re powerless to resist! 

Remember you only need to resist something if it’s there to be resisted. So whilst you shouldn’t attempt to give up your favourite food totally, neither should you keep it around at all times. Make it an occasional treat rather than a constant temptation. And when you do have it, really savour it, without a side order of guilt. It’s amazing how many of my clients lose what they thought were uncontrollable cravings when they know they are “allowed” something they love. 

If you find yourself using the same excuses over and over again, whilst kicking yourself for not being as healthy, slim, energetic and happy as you want to be, ask yourself if you are accepting your own excuses as insurmountable truths, when really they are just one view of a situation which you can change if you open your mind and get creative with your thinking. Overcoming your excuses is the key to your success.

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Seven ways to beat a lack of willpower when it comes to healthy eating and exercise

So you’ve decided to start eating healthily and exercising.  You want to lose a few pounds, tone up, have more energy and feel better about yourself.  And this time it will be different…. if only you can maintain enough willpower to stick with it.  Sound familiar?  

Willpower isn’t a muscle that needs to be exercised; it’s a state of mind affected by our environment. So if we focus on changing our environment then we’ll change our willpower.

Joanne Henson, author of ‘What’s your excuse for not eating healthily?’ and ‘What’s your excuse for not getting fit?’ offers seven tips to help you beat a lack of willpower and achieve your health and fitness goals: 

1) You only need willpower during times of temptation.  If you’re not being tempted, then you don’t need willpower.  So consider how you can remove temptation from any environments which you can control. Start with your own home and your office space.  For example, if you don’t want to find yourself eating a whole packet of chocolate biscuits at your desk, buy individually wrapped ones, one at a time.  Then it doesn’t matter if you feel you have no willpower – you won’t need it, there’ll be nothing to tempt you.   

2) Be aware that many salty and sugary foods are purposely formulated to be moreish.  The problem isn’t you, it’s the food.  So ditch the guilt, but ditch these foods too.  Know that you are never going to be able to flex that imaginary mental muscle enough to eat them in moderation, so keep them for a very occasional treat.

3) If you do eat a sugary or high carbohydrate snack or meal, don’t be surprised if shortly afterwards your energy levels slump and your mind turns to food. Those cravings aren’t a lack of mental muscle but a physical condition.  So try to avoid meals and snacks which are mainly carbohydrate and choose foods which have a good proportion of protein and good fats; these will give you a more prolonged, steady supply of energy and most importantly no extreme blood sugar peaks and troughs.

4) If you’re trying to stick to an exercise regime, make it as pleasant as possible for yourself.  Invest in some well-fitting kit in appealing colours – you’ll enjoy wearing it and you’ll feel so much better about yourself when you’re exercising.   If you like to listen to music make sure you’ve got your most uplifting music on your iPod when exercising.  

Exercise does not have to be painful, boring or unpleasant.  So if you don’t like running – don’t go running. When you find something you enjoy, it won’t feel like a chore, and you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.

5) Make sure you fully commit to your plans.  Remove the word ‘try’ from “I’m going to try to go to the gym three times this week”. Tell others what you intend to do – it’s always easier to let yourself down than it is to let others down. 

6) Surround yourself with supportive and positive people.  If your friends are constantly trying to tempt you to eat what they know you don’t want to eat, then you’re going to struggle.  Ask for their support and if they are good friends they should be happy to give it.  

7) Finally, understand that healthy living does not have to be 100% perfect.  Aim for 80-90% healthy, and don’t beat yourself up for the occasional treat.  If you’re eating a bar of your favourite chocolate with a side order of guilt, you won’t enjoy it, and what’s the point of that?  Savour it instead, embrace the pleasure it’s giving you, and know that it’s not the end of your healthy intentions – pleasure is a nutrient too.

So the next time you’re feeling guilty about having no willpower, give yourself a break.  Expend that energy on developing a different approach instead.  Remove the temptations, make exercise as enjoyable as possible, and commit fully to your plans.  Add supportive friends and the occasional guilt-free treat to that mix and you have a recipe for success which doesn’t involve an imaginary mental muscle.

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The Children’s Food Trust shares its views on the newest ways junk food brands are marketing their products to children.

Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: Tricks of the Junk Food Business’ exposed the newest ways junk food brands are marketing their products to children.

The Children’s Food Trust’s Head of Research and Evaluation, Jo Nicholas, has urged parents not to underestimate the negative effects these methods can have. She said: “Parents have a really tough job encouraging their children to eat healthily. Our modern environment – with sophisticated marketing such as these ‘advergames’, changing technology, and the increasing amount of screen-time we have, means it’s harder than ever when it comes to food.

“We know that almost a quarter of children are starting sc! hool overweight or obese, and this rises to one in three by Year 6, so it’s really important that children are protected from the new tactics that advertisers are using, and that parents are made aware of them.

“In a Children’s Food Trust survey, 72 per cent of parents told us they had bought things like chocolate, sweets, crisps and sugary drinks or cereals in the last month when they didn’t intend to, after being pestered by their child – which shows how powerful brand placement can be.

“The rules brought in by Ofcom in 2007 to restrict junk food advertising during children’s programmes had some success, but we argued that to really make a difference, Ofcom would have to enforce an advertising watershed, as it didn’t apply to many shows we know families watch together, like X-Factor. It’s clear that there are now even more factors to consider.

“With more and more children having access to the internet and tablet, it’s really important that the industry carefully assess the influence these technologies can have on our young people if we’re really serious about addressing our country’s diet related problems and their crippling cost to the NHS.”

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NICE: Adults who are #obese can improve their #health by losing even a small amount of #weight

Adults who are overweight or obese can improve their health by losing even a small amount of weight if they keep it off, according to health watchdog NICE.

Obesity increases the risk of serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, although the greater the weight loss, the greater the benefit, even a modest weight loss of 3% kept off for life may improve or prevent health problems.

New guidance published by NICE looks at how lifestyle weight management programmes focusing on diet, activity and the way people live their lives (behaviour change) can help people who are overweight or obese to lose weight and to keep it off.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: “The number of people who are overweight or obese in England is rising. More than a quarter of adults are now classified as obese and a further 42% of men and a third of women are overweight[1]. It not only damages their health but dealing with the long-term consequences of obesity costs the NHS around £5.1 billion each year. It is a huge cost to the health service.

“Lifestyle programmes are one part of the solution. An environment that makes it easier for people to be active and eat well is also crucial, as are services for people with other issues that affect their health and wellbeing[2]. The guidance isn’t about quick fixes. There is no ‘magic bullet’. It is about ensuring effective services are there to support people in the long term.”

Gill Fine, independent public health nutritionist and chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: “Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing the UK. It’s a complex problem with no single solution, but programmes which aim to help people manage their weight can make a difference. What we have done in this new guidance is to identify the key components that need to be included in these programmes for them to be effective. These include setting realistic weight loss and weight maintenance goals, ensuring the programme is at least 12 weeks long and making sure the people running the programme are properly trained. We hope that these practical recommendations will help people make life-long lifestyle changes so they lose weight and most importantly help prevent those pounds from coming back.”

Carol Weir, head of service for nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and NICE guidance developer, said: “Programmesfocusing on diet, activity and making changes to behaviour really are effective in helping people lose weight, and this guidance will help ensure that these programmes are commissioned and run in the best possible way. We are recommending a number of elements to support people in making changes that they can stick to.

“We need to focus on more than just diet and being more active. Using tools such as weight monitoring and setting realistic personal goals are really important. We also found that a lot of overweight or obese people were put off seeking help because they felt that they were being blamed for being unable to lose weight and the position they have found themselves in. Therefore the guidance also recommends that doctors and other health professionals should ensure the tone they use when communicating with people who need help with their weight is respectful and non-judgemental.”

Professor Kate Jolly, professor of public health at the University of Birmingham and NICE guidance developer, said: “Obesity and overweight is an immense problem in our society – with huge personal health cost to individuals and a huge financial cost to the NHS. However, by losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off, overweight and obese people can improve their health.

“We all know that eating less and being more active will help us lose weight, but it can be quite hard to put it into action especially in the long-term, which is why some people need additional support. Lifestyle weight management programmes can help people to identify strategies which suit them to help maintain these changes in the future.”

Recommendations included in the new guidance:

Ensure services cause no harm: Health professionals and providers should be aware of the effort needed to lose weight, prevent weight regain or avoid any further weight gain. Also be aware of the stigma adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience. Ensure the tone and content of all communications is respectful and non-judgemental. They should also ensure equipment and facilities meet the needs of most adults who are overweight or obese.

Address the expectations and information needs of adults thinking about joining a lifestyle weight management programme: GPs and providers of weight management programmes should discuss the importance and wider benefits of making gradual, long-term changes to dietary habits and physical activity levels. They should also explain the more weight lost, the greater the health benefits, particularly if someone loses more than 5% of their body weight and maintains this for life and although it varies on average, people attending a lifestyle weight management programme lose around 3% of their body weight.

Improve programme uptake, adherence and outcomes: Providers of weight management programmes should explain to adults who are considering a lifestyle weight management programme: what the programme does and does not involve, realistic goals they might hope or expect to achieve and the wider benefits of the programme and other local services that may provide additional support (for example, local walking or gardening groups).

Commission programmes that include the core components for effective weight loss and prevent weight regain: Commissioners of lifestyle weight management services should commission or recommend lifestyle weight management programmes that:

  • Address dietary intake, physical activity levels and behaviour change
  • Are developed by a multidisciplinary team. This includes input from a registered dietitian, registered practitioner psychologist and a qualified physical activity instructor
  • Ensure staff are trained to deliver them and they receive regular professional development sessions
  • Focus on life-long lifestyle change and the prevention of future weight gain
  • Last at least 3 months, and that sessions are offered at least weekly or fortnightly and include a ‘weigh-in’ at each session
  • Discuss sources of on-going support once the programme has ended
  • Discuss strategies to overcome any difficulties in maintaining new behaviours.

Refer overweight and obese adults to a lifestyle weight management programme: GP practices and other health or social care professionals who give advice about, or refer people to, lifestyle weight management programmes should be clear that no programme holds the ‘magic bullet’ or can guarantee long-term success. For funded referrals, it should be noted that: programmes may particularly benefit adults who are obese (that is, with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, or lower for those from black and minority ethnic groups) or with other risk factors (comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes).

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Kick-start a healthy summer with BBC Good Food’s summer #diet plan

Following the success of January’s free 28-day Healthy Diet Plan,, the UK’s leading food website, is launching a Summer Diet Plan to help you slim down, achieve glowing skin and boost energy with the help of an original 9-day plan full of delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Those who sign up before the 12th June will receive regular motivation in the form of newsletters packed with tips and advice on how to make the most of the plan, as well as access to Q&As with experts including author Jennifer Irvine, nutritional therapist and Food Doctor founder Ian Marber and BBC Good Food’s cookery team and nutrition advisers. 

Experts advise that a healthy diet should be balanced and followed all year round with this nine day plan designed to kick-start healthy habits and help you to quickly see the benefits of healthy eating. The plan was written by author and Pure Package founder Jennifer Irvine and overseen and tested by BBC Good Food’s cookery team and nutritionist, Kerry Torrens.

The nine days are split into three stages, each with a specific goal. Jennifer explains how the plan works and what you can expect over the nine days:

Day 1-3: De-bloat 

”Bloating is a common side effect of an unhealthy diet, usually triggered by refined carbohydrates and sugar. Eliminating these foods will tackle bloat and prepare your body for an overall cleanse. 

Plenty of whole-grains keep you feeling full, while yogurt will help reset the balance of good bacteria in your digestive system, making sure your food is better absorbed.” 

Day 4-6: Glowing skin 

”Our largest organ needs proper nurturing and nourishment from within. Fatty acids (particularly omega 3), Vitamin E and Vitamin C are essential for its care and maintenance. These meals are packed with ingredients rich in these fats and nutrients, such as oats, spinach, nuts, seeds, salmon and avocado.” 

Day 7-9: Boost energy and metabolism 

”These last three days are designed to leave you feeling refreshed, energetic and body-aware. The recipes focus on stabilising and balancing your blood-sugar levels with prote! in-rich snacks meals that include protein. Combined with good (unsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats, this slows down the release of sugars into the blood and leaves you feeling satiated, but not overly full. ” 

Sign up to the Summer Diet Plan here and you will be sent the plan and a shopping list on 12th June so you can begin your diet on the 14th June.

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The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has revealed its annual list of top celebrity diets to avoid in the New Year

For the previous three years, the Dukan Diet has come out as number one, but this year, making a brand new entry, the Breatharian Diet has taken the top slot, followed by the Biotyping Diet at number two, the Gluten Free Diet at number three, the Alcorexia Diet at number four and completing the list this year is the previous years’ number one (2010, 2011 and 2012), the Dukan Diet.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members

Christmas is almost upon us and with it seemingly comes a whole month devoted to eating and drinking.  That is, of course, until the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and a New Year is heralded in.  With the New Year comes those New Year resolutions for ‘New Year, New You’ and for many, losing weight and getting that body you have always promised yourself sits high on the agenda.

However, with so many diet books, weight loss ‘experts’ and celebrity-endorsed fitness DVDs on the market, who’s cashing in on your dreams?

The BDA receives literally hundreds of calls from the media every year on this subject and they come across a huge range of weird and wacky diets and diet claims.

Here are some of the worst celebrity-linked diets the BDA has identified and spoken out against in 2013:

1. Breatharian Diet (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  Actress Michelle Pfeiffer has reportedly revealed she believes she was involved in a cult that followed the Breatharian Diet. (Similar to Madonna’s alleged Air Diet, when you pretend to eat the food on the plate in front of you and fill up by gulping air.)

What’s it all about?  Individuals who follow the Breatharian Diet can believe that they do not need to eat food or drink any liquids because they can achieve sustenance from air and/or sunlight alone.

BDA Verdict:  You seriously cannot live on fresh air alone!  We cannot stress enough that people should NOT even consider following this diet.  It doesn’t matter what anybody tries to tell us, or point to any kind of evidence, the basic fact is we all need food and liquid in our diet to live.  There is nothing good we could ever say about the Breatharian Diet.  You can be sure of weight loss if anyone attempted to ‘exist’ on this diet but this would also be accompanied by, dehydration, malnutrition and risk of death!

2. Biotyping (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  In 2013, singer Boy George reportedly cited this as attributing to his weight loss.

What’s it all about?  There are various approaches with this. The BioSignature system relates to six different hormone types and fat accumulation in different body sites and aims for ‘site’-specific body fat reduction, measured by skinfold calipers, through hormone balance. By choosing only certain foods, thus cutting out others, adding a training programme and taking supplements the promise is it will ‘spot reduce’ fat.

BDA Verdict: Bio-nonsense! This diet relies too heavily on supplements and pseudo-science with only a selective grain of robust science (that hormones are involved in fat metabolism) and does not even mention visceral fat (internal fatty tissue). Many people will lose weight on this type of approach because it restricts certain foods.  It also restricts calorie intake and it involves physical activity.

3. Gluten-Free Diet (new entry)

Celebrity Link:  Gwyneth Paltrow allegedly advocates this.

What’s it all about?  Cutting out gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley rye and oats and foods containing it is a healthier option for all and can lead to weight loss.

BDA Verdict:  Whilst important for those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no credible published research showing that a gluten-free diet per se leads to weight loss in those without.  Many foods that contain gluten, like breaded products, pastries, cakes and biscuits, are high in calories, so by avoiding them, many lose weight. Many believe, wrongly, they can eat as much as they like of gluten-free substitutes like biscuits, sausages and beer. Gluten-free does not mean calorie free.

4. Alcorexia / Drunkorexia Diet (Non-mover – last year number 4)

Celebrity Link:  It is widely thought that many top models and others follow this ‘diet’.

What’s it all about?  It’s when people eat very few calories during the day/week and ‘bank’ these ‘saved’ calories (kcals) in order to binge-drink alcohol over the weekend, usually.  For example, if you favour a VLC diet (very low calorie) in order to follow this ‘diet’, you could be ‘banking’ around 1,500 kcals a day, which then gives you 10,500 kcals to drink during the week (based on the recommended female diet of 2,000 kcals per day).  This amounts to:

45 pints of lager (based on a single pint being around 230 kcals).  With a pint of lager being 2 units, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 90 units. 201 shots of spirits (based on a single shot being around 52 kcals).  With a single shot of spirit being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 201 units. 52 alcopops (based on a single alcopop being around 200 kcals).  With a single alcopop being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 52 units. 131 glasses of red wine, or 26 bottles (based on a glass of red being around 80 kcals).  With a single glass being 1 unit, this gives you a weekly alcohol intake of 131 units).

Context:  The safe weekly alcohol unit intake is 28 units for men and 21 units for women.

BDA Verdict:  Do not fall off the wagon!  Following a VLC diet alone is madness in itself, as you will most certainly not be getting the calories, vitamins and nutrients your body needs to survive and function.  Not only that, but by the end of the week when you are also tired and weak, you then subject your body to an onslaught of alcohol intake after intake after intake.  Alcohol has little nutrition other than calories.  This is a worrying ‘diet’ that could end up causing immense damage to the body.

5. Dukan Diet (number 1 in 2010, 2011 and 2012)

Celebrity Link:  The Duchess of Cambridge’s mum, Carole Middleton, and Jennifer Lopez have reportedly followed this diet.

What’s it all about?  This is a complicated high protein, no/low carb, four-phase diet that promotes rapid weight loss. 

BDA Verdict:  Dukan do so much better!  The rigid Dukan Diet works by restricting food, so restricting calories.  Initial weight loss will be fluid.  Even the creator of the diet, Pierre Dukan, who, in 2013 was banned from practising as a GP in France, has warned of associated issues with the diet such as lack of energy, constipation (due to lack of fibre/cutting out food groups), the need for a vitamin and mineral supplement (due to lack of variety/cutting out food groups) and bad breath. 

Speaking about these and other fad diets, Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and Spokesperson for the BDA, said:

“We hear it all when it comes to the latest way to shed those pounds from the good to the bad, to the down-right dangerous!  When people need medical advice, they go to their GP and when people have a toothache, they go to their dentist, but some people will believe almost anything and anyone when it comes to nutrition, food and diet.

“The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  Also, if you have to pay out for a DVD or special book or product that will unlock the secrets of losing weight, this can also be a good indicator that the only pounds you will be losing will be out of your wallet.  The simple fact is, there is no ‘wonder diet’ just as there are no ‘super foods’.  What is super, is the way many marketing machines coin certain phrases to make you think there is some magic wand approach to losing weight.

“Maybe it’s not as exciting but the truth is, if you do want to lose some weight do it by eating a healthy balanced diet, watch your portion sizes and be physically active.  Think of it as a marathon approach to achieving your goals, as opposed to a sprint approach.  Aim to make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle that are sustainable in the long term, not forgotten by the end of January.”

Save your money and access a whole raft of FREE BDA Food Fact Sheets at

including one specifically about weight loss at

Please note the BDA Food Fact Sheets hold The Information Standard certification, are all evidence-based and are peer reviewed. 

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Become a patient or carer member of the group updating a guideline about the treatment of Obesity

The Public Involvement Programme and the National Clinical Guideline Centre (NCGC) are looking for applications from patients, parents or carers to be part of the group that will update a clinical guideline for the care of people with obesity: Obesity: Guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children. Please note that only certain parts of this guideline will be updated and these are likely to be very low calorie or energy diets and bariatric surgery.

Members of this group will play a key role in making sure that the views of patients and their carers and their experiences and interests inform the development of the guideline and recommendations to the NHS.

All members of the guideline development group have equal status, which reflects the relevance and importance of their different expertise and experience. The group includes health professionals and researchers as well as lay members. All group members need to attend regular meetings and to prepare for them in advance, including reading relevant papers.

For further details and how to apply

Deadline for application: 17 December 2013

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