#334 Diet Pitfalls!

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An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.

Irv Kupcinet

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4 Diet Pitfalls—and How to Avoid Them

By Shaun T, creator of Get Real with Shaun T™

Oh sure, everyone always says to me, "Shaun, I swear, I eat very healthily. I have a clean diet." But when people are experiencing "stubborn pounds" that won't budge off their bodies, I see uncertainty and fear in their eyes when I say, "I bet it's a common eating habit that is undermining your hard work."

Nutrition LabelOh yeah. It's natural for us to be less than honest with ourselves about where we're cheating on our nutritional plans. We work out and have the best of intentions for our daily meals, but we end up falling short of our goals for having a balanced nutritional plan for various reasons. Some of the most common pitfalls can be avoided simply by being aware of them.

Walking, Good Food, Journal, and Small Portions

  1. Stress eating. Hey, I readily admit that food is comforting—especially comfort food. You know, the mac and cheese; the meatloaf and buttery mashed potatoes; an entire pint of butter pecan ice cream . . . enough said. But there are so many better ways to beat stress than by eating yourself into a stupor.

    Walking on the BeachDo this instead: My favorite thing to do is to get out and just take a walk. Focus on your body and forget the snacks, and get some air deep into your lungs, clear your head, feel your blood pumping, and stretch your legs out. It won't take but a few minutes for you to reap big benefits from taking a brisk walk . . . away from the vending machine. Or if it's raining, put on some great music and dance—that works too! You can get plenty of this done with Hip Hop Abs® or my Dance Party Series.

  2. Grazing. Many people have a complete lack of structure to their daily meals—they actually never stop nibbling throughout the day—from bits of bagels and bites of donuts in the morning all the way through to chips in front of the TV for late-night channel surfing. Grazers have absolutely no set meal times, and end up shutting down their bodies' natural calorie-burning cycles through the constant onslaught of fat and calories.

    Eating FruitDo this instead: Of course, avoid the bad stuff. Instead of vending-machine junk and food with a low nutritional value, pack healthy snacks for nibbling. And make time for balanced meals that will satisfy your appetite so you won't be reaching for whatever's near. See the action plan for #3.

  3. Unconscious eating. Eating without paying attention to what you're doing, or without even realizing that you're consuming calories.

    Writing in JournalDo this instead: Keeping a food journal is the best way I know to determine whether you have unconscious-eating tendencies. One of my clients confessed that while keeping her journal, she would catch herself working at her desk and suddenly realize that she needed to jot down the cookie she'd just eaten at a coworker's desk. They'd offered her a homemade cookie, and she'd eaten it without even thinking about it—much less factoring it into her daily planned food intake. Cha-CHING! Those 200 sweet calories needed to be added to her daily tally in her food journal to get an accurate picture of what she was eating.

  4. Double portions. It's not just restaurants that are offering us bigger portions to show us the value of their meals; it's loved ones and friends and ourselves who proudly serve up much more than our bodies need for fuel at mealtime—on a regular basis. It's because we think we're showing love, or are being shown love, through food. We'd also feel stingy if we were to serve the plate with less on it. The sad fact is that "normal" portions in the U.S. aren't just a fraction more food than needed for having a balanced meal—they're like double, which is in excess of what your body requires, and WAY more than you can burn through your daily workout!

    Small PortionsDo this instead: Ask yourself, "Do 20 bites of a huge sandwich really taste that much better than 10?" How do those 10 extra bites taste when you know you can't burn them off that day and at least half that sandwich is going to turn into those "stubborn" pounds? Stick with sane portions; listen to your body.

Yes, these are four common pitfalls. They're all too common—but that doesn't make them any less devastating to our fitness results and our ultimate health goals (and don't forget that it can also be discouraging to the mental image you have of where you want to be). Be aware of where you might be defeating yourself, and take some time to form a personal plan to help you avoid these pitfalls on a daily basis.

Peace Out.
Shaun T

Related Articles
"10 Foods You Should Eat"
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, December 1st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Shaun TIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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6 Guilt-Free Choices for Thanksgiving

By Joe Wilkes

It's that time of year when it's not just the turkey that's getting stuffed. The Thanksgiving table is full of irresistible treats and sweets, but before you commit yourself to an afternoon of gluttony, followed by the traditional unbuttoning of the pants in front of the TV, you might consider that there are a lot of options that are actually good for you. And, if you're the one planning the menu, you can include even more choices so that you can enjoy Thanksgiving without turning into a Macy's parade float.

Thanksgiving Dinner

  1. TurkeyTurkey. You can't beat lean turkey breast. With only 44 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 8 grams of protein per ounce, this is one of the healthiest things you can load up on. Even the dark meat only adds an extra gram of fat and 9 more calories per ounce. But skip the skin, which adds extra calories and fat, and go light on the gravy. Try the salad-dressing technique—dip the tines of your fork in the gravy before you spear your meat to get more flavor with less fat. Also, if you're cooking, baste the bird with broth, not butter, to keep the fat and calories low.

  2. CranberriesCranberries. These tart little berries are bursting with nutrition, including high levels of vitamin C and several polyphenol antioxidants. (Read "6 Ways to Boost Your Antioxidant Levels" in the Related Articles section below for more about getting antioxidants in your diet.) Cranberries are also good at inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the bladder and urethra. It's also believed that cranberries contain a chemical that helps stop tooth decay, but this could be moot if the cranberries are prepared with sugar. Instead of going overboard with the sugar, try cooking cranberries in orange juice, or a little port wine, to bring out their flavor without oversweetening them.

  3. YamsYams. These tasty tubers (not to be confused with sweet potatoes) are great sources of vitamin B6, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, and potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure. And because yams contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, they won't spike your blood sugar. (Read "Miracle Foods to Tame That Sugar Spike" in the Related Articles section below for more tips on controlling your blood sugar.) Candying the yams, a popular Thanksgiving tradition, will largely negate any blood sugar benefits, however. Try having them with a little cinnamon instead. They are generally sweet enough on their own, but if your guests insist on candying them, maybe serve them with a little maple syrup on the side, so at least the sugar rush is optional.

  4. Sweet PotatoesSweet potatoes. Like their relative, the yam, sweet potatoes have lots of nutrients that regular potatoes don't have, including beta-carotene and vitamin C. The high levels of carotenoids in sweet potatoes also help regulate blood sugar, which will help you avoid the post-Thanksgiving "coma" that afflicts so many overindulgers on the holiday. Although, once again, you can easily counteract the nutritional benefits by melting marshmallows on top of the sweet spuds. But, at least marshmallows can be easily scraped off as opposed to the poor candied yam, which would have to be scrubbed down to get it back to its natural nutritious state.

  5. SaladSalad. Load up on salad! And by salad, we mean lettuce and vegetables, not a cream-based Waldorf salad or mayonnaise-laden potato or macaroni salad. This is a good contribution you can make if you're a guest at someone else's Thanksgiving dinner. Offer to bring a salad, with dressing on the side, and you'll at least be guaranteed that there will be one healthy dish on the table. (Read "10 Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Salad" in the Related Articles section below for some salad ideas.)

  6. Pumpkin PiePumpkin pie. When you're looking at the dessert selection, keep in mind that a slice of pumpkin pie has as much beta-carotene as an entire carrot. Take that, apple pie! It's also high in vitamin C. Unfortunately, it can oftentimes also be high in fat and sugar. But if you're making the pie, you can substitute skim milk for cream or sweetened, condensed milk. Some chefs even add silken tofu to thicken the pie filling, and provide the extra health benefits of soy.

SaladIf you're lucky or unlucky enough to be hosting the main event, you can try some other things to "health up" the meal. Think about offering a salad course and/or a (non-cream-based) soup course. This can prolong the meal and conversation (which can be good or bad, depending on your family) and allow you to fill up on healthy stuff before the main-course shoveling begins. Also, try scheduling the meal so it isn't eaten in front of the football game. Then, you can pay attention to your guests and what you're putting in your mouth. If you're at the mercy of some other Thanksgiving host, hope for a cornucopia of vegetables that you can choose from or offer to bring something healthy and delicious yourself. By making healthy choices, you'll have something to be thankful for instead of a couple of extra pounds.

Related Articles
"6 Ways to Boost Your Antioxidant Levels"
"Miracle Foods to Tame That Sugar Spike"
"10 Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Salad"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, December 1st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Turkey IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

True or False?

  1. TurkeyFalse: Young tom turkeys have tenderer meat than older birds. Actually, the older tom turkeys are tenderer than the young toms, which tend to be more muscular and stringy. However, it is the opposite with hen turkeys. The older hens tend to be far tougher birds. So young hens and old toms are the way to go, something my more seasoned friend Tom has long averred.

  2. True: Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird instead of the eagle. Franklin thought the eagle was an ignoble, cowardly bird and was more favorably inclined toward the turkey. In his own words, in a letter to his daughter:

      For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . . I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

  3. King Henry VIIIFalse: The turkey was domesticated in Canada. The turkey was domesticated in Mexico and Central America by the Incans as early as 200 BC. It was brought to Europe in the 16th century. Henry VIII was the first king of England to eat turkey, and he is often portrayed in his portly years with a turkey leg clenched in his fist. Edward VII popularized the eating of turkey at Christmas, a tradition which 90 percent of modern-day Brits enjoy today, roughly the same percentage as Americans who eat turkey for Thanksgiving.

  4. True: Forty-five million turkeys are eaten in the U.S. on Thanksgiving. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they are "begun to be eaten." About a sixth of the American turkey population is ingested the fourth Thursday in November every year. Turkey has steadily risen in popularity, as it is higher in protein than chicken or beef and lower in fat. The average American now eats around 17 pounds of turkey a year.

  5. StoveFalse: The temperature of a cooked turkey thigh should be 140 degrees. Only if you're serving Turkey a la Salmonella! The temperature of the deepest part of the thigh should be 180 degrees for safe eating. However, I recommend cutting off the breast meat a little earlier. Because of the size of the bird and its low fat content, the breast is often overcooked and dry before the thighs are cooked through. It's not as glamorous a presentation as tableside carving, but you'll get juicier results if you cut the breast meat off first and let the rest of the bird cook through a bit longer on its own.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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