There’s plenty of weight loss advice to go around. Eat a cabbage soup diet, drink coffee all day or chew gum all day so you won’t be hungry. Problem is these are neither healthy nor sustainable. That’s not as bad as another diet fad I read about – eating cotton balls soaked in orange juice to reduce hunger. Sounds like a good way to get an intestinal obstruction! Here are more common weight loss tips and advice that are unlikely to work long-term – AND some healthy weight loss options that DO work.
Not So Good Diet Advice: Eat a Low-Fat Diet
It’s true that fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates but eating a low-fat diet isn’t necessarily your ticket to weight loss. The problem with low-fat packaged foods is they’re usually high in processed carbohydrates. Processed carbs raise insulin levels, creating an environment that makes it easier to store fat. Besides, you need a certain amount of fat in your diet for health. Without enough fat in your diet, you won’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins as well and you’ll develop dry skin. Plus, low-fat diets have been linked with depression.
Choose healthier fats – monounsaturated ones from sources like nuts, olive oil and avocados and omega-3 fats from wild-caught salmon, flaxseed and walnuts. Aim for getting 20 to 30% of your calories daily from fat. Limit the amount of fat you get from animal-based products like meat and dairy.
If You Exercise You Can Eat What You Want
Most people overestimate the number of calories they burn during a workout. Unless you’re working out hours a day, you still need to modify your diet to lose weight. The average person burns 200 to 300 calories during a 30-minute workout. You can undo all your hard work by eating one chocolate chip cookie. Many people get frustrated when they start an exercise program and aren’t seeing the pounds melt away. Chances are they’re eating more because they’re working out – and think they can. Exercise will help you get healthy and improve your body composition but it’s not a license to overindulge.
Diet changes and exercise are a two-pronged approach to healthy weight loss – you need both. Remember, exercise should be more than just walking or jogging on a treadmill. Resistance training builds lean muscle mass, and muscle raises your metabolic rate. Think of resistance training as a future investment in your metabolism.
Go Gluten-Free to Lose Weight
Gluten-free diets have become popular as a way to lose weight – but do they work? Not necessarily. There’s no real evidence that a gluten-free diet helps with weight loss UNLESS it forces you to eat fewer packaged foods and processed carbs to avoid gluten. If instead you feast on the growing number of gluten-free processed foods out there, you won’t get very far. That’s because these products are usually just as high in calories and sugar as other packaged foods. Plus, they have fiber, a dietary component that keeps you full. Most people need MORE fiber – not less.
Focus on eating more whole foods – fresh fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein and healthy fats instead unless you happen to be gluten-sensitive.
Bad Diet Advice: Always Choose the Salad
A BLT Cobb Salad with Croutons and Classic Ranch Dressing from Wendy’s has over 750 calories and more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Many salads at restaurants and fast food eateries are deceptively high in calories. It’s not the lettuce, tomatoes and other greenery that’ll add inches to your waistline – it’s the “fixins” – the croutons, shredded cheese and salad dressing. Fortunately, chain and fast food restaurants are more transparent these days about the calorie content of their salads.
Read the fine print before ordering a salad at a restaurant or fast food place and when you’re making a salad at home, remember, it’s only as healthy as what you put in it – or don’t put in it. Lighten up on the shredded cheese, bacon bits and crunchies and replace them with “better for you” items like berries, a small handful of nuts, pine nuts, beans or chickpeas. These items will add fiber to your salad to help fill you up. Make sure you don’t ruin it by dousing it in a high-calorie salad dressing.
Skip Meals to Consume Fewer Calories
Bad advice. The meal many people choose to skip is breakfast. Eating nothing after an overnight fast is a sure way to send your blood sugar plummeting. That’ll send you scurrying to the vending machines by mid-morning for an unhealthy snack. Morning is a time to re-fuel after an overnight fast. Don’t even think about stepping out the door without eating something.
Start the morning off right with a breakfast consisting of protein and fiber-rich carbs. An egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast, a bowl of oatmeal with nuts or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with berries are good options. Research shows that people who start the day with a protein-rich breakfast consume fewer calories later in the day.
Be a Grazer
Some sources will tell you the best way to boost your metabolism and lose weight is to “graze” all day. In other words, snack your way to weight loss, healthy snacks of course. It’s true that every time you eat something your metabolism has to rev up slightly to break it down but the number of additional calories you burn is small. The most recent research shows that eating multiple, small meals throughout the day doesn’t help with weight loss. Plus, it’s easy for grazing to get out of hand – and if you graze on the wrong things you may end up GAINING weight.
Instead of grazing, use an online calculator to see how many calories you need a day for maintenance based on your activity level. If you need 2,000 calories to maintain your weight, subtract 500 calories from that so you can theoretically lose a pound a week. Eat three meals a day with 400 calories. That leaves you 150 calories each for two healthy snacks. The quality of what you eat counts – so choose wisely.
Eat lean protein with every meal and fiber-rich carbs, not processed ones. Include a small amount of healthy fats from sources like olive oil, nuts, nut butters and fatty fish. This will help you stay full between meals and snacks.
The Bottom Line?
Don’t let bad diet advice keep you from shedding pounds. Choose healthy weight loss options instead. There’s no fast track to weight loss. Make the right choices consistently and be patient. THEN it’ll happen.