Seven ways you may be sabotaging your diet
Experts offer strategies for avoiding behaviors that bust the best of diets
Something as simple as drinking too many juices a day may be busting your diet. (Baltimore Sun photo by Rob Kasper / January 4, 2008)
Here are seven behaviors that may cause you to fall off that I-wanna-lose-weight wagon — and advice from experts on how to stay on it.
The diet-buster: Drinking too many calories
A glass of orange juice for breakfast, a midday nonfat latte, a sports drink with your workout and a glass of wine at dinner: That's close to 600 calories in liquids — and you haven't even had a bite to eat.
Sara Bleich, a professor of health policy at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University, says dieters are generally bad at compensating for calories they consume in liquid form. Dieters might remember to opt out of an appetizer in anticipation of dessert, but it's unlikely they will remember to skip the fries in substitution for the beer or soda.
The solution: Bleich recommends reaching for a diet soda when the craving to drink anything but water kicks in — it won't add any nutrients to your day, but it won't add any calories, either. Diana Sugiuchi, owner of Nourish Family Nutrition and a registered dietitian, agrees, adding that dieters regularly ignore the calories in fruit juices and sports drinks because they're advertised to be healthy alternatives to soda. They may add more nutrients, but they are far from calorie-free.
The diet-buster: The restaurant salad
Eating out is always dangerous when it comes to losing weight, so it's common for dieters to order a salad for an entree. But often, the salads are packing as many or more calories than the pastas, steaks or sandwiches.
The solution: Bleich said when looking at a salad, note the dressing, the starch and the amount of added fat. You're certain to find creamy dressings, croutons, cheese, nuts and avocado. "If it's not strictly a vegetable, ask them to take it off or put it on the side," she says. Also, substitute vinaigrette for the creamy ranch, blue cheese or caesar dressing. Sugiuchi agrees, adding that there's a reason salads at restaurants taste so good. "Salads can be high calories when you take into account the shredded cheese, the dressing, bacon and egg," she says. "Substitute dressings, and remove the extras."
The diet-buster: Stress eating
"We naturally crave fat, sugar and salt when we're stressed," Bleich says. "We live in a stressful society, so be conscious of that."
The solution: Look for weeks on your calendar when there's a lot to do, and recognize that you'll need to find ways to handle the stress. Book a massage or a pedicure, or plan extra morning walks with your children or animals.
The diet-buster: Skipping the weights at the gym
Maybe you're thinking that you're doing OK because you like to take the dog on an evening jog, sweat it out at Zumba class, and practice yoga or swim laps. Of course, exercise is an important facet of health. But don't spend all your time doing cardio and skip the weight training, which will help you rev up your metabolism.
The solution: Nick Sekscenski, a certified personal trainer at the Merritt Athletic Club on Fort Avenue in Locust Point, says supplementing your workout with strength training is a necessary addition to any fitness plan. "The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you're going to burn while resting," he says. Lifting weights might not burn as many calories as jogging a few miles, but it will increase your metabolism for a longer stretch of time, he says. Sekscenski points out that building muscle does not require bulking up — simply lifting light weights and adding lean muscle mass will do the trick.
The diet-buster: Big plates
With over-the-top portion sizes the norm in most restaurants, it has become difficult to decipher how much food is enough. "We have learned to look for quantity over quality," Bleich says. A full meal doesn't necessarily mean a full plate.
The solution: Bleich recommends using your hand as a guide — a serving size should fit in your palm. "If you get a burger the size of your face, only eat half," she says. Sugiuchi suggests that dieters cook at home and use precise measurements for everything, from the oil they cook with to the amount of cereal they put in a bowl and the amount of dressing they pour on a salad. "They're still calories, and they add up," she says. At restaurants, she recommends asking the waiter to box up half the meal immediately. If it's not on your plate, you won't be tempted.
The diet-buster: Grazing
When focused on food, as dieters tend to be, it can be easy to mistake thirst or boredom for hunger. It's easy to grab a bag of chips — or even a bag of grapes — and bust a day's worth of mindful eating without even realizing it.
The solution: Bleich suggests that dieters reach for water first. "There are so many cues around us, billboards and advertisements, [that] when people think they're hungry, they may not be," she says. "First drink water and see if the hunger persists." Sugiuchi suggests planning snacks for the day and, again, measuring an acceptable amount rather than grazing.
The diet-buster: Too many restrictions
Dieting is all about restrictions, but if you limit yourself too much, you're more likely to get off the wagon altogether, Sugiuchi says. Bleich agrees. "If you want an Oreo, eat an Oreo," she says.
The solution: Allowing yourself a cookie when the craving strikes should help prevent you from eating an entire sleeve of cookies when you're having a weak moment. "And if you don't have a lot of self control, don't keep tempting food in the house," Bleich says.