Science

Ten Reasons Your Diet Isn't Working

By Matthew Klickstein , Feb 28, 2013 04:47 PM EST
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With everyone still struggling to peel off those last winter holiday pounds, some are becoming more frustrated than others. Some of us are "eating right," "exercising," "following all the rules" and still seeing little to no results.

The question then becomes: Why isn't my diet working?

The answer may be more complex than you'd like, and with everyone's body being unique, it's impossible to pinpoint exactly why one person may get results with a diet while another does not.

Here are some helpful hints as to why your diet may not be going as well as you'd thought:

1. What's good for your friend may not be good for you. The good news, according to Family Circle's report of a publishing in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that most diets on the market do work. The bad news is they don't work the same for everyone. What you need to do is figure which of these diets, be they Mediterranean, low-fat or low-carb, go with your lifestyle and food likes/dislikes. "The trick to losing weight and keeping it off is finding a diet you like — that way you'll be able to stick with it," says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids.

2. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. We've all heard the old adage, but researchers again and again find that having a big breakfast is one of the best ways to keep off those extra pounds. Family Circle reports on a recent study in which 94 women were put on the same low-calorie diet, with half of them eating a large breakfast and the other eating a smaller breakfast. Within eight months, the results proved it: the women eating the larger breakfast shed 40 pounds, whereas the smaller breakfast group only lost 10 pounds. You should be going for 500 calories at breakfast time. If you're not hungry in the morning, it just means you need to take it easy at night from now on. "Close your kitchen by 8 p.m.," says Family Circle.

3. Every single (extra) bite counts. We're all guilty of this one. We'll stay as true to our diet as possible, with just a tiny, little, iddy-biddy treat here or there: a miniature chocolate from the office candy dish, a few stolen French fries from a friend at dinner, that nightly slice of cheese no one notices. The problem is that, over time, those "tiny" extra calories can really add up. Make one small change to your "extra" diet, and you'll see a big difference. Forget the soda at lunch. Go for regular coffee instead of a fancy (and calorie-packed) latte. Take it easy with the butter on your bread. These little changes will definitely lead to some heavier weight loss over time.

4. C'mon: You know better than to skip meals! Research has shown time and time again that skipping meals is not the way to lose weight. Aside from being unhealthy for a number of other reasons, skipping meals just puts your body on "starvation mode," which means you'll be automatically clinging to all the extra fat in your body without even trying to. It's how our body works to keep us alive in desperate situations (like starving oneself). Beyond skipping meals, it's also not a good idea to wait too long between eating times. As reported by Family Circle, a study by the USDA Economic Research Service found that "stretching the time between meals from four to five hours causes you to overeat. Waiting six hours makes matters even worse. When you finally do eat, you'll consume substantially more and also choose less healthy options." The optimal amount of time between meals is four hours, says New York State Dietetic Association President Elizabeth Smythe, RD.

5. Don't cancel out calories burned from your workout. Another thing we all do is "treat ourselves" after a good, hard workout. Reality is that, according to Family Circle, it takes an hour-and-a-half (not thirty minutes) to burn off 360 calories. A slice of pizza or simple bean burrito can be the undoing of an entire session at the gym, and then you're putting back on the calories and you're wasting time/money. Suggestions for after-work-out snacks: "8 ounces of low-fat yogurt with fruit, or 2 tablespoons hummus with 3 whole-grain crackers."

6. Weekend and holiday calories do count! This is a simple one to understand but a hard one to remember. The diet should stick with you even at Grandma's house. It may be tough to avoid her ultra-delicious pecan pie, but just because Grandma never seems to put on weight anymore doesn't mean you won't. Show some discipline, challenge yourself. Just because you've got a huge pile of buttery mashed potatoes in front of you does not mean you have to eat it, and certainly not all of it. Treat yourself this time by sticking with your diet. A study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, as reported by Family Circle, showed that most people eat a lot on Saturdays and Sundays. Don't be one of those people.

7.  Don't use food to overcome stress. This may be the hardest one of all. Sticking to your diet means sticking your diet, even when work is such a drag or the kids are bothering you so much that you just want to indulge in a giant ice cream sundae. Instead, go for a run. Vent your anxieties by talking to a friend. Watch a fun movie that will take your mind off of things for a while. There are plenty of things you can do to get over a hump without building one in your belly.

8.  Make sure to choose a diet you can enjoy. If you're a carb person and you're choosing a diet that (usually, unwisely) cuts out all carbs, you're doing something wrong. If you crave your healthy pastas and hearty fiber-based meals, go for a diet that allows for that. If you can't get enough vitamin-rich meat, choose a diet that includes meat. Listen to your body. Think about what you can do away with or what you can't do away with in the diets you choose. There are plenty around, but it's up to you to find one you can stick to.

9.  In fact, don't cut out carbs altogether; that's just silly. According to health and wellness activist and author Kathy Freston, you can lose weight on a high-protein, low-carb (HPLC) diet, but that first weight isn't even fat. It's temporary water loss. As soon as you start eating a little bit of carbs again (Hint: They're everywhere and you probably won't be able to avoid them for forever), you'll immediately gain that water weight back when you reacquire the natural glycogen that comes with eating carbs. Your body does need "good" carbs, Freston says, and hence make room in your diet for things like whole grains and beans (as opposed to "bad" carbs like white bread, chips, cakes and cookies). Make sure, too, if you're experimenting with a low-carb diet, to get enough fiber. Fiber is nature's scrub-brush for the inside of our bodies, stabilizes blood sugar and helps to make you feel full so you're not still hungry after ingesting it.

10. You're not drinking enough wine and you're drinking too much diet soda. That's right: a study by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, as reported by Prevention,  shows that "women who drank one to two glasses of wine daily gained less weight over 13 years, compared with those who did not drink alcohol — 8 pounds versus 5.5 pounds, to be exact." Diet drinks come with all sorts of problems that researchers are finding out about, leading to everything from depression to diabetes. And, get this, diet sodas can even lead to obesity. "In a 2011 study, diet-soda drinkers had a 178% greater increase in waist circumference over 10 years, compared with non-diet-soda drinkers," says Prevention. Always go with the real stuff over the artificial, be it sugar, butter or anything else. Nature created food to work with our bodies. The artificial food industry creates food to satisfy the marketplace, which doesn't always align with our best interests. Use common sense.  

iTechPost reminds all readers to consult with a medical professional before making any changes to his or her diet or health regimen.

Like what you're reading? Follow @profklickberg.  

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