Nutritionists reveal the most common mistakes that keep you from your weight loss destination.
You’re sitting in a traffic jam with more cars than the parking lot at a Kenny Chesney concert, and you’re not exactly namaste-ing your way to Queen Bey levels of cool. Wasting time, burning fuel, and about to miss that cycling class you blew $35 on isn’t exactly a #weightlossgoal on your Saturday morning. Exit #41 beckons, and you decide to get off the highway and cruise through some back roads to (fingers crossed) make it to class on time—only to be met with a traffic jam even worse than the first. Oh why, oh why didn’t you follow Waze?
It turns out that there’s more in common than you think with this icky sitch and why your weight loss efforts are stalling to rush hour traffic-level heights. Like ignoring the map master Waze, not following smart, practical, oh-so-simple directions that are good for you can have a huge impact on your slim-down efforts.
Read on for 30 mistakes that are making your weight loss efforts crawl.
1.You Drizzle Salad Dressing on Just About Everything
Yes, kudos to you for eating salads, but…
“When you add calorie-dense dressings and sauces to your healthy salads, whole grains, pastas, and other dishes, you’re slathering on hundreds or thousands of excess calories,” says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian, and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. “Oil has 2,000 calories per cup and it is very easy to drizzle on a half cup onto your salad or sauté your veggies with all of those added calories. Instead, try swapping in vegetable broth for sautéing and using oil-free, lighter dressings and sauces.”
2.You Eat Meat Every Day
“A recent study of almost 14,000 people showed that those who ate the most meat were 27 percent more likely to be obese,” reveals Hever. “Several studies illustrate that those who consume plant-based eating patterns tend to have lower BMIs and body fat levels, including a recent study of over 55,000 women that showed the fewer animal products consumed, the lower the incidence of overweight and obesity.”
3.You Eat Breakfast and Lunch at Your Desk
Remember that New Year’s resolution to quit that? Yeah, time to heed your well-intentioned commitment. Being mindful is a huge part of weight loss. When we slow down to taste and savor our food, we tune in with our satiety—the place right before we are full, but before we are stuffed! Instead, take 10 minutes out of your day to sit with your meal and do nothing else.
4.You Are a Queen or King Grazer
‘Cuz it’s the healthy way, right? Not so fast. “You take a piece of candy from your co-worker’s desk, grab a few chips here, add a pat of butter there, and assume they’re so small, they can’t possibly matter,” say the Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “The little bites do add up, though—often just enough to prevent weight loss at all.”
5.You Eat Standing Up
“The calories actually do count if you eat them standing up!” exclaim the Nutrition Twins. “Many people eat a bag of chips standing at the fridge or pantry, deciding what to make for a meal, or they eat snack foods impulsively when they stand. Sit down to a plated meal and you’ll see exactly how much you eat, rather than eating excess food willy nilly.”
6.You Grab Items at the Grocery Store That Are Labeled ‘Fat-Free,’ ‘Gluten-Free,’ or ‘Sugar-Free’
File this under: S-T-O-P. Think you’re being virtuous? Not exactly. “Reading the actual ingredients in a product is a fundamental part of weight loss. Unfortunately, many of the health claims put on food are misleading and unregulated. Instead of grabbing for marketing terms, get to know what is in your food—and make an informed decision based on that,” suggests Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities and TWN collection.
7.Your Servingware is Too Big
Using large plates, bowl, glasses, and even utensils? “Research shows that using larger dishware makes it too easy to underestimate portions and, therefore, overeat”.
8.You Drink Your Calories
“It is easy to forget how many calories can be concentrated into a beverage,” says Hever. “Swap processed juices, sugary beverages, and sweetened teas for water, unsweetened tea, and sparkling water to save calories.” Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
9.You Skip Meals
“While skipping meals might seem like an easy way to eat less, it will most likely actually cause you to eat more later on,” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, host of Cooking with Sarah-Jane. “Plus, skipping meals slows down the metabolism because your metabolism is like a fire, and as you know, if you don’t put wood on a fire, it will start to burn out. Same is true of your metabolism if you don’t fuel it with food every four or five hours or so, it will begin to slow down.”
10.You Switch to a Vegetarian Diet to Promote Weight Loss
“When done correctly, a vegetarian diet can lower cholesterol, decrease your risk for heart disease and cancer, and even help with weight loss,” say The Nutrition Twins. “People often adopt a vegetarian lifestyle and then don’t control their portions and eat a lot of heart-healthy nuts, seeds, and their oils. But the calories add up quickly and contribute to weight gain.”
11.And then You Say Bring on the Carbs…
When transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, carb overload is common.” People are not sure what else they can eat or they justify overeating snack foods because they don’t eat meat, which also both result in calories adding up and leading to weight gain,” say The Nutrition Twins. To keep from carbo loading, make sure each meal also contains a plant-based protein—such as a whole grain or bean—and healthy fats.
12.You Deprive Yourself of Any Treats
“Studies show that when you deprive yourself of all your favorite foods, you are more likely to binge on them eventually, and this deprivation-binge cycle can slow your weight loss,” offers Bedwell. “Instead of depriving yourself and setting yourself up for a binge, allow yourself to enjoy around 150ish calories of something you really love each day, whether that be a piece of chocolate, a favorite beverage, or a single-serving bag of chips.”
13.You Eat When You Aren’t Hungry
Stressed? There’s a doughnut for that. That refrain sound familiar? “You eat when you are not necessarily hungry, but because someone or a book told you how many meals and snacks you need to eat in a day,” says Hever. “Learn to hone in and honor your true physical signals to help regulate your total intake. Only you knew your body and what you need.”
14.You Eat Many of Your Meals Out
Even if you’re choosing salads, lean proteins, and whole grains, you’re better off making it yourself. “Research shows when you go out to eat, wherever you may go, you end up taking in an average of 200 calories more than what you’d eat at home. This means that if you currently don’t eat out and start doing so for two meals a day, over the course of the month you’ll likely gain more than three pounds!” share the Nutrition Twins. “And on the flip side, if you eat two more meals a day away from home and start eating at home, you’ll likely lose three pounds over the course of the month.” Yeah, we’ll take the latter.
15.You Add Artificial Sweetener, Like Splenda or Sweet ‘n’ Low in Your Coffee
“Artificial sweeteners have been accepted as the solution for adding taste and sweet flavor without the calories for the last couple decades. For a long time we, as health professionals, promoted these products and embraced them,” admits Hayim. “Now we know their risks and their undeniable link to obesity. ” For an enticing flavor boost without icky additives, try adding vanilla extract or cinnamon.
16.You Say ‘Yes Please’ to Cheese at Every Meal
We know, it’s that good. But it should be reserved for a special occasion only-status. “Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, but cheese lovers add it to their sandwiches, salads, wraps, burritos and omelets and the calories really add up,” advise The Nutrition Twins. “If you add it to your meals, stick to every other day and limit the portion to the size of a pair of dice or opt for low-fat options.”
17.You Make Vegan Restaurants Your Go-To
Because that chocolate chip cookie and bourbon pecan swirl sans animal ingredients is healthy, right? C’mon, stop tricking yourself. “While some vegan restaurants actually are healthy, many of them use ingredients that can be as high fat and calorie as a regular meal. A vegan cookie, for example, can have more fat, sugar, and calories than a regular chocolate chip cookie. Don’t be duped by the idea that ‘everything vegan is healthy,’” advises Hayim.
18.You Eat Three Square Meals a Day
“We have spent years telling people to have three square meals a day, with no snacking,” says Hayim. “New research now shows that having smaller meals, causes us to become more in tune with our hunger and satiety, and prevents us from binging or overeating.” #HealthySnacksEveryDamnDay? Now that’s a meal plan we can get behind.
19.You Eat Breakfast Because You Think You Have to
“Although research shows that people who are breakfast eaters are more successful at keeping weight off, if you simply start adding this meal to your regular eating routine, you’ll be taking in more calories and this will cause weight gain, not loss,” advise The Nutrition Twins. But don’t let this be the reason to eat a morning meal to boost your metabolism. Focus on slimming, filling meals and weight gain for breakfast newbies should be a non-issue.
20.You Are a Fan of Highly-Addictive Foods
Hershey Kisses. French Fries. Chicken nuggets. Onion rings. They have more in common than you think. “”It’s extremely challenging to fight your biochemistry. Sugary, fatty, and processed foods are created to make sure you literally can’t eat just one,” says Hever. And all of the above certainly fall into that category. “Avoid them altogether to avoid those brutal internal battles of giving in and accidentally overeating.”
21.You Opt for Low-fat Everything
Turns out, your body actually needs fat (and the other two macronutrients: protein and carbohydrates!) to function and keep your metabolism running smoothly. Low-fat yogurt, cheese, milk and more might be appealing since they’re a relic of the trendy “low-fat diet” craze and the Atkins era, but a blessing for slim hips and a flat belly? Bring on the (healthy) fats, baby.
22.You Cook Everything in Olive Oil
Perhaps you’ve heard olive oil, like avocados, falls under that “health fats” bandwagon. Maybe you remember reading a study about how the Mediterranean Diet is a boon for weight loss so you’ve been guzzling it ever since. Or maybe you just dig its rich and filling taste. Either way, too much of a good thing ain’t a match made in healthy weight loss heaven. “Olive oil is definitely a ‘healthy fat,’ meaning it has heart protective properties and can lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol,” explains Hayim. “However, all oils are fat, and fat will always be calorically-rich. Even though these calories are ‘healthy and good for your heart,’ a small amount can calorically add up fast! Use olive oil mindfully; instead of cooking all your food in olive oil, choose one food out of an entire meal to complement its taste, and use alternative cooking methods like steaming or blanching [which just require water!] for the rest of the food you prepare.”
23.You’ve Got Your Devices 24/7
Watching TV while holding a cell phone in your hand and cradling a laptop all at the same time? These device distractions adds up to a seriously negative subtraction from your efforts to shed pounds. “Studies show that people who eat with distractions eat more and are more likely to describe their meal as unsatisfying than those who are mindful eaters,” says Bedwell.
24.You’re a Night Owl…except You Have to Wake Up at 7 A.m. for Work
Getting less than seven hours of sleep per night can impact your metabolism big time. Sleep plays a huge role in weight loss and is helpful in regulating hormones, namely ghrelin and leptin, which control our hunger and how much we eat,” says Hayim.
25.You Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables
“Fruits and veggies contain the lowest calorie density of any other food groups. Emphasizing these foods adds nutrition, satiety, and infinite health benefits. Further, consuming fresh fruit, salad, or soup before a meal leads to lower overall caloric intake,” suggests Hever.
26.You Completely Eliminate Carbs from Your Diet
“Although you may be cutting calories from your meal by avoiding carbs, your brain needs the energy that carbs provide. Without them, you’ll be exhausted, move less, and skip workouts from exhaustion and you’ll want a quick pick-me-up to feel awake,” say The Nutrition Twins. “You’ll crave sugary foods for their immediate blood sugar boost, or more food for its lift. All it takes is a small portion of wholesome, high-fiber carbs to keep you on track—think ½ cup quinoa, an apple or ½ cup cooked oatmeal per meal.”27
27.You Nosh Before Bed
“Eating late at night right as you’re heading to sleep is an easy way to pack in added calories. As your body winds down for the day, your metabolism decreases and, if there is food being digested and not used, insulin will shuttle it into storage,” says Hever. Translation? Love handles and muffin tops.28
28.You Guzzle Smoothies for a Snack
Smoothies are king when it comes to healthy, lasting weight loss. You can actually lose weight in less than 30 seconds, with the 100+ proven recipes in Zero Belly Smoothies! But smoothies from the store? Not so much. “Purchase a smoothie-on-the-go and they’re typically loaded with calories either because they’re packed with sugar or simply because so many pieces of fruit and other items are blended together. Your brain doesn’t get the signal that you got calories when you drink them, and you still want to eat just as much, so you do,” warn The Nutrition Twins.29
29.You Skip Dessert
Okay: Apple Jack Pie with two scoops of ice cream, good call on Team We’ll Pass. A square or two of dark chocolate? Not so much. It may be dubbed a “naughty” food, but dark chocolate is actually brimming with antioxidants and can be an asset in your goal to shed pounds.
30.You Focus on Slipping in Extra Protein to Look Lean and Ripped
“Although protein does assist in building and repairing muscles, if you just start adding more protein to your diet without cutting calories somewhere else, you’ll get more calories than your body needs,” caution The Nutrition Twins. “So for most people, increasing protein means bigger bodies, not bigger muscles.” But if you’re not getting enough protein and want to sprinkle more into your life.