The occasional dietary splurge isn’t what really thwarts most women’s weight-loss efforts. It’s the so-called “healthy” weight-loss strategies we use, convinced they’ll help us cut calories, slim down, and get healthier—only to see our scales stay put. (Or worse, go up.) Frustrating? Yes. Easy to remedy? Absolutely. Just keep an eye out for these habits—and then nix them accordingly.
Eating Gluten-Free Pastas and Baked Goods
“Gluten-free pasta made with whole grains—i.e., whole grain brown rice, quinoa, etc.—are absolutely fine alternatives to regular pasta,” says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., senior clinical dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital. “But otherwise, there’s nothing necessarily healthier about gluten-free pasta.” In fact, it’s often lower in protein and fiber than its whole-wheat alternative. The same holds true for gluten-free baked goods, especially since they can contain more butter and sugar—along with additives (like xanthan gum) that help with leavening.
Exercising Sans Carbs
Low-carb foods might help some women shed a few pounds—but they’ll backfire if you’re kicking it in the gym. “High-intensity exercise requires carbohydrate fuel, and high-intensity training is what sculpts your body,” says dietician Susan M. Kleiner, R.D., Ph.D., a scientific consultant with USANA Health Sciences. “Low-carb diets and long-duration endurance training can actually lead to fat gain over time, rather than fat loss.”
Using Zero-Calorie Sweeteners
It’s a super-easy way to cut calories in the short-term, but it’s not a smart strategy in the long-term. “Non-caloric sweeteners don’t fool your brain,” says Kleiner. “The sweet taste sends a message to your brain to expect calories. When calories don’t arrive, your brain will drive you to eat to make up the difference.” That doesn’t mean you should stick with refined white sugar. Instead, try raw sugar, honey, or maple syrup (in moderation, of course) to sweeten your dishes.