If you’ve been trying to lose weight recently or started a new health kick, you might think you know what you’re doing with food and exercise. You’ve read all about it online, you know how many calories are in a cookie, and you’re amped for your new and healthy life. But maybe, after trying your diet for a couple of weeks, you’ve run into a few unexpected snafus.
Maybe you caved and indulged in a couple more desserts than you wanted to. Why can’t you stick to the plan? Maybe you’re feeling exhausted all the time and you don’t know why. What’s your diet missing? There could be something about the foods you’re eating that isn’t leaving you feeling your best.
But people often don’t realize that some of these dilemmas are caused by their own dietary choices. And while everyone’s bodies and needs are inherently different, there are some pitfalls common for many dieters to fall into.
To help you avoid these mistakes, here are some unexpected ways you might not have realized you were sabotaging your diet — and what you should do instead.
After your workout is one of the times your body needs nutrition the most. According to dietitians, there are two key things you need to be eating after your more intense gym sessions: protein and carbohydrates. If you don’t get those nutrients, you won’t get as much out of your workout. Make your time count by refueling the right way.
You might think skipping breakfast will save you calories in the long run, but it’s not that simple. Science has shown that breakfast serves the purpose of jump-starting your metabolism after you’ve been fasting overnight. People who skip breakfast have been linked in studies to an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic disorders. Yikes. If you want to make a better choice in the morning, you might want to try one of these energizing breakfast options.
Sure, snacks like popcorn and chips are great for nixing salt cravings; but many store-bought snack foods are often lacking many of the other nutrients your body needs. Even “healthy” snack bars could be missing key nutrients. Focus on filling your meals — and some of your snacks — with whole foods such as vegetables, grains, proteins, and healthy fats. This will keep you feeling energized and help you avoid a nutrient deficiency or other condition.
Resisting a craving is like pulling back a rubber band — it’s going to bounce back. And the more force you use to resist, the farther it’s going to travel once you let go. What could have been a simple indulgence in some cake on a coworker’s birthday could turn into a full-force sweets binge at the end of the day.
No matter the calorie number you’re aiming for, sticking to a calorie limit every day probably isn’t a good idea. Not all calories provide equal amounts of nutrition to your body, and your caloric needs from one day to the next are in constant flux. The calorie count you choose may not always be what your body really needs. Not to mention that this “healthy” habit could easily turn into an unhealthy obsession. Instead of logging every food you eat and basing your decisions on these numbers, try focusing on small diet changes that can help you maintain your health in the long-term.
Your goal in trying to eat healthier shouldn’t be solely focused on trying to eat fewer calories. That’s a slippery slope — and one that throws actual nutrition to the wayside. Calories say little about the nutritional value of a food. Plus, reduced-calorie products are often overly processed and contain additional ingredients such as chemicals, emulsifiers, and sweeteners to compensate.
Fats get a bad reputation, but dietary fats should regularly be included in your meals and snacks. The health benefits of eating foods that contain fat are far and wide; opting for low-fat versions of dairy, peanut butter, or other snack foods isn’t going to make you any healthier. If you don’t eat enough fat, you could be at greater risk for dementia, infertility, and even heart problems.
Just because these drinks have zero calories doesn’t mean you can drink them all day, every day — not without consequences, at least. The chemicals and sodium contained in these carbonated beverages can take their toll. In addition to dehydrating you and potentially causing breakouts, diet soda can affect your mood, your workouts, and even your heart health.
Low-carb diets are all the rage, but they’re not the cure-all they seem to be. The science is somewhat shaky on whether these diets actually work to help people lose weight in the short-term — not to mention that all diets (including low-carb) are shown to have a 95 percent failure rate in the long-term. Your body obtains energy most easily and readily from carbohydrates. Additionally, many carbohydrate-rich foods, such as rice and fruit, provide essential nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber.
Eating a gluten-free diet is not the same thing as eating a healthy diet. Gluten is a protein found in many nutritious foods including whole-wheat bread and oatmeal. These foods provide fiber and other nutrients that people who eat a gluten-free diet need to obtain from elsewhere. There are a lot of myths roaming around about gluten and whether or not it’s bad for you. Make sure that if you’re omitting gluten, you’re doing it for a good reason (such as an intolerance or allergy to the protein) and not because you’ve been fooled by misleading food labels.
Ugh, I can’t believe I let myself eat that. I seriously regret eating that second cookie. I have to eat healthy today to make up for all those foods I ate last night. Sound familiar? Feeling guilty after eating certain foods or certain amounts of foods is all too common. Foods are marked as “good” or “bad” and it can make us feel like we are good or bad as a result, simply based on the foods we decide to eat. These intense feelings of guilt can backfire. Not only will you feel emotionally awful, but you might actually end up with less healthful eating patterns in the long run. A 2015 study found that people who associated food with guilt had unhealthier eating habits and lower levels of control around food.
People want what they can’t have — it’s just psychology. As soon as you tell yourself you can’t have that piece of chocolate, side of fries, or whatever else is tempting your cravings, you’re going to want it just that much more.
Not drinking enough water can have all kinds of consequences to your health, some of which include a lower absorption of nutrients and problems with digestion. These effects can mess with your hunger cues and disrupt a normal day of eating. Make sure you drink enough water every day; here’s how much 10 nutritionists say you need to drink to stay healthy.
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