Are you sabotaging your weight loss without knowing it? Spot, then stop, these common diet problems.
Who hasn't thrown their diet rules out the window on the weekend or gone crazy with a super-rich and gooey chocolate dessert? Of course it's fine to splurge every once in a while, but over time these seemingly minor violations―in addition to some other not-so-small diet sins―can add up to a big number on your scale. To the rescue: our guide to the 10 most common diet mistakes that even smart women make―and straightforward advice on how to fix them.
If you make a habit of rushing through meals, you could end up eating more than you intend to―or even realize. Your brain
takes at least 15 minutes to register fullness, so if you shovel food into your mouth at a frantic pace, your stomach could
become overstuffed before you actually know you've had enough.
The fix: Make a conscious effort to savor the flavor. Try to dedicate more chews to every mouthful. You can also place your fork on your plate between bites and pick it up again only after you've swallowed. This will double the time it takes to eat. The payoff: In a recent study from the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, women were told to eat a pasta dish slowly by pausing between bites and chewing each mouthful 15 to 20 times. As a result they consumed about 70 fewer calories during the meal than when they consumed the same dish at a fast pace.
Sometimes you may reach for something to eat when you're really thirsty―an easy error to make because the body's signals for
hunger and thirst are similar. But nibbling when you should be sipping (or downing a lot of sugary drinks) can send your daily
calorie intake soaring.
The fix: Drink up throughout the day to keep thirst at bay. Try to consume at least 9 8-ounce glasses of water or low-calorie beverages daily and eat a lot of water-rich foods (think fruits and veggies). Is your stomach grumbling? If four or five hours have passed since you last ate, and you're well hydrated, you know that you're hungry and should reach for a healthy snack or meal.
Variety may be the spice of life (and a good way to ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs), but too much variety
can spell trouble for your diet. Why? Having too many options can entice your taste buds and tempt you to eat past the point
of fullness because you want to keep experiencing the tastes, aromas and textures of different foods.
The fix: Be strategic about your selections. If you're at a buffet, fill half your plate with an assortment of plain veggies, then take only small portions of three or four calorie-dense meats and poultry, pasta and rice dishes that look appealing to you. In other words, think of the heavier offerings as if they were side dishes or condiments, not the main event, then add them to your plate accordingly.
You know that regular exercise goes hand in hand with trimming calories when you're trying to lose weight, but if you skip
strength training in favor of cardio, you're overlooking one of the best friends a dieter can have. Strength training builds
muscle mass, which helps you burn calories at a faster rate all day long, and it can give you a leaner, more toned look.
The fix: Schedule it in. Two or three times a week, cut your aerobic workout in half and do a strength-training circuit―one set (8 to 12 reps) of five to 10 exercises for key muscle groups in the arms, legs, shoulders, back and abdomen. Taking this approach will help you begin building your body's lean muscle mass within weeks, which will boost your weight-control efforts. Not sure how to get started? Find an instructional DVD at collagevideo.com.
Sure, it's smart to replenish your body after you exercise. Just don't go overboard and consume more calories than you just
The fix: Drink water only. Avoid high-calorie sports drinks unless you've been exercising at a high intensity for more than an hour. Snack on some thing with no more than 100 to 150 calories. Be sure your after-workout munchies contain a mix of protein and carbs―half a high-protein energy bar, for example. The protein-carbohydrate combo will help restore energy reserves and repair the muscles and tissues that were stressed during the workout.
You might feel pressure to splurge when you're with buddies who overeat. And being overweight can be socially contagious,
according to research from Harvard Medical School. Researchers there found that having a friend who becomes obese will increase
by 57 percent your chances of gaining weight. Experts suspect the reason for this is that you mirror your friend's eating
habits when you're together, or you choose activities for the two of you that involve eating rather than exercising.
The fix: Avoid bonding over food. Instead, get manicures, go to a museum, bowl or play tennis. When you do eat together, be careful to not match your friend bite for bite. Stick to your dietary resolve by going slowly and putting your fork down between mouthfuls.
If you show great restraint during the week, only to indulge over the weekend, your habits will take a toll on your waistline.
In fact, many calorie-conscious people gain a small amount of weight on the weekends because they eat more and exercise less
than during the week, a recent study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found.
The fix: Aim for consistency. Try to keep your eating and exercise habits similar on both weekdays and weekends. Anticipate tempting situations, and watch your portion sizes even if you're dining out or going to a party. And check your alcohol intake: Besides containing hidden calories, cocktails can loosen your inhibitions, leading you to eat more than you intend to.
It's easy to lose control of what and how much you're eating if you snack or have a meal when you're famished. And if you
leave your snack choices to chance, you end up grabbing whatever is accessible from a vending machine, coffee cart or convenience
store. Chances are, what's available won't necessarily be what's healthy.
The fix: Plan snacks ahead of time. Healthy snack choices contain 100 to 200 calories and a combination of protein (for lasting fullness) and produce, which can keep you feeling full with its high water content. Good choices: 1 tablespoon of peanut butter smeared on a few stalks of celery, string cheese and a small apple, or a small container of plain low-fat yogurt with sliced strawberries.
It's easy to operate on autopilot ― repeatedly going from hand to mouth ― when you munch straight from the package. With this
kind of mindless noshing, you can quickly lose track of how much you've swallowed.
The fix: Measure out a portion. Put a single serving (check the nutrition info!) on a plate or a bowl and sit at a table, not on the couch in front of the TV. This will help you stay aware that you are actually taking in calories.
Reverting to your old ways will bring you right back to the previous number on the scale. That's because your new, smaller
body requires fewer calories to sustain basic functions (like heart rate and breathing) than your larger self did.
The fix: Give yourself a new calorie limit. You need eight fewer calories per day for every pound you lose. So if you used to eat 2,000 calories and you drop 20 pounds, you'll need 160 fewer calories now―1,840 total―to keep your slimmer profile.