This week you walked five miles, skipped your daily soda and even shunned those chocolate chip cupcakes in the break room at work. Yet, when you stepped on the scale there was no reward for your efforts and restraint. What gives?
While you’re trying to be “good”, you could actually be busting your weight loss efforts without even knowing it. With help from Colleen Kennedy, M.D., a bariatric surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, we’ll show you some common ways that many of us get weight loss wrong—and how to get those scales moving in the right direction.
Here’s some things you might be getting wrong:
With foods like muffins, which were once smaller than a baseball and are now larger than a softball, it’s easy to see why we misjudge how much we should really be eating. “A single serving of protein is just 4 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards, yet most people end up eating much more than that,” Dr. Kennedy says.
How to get it right: Use common objects (like cards) or even get your hand to gauge proper portion sizes. But until you get the hang of it, measure your meals with an expensive kitchen scale. According to Dr. Kennedy, the average meal should contain about 4 oz. of protein, 4 oz. of vegetables and about a quarter cup of complex carbohydrates such as beans or brown rice.
NOT COUNTING THE SMALL STUFF
The vanilla syrup in your nonfat latte. The garlic mayo on your chicken sandwich. Sure, they weren’t the main attraction of your meal, but extras like these quickly add up. If you’re not counting them, you’re not fully aware of what you’re eating.
How to get it right: Dr. Kennedy recommends keeping track of you carbohydrate, fat, protein and calorie intake in a food diary so you know how much you’re really eating and can make adjustments as needed.
While dropping a pound or two per week is the safe way to lose weight, “we get frustrated with that,” Dr. Kennedy says. “We want 10 pounds off in a week. But if you’re losing that much, you’re losing water weight and you’re not going to keep it off.”
How to get it right: When it comes to weight loss, patience really is a virtue. “Slow and steady always works best and keeps the weight off longer,” Dr. Kennedy says.
READING THE LABEL
Processed foods can sabotage your diet with sneaky labeling Beyond claims about reduced fat or sugar, they may use terms like “natural”, “wholesome” or even “organic” to reel us in. But organic chips still have calories—often just as many as regular potato chips.
How to get it right: “If something says fat-free, it usually has a lot of sugar, and if it’s sugar-free, it likely contains more fat,” Dr. Kennedy says. “You have to look at the labels carefully.” Avoiding processed foods altogether may be your best option. “Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking your meat products from scratch is much better for you and will actually end up filling you up more,” she says.
SKIMPING ON PROTEIN
Exercising is obviously great for burning calories, but it’s not all your body is burning, Dr. Kennedy says. “If you’re not getting enough protein and you’re exercising, your body will absolutely attack your muscle stores to get it because it needs protein to live.”
How to get it right: The average woman needs about 60 grams of protein per day, and men need 80 to 100 grams. And if you’re working out heavily, you’ll need even more, Dr. Kennedy says. She suggests a boost of post-workout protein, such as a slick of low-fat cheese wrapped with lunch meat, to help rebuild muscle.
Even when you’re doing your best to eat right, you still may not be getting the essential vitamins and minerals you need so Dr. Kennedy recommends these 3 supplements:
- A daily multivitamin because “Unfortunately, our processed foods don’t have enough vitamins,” she says. “And because even our vegetables and fruits are processed to keep them safe to eat, they don’t normally have the nutrients they used to have either.”
- A calcium supplement with added vitamin D because “We’ve been watching vitamin levels and routinely when we check, people are deficient in vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones,” Dr. Kennedy says.
- And an isolated vitamin D supplement because many people may also need a separate vitamin D supplement for a couple of reasons. “We’ve discovered we need a higher level of vitamin D than we thought in the past,” she says. “And with the combination of diet and staying out of the sun to prevent skin cancer, we’re no getting enough vitamin D anymore.”
To ensure that you’re getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals to meet your specific needs, Dr. Kennedy recommends working with your doctor to have your levels checked.
This content originally appeared in the September 2012 edition of Baylor Health Magazine.