We talk about losing weight with AppforHealth readers, friends, family and colleagues every day. We thought we’d take the best insights from those conversations and compile the 10 Worst Fat Habits that are guaranteed to sabotage your diet.
If you’re having problems losing weight or keeping it off, you probably have at least one of these bad habits. But don’t worry, we’ve got slim solutions for each.
1. Overdoing “diet” foods and products like sugar substitutes. There’s no “special” food required to lose and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, using just natural, good-for-you unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains are probably the best areas to focus on to lose weight. Many dieters get stuck on using pricey diet foods, sugar substitutes, diet sodas and other calorie-reduced items that are not only necessary, they haven’t been proven successful for long-term weight loss and maintenance. In addition, some studies of those who use sugar substitutes reveals that they may interfere with the body’s natural mechanisms to regulate caloric intake. Use diet foods and beverages sparingly and be mindful that they alone, will not equal diet success.
2. Using food “rewards” for exercising. Whether food is your “reward” for doing your workout or because exercise stokes your inner hunger monster, many of us never get the benefit of the calories burned off from exercise because we eat too much to compensate. Exercise burns a surprisingly puny amount of calories compared to what we can put away with a few bite of decadent treats. Even research on marathon runners shows that without paying attention to diet, it’s hard for a large percentage of them to lose weight—and that’s during peak marathon training where they’re burning 4,000 calories or more a week from just running. Remember, leanness is generally thought to be about 80% diet and 20% exercise.
3. Suffering from the perfect-eating syndrome. “Chronic dieters often adhere to strict all-or-nothing diets that are too restrictive and unrealistic. It’s like trying to walk on a tightrope for life, which explains their lack of success. We all will eventually fall off,” explains Marcia Crawford, MS, RD. Instead of thinking of a strict eating plan that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, focus on strategies that you can, with a little work, realistically live with.
You need to expect slip-ups to happen when you’re losing weight, so how you deal with a bad day, week or month helps predict success. Individuals who can lose and maintain weight loss can be flexible enough with themselves to bounce back to healthy eating. Think: Life Happens and start fresh tomorrow.
4. Not being accountable. I don’t know how many people tell me that they just can’t lose weight, and they’re eating perfectly. When I ask them, “What did you eat yesterday?” most cannot recall. When we really delve in to their diet, they see all the little nibbles and extra calories that they’re mindlessly eating. To keep honest, try to weigh yourself at least once a week (if you can’t stand the scale, use a pair of tight jeans as your objective measure of success) and track everything you eat and drink at least 5 days a week. There are several great free online sources for tracking your diet, including MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople.
5. Ditching your favorite foods. Diets won’t work for the long-run if you deprive yourself of your favorite foods. You can enjoy indulgences, if they’re planned for and accounted for as part of your diet. Many times, I will opt to eat some of my favorite sweets during the day and I’ll compensate by eating a light dinner of just a salad and/or soup.
6. Expecting too much, too soon. Chances are you didn’t gain 10, 20 or 50 pounds overnight so don’t expect your body to shred the pounds. It’s easy to lose motivation when you’re trying hard and aren’t seeing results on the scale but stick with it. Regardless of what you see on TV (ie, Biggest Loser) or read in the Hollywood tabloids, weight loss is a long, often slow, process. “Think: This is a journey not a destination,” says Theresa Gilbert, MSEd, RD, a dietitian and certified wellness coach in Dayton, OH.
Gilbert has her weight loss clients focus on positive eating behaviors rather than just the number on the scale. We set goals like eating at least one serving of fruits and veggies at each meal, drinking eight glasses of water a day or eating fewer meals out.
7. Eating while distracted. If you eat and do anything else at the same time, you’ve got a seriously bad habit to address. There’s significant research showing that adults and children who have the most screen time, (computer, smart phones, videos, TV) are more likely to be overweight or obese. But scientists say it’s not because they get less exercise.
Studies show that distracted eaters gobble up to 100% more after a meal compared to distracted eaters, and those who watch TV and eat consume 20-100% more calories compared to individuals who eat without distractions. While at the same time, distracted eaters reported being less satisfied. To increase satisfaction of meals and snacks, you need to only eat. When the brain is distracted, it takes significantly more calories to get the same level of satiety. For more on how to overcome mindless eating, follow these tips.
8. Eating out more than twice a week. Eating out used to be a treat, something we did on occasion. The proportion of our daily calories from take-out or restaurant meals has increased significantly over the past several decades. Research shows that people who eat out two or more times a week are more likely to gain several pounds per year compared to those who eat out less frequently. Most dietitians recommend preparing your own meals and snacks as much as possible. Reserve eating out for special occasions or business travel. When eating out, manage calories by reading the menu and any calorie information available and forgo all the extras and stick with the most basic mean options.
9. Drinking too many liquid calories. New research shows that we’re drinking a great proportion of our calories than ever before. In fact, one-quarter of the population drinks at least 200 calories a day from sugary drinks like soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, flavored water and gourmet coffee drinks. The problem with drinking our calories is that they’re less satisfying than when we eat foods, so we’re unlikely to eat less when we drink more calories. In addition, most beverages with calories get their calories from nothing other than sugar. This sugar is rapidly absorbed by the body and may increase risk for metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes and may increase hunger and cravings.
10. Skimping on your zzzs. This may be the easiest of all fat habits to break. All you need to do is get more sleep. Several studies have recently found that sleeping 6-8 hours a night was found to double dieters chances at losing at least 10 pounds over the 26-week study. If you really want to be a diet success story, make the changes needed in your life so you can get enough sleep.