And what to do instead.
From tube feeding to tape worms, I've seen people take some pretty drastic measures to lose weight. But evenÂ clients who tryÂ more common strategies (like calorie counting) often find that their efforts backfire. Many go-to diet tricks can leave you feeling hungry, moody, irritable, or downright miserableâthingsÂ I never want my clients to feel. What's worse, after you finishÂ aÂ quick-fix weight-loss tactic, you'll oftenÂ gainÂ back all of the pounds you lost (or more!). In reality, the only way to shed pounds, keep them off, and stay sane in the process is by adopting habits you can actually stick to long-term. Below, four common weight-loss tricks that don't fit that criteriaâand in my opinion aren't worth your time or effort.
Cutting out ALL sugar
Sugar is currently theÂ top nutritional villain, and I can't say I disagree. I amÂ a fan of cutting back on sugar.Â After all, most Americans eatÂ nearly four times the recommended daily max. However, I've seen many of my clients get too strict about sugar, which typically leadsÂ to binge-eating forbidden sweets, or abandoningÂ healthy eating altogether.
Another issue with this tactic:Â many people also ditchÂ fruit to slash sugar. Not only does this deprive your body of key nutrients, it's counterproductive: Research shows eatingÂ fruitÂ helps you shed poundsÂ (even more so than veggies!). This could be because fruit is loaded with antioxidants (which have been tied to leanness in research), or simply because fruit tends to replace sweet, processed snacks.
As for addedÂ sugar, even theÂ strictest guidelinesÂ from the American Heart Association allow up toÂ six teaspoons worth per day for women. This means there's still room for healthy indulgences,Â like nutrient-richÂ dark chocolate,Â which has beenÂ shown to help curb cravings for both sweet and salty foods (score!). The fact is,Â cutting out all sugarÂ simply isn't realistic for most people.Â So stick withÂ the fruit (without overdoing it) and pre-plan can't-live-without treats.Â It tends to be a much more manageable and maintainable approach.
Obsessively counting calories
MostÂ of my clients are shockedÂ when I advise them to stopÂ counting calories. But trust me, it's for the best.Â First of all, when it comes to calories, quality is often more important that quantity. Iâve had clients actually start losing weight after upping their calorie intake, because they swappedÂ processed fare forÂ fresh, whole foods. In fact, research confirmsÂ that not all calories are created equalâsome foodsÂ like pulses, almonds, and avocadoÂ trigger caloric burn, feelings of satiety, or delayed hunger.
Just the stress of counting calories can also do a number onÂ your waistline. One study found that women who simplyÂ monitored their caloric intakeÂ (without restricting it) experienced spikes inÂ cortisol, aÂ stress hormone tied to increased belly fat. A more effective alternative to calorie counting is focusing on healthy portions. For example, you can slash 125 calories by simply pairing a half cup of brown rice with one cup of greens, instead of one cup of brown rice with a half cup of greens.
RELATED: Top 10 Calorie Searches of 2105
Extreme portion control
Serving yourself healthy portion sizes is generally a great diet strategy. However, there are a number of methods that take portion controlÂ too far, like eating only with chopsticks, or stopping afterÂ a few measly bites of your meal. Again, while this may result in weight loss, whoÂ could keepÂ this up forever? Plus,Â eating too littleÂ can result in a number of counterproductiveÂ side effects, like feeling too tired to exercise, losing calorie-burning muscle, weakening your immune system, and constant crankiness. Not to mention,Â there are plenty ofÂ foods you can eat in large portions and still lose weight. For example, these veggies pack less than 30 calories per cup: kale, mushrooms, red bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, asparagus, and many others. So stopÂ trying to nibble your way through the day. And instead, strategically chose the foods that makeÂ up the bulk of your meals and snacks.
Eating one single food
Whether it's bananas or potatoesâthere are plenty of dietsÂ thatÂ involve literally eating one food. While this restrictive approach may indeed lead toÂ weight loss, itâs typically temporary. A healthier methodÂ is picking a singleÂ balanced meal (a combo ofÂ lean protein,Â healthy fat, and nutrient-rich carbs) and repeating it on a short term basis. Check out this guide for ideas.Â I've found that narrowing your meal repetoire can be aÂ great kickstart for breakingÂ an unhealthy pattern and makingÂ way for a betterÂ one. Â But the key is that it has to be a transitional strategy. So before you even start, be sureÂ you have a plan to sustain theseÂ healthier habits for the future. After a monthÂ of clean eating, you'll feelÂ so happy and energized, you'll never look back.
Cynthia SassÂ is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with masterâs degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen onÂ national TV, sheâs Healthâs contributing nutrition editor, and privately counselsÂ clientsÂ in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her onÂ Facebook,Â TwitterÂ andÂ Pinterest.