Do as I say, not as I do?
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Turns out, this adage applies to nutrition and diet advice as much as anything else, according to the experts we interviewed for this story. Even nutritionists can’t estimate calories correctly, explains NYU professor Marion Nestle, PhD, in her book Why Calories Count. In one experiment, nutritionist Lisa Young found that when dietitians were asked to estimate the number of calories in several fast-food meals during a meeting of the American Dietetic Association, they underestimated the amount by about 30 percent. What’s more, even the most well-meaning health experts may give outdated advice. Read on to learn the biggest pitfalls—and how to outsmart them.
Mistake: Cutting too many calories
“Cut calories, lose weight” is the most basic weight-loss advice out there, but eating too little can actually slow your metabolism, causing the pounds to creep back on. “Even if you’re restricting calories healthfully, it’s hard to meet all your nutritional needs when you go too low,” says Samantha Heller, RD, author of Get Smart: Samantha Heller’s Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health. It’s a trap she’s seen experts fall into, thinking that an extreme weight-loss program may help “get me kickstarted.”
Lose-it lesson: Don’t fall for big gimmicks. Depending on your size, activity level, and other factors, dipping below 1,200 calories a day isn’t a good idea for long-term weight loss. Follow the 7 rules of counting calories to make sure you’re losing weight the healthy way.