Like many Americans, I am now in panic mode as Christmas and New Year’s approach. These holidays bring more opportunities to overeat and make poor food choices. Not to mention, I will meet up with friends and relatives I don’t see very often, and I want to look my best.
At times like this, many of us turn to diets and less than healthy eating habits in hopes of looking and feeling better by the next round of holiday gatherings.
Here are 10 diet habits you should avoid and tips on what you should do instead:
While skipping breakfast seems like a good way to cut calories, it can sabotage the rest of your day. Eating a healthy, filling breakfast that is high in fiber and protein can help you feel more full throughout the day. Studies show that breakfast can jump-start your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Ignoring food groups
Different diet plans call for avoiding different types of foods. The latest fad may mean leaving out gluten, carbs, meat, dairy, sugar or fats. Yet, we need all of these nutrients for a balanced diet and for our bodies to work properly. Even dairy may help our bodies burn more fat by supplying calcium.
Forgetting about snacks
We often consider snacking a bad habit, but eating healthy, nutritious snacks actually helps control hunger and aids in weight loss. Snacking on a handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt or some veggies can keep you on track and make those bad choices less appealing.
On the other hand, too much nibbling can be detrimental to your good eating habits. You grab a pastry and iced coffee at the morning meeting. You snack on pretzels at your desk. You finish your child’s chocolate shake. All of these extra calories can add up throughout the day.
Drinking diet sodas
It can be tempting to fill up on diet sodas. The fizzy drinks make you feel full and can taste good, too. Diet sodas may actually be sabotaging your weight loss. It has been found that artificial sweeteners may be linked to weight gain.
The answer: drink more water. Water is essential for burning calories. If you become dehydrated, your metabolism slows down. When you drink eight or more glasses of water a day, you burn more calories.
When people want to lose weight fast, they tend to think that eating less will get the best results. By drastically reducing your calorie intake, you actually send your body into starvation mode, and it starts storing fat to get you through the lean times. A better approach is to make a modest cut to calorie intake and then maintain that level for a long period of time.
Cutting out the fat
It isn’t so much the fat we eat that causes weight gain as much as it’s the total amount of calories and bad fats that lead to health problems. We need to cut down on the trans and saturated fats found in meat and processed foods. We still need to include good fats in our diets, such as those found in olive oil and fatty foods.
Thinking good calories don’t count
We think because some foods are good for us, we can eat as much as we want. However, you still need to keep your total calorie intake in mind. Just because whole grains, beans, chicken and cheese are good for you, doesn’t mean you should eat 10 tacos in one meal. Even fruits and veggies eaten in excess can be converted to fat.
Leaving out exercise
When we get busy with preparing for the holidays, it may be easier to drop your exercise routine so that you can fit more into your busy days. Yet, if you keep up your exercise routine, you can eat more of the things you enjoy and still lose weight. Exercise can also help you relieve the stress brought on by the hectic holiday season.
Setting unrealistic goals
Deciding you want to lose 30 pounds between now and Christmas is probably unrealistic. You need to set a more realistic goal, such as planning to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. You should also set other goals, such as running a mile without stopping or swimming a certain amount of laps in the pool. You will feel pride and accomplishment without relying solely on weight loss.
Using a diet at all
For the most part, I feel like “diet” is a bit of a four-letter word. Any time you are being deprived of food, you are more likely to fail in your eating habits. It’s more important to change your lifestyle and create a balance among all of the aspects of living a healthy life. You need to make healthy eating, exercising, getting enough sleep and relieving stress into habits that you can live with every day.