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1. You Assume "Healthy" Means "Low-Cal"
The label trumpets "low fat," "zero trans fats," or "no carbs." But these virtuous pronouncements don't tell you a thing about calories which is what you need to pay attention to in order to lose weight and keep it off. "My rule of thumb is to look first at the calories per serving, then check the serving size," says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. You might be surprised by what the manufacturer considers a serving: For some cereals, like Grape-Nuts or certain brands of granola, it's only a half cup (compared to a cup and a quarter for Rice Krispies, say). "Once you match the product's serving size to what you'd actually eat, the calories might be considerably higher," says Nestle.
2. You Discount the Little Things
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the lot, walk down the hall to a coworker's desk instead of e-mailing.... You've undoubtedly heard these tips before and you may have thought they couldn't make much difference. But just six 5-minute walks a day add up to about 100 calories, which translates into 10 pounds shed in a year. Keep on track by wearing a pedometer: A multicenter review of nine walking programs found that, on average, pedometer wearers walked an extra mile or so a day and lost about one pound every 10 weeks without making a single change in their diets. (Think of what you could achieve if you stepped up your walking and cut calories.)
3. You're Drinking Too Many Calories
No one knows why, but our bodies don't sense calories from liquids well, says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the weight-management center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. That signal failure can add up to a lot of pounds. Data from the Harvard Nurses' Health Study II on 51,603 women found that those who over four years increased their intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks from one or fewer a week to one or more a day added 358 daily calories and put on an average of 10 pounds. Even drinks that sound innocuous vitamin-enriched water or fruit-flavored iced tea may be deceptively high-cal. Read labels and calculate servings.
4. You're Skimping or OD'ing on Sleep
Hopping out of bed a half hour earlier every day for a brisk morning walk is a great diet boost unless you're not replacing that shut-eye. Multiple studies have shown that sleeping too little increases appetite, compromises insulin sensitivity (which can lead to weight gain), and affects other hormones that control hunger. Now a new report suggests that getting too much sleep might be linked to overweight. In a study of 276 adults, Canadian researchers found that people who slept nine or 10 hours a night put on about 3 1/2 more pounds over a six-year period than those who averaged seven to eight hours. If you're coming up short, turn off the TV and get to bed earlier. Spending too many hours in the sack? See your doctor you could have an underlying health problem that's causing you to oversleep.
5. You're Caving on Cravings Too Often
Whether it's chocolate or chips, ice cream or whipped cream, the foods we crave have one thing in common: They are calorie-dense, a Tufts University study recently confirmed. But in that study, the researchers also noted that while virtually everyone has cravings, the dieters in the group who successfully lost weight or kept it off gave in to their must-haves less often. And when they did indulge, they kept portions reasonable. "Accept that cravings are normal, and then deal with them," advises Susan Roberts, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts. "Sometimes you can give in, and sometimes you need to brush your teeth and wait for the desire to pass."