Last week, I talked about some weight loss tips to help you reach your goals, but there are a lot of ways to hinder your progress as well. Most people want to lose weight, and where there’s a need, there are people trying to make money. Because of this, a lot of information is thrown around-some of it well-intentioned, some of it not-and research doesn’t always back even some of our most basic assumptions. With that in mind, here are 10 common habits and strategies that make it harder to reach your weight loss goals.
Going on a crash diet
When you decide to start a diet, those first few days are usually the easiest. Oftentimes, you can lose a pound or two quickly, which helps you maintain focus and motivation. You want to lose more and lose it faster, but if you go too far with eating less, you end up crash dieting. Why is that bad? For one thing, if you’re eating less, your sodium intake is likely to be lower, which means those first few pounds lost are mostly water weight. Also, you’re depriving your body of necessary nutrients found in food, meaning you may be trimmer but at the same time less healthy. Finally, crash diets can slow your metabolism and make you gain more weight when you resume your normal eating habits-and let’s face it, it’s usually just a matter of time before you do.
Weighing yourself daily or at night
The best time to weigh yourself is in the morning, before you’ve had anything to eat or drink. During the day, your weight can fluctuate a great deal because of the food you eat and water retention. So don’t frustrate yourself by weighing in too often or at the wrong time. Instead, keep a journal of your weekly progress because it’s been shown to help you lose.
Cutting out all sweets
You can’t cut out all the bad food. If you deprive yourself for too long, you eventually end up overeating the thing you love. Instead of saying no to cake, ask for a small piece. Instead of having three doughnuts, have one. Buy the small bag of Skittles instead of the family size, and try to say no, but only sometimes.
Shopping on an empty stomach
When I go to the grocery store hungry, just about everything looks good, and I definitely stray from my list a little too often. It’s easy to get sidetracked and want more because you start daydreaming about how great a meal with those fries or chips would be. Instead, make sure you’re full, and stick to the list as much as possible. You’ll stay healthier and save yourself some cash in the process.
Forcing yourself to eat breakfast
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Problem is, new research suggests that’s not always true. Nothing is yet conclusive, but what we can take away now is that it all depends on the individual. For some, skipping breakfast causes fatigue, increased appetite later in the day and trouble sleeping; but for others, skipping breakfast helps them lose weight or causes no significant changes in their lifestyle. Basically, do whatever works best for you. If you need to eat, by all means have a meal, but if you don’t, it’s OK to wait until lunch.
Drinking alcohol on weekdays
As much as you may feel like you need that beer after a long day at work, losing weight is more difficult when you’re drinking alcohol too often. Limiting alcohol intake to weekends is better for your health (as long as you don’t binge drink on weekends) and cuts calories out of your diet. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions-making you more likely to eat unhealthy foods-and suppresses leptin, the hormone responsible for telling your brain that you’re full.
Rewarding yourself with food
We can be talked into just about any meal or treat if we really want to, but if you go for a run and reward yourself with a candy bar (or even a healthier nutrition bar), you’re undoing the work you just did. Yes, exercise is good for you, but it doesn’t give you a free pass for the next meal. You are what you eat, no matter what you do in between meals.
Eating when you’re not hungry
It’s hard enough to maintain healthy habits when you’re hungry, so don’t eat just for eating’s sake. Snacking because you’re bored or because you simply must have popcorn while you watch a movie is only going to set you back. Put the popcorn down, and do some crunches or squats if you really need to be doing something. Sure, you need relaxation time, but sitting too much has been linked with premature death. Stretch those legs a little. You can relax when you’re done.
Eating six small meals a day
Eating six small meals a day is supposed to be a tedious but effective way to boost your metabolism and help you lose weight. Apparently, though, it’s just tedious. Studies have shown that people who follow this plan have no changes in daily energy expenditure and no increase in metabolism. What’s the best option, then? If you want to lose weight, eat when you need to and continue consuming fewer calories than you burn.
Assuming muscle will burn a significant number of calories
Contrary to popular belief, packing on several pounds of muscle won’t dramatically increase your resting metabolism or burn a ton of calories on its own. Yes, muscle does burn more calories than fat, but according to world-renowned obesity expert Dr. Claude Bouchard, a pound of muscle will burn six calories a day, while a pound of fat will burn two. That difference simply isn’t significant enough to affect your weight. Unfortunately, when you lose weight your metabolism slows (because your body has less work to do); therefore, continuing to eat healthy and stay active becomes even more important. Maintaining a healthy weight requires lifelong commitment.
Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.