This strategy could actually sabotage your weight-loss plans and make you pack on pounds. "If you have too little fat, your body will sense it and hold on to the little fat that you do eat," says Dr. Joey Shulman, a registered nutritionist and best-selling author who runs weight-loss clinics in Toronto. She adds that some low-fat foods are higher in sugar. "Your body stores sugar as fat so you want to read labels and avoid those foods."
What to do: "Eat 'good for us' fats in moderation," Shulman says. Good fats are found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados, as well as omega-3 fats such as fish oil, cold-water and fatty fish (including salmon), and products enriched with omega-3, such as breads and yogurts.
Here's another tip: "Taste low-fat foods and decide whether they're satisfying before you make them part of your regular diet," Shulman advises. "Fat helps make food taste good and if you aren't satisfied with the low-fat foods you are eating, you're going to overeat and gain weight."
2. Stick to 1,000 calories a day.
Stay away from any weight-loss plan that calls for 1,000 calories or less a day. "First your body will go into starvation mode and cling on to any fat and food you eat," Shulman says. "Second, you can't sustain yourself on this many calories and when you go back to eating more, you'll gain weight right away."
What to do: "You'll feel fuller for longer if you eat high-fibre foods such as whole wheat bread and pasta and whole grain products," says Helene Charlebois, a registered dietitian in Ottawa. "These foods stay in your gut longer – that's how they prevent you from being hungry and craving unhealthy foods."
Charlebois adds that when planning what to eat, pick foods that are nutrient dense. For example, apples make a great snack because they are high in fibre and vitamins.
Page 1 of 3 – Do you skip meals to cut calories? Find out why this is likely to backfire on page 2.3. Skip a meal to save on calories.
This is another weight loss no-no. "Don't go for more than four hours without eating something," Charlebois says. "Your brain and body wants and needs food."
What to do: "Eat something small – even if it's only a snack – instead of skipping a meal," she says. "If you haven't eaten for four hours or more and you skip a meal it's a matter of time before you become overly hungry and pig out because you can't control your hunger."
4. Try different diets to find the one that works for you.
"Yo-yo dieting actually makes you gain weight over the long term because it burns out your metabolism," Shulman says. "When you hear messages such as 'the magic bullet' associated with a weight-loss program, run and run fast because it's guaranteed to be unhealthy. The truth is, there are no magic bullets or quick solutions."
What to do: Dr. Dara Maker, a family doctor at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, cautions her patients against going on any kind of weight-loss 'diet' that involves eating foods you don't prepare yourself and taking lots of supplements, or worse, injections. She says we are more likely to lose weight for good if we work with a family doctor or registered dietitian to come up with a healthy eating and exercise plan.
5. Drinking lots of water will make you eat less.
"Drinking water to feel full only works for a short period of time," Charlebois says. "Then your brain registers that there are no calories in what you have consumed and it starts telling you it wants to eat."
What to do: It's great to stay hydrated and water is a good choice that has no calories but don't use it to replace meals and snacks, Charlebois advises. Make sure you are have a healthy diet and are not just drowning yourself.
6. Always measure out your food and follow proper portion sizes.
Yes, it's great to keep track of your portion sizes, says Dr. Lance Levy, a Toronto specialist in bariatric medicine and weight loss. But Levy says it's even more important to learn to listen to what your body is telling you, and your hunger and satiety cues.
What to do: "Start to recognize when you begin to feel full," Levy says. "And even if you put the correct portion on your plate, you don't need to eat any more if you are listening to your body and feel satisfied."
Page 2 of 3 – How many calories are you actually burning each day? Find out why this is important to know on page 3.
7. Have aggressive goals and you'll be in that bikini in no time.
Ah, if only losing weight was that easy. "Most of us have unrealistic expectations of how much weight we'll lose when we make a conscious effort to drop the pounds," Levy says.
What to do: Don't set goals that are unachievable because the frustration can cause you to ditch your weight-loss efforts altogether. Levy encourages people to remember that weight loss is very individual. "It depends on your age, gender, muscle and body mass and your activity level. If you are losing six pounds a month, you're doing very well. Talk to your doctor about what's the right approach for you."
8. Burn hundreds of calories by exercising.
No doubt, exercise is a crucial part of weight loss. But most of us over estimate how many calories we burn on that evening walk or 20 minutes on the treadmill, Levy says, and underestimate how many calories we're eating.
What to do: Experts recommend keeping a food journal to track what you eat on a daily basis. You can also track your exercise in this journal, and if anything, low-ball how many calories you think you burned.
9. Banish alcohol and chocolate from your life.
Good news: you can still enjoy these treats. The key is to do so sparingly.
What to do: "Don't drink more than one glass – that's one measuring cup; not a fishbowl – of wine once a week, or once a night," Shulman says. If you want chocolate, choose a product that's 70 per cent cocoa – and stick to a small amount: about 30 calories a day, Charlebois says. The high percentage of cocoa will make the chocolate taste bitter, and keep you from having sweet cravings. Also, remember to keep track of that glass of wine and nibble of chocolate in your food journal.
10. Don't make excuses – just stick to counting calories and exercising.
There's good news and bad news on this front. Some commonly cited 'this-is-why-I-can't-lose-weight' culprits, such as your blood sugar or thyroid level, are seldom the real cause of why you can't drop those pounds, Levy says.
What to do: Levy says it's a good idea to get a medical check up when you start a weight-loss plan, or if your efforts are stalling. Some problems that can legitimately hinder your success include a low iron level, an undiagnosed mood problem or mental illness, as well as insomnia and chronic pain or upset stomach. If you have one of these conditions and your doctor can help you get it under control, you'll be well on your way to achieving your weight-loss goal.
Page 3 of 3 – Do you overeat? Find a common-sense solution to overeating on page 1.