Trying to lose a few pounds? Even though you may think you’re being good with your dieting and exercise, you are likely be sabotaged by certain behaviors that are slowing down your weight loss, or even causing you to gain weight. Avoid the following things to give yourself the best chance of success with your weight loss efforts. Knowledge is power, ladies.
Being on a “Diet”
Yes, seeing yourself as being on a diet will sabotage your weight loss. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to learn how to eat nutritious foods in sensible portions, and to make this type of eating a way of life. Sure, trendy crash diets or severely reducing your calorie intake will make you quickly lose weight initially, but anything that completely cuts out certain healthy food groups or tightly constricts your caloric intake is impossible to maintain for long. Even worse, a lot of these diets can damage your metabolism, so when you come off them you end up quickly gaining all the weight back.
Eating After 8 p.m.
It’s a common myth that night eating causes you to gain weight because of the way your body stores calories as fat when sleeping. But the truth is that, for many people, when they eat at night, they end up gaining weight because they’re usually eating more than their required caloric intake. (Side note: eating at night can also cause discomfort because your digestion slows down as your body prepares for sleep.) If you want to eat so soon after dinner, it’s likely that you’re not listening to your body, eating out of boredom, zoning out in front of the TV, or emotionally eating.
So if you’re feeling peckish after dinner, first try having a glass of water. Sometimes our bodies confuse thirst with feelings of hunger. Then, if you’re still craving a bite, exercise physiologist and nutritionist Luci Gabel recommends that you instead try a cup of warm herbal tea with spices like cinnamon, ginger or cayenne pepper. “The warm water will actually help you to feel calm and satisfied, while the spices and honey will satisfy your cravings,” says Gabel. Just make sure you’re drinking decaf.
Check out these other great expert tips on controlling night eating.
Overdoing It on “Diet” Food
Read your food nutrition labels. Just because the box says it’s “healthy” does not mean it actually is. Case in point: calorie portioned frozen dinners will save you time and effort, but they will blow your sodium count out of the water. And diet soda? While it’s calorie-free, research is working to link diet soda to actual weight gain and binging on sweets. And if you can’t pronounce it, do you really want to put it in your body? Or think about granola: it’s touted as a healthy snack, but have you ever actually looked at how much sugar, and how little nutrition, it often contains?
Another common “diet food” trap is shunning anything but food labeled as fat-free. As Registered Dietitian Jacqueline Aizen explains, “Saturated fat is essential for our cell membranes, nerve conduction, and strengthening our immune system.” Not only that, but these fats can also help fight cravings. “Foods with natural saturated fats often fill us up for longer periods of time which means we often will have less cravings for other foods,” adds Briar Munro, personal trainer and holistic life coach. Don’t go completely full-fat crazy, though–it’s still important to avoid trans fats. “Trans fats are the ones we should really be watching out for as these are man made and our body does not know how to break them down and utilize them,” Munro says. Your best prescription is to eat natural healthy foods in a well-balanced manner. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the saying, “If your great-grandma wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it.”
Frequently when women are trying to lose weight they think that skipping meals will save calories for later in the day. Two reasons why this is a problem: first, you’re very likely to just overeat at your next meal or through snacking, and second, you can’t “bank” your calories. That is, in order to keep your metabolism going, you must eat regularly throughout the day. When you skip meals, your body not only slows down calorie burning, but it can slip into starvation mode, so when you finally get around to eating, your body wants to hang on to the calories and store them as fat because it thinks it needs them for the future. In general, you should be eating breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner.
While eating in general helps keep up your metabolism, certain foods are even more effective at revving up your burn. Check out this great list of nutritious, metabolism boosting foods you can load up on to amp up your calorie burn.
Avoiding Strength Training
Way too many of us are guilty of this one. We think our time is better spent ticking off calories with cardio than anything else, and we end up passing on strength training. While cardio is essential for weight loss, energy, de-stressing and cardiovascular health, you can’t overlook the benefits of weight training in the battle of the bulge.
We’re not talking about hulka-mania muscles here, but building lean muscle mass is absolutely necessary when it comes to tightening up your body and helping speed up your metabolism.
Think of it like this: cardio will help you burn off calories while you’re exercising, but muscle mass will help you burn calories when you’re going about your day-to-day life. Increasing your muscle mass increases your body’s calorie burn. If you’re just getting started with strength training, personal trainer and holistic lifestyle coach Brair Munro recommends mountain climbers, spiderman crawls, bear crawls and crab walks. “These exercises will work upper body, core and some lower body muscles all at once giving you a big bang for your buck time-wise,” she explains.
Not Tracking Your Food
When you’re eating all day, it’s hard to keep track of everything you’re putting in your mouth—even the best mathematicians among us can get lost in all that calorie math. Your best bet is to write down or use an app to track everything you’re eating so you’re not underestimating your intake. A recent study even found that women who keep food journals lost an estimated six pounds more than those who did not. With today’s tech-friendly way of life you have no excuse to be calorie ignorant. Try out a food tracking app like a ChickRx fave, MyFitness Pal where you can enter in each item you eat (the nutritional value of a bazillion foods is stored in their database), how much you’re eating and track how much more you can eat in the day to meet your weight goals.
Read the nutritional information on your food, understand portion size and be honest and track each and every item you eat—even that Hershey’s Kiss you snuck after lunch. You’ll thank yourself for your diligent bookkeeping efforts when you step on the scale.
Usually, when you take control of your health and lose weight people are happy for you, but every once in a while there are a few that make snide comments about the new you. Maybe they’re jealous, feel guilty that they should be getting on the health bandwagon, or perhaps they simply don’t understand. Ultimately, the snide comments can be very discouraging and could potentially cause you to lose motivation.
To remedy the situation, make an attempt to involve your friend in your new healthy lifestyle. After all, research has shown that healthy friends stick together and vice versa. Invite them to a new workout class, to go for a walk or take a clean eating cooking class with you. A lot of times, just involving someone can help make them feel included and part of your new life.
If all else fails, if you are confident you are leading a healthy and responsible lifestyle, it’s important to know that what you’re doing is right for you. Don’t feel bad for heading to bed early instead of going for a second round of drinks or passing on a slice of your friend’s birthday cake. It’s your life to lead, not your friend’s. And don’t forget, true friends stand beside you.