If you're trying to shed winter weight in time for bikini season, here are five common dieting pitfalls that can steer you off-track.
1. Relying solely on exercise - A fitness program is essential for staying healthy and losing excess weight, but when not combined with dietary changes, you won't likely see much weight loss, experts say. In fact, studies suggest that beginning a new exercise program may even promote weight gain in that you may overeat after your workouts.
2. Going fat-free - Low-fat products can be a dieting blunder because many low-fat meals are packed with sugar or calories to compensate, says Realbuzz.com. Plus studies suggest that healthy fats, such as olive oil, can help you feel more satiated and less tempted to snack throughout the day.
3. Switching to diet drinks - Trading in your regular soda for diet versions may not help you, since research suggests that artificial sweeteners can trigger your appetite. Research by the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that those who consumed diet drinks daily experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference than those who drank none.
4. Skipping meals - Studies suggest that people who skip breakfast are heavier than those who kickstart their day with a meal. WebMD suggests to strive for three meals a day, and choose wisely. Make sure your breakfast includes some protein and fiber, such as an egg and a slice of whole-wheat toast.
5. Mindless eating - Eating out of boredom, or snacking while reading a book, watching television, or in front of your computer is a dieting no-no. A handful of chips? That can run about 140 calories, while 12 peanut M&Ms is 125 calories, which can quickly add up and sabotage your dieting efforts. WebMD suggests trying to get out of the habit of mindless snacking and opt for a cup of tea, water, or chewing sugarless gum.