“I’m not losing weight because my metabolism is slow."
Reality check: Your resting metabolic rate, the rate you burn calories when say, you’re glued to the TV, could be to blame for those stubborn pounds. Chances are you’re eating more than you think and not exercising enough, says David Edelson, M.D, an obesity medicine physician. With any weight gain, behavior is often a big component.
Diet fix: Get your metabolic rate checked by your physician with an indirect calorimeter (some upscale gyms offer it too). This simple test, which runs $50 to $100, measures the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide going in and out of your lungs to calculate your metabolic rate and determine your caloric output. An abnormal (slow) result could signal a thyroid problem or a sleep disorder, though that’s rare.
To budge the scale, track calories with a food diary, get a good night’s sleep, and exercise more frequently to build muscle, the engine that drive metabolism. Doing all of those things may raise your metabolic rate by
5 to 10 percent, or an extra 100 calories per day.
“I can eyeball portion sizes to gauge calories.”
Reality check: “Most of us aren’t good at perceiving how much we eat,” says Sandria Godwin, RD, PhD, professor of dietetics at Tennessee State University in Nashville. In fact, with Godwin’s research — in which subjects judged portion sizes just by simply looking at them — they underestimated amounts by an average of 23 percent.
Diet fix: If you’re serious about controlling portions, don’t guesstimate. Weigh meat with a food scale (aim for 3 ounces per meal) and measure everything else with teaspoons, tablespoons, and measuring cups for at least a week, then track everything you’re eating in a food diary. After that, you can eyeball amounts. Return to weighing and measuring every few months, however, to tweak your portion-size perception.
“Portions tend to get a little bigger and bigger over time,” Godwin says. To outwit your appetite, use a 9- to 10-inch dinner plate so portions don’t look too skimpy and tempt you to go back for seconds.
“My body needs a detox once in a while.”
Reality check: Forget the seasonal juice fast. You need to detox every day. And you don’t need to do anything special beyond eating a healthy diet.
“Your body is well-endowed with the apparatus to take care of the job,” says Dr. David L. Katz of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Your liver, spleen, kidneys, and gastro-intestinal tract constantly filter “toxins” out of your system — breakdown metabolic gunk such as fat molecules, spent red blood cells, and other waste products, all of which comes out in your poop, pee, or sweat.
Diet fix: To keep these systems in good working condition, load up on unprocessed foods, such as fruits and veggies. Their high water and fiber content speeds waste through your GI tract. Get plenty of fluids, too, so your kidneys can flush water-soluble by-products through your system. (You’re getting enough if you pee every three hours and urine is pale or clear and odorless.)
Finally, decrease “toxins” by not smoking, shunning second-hand smoke, and steering clear of foods high in refined sugar and artery-clogging saturated fat and trans fat.
“I’ll eat less if I skip breakfast.”
Reality check: A major study that analyzed the breakfast patterns of 12,316 men and women for five years found that breakfast skippers were more likely to have a higher body mass index than breakfast eaters. The breakfast eaters also set a healthier tone for the rest of the day. They consumed fewer foods high in fat and sugar.
Diet fix: The study found you’ll only get that morning advantage if you start the day off with foods low in energy density, such as unsweet-ened hot or cold cereal or whole-grain bread, fresh fruit, and nonfat milk. Otherwise, breakfast can backfire. Your overall daily calorie tally will be higher if you feast on the likes of pastries and sausage/egg/bacon sandwiches, says Ashima Kant, PhD., professor of nutrition at Queens College in Flushing, New York, the study’s lead researcher. Follow a high calorie breakfast with exercise later in the day.
“Calories don’t count if I drink them.”
REALITY CHECK: Liquid calories count just as much, if not more, than solid-food calories do.
DIET FIX: Aside from nonfat milk to help
reduce the risk of osteoporosis, don’t drink your calories. Stick to water or non-caloric beverages between meals. And realize that when you do drink something caloric, including alcohol, it won’t fill you up but will fill you out unless you exercise more.