Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Biggest Mistakes I See People Make When It Comes to Healthy Eating/Weight Loss

As a Personal Trainer, I have the opportunity to watch several people change their lives, and I get a front row seat to the transformation.  I find it rather interesting the way people evolve their views on eating, exercise, and weight loss. Most people come to me hoping for a miracle. They think that by simply signing up with a trainer, the weight will come off. Many make the mistake of believing that somehow I am going to be doing the work for them, and they are wrong.

The thing is, I'm not a magical genie. I can't jump inside any one's body and exercise it for them. I can't be there, waiting by the fridge to tackle you as you reach for that frozen cheesecake. I would love it if I could, it would actually make my life easier.

Once we get past the "I want to lose weight but I don't want to have to make any sacrifices to do it" stage, I then start to see people make small changes. They lower their carb count, they eat smaller portions, some even go super extreme and burn out within a month or two. The problem I see occurring, is most people eventually go back to the way they ate before. I am not sure if it's for comfort, emotional eating, or because they give up. The problem with this, is that the way most people eat in America is extremely unnatural and unhealthy. White carbs, hydrogenated oils, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, cancer-linked sugar substitutes all exist in abundance in our convenience-obsessed food market. I want it to end.  But that's a different post all together.

These are the norms... and I kept racking my brain as to WHY people start going back to old habits, and I felt that it was time I made a modern list of the TOP 20 Mistakes People Make that Sabotage their Diet (aka Nutrition).

TOP 12 Mistakes People Make that Sabotage their Diet (aka Nutrition):

1. Watching the Food Network Channel : If you're a food addict, you need to avoid this channel and any channel on television that involves delicious food, eating, candy, etc. Just don't do it. If you were a drug addict, would you go hang out at your local crack house and watch people shoot up? No.. you would stay as far away from that place as possible. The same applies to food. Don't watch the Food Network, don't go to the ice cream parlor just to SNIFF the ice cream, don't go to your local donut place and watch people devour the delicious but extremely unhealthy pastries. That's self torture and eventual self sabotage.

2. Pinning Delicious/Unhealthy Desserts and Foods on Pinterest: I'm friends with most of my clients on Facebook and Pinterest. I watch many of them pinning recipes online about delicious foods, foods no one should ever make, like a Reeses Peanut butter Cup Frozen Cookie Crust and Lard Pie (Ok I made up the Lard part... sort of). This is just as bad as watching the food network... really, the point of eating and living healthy is to end the addiction/obsession with food. You should spend your time on Pinterest consumed with other things, like fun activities to try, crafts, etc. If you're going to pin food, pin healthy food you can actually make. If you're pinning it, it's pretty much like throwing the recipe in your recipe box... if you never plan on making it, why are you putting it in there? (Feel Free to Follow me on Pinterest especially my Guilt-Free Nom Nom's board).

3. Not counting small bites of things: Every bite counts. Every morsel you put in your body counts.

4. Allowing Other People to Make them Eat/Drink Unhealthy: Ahh.. Peer pressure. Well, I didn't want to eat those cookies, but so-and-so made them just for me. I didn't want to drink that alcohol, but everyone else was looking at me like I was some sort of jerk because I wasn't participating. I hear this excuse a LOT. I have used it myself. I'm not proud of it. Allowing others to dictate what you put into your body needs to stop. If you aren't eating white carbs, don't let anyone tell you/influence you to change your mind. If you can't have alcohol because it will sabotage all the hard work you've done this week, DON'T LET SOME ONE ELSE'S OPINION DERAIL YOU. Learn to say NO, stand up for yourself. There are many ways one can do this. If you don't think you can do this, avoid the situation/people who will derail you all together. (A side note, whenever I go to or have parties, I always make healthier alternatives so that instead of not eating all together, I can offer others healthy options and keep to those during the party).

5. Eating out of Boredom: Don't eat in front of the television. The commercials are specially designed to make you hungry for their product, many of us have been taught to eat while distracted, and it makes us consume more calories than we would have, had we been actually paying attention to what we were putting in our mouths. Don't eat because you're bored. If you think you're hungry but you've already eaten recently... try drinking a giant glass of water first and wait about 1 hour to see if you're still hungry. Meanwhile, distract yourself far away from any food.

6. Convenience Eating: I don't have any time so I have to go to McDonalds every day for lunch and eat a Big Mac. Um... no.. no you don't. Let's say you don't plan well and you get to work and have no lunch options before you. The cheaper option may very well be going to McDonalds or Arbys... but I say, is there a local grocery store nearby? Can you not go in there and find some healthy fruit, perhaps a pre-made salad? When I forget my lunch and get desperate at school, I eat peanuts out of the vending machine. Sure, it's not necessarily a balanced meal, but I know that all I'm getting are peanuts and a little salt. What are you getting in your overly processed/1-days-worth-of-calories big mac? Quit making excuses and find solutions. Otherwise, plan out your away-from-home meals 1 week ahead of time on a designated day (like a Sunday).

7. Leaving Temptations In The Home: How can I stress to you the importance of removing temptation from your life? We are human beings. We want what we want when we want it. If you have access to diet-destroying foods, eventually you will eat them (unless you've got the will power of steel I have yet to come across). I hear this a lot "but my husband loves doritos, I can't possibly not stock the pantry with doritos." Guess what? My husband loves doritos too, and you know what I tell him? "If you want to slowly kill yourself with Doritos, you can buy them on your own... but I will only be purchasing and supplying food that ensures that you live as long as I do." Many of my clients also love to use their kids as an excuse. Sorry. It just doesn't fly with me. I realize your kids have different nutritional needs, and that's fine, but try teaching them now to eat healthy... which means those fruit snacks everyone thinks their kids need??? They don't. Pure sugar. Just give them a piece of fruit. They need the fiber and the antioxidants. I just don't see eating natural and wholly being something that could possibly be bad for children. Sorry.

8. Going to Restaurants without a Plan: Just because you're trying to eat healthy doesn't mean you can't go to a restaurant every once in a while. But you have to remember that restaurants are not usually nearly as concerned with the healthiness of a dish as they are with taste. So go with a plan. Think about where you can go that may offer healthy options. As a person with MANY food allergies, and an inability to eat disgusting chain-restaurant food, I find it extremely fun to search Austin for new healthy restaurants... and I tend to find the best options are Asian food like sushi, Thai food, and a few of the more healthy places downtown.

I suggest avoiding Salmon Roe sushi though... bleck!

9. There are Starving People in Africa, Finish Your Plate: Never be afraid to box food up or just let it go to waste. I know, there are starving people in many places. However, you won't ever be able to ship all that food to them, is over stuffing yourself going to solve their problems? No... it's just going to add to yours. I think this is the most ridiculous sentence I have ever heard, and I have heard it from MULTIPLE sources. So... let me get this straight... there are starving people in Africa, so I should gluttonously over-eat in acknowledgement of their suffering? Um... I don't think so. How about you eat what portions are proper for you, and you send those starving people some money.
(Go to to donate)

10. Fat is the Enemy: The whole, "I eat a low-fat or fat-free muffin every morning and I can't lose weight. What am I doing wrong?" is a common complaint I hear. Here's what you're doing wrong. You think that fat is the culprit. It's not. America's been living on "Fat-free" carbs for decades and we're just getting fatter. Eliminating fat from your diet is actually counter-productive. You need good fats like avocados, olive oil, even the fat that comes from beef is good for you as long as you keep the portions under control and don't eat it every single day. If you don't have good fats in your diet, it can hurt your skin, your hair, many metabolic processes, and it can actually cause your body to hoard any fat it gets. Maintaining a healthy level of healthy fats can actually signal your body to let go of some of the fat it's hanging on to. A low fat diet is not the answer... chances are, you've been eating low fat most of your life (unless you like the Big Mac... but I assume most people *hopefully* don't eat big macs daily). I know I ate a low-fat diet as a child. Heck, I practically LIVED on bread. And I was a chubby kid past the age of 12. I loved skim milk and hated fatty foods because they made me feel TOO full. Now I use fats to keep myself satiated. I love eating nuts as a small snack between meals for a good protein/fat source that keeps me full and curbs sugar cravings.

11. This New Fad Diet is my ONLY HOPE: Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers... these diets have been around for a long time. Do they work? Sometimes. Do they work long term? Only if you commit to them long term. What about the newest latest craze? HCG??? It's dangerous, stupid, and a bad idea. Eating a diet below 500 calories for 6 weeks, injecting yourself with HCG, and slowly starving the weight off is my idea of a horror movie. Yes, you get fast results, but you get them at the price of your physical health, your mental health, and possible scary side effects. You also lower your metabolism, and most people put the weight back on. It's dangerous. Beware of new fad diets, and do your research before starting anything questionable like the HCG diet.

(Oh and you can't always trust your doctor on this one... many doctors actually sell HCG even though it has not been approved by the FDA as a weight loss drug)

12. Food Is a Reward, I EARNED this: There's a book I recommend reading called "Eat to Live." Food is not a reward. Food is a means to fueling your body. Stop rewarding yourself with treats and food. It's fleeting and not worth it. I know. The delicious brownie makes you feel better for 5 seconds, but you spend the rest of the day regretting it (whether you regret how sick it makes you feel or the calories you just sabotaged your diet with). Instead, reward yourself with something else. Like a long hot bath with a good book, A facial, A massage, A Yoga Class. Something that will further your health goals and make you feel great in a totally better, more positive way. (Like these sweet new sprinting shoes).