Dieting is not a healthful practice and can lead to weight gain in the long run (Mann 2007). Here are 5 specific diet traps to avoid, and alternatives to try.
Diet Trap #1: “Saving” calories for a party or event
If you under-eat throughout the day to save calories for an event, you will likely arrive very hungry which can lead to overeating.
Instead: On the day of the party, eat balanced meals so you arrive only mildly hungry. At the event, mindfully enjoy a balanced meal. When you have reached comfortable satiety, move on to other activities.
Diet Trap #2: Exercising off extra calories
If you overeat at a meal, don’t try to burn off the calories with extra exercise. Excess physical activity can lead to overtraining injuries, and make exercise feel like a form of punishment.
Instead: If you overeat at a meal, don’t sweat it! Get back to your normal routine, and trust that your body will naturally compensate for the extra calories over the next few days. Exercise regularly for health and enjoyment—not for calorie burning. If overeating occurs frequently, try to find the root cause of the problem. Are you getting enough food/sleep/relaxation?
Diet Trap #3: Eating only fat-free food
Fat is an important nutrient for good health. Eating meals with some fat makes the meal more palatable and satisfying. Fat-free desserts and condiments still contain calories and are usually not any healthier than their full-fat counterparts.
Instead: Include some healthy fats, like nuts and oils, in your diet. Enjoy full-fat versions of your favorite foods, if they taste better to you. Slow down and savor these foods, and you may find that you are satisfied with smaller portions.
Diet Trap #4: Avoiding carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body and brain’s preferred form of energy. Eat too few carbohydrates, and your body will begin to break down muscle protein to covert it into carbohydrate.
Instead: Include adequate carbohydrates in your diet. Choose mostly nutritious foods containing carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Some carbohydrates can come from “fun foods” like dessert and refined grains.
Diet Trap #5: Ignoring hunger
Hunger is your body’s request for fuel. Ignoring this signal will eventually backfire, and you will become ravenous.
Instead: Listen for your body’s hunger cues and honor them by eating a satisfying, balanced meal or snack. This basic form of nourishment and self-care is more important (and reflect’s your body’s needs more accurately) than sticking to a prescribed calorie budget.