Sometimes even when you think you’re doing all the right things – eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and counting calories – something that was once believed to be beneficial has since been proven wrong. This sneaky type of sabotage can destroy your best-laid fitness plans and leave you feeling like a frustrated failure when it’s not even your fault.
Because let’s face it: there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, and not everything works the same way for everyone. People are different, and something that helps one person might actually hinder another.
But there are some common misconceptions and harmful habits that many people mistakenly believe in, and below we’ve compiled 5 top offenders. Read the list to see if you might be doing something to undo all of your hard work, making you accidentally gain weight.
1. The Scale Sabotage—
Many fitness fanatics argue that if you want to stay on top of weight gain, you have to watch your number like a hawk, with daily scale weigh-ins and dietary adjustments to compensate for lack of progress.
But for many people, daily weighing can actually be demotivating, giving them a hopeless “What’s the point?” attitude after noticing the number has climbed, even though they thought they had a good exercise and diet day. This can make some people give up and binge-eat because they’re so depressed by the unexpected number.
Most experts now recommend a balance between the pro-weigh and no-weigh debate, suggesting that those wishing to watch their weight weigh themselves only once a week to avoid obsessing over every single pound.
2. Ignoring Portion Importance—
Especially if you eat out a lot, you’ll notice that restaurants tend to give everyone far more food than they should consume in one sitting. Often, however, even home-cooked meals are served in large portions because it’s simply what we’re used to seeing.
This can be a major cause of weight gain, because those daily splurges of excess calories add up over time, but in a not-so-obvious way. When everyone else around you is clearing their plate, this starts to feel normal. But if you’d like to keep your weight in check, you’ll need to change your way of thinking.
One way to control portion size is to ask the server for a to-go box with your meal, and immediately cut the entire dish in half. Close the box, enjoy your reasonably-sized meal, and know that you’ll have great leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
At home, consider using the small plates that come with most dishware sets rather than the large ones if you can’t whittle down the amount you’re dishing up. These plates will look full, effectively tricking your brain into not feeling deprived.
3. Not Strength Training—
If you primarily get your exercise by running, cycling, hiking or other forms of cardiovascular exercise, you’re missing out on one of the best weight loss secrets available: muscle mass.
By increasing muscle mass, you’ll automatically increase your metabolism, allowing you to lose weight quickly or eat more calories to maintain. Plus, who doesn’t want additional strength?
Weight machines, dumbbells, barbells, elastic bands, and any other form of resistance can give you this metabolic boost, so if you’re not including these types of exercises in your program, consider adding them immediately.
4. Choosing Low-Fat Foods—
Low-fat doesn’t mean low calorie, and many reduced-fat foods are actually higher in sugar, flour, flavor enhancers and thickeners to compensate for the missing fat, all of which add calories and cause inflammation in the body.
Low-fat foods often give people a false sense of reduced calories, causing them overindulge. The fat in foods also increases our feelings of satiety, so people tend to eat more of fat-free foods.
Try to buy whole, real foods – the less ingredients the better – and concentrate on eating good unsaturated fats over unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
5. Grazing and Lazing—
Unless you are hypoglycemic or extremely physically active and have a caloric need to ingest food all day long, the advice to “eat small snacks all day to keep the metabolism going” has been disproven.
The reality is that by adding food to the stomach all day, it can’t properly digest, overworking the gastrointestinal system and pulling valuable energy away from the rest of the bodily functions.
This type of all-day snacking can cause brain fog and weight gain, making the nibbler feel lethargic as one does after a meal… all day long. Instead, stick to 3 sensible meals per day, and pay attention to how you feel after a week: You may be surprised to find you have more energy and have lost weight.
Remember that getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, skipping processed junk foods, and keeping the sugar you eat to minimum are all good ideas for those who wish to maintain a healthy weight as well. And if any of the habits above have been slowing your progress or sabotaging you, make the switch to a different way of doing things to get back on track.