Ever find yourself bouncing back and forth between all the different things you’ve been told to start doing to lose weight? Sometimes, with weight loss, it’s better to focus on what we should stop doing.
Certain bad habits, when eliminated from our lives, help us lose weight no matter how far we have to go.
You can stop doing some things today, while others might take a bit longer.
1. Stop drinking calories.
If you’re looking for the low-hanging fruit of weight loss, look no further than your liquids. – Yoni Freedhoff, MD at University of Ottawa, Medical Institute
The average American drinks 400 calories per day according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Most of those calories come from sugary drinks like juice and soda.
Depending on your size and activity level, those 400 calories can comprise as much as 15 to 25 percent of your daily allowance.
Want to jump start your weight loss? Stop drinking calories and restrict your beverage intake to water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee.
2. Stop using exercise as a weight loss tool.
Taking the stairs didn’t earn you a cheeseburger. -Amber Dance, LA Times
I’m not alone in this recommendation.
Vox researchers did a comprehensive review of 60 studies on exercise & weight loss and found that exercise is great for your health & mindset, but useless for weight loss.
Why is exercise useless for weight loss? For three subtle reasons:
- People seem to unconsciously increase their food intake after exercise such that no calorie deficit is created.
- People often use exercise to justify binging on unhealthy foods.
- People sometimes become less active after exercise. They might take a nap to recover, ride the elevator instead of take the stairs, or park closer than normal to the store entrance.
When it comes to weight loss, how you eat is far more important than how you workout. Which is a great segue for my next tip.
3. Stop eating sugar.
Sugar is a dastardly devil, shameless snare for many a man, woman and child. -Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple
Sugar is calorically dense and quickly metabolized. Once eaten, the body quickly decides whether to burn it for energy or store it as fat. If you’re not in a fasted or starved state, your body plans to store sugar as fat. And since very few of us are ever in a truly fasted or starved state, every bit of sugar we eat is stored as fat.
Stop eating sugar and you’ll lose weight.
4. Stop eating grains & carbs.
Eating wheat is like an extreme sport. It’s the only food that carries its own mortality rate. — William Davis, author of Wheat Belly
Carb heavy foods like bread, pasta, and rice are similar to sugar. They’re calorically dense and quickly converted to fat if the body doesn’t immediately need the energy.
Most weight loss experts agree that max fat burning is achieved when the body gets less than 50 carbs per day. To put that in perspective, there are almost 50 grams of carbs in one serving of white rice.
The keto diet, perhaps the most effective diet in history if measured in success rate and speed of fat loss, takes it even farther — recommending less than 20 grams of carbs per day.
If you’re determined to lose weight, you should be determined to stop eating carbs.
5. Stop eating fruit.
When someone says that “humans have always eaten fruit.” That’s true, but it’s not the same fruit we eat today. Today’s fruit contains way more sugar than ever before… it’s candy… – Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.
Fruit falls in a protected class for most people. You can take away their processed sugars & carbs, but not their fruit.
“It’s good for me!,” they exclaim. “Give me fruit, or give me death!”
I used to believe fruit was amazing too — even going so far as to try and subsist on a diet of chicken legs and strawberries as a teenager who wanted six pack abs.
Now I see fruit only as sugar-filled plants that have been modified to look enticing and be easily edible. For example, here is what a banana used to look like before genetic modification:
Notice the thick peel and large seeds which make the banana’s sweet flesh less accessible and less desirable. That was nature’s way of enforcing moderation.
Today’s fruit has more sugar, fewer seeds, and a better PR team. It also makes you fat. Having trouble losing weight? Stop eating fruit.
6. Stop draining the fat.
My parents generation was taught that grains were good and fat is bad. That message was so effective that many people today are still repulsed by the sight of melted fat. They even give it a yucky-sounding name — “grease.”
People diligently trying to be healthy will pat down their bacon with paper towels, drain the fat off their ground meats, and drip only a few drops of olive oil on their salads for fear of eating too much fat. All the while, they’ll be pounding “healthy” muffins, breadsticks, and dinner rolls.
We’ve now learned that pretty much the opposite is true. Grain consumption makes you fat & sickly while eating lots of fat helps keep you satiated and full without making you fat.
Especially if you’re eating mostly meat & vegetables (as you should if you’re trying to lose weight), you need to eat a lot of fat to feel full & satisfied after a meal. People who experience hunger while on a low carb & low sugar diet typically aren’t getting enough fat in their diet.
Want to make this actionable today? Stop draining all the fat off your meats and start liberally adding more olive oil to your veggie dishes.
7. Stop trying to diet alone.
Diets are a private journey for most people and that’s a problem. According to a weight loss study by two researchers at the University of Minnesota, dieters who recruit friends to join them are more 25% more likely to stick to their diet and almost three times as likely to maintain their weight loss in full.
And friends are much better than robots when it comes to weight loss support as health researcher Mandy Schippers discovered when she compared the impact of text messages sent by friends versus automated texts sent by apps.
Her study found that dieters lost more weight when they received texts from friends like “great job opting for the salad last night!” versus dieters who received automated check-in texts from apps.
Thinking of starting a diet? Chances are a few friends are too. Tell them what you’re doing and see if they’ll join in.
8. Stop attempting complicated recipes.
What my mother believed about cooking is that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you. – Nora Ephron
I’m a low carb dieter and I must say that even our relatively tiny recipe ecosystem is in a sad state of affairs.
Recipe creators one up each other with elaborate dishes that were never meant to be low carb in the first place. The most popular low carb recipes on Pinterest are almost always complicated dishes with many steps, obscure ingredients, and long prep times.
The reality is that most successful low carb dieters aren’t surviving on complicated dishes. We’re constantly eating simple fare like turkey, mayo, & pickles on a lettuce wrap.
I don’t necessarily fault the recipe creators, they need website clicks to support their families. But you should be aware that a Google search for “healthy recipes” can be a minefield of trap recipes waiting to frustrate you and derail you from your diet.
A simple trick is to preface all your online recipe searches with “simple”, “quick”, or “fast” and see what pops up. My rule of thumb is to construct weekly meal plans out of recipes that require fewer than 5 ingredients and less than 1 hour total prep time.
If you need simple recipe ideas, I’ve started a project where I create one simple, minimalist low carb recipe per week and share it via email.
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9. Stop shunning leftovers.
I can’t cook. I can remix leftovers pretty good, though. -Big Boi from Outkast
To stick to your diet, reduce the number of times you have to cook. It’s unfair to expect yourself to make fresh meals every day.
This is where leftovers come in handy. My meal prep approach is to cook two big dishes on Sunday and eat leftovers until Tuesday. Once the leftovers start running low, I’ll prepare another dish from scratch and repeat the cycle.
Usually this means I’m preparing about four dishes per week instead of seven or more.
For the tastiest leftovers, I make dishes that age well in the fridge like casseroles, stir fry’s, and grilled meats.
10. Stop grocery shopping in person.
You do realize I’m literally the only person in this entire grocery store who’s actually buying stuff for myself. – Monica from HBO series Silicon Valley
My grocery store always has a packed parking lot and long checkout lines, so I’ve started shopping for my groceries online using Instacart and I love it.
After my first few deliveries, I’ve noticed an important fringe benefit of online ordering: no more impulse buys. My grocery deliveries only include the things I need to make healthy meals for the week.
Online ordering is a great weight loss hack for dieters who struggle to stick to their list when they enter a grocery store. Honestly, I don’t blame impulse buyers because many grocers do nefarious things like place the bakery right at the entrance of the store so that you have to walk through it when you come into the store.
Encouragingly, online ordering seems available just about everywhere as even local grocers are offering the service direct through their websites. If you can’t order groceries online in your area, hire a local teenager to do it for you.
11. Stop watching commercials.
I watch a lot of college football on TV during the fall and inevitably find myself craving pizza. I eat low carb and dairy-free and yet I really want pizza.
Because during football season, companies like Papa Johns, Dominos, and Pizza Hut are constantly running ads during games. And they work.
According to a Yale University study on the priming effects of TV ads on eating behavior, exposure to TV ads significantly increases an adult’s desire and consumption of unhealthy food, even when someone is already full. Beyond their own research, they found several other studies that corroborate their findings.
My solution to this problem has been to cord cut. I cancel cable and only watch Netflix & HBO Go so I never see commercials. This saves me about $75/mo on cable bills and reduces my cravings for fast food and pizza.
If you have to keep cable on, it’s worth DVR-ing your favorite shows and skipping ads. When live sports are on, occupy yourself with a chore, conversation, or walk around the house during commercial breaks.
12. Stop showing up to parties empty-handed.
Many people cheat on their diet when attending parties or special events. They show up empty-handed and find themselves surrounded by bad foods. Even worse, they have to watch everyone around them thoroughly enjoying those bad foods.
The best solution is to bring food & drinks to the party that fit your diet. And, bring enough for everyone to sample.
I personally like taking deviled eggs to parties because they’re a crowd pleaser and fit almost every diet imaginable.
Beyond just making your diet easier, bringing healthy food and drinks to a party makes you stand out as a person who adds value rather than someone who just shows up expecting to be fed and entertained.
13. Stop surrounding yourself with other people’s bad food.
What’s in your house, you will eat. -Mr. SkinnyPants
Surrounding yourself with other people’s bad food will slowly exhaust your will power and cause you to make bad choices. Even if you don’t cheat immediately when you see a a bad food, that trigger is using up your willpower so that you’re more likely to cheat down the road.
If I had to name the three types of dieters who struggle the most. It would be:
- Parents of young kids
- Husbands of pregnant spouses
What’s the common thread? They are constantly surrounded by someone else’s unhealthy foods.
Parents have their kids’ sugary snacks and drinks staring them in the face every time they open the fridge or pantry. Even kiddy foods that used to repulse them will look enticing after three days on a diet. I’ve shamefully eaten an entire six pack of my two-year-old-son’s apple sauce when the urges got too strong (and I’m the same guy who was smearing fruit earlier in this article).
Fathers-to-be will find themselves racing to the store to buy their pregnant wives all manner of unhealthy foods…and then are surprised to find themselves eating it too.
Nurses have a break room culture where there’s always some unhealthy treat sitting around.
Dieters like these must take decisive action so that they’re not constantly surrounded by bad foods. Here are some ideas:
- Stop buying bad foods for others. This is especially pertinent advice for parents. Explain to your kids why their old foods were unhealthy and why they won’t find them in the house any more. Let them pick out some healthy substitutes. If necessary, make it a game or reward system where they accumulate points for eating healthy things. Make it a rule that no unhealthy foods get brought into the house.
- Put bad foods in opaque bags. If you absolutely have to have bad foods on hand for other people (like a pregnant wife), then put the bad foods in a brown paper bag. Not seeing it will make it surprisingly easier to resist. This is the strategy I used when my wife was pregnant and demanding Oreos.
- Ask for bad foods to be hidden or relocated. This is for office workers who always have treats sitting next to their desk. Talk to the “baker” and let her know that you’re trying to get healthy & fit and that you really love her treats, but are trying to abstain and her treats are too tempting to resist when placed close to your desk. Usually expressing your vulnerability will be enough such that the baker will peacefully relocate the treats to another location.
If you want to lose weight, you have to start by eliminating triggers that cause you to make bad choices. Your will power is limited. Don’t waste it staring at other people’s bad foods.
Author’s note: As I’m writing this post, I had to take my own advice and hide a half-eaten slice of apple pie that my wife bought at the store. It was on the kitchen counter. Now it’s resting behind three bottles of cooking oil on an upper shelf in our pantry.
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