A review article about the efficacy of dieting was published this week in JAMA. The lead author, Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, wrote that the focus on a specific diet for weight loss is essentially a waste of time because all the evidence suggests that the type of diet you follow (low-fat, low-carb, Mediterranean, Paleo) is not what matters. Based on the research, the only thing that matters for lasting weight loss is how long you can stick with a healthy eating pattern. Since half of all dieters quit within a month, diets clearly don’t equal long-term success.
That’s where behavior approaches to weight loss can make a real difference in helping you lose and maintain a healthy weight for life. It’s also why we wrote our book, The Real Skinny, because we wanted to focus on 100+ daily habits that many of us have that make it impossible to get leaner and stay that way. To get you started on changing your behaviors that may be getting in the way of reaching your healthy weight goals, here are five of the most common habits that can derail your diet.
Fat Habit: 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.
Slim Solution: 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.
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 solid foods, so it’s easier to overeat. 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.
Slim Solution: Drink water and other calorie-free choices. If you drink diet beverages with sugar substitutes, limit to no more than 1 per day, as new research suggests that diet soda may not be diet-friendly after all.
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.
Slim Solution: Take whatever steps you need to organize your life so that you can get the appropriate hours of sleep that your body requires. Everyone has an optimal “sleep number,” so find and stick to yours.
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.
Slim Solution: To keep honest, try to weigh yourself at least once a week and track everything you eat and drink at least 5 days a week. You can track what you eat in a notebook, or use an online tracker like MyFitnessBuddy or SparkPeople.com.
An increasing number of adults’ daily calories are coming from alcoholic beverages, but unfortunately, beverages with ethanol are one of the worst diet wreckers around. In fact, one recent study found that drinking alcohol was worst than watching lots of TV and eating out frequently for managing one’s weight. Alcohol stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain making you crave forbidden foods (i.e., fried foods, chips, desserts). And at the same time, alcohol increases your appetite. And, let’s not forget that many drinks can pile on a lot of calories. We call alcohol a triple-threat to managing your weight.
Slim Solution: Drink on special occasions only. If you do drink, stick with one drink per night for women and no more than two for men.