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Should I take a day off my diet? 5 ways we're confused about weight loss

Whether it's at the supermarket, the dinner table, the office, or at a party, we can't stop talking about our diets.
/ Source: TODAY

Whether it's at the supermarket, the dinner table, the office, or at a party, we can't stop talking about our diets. We're obsessed with how much and how often we eat. Here are 5 of the most common questions people ask nutritionists and guidelines for getting through the days and weeks with balance and moderation — the real secrets to maintaining a healthy weight.

Image: scale
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1. Should I take a day off my diet?

Taking a day "off" your diet is like taking a day off life.

A diet is not something that you go on and off of — it's something you need to survive. But diet doesn't have to be synonymous with deprivation. Dieters who are under the rigid rules of unrealistic plans inevitably wind up watching their weight move up and down like the rhythm of a yo-yo, often longing for the days they can stray.

Inevitably, this stray day can morph into a week, or month, or even longer until you get back “on” track.

Instead, allow all foods to fit, but eat carefully, mindfully, with all your senses. There's a greater chance that your favorite clothing will fit, too. Your diet should build in indulgences so you won’t need to take a day off.

2. Are carbs bad for me?

Carbohydrates are maligned and misunderstood. It's the one group that most people cut out when they are dieting and it's the first group that they add back (with a vengeance) when they splurge.

But not all carbohydrates are alike. Wholesome, whole grain carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy and fiber and take longer to break down, helping us to feel more full and satisfied.

  • Soluble fibers, like oats and barley, have cholesterol-lowering properties to help reduce risks of heart disease, while also controlling diabetes by curtailing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Insoluble fibers found in whole wheat, brown rice, and bulgur may be particularly helpful when it comes to cancer prevention and they will provide a moving experience by helping food pass through your body more easily.

But even the right carbs could keep you from shedding pounds if you have portion distortion. A whole grain muffin the size of a basketball —albeit filled with fiber, fruit and healthy fats —could make a significant dent in your daily calorie budget, so be sure to read food labels to see what those carbs are costing you.

The carbs that give their group a bad name are generally those that come in concert with saturated fats or sugar, like pastries and candy.

3. Will fats make me fat?

Fats should never have been called fats: they should have been called lipids, a name that's a little easier to swallow.

Whether on our bodies or in our food, we live in a nation that fears fat.

Think: Would you voluntarily want to add fat to your body? There is an assumption that if you eat fat, you will get fat, and that is simply not the case unless you eat too much fat, or protein or carbs, for that matter. It's the excess of any food that will bring on excess poundage.

Foods that contain fats can make you feel fuller and satiated longer. In other words, the right fats in the right amounts could actually help you to lose weight by squelching hunger and cravings.

To make calories count, choose fats with benefits:

  • Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil

The right fat provides energy, cushions our organs and allows the body to absorb essential nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats derived from plant sources are not only better for our bodies, but they also provide a creamy consistency and rich flavor. Try swapping in mashed avocado for butter the next time you bake.

Try this recipe: Avocado pumpkin bread with dark chocolate and almonds

4. Why is exercise not helping me lose weight?

Even if you're a spin class instructor, if you overeat, you can still be overweight. Weight loss is not the only goal of exercising. Being physically fit can strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure, and help to stabilize blood glucose levels to control diabetes. It also helps to beat stress and boost circulation to major organs like your brain, heart, and lungs.

If you don’t like exercising, try dancing, jumping rope, walking the dog, biking with your kids or doing an activity that you enjoy. The quickest route to weight loss and maintenance is a combo of a consistent diet and exercise routine.

5. When is the best time to weigh myself? Should I weigh myself?

The scale is a machine; it doesn't talk, it doesn't lie, it doesn't give rewards or punishments. But we tend to give this piece of equipment a power where a simple morning weigh-in may lead to a tumultuous roller coaster of emotions.

Studies have shown that weighing in regularly can help keep your weight in check.

I suggest stepping on the scale on Fridays and Mondays: If you’re down by a pound or so on Friday and then plan on a major weekend splurge, knowing that you‘re weighing in on Monday could make you think twice about unnecessary indulgences. If, on the other hand, a Friday weight is higher than anticipated, then the weekend may call for a more watchful eye.