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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who pledged to lose weight in 2013, the time has come to put your tummy where your mouth is. As if trying to lose weight wasn’t difficult enough already, attempting to shed pounds put on during the holidays becomes even more imposing when you sabotage yourself by engaging in a few dieting don’ts. To help you enjoy a thinner New Year, here are a few common mistakes dieters make that can wreck even the best-laid weight loss plans.

Using Crash Diets

If you made a resolution to drop 20 pounds this year, don’t make the mistake of trying to lose it all at once by using a crash diet. Whether your plan includes eating nothing but cabbage soup and grapefruit each day for two weeks or giving up all solid foods for so-called “miracle” shakes, crash diets offer dieters two absolutes- rapid weight loss followed by immediate weight gain.

Say you slash your daily calorie intake to less than a 1,000 calories a day. While you’ll see an almost immediate loss in weight, starving your body by providing it too few calories causes your metabolism to slow down. Since you can’t live on cabbage forever, once you begin eating normally, your body will no longer be able to burn calories as efficiently as it did prior to starting the diet. This means calories you once were able to metabolize now get turned to fat, and you start gaining weight.

Skipping Breakfast

Another common dieting strategy calls for skipping meals such as breakfast, as a way to cut calories. However, this strategy can have two unintended consequences. First, skipping breakfast may cause you to feel hungry the rest of the day, which leads to frequent snacking or eating huge, calories laden portions during lunch and dinner. Skipping breakfast won’t save you any calories if you eat massive meals the rest of the day to satisfy your growing hunger.

Secondly, eating a breakfast loaded with protein can actually make you less hungry throughout the day. Studies have found  that individuals who eat a breakfast heavy in proteins, such as whole grain toast, eggs, and a piece of lean ham, stay full longer and eat less the rest of the day, as a result. This type of breakfast will also provide you with the energy needed to go about your day.

Not Snack Tracking

The most effective diets are the ones that keep meticulous track of every calorie consumed. Programs like Weight Watchers ask dieters to write down every calorie they ingest to make sure members stay within their targeted, daily goals. That’s why these types of programs offer dieters prepackaged meals with all the pertinent dietary information clearly written on the back.

For those looking to monitor their own calorie consumption, the hard part isn’t keeping track of what you ate during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s keeping track of every snack enjoyed in-between meals. That handful of pretzels, half a candy bar, or even that cup of coffee with cream and sugar you drank all contain calories that need to be accounted for when budgeting out your daily intake. While on their own, these types of quick snacks might not seem like much, but they can quickly add several hundred calories a day to your diet.

Not Snacking

You might think by reading that previous section that snacking ruins a diet. However, snacking actually plays an important role in weight loss, as long as you remember to keep track of what you ate.

By only eating three times a day, your metabolism falls into a pattern where it ratchets up following a meal only to throttle down until the next time you eat. By snacking periodically throughout the day, especially on high-protein snacks, you keep your metabolism running and burning calories all day long. This allows your body to metabolize the calories you eat during larger meals more efficiently, so every calories is used and nothing is turned to fat.

Overloading on Low-Fat

Foods that advertise as low-fat are a great compliment to any diet. However, you shouldn’t confuse low-fat as being the same as low-calorie. Indulging on that second cookie or third scoop of ice cream just because you’re eating a low-fat product doesn’t mean you avoid consuming extra calories. While low-fat generally mean less calories, you lose that benefit by eating more.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health and science writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Dale Nelson, a general dentist in Vancouver, WA.


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