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Don't Lose The Weight-Loss Plot

Coping with temptation is hard for all of us. So how can we prevent ourselves from sliding down the slippery slope that can ruin our weight-loss efforts?

Rosemary Writes May 2005
"Dear Rosemary

I was doing so well with my diet and I felt that this time was different. I’ve tried so many diets over the years, but this time I felt really determined and I was losing steadily, at the rate of 2lb a week. After losing a stone I could see and FEEL the difference.

“I felt really confident that I would reach my goal this time, and then we went away for a weekend break. The hotel was fabulous and the deal was all-inclusive. The food was out of this world and you could just help yourself from the buffet at every meal.

“I don’t know what came over me but I couldn’t resist! I just ate and ate! Over three days I gained 7lb! I was absolutely mortified.

“Since I came home I seem to have lost the plot. Much as I try to get back on track, I find myself thinking of chocolate, cream, biscuits and puddings all the time! I feel as if I’m going mad! What on earth has happened to me? What do I do now?

Stick to the rules

We can probably all relate to Susan’s situation. I know I can. We seem to have to work so hard, consistently, to lose a mere 2lb a week, yet we can pile it back on threefold, with very little effort, when we break all the low-fat rules. And THAT is the key.

Even if you do eat significantly more than usual, if you can still eat foods that are low in fat, the damage will be minimal. It’s when you overindulge in the high-fat stuff that the pounds really pile on. Why? Because the fat we eat is easily stored on our bodies as fat while carbohydrate and protein foods are not – they are easily burned off as fuel, ie energy.

We only draw on our fat stores for fuel when we are in energy (calorie) deficit. If we overeat, we will be in energy-surplus mode, so the fat doesn’t get burned off; it
goes straight into storage – around our stomach, hips, thighs – anywhere that we easily fill out our fat cells, and that all depends on our individual body shape.

Don’t be a sponger!

The other important factor is that fatty foods are also high in salt as, without the salty flavour, the foods wouldn’t be palatable. Obviously, if we take in more salt than usual, we retain more fluid and the body acts like a sponge. The consequence is that we weigh lots more on the scales – but only “artificially” more.

I have no doubt that Susan’s eating extravaganza caused her to gain fat – probably a couple of pounds – but the rest was almost certainly extra fluid retained by her body because of what she had eaten.

As one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, for Susan to have gained 7lb of actual fat over her three days she would have had to have eaten 24,500 calories EXTRA in that time! Susan could have eaten around 2,000 calories a day and her weight would have remained constant, so she would have had to have eaten 10,000 calories a day for the three days to gain 7lb of fat

Weigh up the facts

We need to realise that scales only tell us our overall weight status. While weighing ourselves weekly is extremely valuable in gauging our weight-loss progress, the reading does not take into account the different components making up that weight – fluid, fat, muscle, bone, etc. So don’t become despondent if you know you have been sticking to your diet but nothing shows on the scales. You may well have lost inches.

Here are some tips to help you cope with tempting situations and to steer you back on track if you falter:

Stick to low-fat choices

Even in the most lavish buffets, there will always be some foods with less fat than others. Choose prawns, salmon, cold lean meats and oil-free salads with some fresh bread and a glass of wine.

Avoid anything deep-fried in breadcrumbs, pastries such as samosas, vol-au-vents and sausage rolls, and give pork pie and cheese a wide berth.

Enjoy a dessert but go for something small and scrumptious, rather than a huge slice of cheesecake or cream-laden gateau.

Appoint your own waiter!

If you know you can’t be trusted at a buffet table, send your partner or friend to select your plate of food. This way you avoid temptation.

Don’t panic!

So you overindulged! It happens. Don’t go near the scales for three days (unless you are going to your class, in which case just explain what’s happened) and get back on your normal diet immediately. Also, get active!

Go for a long walk. Work out to a fitness video. Do some gardening. If you immediately get back on track with sensible eating and increased activity you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly you will be back to normal. It really works.

You don’t have to eat everything!

We become overweight because we have eaten too much over a long period. It takes time to adjust, but the first rule is to tell yourself that leaving something on your plate is not a sin! Learn to cook fewer potatoes so that fewer are left over. Select a slightly smaller steak or chicken breast. Fill up with low-calorie but high-nutrition green vegetables or salad and eat slowly to allow time for the food to reach your stomach. Wait between courses. Eat until you are full but not overfull and bloated.

Drink plenty of water

The body is very efficient in eliminating fluids, so you should drink water freely – it will not affect your weight under normal circumstances. If you find yourself feeling really thirsty, you must drink, otherwise you will become dehydrated, which is harmful to health and will affect your skin. If you have overindulged with fatty foods your body will soon regulate the fluid levels back to normal once you eat low-fat foods again.

So, make low-fat eating part of your long-term lifestyle. Don’t worry if you overdo it occasionally. Get back on track quickly and move on! Result? Long-term success.

This article appears in the May 2005 issue of Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness magazine.  

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