If you’re feeling sluggish after a long winter, March is the perfect month to overhaul your diet and lifestyle and put the spring back in your step. If you’re ready to make some changes, be sure to maximise your efforts by avoiding the most common dieting mistakes. Here are three key areas to focus on if you want to stay in great shape.

  1. Don’t Skip Meals

This might seem like a logical quick fix, but it confuses your metabolism and can lead to weight gain in the long term. Our eating behaviour is controlled by hormones which manage your appetite by informing your brain about the status of your energy stores and whether you need to stop or carry on eating. Short-term fasting leads to a dramatic drop in the hormone leptin. Leptin sends a message to the brain, indicating a state of famine and stimulating your appetite.

Even just missing breakfast can generate an unhelpful hormonal response. Ghrelin is the hormone that manages hunger and it’s programmed to increase before a meal and decrease after a meal. Studies have shown that people who miss breakfast eat far more later in the day than people who regularly eat breakfast, because ghrelin levels remain unchecked.

  1. Manage Your Portions Carefully

It’s perfectly possible to lose weight without eliminating major food groups if you manage your portions carefully. Misunderstanding portion size is one of the most common mistakes when trying to maintain a healthy weight. For example, a standard cereal portion is between 30-50g but most people help themselves to far more. Do you know how much you’re eating?

The fashion for large crockery and glassware isn’t helping us to keep in shape, especially if you’re someone who’s been taught to finish your plate from childhood. Taking the time to measure out your portions, rather than being guided by plate or glass size could make a significant difference to your calorie, sugar or alcohol intake.

  1. Watch out for hidden sugar

It isn’t difficult to spot and avoid refined sugar but it’s a common misconception to assume that ‘healthy’ sugar is fine. Not so! The single biggest culprit when it comes to weight gain is excess sugar in any form. It generates the release of insulin which encourages the body to lay down fat stores. Honey is simply liquid sugar and dried fruit contains roughly 4 times as much sugar as fresh fruit. You might think that fruit juice is a healthy option for a drink, but if you’re regularly grabbing a smoothie or fruit juice on the way to work, this will take a major toll on your waistline. Just a couple of small glasses of juice per day can add up to a whopping 8 teaspoons of sugar, the equivalent of a can of Coke.

If you’d like some ongoing advice to support you through your change of lifestyle, why not join our 30-day Get Lean, Spring Clean healthy-eating programme which starts on Friday 17th March. Click here to find out more.