So you've decided to start eating healthier - wonderful! Perhaps you'll join a fancy gym. Maybe you'll seek weight-loss advice from people who've dropped pounds before you.
And it's entirely possible you'll step on the scale and still not see the progress you were after.
Well-intentioned diets can go wrong in so many ways. Here are some sneaky diet mistakes that may be screwing up your progress.
Being too trusting with "healthy" labels - if you're looking to lose weight, you may be drawn to foods marked "Fat-free!" or "Low-calorie!" Little portioned packs of cookies can seem like a virtuous alternative to the real thing, but when companies reduce the fat or calorie content of a product, they often use more salt, sugar, and additives to make the food taste good. Additionally, studies show that people who perceive something to be low-fat or low-calorie actually consume more than they normally would. Think about it... can you really stick to one of those sad little 100-calorie packs? Try these filling snacks instead.
Ignoring moderation because "it's healthy!" - so you're eating fresh, whole foods. You've learned that avocado is a great source of healthy fat! While there are plenty of delicious foods that are nutritional powerhouses, that doesn't mean you can shovel three large slices of avocado toast into your gaping maw every morning and expect to shed pounds. Portion control is key, and while you may hear that you can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want, you need to be aware that even whole foods contain sugars, starches, and calories... and they add up.
On the flip side, restricting yourself too much - when you don't give your body enough calories, you're basically stunting your potential for progress. If you don't take in adequate fuel, your metabolism slows way down to compensate. It needs stored energy, a great source of which is body fat. You'll be holding on to that fat and instead breaking down precious calorie-burning muscle tissue. Also, you'll be hungry and tired as hell, often leading to overeating and half-assed workouts. Talk about a backfire.
Thinking carbs are the enemy - there is no such thing as a no-carb diet. You need carbohydrates to function, as they provide the body with glucose, your primary source of energy. Weight-loss expert Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, says, "Low-carb diets may jump-start your weight loss in the short term, but it doesn't last in the long term." That's because everything from beans to yogurt contains carbs - you can't eliminate everything. Instead, follow the daily American dietary guidelines, which suggest filling every plate half-full with fruits/veggies, a quarter-full with proteins, and a quarter-full with healthy carbs. As for processed options like white bread and pasta? Yes, those guys are actually the enemy.
Skipping breakfast to shed pounds - there are tons of reasons why people skip breakfast: morning meals upset their stomach, they "don't have time," they ate pizza at 4am. But the most stupid reason for skipping breakfast? Thinking it'll help with weight loss. A recent study done by Ohio State University shows that skipping meals leads to abdominal weight gain. "Skipping meals to save calories... sets your body up for larger fluctuations in insulin and glucose and could be setting you up for more fat gain instead of fat loss," confirms Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State. Why is this so important for morning meals? You're literally breaking your nighttime fast. Get that metabolism humming early to reap benefits all day. Thinking all calories are created equal - if you're going to count calories, make sure you're paying attention to quality in addition to quantity.