Fat Loss Facts: 12 Dieting Mistakes & How To Avoid Them
Let’s briefly talk about different dietary mistakes folks make and ways you can avoid them. Dieting for the goals of weight loss, a healthy weight or other health benefits is a worthwhile endeavor that can reap benefits. Unfortunately, it’s much easier said than done and far too easy to wander off course.
We live in a society where there are all kinds of fads and so-called experts making various health claims ranging from the probable to the possible to the outrageous, and sometimes even dangerous. The goal of this post is to help you avoid some of those potential pitfalls so you may successfully tackle your dietary goals.
1. Don’t buy into “crash diets”, fad diets or other extreme dieting
The idea that you can lose 15-20 lbs or more in a very small period of time is technically possible, but difficult to achieve and sustain and more importantly, possibly unsafe. No physician or dietician will ever recommend that you quickly drop a significant amount of weight in a short period of time.
Folks try to achieve this by eating nothing but cottage cheese or grapefruit or some exotic supplement. Maybe you’ve heard of someone trying the blood type diet or cabbage soup diet. I would also include extreme fasting, detox and cleanse diets in this category. These are not smart dietary tactics for healthy, sustainable weight loss. Furthermore, you set yourself up for a bounceback in weight gain once the diet is over. Steady and controlled weight loss through lifestyle changes, moderation, balance and persistence is the key to success.
2. Weekends are not a dietary vacation
We’re all guilty of it. We’ve all been there. Monday through friday you are steadfast and committed to your plan of healthy eating. Maybe even hitting the gym regularly as well. Then the weekend rolls around and social part of your life roars to the top of your agenda. And suddenly, all bets are off…
Well guess what, if you want to lose weight, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You can dismantle an entire week, or even an entire month of progress in just a few days of binging on unhealthy food, excessive calories and/or alcohol. You can allow yourself a cheat meal, but that’s not carte blanche for a full retreat to your bad dietary habits. The weekend is just as important as the week days for your long term dieting goals.So be smart, and stick to your plan 7 days a week, not just 5.
3. Don’t skip breakfast
While it’s true that cutting total calories is an absolute must for any type of weight loss, blowing off the first meal of the day is not a step in the right direction. The importance of breakfast can not be understated. Your metabolic machinery slows down while you sleep, and your first meal of the morning is the kickstart to that metabolism for the days events. Avoiding breakfast can actually slow your metabolism. Furthermore, the hunger you feel from skipping breakfast is a setup to gorge at your next meal.
That doesn’t mean you should indulge in a massive 1000 calorie breakfast. Something high in protein and complex carbohydrates and moderate in calories should be sufficient to get you started for the day.
4. Don’t eat too fast
Sometimes, you are famished and you just devour what’s in front of you. Or perhaps you're someone who is just a “fast eater”. You’ll know if you are, because people tend to notice that and they’ve probably mentioned it to you sometime in the past. If you find yourself done and everyone else is still eating, this applies to you.
The problem with eating fast is that you don’t give your stomach and the subsequent flood of hormones time to act. Leptin, peptide Y and cholecystokinin are all hormones released in response to food intake, but require time to take effect. One aspect of this is the sensation of feeling full. If you eat too quickly, you outpace their activity and, despite eating an adequate meal, feel the sensation that you still need to eat or that you have room for more. This may setup you up to eating more calories than you otherwise would and this is counter-productive to the goal of dieting and weight loss. So slow down.
5. Not drinking enough water
Water has a few important functions, other than the simple fact that is essential for life. Water facilitates metabolic activity in the same way that engine oil helps the engine run smoothly. It’s an important part of your metabolism. Additionally, it can act as an appetite suppressant. If you drink a glass of water right before every meal, you will trick your stomach into a sensation of feeling full and be satisfied with less food. So make sure to keep yourself hydrated. According to the Institute of Medicine, that means at least 3L of water per day for men and 2.2L of water per day for women.
6. Not paying attention to snacks and ‘mindless’ eating
This is a big one. They say the devil is in the details, and that couldn’t be more true here. Every bite that goes in your mouth counts towards your total calories and your dietary goals. That includes everything you eat in between meals, whether that’s deliberate or mindless. It’s ok to pass on the piece of candy or baked good offered to you at work. That bag of chips you eat between lunch and dinner counts too. This excess eating quickly adds up in the wrong direction and is easily avoided with a little focus and attention to what you put in your mouth.
The way I think about this is a phrase ‘the perils of marginal thinking’. If you recognize that you are marginalizing your snacks, that this is holding you back from your goals, then you should be able to consciously avoid snacking.
7. Healthy snacks are ok
Similar to breakfast, snacking does have a role in a diet. Imagine that your stomach is a fuel tank. If it’s empty, you’re likely to gorge later. If it’s too full, that ‘fuel’ gets turned to fat. If it’s got just the right amount of fuel, all the gears in the bodies metabolic machinery are running at full speed. You are suppressing hunger and keeping yourself from gorging at your next meal.
Also, if you avoid snacking and eating enough, your hard earned muscle turns to fuel for the rest of your body! For most people, this is an undesirable side effect of being in the fasting state that can be partially avoided. My personal favorite snack is trail mix but there are plenty of good options out there. So it’s ok to snack, just be smart about it!
8. Don’t ditch the dairy
Some folks avoid dairy products when dieting, and with reasonable logic. It’s high in fat, so it’s bad, right? Well it’s not quite that simple. First, yes, avoid things like creams and high fat dairy products. Interestingly, one large study found that children who drank 1% or skim milk were more likely to be overweight or obese than children who drank whole milk. There also appears to be a link between increased dairy calcium and reduced levels of fat in your blood.
Like other parts of your diet, moderation is key. It’s ok to have a milk as long as you stay within your calorie window and maintain an otherwise balanced diet.
9. Don’t get tricked by terms like ‘low fat’, ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’
The most important thing you can do when dieting is burn more calories than you consume. Beyond that, managing your macronutrient intake - that is to say protein, carbs and fat - is also important. Food producers are keen to this and have been making food products with buzz terms like low fat, fat free or sugar free for many years. This doesn’t mean the food is healthy or will help you lose weight.
This is tricky dietary terminology because low fat or sugar free does not always equal low calorie. So make sure you pay attention not just to the fat or carb content of these products, but total calories as well. Additionally, a lot of these nutritional tricks that allow manufacturers to accomplish this involve the substitution of one ingredient for something else that may not necessarily be any healthier. Typically, this means the food is processed, pre made or pre packaged and may be detrimental to your goals. So do not be tricked by nutritional buzz words.
10. Not counting calories in your drinks
A glass of water has zero calories. That’s about the only thing you’ll drink with zero calories. Diet drinks and diet soda’s are rated at zero calorie content, but there isn’t much else (and that’s another conversation for another day). 8 oz of coffee has 5 calories, but as soon as you add cream and sugar you’re pushing yourself closer to 100. 8 oz of skim milk has nearly 100 calories. Beers and wine typically have 100 - 200 calories. Mixed drinks can have 100s of calories. Juice, soda,, etc all have calories too. When you’re dieting, these count. And unfortunately, they often don’t give us the sensation of feeling full, so we still eat a normal amount of food. So make sure you choose low-calorie drinks and avoid things that are non-essential. If you’re going to consume alcohol, stick to the low cal vodka waters.
11. Avoid the drive through, fast food
This is a personal passion of mine. As a matter of principle, I almost exclusively park my car and walk in at any place with a drive through. Only under rare circumstance do I take the drive through. This is, in part, because I burn more calories walking in and save gas money. Smart, right?
However, the bigger point here is that you should avoid fast food in general. Research shows, folks who eat fast food are more likely to gain (not lose) weight than folks who do not consume fast food. And we know this to be true. These food products are typically much more energy dense (more calories) and not likely to be more nutritionally dense ( they contain fewer vitamins and minerals). So be smart and plan ahead with your snacks and meals and you can avoid the drive through.
12. Setting unrealistic goals
Lastly, we all want to look like our ideal pro athlete or fitness model, and that’s probably achievable for you, but not overnight. Sustained weight loss does not occur in a time frame measured in days or weeks, it’s measured in months and, frankly, years. If you set a realistic goal of 1 lb per week for 20 weeks, for example, you’re more likely to hit that goal and stick with your plan than you will be if it’s 5 lbs per week for 4 weeks. Don’t expect to flip a switch. Stick with it, recognize that there is no instant fix, it takes hard work, determination and time. You’ll achieve your goals if you remember that.