Guess What? You're Not Dieting Right

Salad fixings on a white surface
At the sight or sound of the word “diet,” eyes roll and sighs are let out. You prepare to say goodbye to all the foods you love as you stock up on celery sticks and cottage cheese. But while people who consider themselves “on a diet” are often trying to shed pounds, the actual word diet really isn’t about weight loss at all.

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A diet is your typical way of eating, not just for a few days, weeks or months, but for a much longer period of time. If you cringe at the thought of dieting, don’t. Making healthy changes to your diet shouldn’t be about deprivation. Instead, focus on improving your current diet to become the healthiest person you can be in the long-term.

Where to Start

Fad diets appeal to those who are desperate to shed pounds and fast. The promise of 30 pounds in 6 weeks is exactly what we want to hear, even when we know deep down inside it’s too good to be true. Unfortunately, these trendy diets have serious health implications. Not only will most fad dieters gain the weight back (and then some), but many will suffer vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, slowed metabolism and hormonal changes.

The best place to begin your journey to better health is not the front cover of the tabloid magazines. To start eating for a healthier lifestyle, recognize your nutritional strengths and confront your personal food issues one by one.

Look Before You Eat

Studies show that most people grossly underestimate how much they actually eat.  Many mindlessly eaten calories that go unaccounted for add up to gradual weight gain. Keeping a food journal of what you eat and when, is one of the best ways to successfully lose weight.  To keep a food journal:

• Section off four columns per page in an easy-to-carry small notebook or notepad.  The first column lists what you eat, the second lists when you ate it, the third lists why you ate it and the fourth lists how many calories.  The “when” column will help you uncover your eating patterns. The “why” column will be very important in making changes to your diet because it will expose your eating triggers.  Be honest with yourself about your reasons for eating. If you’re eating because you’re bored or because you’re sad, write it down.

• Read food labels or nutrition facts, specifically calories and serving sizes, before you eat.  A bottle of juice may appear to be one serving of 100 calories, but if you look closer you may discover that bottle contains 2.5 servings of 100 calories.

• Learn about portion sizes.  Most Americans eat oversized portions.  Once you learn what a portion should look like, it will help keep you from overeating and will make your food journaling much easier.  For example, a 3 oz piece of chicken breast is about the size of a deck of cards and has about 100 calories and 1 cup of most cooked vegetables is about the size of a baseball.

Put it Into Action

After a couple of weeks of food journaling, you should be ready to examine your eating habits and set goals. You may notice every time you go out with certain friends you overindulge in French fries and other greasy snacks. You can turn that discovery into a goal to have a salad before your meal when you go out to eat. Or, you may find that you eat a ton of sweets when you’re bored or while watching TV.  You can make it a goal to join a fitness class or pick up an interesting hobby to keep you from suffering avoidable boredom and spending hours in front of the television.

With this newfound information, you can start implementing your own healthy changes that are tailored to your personal needs. You won’t lose 10 pounds in 48 hours, but you’ll be making the necessary steps towards a lifetime of healthier eating habits. To lose one pound of fat per week, you only need a 500-calorie deficit per day.  You can achieve this easily by exercising more and reducing calories.  With your new healthy lifestyle, it won’t be hard to rid your diet of extra calories without depriving yourself.