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A new survey commissioned by TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt asked 1005 Mumsnet members about their New Year dieting habits in an effort to establish the key reasons as to why and when they might fail. The findings have been analysed by leading Nutritionist Fiona Hunter who has provided some advice and solutions in advance of January 2010 so that the pitfalls really can be avoided.

The survey found that midway through day 10 is the most likely day to fail, with nearly one in ten giving up on the first day, and overall almost half (46%) give up in less than a week. Only 13% will go the distance and not give up until they have reached their target weight. Over 32% found mid afternoon and 33% later in the evening the most likely time to crave calorific food.

There were lots of reasons why people give up on their diet with over 32% giving the most popular reason that they are full of good exercise intentions but they lose interest easily, closely followed by over 28% craving stodgy food in the dark January nights and a further 26% cannot stop grazing in the evening when they watch TV or relax. A further 17% admitted to finding their children’s dinners, leftovers and lunchbox snacks and treats too hard to resist.

When embarking on a diet, part of the problem seems to be that over 36% try to just eat less and 27% try to make lots of changes by switching to low fat staples. On a positive note over 32% try to exercise more and 24% join a slimming club. Less popular options were own diet plans (16%) and cutting out specific foods like bread/dairy(14%). Only 8% say they crash diet and 4% say they follow a magazine or internet diet plan.

Nutritionist and writer Fiona Hunter reviewed the survey and said “In one respect the results are not that surprising – we know that many people begin the year with good intentions which quickly fall by the wayside – what really surprises is me is how quickly this happens. If people can’t sustain their diet/good intentions for longer than a week it can leave them feeling worthless and depressed which can in turn lead to overeating and bingeing, so choosing the wrong diet (ie one that you can’t stick with) is likely to do more harm than good.

One of the primary reasons that people give up on diets after just a few days is because they choose the wrong sort of diet. However tempting crash/faddy diets may seem, they are difficult to follow and are unnecessarily strict – which often leaves people hungry and irritable. Restricting calories too severely can lead to food cravings and bingeing, and can also lead to nutritional deficiencies.
The results show that late afternoon is the time when will power was at it’s weakest. The urge to eat late in the afternoon is usually driven by a combination of low blood sugar levels and tiredness. Having a small healthy snack such as a low fat yoghurt, some fruit, or a couple of oatcakes between 4pm and 5pm will prevent blood sugar levels from dipping late afternoon and will help to prevent cravings for more calorific foods.

Comfort eating in the evening and grazing in front of the TV is another common problem – snacking on biscuits and crisps in the evening – usually has very little to do with hunger and more to do with habit. The best solution to this problem is to make sure that there are plenty of healthy, low calorie snacks available and to banish unhealthy snacks like crisps and biscuits from the house.”

Carrie Longton, co-founder of said “Very few women are completely happy with their weight and mumsnetters are no exception. We have a very active and supportive section of our Talk discussion boards dedicated to weight loss and aptly named The Big/slim/whatever weight loss club. Mumsnetters use this area to announce their dieting intentions and encourage others to join in. They also swap recipes, tips exercise regimes and celebrate each other’s successes (and commiserate when it all goes pear–shaped – literally).”

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For further information please contact: Julie Millar, 07973854465.

DATE – November 25th 2009

Editors notes:

Full survey results available

TOTAL Greek Yoghurt - TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt is made with pasteurised skimmed cows’ milk and a live active yoghurt culture and is preservative, sweetener and additive free; it is 100% natural yoghurt. TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt is the leading brand of fat-free Greek yoghurt available in the UK. It is the unique straining method, removing the whey of the milk and any excess water, which gives TOTAL a really thick texture and mild natural flavour and takes 2 litres of milk to make just one 500g pot of TOTAL. TOTAL 0% is highly recommended by slimming and diet clubs as a good source of protein without the fat content. It therefore makes a great fat-free alternative to cream and crème fraiche with only 52 kcal per 100g. Available in 150g and 500g pots from most major supermarkets. For recipes and more information visit

Fiona Hunter, Nutritionist and Health Writer responds to the individual excuses.

I am always full of good intentions and am really good for two weeks but lose interest easily

• This is a common very problem and usually means you’ve chosen a diet which is too strict. Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle such as swapping to low and reduced fat dairy products, starting the day with a healthy breakfast, choosing low GI /fibre rich carbs and taking more exercise can make a real difference and are much easier to sustain long term.

The January dark nights and cold make me crave stodgy foods

• Some experts believe we’re programmed to crave stodgy food when the thermometer drops. In the days before central heating and electric blankets our ancestors were programmed to eat more when the weather was cold because they needed to build up their fat reserves to keep them warm. Now of course we don't need the extra the calories. If anything we should cut down on what we eat because many of us are less active in the winter. The fact that the body craves a different type of diet in the winter is not necessarily a bad thing. Foods like beans and pulses and jacket potatoes are naturally low in fat, rich in complex carbohydrates and can provide important vitamins. Stews and casseroles, made with lean meat, poultry or fish are warm and filling and provide essential minerals such as iron and zinc. If you choose wisely comfort foods can also be healthy foods and there’s no reason why you’re winter diet has to be any less healthy that your summer diet.

I cannot stop grazing in the evening when I watch TV or relax

• Grazing in front of the TV usually has very little to do with hunger and more to do with habit. The best solution to this problem is to make sure that there are plenty of healthy, low calorie snacks available and to banish unhealthy snacks like crisps and biscuits from the house.

I have so much food left over from Christmas and New Year that I need to finish first

• If you know you won’t be able to resist the temptation, remove it, freeze what you can or give it away, that way you won’t be tempted.

I pick at my children's dinner and leftovers

• Late afternoon is a real danger time for dieters, a combination of low blood sugar levels and tiredness are powerful triggers which make the brain crave fatty sugary foods. Many mums assume that food picked from their children’s plate doesn’t really count – but the truth is every little thing you put in your mouth counts and all those extra calories add up. The solution is to sit down and have a small healthy snack with your children while they are eating – something like banana on toast, a couple of oatcakes with low fat cream cheese or hummus, or a pot of TOTAL Greek 0% fat yoghurt, so you’ll be less likely to be tempted by children’s leftovers

The children get up so early and are full on until they go to bed in the evening that I am too tired to exercise

• Don’t wait until the children have gone to bed to exercise try to build exercise into you’re daily routine. Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. Take the kids to the park and play ball or Frisbee, or why not arrange to leave the kids with a friend for a couple of hours in the morning so you can go to the gym (you could always return the favour), or ask your partner to look after them for a couple of hours at the weekend to give you some time to go to the gym.

I have too many snacks and crisps in the house for the children that I pick at
• Get the whole family eating healthily – children don’t need snacks like biscuits and crisps – a slice of toast or a banana are much healthier – if you must buy biscuits and crisps choose a variety that you don’t like.

I am a chocoholic and just can't go a day without it

• A craving for chocolate or other sweet foods is usually a sign that your blood sugar levels are low, eating little and often - 3 small meals with 2 healthy snacks between meals will help keep blood sugar balanced. If you really do need a chocolate fix try a cup of hot chocolate or cocoa made with skimmed milk.

I am unprepared and turn to quick fix ready meals

• Get organised - spend a little time at the weekend planning a menu for the week, use your menu plan to write a list before you go shopping so you’ve got everything you need. Forward planning will help you become more organised – a little time and energy invested at the start of the week will pay dividends later in week when your energy levels and good intentions may be flagging. A well stocked store cupboard can be a real help and means that you can just pick up a few fresh ingredients as and when you need them. If you’re just shopping for a few bits and pieces take advantage of local shops or small branches of the big supermarkets.

I crash diet and feel starving so binge when the temptation gets too much

• Crash diets don’t work in the long term because they are usually too strict and difficult to stick with long term. Making small changes to the way you eat, shop, cook and the way you think about food really will help you lose weight and more importantly keep that weight off.

I am always hungry and have a huge appetite, small meals make me feel hungry which in turn makes me feel nauseous until I eat again

• If you choose the right foods like lean protein foods and lots of vegetables you shouldn’t need to eat small portions and you shouldn’t feel hungry between meals. Protein rich food help you feel full quicker and for longer – so have a protein rich snack, like TOTAL 0% fat Greek yoghurt, between meals should help prevent hunger pangs.

My partner gets in late and I eat with him

• It’s a myth that calories eaten late at night are more likely to be laid down as fat than calories eaten earlier in the day. Eating late shouldn’t be problem providing you haven’t been snacking all evening before you sit down to eat. Having a small healthy snack around 4pm will reduce the urge to pick at stuff early evening before you sit down to eat with your partner

I find it hard to buy healthier options when out and about

• Start to look at the labels – most food is clearly labelled on the front of pack to tell you how much calories, fat salt and sugar it contains. If you’re trying to lose weight aim for around 1400 calorie a day and 46g fat a day

I am full of new year resolutions and try and give up smoking and alcohol at the same time which makes me turn to food

• Trying to follow a strict diet at the same time as giving up smoking can be a struggle which is why it’s better to just make simple changes to your diet. Eating regular meals with small healthy snacks between meals will help prevent blood sugar levels from dipping mid morning and late afternoon. When our blood sugar drops below a certain level, the body sends signals to the brain which makes us feel hungry. To prevent this happening eat every 3-4 hours and try to get into a routine of eating meals and snacks at around the same time of the day so your body knows what to expect. If you’re not used to eating snacks set an alarm to remind you to stop whatever you’re doing for a snack.

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