Ever have one of those “what the hell is happening?” moments?
You think you’ve been 100% on point with your diet, tracked and measured everything, got your training in, and yet the scale, the tape measure and your visual appearance don’t show any change?
We all have, and it blows.
While sometimes this may mean you’ve hit a genuine plateau, it could also mean that you’re unintentionally sabotaging your progress in some way.
In part 1 of this mini series we looked at two huge ways you may be accidentally eating more than you think. These were not weighing everything precisely, and eating out too often.
In this second part, we’ll tackle another couple of big habits even the most intelligent, dedicated of dieters screw up and sabotage their fat loss without noticing.
3. You’re All Over Zero Calorie Foods.
Zero calorie foods seem like a gift sent from the flexible dieting gods.
Finally – something you can eat as much as you want of, and not have to track.
It all sounds too good to be true, and it kind of is.
See, zero calorie foods don’t really contain zero calories. All these items do, in some capacity, contain calories, it’s just that the listed calorie count is so low that the manufacturers can legally claim that their product is calorie free.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that –
“The caloric value of a product containing less than 5 calories may be expressed as zero or to the nearest 5 calorie increment (i.e., zero or 5 depending on the level). Foods with less than 5 calories meet the definition of “calorie free” and any differences are dietarily insignificant” (1)
Ergo, if the calorie count is low enough, it can have a huge, great, whopping calorie-free label placed on it, to entice customers looking for something with taste but no impact on their day’s intake.
If you only have one or two small servings of calorie-free food each day, you’re probably going to be fine.
But in a fat loss phase, it’s easy to become obsessed with shoveling down as much low-calorie or calorie-free stuff as you can, and you use bigger and bigger servings.
Take calorie-free pancake syrup for instance.
The serving size will often be just one tablespoon, but let’s face it – how many of us really stick to that? The recommended serving might contain 3 calories, but if we slather our protein pancakes with 5 times that, then that’s 15 calories.
Do that with different calorie-free sauces and syrups every day, and it adds up.
The same can be said for sugar-free syrups in coffee shops. A lot of big name brands are advertised as calorie-free, which is cool, and you might only use a small spoonful at home, but if you go out to a coffee shop, they often put three or four big pumps in your coffee. Sure, it might be fewer calories than the original full-sugar stuff, but you’re still having 20 calories in your supposedly calorie-free coffee.
I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to stop having these, or start precisely measuring every single calorie-free item they eat or drink, but just check the labels, and be aware that if you’re relying on these kinds of things for a quick flavour fix several times a day, you will be consuming calories.
4. You Pick at Foods
Ever find yourself cooking dinner in the kitchen, and subconsciously eating some of the ingredients as you’re putting them in?
Me too … Guilty!
Again, while this may seem small, when you take it into account with the other three mistakes we’ve had so far in this article and in part 1, it all stacks up.
Sure, crunching a piece of carrot before throwing it into your stir fry, or quickly scoffing the renegade piece of broccoli that tried to escape the pan isn’t going to be the difference between body of your dreams and feeling like a failure, but picking at higher-calorie foods such as cheese, biscuits or fatty meats certainly will make an impact.
The temptation is even worse for parents. I know some of my clients with kids who struggle not to finish their kid’s leftover lunches or desserts, and almost end up eating a whole extra meal.
So No Calorie-Free Foods and No Picking?
Not so fast.
Again, it comes down to context.
As I said last time round, the vast majority of dieters will never need to worry about getting this strict, but it is something to address if you hit an unexpected plateau, or you’re in a hard dieting phase for a show or shoot.
For those who aren’t in either of the above camps, if you know you’re prone to picking while you cook, and just can’t go without your calorie-free foods, you can always add a buffer in, so work out the macros you need to hit to lose fat, then shoot for 100 calories under to give some leeway for the calories you might not be aware of consuming.
On that note, if you’re not sure how many calories you need, you can precisely work out what you should be eating by grabbing my book, “The Flexible Nutrition Bible.”
Not only does it have a comprehensive guide to working out your ideal macros, but it’s rammed full of advice on smashing through plateaus, what supplements to take (and what to avoid,) how to transition between dieting stages, workout nutrition and how to mentally prepare yourself for sticking to a diet.
Learn more here: