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This week you walked five miles, skipped your daily soda and even shunned those chocolate 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 bungling your weight loss efforts without even knowing it.
With help from Colleen Kennedy, MD, 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 the scale moving in the right direction.
What you may 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 your hand to gauge proper portion sizes. But until you get the hang of it, measure your meals with an inexpensive kitchen scale.
According to Dr. Kennedy, the average meal should contain about 4 ounces of protein, 4 ounces of vegetables and about a quarter cup of complex carbohydrates such as beans or brown rice.
What you may be getting wrong: 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. And 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 your 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.
What you may be getting wrong: 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 the best and keeps the weight off longer,” Dr. Kennedy says.
What you may be getting wrong: 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.
What you may be getting wrong: 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 slice of low-fat cheese wrapped with lunch meat, to help rebuild muscle.
Talk to your doctor about what might be behind your inability to lose weight. To find a doctor on the medical staff at Baylor, search our online directory or call 1.800.4BAYLOR.
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