Your bathroom scale doesn’t lie about your weight—but you might be fibbing to yourself. People tend to subtract a few pounds from their weight and add an inch or two of height in self-reported surveys, according to a 2013 Irish study from University College of Cork. It doesn’t end there. We also lie to ourselves about what it takes to drop pounds and keep them off. Being truthful to yourself can help you recognize the challenges you need to overcome in order to make real progress. Here are common weight loss lies you may be telling yourself—and how to face the facts.
I can’t afford to buy healthy food.
In reality, people prioritize and spend money on what’s important to them, says Amy Goodson, RD, co-author of Swim, Bike, Run—Eat ($17; amazon.com). “You may pay more for some healthy and organic food, but you are getting more nutrient quality for your dollar,” she says. Plus, there are plenty of ways to save. Seasonal, local produce costs less than fruits and veggies shipped from afar—and the more-frugal frozen stuff is just as nutritious as fresh. You can also buy lean meats in bulk when they’re on sale and freeze what you don’t use for later.
I just don’t like the taste of healthy food.
Many people claim they don’t like “healthy food,” when the truth is they reject nutritious eats without even trying them, says Goodson. “It’s recommended you eat a food 10 times before you can determine if you really dislike it or not,” she says. To acquire a taste for healthy food, Goodson suggests you try mixing the food you don’t like with foods you do like. For instance, if you hate broccoli but like rice and cheese, trying making broccoli rice casserole with brown rice and 2% cheese. Gradually increase the amount of broccoli in the dish each time you make it.
My jeans don’t fit because they shrunk in the wash.
Sure, this might be true with some of your clothing, says Brian Quebbemann, MD, a bariatric surgeon in Newport Beach, Calif. “All my patients know, however, that normally clothes don’t tell lies. If you ask, ‘Have I gained weight?’ just put on that sleek dress, or Speedo from your swim team days, and you’ll have the honest answer.”
I worked out today, so I can have this bowl of ice cream.
No amount of exercise will overcome a high-calorie diet, says Dr. Quebbemann. Consider that walking for an hour at 4 mph (a very brisk pace) burns approximately 360 calories. A mere half-cup of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream contains 230 calories. A real-life serving of ice cream is typically double that, clocking in at 460 calories. That means you’d take in 100 calories more than you burned.
I eat healthy all week so I can indulge on the weekend.
No, you can’t follow a healthy diet during the workweek and then go hogwild on Saturday and Sunday without gaining weight. “Eating 2,000 extra calories over a weekend will increase your daily average by close to 300 calories, causing a gain of 20 pounds within a year,” says Dr. Quebbemann. If you do indulge during your downtime, then be sure to make up for it in the following days. A 2014 Cornell University study found that thin people are better at adjusting their calorie intake after a calorie-packed weekend than those who are overweight.
My mom’s fat, so no matter what I do, I’m always going to be overweight too.
Some research does show a genetic link to obesity, but in most cases, lifestyle trumps genetics. “The most common reason some families are overweight and some are not is because some parents have poor eating habits and teach their kids the same,” says Dr. Quebbemann. “It’s often a cultural inheritance more than a physical one.”
I can have another glass of wine—it’s healthy!
Moderate wine consumption has proven heart-health benefits, but the keyword here is “moderate,” says Lori Zanini, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having more than the recommended one-a-day for women or two-a-day for men cancels out the health benefits—and adds extra calories to your day to boot.
I skip breakfast, so I’m already cutting enough calories.
Skipping meals as a way to save calories won’t help you drop pounds, says Zanini, because you’ll make up for it—and then some—later in the day when you’re starving. A 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who reported missing meals lost 8 fewer pounds than those who ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
I can’t lose weight because I have kids.
We get it—it can be tough to plan kid-friendly meals that are compatible with your diet goals, and you probably feel too busy carting the kiddos to and from school, soccer practice, and piano lessons to give your diet goals much thought. But the truth is, you can overcome these obstacles. If you find yourself eating your child’s leftovers or sharing a few licks of an ice cream several times a day, for example, then try to stop—this can easily add up to 300-plus extra calories, says Goodson.
Losing weight is impossible because I’m hungry all the time.
Your own poor eating choices are likely the reason you’re always hungry, says Dr. Quebbemann. High-carb, low-protein meals spike your blood sugar, which leaves your belly rumbling after it plummets back to earth. “This is the carb-hunger roller coaster many of my patients ride every day,” says Dr. Quebbemann. “When they tell me, ‘I’m hungry all the time,’ I respond, ‘I would be too, if I ate that way.’” Dehydration, stress, and certain meds may also cause an insatiable appetite.
I’m not eating that much and the scale’s not budging.
Chances are, you’re overestimating how hard you’re working out and underestimating how much food you’re taking in, says Jonathan Ross, senior advisor for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that 23% of adults underestimated the number of calories in their fast food meal and, as a result are making uninformed choices.
I’m doing everything I can to lose weight and nothing’s working.
“This typically translates to, ‘I’m doing everything I’m willing to do,’” says Ross. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do that I’m currently not willing to do?’” Take a look at your day-to-day habits for ways to add in more activity (get up from your desk more often, walk the stairs) or eat healthier (bring a lunch versus relying on last-minute choices from the vending machine). Track your food and exercise to pinpoint trouble spots.
I deserve a treat once in a while.
Many people “compartmentalize” what they eat, says Ross. “They’ll have a doughnut at a meeting, pizza for lunch, and go out with friends and have chicken wings and then say, ‘I only ate chicken wings twice this month,’ forgetting all the other treats they didn’t count.” These treats are the foods that take you further away from your goals, he says. Keep an accurate food journal to pinpoint all these treats you may otherwise forget.
I look better when I have more meat on my bones.
It’s important to accept yourself, love your shape, and feel comfortable in your own skin. But if your body mass index (BMI) indicates that you’re overweight or obese, think about whether you need to lose weight or at least eat healthier and exercise more. Of course, some people have more muscle than others (BMI is not a perfect measure), but the truth is, research shows that if you are obese, your risk rises for serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Maintaining a BMI over 30 or a having a waist circumference larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses, says Goodson. “Losing just 10% of your body weight can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” she says. And even if you don’t lose weight, exercise and healthy eating will help lower your risks for those conditions.
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