A large and growing percentage of the population is overweight or even obese. And even if you aren’t overweight, you probably watch what you eat to avoid gaining weight in the first place. In order to achieve these goals, a lot of people follow a structured eating plan, AKA a diet.
The aim of most diets is to create an energy deficit so that your body must burn stored body fat for fuel, so you lose weight. However, an alarming number of dieters experience the absolute opposite of this and end up gaining weight instead.
Here are FIVE reasons that can cause your “weight control” diet to have the opposite effect!
1. YOU ARE EATING TOO MUCH
Some cookie-cutter diets provide menus and eating plans for you to follow. This can be very helpful because, when it comes to eating healthily, many people are in the dark and don’t know where to start. However, some pre-set eating plans may simply contain more food than you need.
For example, a small-framed, mostly sedentary woman following a diet plan aimed at a more active, larger framed man could easily end up eating more calories than she needs and gaining weight as a result. Also, if a range is given, e.g. 2-3 portions of fruit per day, most people will choose the higher number – it’s just human nature!
If you do follow a pre-planned diet, be prepared to adjust the amount of food you eat to reflect your personal needs and, where ranges are offered, do not automatically select the higher number. When you first start a plan, monitor your progress weekly and adjust as necessary.
2. YOU STARVE YOURSELF
Some diets are designed to produce rapid weight loss and slash the amount of food you would normally eat. This invariably leads to hunger. Your body has no idea you are eating less on purpose, and so it uses hunger to motivate you to get up, head out, and find some food.
You may be able to ignore hunger for a day or even a week but, little by little, it will chip away at your resolve and willpower until, at last, you give in to your hunger and overeat.
Invariably, when you break your diet, you do so in fine fashion and quickly consume far more calories than you saved during your period of food restriction. This soon leads to weight gain.
Avoid this problem by cutting your food intake less dramatically. Yes, you’ll lose weight more slowly, but you’ll experience less hunger and are less likely to break your diet with a massive binge. Create a lifestyle change, not just a 6-week diet.
3. YOU KEEP MODIFYING YOUR DIET
If you choose a diet to follow, the chances are that diet was designed in a very specific way. It might be low in fat, low in sugar, high in protein, or involve smaller or less frequent meals. Either way, there is a plan that you are supposed to follow.
However, many dieters make the mistake of modifying their chosen diet – not just changing the nutrient quantities to reflect their needs and goals, but adding or subtracting foods so that the very nature of the diet changes.
For example, you might like the sound of the Paleo diet, which is based on natural foods like vegetables, meat, and nuts, but not be able to give up bread and wheat-based foods. Adding these foods to the Paleo diet will cancel out most if not all its benefits.
If you don’t like your chosen diet enough to follow it to the letter, you should probably find a diet you do like and follow that one instead.
4. YOU HAVE TOO MANY TREATS AND CHEATS
Many popular diets involve treats and cheat days. These are designed to break up the monotony of strict dieting and give you something to look forward to. As well as their psychological benefits, cheat and treat days may have a physiological benefit too and can help restock depleted glycogen stores and even prevent your metabolism from slowing down.
However, cheat days need to be earned, and too many cheat meals or treat days can soon cancel out the benefits of your diet.
Cheats and treats are also meant to be nothing more than small indulgences – and not massive binges. A small dessert once or twice a week is one thing, but a liter of ice cream, plus cookies, plus cake, plus candy is simply too much!
If you find yourself going overboard on cheats and treats, this type of periodic reward for healthy eating is not for you and is likely to contribute to weight gain.
5. YOU LOAD UP ON LOW-FAT “DIET” FOODS
Cutting out junk food can be hard, and many of us have a real addiction to things like cookies, cakes, candy, and desserts. Food manufacturers know this and produce “diet-friendly” versions of all our favorite junk foods so that we can continue having our cake and eating it too.
Unfortunately, the calorie difference between diet food and their conventional counterparts is not usually enough to make much difference. Low-fat cookies are invariably high in sugar, and low sugar desserts contain lots of trans fats. Small nutritional changes may save you a few calories but not enough to help you lose weight at an acceptable rate.
Diet foods also cause something called the health halo which means that, because a food is labeled as “diet,” many people think it’s okay to eat larger quantities than they would normally. For example, where you might have only eaten two cookies with your mid-morning coffee, you might think that it’s okay to eat four diet cookies. Needless to say, this math simply doesn’t add up! Don’t fall for the empty promises of diet foods – they are not an effective way to lose weight.
Losing weight is a simple process of eating less and exercising more, but while it is straightforward, it is not necessarily easy. Make sure you avoid gaining instead of losing weight by avoiding these all-too-common problems. And if your diet is making you fatter, it’s definitely not the right diet for you.