By Dana Vogel, REDBOOK
1. Eating Large Portions
A lot of women I see trying to lose weight and being unsuccessful at it aren't sitting in their cubicles eating junk food-instead, they are dieting their way up the scale, devouring huge chopped salads for lunch (it takes a lot of dressing to cover a trough of veggies) or eating multiple 100-calorie snacks packs. Even overeating "healthy" foods can sabotage your weight-loss goals. Large portions not only leave you feeling tired and bloated but also expand your stomach, so it takes more and more food to keep you feeling feel full. That's why the "leave a little food on your plate" rule is an oldie but a goodie, especially when you're eating out.
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2. Giving Up After One Splurge
Too many people think, "Well, I messed up on one meal, so what's the point of sticking to my diet?" Then they attack the refrigerator or keep on indulging all day, all week, all month. One indulgent meal isn't a problem-it's regularly eating that way that is. In fact, I encourage all my clients to have at least one splurge weekly. The idea is to get comfortable having a slice or two of pizza at a work event or with your kids on a Friday night and realize that it isn't a reason to throw in the towel.
3. Eating "Diet" Foods
When I first start working with clients, many of them tell me they raid the supermarket looking for labels that say low-fat, low-carb, and low-sugar because they are trying to cut calories. Then when I ask how that's working for them, they tell me: They're never full. That's because diet foods leave you unsatisfied and craving more. While they might trick your taste buds, they can't fool your body-so you end up having the sugar-free candy and then a real dessert after.
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4. Obsessing Over Calories
Of course calories matter, but I've seen clients be the most successful when they stop the obsessive number-crunching and start looking at the foods they are eating, the portions they put on their plates, and where their food is coming from (for example, the produce aisle vs. plastic wrappers). Another problem with counting calories is that the majority of us tend to underestimate how many calories we consume by as much as 30 percent. And it's easy to lose sight of personal hunger cues: Say, for example, that you're aiming to stay at 1,800 calories a day. You might be full after dinner but when you know you have 200 calories left in your "budget," you may feel compelled to eat more when your body doesn't really need it.
5. Reading the Wrong Part of the Nutrition Label
Clients tend to fret over the numbers and percentages on the label, zeroing in on things such as the fat, sodium, fiber, and not paying enough attention to the ingredients. The ingredient list should ideally be under five items, all of which you can pronounce! If the quality is there, the numbers-and your weight-will fall into place.
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6. Skipping Meals or Snacks
Many women get extremely frustrated because they believe they're not eating that much and yet they can't seem to lose weight. The dirty little secret here is that, often, you have to eat more to lose more. I know it sounds wacky, but it works. The key is eating a small meal or snack roughly every four hours; this keeps your metabolism going strong and prevents you from rationalizing poor food choices because "you haven't eaten all day." Not only that, but you'll have more energy since your blood sugar remains even throughout the day.
7. Preventative Eating
Women often tell me: I'm scared of being hungry. Don't get me wrong, I don't encourage getting so famished that you pass out on your desk in between lunch and dinner, but a little hunger is okay. It can actually be a good thing, because it means means your body is working to break down what you ate and your metabolism is operating as it should. If you aren't hungry when you sit down to have a meal or a snack, it typically means you either you ate too much earlier, or that your metabolism is sluggish. And think of it this way: What's the worst thing that will happen if you get hungry? You have a snack!
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8. Skipping Breakfast
In fact, many women skip a morning meal because they "aren't hungry"-which usually means they either overate the night before or they want to start the day in a calorie deficit so they can eat more later in the day. The problem with that is that it could backfire, causing you to pack more food into your body later on. While most people tend to eat the majority of our food between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m., a better approach would be to front-load your calories so your body can burn them for fuel throughout the day.
9. Snacking as Dinner
Have you ever walked in the door starving after a long and stressful day, then with your jacket still on you proceed to open up the fridge, cabinets, drawers, and just start grabbing a little of this and a little of that? Twenty minutes later, you've noshed on some cheese, hummus, a few crackers, raw carrots. But since you never sat down to a meal, your brain tells you that you can keep snacking straight through to bedtime. So you chase down your "hors d'oeuvres" with popcorn, cereal, a yogurt, and suddenly dinner turned into a 1,000-calorie (or more) snack-fest. The moral of the story? Try to have a balanced dinner-preferably sitting down. Fill half of your plate with veggies, then fill one-fourth with a source of lean protein like chicken, fish, or beans, and the remaining fourth with whole grains or some other type of healthy starch.
A native New Yorker, Stephanie Middleberg takes a pragmatic approach to eating healthy in a busy world. She is a registered dietician with a Master's in clinical science. Stephanie is a member of the American Dietetic Association, the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group and the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionist Dietetic Practice Group. She lives in New York City with her husband.
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