In our quest to slim down and shape up, we sometimes resort to tips and tricks that do more harm than good. But having the motivation to make a change is more than half the battle. Here are three common mistakes fit people make, plus smarter ways to put those good intentions to use.
Mistake #1: You drastically cut calories and carbs.
Sure, restrictive eating can help you lose weight fast, but it also means sacrificing energy, lean muscle tissue, and a speedy metabolism—all things that are necessary to healthfully keep the weight off. Here’s why: Without adequate fuel you’ll feel exhausted, your workouts will suffer, and you’ll burn fewer calories. Skimping on carbs—which break down into glucose, the body’s main source of energy—can be especially disastrous. Without enough, your body will use lean muscle tissue for energy, and the less lean tissue you have, the fewer calories your body will burn.
The Fix: Eat an adequate amount of calories (active women should never eat fewer than 1300, and active men should never eat fewer than 1600) and include wholesome carbohydrates like fibrous whole grains, beans, fruits, and plenty of vegetables in your diet. To cut calories, keep an eye on your portion sizes and limit your intake of processed foods and sweets.
Mistake #2: You love energy bars.
Many exercisers gravitate towards bars because they’re convenient, travel well, and are tasty. But the problem is, these energy-dense snacks are also easy to overeat. Each time you finish one you’re getting approximately the same amount of calories as you eating an entire sushi roll. Most people wouldn’t eat a full dinner after downing a sushi roll, and but they would after "snacking" on an energy bar.
The Fix: If you eat an energy bar after your workout, eat a smaller dinner. Or, shrink your post-workout snack by reaching for nonfat Greek yogurt with some berries or an apple and string cheese.
Mistake #3: You completely cut fat (even the good kind!) out of your diet.
Zapping fat creates two big problems. First, fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrate and protein, so it helps you to feel satisfied and not overeat. Second, since fat is needed to help heal and repair the body after exercise, you’ll feel more sore post workout, making it a challenge to get stronger and stay toned.
The Fix: Keep healthy fats in your daily diet by choosing foods rich in monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids instead of artery-clogging saturated fats. Here are four of our favorite ways to do so:
• Swap sugary candies for a small square of dark chocolate with nuts or for a few chocolate covered-almonds.
• Snack on small portions of nuts rather than processed snacks like chips.
• Use avocado as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise or on salads instead of creamy salad dressings filled with hydrogenated oils.
• Swap out fatty cuts of red meat for omega-3-rich fish like salmon and sardines.