Many well-meaning dieters unknowingly sabotage their own weight loss efforts – are you one of them? Here are 5 surprising ways you could be forcing your body to hold onto the extra pounds – even when you’re doing everything else right.
Not Eating Enough
It’s a little counter-intuitive, but by restricting too much, you could risk putting your body into severe starvation mode, which causes you to hold onto that extra weight for dear life.
Not Paying Attention to Portion Sizes
Conversely, many of us struggle with the opposite problem: eating too much. Unfortunately, even if you’re eating totally healthy food all the time, you’re still not going to lose weight if you’re eating too much of it.
Finding out what correct, healthy portion sizes actually look like was really surprising at first. They seem so small, especially since I live in the U.S. (the Midwest, no less!) where restaurant portions are constantly getting bigger. You do get used to it, though, and since eating several smaller meals throughout the day is the healthiest way to go, controlling your portion sizes is a good way to start with that.
So, how much of each food should you be eating? Here are a few common guidelines to give you an idea:
- Meat – For chicken and red meat, a serving is about the same size as a deck of playing cards. You can get away with a larger portion of fish, however: aim for the size of a checkbook.
- Peanut Butter – 2 tablespoons, the recommended serving size, is about the size ofa golf ball.
- Pasta – 1 serving is roughly the size of a tennis ball.
- Vegetables – Honestly, eat as many as you want. But a serving is the size of a softball.
- Cheese – 1 oz. is the size of 6 dice.
Skipping Meals, Especially Breakfast
Skipping breakfast might make you feel like you’re getting less calories overall, but actually, breakfast eaters are 50% less likely to be obese than those who skip the morning meal. Breakfast literally serves to “break your fast” after sleeping for 8+ hours – by skipping it, you’re tricking your body into thinking that you’re starving. Also, skipping breakfast puts you at risk for bingeing later. Mid-morning, you’ll find yourself so hungry, you’ll eat anything in reach even if it’s not the healthiest choice.
So what makes up a good breakfast? Try to include complex carbs that digest slowly, plenty of fiber to keep you full all morning, and protein for sustained energy. Oatmeal with milk and fruit is a great choice. If you’re rushed in the morning, try a yogurt based fruit smoothie with some ground flax to boost the fiber content.
Drinking Your Calories
It’s easy to overlook the calories in sports drinks, juices and that morning coffee, but they really do add up. An 8oz serving of juice alone can have as many as 150 calories! Stick with water when you can and don’t forget to factor in the calories when you do indulge in a calorie-laden drink.
Even if you keep track of the calories you take in at meal times, you might be overlookingthose little “bites” here and there that can add up significantly over the day.
Just think about it: you take a sip of your husband’s latte in the morning, eat a couplecrackers sitting out on the break room table at work and lick the mixing spoon when you’re done baking brownies for your kid’s bake sale. Those three “harmless” actions alone can add up to almost 100 calories! It will take a little practice, but it’s important to be mindful of those tiny sips and nibbles.
Bottom line: knowing the pitfalls dieters often face is half the battle. Now that you’re aware of these common dieting sins, you can put healthier habits into place. But knowledge is useless unless you actually put it into practice. Just like understanding how the best elliptical machines at the gym work won’t get you into shape any faster if you don’t hop on, understanding nutrition won’t help you maintain a healthy weight unless you actually use what you know as you make choices about what to eat.
Tracy Martin is a freelance health writer. She stays fit by chasing her three little kids around, hiking with her husband, and training on an elliptical trainer on the rare occasion she can actually sneak away to the gym. She is devotedly passionate about healthy, natural living, fitness and nutrition.