Six habits that undermine your success for achieving long-term weight loss

Losing weight and then successfully keeping it off is challenging. Not impossible, but challenging nonetheless. Some people are diet over-achievers. They go from one die to the next, aiming to find “the one” perfect diet for long-term weight loss success. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that 80 to 95% of dieters regain the weight they worked hard to lose. The question asked is “why?” Could it be certain habits needing an overhaul? Paternms so ingrained that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. 

Here’s a look at six habits that possibly do your dieting efforts no good. Ditch them, and that’s when real weight loss progress begins. Not only will you shed a few pounds, but you’re likely to keep it off for good.

      1. Counting calories

Believe it or not, counting calories has gone by the wayside and is no longer recommended. That’s because micro-managing every bite is cumbersome and defeats the real and more applicable purpose of paying attention to your hunger and satiety signals. In addition, preoccupation with tracking calories removes enjoyment of food and your focus on choosing nutritious foods supporting good health.

The better way to reach a healthier body weight is to look beyond calories and pay attention to portion size instead. Using the plate method is one way to accomplish this. The plate method is recommended for people with diabetes to help manage their weight and blood glucose numbers, but also applicable to anyone desiring weight loss. When practiced at most, if not all, meals, controlling portion sizes is a tried and true method of weight loss success. 

      2. Mindless snacking

Are you a “grazer” throughout the day? How often has boredom, stress, or lack of structure caused you to graze mindlessly on food? Grazing or mindless snacking is hard to break, especially if there’s an emotional connection to food. But identifying your triggers is a step towards revealing why you’re eating food without a true purpose. Possible triggers might be stress at home or work, worrying about an upcoming event, or arguing with a loved one. Once you figure out your trigger, you can decide if food is the acceptable solution – hint:  it probably isn’t. 

One of food’s purposes is to be pleasurable and to fuel your body. Become more conscious of your food choices and how they affect your body, and listen to your internal cues when you’re hungry or satisfied. Avoid the temptation to graze by engaging in other activities enriching your life, like taking an afternoon hike or playing a family game instead of mindlessly munching on a bag of chips in front of the TV.

      3. Drinking too many calories

Our love of sugary beverages has been weighing us down for years. Overly sugared soft drinks, coffee concoctions, milkshakes, juices, sports and energy drinks, or liquor are some of the biggest culprits in achieving weight loss success. However, that nightly glass of red wine or the several times weeks treat of a Grande mocha from Starbucks, could be a main component standing in your way of a healthier body weight. 

Often, simply dropping all sugary beverages, as listed above, including lemonades, sweet tea, and any other drink with sugar, is all it takes to finally see the scale moving in the right direction. Instead, replace these beverages with water or unsweetened tea for a more refreshing way to hydrate your body without adding excess pounds.

      4. Believing exercise is more important than food choices for weight loss

Exercise is a driver of weight loss but not the most effective weight-loss strategy.  Our bodies are made to move to help maintain flexibility, muscle strength and endurance as we go through life.  But what drives weight loss is making smart food choices and managing the amount. 

For example, people overestimate how many calories they burn while exercising. Let’s say you weigh 155 pounds, and you go for a run for 30 minutes. It’s hard to say how many calories you’ve burned, as calorie trackers are not always accurate. The percentage of calories burned exercising is also a small percentage of overall energy expenditure. Most calories we burn in a day come from basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories burned at rest. Just keeping your heart beating, lungs breathing, and other internal organs working requires a lot of energy, even when just sitting around and not exercising. 

So, you go for that run for 30 minutes, but then 30 minutes later, you stop at a fast-food drive-thru and order a sugary beverage containing 500 calories, and you’ve just blown all the calories you burned exercising. 

Exercise is essential, but the real driver of weight loss is still food choices and using portion control.

      5. Eating an unbalanced diet

This habit often falls back on oversimplifying the complexity of weight loss. If you believe that to achieve weight loss, you must severely restrict calorie intake, such as skipping meals, this only tends to backfire. Calorie restriction can lead to overeating at night and slows your metabolism or the rate at which you burn calories. When the body lacks fuel for basic functions, it will conserve energy, not burn it. 

The best solution is to eat three meals a day containing a balance of protein to suppress the hormone ghrelin telling your brain you’re hungry, high-fiber carbohydrates that slow digestion, and healthy fats while reducing refined sugars and unhealthy fatty foods. This helps keep your body in fat-burning mode, enhancing weight loss by being full instead of feeling hungry. 

      6. Chronic lack of sleep

Diet and exercise are critical factors for weight loss. However, sleep is an often-neglected lifestyle factor that should be considered just as essential alongside diet and physical activity for healthy weight loss. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but many people sleep less. Insufficient sleep is linked to greater body fat and increased risk of obesity and can influence how you lose weight. 

A lack of sleep can also increase appetite by changing hormones, likely leading to eating unhealthy foods while influencing how body fat is distributed. 

To get the sleep you need, practice good sleep hygiene, such as having a regular bedtime and bedtime routine and powering off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. 

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.

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