For many people, the New Year's resolution list includes eating better, losing weight and exercising more. Unfortunately, studies suggest that most people end up breaking their diet resolutions, often by the end of February. As motivation wanes, it's easy to fall into patterns that throw you off track and prevent you from reaching your goal.
To help you stay motivated and stick to your resolutions this year, it's important to watch for - and sidestep - common diet blunders. The following pitfalls can sabotage your healthy eating and weight loss efforts. How many do you recognize?
#1 Unrealistic expectations. A classic mistake is having unrealistic or impatient goals. Tackling too many goals, or expecting immediate results, can lead to quitting before you even get started. Write down one or two realistic goals. Written goals provide focus and commitment to making changes to eating and exercise habits. A healthy, realistic weight loss goal is losing one or two pounds each week. (Studies show that people who lose weight slowly keep it off longer.)
#2 Not planning ahead. Not being organized is a sure fire way to sabotage a healthy eating plan. If you come home from work, tired and hungry, to an empty fridge chances are you'll order in. Or graze your way through the evening. To eat healthy during a hectic work week, plan meals in advance, make time for grocery shopping and batch cook on the weekend.
#3 Not tracking food intake. If you're determined to eat healthier this year, keep a food diary for the next four weeks. Writing down what you eat and how much you eat provides awareness, focus and motivation. It highlights the foods you are eating and the ones you are not eating. Tracking your intake will make you think twice about reaching for the office candy jar or eating a second helping at dinner. Assess your food journal daily to identify areas that need improvement.
#4 Cutting calories drastically. A diet that's too low in calories is counterproductive to losing weight. With too little food - or excessive exercise - the body slows down its metabolism and burns fewer calories in an effort to conserve body fuel. A very low calorie diet wipes out important nutrients too. A healthy weight loss diet should contain no fewer than 1200 calories for women and 1800 calories for men.
#5 Skipping breakfast. Breakfast is a key ingredient in any healthy eating plan, especially one designed for weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing study tracking the eating habits of over 5,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, reported that 78% of participants eat breakfast every day of the week.
Eating breakfast helps to kick start your metabolism and prevents you from getting too hungry before lunch. People who eat breakfast on a regular basis are more likely to have a structured eating plan throughout the day and are less likely to snack on empty calorie foods.
#6 Avoiding snacks. The no-snacking approach can leave you feeling hungrier at meals and more likely to overeat. Plan to eat every four to five hours to keep your blood sugar stable, your appetite in check, and your portion sizes down. Healthy snack choices include fruit and a small handful of nuts, a smoothie made with low fat milk and fruit, or a small energy bar.
#7 Forbidding foods. Swearing off your favourite food - be it ice cream, chocolate or French fries - will ultimately back fire. Putting a food on a forbidden list makes it more desirable and leads to feeling deprived. When you're stressed or bored you're more likely to crave what's taboo, a feeling that can lead to bingeing. Then the diet mentality sets in: you scold yourself for breaking your diet and resolve to start again tomorrow. Rather than banishing the foods you love, plan a weekly treat so you won't feel deprived.
#8 Not counting nibbles. It is easy to turn a blind eye to that piece of cheese you popped in your mouth when making the kids' lunches, or the repeated tastings when cooking dinner. But the scale keeps track of every calorie. Those mindless bites and sips can add up significantly - to an entire meal if you're not careful. A small American study revealed that people unable to lose weight on 1200-calorie diet were actually nibbling an additional 1000 calories each day.
Use your food diary to identify mindless nibbling and plan strategies to prevent it. If you sample while you cook, chew sugarless gum or sip on a glass of vegetable juice. If leftovers tempt you, cook only the amount you plan to serve.
#9 Forgetting to exercise. You can lose weight by dieting alone, but if you want to keep those pounds off exercise is essential. The majority of participants in the National Weight Control Registry (91%) say they exercise regularly to maintain their weight loss. Most combine walking with another type of planned exercise such as aerobics classes, biking or swimming. Regular exercise helps you stay trim by burning calories and increasing your metabolism. It also increases your motivation to eat a more healthful diet.
#10 Dodging the scale. If weight loss tops your resolution list, stepping on the scale once a week helps you measure your progress. Monitoring your progress provides motivation and impetus to keep on going. Avoid weighing in everyday since normal daily fluctuations, mostly due to water weight, can be discouraging.
Data from The National Weight Control Registry indicates that frequent weight monitoring is a critical factor in maintaining a weight loss. Among the 5,000 study participants studied, 75% say they weight themselves at least once per week. Frequent weighing provides an early warning system. It allows you to catch small increases in weight very quickly and take corrective action to prevent further weight gain.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.
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