When you’re trying to fit back into your favorite pair of jeans, it can be tempting to consider the latest fad diet your co-workers or friends swear by. Unfortunately, many diets can range from ineffective to downright dangerous. If you really want to lose fat and shed pounds, beware of making these dieting mistakes.

1. Eating “Diet” Food

When you go grocery shopping, avoid filling your cart with food items that have the word “diet” on the packaging. While it seems like you should stock up on the “diet”, “lite”, or “new and improved with zero calories and no fat!” versions of your favorite foods, removing fat and calories removes the flavor and so, manufacturers will do everything they can to make it taste good, including adding sugar or chemicals. If you compare low- or non-fat foods to their full-fat equivalents, you might find they have as much as five times more sugars in them.

Artificial sugar alternatives, like aspartame and sucralose, are often found in zero calorie “diet” foods and drinks. In several studies, these artificial sweeteners have actually been linked with weight gain, and people who drank artificially sweetened beverages consistently had a higher Body Mass Index compared to those who did not. Avoiding “diet” foods can help keep you from inadvertently consuming extra sugar and diet-sabotaging sugar alternatives.

2. Skipping Breakfast

Unfortunately, the most important meal of the day is also the meal most likely to be skipped. Almost 18% of Americans over the age of two skip breakfast regularly, and breakfast-skippers tend to have unhealthy food habits and higher weight than breakfast-eaters have. Studies have shown that breakfast skippers eat 40% more sweets and 45% fewer vegetables than breakfast-eaters do.

A high-protein breakfast offered benefits to study participants: more satiety, less overeating throughout the day, and reduced evening snacking. The get a good breakfast, combine high protein options like eggs or nut butter with complex carbohydrates like oats or buckwheat. Add fruit or vegetables for added flavor, vitamins, minerals and beneficial antioxidants, and you have a healthy breakfast that will fill you up without fattening you up.

yo-yo-dieting

3. Overly Restricting Calories

A strict calorie-restricted diet may help with initial weight loss efforts, but not with lasting weight loss or maintenance. In addition, extremely restricted diets can lead to serious health risks. When weight is lost through severe calorie restriction, it’s often water weight followed by loss of fat and muscle. Severe diets (under 1,100 calories per day) have been associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, hair loss, gallstones and menstrual irregularities.

Dieting by severely restricting calories most often leads to binge eating, overeating and a return to obesity. This puts you in a cycle of “yo-yo dieting”, where weight is lost and gained repeatedly and puts stress on the body.

4. Omitting an Entire Food Group

Foods can be classified into three groups: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each of these categories provides valuable nutrition that helps your body function optimally. Protein is needed to support your connective tissues, produce immune supportive antibodies and transport liquids, oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Carbohydrates are our primary energy source, and are needed for proper brain and nervous system functioning. Fat – long demonized as the enemy of healthy diets – is essential for the development of brain tissue and absorption of vitamins.

The low-fat, low cholesterol diet that was recommended for decades is now thought to be linked to the rising rates of Alzheimer’s disease. By going low-carb or no-carb, you miss out on the vitamins, minerals and health promoting antioxidants that fruits provide and the beneficial fiber found in whole grains. If you didn’t eat any protein, your body could only survive for 70 days. By removing an entire food group from your diet, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies and damage to your health.

5. Going on a Liquid Fast

Juicing is a great way to get more healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet, and swapping out a meal for a home-juiced concoction can definitely have positive effects on your waistline. A liquid fast, however, isn’t such a good idea. Liquid fasts, also called liquid detoxes or cleanses, involve replacing meals with juices completely over a few days or as long as a few weeks. The problem with a liquid fast is that it combines some of the worst aspects of severe calorie restriction with omitting an entire food group. Most people doing a liquid diet or fast aren’t getting anywhere near the amount of protein they need to optimally function. The weight lost during these fasts is typically water only, and when the liquid diet is over, the weight comes back quickly.

Avoid these five diet mistakes if you want to keep weight off for good. Instead, focus on feeding your body wholesome foods in moderate amounts, get plenty of exercise, and sleep well each night. A healthy overall approach to food and life will have a greater impact on your weight than any extreme diet will.

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