Woman First

6 Diet and
Fitness Traps

by Sandra Gordon

You exercise and avoid food binges, but your scale won`t budge. What’s the problem? Hidden habits or mental mistakes could be sabotaging your efforts. Here are six common diet and exercise traps that may be keeping you from losing those unwanted pounds.

Trap 1: Skipping meals.
You grab a bagel and coffee in the morning, and work through lunch. You nibble on cookies during the afternoon. Then at dinner, you devour everything in sight.

Fix: Stick to an eating routine.
“Feed yourself well and often. Establish a controlled eating routine that makes you feel great and works for you,” urges Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple. What meals pattern is right for you — breakfast, lunch, healthy snack, dinner? Spread your calories throughout the day. Eating at least every four hours raises your metabolism and short-circuits bingeing.

Trap 2: Unrealistic Goals.
Some women tackle exercise or diet challenges that don’t match their interests or lifestyle. For example, they decide to walk every morning when they’re not really a morning person. Or they vow to never eat fast food again although the kids crave Happy Meals.

Fix: Think it through.
Design a diet and exercise plan that’s truly doable for you. Before deciding to jog every morning, ask yourself why you haven’t been doing it before. Choose realistic commitments that fit your life and schedule. Ramp up. Try jogging two or three times a week before doing more. In the fast food example, plan and prepare “fast” meals. Cook on Sundays and freeze lunches or dinners to heat up fast during the week.

Trap 3: Drinking empty calories.
Alcoholic beverages are a common example. But in the U.S., we sip an average of 19 ounces (1.6 cans) of soda per person, per day. That adds up to about 240 nutrient-empty daily calories — and about 25 pounds per year. “You can easily consume large amounts without even realizing it. And you hardly miss those calories if you give them up,” says Walter Willet, MD, co-author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy.

Fix: Try low-cal beverages.
To curb liquid calories, “start by making everything you drink between meals low-calorie or non-caloric,” suggests dietitian Byron C. Richards. Suggestions: water, seltzer, coffee, tea, diet soda, Diet V-8 or Crystal Light. Make specialty, high-calorie coffee drinks such as Frappuccinos a special splurge rather than a frequent treat.

Trap 4: What do you call exercise?
You’re taking the stairs with big loads of clothes piled into the laundry basket and riding your bicycle with your kids. That’s a good start, but it’s not an exercise routine and isn’t enough to keep weight off long-term.

Fix: Keep track of your progress.
Commit to a realistic exercise program and track your progress. For example, if your program involves walking, consider getting a pedometer and build towards 11,000 to 12,000 steps (roughly 5 miles) three or four times a week. A pedometer gives you instant feedback and “credit” every step you take, like walking to and from the grocery store from the far end of the parking lot or strolling with your toddler.

Trap 5: Multi-tasking meals.
Eating while you’re doing something else, whether it’s driving or answering e-mail, is a good way to inhale calories without realizing it; this is especially true with snacking. TV is a prime villain. Even just hearing a TV program can be a diet downfall. According to a study reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, study subjects ate 300 more calories while listening to a detective story than they did when they ate in silence.

Fix: Focus on your food.
Eat without TV or reading material. One exception: breakfast. “Most people don’t overeat at that meal,” says Joy Bauer, RD, author of The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan. So go ahead and have your morning meal while watching The Today Show.

Trap 6: Restaurants.

Restaurant calories add up fast. Calorie-laden restaurant portions are generally larger than you’d normally have at home.

Fix: Plan ahead.
Decide before going out what type of food and how much of it you’re going to eat. If the entrée is large, bring home half for another meal. You might order two appetizers and skip the entrée. Ask for sauce and salad dressing on the side. Or choose a restaurant offering healthy portions, such as T.G.I. Friday’s Right Portion, Right Price selections or
Applebee’s Weight Watchers choices.

Sandra Gordon is a freelance writer.