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Nutrition Articles  ›  Pitfalls and Plateaus

Is Your Diet Making You Fat?

A Dieting Mentality Can Lead to Problems

-- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer
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A healthy lifestyle is an ideal that we all strive for. Eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep. It seems pretty simple, right? But, we all know that it's much more complicated than a few simple words. While you might be successful in one area, like meeting your diet goals during the week, you can easily fall short in another by not exercising regularly. If you're still in "diet" mode, temporarily changing your habits just until you reach your goal, then one of these dieting dilemmas could be preventing your from reaching your goals - and achieving a permanent, healthy lifestyle. Your diet might be making (or keeping) you fat if…

…you fail on the weekends.
You strive to eat well and hit the gym throughout the week, but once you leave work on Friday evening, all bets are off. Weekends should definitely be used for unwinding and relaxing, but be careful not to go overboard and cancel out all of the hard work you put in during the week. One weekend of overeating, overdrinking, and under-exercising can easily undo the healthy diet and exercise program you followed for five days, stalling your progress towards your goals.

Instead, view weekends as a chance to do the things that you enjoy and spend quality time with your family and friends. “Weekends” should not be synonymous with calorie splurges or alcohol binges. Use your free time constructively: plan your menu for the upcoming week, design a new workout routine, take your time grocery shopping, and read your favorite health magazine. Try cooking up a big batch of healthy meals on Sunday that you can eat without much fuss during the week.

Take advantage of your time away from work to get outside and be active. Weekends are the perfect time to play tennis, go on a walk or work in your yard. Get your kids and other loved ones involved as well; weekends are YOUR time to enjoy physical activity—without watching the clock or keeping a strict schedule!

…you make exercise excuses.
No doubt, it's difficult to make exercise a priority in your life. Perhaps you had an extra busy week and didn't have a spare moment to get the gym. Soon thereafter, that exercise-free week turned into two, then three weeks and so on. Exercise can help you reach your weight loss goals much faster than dieting alone. Plus, strength training builds lean muscle that fires up your metabolism so you burn more calories all day long. Are you really “too busy” to include even a little exercise, a few times a week, or are your priorities elsewhere? Taking a 10-minute walk IS better than no exercise at all. Anything that gets your heart rate up and blood flowing is a good start.
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • LOSTFAYE
    I like what 2TIGRE said.....I have found that "dieting" doesn't do it for me. I feel like I set myself up for failure every time I think about denying myself the foods I love and starving myself into submission. My problem is portion control because I know how to, and do eat healthy. I have a while to go on my journey, but I believe that I'll get there. - 4/16/2014 12:16:33 PM
  • I don't "diet" or "cheat" - PERIOD!!! Are there some days (like holidays) that I may take a day off from my "weight loss program"? #%!! YES!!! Furthermore, it's not making me fat either. I may not be losing weight as fast or as much as some people and that's ok. That's their program and this one is my program.

    I don't do "diet" foods either; I eat the same things I've always eaten - just much smaller portions than I used to. Furthermore, I don't consider taking a day off from my program "cheating". I learned very early in my weight loss journey that being obsessive and/or fanatical about every single thing I put in my mouth every single minute of my life would do nothing but drive me bonkers.

    From time to time (like holidays), I need a break from my weight loss routine if I ever hope to make this a life long effort. I'm only seven pounds from reaching my goal weight and it's only taken me 11 months so far to get to this point. Considering that it took me 10yrs to put this much weight on, I'm doing really great in taking it off so quickly. - 12/17/2012 4:54:46 PM
  • The ideas are good and well expressed. The purpose of this article as I saw it was to keep a check on attitude, and not consider the present eating as a diet but as a way of life. - 12/8/2011 9:13:32 PM
  • I think the issue with an article like this is an all or nothing approach, you definitely need the odd indulgence. I've never done weight Watchers but I gather with the points system you can subtract a few points a day to save up for the one day that you know there will be cake or a few wines. So I'm sure you can do a similar thing with Spark people? I used to track my food religiously but it became a real contest with myself, I'm a bit of an overachiever.
    We are all on a journey here, some of us are getting there faster than others. I myself joined the Slowest Loser team because this is for the rest of my life. If I lose a kilogram a year its still better than gaining a kilogram ;)
    Good luck everyone and try to have fun and not beat yourself up on the way!!! - 8/28/2011 6:40:41 PM
  • I agree with what several others have said. I think if I read this article early on, I would have been very discourage. I approached weight-loss as a "life-style" adjustment -- not a diet. I still enjoy good, decantant food on a regular basis along with wine and an occassional liqueuer. I do not consider this to be "cheating". I do log my food and exercise religiously and that seems to keep me in weight-loss range. - 8/28/2011 6:23:47 PM
  • I'm not on a "diet" either, although everyone thinks I am because I usually eat healthy foods. That's backward -- it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle, and the sooner one comes to terms wirh that, the sooner he or she will be successful.

    One of the tips commented that it does matter where your calories come from, but I think SparkPeople is set up in such a way that how many calories you eat versus how many you burn is the primary focus. Thus, cardio weighs more heavily than strength training, and the recipes site is filled with user recipes made from stuff I would hardly call good food. Unfortunately, I can't think of a solution to that. - 8/28/2011 1:33:57 PM
  • Maybe it's just me but I DETEST the word "DIET". To me it is a NEGATIVE connotation -- primarily because of the first three LETTERS "DIEt".

    It may be semantics but I choose to say I'm on a WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY and/or I am on a LIFESTYLE program. - 8/28/2011 11:36:25 AM
  • I needed this eye-opener! - 8/28/2011 9:40:43 AM
  • KATHIE_B
    I think if you never allow yourself a small indulgence you are setting yourself up for a big fall eventually. Take a small piece of the birthday cake or pizza and practice leaving some of it on the plate. It will feel like a real triumph when you can stop before it is all gone. A 400 calorie candy bar is a not a good idea. A single Hershey kiss after that dreadful sounding salad (I'm sorry but 400 calories worth of green beans and cucumbers?) or any other nutritious meal is fine. The key is to stop at one. Not easy to learn but when you consider you can have another tomorrow *if you still want it* its not a crime to have a few empty calories once in a while. - 8/28/2011 8:01:20 AM
  • Why do we have to call it cheating? When I eat something I like, ask 10 friends and one is bound to call it "fattening" or "cheating." I call it a balancing act. I eat it in moderation...or I do an extra 10 min cardio...or I drink extra water that day....It seems to work for me...:O) - 6/24/2011 11:44:09 AM
  • I am guilty of more than one of these - but SP is teaching to eat and live better. I am a work in progress. - 9/2/2010 10:41:57 AM
  • I am still struggling to find the balance between eating healthy and cheating. For a while, I was too strict, and then I'd have a weekend where I would go hog wild and feel sick and bloated for days afterward. Now, I've loosened up a bit and found that, surprisingly enough, I don't want to go hog wild. Sometimes, I don't even want the cheat meal. It's about finding the balance that allows you to eat healthfully without feeling deprived, and that's very personal. - 8/31/2010 7:49:21 PM
  • I agree with this article MOSTLY, however, I think everyone dieting deserves 'cheat days' and an occasional over indulgence or you'll never stay on your diet. I have lost 25+ pounds in the last 3 months. Every Sunday I cheat, and by cheating, I mean I each about 500-700 more calories then I do the rest of the week by eating a nice healthy, huge Sunday dinner and have dessert with it.
    I also have an occasional over indulgence day as well, although that is maybe possibly once a month. I do agree that we need to watch those days but we all need them too. - 8/31/2010 4:46:56 PM
  • Even on special occasions, being mindful of portions and amounts can make unhealthy food fit better. After all, going over a little bit on calories is far better than going over a lot! I went to my cousin's wedding last weekend, ate unhealthy foods, and was out of sorts for my exercise routine, but I still lost 1 pound. I suspect the 2 1/2 hours of dancing had something to do with it, but I enjoyed myself, ate indulgent foods, and still stayed on track. All it takes is only having two cookies instead of four, splitting fries instead of eating a whole side yourself, or starting a meal with a large salad in order to both enjoy food and lose weight. - 8/31/2010 10:50:12 AM
  • I basically try to exercise and eat well the whole week, but I allow myself 1 cheat meal on the weekend. So on Saturday I could either have a cheat breakfast, a cheat lunch, or a cheat dinner. But I have to remember it's a cheat meal and not a cheat day. I figure this gives me a reward at the end of every week that I have worked my butt off and ate healthy food. This is helping me lose weight faster; I have something to look forward to. Also if it's a special occasion during the week I just switch out my cheat meal for that day and work my butt off the rest of the week. Its simple and it allows me to feel a little bit better about being on a diet. - 8/28/2010 5:43:10 PM