You journal, you plan meals—you even exercise—but the scale does not budge. Instead of throwing it out the window, see if you’ve gotten stuck in one of these common pitfalls and learn how to climb out.
1. THE WRONG PERSPECTIVE
“Don’t diet,” says Samantha Heller, RD, a nutritionist and author of Get Smart (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). “Dieting instills fear and loathing in people. Adopting healthy lifestyle choices that can be kept forever should be the primary goal,” she says. Monitoring portion sizes and regular exercise are much more effective. Focus on eating the right combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat and exercise regularly so you lose fat, not muscle mass, says Osama Hamdy, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center. On average, half of all weight loss can be attributed to losing muscle, and people already are prone to losing one pound of muscle each year.
Weight loss won’t happen overnight. Any new behavior is a skill that needs to be practiced, says Heller. “Creating a step-by-step plan can make behavior and habit changes a lot easier,” she says. Set realistic goals, such as losing five pounds by the first of next month. To get there, set smaller, more specific goals, like eating breakfast every morning. Join a gym and choose a workout class to attend twice a week or arrange to walk four times a week with a friend.
A healthy rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week. If you lose weight more quickly, it scares your body into thinking it is starving. When your body is in starvation mode,
it wants to hold on to every bit of energy it can, making weight loss more difficult.
3. CERTAIN DIABETES MEDICATIONS
Some diabetes meds such as glipizide (Glucotrol), repaglinide (Prandin), and rosiglitazone (Avandia) may cause weight gain. Hamdy recognizes the frustration experienced by patients who are told to lose weight while being prescribed medications that do just the opposite.
“There are medications that do not cause weight gain. Talk with your health care provider about switching to those,” he says. “They can be more expensive, but in the long term the cost is minimal compared to the potential complications of not switching.”
4. EMOTIONAL EATING
Turning to food in response to stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, and more is an all-too-common coping mechanism. When emotional eating becomes a habit, food is no longer fuel for the body, says Suzanne Pecoraro, RDN, CDE, president of Diabetes Education Support Services. She recommends identifying emotions associated with mindless snacking to break the cycle. “Behavior-modification techniques can be useful. For example, if you feel the need to eat, set the timer for 10 minutes and do something else, like take a walk around the house, until the timer goes off.” When the time is up, you may have better control over what you eat.
It is important to identify what emotions are often tied to your eating or overeating. Keep a journal and record when you overeat, making note of how you are feeling and what happened during the day.
5. LACK OF MOTIVATION—ESPECIALLY TO EXERCISE
Losing weight won’t happen if you are not “100 percent dedicated and motivated,” Heller says. You have to be all-in to reach your weight loss goals. “Saying, ‘I don’t know how to start; I don’t know what to do,’ is not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” she says. “Get up, put your shoes on, and go for a walk. Start with five to 10 minutes, and over time your ability to put in more time will increase.”
6. POOR FOOD CHOICES AND TOO MUCH FOOD
We tend to eat too much and not just of the bad stuff—the good stuff, too. It’s important to measure portions of all foods, even fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthful food does not justify overeating it.
Follow the plate method. Start with a 9-inch plate and fill half of the plate with nonstarchy vegetables, such as green beans, cucumbers, or salad greens. Fill one quarter with lean protein and the remaining quarter with a starch or grain. People who use visual cues to control portions lose more weight than those who don’t, Heller says.