If you don’t have celiac disease, then cutting out gluten, found in carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and crackers, isn’t the best weight-loss tool, says Marina Chaparro, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This is a little shocking since we’ve been bred (heh) to believe that cutting out gluten-ridden foods actually helps with weight loss. But while sticking to a g-free diet might help you shed a few pounds at first, it’s not a sustainable choice for keeping the weight off. “In the long term, it doesn’t really teach you anything about the diet, and, in fact, going gluten-free can put you at risk for nutrition deficiencies, such as omega 3s, B vitamins, and fiber,” Chaparro adds.
Instead of cutting gluten, keep whole grains part of your eating plan and cut back on refined carbohydrates, like cereal, white bread, and white pasta. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)
Like swearing off gluten, cutting out alcohol for the sake of weight loss is a no-no, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of the F-Factor Diet. When you give yourself absolutes—banning items from your diet—you’re more likely to feel deprived. And then when you indulge just a little, say, in a glass of wine, you’re more likely to totally fall off the weight-loss wagon, says Zuckerbrot.
Sure, alcohol is full of empty calories, but there’s no denying that for many people it’s part of being social. “Therefore, if you’re already following a low-calorie diet, there should be enough room to have a glass or two of wine a week,” Zuckerbrot says. Banning booze is especially bad if you plan on reintroducing it into your diet once you reach your weight-loss goal, she says. That’s because you’re creating temporary habits instead of lifestyle changes. Reworking your daily habits, like what you snack on, how much you move, and the foods you fill your plate with will actually help lose more weight and keep it off.
If you’re looking to shed pounds, it’s time to step away from the treadmill. Focusing solely on cardio to burn fat is a big mistake many of us make. And while, yes, heart-pumping exercise does accelerate the rate at which we eliminate fat, it only does so for the time we’re actually on the machine, says Heidi Powell, ACE-certified personal trainer, co-host of Extreme Weight Loss. Instead, you should focus your exercise efforts on weight lifting and resistance training plus cardio, says Powell. When you build muscle mass, you increase your metabolic rate and set yourself up for a better future.
Zuckerbrot says that women naturally lose muscle mass as they age, slowing your metabolism. So the more you maintain your muscle mass, the less likely you are to gain weight. While cardio is a part of any good workout plan, both Zuckerbrot and Powell recommend devoting more time to strength training through weight lifting, swimming, barre class, and even yoga.
Build strength and endurance with this 30-minute yoga workout:
“Switching to a low-fat or low-sugar product in an effort to save calories would make sense,” Chaparro says. “But research says that eating these products could result in eating more calories overall.” That’s because these items usually lack fiber and protein, which keep you fuller longer. While it’s easy to be tempted by the “low-sugar” and “low-fat” claims, Chaparro says eating smaller portions of the real thing can be more satisfying. For example, she suggests eating a couple of squares of 60 percent cacao dark chocolate rather than 10 sugar-free chocolates. She says eating the good stuff (even a smaller amount) triggers your brain to acknowledge that this treat was satisfying, fulfilling, and you’re done, says Chaparro.
A lot of these meal-swap juices lack protein and fiber, which are key nutrients to help you stabilize your hunger and maintain a healthy weight. “Any time we’re cutting actual food and replacing a meal for any type of juice, we’re more likely to fail,” says Chaparro. That’s because drinking a meal instead of eating whole foods makes you hungry, and fighting against that hunger requires a lot of energy.
Plus, your juice could be packed with tons of sugar, even if it is the natural stuff, leading to blood sugar spikes and crashes. And when you crash, you’re much more likely to get hangry and crave junk.
Though you may see the scale drop a bit after swapping actual food for juice, you’re likely losing water weight and muscle mass, says Chaparro. That means after a week or two, you’re bound to gain the weight back.