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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stephanie Reese D.O.

5 Ways Your Diet Can Sabotage Weight Loss

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

If you are trying to lose weight it can be frustrating to notice weight loss plateaus or poor progress. Many people have heard the advice, "weight loss happens when calories in (eaten) are less than calories out (through exercise)". This advice is true, but some factors can influence the effectiveness of that equation. Prolonged failure at seeing results can lead many people to give up on their weight loss journey.

A great teacher once said that "the eyes only see what the mind knows". In the case of weight loss, you can only fix a problem if you know that it may exist. This article is focused on helping you find ways of changing what you eat that may improve your efforts at weight loss.

Hidden Calories in Food Preparation

Many people live busy lives and look for convenience when it comes to food choices. We tend to stick with what is familiar, which can sabotage our weight loss efforts. You may get stuck lamenting over the number of carbohydrates vs proteins in your diet while overlooking smaller details that cause calories to add up over time. I am going to discuss a few of the small areas where you may be able to improve your calorie counts.

Morning Cup of Coffee

For many people, their day must start with a cup of this dark divine brew. There are 2 sources of diet sabotage that they often commit when they take their morning sip:

  • Sweetened Coffee Creamer

  • Artificial Sweeteners

Coffee Creamers often contain a heavy load of calories from sugar. Look at the nutritional label and read the recommended serving size and the calories per serving, then think about how many servings you add to your coffee. You can cut back on the number of sweetened creamers or go for an alternative sweetener. Many, choose artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are designed to provide a desired level of sweetness without the guilt over calories, however, there are drawbacks to their use. One drawback to artificial sweeteners is that they tend to be much sweeter than natural sugar. Over time regular use can cause the body to crave foods or beverages with higher levels of sweetness, which often can drive people to make poor food choices to fill that craving. Data analysis of multiple studies shows that there is an increased risk of obesity with the use of artificial sweeteners despite the lack of calories.

Better alternatives to sweeten your morning coffee are options lower in carbohydrates but high in taste like Agave nectar or Stevia. Both alternatives are naturally occurring sweeteners with added nutritional value but do not cause blood sugar levels to rise as rapidly as regular sugar. As with any sweetener, you should use them in moderation.

Sautee Successfully

Most people by now realize that it is healthier to avoid frying food in oil, however, some dishes call for a light sauteeing, and the type and amount of oil can make the difference in calories. Several healthier oil alternatives to sauteing foods include:

  • Olive Oil

  • Avocado Oil

  • Sesame Seed Oil

  • Almond Oil

The above oils are able to be used in cooking food at higher without burning as easily. Some oils start to burn and smoke easily with high temperatures which makes them better suited for cold dishes. The oils listed above are healthier because they contain less saturated fats which can have a negative impact on cardiovascular health over time. However, too much of any oil in your food preparation can lead to excess calories and weight gain. In order to minimize my oil use in sauteing I use an Oil Sprayer to decrease my oil consumption.

Thirsty or Hungry

The brain can have a horrible tendency to misinterpret thirst as hunger. If your body is constantly thinking it needs to eat when it actually needs hydration, then you will be driven to take in more calories. This is the reason that staying well hydrated is important when you are trying to lose weight. Studies have found a link between poor water intake and increased obesity. So how might you secretly be sabotaging your weight loss if you are drinking water? Excessive salt intake is the way.

Many processed meals on the market advertised for weight loss tend to have an excessive amount of salt content. More than 50% of your daily recommended salt intake can often be found in one of those meals. Also, look at the premixed seasonings combos that you buy. You may be shocked to realize that many already have salt added. Being a little too heavy-handed with salt can lead to water retention and a tendency to eat when you are actually thirsty.

Avoid processed meals when possible, also go for seasoning mixes that are salt-free such as the various DASH seasoning mixes. Dash seasonings are salt-free which can help to decrease the risk of dehydration and water retention from excessive salt in your diet. Experiment with the various combinations for your dishes to see which offers the best flavor.

Vitamin Deficiency

Many people are guilty of cooking the nutritional benefits out of their food. For example, many people cook their fresh vegetables by boiling them, and unfortunately many of desired nutrients are lost in the water which is usually poured off and not consumed. A few common vegetables that suffer this fate are:

  • Broccoli

  • Okra

  • Spinach

  • Collards

  • Carrots

Why is the loss of dietary nutrients important?

Minimizing the loss of dietary nutrients during food preparation is important because studies have shown a link between vitamin deficiencies and obesity. Let's take collard greens, for example, raw collards are rich in vitamin A. Most people cook their collards by boiling them and then pour off the nutrient-rich water. Multiple studies have shown an association between Vitamin A deficiency and increased body fat. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to obesity.

To avoid nutrient loss you can cook your vegetables differently if you do not want to eat them raw. Instead of boiling consider steaming them or roasting them in an oven.

Over if you must boil them consider preparing them in a stew so that you will still consume the nutrient-rich broth rather than discarding it. You can buy vegetables in microwave-ready steamer bags, but those tend to be pricey. Instead, a better option is to purchase a steamer basket to use in your cooking pot or an actual food steamer.

Salad Dressing Surprise

You may be inclined to reach for a salad instead of cooking your vegetables to get the maximum nutritional benefit. Salads are great but many people are surprised that they continue to pack on the pounds despite eating mostly salads. The answer to the unexpected results may lie in what you put on top of your salads.

It is important to consume appropriate portions of topping such as meats and cheese, but many people overlook the calories added by their salad dressing. Some store-purchased salads often come with a salad dressing packet that many people assume contains 1 serving, but in reality, they may contain several servings. Also, many salad dressings can be very calorie heavy with some dressings like Cesar coming in at around 170 calories per 2-tablespoon serving. Rule of thumb, creamy dressings tend to have more calories, so if you want to enjoy a salad with your favorite dressing be aware of the possible added calories. A lower calorie alternative dressing is a vinaigrette which comes in many different flavors.

Hopefully, the above tips may help you to recognize subtle ways that you may have been sabotaging your weight loss efforts and ways to correct them.

Weight Loss Sabotage in Summary

  • Low-Calorie food supplements can still cause you to pack on the pounds

  • The amount of oil used is just as important as the type of oil used for weight loss.

  • The way that you cook your veggies can cause a loss of nutrients that may lead to weight gain.

  • Stay well hydrated


University of Connecticut (2019). Heart Healthy Cooking Oils.

Chang, T et al. (2016). Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009-2012. The Annals of Family Medicine

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