Here's a secret from the trimmest people around: While there are plenty of things you should do if you want to get—and stay—at a manageable weight, there are plenty that you shouldn't be doing.
And it's those things that could be harming your weight, without you even realizing it.
So, just in time for those famed New Year's resolutions, it can't hurt to arm yourself with some additional knowledge, perhaps even incorporate them into your resolutions, if you go that route.
Don't arrive hungry.
Of course, you want to have an appetite for that lovely meal you've been invited to, or that restaurant you've been waiting months to try. And I'm not advising that you get there with a full stomach. But some people, in anticipation of a big meal, starve themselves all day. Yet here's the thing: If you arrive ravenous, it's tough to be rational and eat the right things. You're more likely to reach for the all the wrong things to fill you up quickly (think tempting bread basket placed right in front of you) or order the worst choices off the menu. (It's kind of analogous to going to the supermarket hungry—another don't. Gets you in trouble Every. Single. Time.)
Don't neglect exercise.
You may think that all you need to do to lose or manage your weight is to cut calories. And that is true—sort of. Although exercise is not the panacea for weight loss, it still matters. In a meta-analysis (a study of studies) published last year, it was found that a combination of behavioral weight loss programs and exercise yielded more sustained weight loss over a year than just diet alone. And you can't ignore that exercise is important to tone muscles and firm up—plus, it's got undeniable health benefits, among them protection from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
Don't snack from the bag.
Most of us love a good snack—and there's nothing wrong with that—unless you're snacking directly out of the bag. Then you can bag all your self-control and good intentions. That's because it's almost impossible to monitor your portions, and it's all too easy to eat more than you intend or more than you need. Instead, place your reasonably-sized portion into a bowl or plate, stash the bag and munch away. And while you're at it, you might as well snack smart, with foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and nuts.
Don't forget to drink water.
It's possible for your body to mistake thirst for hunger, so before you reach for some food, grab a glass of water instead. It might be just what you need to feel full and satisfied. And although the impact is rather modest, German researchers have found that water consumption can increase your calorie burn rate.
Don't eat the fake stuff.
Those prepackaged weight loss "foods" like bars and shakes may be convenient and tempting, but the satisfaction quotient tends to be rather low. It's tough to feel satiated on processed, empty calories. Instead, reach for the "real" stuff—foods that are healthier and more filling (and contain the same calorie count), like a cheese stick, a serving of plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit or a banana with peanut butter.