Category Archives for "Excuse-busting"

I’m too fat and unfit

If you’ve been overweight for a long time, or if you feel very out of shape, the thought of exercising can be daunting. Have you ever claimed “I can’t exercise because I’m too fat and unfit?”

Gym membership

Don’t be put off joining a gym because you think it’ll be full of waif-like supermodels and men with ripped abs: it won’t! I guarantee the others will be normal people, just like you: some skinny, some chubby, some only there to flick through the free papers…

And the staff will be friendly, helpful and not at all judgmental. They’ll help you work out an exercise programme to suit you – whatever your current level of fitness. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help; get your money’s worth!

Take a walk

However unfit you are, you can go for a walk. Half an hour a day can make a real difference – and the more you walk, the fitter you’ll get. If you already do a fair bit of walking, try interval training where you jog for a minute then walk for two minutes.

There’s plenty of exercise ideas for lunchtimes and before or after work on the Articles pages of The Office Diet.

Value yourself

Never put yourself down by saying that you’re “too fat” or “too unfit” to do something. You can do anything that you put your mind to. Other people in the gym or jogging past you in the street have their mind on their own workout rather than on yours. Don’t worry about whether they’ll notice you or judge you. If I see new members in the gym who’ve got a lot of weight to lose, I don’t think “You’re too fat to be here”, I think “Good on you! You’re already on your way to being healthier and fitter.”


I’m on a tight budget

Read the whole of the “excuse busting” series as one great article: How to stop making excuses and start making changes

Today’s excuse is “I can’t afford to eat healthily because I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford diet foods.”

The first myth here to banish is that losing weight involves eating “diet foods.” It might involve eating less chocolate and more vegetables, but you do not need to go out and buy Weight Watchers’ ready meals, Special K cereal, Slimfast meal replacement bars or any branded products at all.

Think of one food-related expense which you can save money on: that mid-morning coffee from Starbucks? The chocolate bar from the vending machine every afternoon? Expensive diet shakes that don’t fill you up?

Save on sandwiches

If you really think you can’t afford to lose weight, take an honest look at your weekly menu. Do you buy your lunch out? I was shocked to read in the Guardian today that someone starting their working life now should expect to spend over £70,000 on lunches before they retire – an average of £4.37 a day.

Try taking packed lunches instead: one of my favourites is a pitta bread stuffed with ham and lettuce, which works out far cheaper (and tastier) than plastic-packaged alternatives.

This is what it costs for a week’s worth of lunches:

  • 5 pitta breads (35p)
  • ½ tub light cream cheese (35p)
  • 200g pack wafer-thin ham (£1.35)
  • ½ iceburg lettuce (38p)
  • 1/6th jar Branston small chunk pickle (19p)

= a grand total of £2.63

You could easily spend that on a single sandwich.

Fresh, tinned or frozen?

Don’t skimp on your five-a-day just because you’re on a budget. Many fresh fruit and vegetables are impressively cheap – carrots cost about 6p each, for example, onions about 10p. Smallish apples are about 25p. Potatoes are always good value, especially if you buy in bulk.

For out-of-season or exotic fruits, buy tinned. A small can of pineapple rings will set you back 25p, compared to £1-£2 for a fresh pineapple. Tinned peaches are also good, especially as a base for a fruit salad.

Bags of mixed frozen vegetables are also excellent value: they require no chopping or preparation, and won’t turn to mulch in the bottom of your salad drawer.

Vegetarian value

Meat is much more expensive than vegetarian sources of protein. Try having a couple of meat-free evening meals during the week. A tin of mixed beans can work well in chilli, and tofu can replace chicken pieces in a stir-fry. Many (though not all) meats tend to be high in fat, too, so you’ll be helping both your wallet and your diet. If you’re not sure what to cook, there’s several vegetarian options (V) on the recipes page.

Read the whole of the “excuse busting” series as one great article: How to stop making excuses and start making changes

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I’ve been fat all my life

Today’s excuse is “I’ve been fat all my life. How can I expect that to change now?”

Don’t try to dismiss this one lightly. It lies at the root of many serial dieters’ failed attempts to lose weight.

It can be incredibly difficult to change your life if you can’t envisage yourself in the new life which you want. Lots of successful dieters struggle to change their mental image of themselves – if you’ve been overweight for most of your life, the new slim you in the mirror can come as a surprise. I am still startled when new friends and acquaintances describe me as “slim” – though of course, I am, and they didn’t know me when I wasn’t!

Will losing weight mean changing who you are?

To change, you need to establish not only new eating habits but a new way of thinking about yourself. For some people, being overweight is a large part of their personality and self-image, and not always in a negative way. Especially for men, being “Big John” can be part of who they are. Or perhaps you’re known amongst friends as “fun”, or “bubbly” or “someone who makes the best cakes” and you’re worried that losing weight will change the way they think about you.

And if you’re like me, you’ve probably spent years telling yourself you’re happy with your weight. Perhaps your weight means you can confidently insist (to yourself, to others) “I don’t care what the world thinks. I’m happy with who I am.” Great! Good for you! But there may come a point when you decide that for health reasons, you want to lose some weight. If so, read on…

Working through your feelings about your weight

Step One:
Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed for at least five minutes. (Lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary.) Sit down with a piece of paper, and write answers to the following questions. Be as honest as you possibly can – no one will see this except you. Even if you think your answers are “wrong”, be honest about your feelings.

  • How I feel about my current weight
  • Why I want to lose weight
  • Why I’m afraid of losing weight

Step Two:
Look at what you’ve written and decide: Do I want to lose weight? It’s absolutely fine to decide not. But if you do want to – and your fears and your past are holding you back – then take another piece of paper and write “This is how I envisage my life in three years’ time.”

Include details of how you look, what you’re eating, your family and friends, and your day-to-day activities. Keep this piece of paper somewhere safe, and look over it every week (maybe at your weekly weigh-in, or first thing on Monday morning). Revise and add to it when necessary.

Step Three:
Each week, take the steps that lead you closer to that lifestyle. If you’re not sure where to start, try browsing the archives and the longer articles here on The Office Diet.


I can’t eat a healthy diet because I’m too busy

Today, we’ll tackle that popular excuse: “I can’t eat a healthy diet because I’m too busy to faff around preparing complicated meals.”

There’s a huge range of calorie-counted products available in shops, from sandwiches to ready-meals. These can be very useful if you’re in a real rush, but no-one needs to live on them to lose weight. Healthy, diet-friendly meals can be quick and easy to prepare.


Get up five minutes earlier – hardly a huge challenge! – and make a sandwich for lunch. Go for granary bread and low-fat fillings (ham, cream cheese, salad or prawns all work well.) Grab a couple of pieces of fruit and a cereal bar to go with it, either from home or from your stash of snacks at work.

If your lunches are starting to get monotonous, check out my lunch tips or the suggested lunches on the recipe pages.


Plenty of tasty, healthy, meals take only ten-fifteen minutes to prepare. Pasta is ideal: just make sure you weigh out your portion (50-80g dried weight, depending how many calories you’re eating). You don’t need to tip an artificially sweet shop-bought sauce over your pasta – try chopping onion and mushrooms, frying them with just a spray of low-fat oil, and adding a small tin of shop bought tomatoes. By the time the sauce is done, the pasta should have finished cooking.

Rice or noodles are also great options – especially with vegetable stir-fry. You can even buy ready-chopped veg, most supermarkets do a range of these.

I’ve got more detailed instructions for pasta with tomato, bacon and veg sauce and vegetable stir-fry with noodles on the recipe pages. – along with a few other quick and easy dinner ideas.

Excuse busted – now take action!

This weekend, take ten minutes to think about meals for next week, and write a shopping list. Stock up your cupboards so that you won’t come home starving on Monday and make a beeline for the nearest takeaway.


What’s your excuse?

I’m great at coming up with ways to wriggle out of commitments that I’ve made to myself. There’s a lot of popular excuses around, especially while the days are still short and dark and Christmas cheer and New Year resolve seems long banished.

Do any of these sound familiar?
“I can’t eat a healthier diet because …”

  • I’m too busy to faff around preparing complicated meals
  • I don’t like fruits/vegetables/“healthy” food
  • I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy diet foods

“I can’t lose weight because …”

  • I’ve been fat all my life. How can I expect that to change now?
  • I’ll have to buy new clothes
  • I’ll be hungry all the time

“I can’t exercise because …”

  • I’m too fat and unfit
  • I don’t have any time
  • I hate exercise and always have done.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of “excuse-busting” articles, showing you how to break through the mindset behind each of those excuses and giving practical tips on storming ahead with your new, healthier, lifestyle.

In the meantime, it’s important to acknowledge those excuses that have held you back in the past. Get a piece of paper and write down any reasons which you use to convince yourself that you don’t want to change, or which make you feel you can’t change.

For example, “I’ve tried diets before and they never work.” That was my excuse as a teenager.

When I was seventeen, I realised why diets had never worked for me: I’d start a new one every Monday then give up and turn to food as soon as I was bored or upset. And I saw dieting as something I should do rather than something I wanted to do.

But I realised I could turn this around. I wanted to lose weight for myself – because I knew I’d be healthier. I wanted to take care of my body by eating proper meals and nutritious food rather than constantly snacking on crisps and chocolate. And this time, I wasn’t expecting instant results. There was nothing wrong with the diets I’d tried before – just my attitude towards them.

Take a good hard look at your excuse. Can you find a way round it? Is it worth letting it hold you back from achieving the best you can for yourself?

All the articles in this series will be labelled “Excuse-busting” (you can click on the link in the side bar to see all the articles in this category).