|Almost every time we turn on the television or glance at a magazine cover in the supermarket checkout line, we are bombarded with the new weight-loss rules and diet plans. We're constantly given suggestions to drink a special shake, cut out carbs, or choke down tasteless food combinations, but we as a nation aren't losing weight—we're getting heavier. What are you to believe when fad diets and false claims are flying at you from every direction? It's no wonder we're so confused about what to eat and how to manage our weight.|
We've all been exposed to various "diet rules" over the years and, accurate or not, many of us still live by them. It's time to debunk six of these outdated and unhelpful rules once and for all and give you some NEW guidelines that will actually help you reach your goals!
Old rule: Don’t eat after 7 p.m.
So what makes 7 (or 8 or 9) p.m. a magical cutoff time anyway? The original idea was that people should stop eating about 3 hours before bed, using 10 p.m. as an average bedtime. Although it is a good idea to stop eating a few hours before bed, the reasoning has nothing to do with weight gain; it’s basically an issue of digestion and personal comfort. Going to sleep on a full stomach may make sleeping uncomfortable, as the body is simultaneously shutting down to rest while still exerting energy to digest the food. This may lead to fitful sleep as well as gas and indigestion—but not weight gain. Your body is smart, but it doesn't know what time it is when you eat. It will metabolize calories eaten after 7 p.m. the same way as it does the calories you eat earlier in the day. They will NOT automatically be stored as fat.
New rule: Don’t mindlessly snack in the evening.
What does cause weight gain for many people is eating a large amount of unhealthy food at night. Not eating after 7 p.m. is a good rule if you tend to mindlessly munch on food all evening long, whether to soothe the day's stress or relieve boredom. Your total caloric intake for the day is what matters—not the time at which you eat your calories. You can eat at night without gaining weight, as long as you are eating mindfully to satisfy real hunger rather than stress or boredom and don't go over your calorie needs for the day when doing so.
Old rule: Always choose fat-free foods.
These days, nearly every full-fat food, from cookies to ice cream, has a fat-free counterpart. It's the first instinct of many people to simply eat these reduced fat foods to control their weight; however, this tactic could actually derail your good intentions. Why? Because most of the fat-free foods you can buy are things you shouldn't be eating anyway: empty-calorie junk food and heavily processed sweets, crackers and cookies. These items have been available for over a decade, but people aren't getting any thinner by eating them. Remember, dietary fat isn't the sole culprit that has made us overweight, excess calories are. Sure most of us could stand to cut back on our fat intake to a more reasonable level, but calories count when it comes to weight loss. All the reduced-fat foods in the world will not help you lose weight if you're making poor food choices or eating too many calories in general.
New rule: Include a moderate amount of heart-healthy fats in your weight loss plan.
Your body needs dietary fat for day-to-day organ protection, vitamin absorption, hormone production and more, so you won’t be doing yourself any favors by completely depriving yourself of this macronutrient. A sensible amount of fat can also aid in satiety, making you feel fuller longer. Try adding healthful fats such as nuts, avocado, or olive oil to your diet. Choose low-fat or fat-free products when it comes to dairy and meats to limit your intake of unhealthy fats and control calories, but leave the other fat-free foods on the supermarket shelf.
Old rule: You should burn every calorie you eat through exercise.
To lose weight, it's true that you need to burn more calories than you consume. But some people misinterpret this weight-loss equation, thinking they must burn off every calorie they eat—and then some—by exercising. Besides being inaccurate, this practice can be unsafe and lead to exhaustion, overuse injuries, and stalled weight-loss among other problems. Remember, your body is constantly burning calories throughout the day, even when you're not physically active. This is known as a basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it accounts for more than 1,200-1,500 calories per day (on average). Add to that all the calories you burn by moving, walking, standing, and yes, exercising, and you can see how easy it is to "burn more calories than you consume" without spending your life in the gym.
New rule: Move more and exercise moderately.
Try to achieve an active lifestyle by adding more physical activity to your days. Not all of this activity needs to be planned exercise (although you should exercise 3-6 times per week for 30-60 minutes per session to help burn additional calories and enhance your health). Small things that get you moving more—taking the stairs, walking to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing, or playing an active video game instead of watching TV—add to your daily calorie burn and help you lose weight. There is no need to resort to exercise extremes; you only need to burn about 200-600 calories per day (not thousands) through actual exercise, in combination with your SparkDiet guidelines, to safely lose weight.
Old rule: Skip meals to lose weight faster.
Many people believe that skipping meals like breakfast will help them eat fewer calories and therefore speed up weight loss. In theory, this idea seems to make sense, but skipping meals to save calories backfires more often than not. When you go several hours without food, you will be ravenous by the time your next meal comes along and this will make you more likely to throw your eating plans out the window and consume anything within reach. In addition to this, eating too infrequently may slow down your metabolism, sending your body into conservation (or "starvation") mode because it thinks calories are scarce.
New rule: Eat sensible portions at regular intervals throughout the day.
Try to keep your body's metabolism running as efficiently as possible by fueling it at regular intervals. Try eatingsmall, balanced meals every 3 to 4 hours to properly nourish yourself and encourage weight loss, or at the very least, eat three meals (including breakfast) and a couple healthful snacks to curb hunger and keep your metabolic fire stoked.
Old rule: Eating low-carb is the way to win at weight loss.
Over the past several years, low-carb diet fads have given carbohydrates a bad rap, but this reputation is unfounded. Carbohydates are an important fuel source for your body and they are necessary for safe, steady weight loss, too. Your body needs carbohydrates to efficiently burn fat, so skimping on the carbs could actually hurt your weight loss efforts and be detrimental to your health.
New rule: Cut back on processed carbs and choose whole foods instead.
It is true that some carbs (whole grains, vegetables, legumes, etc) are better for you than others (white bread, sugary cereals, and sweets) are. Rather than omitting carbs from your diet plan, be more selective. Choose morewhole grains and unprocessed foods like brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread, and oats and limit your intake of unhealthy carbs that sneak into your diet via processed foods, sweets, caloric beverages and refined flours.
Old rule: Give up eating all of your favorite fattening foods.
This is a common practice can backfire even on those with very high levels of willpower and motivation. It’s simply unrealistic to think that you can cut out all the foods that you love without ever rebelling. Chances are, if you keep yourself from eating your favorite “bad” foods all the time, you’ll eventually end up giving in and bingeing on those foods since you haven’t had them in so long. By categorizing foods into “good” and “bad” groups, you’re only setting yourself up to want what you can’t have. Good-for-you foods feel like punishment and "bad-for-you" foods are more alluring.
New rule: Eat anything you’d like within moderation.
Instead, of giving up certain foods and forcing yourself to eat others, don’t make any food off-limits. With moderation and portion control, you can still eat your favorites without straying from your goals. Try sprinkling a few chocolate chips on your oatmeal in the morning instead of eating an entire chocolate bar, or have one tablespoon of peanut butter with some celery instead of slathering layers of it on a sandwich. By allowing yourself these little treats, you’ll still be able to eat what you love, gradually decrease the intensity of your cravings, and avoid binges that could derail your weight loss efforts.
When it comes down to it, the new rules for weight loss are common sense—and easier to stick with. The bottom line is to ultimately listen to your body’s signals and honor your cravings in a sensible way while incorporating regular exercise, portion control and healthy eating habits into your lifestyle for the long term. Incorporate these new “rules” into your repertoire and you’ll be amazed at what a difference such small changes can make!
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople nutritionist, Tanya Jolliffe.
Meet the Best Meatless Protein Sources
It's also important to note that both herbivores and omnivores often overestimate proper protein needs. The media is constantly pushing protein as the magic key for weight loss, especially in recent years. Although protein is important for satiety, muscle repair and other bodily processes, it's definitely not the only macronutrient that should be considered in a healthy diet—and getting more than what you need won't do any favors for your waistline or your health. Consume protein in moderation along with an appropriate level of carbohydrates and healthy fats, and you'll get all the nutrients you need to sustain health and long-term weight loss. Wondering how much protein you should eat per day, or how it fits into your macronutrient requirements? Find out with the chart below.
|Nutrient||Carbohydrates||Fat||Protein (Women)||Protein (Men)|
|1200 calories||135-195 g||27-47 g||*60-105 g||N/A|
|1500 calories||169-244 g||33-58 g||*60-131 g||*75-131 g|
|1800 calories||203-293 g||40-70 g||*60-158 g||*75-158 g|
|2100 calories||236-341 g||47-82 g||*60-184 g||*75-184 g|
What's your favorite meatless way to get your protein?
3 Tips to Deal with Exercise ADD
After a few days (or a couple weeks if they're lucky), these people are already gung ho for something else. While their enthusiasm and consistency for working out is a very good thing, they ultimately end up complaining for not getting results.
But wait: Isn't a good thing to try new workouts to create that "muscle confusion" or get better results?
Yes—to a point. But if you're dipping your toe in too many different workout "waters" without ever fully diving in, it can be a recipe for frustration!
Yes, its great to mix up your workouts, try new things to keep from getting bored, and to continue challenging yourself. However, if you don’t give your body time to progress or a chance to master certain movements, you may never see results! A little repetition in your workouts is a good thing; it will make you stronger and more efficient, build cardiovascular stamina and muscle strength, and improve your coordination and skill thanks to practice and repetition over time.
Think about it this way: You didn’t learn to swim the first time you jumped in the water, did you? And you didn’t simply try to swim one day, then move on to a one-day stint of learning to ride a bike or to play basketball, did you? No (at least I hope not!). You kept practicing and learning new skills like how to hold your breath underwater, how to tread water, how to perform different strokes. Over time, you got better and better at it, and were able to swim better, faster, more efficiently. Mastering your workouts should be similar.
If you do happen to find yourself suffering from a little "exercise attention deficit disorder," where you can't commit to any one program or workout for very long, keep these tips in mind when creating your own personal workout program:
1. Try to stick with the same weekly routine for about 4-6 weeks.
While everybody is different, adaptations to exercise (like strength gains, cardiovascular improvements, etc.) usually occur around 4 to 6 weeks. That means in order to actually feel, see or notice some changes from your workouts, you’ll need to be consistent with your plan for at least a good month. I’ve seen too many folks quit after two weeks into a plan because they weren’t losing weight. Focus on how you feel (like feeling stronger or moving more easily during the workout)—not how you look—and the rest will take care of itself over time. If sticking to one workout plan is driving you crazy, create a simple calendar. List your workouts for each day, then try to find satisfaction in completing the full plan of 4-6 weeks of that strength-training program.
2. Vary your workouts on a weekly basis.
Sticking with the same plan doesn’t have to equal boredom! Mixing things up on a day-to-day basis fights exercise ennui and helps to balance out your program. A weekly routine should include a mix of cardio, strength and flexibility work at both high and low intensity levels; the only repetition should be within workout categories. So do the same strength-training class/exercises/DVD twice in a week, and maybe the same cardio workout (running, Spinning, Zumba, etc.) so that you can build the routine and see improvements. Leave a day or two for "whatever you want" workouts to mix things up and keep your week exciting.
3. Focus on fun first, fitness second.
One of the biggest reasons I think it’s easy to get pulled into the "short attention span" trap is that it’s so easy to be persuaded to try that latest and greatest exercise program, gadget or trendy routine (it looks so great on that infomercial!). And when we try it, its nothing like the commercial said it would be. In fact, it’s usually a) boring, b) too hard, c) exhausting, or d) all of the above. So instead of looking to advertisements to tell you what your workout should be, ask yourself first: What type of movement do I enjoy? If you’ve always loved moving to music, how about starting with a music-based workout plan? Try some Zumba DVDs, or take that hip hop dance class, or make an awesome workout playlist to walk to. If you prefer the stress-reducing effects of exercise, try mind-body techniques like yoga, Pilates, or zone out in the quiet, repetitive nature of swimming. Finding ways to incorporate what you love into your own special workout program can help you look forward to your workouts and make you more likely to stick with long term.
And while it is important to be consistent with a program in order to get results, it doesn’t mean that you should feel obliged to stick with a workout or plan that you simply don’t like or one that doesn’t work for your body or fitness level. As you experiment with finding what works best for you and what you enjoy most, be sure to listen to your body, and create a rotation with your workouts that allows for both mastery and variety. You may find yourself feeling better, stronger and even more inspired to keep on sweating!
6 Diet Rules Meant to be Broken
Out with the Old, in with the New
12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet
Identifying Weight Loss Scams
4. "Block the digestion and absorption of fat, carbs, or calories!" Remind yourself that a little pill to curb cravings and suppress appetite just doesn't exist. There is no magic potion that will allow you to completely block the digestion and absorption of fat, carbs, or calories either. The majority of these over-the-counter products and "supplements" are scams with no supporting scientific research and thus a waste of your hard-earned money.
Note: SparkPeople does not endorse or recommend the use of any diet pills, but since this article was published, one over-the-counter weight-loss medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. When taken with low-fat meals, Alli can prevent up to one quarter of the fat you eat from being absorbed. Alli is not without risks, so talk to your doctor and do your homework first.
The next time you watch an infomercial, read an advertisement, or spot a new supplement reporting miraculous weight loss results, we wouldn’t blame you for cocking a wary eyebrow. When evaluating claims for weight loss products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends a healthy portion of skepticism; most don’t come close to fulfilling their claims. And in the rare cases where a product might result in some temporary weight loss, it is almost never a permanent solution and is usually unsafe.
Before you spend money on products that promise fast and easy results, weigh the claims carefully. You might even consider contacting the FTC directly for more information or if you have concerns.
These 12 tips will help you critique and evaluate weight loss claims and spot a scam before it’s too late:
1. "It’s so easy to lose weight without dieting or exercising!" Face it—permanent weight loss takes work, effort and time. Pass on any products that promise miraculous results without the effort. Buy one and the only things you’ll lose are money and confidence.
2. "Eat whatever you want and still lose weight!" Losing weight requires sensible food choices, not overloading on high-fat, high calorie foods.
3. "Lose weight forever…you’ll never need to diet again!" For weight loss to be permanent, it requires lifestyle changes. On-going maintenance is always a must.
12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet
Identifying Weight Loss Scams
7. "Lose weight with this miracle diet patch, cream or gel!" You’ve heard it all before—"Apply and watch the fat melt away!" But truthfully, all that melts away is your hard earned money.
8. "Scientifically Proven! Doctor Endorsed!" Where is the proof and how was the research conducted? Were people studied, or rodents? Were there 3 subjects in the study or 3,000? Has the research been published in a medical journal and reviewed by peers? A doctor of what profession? Or is the "professional" as purely fictitious as your weight loss will be? Be sure to check the details.
9. "Money-back guarantee!" It may make you feel safer to give the product a try, but realize that many companies do not follow through with this promise. You’re left holding an empty promise and an empty pocketbook.
10. "100% safe!" Just another attempt, trying to get you hooked with a meaningless phrase. Think of it this way – if there were no reason to doubt, why would they need to make this claim at all? Many products have been removed from the market due to safety issues, but not until too many lives were already destroyed or lost. Does ephedra ring a bell?
11. Those convincing testimonials: We can all look 10 pounds slimmer by: standing up straight, shoulders back, and stomach in; having a good hair day; applying the right make-up; and hiring a professional photographer. Remember, just because you recognize the actor or actress doesn’t make the product any more reliable. They are now just a little richer and you a little poorer.
12. "A miraculous breakthrough!" Turn and run the other direction when extravagant claims make the product sound to good to be true.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
What Does 300 Calories Really Look Like?
See Pictures of 300, 350, and 400-Calorie Meals
|Wonder what 300 calories looks like? 300 calories look drastically different when you're eating in instead of dining out. Choosing healthier, more nutritious foods--at home and away--means you can eat much more food and still lose weight. Check out these 18 meal comparisons to see for yourself, share forward this story to your friends!|
Breakfast: 300-Calorie Meals & Portions
Here are three morning meals that each weigh in at 300 calories. Healthy and quick homemade meals (left column) pack whole grains, fresh fruit, and protein--a filling combination that will keep you fuller longer. You could only eat a fraction of the comparable restaurant meals (right column) for the same number of calories. Get more healthy breakfast ideas here.
Lunch: 350-Calorie Meals & Portions
These midday meals contain 350 calories each--the perfect amount to keep you going without wrecking your diet. Packing one of the homemade lunches on the left doesn't take long, and look at all those low- cal and filling veggies you'll get! Notice how seemingly healthy options like the restaurant foods on the right can be very misleading! Those 350-calorie portions are pretty small. Pack a healthier lunch with these tips.
Dinner: 400-Calorie Meals & Portions
Many people consume a larger meal at night, so we picked 400-calorie dinners here. By combining whole grains with lean protein and vegetables, these homemade dinners (left column) are a snap to prepare--and they'll keep the late-night munchies at bay! In contrast, the high-fat and high-calorie meals on the right don't offer much in the way of nutrition or volume. Get thousands of healthy dinner ideas at SparkRecipes.com!
The bottom line is that you can eat more and lose weight when you know how to pick the right foods and the right portions. Use the images and portions above as a guide to create your own healthy, diet-friendly and nutritious meals every day!