4 Diet Pitfalls—and How to Avoid Them by Shawn T

Oh sure, everyone always says to me, “Shaun, I swear, I eat very healthfully. I have a clean diet.” But when people are experiencing “stubborn pounds” that won’t budge off their bodies, I see uncertainty and fear in their eyes when I say, “I bet it’s a common eating habit that is undermining your hard work.”

Oh, yeah. It’s human nature to be less than honest with ourselves about where we’re cheating on our nutritional plan. We work out and have the best of intentions for our daily menu, but end up falling short of our goals for balanced nutrition for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common pitfalls can be avoided simply by being aware of them:

  • Stress Eating. Hey, I readily admit that food is comforting—especially comfort food. You know, the mac and cheese, meatloaf and buttery mashed potatoes, an entire pint of butter pecan ice cream . . . enough said. But there are so many better ways to beat stress than eating yourself into a stupor.
    Do this instead: My favorite is to get out… literally take a walk. Get into your body and forget the snacks, and get some air deep into your lungs, clear your head, feel your blood pumping, and stretch your legs out. It won’t take but a few minutes for you to reap big benefits from a brisk walk . . . away from the vending machine. Or if it’s raining, put on some great music and dance—that works too!
  • Grazing. Many people have a complete lack of structure to their daily meals—and actually never stop nibbling all day long. From bits of bagels and a bite of donut in the morning all the way through to chips in front of the TV for late-night channel surfing. Grazers have absolutely no set meal times, and end up shutting down their body’s natural calorie-burning cycle through the constant onslaught of fat and calories.
    Do this instead: Of course, avoid the bad stuff. Instead of vending-machine junk and food with low nutritional value, pack healthy snacks for nibbling. And make time for balanced meals that will satisfy your appetite so you won’t be reaching for whatever is near. See the action plan for #3.
  • Unconscious eating. Eating without paying attention to what you’re doing, or without even realizing that you’re consuming calories.
    Do this instead: Keeping a food journal is the best way I know to determine whether you have unconscious eating tendencies. One of my clients confessed that while keeping her journal, she would catch herself working at her desk and suddenly realize that she needed to jot down in her journal the cookie she’d just eaten at a coworker’s desk. They’d offered her a homemade cookie and she’d eaten it without even thinking about it—much less factoring it into her daily planned food intake. Cha-CHING! Those 200 sweet calories needed to be added to her daily tally in her food journal to get an accurate picture of what she was eating.
  • Double portions. It’s not just restaurants that are offering us bigger portions to show us the value of their meals; it’s loved ones and friends and ourselves who proudly serve up much more than our bodies need for fuel at meals—on a regular basis. It’s because we’re showing love through the food and would feel stingy if the plate had less on it. The sad fact is that “normal” portions in the U.S. aren’t just a fraction more food than needed for a balanced meal—it’s like double, which is WAY in excess of what your body requires, and WAY more than you can burn in your daily workout!
    Do this instead: Ask yourself, do 20 bites of a huge sandwich really taste that much better than 10? How do those 10 extra bites taste when you know you can’t burn them off that day and at least half that sandwich is going to turn into those “stubborn” pounds? Stick with sane portions; listen to your body.

Yes, these are four common pitfalls, too common—but that doesn’t make them any less devastating to our fitness results and our ultimate health (and don’t forget mental image). Be aware of where you might be defeating yourself and take some time to form a personal plan to help you avoid these pitfalls on a daily basis.

Peace Out.
Shaun T

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