Losing the bulge is often much harder than expected, as there is no magic that will instantly melt the fat away. The truth is most diets fail miserably and dieters often end up losing not fat but money and time.

Perhaps, what you need is not more dieting or pills but to start thinking about your food choices and lifestyle habits. Here are five more reasons your diet may not be working right:

1. Missing meals

Skipping meals will not always cut down your calories but instead, it may make you gain extra kilos especially when you have regularly skipped meals over a prolonged period. Obviously, you will feel hungry later and this may put you on a binge over the next meal, thus upsetting your metabolism.

Laura Moore, RD, director of the dietetic internship program at The University of Texas Health Science Centre explained, “Chemical signals that increase and decrease appetite are sent to the brain. This weight regulation system helps maintain a healthy weight for most people by modifying hunger, activity, and metabolism to keep the body weight within a target.”

"Moving below this target, or set point, by skipping meals can be challenging because the brain's energy-balance system goes into action, pushing the weight back to its set point or even above," she added.

Instead of fighting with your body, Moore recommends listening to the body's signals to eat when hungry and stop when full.

2. Not eating enough calories

Dieters often assume that by cutting down on calories, they will lose weight fast. However, this may be a gross oversimplification as it is not the increased calorie intake that is driving the kilos, but hormones, growth factors and physiological processes. Pushing too hard on the calories is not always sustainable or healthy.

According to dietitian and author of Belly Fat for Dummies Erin Palinski-Wade, it's only a piece of the puzzle. "A calorie is not just a calorie. Depending on what you consume, calories from nutrients such as protein and unsaturated fat keep you full for an extended period, whereas calories from simple sugars digest rapidly."

Thus, the focus should be on eating nutritious food at the right quantities and making wise food choices by reading labels and noting its ingredients.

A study from Japan found that calorie restriction leads to slower metabolic rate, which means your body goes into survival mode, slowing down your metabolism to conserve energy and prevent weight loss.

3. Not drinking enough clear fluids

Staying hydrated while on a diet is important. A recent study from the University of Illinois found that people who increased their water consumption by one to three cups reduced their caloric intake by 68 to 205 calories daily. They also lowered their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol.

Drink water instead of flavoured drinks, and if you are not into plain water, try adding a few slices of lemon into your water. Water helps to fill you up so you actually eat less. "The body is composed of 50 to 60% water, so it's a necessary nutrient to maintain body fluids," Moore said.

"Water isn't the key to weight loss, but it can substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, which decreases calories," Moore explained.

4 . Inadequate physical activity

"If you have been adjusting your food intake without seeing the scale move, it may be because diet is just one part of the weight loss puzzle," said Palinski-Wade.

Dieting is not all about keeping count of how many meals you eat. Exercise is just as important and it is one of the keys to more lasting weight loss. Exercise helps to speed up your metabolism and it helps if you make it part of your daily life, that is, take the stairs instead of the lift, park farther from the door, and do some chores.

As Palinski-Wade advised, "If you are taking in fewer calories but also moving less, you will be burning fewer calories as well. That cancels out your overall calorie deficit, which leads to limited weight loss."

5. An overly-limited diet

People determined to lose weight often go on a self-denial trip, consoling themselves that the sacrifice is worth it. But as days go by, you may find that you fast one day and then binge three meals; it is no wonder you are back in full circle. 

"Being too restrictive with your meal plan leads to burn out and often times binge eating," Palinski-Wade explained. "Instead of 'dieting,' focus on making one or two small changes and build upon this over time to not just lose weight, but to keep it off for life." MIMS

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