You dropped 15 pounds only to gain back 20 a few months later. Think you're destined for failure? Think again. The main underlying reason you can't seem to keep off the pounds is you're standing in your own way. You don't necessarily need daily Bikram yoga sessions and bouts of HIIT workouts to melt fat and keep off the extra poundage. What you do need is to realize your everday habits may be sabotaging your weight loss, and preventing you from leading a healthy lifestyle.
We went to Bonnie Taub-Dix owner of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it Before You Eat It to expose the most common weight loss and dieting mistakes people make. We guarantee you're guilty of at least one of these blunders.
In order to lose weight and keep it off, consistency is absolutely essential. “What a lot of people don’t realize is it’s not just about how much can you pump and push in a day, it’s also about the psychological aspect of knowing ‘I did something today,’ Taub-Dix says. It doesn’t have to be a ball-breaking workout, just something to show yourself you’re paying attention and working toward your goals. “It’s the impression of being on a day ‘off’ that leads you to be much more lax in your diet,” Taub-Dix adds. (How many times has your day off involved take-out Chinese food or a circle of friends and half-off appetizers...) That’s not to say you shouldn’t be able to relax in your diet or exercise regimen, but you should never feel like you’re turned off.
Myth: Skipping breakfast will help you cut back on calories.
Fact: Skipping breakfast is an invitation to overeat during lunchtime.
Your body’s been fasting all-night long, so you need breakfast to get your metabolism churning again, to keep your brain sharp, and to balance your blood sugar. “A lot of people use the excuse that they don’t have time, but in the time it takes to read an email, you can spread almond butter on a piece of whole grain bread,” Taub-Dix says. It's all about making your habits reflexive and second nature. Leave a bag of plastic spoons on your counter top and grab a yogurt from the fridge before you head out to work, Taub-Dix suggests.
“To me, this is probably the number one reason why people can't keep off weight,” Taub-Dix says. Every day, we're inundated with conversations about the foods we should and shouldn’t eat but there’s no emphasis on portions. Read: You can overeat healthy foods. “Recognize that a cup of olive oil is 2,000 calories,” Taub-Dix says. “So, sautéing vegetables using a 1/4 cup of olive oil, adds about a 500 or more calories to a meal that could be 50 calories,” she adds. You can be sabotaging yourself without even realizing it.
You don’t necessarily need a life coach, trainer, or nutritionist by your side day and night to have a better handle on your goals and weight loss. “Grab a piece of paper and write down every morsel that you’re putting into your mouth,” Taub-Dix says. “This is a giant wakeup call, and makes people become much more aware.” By journaling, you keep yourself accountable, and you’re able to see the formation of bad habits. Don’t just write what foods you’re eating, but write the time of day and what you’re doing while you eat. If you’re watching television, reading emails, or opening the mail every time you eat a meal, stop. Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests distracted eating makes you consume more food during a meal (as well as later on), even when you’re full.
Here's something to remember the next time you're inhaling donut holes from your office's snack table: “If you eat for the wrong reasons, you’re going to be wearing the wrong sizes,” Taub-Dix says. Whether it’s for stress, boredom, or elation—none of the satisfaction you’re seeking will be satiated by food. Research published in the journal Psychological Science found NFL fans eat more fatty foods the day after a loss than a win. And another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found sugar seems to lower stress signals in the brain. These foods may make you feel better in the short term, but in the long term it’s quite the opposite.
You can’t help the genetics your parents have passed down to you, but you can help your environment. “If you have overweight parents or roommates, and the foods around the house are very high calorie, high in fat, and not very healthy, then you could be more likely to stock your own cabinets with that, which can be a big problem,” Taub-Dix says.
“The word 'diet' means way of life,” Taub-Dix says. “You need to try to find a diet you can actually live with in the short term and long term, so whatever weight you lose cannot be found.” This means a diet that cuts out an entire food group isn’t going to be an eating plan you follow for life. Being selective is good, but it can backfire if you strictly follow a list of “allowed” and “avoid” foods. You can overeat healthy foods, which can make you regain weight, or you can binge on the “bad foods” because you completely prohibit them from your life.
Like fad diets, if you deny yourself of certain foods and food groups, you set yourself up to binge. It’s really simple. “If you love certain foods, you’re going to want them in your life,” Taub-Dix says. They just need to be there more selectively and in moderation. Try to eat them once in a while—maybe every other weekend or when you’re on vacation—or try healthier versions and alternatives to whatever you're craving.
“A lot of people think they can go on a diet, and when it ends, they can just live their lives,” Taub-Dix says. Sorry, but that’s just not how it works. You can’t go back to sitting on the couch wrist-deep in a bag of BBQ chips and expect your figure to stay trim and lean. Keep your old habits old, and you new habits new, but make sure you’re being realistic. You’re more likely to sustain patterns that are realistic than you are to maintain a hybrid vegan-Paleo Diet (FYI it's called the Pagen Diet) and an ultra high-intensity workout regimen.
A formula where you don’t eat and you lose weight does not exist. That's called starvation, and it has many different repercussions and reactions within your body. For starters, low blood sugar. When that dips, you feel like you’re crashing, you get tired, irritable, maybe lightheaded or dizzy. “At this point, the word that’s going to take over is ‘whatever,’ or apathy sets in and you feel like eating anything that comes your way,” Taub-Dix says. That effort you’re making to lose weight will backfire as conservation sets in. “If your body thinks you’re in trouble, it’ll slow up your metabolism and weight loss, even though you’re not eating too much, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish,” she adds.