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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Most Common Diet Mistakes

It’s likely that you’ve been on a diet at one point in your life. And everyone can easily name a few friends or family members who’ve been on one. Did you succeed? Did they? Or did you find yourself right back where you started?

Simple diet mistakes can derail your best efforts to get back into that favorite pair of jeans. If the scale seems stuck, or your weight drops off only to bounce back up, there’s a chance you could be making one of these weight loss blunders.

Relying on Crash Diets

crash diet cartoon

Determined to lose 10 pounds fast, you turn to a crash diet. Perhaps your plan calls for nothing but grapefruit or cabbage soup each day. You slash your daily calories to fewer than 1,000 -- and sure enough, the pounds melt away. But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down. Once the diet is over, you have a body that burns calories more slowly -- and gains weight more quickly -- than ever before.

Skipping Breakfast

bed breakfast not interested cartoon

Skipping breakfast seems like a simple way to cut calories, but the result can be insatiable hunger the rest of the day. This may lead to unplanned snacking at the office and eating a super-size portion at lunch, making calorie counts soars. But breakfasts that are high in protein and fiber can reduce hunger throughout the day. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and you should make the time to eat it. In fact, studies show people who eat breakfast every morning are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and you should make the time to eat it.

Losing Track of Your Snacks

snacking cartoon

Maybe you count calories meticulously at every meal, but what about all those nibbles in between? There’s the bag of pretzels at your desk, the little slice of cake at an office party, the taste of your son’s ice cream cone. All of this mindless munching adds up and could sabotage an otherwise well-planned diet. If you’re serious about counting calories, you may want to use a notebook to keep track of each bite.

Not Snacking at All

healthy snacking tips cartoon

While mindless snacking can pad your waistline, thoughtful snacking may do just the opposite. People who eat several small meals and snacks a day are more likely to control hunger and lose weight. Snacking helps keep your metabolism in high gear, especially if the snacks are protein-rich. Nuts are a good, high-protein choice, and research suggests people who snack on nuts tend to be slimmer than those who don't.

Loading Up on Low-Fat

low fat cartoon

Low-fat products can play an important role in your diet. Just remember that low-fat isn’t the same as low-calorie and it’s not a license to take second and third helpings. To cut the fat from packaged foods, they had to save the flavor by adding sugar, sodium or other preservatives. If you pile your plate with low-fat cake, you may end up eating more calories than if you had a smaller slice of regular cake. The best way to know how much fat, sugar, and calories you’re getting is to check the nutritional label.

Sipping Too Many Calories

diet soda cartoon

When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what’s in our drinks. This is a big mistake when you consider that some fancy coffees and alcoholic beverages have more than 500 calories. Even the calories in fruit juice and soda can add up quickly. Soft drinks, juices, cocktails and lattes are all full of calories, and empty calories at that.  What’s worse is that liquid calories don’t curb hunger. You’re not going to eat any less after a high-calorie drink.

Drinking Too Little Water

water to sport drink cartoon

This is one of the simplest diet blunders to fix. Water is essential for burning calories. If you let yourself get dehydrated, your metabolism drags -- and that means slower weight loss. Research suggests adults who drink eight or more glasses of water per day burn more calories than those who drink less. So try adding a glass of water to every meal and snack. Water fuels body processes, clears skin, gives energy and a host of other positives.

Ditching Dairy

drink milk

Milk, cheese, and ice cream are taboo for many dieters, but ditching dairy foods may be counterproductive. Some research suggests the body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium and produces more fat when it’s calcium-deprived. Calcium supplements do not appear to yield the same benefits, so dairy may have other compounds at work as well. Most dietitians recommend sticking to nonfat or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Taking the Drive-Through Bait

plant fasf food

The drive-through is convenient after a hectic day, and you can always order the salad or other healthier option. But once you’re there, can you resist that milkshake or other treat? And if you allow yourself the ease of fast food once, it could become a habit. These meals-on-the-go are full of sodium, trans fat, calories and other food additives that a healthy body just doesn’t need. Not to mention oversized portions and the price tag. Plan meals ahead of time to avoid the drive-thru. According to one long-term study, people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who had it less than once a week.

Weighing Yourself Every Day

weighing cartoon

Weighing yourself daily is a recipe for frustration and doesn’t yield useful information. It’s more important to look for a long-term trend with weekly weigh-ins. If your goal is to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, you’ll be satisfied to see those full-pound drops when you step on the scale. The result is more motivating than the confusing swings that may accompany daily weigh-ins. Also, keep an eye on waist inches as an indication of weight loss.

Setting Unrealistic Goals


Telling yourself you’ll lose 20 pounds your first week is probably setting yourself up for failure. If you know you won’t be able to do it, you may never start your diet in the first place. If you do diet and lose 5 pounds in a week, instead of celebrating, you may feel discouraged that you didn’t reach your goal. A realistic goal is vital to successful dieting. Set small, attainable goals and as you reach each milestone, you’ll find you’re gradually moving toward that bigger goal. If you’re not sure what your goal should be, talk to a dietitian.

Avoiding Exercise

no exercise

When you don’t exercise, you place the entire burden of weight loss on your diet. If you become more active, you can eat more of the things you like -- and still lose weight. It’s as simple as calories in, calories out. A combination of a healthy diet and then at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week will yield positive results. The key is finding an exercise you enjoy. If the treadmill seems tedious, try swimming, ballet, biking, or Ping-Pong, all of which burn more calories than walking. Spend time at different activities until you find one you want to do on most days.

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