Not so healthy meal
Can you spot the hidden sugars and diet mistakes in this “healthy” meal?
Travis Yewell via Unsplash

9 diet mistakes that can actually gain you more weight

BROAD CAST - Jing Castañeda (Philstar.com) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00pm

“I stopped eating rice, but I still gained weight,” one of my viewers said during my Pamilya Talk episode on healthy diet habits (Do check-out the Wellness Wednesday episodes of Pamilya Talk on my Facebook and YouTube channel https://youtu.be/AzT2sRUX-fY).

Does this sound familiar? You start a diet, and try your best to follow the rules. But despite all your efforts, you only lose a few pounds. Is it just slow metabolism or lack of willpower? What went wrong? 

Diet and nutrition are topics close to my heart—and my waistline! As a mom and a Food and Nutrition Research Institute ambassador, I completely relate to the challenges to stay slim, but I can’t tell my kids to “eat a balanced meal” while advocating crash diets.

What’s the healthiest way to lose weight—and keep it off? Experts like FNRI researcher Celine Ann Navarro help us spot common mistakes that sabotage all our efforts to slim down and stay healthy.

Diet mistake # 1: You skip breakfast

I always have a bowl of oatmeal every morning. It’s easy to make, filling, and I can easily change the flavor by adding fruits, honey, cinnamon or whatever I have on hand.

I feel that eating breakfast makes it much easier for me to control my portions the rest of the day. I’m not tempted to snack or eat a heavy lunch, and I don’t get “hangry” in the middle of the workday.

Diet mistake # 2: You eat while using your phone/tablet

Here’s another reason to ban gadgets from the dining table. If your attention’s on a movie/social media/video game, you don’t really taste your food or miss important body cues that you’re already full.

Navarro encourages mindful eating: slow down and savor your meal. Pay attention to the appearance, taste, texture, scent. Chew well and make the most of each bite.  This is the reason why it takes me soooooo long to finish a meal.   In fact, experts say you need to chew your food at least 30 times before swallowing.  So if you eat slowly, you’ll end up eating less, while enjoying your food more.

Diet Mistake # 3: You deprive yourself of your favorite food

Very restrictive diets that cut out entire food groups or strictly limit calories can actually backfire. Just like the proverbial Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden, you will always want what you can’t have. When you finally give in to the craving, you end up eating a lot.

Don’t cut out food groups, just control portions. Allow yourself small treats, or find healthier versions of your favorite food. For example, trade French fries for baked kamote fries, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter.

Diet Mistake # 4: You go all or nothing

You can’t change habits overnight. Navarro suggests making small changes every day: if you’re used to drinking three cans of soda a day, limit it to two a day, then once a day, and eventually to once a week.

This slow but steady approach also helps you celebrate small victories, so you don’t get discouraged and tempted to give up.

Diet mistake # 5: You’re eating hidden sugars

You may give up rice, but you could be getting your carbohydrates from other ingredients. For example, there’s a lot of sugar in condiments, sauces, salad dressings, and snacks.  Look at this list:

  • 2 tablespoons of ketchup = 8 grams of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce = 10 grams of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce = 10 grams of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of French salad dressing = 7 grams of sugar
  • 1 cup of flavored yogurt = 12 grams of sugar

Even healthy food like fruit smoothies, granola bars, protein shakes or bottled pasta sauces can have a lot of sugar, salt and fat. That’s why it’s important to read the label, or if possible, prepare the food yourself. When you cook, you have more control over the nutritional value and minimize preservatives.

Diet Mistake # 6: You’re not tracking your calories

You limit your calories during breakfast, lunch and dinner—but what about the rest of the day? The cups of coffee, your kids’ leftover merienda, the little bowl of peanuts you ate while you worked… that can all add up.

Navarro suggests keeping a food journal, where you write down everything you eat. You can use a notebook, FNRI’s free Menu Eval Plus, or apps like My Fitness Pal.

Food journals can help you know what you’re really eating each day, and also detect patterns that lead to overeating.

Diet Mistake # 7: You eat your feelings

We should eat to nourish our body, but the reality is that we also eat to escape from our feelings. We’re stressed, bored, angry, depressed, lonely, frustrated—but instead of acknowledging and dealing with these emotions, we reach for “comfort food.”

The next time you feel an intense craving, ask yourself: “Am I hungry, or am I feeling something else? What do I really want and need right now?” You may actually feel better by doing something else. If you’re stressed, hug your kids or watch a short funny video. If you’re tired, take a power nap. Food shouldn’t and can’t be the answer to your emotional needs.

Diet Mistake # 8: You’re only dieting

You can’t achieve a healthy, sustainable weight without proper exercise. Unfortunately, all of us became a lot more sedentary during the lockdown. We didn’t just stay at home—we stayed in our chairs.

Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical activity every week. Follow a YouTube exercise video, do housework or gardening, jog in your subdivision, or just play your favorite music and dance in your bedroom!

Dieting alone does not make you lose weight. Do it in tandem with at least one challenging workout per week.
Image by Diana Polekhina via Unsplash

I don’t have a lot of time for exercise, but I enjoy gardening with my family and even cleaning the house. I also like to  walk around our own neighborhood.

Diet Mistake # 9: You’re too obsessed with the weighing scale

As an FNRI ambassador, I’ve always believed that health is about quality of life.  You are taking care of your body, and giving it the right food in the right amounts, so you can work better, feel stronger and enjoy your day to the fullest.

So don’t get too obsessed with the numbers you see on the weighing scale. They don’t tell the full story! When you commit to a diet, you’re actually making a powerful, positive choice that affects all aspects of your life. When you’re discouraged, remember to:

  • Be proud that you are doing something positive for yourself. When you make healthy choices, you are respecting your body’s needs and giving it what it deserves.
  • Celebrate the journey. Small, simple choices, repeated every day, become life-changing habits.  Don’t be discouraged by slow results. You are a work-in-progress!
  • Enjoy the benefits. How has your new lifestyle helped you? Write down the concrete benefits. Do you feel less sluggish in the morning? Do you spend less money on maintenance medicines? Do you spend more time with your kids, now that you exercise together?

Role-modeling what a 'healthy body' means

As a mom, I also think that our diet choices don’t just affect our bodies, but our children’s own eating habits and attitude towards food. I have a teenage daughter, and I know that her generation is barraged by very unrealistic images of beauty.

By role-modeling healthy diet habits (and a positive body image), I want to show her what a good diet means: not dropping to an XS dress size, but nourishing your body properly.



I’d love to hear from you! Share your stories and tips or suggest topics at jingcastaneda21@gmail.com. You can also follow my social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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