New Years is a great time to start fresh and refocus on health. But many people have given up setting New Years Resolutions or dieting out of frustration because they have gone on a diet in the past only to gain all the weight back (and then some). So many of us think we failed on our diet—but in reality, it may have failed you.
Here are three of the most common weight loss mistakes:
1. Calorie Counting: Most diets are based on counting calories. It makes sense from a math perspective because if you expend more calories than you bring in, you will create a deficit and lose weight, right? Not so fast. The only issue with that logic is that the human body is unfortunately not that simple, and not all calories are created equal.
Think about it this way: If you eat a 100-calorie pack of low fat cookies, your bloodsugar and insulin will spike, which will be followed by a crash. So you will be hungry again in about 30 minutes, and you will also crave sugar more, and so you will likely eat more. Do that enough times, and you can create a condition called insulin resistance, a condition in which your body no longer can process sugar effectively.
However, eating half of an avocado (about 100 calories) will help to stabilize your bloodsugar, satisfy you longer and also quelch your sugar cravings, so you will likely eat less. So besides being exhausting, calorie-counting just does not work and is an ineffective way to try to manage our weight. Instead of just counting calories, we need to understand which foods boost our metabolism and which ones work against it. I suggest reading Don't Diet in 2013 to learn more.
2. Falling into the Low Fat Trap: It has been pounded into our heads that fat makes us fat, and we need to avoid fats if we want to be healthy. An entire industry has been created around the low fat and no fat craze. You can now easily find reduced fat peanut butter, cookies, muffins, and more. But the theory is just completely wrong. Fat does not make us fat.
Yes, there are certain fats that we want to avoid like the plague, such as trans fats (found in many packaged foods, some frozen foods, fried foods, pastries, and most margarines), which do raise our risk of heart disease, and cause weight gain. We also want to avoid fats such as vegetable oils and soy oils because these cause inflammation and are easily oxidized, which damages the fats and leads to free radicals in the body.
But certain fats are good for us, especially omega 3 fatty acids and even many types of saturated fats, like coconut oil. Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, which is more easily converted into energy and therefore less likely to be stored as fat deposits. It is also is a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial, so it is very cleansing to the body, and is wonderful topically. Fats are very important for creating a feeling of satiety, and also helping to regulate our hunger hormones. Not eating enough healthy fats causes hunger to spike. You can learn more about healthy fats by joining the Perfect Metabolism cleanse starting Friday, Jan 11.
3. Using Diet Foods and Drinks: Diet sodas have no calories, so how can they contribute to weight gain? They are up to 7,000 times sweeter than sugar, so it is no wonder that artificial sweeteners increase our craving for sweets. Studies show that they confuse the regulatory systems that control our hunger, stimulating our appetite. Several studies on both rats and humans found that those who ate artificial sweeteners weighed more than those who did not. Artificial sweeteners were also shown to lead to insulin resistance, the common cause of stubborn weight gain, and a precursor to diabetes.
Chemicals like asparatame are a class of chemicals called obesogens because they tell our bodies to store fat. Plus, what's even worse, is that they have been linked to an increased cancer risk according to this study. For more information on this topic, you can read How Toxins Make Us Overweight, Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat?, and Artificial Sweeteners, Worse than Sugar.
So what really works when it comes to dropping weight? The answer is re-booting your metabolism.
A common misconception is that our metabolism needs to slow down as we age. But it does not have to. How well our metabolism is working is a function of a number of different factors, most of which are in our control.
In addition to the kinds of foods and drinks we choose, there are other surprising factors that can lead to slow metabolisms, including: digestion issues, food sensitivities, stress and environmental toxins, and even over-exercising. When we balance all of these factors, our metabolism and so many other systems in the body come back into balance. We see improved digestion, hormones, and sleep patterns—plus we learn how to manage our weight without calorie-counting, which is like getting a 'get out of jail free' card!
Sara Vance is a Clinical Nutritionist in the Encinitas, CA area. She offers nutritional counseling, speaks at school assemblies, leads group classes, and teaches kids healthy cooking. For more information, you can visit ReBalanceLife.com or find Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.