Studies show about 95 percent of dieting attempts fail. No wonder dieters are left wondering what they’re doing wrong. From the foods you choose to the people around you, read on to reveal some sneaky diet saboteurs.
From low-fat to low-carb, we’ve heard and followed so many fad diets over time. But as people gain weight instead of losing it, many wonder what went wrong.
Low-fat products are made by replacing fat with sugars, making them low in fat but high in calories. Alternatively, most low-carb products are made by replacing carbohydrates with fat, making them still high in calories. Your best bet is to look for foods that are naturally low in fat, refined sugars and calories, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Larger portions have become the norm and contribute to overeating. As excess calories lead to excess fat, eating out can sabotage anyone’s best dieting efforts. According to Dr. Joey Shulman, author of The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006), “Restaurant dining always adds more calories due to an increase in portion sizes and extra oils, sauces and dressings used. Avoid deep-fried foods, super-size options and heavy cream sauces or dressings in order to cut back on calories when dining out.”
If you overeat when your emotions are running wild or when you’re feeling stressed or bored, you may be sabotaging your diet. Experts estimate that approximately 75 percent of overeating is caused by emotional eating – in other words, using food to cope with your feelings. Strategies to overcome emotional eating include the following:
- Be able to recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Physical hunger occurs when the stomach sends a signal to the brain, telling it that it’s time to eat. Physical signs of hunger can include an emptiness and rumbling in your stomach and lightheadedness.
- Use a food journal to identify triggers. Record what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling and how hungry you are. Over time, this will allow you to see patterns of behavior and your triggers.
- Find a substitute behavior. Instead of reaching for food in response to an emotional trigger, try substituting a non-eating behavior that gives you pleasure, such as going for a walk or to the gym, reading a book or magazine, writing in a journal or spending time with family and friends.
- Don’t keep unhealthy foods at home. Emotional eating usually calls on comfort foods – high in fat, sugar and calories. Don’t fill the house with these foods so that when a craving comes along they’re not available.
Friends and family
If you feel someone you know is sabotaging your best dieting efforts, you’re probably right. Dr. Robert Besen, a weight-loss specialist, says, “People sabotage other people’s dieting efforts for three main reasons: Husbands may feel threatened by their wife’s new thinness, as they may be more attractive to other men; a person’s friends may feel jealous of the weight loss because they were not able to do it themselves; and family members may express their love through offerings of food, even knowing it may be harmful to your weight-loss plans. If you are being sabotaged, find the strength to stick to your dieting efforts. You have to learn to say no to food pushers, set up a support system of people who share your goals, and reassure loved ones that you are the same person – just healthier.
Typical breakfast foods include refined carbohydrates such as muffins, sugary cereals, cereal bars, granola bars, pancakes, waffles and doughnuts. These refined foods – also known as high glycemic index foods – sabotage dieting efforts by causing an over-secretion of the hormone insulin, resulting in weight gain. In addition, these foods cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels, setting you up for increased hunger within a few hours. To avoid destroying your dieting efforts, enjoy a balanced breakfast with complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables and whole grains), lean protein sources (eggs, protein powder, extra-lean turkey bacon) and some healthy fats (olive oil, flaxseed and nuts).
Body image and self-esteem can ruin your diet, as there is a strong connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviors. We need to think healthy to be healthy. “To be healthy, you need to change negative thought patterns,” says Simone Finkelstein, a nutritionist and eating-disorders specialist. Behavioral strategies used to create positive thoughts include self-talk exercises that enhance motivation and self-esteem, ultimately empowering people to achieve their goals.
Achieving your goals
It may seem strange, but actually achieving your goals can be the saboteur itself. Once we achieve our goals, we allow ourselves to become more lax about our new behaviors and fall back into old habits, slowly sabotaging our dieting efforts. To maintain your dieting goals, think of them as a lifestyle, not a diet. Continue the behaviors and habits you learned throughout the dieting process for life. But in order to be successful, allow yourself to indulge once in a while by following the 80/20 rule – if you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can have an occasional indulgence 20 percent of the time and should be able to still maintain your weight.”