3 Surprising Diet Mistakes


By: , – By Abigail L. Cuffey, of Woman's Day
  :  38 comments   :  14,899 Views

You might think it’s what you eat off your fork—not the size of your utensil—that’s causing you to pack on the pounds. But new research suggests otherwise. Read on to get the scoop on this and other eating habits that can tip the scale.

1. You drink a lot of diet soda.

Yes, it’s calorie-free, but it might lead to an expanding waistline. People who drink even one diet soda a day have larger waist circumferences compared with non–soda drinkers, according to research from the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. One possible reason: “People think that they’re ‘saving’ calories by choosing diet soda, so they eat more to make up for it,” says study coauthor Sharon Fowler, MPH. Another theory: Artificial sweeteners may increase your cravings for other sweet foods like candy.

Either way, the calories can really add up, so try to quit the diet soda and reach for water or seltzer instead. If going cold turkey is too difficult, limit yourself to one soda just two or three times a week.

2. You use a small fork.
The size of your utensil could affect how much you eat, but not in the way you might think: People who used a small fork ate 12% more, according to a University of Utah study. “When you use a little fork, each bite is so small that you don’t feel like you’re making a dent in the food on your plate,” says study author Arul Mishra, PhD. “This makes it easy to overeat and not realize it.” Eat slowly, use a larger fork and put it down every few bites so your brain has a chance to realize your stomach is getting full.

3. You eat potatoes every day.
OK, so you know that French fries and potato chips aren’t exactly health foods, but you might not realize the extent of the effect they have. A recent Harvard study found that people who had fries every day for four years put on 3.35 pounds; potato chips meant 1.69 pounds, and baked or mashed potatoes added 1.28 pounds.
What’s so bad about spuds? Potatoes can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which may make you hungry again soon after eating them, says study author Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, PhD. Consider potatoes once-in-a-while foods, and fill up on fruits, veggies and nuts instead.

Stories you might like:

Do you agree with these? Are there any others that you would add to this list?

Provided Photo

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See More: woman's day,
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Healthy Headlines from Around the Web


  • 38
    Potatoes are good for you, watch how you prepare them. Now the fork thing... what are you doing ..eating out of the serving bowl? If you portion your food before you put it on your plate..fork size shouldn't matter. I don't know about forks, but I always use a small spoon for deserts, it seems to help me savor every little bite of that half cup portion. However I do agree that diet sodas are bad news.. just ask your dentist.. - 1/1/2013   12:29:24 AM
    I thought about trying to sue a smalelr fork when I orginially saw the inof. I do use a smaller palte so I fugred a smalelr fork might work too. I have smaller portions on my plate so using a smaller fork might be more appropriate. I may try it despite the info here. I agree with many people about the poatoes. I think it does depend on how you are eating them and what you are putting on them. Carbs get a bad rap. They do have a place in any healthy lifestyle. - 12/31/2012   1:02:52 PM
    I don't eat a lot of potatoes. I do like hashbrowns with the skins but I don't have them very often. I do like to use a small fork but I also use smaller plates for my meals so I eat smaller portions. Bigger portions don't fit on the plate and that really helps. I also do eat slow so it fills me up and keeps me from getting hungry 2 hours later. - 9/13/2012   12:23:52 AM
    I beg to disagree. Diet Soda is NOT the culprit for large waistline. I have 1 friend like me who drinks diet soda everyday and yet the two of us have the smallest waist measurement among all our other friends who don't drink diet soda everyday. - 9/11/2012   10:45:45 AM
  • 34
    Who wuda thunk it! Chris - 3/13/2012   1:33:16 PM
  • 33
    No one is saying not to eat potatoes or drink diet coke. The idea is to not use it as a staple in your diet. Yes you may lose but you may gain back too. I'm trying to learn to eat a variety of foods and drink a variety of drinks (ALL in moderation) to get all of the nutrients I need to lose weight and keep it off, feel and look healthy..a lifestyle change. That's why I'm here. - 2/18/2012   9:30:54 AM
    i love a potato and it is good for potassium. - 2/18/2012   8:26:19 AM
  • SWEETPEA7135
    I think I am going to give up diet soda and switch to decaf tea once in a while. I mostly drink lemon water and have 1-2 cups of coffee a day (black) no sugar. - 2/17/2012   10:57:21 AM
  • 30
    I agree with the recommendation of giving up diet soda, but I love my baked potato. I stay away from the fatty toppings and instead spice it up with some homemade salsa. I am kind of confused by the small fork/big fork recommendation as I use both and don't really notice a difference. - 2/15/2012   12:52:04 PM
    I have a hard time with my coffee and tea alot of sugar I use small plates small forks i dont exercise like i should but I just cant get motivated - 2/15/2012   12:46:04 PM
  • 28
    I am not sure either if I believe the fork size causing an issue. Otherwise, I can see how diet pop or potatoes could cause issues if you ate them everday - but that can be said about every food. Moderation is key. - 2/14/2012   3:27:06 PM
  • 27
    I can't eat with anything but a small fork. I tend to stab myself with anything larger. Well, I guess if my mouth's full of blood I can't eat anymore, lol! - 2/14/2012   1:12:00 PM
  • 26
    Thanks for the info. I was surprised about the potato.. but it makes sense. I have cut back on diet sodas too and my sweet tooth is definitely better off for it. - 2/14/2012   12:14:05 AM
  • 25
    Hmmmm. I'm not sure about this information. I lost 80 pounds here on SparkPeople in a little under 9 months. I ate a baked potato about an hour before bed almost every night. I drank a significant amount of diet soda (sometimes to excess). And, I usually use a small fork. Obviously, the diet soda isn't nutritious, but it does help satisfy my sweet tooth. Eventually, I will try to wean myself off of it. But, I certainly don't think there is anything wrong with potatoes or small forks! - 2/13/2012   4:25:34 PM
    I agree with elfmage7. I never use the bigger forks that came with our silverware for the same reason - they are too big for my mouth. we don't own any large plates. The only person who overeats in our household is my spouse; with his service in the navy - the guys tend to eat fast because they are just not given enough time to have a meal in 20+ minutes cause they always have to be somewhere else :)

    Would argue about the potato ban - overeating anything is bad - but potatoes with skin and without the "stuff" on them are not bad for you. I love them, but don't eat them every day because that would get old fast. Really don't like them fried - I mean come on, you think you won't gain weight overeating fries? - or with stuff on them - if they are pretty plain you can actually taste them.

    Would agree with the artificial sweeteners in soda - have sworn off artificial stuff because it does tend to make me more hungry for sweets. Artificial anything just cannot be good for your body. My thoughts anyway. - 2/13/2012   3:42:28 PM
  • 23
    Ha Ha! I love it when something so simple becomes so controversial. These are great tips! I don't eat potatoes of any kind (because I can't stay away from all the goodies that go along with them), I always eat off a small plate and with a small fork (you can't fit as much food onto a small plate, helps me with portion control), and for a couple of years now I have been without diet coke (I stopped because it always made me feel bloated and I wanted to get off the caffeine). As a result of one or maybe all three I have been successful with my weight loss. Like I said...Good tips! - 2/13/2012   2:29:07 PM
  • 22
    If you start with the correct portion sizes, fork size shouldn't matter. If you have an 'endless plate' then that might be the problem, not the fork. I don't have science to back me up on this opinion but from other diet tips, it seems to make more sense.

    Smaller bites usually makes me feel like I'm getting *more* from a meal, not less. It lets the meal last longer, gets my body to that 'satisfied' point before I've eaten too much. It's why I love to eat with chopsticks. It makes the meal go slower, rather than 'shoveling' food, I savor it and never feel like I'm being denied.

    As long as I've portioned what's on my plate, it'll all get eaten. If I eat it slower, more bites, I feel like I've gotten more and I'm less likely to reach for a second helping! - 2/13/2012   2:27:38 PM
  • 21
    baked potatoes are a high source of fiber, carbs, all the healthy stuff needed to keep us going. The skins are fantastic sources of fiber!! Skip the fatty toppings, how about some chili, made the sparkway, or steamed broccoli on top? Mrs. Dash?
    Milk is bad too if you add ice cream, chocolate syrup,etc to it,, balance.. - 2/13/2012   1:07:19 PM
    I lost 80 pounds drinking Diet Coke, eating with a small fork (still do) and I eat a potato at least 4 times a week (higher in potassium than an orange) and I have managed to keep the weight off. I will confess I gave up Diet Coke 3 years ago--but not because I wasn't losing weight, but because of all the junk it it.

    - 2/13/2012   12:56:28 PM
  • 19
    Psssshh! I eat potatoes (fried or not) like it's my job and have no problems with hunger. My weight has basically been stable for the last 3 years. - 2/13/2012   12:50:16 PM
  • 18
    hmm Interesting. I like using a small fork and spoon because the bigger ones just seem to big for my mouth. I don't have a very big mouth. I never really thought about them as taking smaller bites or eating less food with them. I try to use the smaller plate instead of the bigger ones though to maybe help not overeat. - 2/13/2012   12:37:38 PM
    Yeah, I am not convinced about the diet soda thing... I don't have a six pack a day or anything, but it certainly doesn't make me crave more. I tend to go for a diet soda when I'm craving candy, and it works for me. The bubbles actually settle my stomach. Tonic waters and club sodas make me feel a little ill and actually give me palpitations now and then.

    As for potatoes... It isn't the potatoes, it is how they are prepared. I rather like boiled or baked potatoes, and you really can't beat them for a filling and cheap meal. - 2/13/2012   12:06:54 PM
  • 16
    I'm not convinced. I drink a lot of diet soda and eat a lot of baked potatoes, and I've been maintaining at goal weight for a couple of years now. - 2/13/2012   11:32:56 AM
  • 15
    As far as french fries I haven't given them up... but now I prepare them and spread them out on a baking sheet, sprayed with pam and sprinkle a little paprika on them then bake them ...They are terrific and low in fat and calories! - 2/13/2012   11:18:42 AM
  • 14
    I gave up my one-a-day diet cola habit several years ago--and I have yet to see a change in my waistline! I think, in my case at least, that there are other factors to blame for my size. As for potatoes, I do have a problem with chips (love the baked kettle chips but I have to stay away because I still eat too many of them!), but I don't overeat simply because I have an occasional baked potato. And sweet potatoes are so nutritious, and as someone mentioned previously, they don't cause the blood sugar spike that white potatoes do. So I eat those a little more often, as my diet allows. - 2/13/2012   10:49:19 AM
    Pops of any sort, diet or otherwise, are bad for us; the body leaches calcium out of the bones in an attempt to neutralize the phosphoric acid. I gave up sodas in October of 2010 and feel so much better. I drink a lot of water, and I don't do artificial sweeteners, which are just stored in the body as indigestible waste. Eat unrefined foods, most in their raw state, and stay away from heated fats as much as possible. Get adequate sleep, do interval training for cardio and weight training for muscles and bones, and maintain a positive attitude. These are things everyone should do, for health; not just "weight loss." - 2/13/2012   10:44:22 AM
    I drink a hell lot of diet coke and dont think it affects my food choices in anyway..well I only use small fork for eatind a fruit salad wich requires the smaller fork, and I have reduced eating potatoes to once a week. I think the one thing I havent been able to let go off are chocolates..no matter how hard I try :( - 2/13/2012   10:28:06 AM
  • 11
    Oh NO!!! I really HOPE that the potato study is flawed. Personally, I eat a (microwaved) baked potato for dinner a few nights a week - it's fast, easy, and I find them filling. I keep the potato-size in check (no giant spuds), and top it with plain low-fat yogurt, fresh snipped parsley, and fresh ground pepper. It's yummy, has fiber, potassium, and protein, with very little fat, and takes all of 5 minutes to make. Don't take my taters away! :)

    I can see how a certain food, like diet soda or potatoes, might cause hunger or cravings, and lead one to overeat if you aren't paying attention, but I don't really understand how any one food can be a diet mistake, if you're watching your calorie intake and portion sizes carefully. - 2/13/2012   10:02:33 AM
  • 10
    Potatoes are a challenge for me. I LOVE them. I have been working on trying to focus on having them baked with veggies instead of craving fried potatoes. I figure those types of little changes will help to make me more successful in the long run! - 2/13/2012   9:59:37 AM
    Hmmm...I'm skeptical. I'm not convinced about the fork size, or the potato comment. I very rarely eat potatoes and I'm still haulin' around the junk in the trunk and I don't think that - if I ate them - it would change things much. The cited study uses French Fries, chips and mashed potatoes, which I'm not really going to give you as "potatoes". French Fries are fried in oil, as are most potato chips (probably including those studied). Mashed potatoes contain milk and butter.

    Do we really think the potato was the root of the problem. I think the science of the study here was flawed. There wasn't really any control here. If you'd considered all other things equally AND added just plain potatoes, I'd be willing to listen, but...I think your researcher WANTED to find a problem with potatoes, so (s)he did.

    As far as the fork...I have trouble believing that one extra tine makes a difference in how big a dent I'm putting in the food on my plate, but...if it does, wouldn't it slow me down, giving my brain more time to realize that I'm getting full?

    I remain unconvinced. I think the science here is specious. - 2/13/2012   9:58:03 AM
  • 8
    Interesting diet soda comment- I used to drink about 8 diet cokes a day and I have cut that in half drinking two regular and two caffeine free. What I have found interesting is if I have a diet coke first thing I am hungry all morning- but it is false hunger more like the fizz in my stomach. When I have crystal lite instead I don't feel hungry in the morning between breakfast and lunch. I think it is about the fizz not the artifical sweetener. I still love my diet coke but I hold off until lunch for my first one of the day now. It really helps. - 2/13/2012   9:42:38 AM
    Interesting--potatoes are considered a "power food" on Weight Watchers. This means that they are considered both a nutritious and filling food. I believe the Harvard study relied on the honesty and "memory" of people who tracked their food. I read a non-Sparkpeople article that quoted that same study and was trying to convince people not to eat high fat dairy because you might gain one tenth of a pound in 4 years if you do so. Yeah, now there's an incentive--you might gain less than 2 ounces in 4 years.

    I haven't read the study myself, but it sounds like all they did was take the data of what people tracked and correlated it to the weight gain of the people. Correlation is not the same as cause and effect. And even if it was, to think that people put every piece of cake, cookie, and candy bar on their tracking is being extremely naive. Usually, when a comment such as that is made, people from the study respond something like "But, we had a large number of people we tracked, so that would correct such errors." Yeah, right. Just ask Weight Watchers how many people honestly track. - 2/13/2012   9:34:17 AM
    I don't know why people keep blaming the white potato for the expanding American waistline. While it's true that too many Americans think that French fries are a veggie and eat them every day, it's not the potato that's the problem. It's the frying in OIL that's the problem. That's what increases the calories of the potato. Then you drench them in high fructose corn syrup infused ketchup and that increases the calorie intake further. I really do feel the potato has been wrongly maligned.

    If anything, the reason Americans are overweight is because of portion distortion. They're eating too much of everything, not just the potato. I eat sweet potatoes very regularly these days. I love their nutrient dense starchy goodness. :)

    - 2/13/2012   9:17:42 AM
    White potatoes do indeed spike blood sugar levels in someone with diabetes (for me, it's like eating tons of candy). So I limit a serving to just 1/2 cup and I pour hot tomato/pepper salsa over the top, no butter. When I eat sweet potatoes (or yams), usually baked, my blood sugar does not rise nearly as much. - 2/13/2012   8:57:42 AM
  • 4
    Quitting fries and chips is easy for me... but holy cow, I love my mashed potatoes :( - 2/13/2012   8:55:34 AM
  • 3
    Often scientific papers do have bias too. For example, to create striking results, they can tweak the conditions so that they become a bit too extreme. In the potato study, what was the amount of potatoes consumed? Is that a reasonable quantity for a healthy diet? Probably not. However, we don't really have better information sources, so we still have to rely on the scientific literature for best information. It is good to take the results with a grain of salt though. - 2/13/2012   7:50:45 AM
    Potatoes don't Have to be eaten deep fried (ie - french fries, potato chips, even fried hash browns) or slathered with high fat, high calorie toppings... Perhaps a more generalized statement should be made that Any fried foods are a diet "mistake" and that slathering Any food with high fat/calorie condiments is a poor diet choice... as for the potato...

    www.20potatoesaday.com/index showed an "experiment" where a man ate potatoes daily in a healthful way and had weight loss and health benefit. Not that this is the ideal diet either, but I don't see why potatoes should be excluded if someone wants a potato or 2 per day.
    - 2/13/2012   7:40:33 AM
  • 1
    I'm sure there is a correlation between these and people who may have put on more weight, however it's a broad statement to say these are diet "mistakes", particularly drinking diet soda every day. - 2/13/2012   6:34:14 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›