Wondering why you're plateauing? It could be those rationalizations you make to dig into that BBQ or eat an extra slice of cake. "But all your body knows is what you’re putting into it and how it’s going to metabolize it," says Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. Here, 10 of those little lies you may tell yourself—and how to adjust your eating habits to get back on the losing track.
1. 'It's just a bite.'
A forkful of mac 'n cheese here, a few fries there; how bad can that be? "For every 100 extra calories you consume daily, you gain 10 pounds each year," says Ronni Litz Julien, a registered dietitian and author of The Trans Fat Free Kitchen. What's more, most of Julien's clients nibble for reasons unrelated to hunger: The food looks delicious or it’s right there, for example. Before eating, ask yourself if you're really hungry, and serve dinner from the kitchen, so you're not tempted to swipe extras as you would if they're already on the dining room table.
2. 'It's made with fruit.'
You'll see this splashed across juices, fruit snacks and cereals, but these "fruits" are often mostly sugar. The labels serve to convince you that the product is healthy, but "a piece of fresh fruit is the best source of fruit," says Julien. Unlike the more processed products mentioned above, whole fruit provides fiber to improve digestion, regulate blood sugar levels and keep you hydrated. So check the ingredient list for high fructose corn syrup, saturated oils and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. That means the fruit product is junk food in disguise.
3. 'I just worked out—I need lots of carbs to refuel.'
"Many women see they've burned 300 calories on the treadmill and think they have license to eat whatever they want," explains Heller. "But they undo all their hard work with a 600-calorie snack." While it's smart to refuel and stimulate muscle repair with a snack that combines carbs and protein (like Greek yogurt and fruit), remember to factor those calories into your day.
4. 'I'll eat this now and skip dinner.'
Missing meals rarely saves calories. "You get over-hungry," says Heller. "When your body is shouting 'feed me now!' it's hard to control how much and what you eat," she says. In fact, in one study in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who skipped meals were more likely than regular eaters to eat high-calorie foods, like carbs and protein, over vegetables. If you've got a big meal on the calendar, Heller suggests eating one or two smaller meals that day, but not skipping them entirely.
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