One of the best tips I've gotten since I started writing this column was from a reader who informed me about Hungry Girl.
Hungry Girl, aka Lisa Lillien, was just an average girl like you and me who liked to eat. She began a daily email blast to her friends about food, and it blossomed into a nationwide brand that now includes her daily email as well as a website, five books, a TV show on Food Network and weekly columns for Weight Watchers.
I enjoy reading Hungry Girl because Lillien writes with such wit. I love the puns she comes up with as she describes "tips and tricks for hungry chicks," "Girls Bite Out" (reviews about new low-cal entrees at restaurants) and offers a wide variety of recipes.
Recently she emailed what she thought were the "top diet blunders that can derail the unaware." I picked seven slip-ups to which everyone can relate to share today.
1. "On a diet, off a diet:" Who hasn't used the old "I'll start a diet on Monday" excuse for procrastination?
"The concept of being on or off the eating-right wagon can be pretty self-defeating," said Lillien. "Think of eating smart as a lifestyle adjustment. Go into it knowing that celebrations and indulgences are part of life. Give yourself some wiggle room. If you eat sensibly 80 percent of the time and less sensibly the other percent, you'll still be on the right track."
2. Drinking your calories: "While the occasional caloric beverage won't sink your ship, making sugar-sweetened drinks a regular part of life can add hundreds of calories to your diet. A 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories. If you need a flavored drink every now and then, have a low-cal or calorie-free one like Crystal Light or Coke Zero," Lillien recommends.
3. Skipping meals: I've written about this bad habit several times because once you start, it can become a vicious cycle.
You decide to skip a meal because you want to keep your calorie intake in check, but then when you get hungry you are more inclined to overeat. Ironically, skipping meals can ultimately lead to ingesting more calories than if you had just stuck with three sensible meals to begin with.
4. Buying the hype: Lillien said some foods have what she calls "a health halo" around them, meaning that they are perceived as being healthy even if they aren't.
"We at Hungry Girl often call them food fakers," she said. "Notorious food fakers include granola, smoothies and restaurant salads. Some are OK, but with so many super-caloric versions out there, you need to check the stats before you chew. This also goes for items marked 'light' or 'reduced-fat.' "
5. Thinking condiments don't count. "Sure the numbers on those packages are low, but they're usually for a pretty small serving size," Lillien reasons. "If you load up a lean sandwich with lots of light mayo or drown your scrambled Egg Beaters with ketchup, you need to account for those calories."
6. Ignoring daily activity: "Exercise may not be your favorite thing in the world, but it is important for weight management and for overall health. Just because you don't feel ready to commit to a full-on exercise regimen doesn't mean you can't add short walks and stretches to your day," advises Lillien.
7. Setting unrealistic goals. Oh, ladies, who hasn't been guilty of this? Especially when we know that important event -- beach trip, wedding, class reunion -- has snuck up on us and we aren't the size we want to be.
"If you tell yourself you're going to lose 20 pounds in a month, there's a good chance you'll get bummed out and quit when things don't go as planned," said Lillien. "Set reasonable targets, small adjustments to start, then work your way up to bigger goals."