While gaining weight never takes much time at all (curse you, French fries and loaded nachos!), losing weight always seems to take forever. While there are a countless number of ways to go about shedding pounds, many of them end up backfiring, ruining your hard work, and making you start all over again. So what gives?
It’s hard to tell what to do and what not to do when it comes to weight loss, but just because you hear a celebrity is on a trendy new diet or you see a commercial for a supplement that promises results doesn’t mean you should jump right in. Before you start your journey, take a look at these tactics that are only going to hurt you in the end. And for more great health advice, here’s how to conquer the one physical condition that plagues a quarter of all adults.
You’re Doing the Low-Fat Thing
There are so many low-fat items on shelves now—but is eating them really a good way to lose weight? More and more we’re we’re learning that fat—well, the right fats—are great for you. They’re super satiating, meaning you won’t overeat, and the come packed with many heart-healthy benefits. (In case you haven’t heard, carbs are the new baddie on the block.)
One study published in The Lancet found that those who eat high, healthy fats, were the best at keeping weight off. So instead of limiting fat in your diet, go for good versions like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil instead. Also, don’t forget to take a selfie while you’re at it, because Instagram Is Your Secret Weapon for Weight Loss.
You’re Obsessed with Juice Cleanses
When you want to lose some weight, you might immediately think to go down the juice cleanse route. Sure, sipping on some green is a great way to up your veggie and fruit intake, but because you’re not filling up as much as you would with protein-packed food, there’s a good chance you’re going to be hungry and unsatisfied. Also, if you’re not careful, you could be loading up way too much sugar. Enjoy a green juice during the day, but make healthy dishes you can chew, too.
You’re Drinking Too Many Calories
Smoothies are great, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. By the time you add in everything you want, some can be loaded with hundreds and hundreds of extra calories—and you can sip everything up in as little as 10 minutes. Having a 400-calorie smoothie filled with greens for breakfast is a great way to start the day, but having a smoothie with another meal is basically like eating two meals at once. (In other words: it’s terrible for your waistline.)
You’re Doing Crazy Cleanses
There are plenty of crazy cleanses—with Beyoncé’s Master Cleanse known for the interesting combination of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper as the most famous—but none of them have great end results. After days of dieting, you’ll probably lose weight… for a while. Unfortunately, that weight tends to comes back—and rapidly at that, says Harvard Medical School. While you’re making smarter eating decisions, consider these 15 OTC Drugs That Will Make You Smarter.
You’re Doing Low-Calorie Everything
Those who eat low-calorie diets not only feel deprived and end up binging, but they also make you lose muscle, not fat, and typically gain the weight right back, says the Cleveland Clinic. In other words: don’t slash your calories; eat better calories. When you starve yourself, your metabolism actually slows down. So keep it running hot with great food.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and exercise is one of those things. When you exercise too much it actually stresses out your body and sets you back. It’s important to push yourself, but only so far. If you work yourself to exhaustion, your body won’t bounce back stronger. And for more great fitness advice, make sure you’re avoiding the 7 Most Surprising Everyday Exercise Killers.
You’re Taking Diet Pills
Sorry to break it to you, but no matter how many infomercials or ads you see, no diet pill is going to really help you shed those extra pounds. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, none of them have been proven effective—and some have actually been associated with physical harm. Instead of looking for a quick fix, go the old fashioned route: eat your veggies, drink water, and exercise.
You Cut Out the Wrong Carbs
As I previously mentioned, carbs the new food baddie. Well, that’s only half the story. While refined carbs like white bread and white rice spike your blood sugar and trigger insulin, which promotes fat storage, other carbs are actually great for you. Fiber-packed options like brown rice and other whole grains can help keep you full and satisfied, as well as give you energy. Your best bet for losing weight is including good carbs in your meal in moderation, says the Cleveland Clinic.
You Eat Health Food That Isn’t Healthy
In this day and age, it’s hard to tell what’s good for you and what’s not. Countless products are advertised as healthy or “natural” with green, recyclable packaging, but when you actually look at the nutrition labels it’s a different story. When you’re wanting to lose weight, don’t just trust a company’s slogan. Stick to whole foods, and when you reach for the packaged stuff, get out your detective gear and make sure it lives up to its claims. Because no health food should have 40 grams of sugar or over a days’ worth of sodium per serving. Remember: All those years of bad food can catch up with you, so be sure to check out our guide to the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
You Eat Salads—But Not the Right Kind
Salads can have a way of making you feel healthy the second you take a bite—but if you’re trying to lose weight by stocking up on greens, you might want to make sure your toppings are helping, too. Sure, spinach is good for you—just don’t also load your dish with croutons, bacon bits, and Caesar dressing. Stick to a handful of nuts, some avocado, a splash of Balsamic vinaigrette, and all the fruit and veggies you want instead of going for the fattening processed stuff.
You’re Using Your Workouts as an Excuse to Eat More
You worked out so you deserve that post-spin donut, right? Well, let’s just say it’s not going to help when it comes to losing weight. After exercising, it’s easy to reward yourself with a treat. The only problem? While it’s fine to indulge, it’s harder than you think to burn off those extra calories: A donut, for example, could mean an hour of high-intensity training alone. So enjoy your workout, eat healthy, and don’t use it as an excuse to eat treats all day.
You’re Loading Up on Nutrition Bars
Nutrition bars are marketed to make you feel like you’re eating something healthy, but be skeptical of the type you choose. While there are great options available, there are also bars that can totally ruin your diet. The next time you look at your label, check to make sure it contains healthy ingredients, a low amount of saturated fat and sugar, and plenty of fiber and protein, says the Cleveland Clinic. And, watch the calorie count: Some seemingly healthy options can be loaded with hundreds of extra calories.
You’re Overeating Healthy Foods
Yep, it’s not just junk food you can overeat. Even though something like carrots and hummus is a great protein-packed snack, eating a whole tub while watching your favorite show on Netflix is only going to hurt you—not help you. The same goes for other foods that are easy to overeat, like rice and peanut butter. Make sure you’re sticking to the correct portion sizes to actually see results.
Your Diets Only Focus on a Few Food Groups
You know those diets that just have you eating cabbage soup or grapefruit? Yep, not the best option for your body. Not only are these fad diets not giving you proper nutrition, but once you go back to eating normally, you’ll grain the pounds you lost right back, says the Mayo Clinic.
You’re Skipping Breakfast
You might think skipping out on breakfast will save you some calories, but it could actually hurt you in the long-run. (And yes—your coffee doesn’t count.) According to the Cleveland Clinic, breakfast actually jump-starts your metabolism for the day, fueling your body to help you lose weight. Plus, eating breakfast has been shown to keep your hunger levels in check, helping you control your cravings throughout the day.
You’re Eating Out Too Much
Eating at your favorite healthy restaurant is going to help you shed the pounds right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Since you’re not cooking your food, you don’t know how much high-calorie oil, salt, and sugar is included in your dish—so that seemingly healthy plate of veggies could be loaded with hundreds of calories from olive oil alone.
You’re Snacking Too Much
Just because a snack is healthy doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want and still lose weight. Have a couple snacks to keep you full and satisfied during the day, but don’t snack all day. For example, nuts are healthy in moderation—but eating handful after handful is going to load you up on calories and could make you gain weight, not lose it.
You’re Always at the Gym at Odd Hours
Getting in your workout every day is a great way to help you reach your weight loss goals, but be careful when you’re going. There’s nothing wrong with late-night or early morning workouts as long as they don’t cut into your sleep schedule: Getting up at the crack of dawn for a spin class when you went to bed at midnight is only going to hurt your progress. Studies have shown getting less than five hours can increase your likelihood of gaining weight.
You’re Being Too Restrictive
Isn’t it funny how the instant you tell yourself you can’t have pizza and ice cream, that’s all you want? Instead of having an all or nothing mindset, just eat your favorite things in moderation. A few bites of ice cream after dinner will satisfy you—and prevent you from going crazy. And by not restricting yourself completely, you’ll avoid binging down the road.
You’re Drinking Protein Shakes
There’s nothing wrong with replacing a meal with a high-calorie protein shake, but if you’re simply adding one into your diet along with everything else you’re eating, those excess calories will just backfire and make you gain weight. Before you sip, check how many calories yours has and make sure it’s not disrupting your diet.
You’re Drinking the Diet Versions
If you’re on a diet, you drink diet, right? Unfortunately those “healthier” versions of your favorite sodas aren’t doing you any favors. Studies have shown drinking diet soda can actually make you gain weight in the end because the artificial sweeteners used in the lower-calorie drinks increase your cravings for high-calorie treats, like cake and ice cream. Stick to fruit-infused water instead.
You’re Avoiding Fruit
There’s a weird stigma about eating fruit when you’re trying to lose weight because of its sugar content, but don’t eliminate the food group from your life—savor it. When your sweet tooth strikes, reach for a healthy, naturally sweetened option—bananas, strawberries, raspberries… you name it!—instead of going for something full of saturated fat and high in calories.
You Go Crazy On Your Cheat Day
Many people try the whole cheat day thing while dieting and unfortunately it can easily backfire. Sure, you’re healthy six days of the week, but if you give yourself an entire seventh day to eat whatever you want, it could totally throw off all the success you’re having during the week. Instead, eat healthy and enjoy small treats in moderation.
You Can Eat Whatever You Want as Long as You Stay Under Your Calories
Sure, a 300-calorie piece of pie and 300 calories worth of veggies are technically the same amount, but eating unhealthy isn’t helping your body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, what you eat really does matter and if you’re getting your calories from foods that fuel you and keep your blood sugar stable, you’ll be happier and have less cravings down the road.
You’re Eating Too Little
You might think you have to eat super small portions of food if you’re trying to lose weight, but that’s not the case—and you shouldn’t be constantly hungry on a diet. To stay happy and satisfied, fill yourself up with plenty of protein—and tons of fruit and veggies, which are full of fiber that will keep you feeling great. To get a fresh start, here’s our Essential Primer to a Morning Workout.
You’re Eating Too Much Chocolate
Sure, the benefits of chocolate—as long as it’s dark chocolate, as in a 70 percent cacao rating or higher—exist. The sweet stuff can be chock full of health-boosting antioxidants, after all. But be wary: It’s still loaded with sugar. A single one-ounce bar comes with a monstrous 14 grams.
You’re Eating on a Strict Schedule
Eating schedules can, for the most part, be broken down into two categories: Eat three meals (the classic breakfast, lunch, and dinner), or eat six or seven smaller meals throughout the day. But but sticking to an ironclad routine, you could end up eating when you’re full—and that is a surefire recipe for instant weight gain. If your body doesn’t need the calories, you’ll end up storing any nutrients as fat.
You’re Opting for Sweetener
Yes, artificial sweeteners are lower-calorie (sometimes even to the point of a picture perfect 0) than sugar. But they’ve been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain. In fact, according to a 2017 study published in CMAJ, many substitutes can be 13,000 times as sweet as sugar. With that in mind, abhorring them should be a no-brainer.
To You, Pasta Is Verboten
When it comes to shedding pounds, it’s instinctual to avoid pasta like the Plague. But in reality, pasta is a great food to eat for weight loss—as long as you choose the right kind. Whole wheat pasta comes loaded with complex carbs that help incinerate fat, build lean muscle, and grant you energy for essential workouts.
You’re Using Honey Instead of Sugar
While sugar is a no-go, honey is fine, right? Wrong. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it has more nutrients than table sugar—but it’s still not a good idea to use it as a sweetener all day, every day. Because honey is high in calories, it’s best to stick to one to two teaspoons a day, if that. If you’re sick, on the other hand, it’s a different story: Honey is an excellent throat-soothing remedy.
You’re Guzzling Red Wine
As far as alcohol goes, red wine might be your healthiest option. Not only is it full of cholesterol-reducing antioxidants, drinking a glass or two of red wine is a proven method for falling asleep—and getting good rest is essential to weight loss. However, it’s easy to go overboard, and, with every glass clocking in at 100 calories or more, you can easily add a ton of excess calories to your diet. And for more about the benefits of the good stuff, learn the 80 Amazing Health Perks of Drinking Wine.
You’re Only Eating Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Frozen produce tends to carry with it a bad reputation, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. According to the Mayo Clinic, frozen fruits and vegetables can actually be healthier than fresh goods. See, instead of losing vitamins and nutrients over shipping time, frozen goods are picked at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen so you’re eating the produce in its most nutritious state. Plus, they’re generally cheaper!
You’re Following the Food Pyramid to a Tee
While the USDA’s Food Pyramid—now called MyPlate—has been around for years, it might not be best to stick to it whole-heartedly. Maybe carbs make you feel bloated. Maybe sweets just aren’t your thing. Instead of eating a predetermined number of servings of a specific food group just because you feel like you have to, your best bet is to find a plan that works for you.
You’re Eating Wraps Instead of Sandwiches
Sure, a wrap is noticeably thinner than a few pieces of bread. But looks can be deceptive: These tasty tortillas can pack up to a whopping 350 calories. A slice of whole wheat bread, on the other hand, clocks in at a comparatively scant 128.
You’re Avoiding Gluten At All Costs
Being gluten-free is super trendy, but the amount of people who actually need to be gluten-free is really quite low: Only about 200,000 cases of celiac disease (that’s doctor-speak for gluten free) occur in the U.S. each year. And while you have to avoid gluten if you have this condition, there are no other reasons to, according to the Mayo Clinic—especially since products made from whole grains are good for you. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, do something even better for your health: Only eat wholesome grains—and stop using the diet as an excuse to eat all the gluten-free goodies your heart desires.
You Skip Dessert—Every Time
The notion of dessert is a Sisyphean slope. Sure, you may quit, but cravings will (almost certainly) bring you back. Instead of forbidding the word from your vocabulary, enjoy the meal-finisher—just make it healthier, like by whipping up some homemade banana ice cream instead of eating the real thing.
You’re Swapping Butter for Margarine
Sure, margarine is peddled as a healthy alternative to butter. But the stuff is loaded with trans fats—the bad kind of fats. Unlike healthy fats, which can be found in avocados and nuts, trans fats cause cholesterol levels to skyrocket, which then leads to unwanted weight gain and, in extreme cases, diabetes. Plus, though it’s unrelated to weight loss, it’s just as undesirable: Wrinkles.
You’ve Swapped Half-and-Half for Almond Milk
It’s a good first step, for sure. But let’s do some math. A standard serving of almond milk in your coffee adds about 60 calories of per serving. If you have two cups per day, that’s nearly an additional 900 calories per week. Likewise, two sugar packets adds up to 350 weekly calories. To make your coffee as beneficial to weight loss as possible, take it black.
You’ve Swapped Your Meat Burgers for Veggie Burgers
Veggie burgers are certainly a less fatty option than your traditional fast-food grub. But by opting for these falafel-full delicacies, you’re missing out on valuable omega-3s, which are known to improve heart health and also speed up weight loss. Just try to keep it to one burger per week. And when you do indulge, indulge—go for grass-fed beef. Why? Here’s Why Grass-Fed Is Your Best Bet When It Comes to Beef.
You’ve Swapped Soda for Fruit Juice
Good job! Soda is one of the top weight-gaining substances out there, and by swapping for fruit juice, you’ve cut a nasty habit—as long as you only get the natural stuff. See, many canned fruit juices are loaded with fructose, a type of sugar that foments the development of visceral adipose tissue on your body. You may know adipose tissue by its more common name: Belly fat. And for more ways to stay trim this season, learn How Lean People Eat Every Holiday Season.
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