7 Biggest Reasons Your Diet Isn’t Working

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You think you’re making all the right moves, so why aren’t the pounds melting off? You might be making these crucial mistakes.

1. You aren’t eating enough calories

Wait, isn’t the point of a diet that you are supposed to cut calories? Yes, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

A calorie is not just a calorie. Depending on what you consume, calories from nutrients such as protein and unsaturated fat keep you full for an extended period, whereas calories from simple sugars digest rapidly. If you’re cutting calories but not getting the proper vitamins, protein, and fiber you need, your weight loss plan is not going to work.

According to a study from Japan, calorie restriction leads to slower metabolic rate, which means without enough calories, your body goes into survival mode, slowing down your metabolism to conserve energy and prevent weight loss.

Focus on improving the nutritional quality of your diet rather than your calorie intake for improved body weight and health.

2. You’re skipping meals

As with cutting calories, skipping meals isn’t effective for healthy weight loss. Ignoring hunger cues throws off the signaling in your body.

Energy intake, or what’s consumed, and expenditure, or what’s burned, is coordinated by signals from several systems, including the endocrine, adipose tissue, neurologic, and gastrointestinal systems. Chemical signals that increase and decrease appetite are sent to the brain.

This weight regulation system helps maintain a healthy weight for most people by modifying hunger, activity, and metabolism to keep the body weight within a target. Moving below this target, or set point, by skipping meals can be challenging because the brain’s energy-balance system goes into action, pushing the weight back to its set point or even above.

That means you’re basically fighting with your body over where your weight should be. Instead, try listening to your body’s signals, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Here’s what happens to your body when you skip breakfast.

3. You’re not mindful when you eat

So, if your goal is to eat less, how can you still satisfy your body’s hunger signals? The trick may be in changing how you eat as well as what you eat.

Tune into your body through “mindful eating,” which means being acutely aware of everything you put into your mouth, how it tastes, smells, feels, and how it satisfies.

Take small bites of food and chew it slowly, stopping two or three times during a meal to determine if you are hungry or if you feel satisfied. If you get into the habit of mindful eating, you’ll be less likely to finish off those extra bites of mac and cheese from your kid’s plate.

Another strategy is to change up your plate size—according to research from Cornell, subjects serving themselves food on larger plates dished out more, consumed more, and wasted more. Also, be mindful of other triggers that promote overeating, including noshing directly from the package, favoring buffet meals (more choices lead to higher food consumption), and succumbing to the temptations of ever-present food advertisements.

Lastly, eliminate distractions while eating. Are you watching television, working through lunch, eating at your desk, or while driving in your car?

It is important to disengage and focus on the meal, which will allow a person to experience hunger and satiety.

4. You’re on a fad diet

There are so many diets out there that claim to be the best way to lose weight—or even to be the healthiest way—and most require you to avoid whole food groups, as with Atkins and paleo.

Atkins, alkaline, blood type, Ornish-style, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Zone—all of these diets either restrict calories or specific macronutrient composition and for the most part lead to temporary weight loss because they’re not sustainable for the long-term.

Studies have shown that sticking to a healthy number of calories is more important than which “macronutrients” (high protein, low carb, low fat) are eliminated or consumed.

Meals that contain lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats offer longer satiety. Nutrient-dense foods will provide the needed vitamin and minerals and will help maintain a feeling of fullness. And this will help you stick to your goals long-term.

5. You’re not planning ahead

It’s easy to think you’re going to eat healthy—until life gets in the way. Families have busy schedules and it may be easier to pick up fast food or to snack on the run, but the portion sizes may lead to weight gain.

If you can expect and plan for these situations, you can help avoid a diet fail. Cook large batches of meals when you have the time and freeze them for later so you don’t have to start from scratch every night.

Fruit and veggie side dishes can also be frozen and pulled out for a quick meal or snack.

Keep healthy snacks like nuts, apple slices with peanut butter, popcorn, or healthy granola bars on hand. And don’t toss those leftovers—use them.

Make chicken salad with Greek yogurt, nuts, and, fruit from that leftover roasted chicken.

Mix in last night’s veggies with scrambled eggs, which can be cooked in seconds, for a healthy breakfast. Always keep a supply of beans, avocado, and hard-boiled eggs on hand for quick, satisfying lunches.

Beans or legumes make great plant-protein additions to salads, and hard-boiled eggs mixed with avocado make great egg salad sandwiches.

6. You’re not drinking enough water

The benefits of water work in several ways. First, water is good for the workings of your body.

The body is composed of 50 to 60 percent water, so it’s a necessary nutrient to maintain body fluids. It also helps fill you up, so you eat less. And drinking water is healthier than other liquids like juice or soda.

Water isn’t the key to weight loss, but it can substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, which decreases calories. They also lowered their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol.

If you don’t like the taste of plain water, check out these 12 insane benefits of lemon water you never knew. Or, increase intake of fruits and veggies that have a higher water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, celery, radish, and tomato.

7. You’re not shopping smart

Along with meal planning, grocery shopping requires planning to support healthy eating.

When grocery shopping, always have a list. It will help you refrain from impulse buys.

A list will help you stay on a budget too. Next, don’t hit up the store before you’ve eaten.

Shopping hungry is not a good idea because people tend to purchase more food and make unhealthy choices. While at the store, make sure you check out labels, because sometimes foods packaged as “healthy” are anything but.

Read labels on food in the ‘Nutrition Facts Box’ and focus on serving size, total calories, fat, protein, fiber, and sugar. But do take advantage of the store for some prepared foods that can help you stick to your goals for healthy meals.

If you don’t have time to roast chicken, purchase the rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

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Imagine waking up every morning full of energy and loving what you see in the mirror…

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