If you’ve ever fallen off the diet wagon – and who hasn’t? - then you’re probably all too familiar with the diet traps we fall into, and can’t get out of. They’re sneaky, these diet traps, sabotaging our best efforts at eating right to lose weight, or just be fit and healthy. Let’s take a few minutes to defuse some of them, get them out into the light, and maybe even get rid of some of them altogether. Are you ready? Here are 7 diet and weight loss traps to avoid.
1. No Clear Goal
It’s impossible to reach a goal if you haven’t set one, and this no-goal-setting is one of the stickiest of all the diet traps. The goal has to be both reasonable and clear to be effective… for instance, don’t just say, “I’m going to lose weight.” Set a goal like, “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by June 1.” It’s concrete, realistic, and measurable. Perfect!
2. Not Enough Planning
A successful diet includes much more planning than you might think at first. You have to plan your meals, so you can grocery shop effectively. You have to plan ahead and pack your lunches and snacks, and schedule your workouts. Don’t launch into a new diet until you have some basic planning done.
3. Forgetting Support
Don’t go it alone! Avoid this diet trap by enlisting the aid of a close friend who’s also trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. You can encourage each other, and hold each other accountable for diet and exercise. You’ll also want to get support of anyone you live with, from roommates to parents to spouses and children; it’s much easier to diet if they’re willing to clear the pantry of junk food temptation. They might even want to diet and exercise with you!
4. Skipping Exercise
This diet trap still lurks in the back of my mind every morning as I try to force myself out of bed and into my running shoes. But it’s a fact: you can’t diet successfully unless you exercise, often and regularly, too. Aim for 40 minutes of strenuous, heart-thumping exercise five days a week. When combined with a healthy, veggie-centric diet, these three and a half hours a week can mean the difference between rocking the skinny jeans, or the mom jeans.
5. Stepping on the Scale
It’s been three weeks since you started your diet and exercise regimen, and I know you’re tempted to step on the scale to see just how many pounds you’ve lost, but don’t do it just yet. As you lose fat and gain lean muscle, the scale won’t change much, which might be disheartening enough to make you dash to the freezer for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and damn the diet! Instead of stepping on the scale, consider how your clothing fits, and how your body looks and feels. That’s a much better indication of the progress you’re making.
6. Skipping Meals
It makes sense, from a purely mathematical standpoint: if you’re trying to cut calories, you could just skip a meal or two, and presto! Fewer calories! But diet and weight loss are a lot more complicated than that – so simply skipping meals won’t actually help you lose weight. Cutting calories is fine, but cutting calories from sugar and fat, mostly from processed and junk foods, is incredibly more effective than just skipping meals. Also, skipping meals will make you ravenously hungry, and much more inclined to overeat at your next meal… so this diet trap is a double-whammy!
Garfield the Cat once said, “Diet is just DIE with a T at the end.” Obviously, he was concerned that a diet would mean he couldn’t indulge in his favorite dish: lasagna. What Garfield doesn’t know is that dieting isn’t about deprivation, it’s about moderation (and simple swaps). Rather than devouring an entire tray of lasagna in one go, he might consider a reasonable portion of vegetarian lasagna, with a side of greens and a whole grain roll. My Garfield-type temptation is chocolate, so I just indulge in one small square of lush, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate every day, rather than snacking mindlessly on a whole bag of M&M’s as I sit at my computer, typing away.
We’ve just uncovered a whole mess of diet traps, and now they don’t seem nearly so devious and sneaky and diet-destroying, do they? At one time or another, all of these had me trapped, but now that I know they’re there, I’m careful to avoid them and stay on track. Which of these traps has had you stuck? Or is there another diet pitfall we need to avoid? Do tell!