Are you struggling to lose weight? If so, make sure you’re not falling into these 5 common diet mistakes.
Mistake Number 1: Skipping Meals to Lose Weight
It seems intuitive, cut out a meal and you’ll automatically eat less and lose weight. Not so fast. This common diet trick backfires on almost everyone who tries it. People who skip meals—especially breakfast—consume more total calories in the day compared to those who do not skip out on meals. Why? Meal skippers snack more and eat larger meals and higher-calorie foods in general. Breakfast is important to jump-start metabolism and set the stage for managing hunger throughout the day.
What to do: The most recent research for weight loss is set on a “normalized” eating pattern of three squares and a mid-am and mid-afternoon snack. Start your day with a wholesome, filling breakfasts of about 300-400 calories and with at least 20 grams satisfying protein. Here, three breakfasts I often eat:
- Bowl of oatmeal (1 cup cooked) with fresh fruit and 1/4 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt;
- 2 Eggs + 1 egg white (or 4 egg whites) with roasted veggies with 1 slice whole-wheat toast
- Container of lowfat or nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit mixed with 1/4 cup oats or Grape-Nuts
Mistake Number 2: Following a Diet that Doesn’t Fit
Research shows that you can lose weight on just about any type of diet—high-carb, low-carb, Slim-Fast, Weight Watchers, Dunkan, Atkin’s or other popular programs. Any “diet” that helps you eat fewer calories than you burn off will result in weight loss. However, those who successfully stick with it are people who chose the approach to follow based on what fit their food preferences and personal lifestyle. Research also shows that successful losers picked elements that work from one or more programs or diet philosophies to create their personalized approach to weight loss.
What to do: Assess what you can and cannot change in your life and find a weight loss program, book or expert that can help you find strategies to cut calories that will fit into your work and home life. If you are a busy person and travel a lot, a diet book that requires a lot of cooking will not work for you.
Mistake Number 3: Searching for “magic” bullets
Americans plunk down 40 billion dollars each ear on diet products. The weight loss industry, replete with phony pills like raspberry ketones, powders and potions like the HcG diet that claim to melt away pounds with little or no effort are in a word: bogus. Short of bariatric surgery, there are currently no drugs or O-T-C products that are proven effective for long terms weight loss without following a diet and exercise program. For the worst diets of all, read this.
What to do: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The best diet
foods are readily available and won’t drain your wallet. Eat a diet rich in plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. They are the most filling and nutrient-rich and help keep you fuller, longer. Broths and soups and other foods that are water-dense are also naturally filling.
Mistake Number 4: Suffering from Scale-itis
Not keeping tabs on your weight, via a simple bathroom scale or tape measure, is a recipe for diet disaster. Research shows that individuals who weigh themselves frequently, at least once a week, are the least likely to gain weigh. Why? Keeping track of your body weight means that you will be likely to nip weight gain in the bud.
What to do: Invest in a bathroom scale and put a calendar up on a wall and make your weight on it at least once a week. Alter your diet and exercise patterns as soon as you see any creepage north. I recommend Tuesdays as “weigh myself” day as it gives you one day after the weekend to get yourself on the nutrition straight and narrow. Many research suggests that daily or weekly weigh-ins are also essential to maintain weight loss.
Mistake Number 5: Trying to Exercise Yourself Thin
Exercise is wonderful for many reasons, but it is generally not the best bet for a sole option for losing weight—even if you’re training for a marathon triathlon. I’ve learned this the hard way…I did all kinds of endurance exercise but couldn’t seem to be as lean as my friends who exercised much less. My problem? I thought I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted because I was swimming, biking and running so much. I couldn’t. Once I learned that, I could better manage my weight. We’ve even written about marathoners actually gaining weight while training for their race.
Why? Calories in food add up much more quickly than calories burned during exercise. Consider this: The calories in a half-cup of ice cream equals 40 minutes of swimming or biking or about 1 ½ hours of yoga or walking. A small bagel would require 35 minutes of swimming or biking or one hour and 15 minutes of walking or yoga. As you can see, it takes a lot of exercise to create a caloric deficit that would result in appreciable weight loss. What’s more, recent research shows that exercise stimulates the appetite, so you’re likely to eat as many calories after exercise as you just burned off.
What to do? Use exercise in conjunction with a healthy diet that emphasizes real foods that fit your lifestyle. After exercise, fight your appetite and fill up on fruits and vegetables so you don’t calorie overload.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD