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How to avoid the 5 deadly dieting sins

Have you followed every diet under the sun but you’re still not losing weight? TODAY nutrition editor Joy Bauer shares a list of common diet mistakes and simple ways to overcome them.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

You follow every diet under the sun and you’re committed to losing weight — but you’re not having success. What’s going wrong? Read the following common diet faux pas and make sure to stay clear.

Choosing a fad diet
When it comes to losing weight, everyone’s in search of a magic bullet (the grapefruit diet, cabbage soup, no carbs, no fat ... You name it, it’s out there!). But don’t fall for the hype. Although some of these plans may seem to work initially, the majority of pounds you shed tend to come back quickly. Unfortunately, there’s no short-term fix for long-lasting weight loss. Learn the obvious fad-diet red flags, and avoid them like the plague:

  • Diets that promise drastic weight loss: When you start a diet, you can potentially drop a lot of weight during the first two weeks (some will be water weight). However, if you lose more than two pounds consistently per week in the weeks that follow, you’ll run the risk of losing “muscle mass” and your metabolism will slow down in response. That's why true health experts advocate losing weight slowly and gradually; you’ll melt away fat and spare precious muscle.
  • Diets that require special supplements: These plans claim to work because of special pills, creams or potions — no diet and exercise needed. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Diets that are less than 1,000 calories: These diets are difficult to sustain and can often leave you cranky, irritable and with a bad headache, not to mention hungry and lethargic.
  • Diets that focus on only a few foods: These are not realistic for the long haul — the sign of a plan you’re soon to go off.

Dieting without a support system  A Brown University study of 109 dieters revealed that those who dieted with a buddy lost about twice as much weight as those who dieted alone or with an unsuccessful partner. So recruit your spouse, your sister, a friend, or join a weight-loss group or online community. It’s a lot easier to lose with support and accountability.  

Leaving exercise out  Monitoring what you eat is surely the primary part of the weight-loss puzzle, however, studies show that getting in daily exercise is vital for weight loss and maintenance. In fact, the National Weight Control Registry is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight-loss maintenance. The NWCR monitors more than 5,000 people who have lost weight and maintained it for extended periods of time, and uses follow-up surveys to examine the strategies they use to maintain the weight loss. They have found that more than 90% of registry participants regularly exercise, and the most common method of exercising is walking.

Anything you can do to get moving will help take the weight off (and keep it off!). In just 30 minutes a 150-pound person can burn:

  • Dancing = 160 calories
  • Hiking = 220 calories
  • Walking = 180 calories
  • Elliptical machine = 280 calories
  • Yoga = 150 calories
  • Pilates = 180 calories
  • Swimming = 280 calories

Piling on the extras
While it’s true coffee is virtually calorie-free, add cream or sugar and yikes, it’s a completely different story! And although you think a salad is the “light” way to go, pile on nuts, avocado, cheese and full-fat dressing, and there’s nothing diet-friendly about it. In order to lose weight effectively, you’ll have to be mindful of everything and delete the extras. Check out the following comparisons:

Coffee12-ounce coffee with skim milk = 20 calories12-ounce coffee with cream and sugar = 80 caloriesSaladVegetable salad with grilled chicken and low-cal dressing = 350 calories   Vegetable salad with grilled chicken, cheese, avocado, croutons and creamy dressing = 800+ caloriesSandwichTurkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with lettuce, tomato and mustard = 400 caloriesTurkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with cheese, mayo and a side of chips = 800 calories 

Depriving yourself Diets that forbid all of your favorite foods for lengthy bouts of time can often lead to yo-yo dieting (for example: on a diet, off a diet, on a diet, and so on). That said, I encourage people to follow my 90/10 food philosophy — that’s 90 percent healthy food and 10 percent fun food. When cravings strike, incorporate 150-calorie portions of your favorite foods. For example: a low-fat ice-cream pop, glass of wine or beer, one ounce of dark chocolate, a half cup of low-fat pudding, four cups of reduced-fat popcorn, even a fun-size candy bar.

For more information on healthy eating, visit Joy Bauer’s Web site at