JJ's other must-do healthy habit? Get plenty of sleep! (Photo courtesy of JJ Virgin)
You gave up sweets, get plenty of sleep every night, and your pantry looks like a Whole Foods boutique, yet your waistline hasn’t budged an inch — so what gives? JJ Virgin, celebrity nutrition and fitness expert and co-star of the TLC series Freaky Eaters says that these healthy habits might actually be harming your weight loss efforts. We caught up with Virgin to debunk five sneaky food sins that seem healthy, yet are actually making you gain weight. Check out what they are below.
- You eat too much healthy food. “When it comes to your calorie intake, you have to think of your body as a bank account,” Virgin says. “Just because strawberries are healthy doesn’t mean you can eat 4 pounds of them. The same goes with nuts — yes, they are healthy but eat too many and they’re not. People I work with often experience the halo effect — they know they are eating something healthy so they eat more than they should, which counteracts eating healthy in the first place.”
- You’re eating healthy foods, but they might not be healthy for you. Your body has an inflammatory reaction to hold on to weight when you eat some staple items such as eggs, dairy, and soy. "When my clients pull these foods out of their diet, they lose 5 to 10 pounds almost instantly," Virgin says. Try swapping coconut milk (she likes So Delicious Coconut Milk) instead of soymilk and start to see a difference in your middle.
- You skimp on breakfast. Not having a big enough breakfast sets your metabolic tone for the entire day. In a recent study, people who ate a larger breakfast (approximately 600 calories) lost more weight and kept it off than people who only had a 200 calories breakfast. Virgin recommends starting the day off with a shake for a healthy start. “Having a latte and a muffin will send your blood sugar crashing by 10 a.m.,” she says. “I tell my clients to make a pea rice protein shake with berries to keep your blood sugar stabilized and help you stay in fat-burning mode.”
- You’re snacking. Though many experts recommend snacking every few hours, Virgin believes in a different school of thought. “You should eat within an hour of waking up, and every four to six hours throughout the day, stopping three to four hours before you go to bed. This means you’ll eat a total of three times, with maybe one snack in between. If you find yourself snacking, then you didn’t eat the right combination of foods for your meal, and that’s the real issue.”
- You use artificial sweeteners. If you need a sweetener, Virgin recommends the tiniest bit of raw honey. “Artificial sweeteners cause calorie dysregulation, and you'll end up overeating because your body can’t correlate the level of sweetness to calories. Plus, if you eat sweet, you’ll crave sweet. You might have been born with a sweet tooth, buy you can retrain it to crave healthier options, like blueberries, or almond butter with cinnamon.” Virgin also warns against using the latest sweetener craze, agave. “Agave is a huge halo effect food,” she says. “It has the highest level of fructose over any other sweetener, and is a straight connection to insulin resistance (making it more difficult to lower your blood sugar).”
Now tell us: Do you snack on a diet, or stick to three meals a day?