We asked the pros for the ultimatums people give themselves that can cause the most harm. Make sure these resolutions don’t make your list.
“I’m going vegetarian”
Novice vegetarians sometimes gain weight because they don’t realize cheese, pasta, and other vegetarian standards are loaded with calories. Instead of becoming a full-fledged vegetarian, Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, LDN, a nutrition consultant and author of Walking off the Weight for Dummies, suggests eating a mostly plant-based diet while slowly reducing your meat intake. “Add puréed beans or lentils into ground beef to create a burger patty with less animal protein and more fiber,” she says. “This swap won’t leave you hungry. A study found that the protein in peas staved off hunger better than whey protein [from dairy], making it a filling option. Adding in vegetarian sources of protein like beans and lentils can be a good way to boost fiber in your meal plan, and that can help promote a healthy body weight.” She suggests snacking on roasted chickpeas instead of pretzel or chips, or tossing beans on pasta and salads. “You’ll add more protein to a vegetarian diet without increasing calories significantly,” she says.
“I’m going to try the XYZ diet”
Dropping pounds fast on a fad diet may make you happy in the short term, but not when the weight comes screaming back. “Fad diets promote rapid weight loss, but the loss usually results from making dramatic lifestyle changes that you can’t maintain,” warns Palinski-Wade. Fad diets tend to cut out entire food groups—fruit, meat, or grains, for example. However, your body needs a varied diet to get the nutrients it needs. “Variety helps prevent boredom,” she says, “which can lead to cravings and eventual overeating.” You’ll find it easier to sustain your weight loss by maintaining a well-balanced diet. “Focus less on the diet and more on the habits that will lead to the desired outcomes,” says Allison Tibbs, a San Francisco-based personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach.
“I’m going to lose a bunch of weight”
Try not to focus your goals on weight loss alone. Instead, strive to live healthier in general—including resolving to exercise most days of the week—and the weight loss will come. “Set goals to work out a certain number of times a week so you have something tangible to check off your to-do list,” says Paige Waehner, a certified personal trainer and author of The About.com Guide to Getting in Shape. “Seeing how many workouts you get in each week will motivate you to keep going.”