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Diet Don'ts: Five Ways to Undermine Healthy Weight Loss

Updated on October 21, 2013
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These days, people are too often dissatisfied with who they are. They begin their day already with a glass half-empty, a lawn paler than their neighbor's, and wishing someone else was peering back at them from the mirror. So much does that last gripe obsess some, that by this time last year, the business of losing weight became a $20 billion industry. People are hungry to be thin.

Fad diets, books, exercises, and medical procedures become quick (and perilous) fixes for unhappy people trying to reinvent themselves. This frequently produces counterproductive and demoralizing (sometimes dangerous) results. Beware of the calorie, pound, and point counters – this is trading one unhealthy behavior for another. Avoid doing the following to break the yoyo-like cycle of unreasonable goals and unhappy results for a happier, healthier you.

Weighing Yourself Daily:

If you think pursuing a healthier and happier you begins with weight loss, the first thing you should do is find out if you actually need to lose weight at all. Truthfully, short of a physical examination by a healthcare professional, there is no clinical way of determining if you are actually overweight (the oversimplified formula used by online body mass index calculators is unreliable at best, unable to account for higher-than-anticipated lean muscle for a given height).

Having taken that precaution, it's equally important to understand how to properly measure your weight-loss progress. Don't. Weigh yourself. Daily. This measures your progress as reliably as a Ouija board. A person's weight flucuates daily due to several factors, including the size of a recent meal, hydration, and hormones. Referred to as "water weight", these are easily "gainable and shedable" pounds that you shouldn't place much value in. A weekly visit to the scale should suffice.

Restricting/Villainizing Food:

Part of the dieting culture is categorizing "good" and "bad" foods. Intuitive Eating.org, an online resource by dietitian Evelyn Tribole and nutritional therapist Elyse Resch, quickly discourages this practice because of how it eventually clashes with natural behavior. Making certain foods taboo can intensify your cravings for them.

Constantly battling with denying yourself increases the likelihood of over indulgence if-and-when succumbing to the cravings.
Ultimately, your goal should be to work with your desire to eat – recognizing when you're honestly hungry, when you no longer are, and slowing down to be learn when you're satisfied (not overwhelmed) by your portions.

Skipping Meals:

This often-discouraged practice has been a staple of many dieters for some time. In Batman's utility belt, it's the Batarang of dieting quick fixes – simply cut your caloric intake by a full meal. Pounds just have to disappear if you can hold out long enough. Therein lies the problem with the practice.

Just for a moment, lets forget about what most people tell you when you admit resorting to this. If you're determined in your mission, you may be prepared to accept a bit of dietary hardship. If all you care about is "eyes on the prize", your prize can be jeopardized by eventual comprensation.

You either succumb to your hunger before the day's end – or you actually have the hyper vigilant willpower to ignore what your body naturally wants (in which case, may indicate a far more serious situation).

Manic/Excessive Exercising:

Recognizing the importance of exercise in a healthy lifestyle is already a constructive decision on your part. It's common for dieters to try shirking the crucible of breaking a sweat if they can help it. Healthy, natural eating habits and even just a regular stroll through a nice part of town are a one-two-punch combo in helping you live more satisfyingly (and healthy).

Militarizing this aspect of your goal is a dangerous trap though. Sometimes, borderline abuse that can lead to severe consequences like dehydration, muscle tissue and organ damage, even death. Sequestering yourself on a treadmill to see which lung gives first will only increase your likelihood of injury (and having to postpone a regiment altogether).

Again, a professional consultation is paramount to an ideal, personalized regiment for yourself – but general rules of thumb can put you in ballpark figures of how much sweating you need to do (perhaps less than you expected).

Dr. Edward Laskowski, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with the Mayo Clinic, says a minimum of "150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity" meets average goals.

If you can fit something in five days a week, that's just half-an-hour on a brisk walk. If your exercise opportunities are farther and fewer in between, make your mark 75 minutes a week (but break out the running shoes). A pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories. Arithmetic says that's a pound dropped every week if you can burn or cut 500 calories from your daily intake (a healthy rate for reliable, sustained weight loss).

Short Cuts/Desperate Acts:

If being confident about who you are came so easily to us, Tony Robbins wouldn't be worth about half a billion dollars and 108 million Americans wouldn't be dieting right now. It's all too easy to think things could be better or easier if we "looked more like others" or "like we're supposed to".

Despite thoughts like this being psychological carcinogens, they undermine the point of living healthy and satisfied. It's no carrot, all stick – and its affecting younger and younger people each generation.

The National Eating Disorder Association has found that 40-to-60-percent of girls, ages 6-to-12-years-old, are already concerned about being "fat". Complacency in this is unacceptably dangerous. When weight loss is solely motivated by insecurity and the intense dissatisfaction that partners it, extreme tactics and their consequences are likely to follow.

Habits like excessive restricting can lead to permanent slowing of your regular heart rate. Blood pressure drops as well, indicating irreversible changes to the heart muscle (placing affected persons at higher risk of cardiac arrest and complications). Popular tools of the weight-loss desperate include laxative abuse – a damaging practice that weighs heavily on your digestive health (including increasing the likelihood of colon cancer).

Do-or-die depriving of your body's nutrition causes initial symptoms like fatigue, followed by skin conditions and hair loss as the body cannibalizes lean muscle and other tissues to feed itself what you're not giving it. Accelerated weight loss in crash diets can typically come from this, not burned fat.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, dietitian and blogger for WebMD warns that "dieting is about deprivation, focusing on what you shouldn't have." The more you fight what your body naturally needs, the more a healthy lifestyle is undermined and derailed (66-percent of dieters typically regain their losses in the "yo-yo" affect).

The dieting mentality itself is a short-term solution. To have to endure uncomfortable or unsatisfying conditions until you achieve your results will only lessen your chances of feeling like you truly succeeded. In the pursuit of a healthier you, the changes you make will have to be with you from there on (so its best to make ones you like).

Recognize the value of physical activity, but don't weaponize it. Eat when you're hungry, but take your time with your food (a pause in a meal gives your body time to recognize and acknowledge what you give it). Finally, make sure who and what you're around makes you happy. Unhealthy eating habits have a way of being interconnected to other unhealthy parts of your life.


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