Counting bites not calories

There is new research ( that suggests that counting bites, not calories, could help with weight loss. I’m not sure what to make of this.

For the study, researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah asked a group of 61 participants to count the number of times they lifted food or drink to their mouths.

They were then asked to commit to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer bites over the next week.

The 41 participants who successfully completed the task lost an average of 1.6 kg at the end of the experiment.

The very fact that they were focusing on how many bites they were taking could have been enough to make the difference. If you think about it, how many times in a day do you really concentrate on what you are eating, do you register exactly when and how much you eat.

Now those of us on diets may well be counting calories, planning meals, staggering our eating, fasting some days etc.  This all takes effort and it strikes me that counting the number of times you actually take a bite each day is another useful tool as long as you are also combining this with planning exactly what it is that you are biting into!

Helen Clarke, Co-Founder DietMaps

Are you subconsciously resisting change?

Change can be emotionally uncomfortable, even when it’s a change we want to make. Sometimes it can be easier to give up and retreat back to our uncomfortable ‘comfort zone’

One of the biggest changes we may have to make is our behaviour around food if we want to lose excess weight for good. We know what we should be doing so why don’t we do it?

Here are seven signs that you may be subconsciously resisting change:

  1. Avoiding the people you have told about your plans; They now expect something from you and you find yourself avoiding them. They are a reminder that you had committed to doing something different.
  2. Procrastinating – and justifying your behaviour; When we tell ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow we’re giving in to instant gratification. We convince ourselves we’ll turn over a new leaf tomorrow but all we are doing is resisting change today.
  3. Telling yourself you don’t deserve it; This is a hard one because it’s emotionally charged. Some of us will use low self esteem as an excuse to avoid change but the reality is that making even a small change can improve how we feel about ourselves.
  4. Doing something because you think you should; There’s a difference between having a strong internal desire to make a change and paying lip service to it because we think it’s what we should be doing.  That’s a message coming from somewhere else rather than our own needs and wants.
  5. Allowing yourself to be distracted; Does this sound familiar? You start a plan and it’s going well but then you find yourself thinking or doing something else. You become preoccupied with work or spend time on unrelated frivolous things. You tell yourself you don’t have the time. This is classic avoidance and it can be very helpful to explore what it is you are trying to avoid.
  6. Becoming defensive; It can be very tempting to blame others for our situation. However, to make long lasting positive change in our lives the responsibility lies firmly with us. If you find yourself becoming defensive or feeling persecuted it may be you are not accepting responsibility
  7. Brain freeze; This can happen when you think about making a change or taking action. Mental blocks are frustrating because it’s hard to know where they are coming from.

Some change is inevitable when managing weight; from the food we eat to how we spend our leisure time.

Change can be exciting or challenging. Do you understand your approach to change? Are you someone who resists change, even when it’s something you tell yourself you want? The answer lies in your personal psychology.

Sue Arkle, Co-Founder DietMaps




Dieting goals – a good idea or not?

2 pounds a week. A stone by Christmas. Exercise 4 times a week. Size 12 by the summer

Goals come in all shapes and sizes. For those of you who have looked at goals in depth you will no doubt be familiar with this  acronym which is widely used when setting a goal:

S – specific






R – reward

They all speak for themselves except perhaps the last two. The idea with these is that if you are enthusiastic and attach emotion to a goal , you are more likely to achieve it. The reward ( not food) is what the payback will be for you if you achieve this goal. Better health, greater self-esteem, smaller clothes etc…

We all make dieting goals at one time or another but should we?

Goals have their place and for some people they are an absolute must. We’ve all read the articles from successful slimmers saying that the goals they set were what kept them focused but is that true for everybody?

The flip side of this is those people who feel pressured when they have set a goal, especially if the possibility of achieving that goal is a long way away.

So what makes the difference between those who thrive on goal setting and those who shy away from, or feel pressured by goal setting?

Well, it could be a number of things like the type of goal they set, whether it’s a long term or short term goal, how specific they have made it and also and most importantly whether their personality type gravitates towards goals or away from them. 

There are certain personality types who need a goal, their natural character traits lead them towards having a focus. If you are naturally a person who likes detailed, structured pathways then a number of short term goals, all set out from the outset will help you achieve what you want to.

A long term goal with no intermediate steps is unlikely to be achieved as you may well lose your way.

If however you are a more social outgoing personality type it’s essential that you involve others in your goal. After all, you will need to factor in a social life and their support will be invaluable.

For the personality type that knows their own mind, is assertive and goal driven, then the goal is a must but only if the individual is setting their own goal. If it’s a goal that is foisted on them and they are not truly comfortable with it , then they are set up to fail.

As you can see a knowledge of yourself and your innate personality can be the difference between the use of a goal, the type and length of a goal and whether you are successful or not.

Helen Clarke, Co-Founder DietMaps

Where has my motivation gone?

Most of us start a health and weight loss regime full of enthusiasm, convinced that this time it’s going to work.

If we are lucky this feeling can last a few months but inevitably motivation slips, enthusiasm wanes, goals get forgotten. For the lucky few who reach their target the effort of maintaining a new lifestyle proves to be too much and gradually the weight creeps back on.

Until the next time. What’s going on?

Have you ever asked yourself “where has my motivation gone” as though it was something tangible?  I have heard this question many times when working with clients. Some even think I can find it for them!

So, what is motivation? The Cambridge definitions are:

  • Enthusiasm for doing something
  • A need or reason for doing something

Humans are emotional creatures and we need to tap into our emotions to be able to imagine and feel excited about the future we want. The reasons why we do something are an important aspect in our chance of success.

Some of us are motivated by imagining something we want in the future, we can see it and feel excited by it. Motivation is very high at this point.

Some of us are more motivated by something we don’t want in the present, such as tight clothes, aching joints, heartburn etc. Again motivation is very high at this point.

There is a subtle difference between the two however. One of them is more likely to sustain the motivation levels for longer.

Imagine you are someone who didn’t want a tight waistband. You wouldn’t have to lose too much weight for the waistband to feel more comfortable. When that happens what will sustain you to carry on? The immediate discomfort has gone hasn’t it?

The person who is excited about the future has a much better chance of long term success – they are constantly moving forward in the direction they want to go and more importantly, they know what they want and why.

Sue Arkle, Co-Founder DietMaps

The emotional brain and how it impacts our eating habits

The emotional brain and how it impacts our eating habits

We all need to eat and drink to sustain our bodies but food also has a bigger role. Eating provides more than just sustenance, it can evoke powerful feelings, thoughts and memories.

Most of us have certain foods that give us comfort when we are ill or in need of it. For me, it has always been warm custard. When I think back I realise that this, along with attention, love and cuddles was what my mother gave me when I was ill as a child. Even now as an adult, I will turn to my comfort food when I’ve had a rough day. Take a moment and think about what foods you turn to when you feel the need for comfort.

When we try to understand why our diet sometimes goes wrong or we hear ourselves saying ‘Why did I eat that!’ it could be linked to our emotions. ‘Emotional eating’ is a term that we have all seen and heard about in the media  over the last decade but what does it involve?

When I looked further into the emotional side of our brains I came across the term ‘ Amygdala hijack’ which was  coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He uses the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of context with the actual situation because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.

Basically what this comes down to is that a response from the emotional part of our brains makes us pay attention right now, we recognise that this is urgent and we deal with it immediately without stopping to think whether we should do this or not.

So if you have ever found yourself part way through your diet and having eaten foods that you know you shouldn’t have, quickly and without any real thought, it might well be your emotional brain that has decided this for you.

Different personality types will experience this differently and will also handle their response in very different ways.

So what can we do to make sure that this unhelpful pattern of behaviour does not continue? Well, the first step is to recognise when ,where and with whom these events happen. If it has happened once it is likely to happen again. It seems to me the way to start to control this is to recognise it, look at it in detail and prepare your response so you are ready for it when it happens again.

Helen Clarke, Co-Founder DietMaps