7 Ways to Avoid Weight Loss Mistakes

A clinical dietitian at Duke weighs in on myths and fad diets

With so many weight loss fads, the one easy way to ensure a healthy diet is to focus on balance between food groups.
With so many weight loss fads, the one easy way to ensure a healthy diet is to focus on balance between food groups.

Dieting tips and tricks may seem a dime a dozen, and not every weight loss fad is good for your body.

“Everybody wants to trade information about losing weight, so we never really know what the most clear path is,” said Keri Linares a clinical dietitian with the Duke Health & Fitness Center. “We’re taught as children that rules are meant to be kept, so if you break one thing, you feel like you’re failing, which sets you up for struggle.”

As part of a monthly “lunch and learn” series at the Health & Fitness Center, Linares set out last week to demystify a collection of weight loss mistakes commonly shared among those trying to improve health. Here’s a rundown of how to go beyond some common mistakes.

Too Many Rules

  • “Don’t eat anything after 7 p.m.”
  • “Don’t eat any sugar. Ever.”
  • “Don’t eat if you aren’t hungry”

These are just a few of the questionable tips Linares points out because of their strict nature. For example, if you’re not supposed to eat anything after 7 p.m., what should a person do if they work evenings?

“The way our metabolism works is different for each body,” she said, noting that getting personalized insight from nutritionists or dietitians is the right way to set dietary boundaries.

Cheat Days

What’s the biggest problem with cutting a particular food from your diet? The one day you allow yourself to bring it back in, which often causes a splurge that may not be healthy, Linares said.

“It adds to the over intake and overconsumption of calories,” she added.

Not Eating Enough

Eating fewer calories may help in weight loss, but it may also not be healthy for everyone. As an example, Linares said the accepted amount of 2,000 calories a day may not be appropriate for everyone. Some may need more, some may be able to do with less, but everyone should get enough calories so their body functions at a healthy rate.

Short-term Thinking

“What can happen if you do a cleanse, is you wipe out your body’s healthy balance of bacteria in your system,” Linares said. “Then you start from scratch and you can experience bloating, abdominal pain and other issues. You may have two pounds of weight loss, but as soon as you eat normally, it comes right back on.”

Not Tracking

Monitoring what you eat can be a big help, especially using a journal to track what you eat, when you eat and the choices you make.

“Especially how you’re feeling – not just emotionally, but physically as well,” Linares said. “It can help you notice a pattern of behavior, when you’re really hungry and track emotions or stress. These are all things you might not have noticed before.”

Overeating Healthy Foods

Just because a food is “clean,” “organic” or labeled as “healthy,” it still needs to be consumed in balance. She pointed to the famous “My Plate” graphic endorsed by the Department of Agriculture, which encourages intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy in shared portions for a truly balanced plate.

Focusing Only on Weight

Linares said a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be based solely on how much a person weighs. Sustainable strategies for health and wellness are about how you feel, too.

“Instead of focusing on calories, focus more on how your hunger is satisfied by a choice,” Linares said.

Future “lunch and learn” sessions will focus on topics like exercising while aging and a body balance to avoid the risk of falls. Each presentation takes place from noon to 1 p.m. the third Thursday of the month in the Pepsico Fitness Center at 3475 Erwin Road. Parking is free in lots around the center.

For more information, call the Health and Fitness Center at (919) 660-6660