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5 Gut-Busting Diet Mistakes

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WebMD Feature

You're working to slim down, but your belly hasn’t budged much yet.

Maybe you're making one of these mistakes. Shifting these habits could make all the difference. Losing the extra belly fat can lower your odds of getting heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.

1. Thinking You'll Work It Off

You may be confident that you can make up for it in the gym, but think twice.

“There’s a myth about the role of exercise in weight loss,” says Brett White, MD, a family medicine physician in Newport Beach, CA. “Exercise is critical for [heart] health. But realistically, losing weight starts with what we put in our mouths.”

San Francisco-based nutritionist Manuel Villacorta, RD, founder of the weight management web site EatingFree.com, sees many men in their 40s and older who have discovered the shortcomings of exercise in their weight loss efforts.

“It’s what worked before,” Villacorta says, “but now they’re finding that it doesn’t have the same effect.”

Of course, you need to be active to lose weight and keep it off. Just don't count on exercise alone to cover your calories -- especially when you're packing away too much too often.

2. Not Planning Your Meals -- or Skipping Them Altogether

It's not just about what you eat. When you eat it also matters.

Eating on the run or at odd hours, you may be throwing off the brain signals that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re satisfied. And that might lead to eating more than you should.

Skipping meals to slim down is also a bad idea.

When you put off eating, your metabolism slows down, and your body begins to store fat. “Anything that affects the metabolic rate will contribute to fat buildup,” Villacorta says. The bulk of that fat, he adds, gets stored in your midsection.

Your metabolism slows naturally as you age, Villacorta says, but you can keep it as active as possible by eating regularly. That means breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with healthy snacks in between.

Bonus: You’re less likely to overdo it at your next meal if you don’t let yourself get too hungry in the first place. “Excessive hunger is often followed by gorging,” White says.

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