Why Your Weight Loss Plan Isn’t Working (and Sneaky Ways to Lose More)
The basis of a healthy weight loss plan is that you should take in fewer calories than you expend, says Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Identify an appropriate daily calorie level for yourself and make practical expectations so your plan is effective and long-lasting,” she says. While it sounds simple, this formula can quickly backfire if you miscalculate the calories you consume, overestimate the calories you burn, or commit one of these other dieting blunders. Find out what’s stalling your weight loss and what you can do fix it.
You Overestimate the Calories You’re Burning
Solution: Keep tabs on your actual burn by paying attention to the exercise machine or using a weight calculator. “If you’re exercising, you should refuel before and after workouts with mini meals, not actual meals,” Gans says. Before exercising, eat some cottage cheese with fruit and whole-grain crackers or peanut butter and honey on toast. Afterward, try a smoothie made with frozen berries and yogurt or graham crackers with peanut butter served with low-fat chocolate milk and a banana.
You Walk 30 Minutes a Day for Exercise
Solution: To jump-start the burn, intensify your workout. Strength training can be a big metabolism booster. You’ll burn an extra 30 to 50 calories a day for each pound of muscle you build, according to White. “When you’re doing cardio workouts, you burn calories during the session, but if you lift weights you burn during the session and also throughout the evening and next day while your body repairs.” If you’re unsure about picking up the weights, you can enhance your walking workout by integrating interval training. To burn an extra 100 to 200 calories, White suggests integrating short bursts of jogging into your stroll. You can add intervals instinctively, as you feel ready, or take a watch with you and set up timed intervals. For example, walk 4 minutes and jog for 2.
You Skimp on Breakfast
Solution: “Offset the carbohydrates you eat at breakfast with a protein. Try oatmeal with a side of egg whites, or an English muffin with some almond butter.” White says. Protein rounds out your meal nutritionally, and a study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that high-protein breakfasts helped control appetite throughout the day. Also, choose whole-grain carbohydrates. Research in the journal Public Health Nutrition indicates that eating whole grains may lower the risk of obesity and weight gain.
You Eat Salad for Lunch
Solution: To avoid consuming hundreds of additional dressing calories, stick with no more than 2 tablespoons of the stuff, says Gans. If you need something else to moisten your salad, add either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, she advises. Or add chopped tomatoes—once their juice is distributed throughout the salad, you won’t need to use as much dressing.
You Overdo It on Healthy Foods
Solution: For any weight loss plan, portion control is key. If you’re unsure about how much you should eat, do a little research; you might be surprised at what you learn. For example, you might be tempted to wolf down an entire avocado, but a single serving is about only one-fifth of the fruit. A serving of almonds is around 22 (about as many as would fit in a shot glass). Likewise, you’re on the right track if you’re sticking with lean meats, but a portion of chicken or fish should be closer to the size of a deck of cards than the size of a novel, Gans says.
To stay on track, Sheth suggests starting a food diary. “Research has shown that people who monitor food intake are more successful at maintaining their diet long term,” she says. And with smart phone technology, you have a lot of options in terms of apps for tracking what you eat.
You Eliminate a Food Group
Solution: Incorporate appropriate portions of high-fiber carbohydrates. Not only will they prevent you from eating too many calories in your protein, but fiber will help you stay full so you won’t overeat later, Gans says. Try adding high-fiber whole grains like brown rice, wheat couscous, barley or quinoa to your diet.
Your Diet Is Too Strict
Solution: Make sure you eat every few hours. “Plan several small meals instead of skipping meals, and snack every 3 to 5 hours,” Sheth says. Just make sure you keep portion size in mind so your snack doesn’t turn into a complete meal. Gans also recommends finding healthy ways to continue to eat the food you love. If you love pizza, choose vegetable toppings instead of pepperoni and sausage, she suggests. “Then make sure you have one slice instead of three, add a side salad, and now you’re able to enjoy pizza!”
You Drink Your Calories
Solution: An 8-ounce glass is much smaller than what you’ll be served in many coffee shops, or even in your own home. If you’re a latte or mocha addict, Gans recommends limiting yourself to no more than one small coffee once a day. Can’t get enough juice? Mix it with seltzer so you get more to drink while consuming fewer calories.