According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Americans are obese, a disease linked to heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer which happen to be some of the leading causes of preventable death. This alone should motivate you to lose weight, but the frustration of failing attempts to follow weight-loss recommendations can be a huge setback for anyone. It's clear that some nutrition advice is just more difficult to follow.
Knowledge is power, though, so spend some time getting to know these five commonly problematic weight-loss rules and learn how to overcome the desire to ignore them before it's too late.
Become a Rule Follower
1. Eat protein at breakfast.
This is one of the rules I set for myself during my journey to weight loss. Breakfast is typically filled with carb-based foods—think cereal, pancakes, muffins—but protein helps keep you feeling full and satisfied. The science also shows that weight loss and bone loss typically go hand in hand, which is why increasing your protein at breakfast is really important. "Our new study showed that higher protein intakes can potentially reduce the risk of a hip fracture by 16 percent. Since protein helps with satiety, higher intakes can effectively help you lose weight while keeping your bones strong!" Dr. Taylor Wallace, a leading nutrition researcher and affiliate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University explains.
To succeed: Stocking up on high protein foods like hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and peanut butter makes it a no brainer to grab-and-go high protein when you’re in a rush. I’ve also gotten in the habit of eating leftovers for breakfast, like leftover salmon in an omelet or a breakfast beef burrito. There is no rule that says you can't have dinner for breakfast!
2. Stop eating after dinner.
While eating at night specifically won't impede your goals, mindless munching is a weight-loss no-no and a quick way to pack on calories. "People tend to get tired and bored after dinner so they go hunting in the kitchen for snacks even though they aren't hungry," says registered dietitian nutritionist Joan Salge Blake, author of "Nutrition & You." Plus, all the snacking in the world isn't going to help you feel less tired, but it can add unnecessary calories to your day.
To succeed: Blake recommends shutting off the light in the kitchen at night and declaring it a "closed zone." This easy addition to your daily routine will help create a habit wherein eating is intended only for when you really need it throughout the day.
3. Eat high-fiber foods at all meal.
Fiber increases satiety (aka fullness), slows the emptying of foods in your stomach and ultimately helps promote weight loss. However, registered dietitian nutritionist Mandy Unanski Enright, creator of the couples nutrition blog Nutrition Nuptials, finds that "because many high-fiber foods contain carbs and many people still will not get on the bandwagon that not all carb foods are created equal, they shy away from high-fiber foods entirely."
To succeed: Enright works with clients to review food labels together in order to find foods that are a good source of fiber per serving, which is three grams of fiber or more. To show examples of foods she recommends, Enright keeps packages of whole grains, cereals and snacks on hand as a visual. To increase your fiber intake, you can add legumes like lentils, chickpeas and beans to soups, chili, meatloaf, salads and other dishes. When buying whole grains at the store, check the ingredient list to ensure that the grain is 100 percent whole. You can also sneak whole grains into your day by adding oats or high-fiber lentils into your morning smoothie or munching on fruit as a snack.
4. At restaurants, cut large portions of food in half.
Most folks are familiar with the oversized portions served at restaurants, which end up being well beyond what an individual should eat in one sitting. Cutting large portions down or sharing plates is advice many people trying to lose weight ignore. "People feel shaving down the amount they are eating and leaving something on the plate is a waste—a waste of money, a waste of good food that they otherwise wouldn’t make at home," claims registered dietitian nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It."
To succeed: Taub-Dix reminds her clients that it’s not a waste and it will go to your waist if you decide to eat beyond the feeling of fullness. She recommends asking the waiter to cut it in half before bringing it out to the table and wrap the rest to take home. This way, you’re focused on enjoying the flavor, texture and taste of the properly portioned meal in front of you, rather than feeling guilty that you’re overeating or creating waste.
5. Cook most nights of the week.
If the various subscription cooking services and the current obsession with farmers markets are any indications, the art of cooking is back in style. For anyone looking to whittle their waistline, though, cooking is more than just a great Instagram picture—it's also a way for you to control the ingredients you put into your body. However, because there is prep work involved, including meal planning, food shopping and actually cooking the meal, many folks skimp out because they’re short on time and energy. But when the convenience and ease of a delivery menu wins out on a busy night, you're only setting yourself up for disappointment and moving away from those healthy living goals.
To succeed: Registered dietitian nutritionist Christy Wilson, a nutrition counselor at the University of Arizona and owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition, recommends planning out a few meals you are going to cook before heading to the grocery store. Then, make a list of ingredients you need, organized by area and take it with you to the store. "Many people forget their list at home after spending time writing it, which throws a wrench in the process," she claims. If you have the time to meal-prep a few dishes on a Sunday afternoon, do it! If not, a well-organized calendar and the knowledge that all your healthy ingredients are waiting for you at home should be enough to lure you into the kitchen each night.
No one loves following a bunch of rules, but with some slight tweaks to your daily routine and a little determination, you'll learn to turn these hard-to-follow healthy rules into habits in no time at all.