Feature Archive

Common Diet Blunders

Avoid the most common blunders

By Michele Bloomquist
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

The dreaded "D" word, diet, brings images of deprivation and failure to the minds of many. Nobody who has been there would claim that it is easy to stick to a weight-loss plan for the long haul, but it can be easier to stay motivated if you watch for and avoid the most common blunders.

Eating Regular Meals

Many dieters try to reduce their calorie intake by skipping meals, such as breakfast, but this common mistake is a sure recipe for failure. Most diet plans aim to spread meals out over the day, usually breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack or two so that you never feel "hungry" and are therefore less likely to indulge in that bag of chips after lunch.

The "All or Nothing" Mentality

So let's say you did eat the bag of chips. Don't make the mistake of allowing the negative self-talk to start discouraging you from your goal. You know, that little voice that says, "You may as well just give up. This diet isn't going to work. You've blown it now." The key to success is persistence, not perfection.

Planning Ahead

Make a list of all the groceries you will need for this week's meal plans and buy them all at once. Not having the ingredients you need on hand makes it easy to justify getting off track. Make lunch the night before so you have no excuse to go to the deli instead.

Drinking Water

Besides giving you a feeling of being full, water also helps your cells do their job. Visualize the water gushing into each cell of your body, flushing out toxins and waste and leaving behind a clean, lean, fighting machine ready to function at optimal levels.

Exercising

Dieting without exercising is like filling a car with gas and then never driving it. You have to burn the fuel to empty the tank. This doesn't mean you have to torture yourself, just do something that you can enjoy and that gets you moving, even at a moderate pace.

Forgetting Your Reasons

Make a list of the reasons you want to lose weight. Brainstorm and include everything without screening out things that seem small or trivial. Keep the list to remind yourself of your goals when you're feeling like giving up.

Using "Radical" Diets

It is unlikely that you will be able to stick to a diet plan of only grapefruit and watermelon, or only meat, or only liquid shakes. These methods may provide a quick initial weight loss, but they are unhealthy and unbalanced. Losing weight takes time -- it just isn't going to happen overnight. Keeping weight off involves retraining your bad habits, something these "quick" solutions won't do.

Focusing on the Short Term

Taking things day by day is a good thing. Weighing yourself every day is a bad thing. Try limiting weigh-ins to once a week or once every two weeks. A loss of one or two pounds a week is the goal, so daily weigh-ins can be counterproductive and frustrating. However, with a weekly or biweekly weigh-in, you will see bigger, more motivating jumps in the numbers.

Unrealistic Expectations

You know the ones, "I am going to look just like (insert model/actress name here) when I finish this diet." Or "I am going to lose eighteen pounds by the end of this week." Not to say you won't look even better than model X, or that you won't eventually lose those eighteen pounds, or even that you won't see positive changes in other areas of your life after losing weight. But fantasy thinking often leads to a big crash, leaving you feeling like you have failed because you didn't reach the unrealistic goal. If you find yourself having fantasy thoughts, do a quick reality check. Unrealistic expectations often lead to quitting before you get started.

Originally published May 3, 1999.

Updated and medically reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD, April 10, 2002.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 10:39:24 PM