Diet danger zones

Temptation is never far away when you're trying to lose weight. But if you plan ahead and maintain a flexible attitude, diet danger zones need not stop you achieving your target.

It's the moment someone trying to lose weight dreads: your friends are heading for a takeaway after a night out. What do you do?

You don't want to look like a killjoy, but you don't want to jeopardise the weight loss you've achieved so far either. 

Diet danger zones are everywhere: tiredness, stress and children's leftovers are just a few. Then there's alcohol: a drink or two not only contains extra calories, but can also make a fatty snack seem more appealing.

So how should you handle these situations?

Danger zone planning

Get help avoiding diet danger zones by following the NHS 12-week weight loss plan 

"A little indulgence is fine," says nutritionist Lyndel Costain from the British Dietetic Association.

The trick is to ensure that indulgence doesn't become the norm. You can do that by being aware of the weight loss danger zones and planning ahead. 

And if you do slip up, remember that you can get back on track: there's no need to give up.

Know your eating triggers

Often, it's emotional triggers that lead to overeating.

Nicola Wraight, spokesperson for a major weight loss organisation, says the key is recognising your eating triggers.

"It's important to identify the specific emotions that initiate overeating and develop strategies to cope without using food," she says. "If you're stressed, try treating yourself to a manicure or going for a walk.

"There are also trigger environments like the cinema, where you can buy popcorn, chocolate and sweets. But you can minimise the likelihood of overeating by planning ahead and taking healthier snacks with you.

It's also important to remember that everyone is different when it comes to resisting such temptations.

"If you slip, remember that tomorrow is another day," says Nicola. "The changes you're making to your lifestyle will have long-term health benefits."

Be flexible

Planning ahead should not mean being rigid about weight loss.

According to Dr Mike Green, a specialist in the psychology of eating from Aston University, a flexible approach to controlling calories is much more sensible.

Dr Green explains that if you place extremely rigid restrictions on what you eat, you're more susceptible to a reckless moment where you slip from the diet, feel guilty and become tempted to give up altogether.

Instead, Dr Green recommends a different approach.

"If you find yourself in a situation where the pressure is on to eat that cake or snack, you don't have to refuse every time," he says. "But if you do eat the snack, limit what you have afterwards so that spread across a number of days, your calories are still reduced."

Learn more about eating well when you're out and about in Healthy eating out.

Get more weight loss advice in 12 successful diet tips.

It's your choice

When it comes to eating and drinking, you can always exercise choice.

"Stop, think and make a conscious choice before you eat," says Lyndel Costain. "Really choosing whether you eat something will stop you feeling deprived and reduce the risk of destructive 'all or nothing' thinking that says you must either stick to an extremely rigid diet, or no diet at all.

"View setbacks as learning opportunities that help you do things differently next time.

"Don't go it alone: find support and guidance. Talk to your GP if you feel you need additional support."

Learn more in Weight loss: how your GP can help.

Find out how other people are losing weight in our Weight Loss forum.

Page last reviewed: 17/08/2013

Next review due: 17/08/2015


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

laurasammy2 said on 28 May 2012

Here are the NICE guidelines (2008) including information on weight management programmes;

Weight loss programmes (including commercial or self-help groups,
slimming books or websites) are recommended only if they:
• are based on a balanced healthy diet
• encourage regular physical activity
• expect people to lose no more than 0.5–1 kg (1–2 lb) a week.
Programmes that do not meet these criteria are unlikely to help
people maintain a healthy weight in the long term.
People with certain medical conditions – such as type 2 diabetes,
heart failure or uncontrolled hypertension or angina – should check with their general practice or hospital specialist before starting a weight loss programme.

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User187736 said on 28 February 2009

I agree about the video clip but interesting article.

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K15 said on 13 July 2008

how does the nhs view weight management programmes like LighterLife and what is the current nhs policy/guidelines on this and other major weight manament programmes?

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Goldie said on 02 July 2008

I agree with the other comment, this has nothing to do with danger zones

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denterprised said on 21 April 2008

This video clip had nothing to do the subject matter of diet danger zones. A video clip which tackled this subject would have been helpful.

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