Think you’re doing everything right but still not seeing your waistline whittle? You may be making some common diet mistakes. Here are six dieting don’ts that may be keeping you corpulent:
You spend all day on the treadmill
You know you have to exercise in order to lose weight. But women tend to get cardio happy, spending hours walking at a moderate pace, thinking they’re burning oodles of calories. Not so.
Interval training (alternating high-intensity bursts with low-intensity recovery) can actually kick your calorie-burning system into overdrive, says Hayley Greenberg, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Merrick, NY. Instead of walking 20 minutes at a moderate intensity, try 30 to 90 seconds of all-out running or incline walking, followed by about a minute of slow walking to let your heart rate come back down, then another all-out blast, more slow walking, and so on for 20 minutes.
Another crucial fat-fighter is weight training to build muscle. “Muscle uses more calories to maintain itself than any other body tissue,” says Greenberg. In other words, for every pound of muscle you pack on, you automatically burn an extra 40 to 50 calories. And always try to work multiple muscles at a time – tricep kickbacks while lunging, for instance – to burn more calories in less time.
You skip breakfast
Lots of women think that skipping a meal will save them calories in the long run. But no matter how tempting it is to bump breakfast off your to-do list, studies show that you absolutely must eat it in order to lose weight. In fact, almost 80 percent of the people who successfully lose weight -- and keep it off -- eat breakfast every day according to the National Weight Control Registry, a database of over 5,000 people who have lost and kept off more than 30 pounds.
Breakfast is critical to kick-start your metabolism after a night of not eating. Morning munching can also reduce your hunger later in the day, making it easier to avoid binging. When you buck breakfast, you may feel famished later, so you’re less likely to take the time to choose healthy fare. “Your body can only store a limited amount of glucose – the body’s main source of energy,” says Bethany Thayer, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association). If you don’t replenish your glucose stores after an evening’s fast, blood sugar begins to plummet, sending stronger and stronger messages to the brain that it needs food stat, she adds.
No time for a full-on meal? Prep a smoothie the night before: Put six to eight ounces of fat-free milk, one cup of frozen berries, half a banana and one teaspoon of honey in a blender and store it in the fridge. Blend it up in the morning, put it in a to-go cup and drink it on your way to work.
You skimp on sleep
Turning off the lights too late may actually dilate your derriere. A study published in Obesity found that women who go to bed late eat more food at dinner, eat twice as much fast food and half as many fruits and vegetables as those who turn in earlier.
Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, MPH, a researcher on the study, thinks both biology and environment may factor into her findings. “Eating at night when the body is supposed to be sleeping may relate to processing calories differently,” she says. Plus, our go-to late-night snacks are usually unhealthy and high-calorie, she adds. To make sure you get your 7 to 8 hours of recommended zzz’s, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends and vacations!), make sure your room is dark, quiet, comfy and cool, and use your bedroom only for sleep and sex (86 the TV and computer).
Leslie Pepper is a freelance writer based in Merrick, NY who specializes in diet and health. Her work has been published in print magazines such as Real Simple, Woman's Day, and Parents, as well as online publications such as WebMD.com and Everydayhealth.com.