Written by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE
Are you your own worst diet enemy? It’s easy to let everyday life get in the way of making smart food choices. The drive-thru instead of a home-cooked meal is an obvious mistake, but you could be sabotaging yourself in some not-so-apparent ways too. Here are a few things I see with my own patients here in Hampton Roads.
You underestimate your portions and calories
This is a very common blunder. We seem to have lost track of what a reasonable portion is because restaurants servings are so large. Even our plates and bowls have swelled in size.
What to do: Try following the portion guidelines at choosemyplate.gov for several days. Using measuring spoons, measuring cups and a food scale will guide you. Read every food label for serving size and calories. Use portion control dishes like Slimware (slimware.com) or Precise Portions (preciseportions.com).
You eat mindlessly or with distraction
You can’t keep track of how much you’ve eaten if you’re munching from a bag of chips or a box of crackers. If you eat breakfast with the newspaper or the Sunday comics, do you stop eating when you’re full or when you’re done with your reading? All too often, this type of distraction leads to more and more mouthfuls of cereal or pancakes.
What to do: Make it a house rule to eat from a dish always. No bags, boxes or fists. Put it in a dish, sit down and savor the taste as you eat without distraction. That means that if you’re going to eat the crust of your daughter’s grilled cheese sandwich, you have to put it on a plate first.
You deprive yourself
You’ve been so strict with yourself, you can’t even remember the last time you ate a doughnut or a candy bar or a slice of pizza. Finally, like so many times before, you give in, quickly eat something on your taboo list and dreadfully regret it. Now you’re mad at yourself. You decide to eat everything on your list to get it out of your system, and you’ll start over again tomorrow, or Monday or next week. Problem is: you can’t get it out of your system. It just doesn’t work that way.
What to do: No more setting yourself up for feelings of deprivation. Take the focus away from that list of bad foods and emphasize those good-for-you foods. If you eat a wholesome diet of ample fruits and vegetables, some whole grains, lean meats or other sources of protein, you can work in a small amount of treat foods. So when the time is right, enjoy that glazed doughnut – but just one. If you want another, it will still be there tomorrow. After all, doughnuts or candy bars or pizza or whatever won’t drop off the face of the earth.
You lack consistency
All week long you watch your portions, pack a balanced lunch and eat lots of vegetables. But the weekends, vacations and special occasions are a different story. Consistency is key. Researchers involved with the National Weight Control Registry found that those who eat similarly day after day are more likely to maintain their weight loss than others. One large splurge meal in a restaurant, after all, can easily undo all the small calorie-savings tricks you employed the whole week prior. Do that every week and you’ll never get anywhere.
What to do: Don’t radically change to your diet to something that you can’t maintain. Instead make small changes you can live with everyday.
You overestimate your calorie burn
Those gym machines are notorious for overestimating the calories exercisers burn, and dieters can easily out-eat their workouts. A 30-minute power walk might burn 200 calories, but that won’t make up for an after-exercise power smoothie.
What to do: Don’t reward exercise with food. Rather simply consider exercise as one more tool to control your weight and maintain good health.
Need more help? Give me a call or find another registered dietitian nutritionist in your local area by visiting eatright.org.