Having trouble losing weight or keeping it off? If so, I suspect that there’s something in your diet that’s sabotaging your efforts. We call these “Fat Habits.” The 10 worst fat habits below are the most common diet wreckers, and most who struggle with weight loss, have at least one of these fat habits derailing their efforts.
1. Overdoing “diet” foods and sugar substitutes
There are no “special” or “manufactured” foods required to lose and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, good-for-you unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins are probably the best foods to help you lose weight.
Many dieters get stuck on using pricey diet foods, sugar substitutes, diet sodas and other calorie-reduced items that aren’t necessary and they aren’t always associated with diet success. Some studies even suggest sugar substitutes 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.
A recent statement from health organizations say that if you use sugar substitutes as a replacement for foods and beverages with added sugars, they can help you cut calories. We suggest using sugar substitutes sparingly and limiting diet beverages.
Related article: Unhealthy “health” foods
2. Using food “rewards” for exercising
Whether food is your “reward” for all your sweat or you feel ravenous after working out, many of us overcompensate with what we eat and never reach a calorie deficit to lose weight. Exercise burns a surprisingly puny amount of calories compared to what we can put away with a few bites of food. 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.
Related Article: Exercise Weight Gain
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 or as I like to say, #$%! Happens! And start fresh tomorrow.
Related article: Overeating SOS
4. Letting yourself slip & slide
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 can’t tell me what they ate 10 minutes ago! 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 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.
Related article: Win at Losing
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. Or, if I know I’m going to have my mom’s chocolate butter cream cake for dessert, I will make sure I eat light all day to allow for a 500-calorie-a-slice cake. Remember the Ps of weight loss: Plan, Prepare and Practice.
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, RD.
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.
8. Eating out too much.
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 severa 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.
Related Article: Dine Out Without Pigging Out
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 nearly 300 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.
Related Article: Think Before You Drink
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.
Related Article: Sleep More, Weigh Less
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD