Nutrition Articles

Is Your Diet Making You Fat?

A Dieting Mentality Can Lead to Problems

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.

Learn how to Help Yourself Over Exercise Hurdles for more ideas to combat your excuses and stick with a healthy exercise program!

…you don’t care where calories come from, as long as you are under your goal.
It’s easy (and important) to focus on the calories, but you should also focus on the quality of foods your calories are coming from, as well as meeting other nutrient goals. There is a huge difference between eating 400 calories of chocolate for lunch and enjoying a 400-calorie salad, loaded with leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. For one, the salad will fill you up longer, and boost your protein, fiber, vitamin, mineral, and health-enhancing phytochemical intakes. Chocolate, on the other hand, will leave you hungry for the same number of calories.

Make sure you get the most out of what you are eating. If you eat too many high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, you're more likely to overeat and less likely to meet your body's nutritional needs.  This increases your risk of lifestyle diseases related to diet, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. Think about the sources of your calories as you plan out your daily menu.

…you starve during the day and gorge during the evening.
You might think that eating as little as possible throughout the day will help you lose weight. Perhaps you skip breakfast altogether and only eat a small snack during the day. But if you don't fuel your body regularly throughout the day, you're more likely to binge in the evening—at dinner and into the late evening. Plus, without adequate nutrition all day, your metabolism will wane, and slow, making your energy levels low and weight loss even harder.

Instead, space out your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. Always start with breakfast, which is proven to help people lose weight, and enjoy a good balance of nutrients—lean protein, whole grains or unprocessed carbohydrates (fruits for example), and healthy fats like nuts—every time you eat. Eating at regular intervals will keep your energy high and your metabolism boosted while warding off hunger.

…you go "off" your diet on special occasions.
This is a very slippery slope once you step onto it. An extra drink for a friend's birthday, a high-fat dessert at your co-worker's retirement party, and pretty soon, you view almost every "special occasion" as a way to justify overindulging in excess calories. You enjoy these special treats so often that you're "off" your diet again, eating everything with a last supper mentality until you're ready to re-start your diet next week, next month, or next year.

Be careful. One key to a healthy lifestyle is moderation, and moderation means setting limits, applying portion control, and making choices based on long-term health goals, not immediate gratification. If you know that you have a family picnic (i.e. unhealthy food fest) coming up, do your best to maintain your healthy eating and exercise habits in the days prior to it. Go on an extra walk or make an extra trip the gym. Make sure that you eat a balanced breakfast the day of the event, and consider eating a healthy meal before you arrive so that your hunger won't tempt you to overindulge. It’s okay to enjoy yourself and to celebrate important events in your friends’ lives, as well as your own. Make your friends and experiences the center of these occasions—not the food.

When you're "on a diet" excuses like these make it easy to go off of it. After all, you just go back on again once you're done having your fun. Forget the "diets" and start going on a "healthy lifestyle" instead.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

Member Comments

  • I see this all the time. You can make a suggestion after being told about that person's diet, but some ADDICTIONS (wheat, sugar, etc.) are so strong that a person will be in total denial and keep up the "cheat".
    The old "cheating" and either or wording is what has most of us restarting every Monday, because we aren't satisfied with what we eat during the week ! Admit that healthy eating is not that tasty, for pete's sakes. It's the portions we need to learn to control, so we still eat what we like, but not so much. Otherwise, we will always go back to how it was before. Lack of satisfaction gets us every time.
  • I have no problems with special occassions as they are rare for me. 1 time every 3 months. I make sure I get all my exercise in for 7 days prior & also for 7 days prior including the day of the event I eat 100 calories less each day. That allows up to 700 calories for the special day, I might decide on a less healthy supper or a healthy meal and a higher calories dessert or a special evening snack It does not have to be 700 calories more, but I am totally covered & not disapointed the next morning. I have lost 45 pounds. I do the same thing when I go out for dinner 1 time per. month. It is usually something not healthy for dinner, as i consider it a treat & not a everyday thing. I eat healthy most days & allow myself to indulge & plan in advance for it!
    So many truths in this article. Must be mindful.
  • The weekend and special occasion statements are so me! I do it every time. It's like I'm 100% more hungry on the weekends!
  • I figure this is for life. I don't expect to be 100% all the time perfect. The other day we ate out for my son's birthday and I spend time before hand reading the nutritional info and deciding what I was getting before hand (and ate my regular healthy meals for breakfast and lunch and my special meal was some what healthy and about as many calories and fat as my normal meal would have had). Next week is my birthday. I'll do the same because Mom is taking me out and we had plans to eat out anyway (not on the same day, thankfully!).

    I grew up thinking "well, I'm going to cheat I might as well make the most of it." So what may be a higher than usual meal turns out to be a week long binge-fest. Mom still does it. I am doing my best to stop and so far so good. I am trying hard to break a lifetime of doing things a certain way which is why I was never successful before. I now have the attitude that I am doing this for life. I will fail if I think I will never have cake or chocolate again because for me it's unrealistic. Those are just treats to be enjoyed a lot less frequently now!
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!!!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I needed this eye-opener!

About The Author

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