1. Relying on Crash Diets
Determined to lose 10 pounds fast, you turn to a crash diet. Perhaps your plan calls for nothing but grapefruit or cabbage soup each day. You slash your daily calories to fewer than 1,000 -- and sure enough, the pounds melt away. But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down. Once the diet is over, you have a body that burns calories more slowly -- and you usually regain the weight.
2. Skipping Breakfast
Skipping breakfast seems like a simple way to cut calories, but the result can be insatiable hunger the rest of the day. This may lead to unplanned snacking at the office and eating a super-size portion at lunch, making calorie counts soars. But breakfasts that are high in protein and fiber can reduce hunger throughout the day. In fact, studies show people who eat breakfast every morning are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Losing Track of Your Snacks
Maybe you count calories meticulously at every meal, but what about all those nibbles in between? There's the bag of pretzels at your desk, the little slice of cake at an office party, the taste of your son's ice cream cone. All of this mindless munching adds up and could sabotage an otherwise well-planned diet. If you're serious about counting calories, you may want to use a notebook to keep track of each bite.
4. Not Snacking at All
While mindless snacking can pad your waistline, thoughtful snacking may do just the opposite. People who eat several small meals and snacks a day are more likely to control hunger and lose weight. Snacking helps keep your metabolism in high gear, especially if the snacks are protein-rich. Nuts are a good, high-protein choice, and research suggests people who snack on nuts tend to be slimmer than those who don't.
5. Loading Up on Low-Fat
Low-fat products can play an important role in your diet. Just remember that low-fat isn't the same as low-calorie and it's not a license to take second and third helpings. If you pile your plate with low-fat cake, you may end up eating more calories than if you had a smaller slice of regular cake. The best way to know how much fat, sugar, and calories you're getting is to check the nutritional label.
6. Sipping Too Many Calories
When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what's in our drinks. This is a big mistake when you consider that some fancy coffees and alcoholic beverages have more than 500 calories. Even the calories in fruit juice and soda can add up quickly. What's worse is that liquid calories don't curb hunger. You're not going to eat any less after a high-calorie drink.
7. Drinking Too Little Water
This is one of the simplest diet blunders to fix. Water is essential for burning calories. If you let yourself get dehydrated, your metabolism drags -- and that means slower weight loss. Research suggests adults who drink eight or more glasses of water per day burn more calories than those who drink less. So try adding a glass of water to every meal and snack.
8. Ditching Dairy
Full-fat milk, cheese, and ice cream are taboo for many dieters, but ditching dairy foods may be counterproductive. Some research suggests the body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium and produces more fat when it's calcium-deprived. Calcium supplements do not appear to yield the same benefits, so dairy may have other compounds at work as well. Stick to nonfat or low-fat dairy options.
9. Taking the Drive-Through Bait
The drive-through is convenient after a hectic day, and you can always order the salad or other healthier option. But once you're there, can you resist that milkshake or other treat? And if you allow yourself the ease of fast food once, it could become a habit. According to one long-term study, people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who had it less than once a week.
10. Weighing Yourself Every Day
Weighing yourself daily is a recipe for frustration and doesn't yield useful information. It's more important to look for a long-term trend with weekly weigh-ins. If your goal is to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, you'll be satisfied to see those full-pound drops when you step on the scale. The result is more motivating than the confusing swings that may accompany daily weigh-ins.
11. Setting Unrealistic Goals
Telling yourself you'll lose 20 pounds your first week is probably setting yourself up for failure. If you know you won't be able to do it, you may never start your diet in the first place. If you diet and lose 5 pounds in a week, instead of celebrating, you may feel discouraged that you didn't reach your goal. A realistic goal is vital to successful dieting. If you're not sure what your goal should be, talk to a dietitian.
12. Avoiding Exercise
When you don't exercise, you place the entire burden of weight loss on your diet. If you become more active, you can eat more of the things you like -- and still lose weight. The key is finding an exercise you enjoy. If the treadmill seems tedious, try swimming, ballet, biking, or table tennis, all of which burn more calories than walking. Spend time at different activities until you find one you want to do on most days.