Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how very difficult it can be. But there are mistakes that a dieter can make which can derail attempts to lose the extra pounds, and which should therefore be avoided.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid, to better your chances of shedding the weight.
The term “dieting” automatically denotes depriving ourselves of some foods that we may love, and decreasing the amount of food that we eat. But while denying ourselves and going hungry may work for a very short period, a few days of that and you will feel frustrated, unhappy, hungry, and it can also lead to binge-eating, whereupon any weight that was lost will be quickly gained back.
The Better Approach:
Focus instead on eating whole, unprocessed, natural foods, including plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods not only have unique, great health-promoting substances, but they will also give you a feeling of fullness. If you load up on vegetables several times a day (eat them raw, preferably, or lightly steamed, to preserve nutrients), you will not only take in valuable nutrients and lots of disease-fighting compounds that will keep you healthy, but since most vegetables are very low in calories, they are a great way to fill up, without loading up on calories.
Starchy veggies, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, have a higher calorie content. But they’re still great to eat. Potatoes are especially nutritious and have more fiber, if you leave the skins on. Try putting on a dollop of fat-free, unsweetened yogurt, instead of sour cream or butter, to keep the calories down.
Also: focus on eating lean proteins, such as low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and legumes.
To flavor foods:
- Instead of adding sauces or too much salt, use fresh or dried herbs. Whether fresh or dried, herbs provide added fiber, as well as an almost endless list of very powerful nutrients and disease-fighting compounds
- Minced, crushed or powdered garlic is one of the healthiest of all substances on Earth, and it gives meats, soups and vegetables a delicious taste. (If you buy it powdered, make sure it does not contain silicon dioxide, an anti-caking, non-nutritious additive.)
*Completely Eliminate High-Calorie Beverages with Little or No Nutritional Value, and Artificial Sweeteners:
If you’re trying to lose weight, sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks have no place in your diet. These usually have a host of artificial chemicals that are increasingly being proven to be bad for us, and they add little or no nutritional value, other than empty calories from sugar that may be in them. Avoid artificial sweeteners, as these have been linked to diseases, and they should only be consumed by people with diabetic conditions, when they’re used at all. (One exception is the sweetener Stevia, which is plant-based.) Also, be aware that some studies have shown that using artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which is in practically all low-calorie and calorie-free drinks and sodas, can actually have the opposite effect from that intended, causing users to gain weight, instead of losing it.
What to Drink:
Focus on drinking lots of water, which will help move waste products out of your system and aid in the digestion process. Low-fat milk is great to drink in moderation, as are natural juices diluted with lots of water, or fruit smoothies with a lot of crushed ice. Coffee and tea are good in moderation; but go very light on the sugar and cream. Also, watch out for non-dairy creamers, as these usually have a lot of artificial chemicals and hydrogenated oils, which are bad for us.
With respect to your water intake, if you’re not the type to drink plain water much, you may not find it all that enjoyable initially. But in short time, if you make yourself drink several glasses of water a day, you will find that your body will get accustomed to this great habit. Soon, you’ll want to take water with you everywhere and you won’t want to do without it! Think of all the calories you’ll save by drinking water, instead of the sugary drinks normally marketed to consumers. If your tap water tastes a little funny where you live, try bottled water or invest in a water filter for your home.
*Choose Your Snacks Carefully!
This is no time to load up on Twinkies, Oreos or candy bars! These types of snacks are high on sugar and very low on nutrients; they also often contain artificial chemicals that are best kept out of your system.
Better snacking choices:
- Nuts, which are high in protein, pack a lot of nutrition and will quell hunger pangs in a hurry
- Chopped vegetables like broccoli or baby carrots, dipped in natural lemon juice or in unsweetened, non-fat yogurt (you can also make your own, healthy salad dressing by mixing health-promoting olive oil with healthful vinegar)
- Chopped fruits mixed with unsweetened yogurt
- Rice cakes lightly coated with peanut butter
- A little honey on a piece of good, whole-grain bread
- Whole-grain crackers and any cheese you love
Whether you are at work or running errands, it’s a great idea to have a healthy snack with you, which will make you much less likely to snack on the wrong things in desperate hunger. The same goes for keeping healthy food choices at home, which will encourage healthy eating.
All that is not to say that you can never have yourself a sweeter treat. As with most things, the key is moderation. It’s great to look for all-natural, good-quality baked goods, chocolates, and desserts that you can enjoy in small amounts. Better yet, look up a few recipes online and make your own sweets! That way, you know exactly what’s in them and you can enjoy them when they’re still warm. It’s better to still enjoy the things you love in moderation than to cut everything out and wind up feeling frustrated. Food should be something to be enjoyed, and not endured!
*Don’t Weigh Yourself Daily
One of the more discouraging things you can do when you’re trying to lose weight is to get on the scale every day. Daily weight can fluctuate, and you may even gain a pound or two before you start to lose. Instead, weigh yourself once a week, always around the same time and while wearing similar clothing (or no clothes). For most overweight people, the goal should never be to drop a lot of pounds in one month, but to drop a few pounds every month, consistently. By modifying your food choices, you will begin to get leaner.
The next step is to work your body, so as to tone up even more and burn calories.
Moving more when you’re trying to lose weight is a great idea. It will help you burn excess fat, speed up your metabolism and improve your overall health. The importance of exercise for our good health cannot be overemphasized, whether or not we’re trying to lose weight.
Recent studies suggest that incorporating 30-second intervals of intense physical activity (like running or rope-jumping) in between slower-paced, longer periods during a workout, will help you lose fat and condition you more quickly.
The key to sticking with an exercise program is to find something that you enjoy doing. Whether it’s dance classes, tennis, swimming, speed-walking — whatever will make you look forward to the workout, instead of dreading it and finding excuses not to do it. You can also buddy up with a friend or neighbor who is interested in being more active, or join a fitness class. Either of these options will help you stay motivated.
One of the interesting things about exercise is that it’s similar to drinking water: you may not enjoy doing it at first, but once you make yourself do it for a couple of weeks, your body will demand it! You will get to a point where you just won’t be as happy or relaxed, if you haven’t exercised. You won’t want to do without it. And this is another great life-long habit to acquire.
*Get Enough Sleep
That’s eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, for most people.
Recent studies have shown that when a person loses sleep, even for one night, the body secretes hormones that can cause weight gain, even when food portion sizes stay the same. Lost sleep also makes the body less efficient at absorbing nutrients from the foods that we eat. Fat is deposited on the body differently, and the skin loses elasticity — even after just one night of insufficient sleep. Both of these things will make the fat on the body be even more noticeable. Getting a good night’s rest consistently, then, is another great tool for the person interested in losing weight and in promoting good health overall.
By Lisa Pecos