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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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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.
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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