Losing weight can be tricky! Even if you’re armed with an arsenal of weight-loss tips, when you’re insanely busy it can be tough to focus on your goals in a healthy, sustainable way. While it is easy to mess up, knowing the traps you’re most likely to fall into will make it simpler for you to steer clear.
There are just too many common mistakes you’re likely to encounter if you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier in general. It is important to understand, though, that healthy eating looks different for everyone. And when it comes to weight loss as a goal, what works for some people may not work for others. It’s really crucial to think about your reasons for wanting to lose weight and whether pursuing weight loss is a healthy decision for you at all.
For example, if you have a history of disordered eating, you should check with your doctor first before trying any new nutrition plan. And even if you have no such history, it’s still critical to be realistic with your expectations and focus on a health-based approach.
Weight loss is more than just counting calories. Your results will depend on several other factors such as sleep, stress, overall health conditions, and even hormones. The most important tip we can give you is to pay attention to your body and be kind to yourself always.
Here are 20 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight and some tips to overcome them
1. Weighing Too Often
While weighing yourself every day will not directly hinder weight loss, it can lead to a lot of frustration. It’s important to remember that healthy, successful weight loss is a slow process. The actual number on the scales can be affected by different reasons from day today.
In fact, weight can fluctuate by up to 4 pounds over the course of a day, depending on how much food and liquid you’ve consumed. Also, increased estrogen levels and other hormonal changes in women can lead to greater water retention, which is reflected in scale weight (1).
If the number on the scale isn’t moving, you may very well be losing fat mass but holding on to water. Fortunately, you can do several things to lose water weight.
Additionally, if you’ve been working out, you may be gaining muscle and losing fat. When this happens, your clothes may start to feel looser especially around the waist despite a stable scale weight.
Try using a tape measure around your waist, hips, and thighs to track your progress once a week. If you really need to weigh yourself to keep yourself motivated, do it no more than once a week or even once every 2 weeks.
2. Focusing Only on Cardio and Ignoring Strength Training
You can safely say that some exercise is better than no exercise at all. But if you’ve been watching your diet, doing cardio, and leading an overall healthy lifestyle, yet your weight loss is not as good as you think it should be, the reason might be the lack of strength training.
Performing resistance training is incredibly important during weight loss. Lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. It also improves overall body composition and boosts belly fat loss.
You need to combine cardio and resistance training for better results. You can do them on alternate days or even on the same day if you have enough time.
3. Eating Too Many or Too Few Calories
A calorie deficit is needed for weight loss. This means you need to burn more calories than you eat. For many years, it was believed that a decrease of 3,500 calories per week would result in a pound of fat loss. However, recent research shows the calorie deficit needed to lose weight may from one person to another (2).
You may feel as though you’re not eating too many calories. But in fact, most of us have a tendency to underestimate and underreport what we consume (3).
You may be consuming too many foods that are healthy but also high in calories, such as nuts and cheese. Watching portion sizes is very important.
On the other hand, decreasing your calorie intake excessively can be counterproductive. Evidence shows that eating less than 1,000 calories per day can cause muscle loss and significantly slow down metabolism (4, 5, 6).
4. Not Exercising or Exercising Too Much
During weight loss, you inevitably lose some muscle mass as well as fat, although the amount will depend on several factors. If you don’t exercise at all while restricting calories, you’re likely to lose more muscle mass and experience a decrease in metabolic rate.
By contrast, exercising helps minimize the amount of lean mass you lose, boost fat loss and prevent your metabolism from slowing down. The more lean mass you have, the easier it is to lose weight and maintain weight loss (7, 8, 9).
However, over-exercising can also cause problems. Excessive exercise is unsustainable in the long term for most people and may lead to stress. It can also impair the production of adrenal hormones that regulate stress response (10).
Trying to force your body to burn more calories by exercising too much is neither effective nor healthy.
5. Not Reading Labels
Many packaged foods these days have healthy-sounding claims on the front of the package that fool you into believing they’re actually good for you. But if you check the nutrition label, you’ll see that most of those claims aren’t supported by any factual information. There is also a lot of sugar hiding among ingredients, often disguised as words ending with “-ose” – fructose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, and sucrose.
Another mistake you make when not reading labels is assuming that one package means one serving. Did you know that one serving of chips is only 13 to 16 chips? There’s definitely more than that in even the smallest bag.
Always check the list of ingredients and the nutrition label on the back of the package, and don’t forget to take note of the serving size, as well. This way, you’ll make sure you only eat what you actually need.
6. Forgetting About Sugar and Calories in Drinks
Do you know how much sugar your favorite Starbucks order has? Most popular Starbucks drinks have between 40 g and 60 g of sugar! It is 2-3 times as much as the maximum amount you should eat in a day and that’s just from one drink! Soda, fruit juices, beer, and wine are also full of carbs and calories that still leave you hungry because the appetite centers in your brain don’t react to liquid calories the same way as they do to calories from food.
Drink water! If you can’t stand the blandness of plain water, try adding lemon wedges, your favorite berries, or mint leaves to it to give it some taste. Unsweetened green tea is also a good beverage option.
7. Skipping Meals
Probably the most common mistake people make when trying to lose weight is skipping breakfast or dinner. It might seem logical at first. You think if you reduce your calorie intake this way, you’ll lose weight faster. However, skipping meals not only slows down your metabolism but it also makes you much more likely to snack and overeat later in the day.
Be sure you eat a healthy, nutrient-rich breakfast that will give you energy and prevent you from eating too much later. The perfect breakfast combines good carbs with fiber and protein. Oatmeal, eggs, and Greek yogurt with fruits are all good healthy-breakfast options.
8. Replacing Meals with Liquids
Green juices and smoothies are very popular right now, and a lot of people will use these as meal replacements. Unfortunately, oftentimes these beverages aren’t made up of the right mix of nutrients. Green juices lack fiber and protein, which are key nutrients in keeping you full and helping you meet your nutrient recommendations, and smoothies are typically loaded in sugar from juice, sweeteners, or too much fruit, and can be really high in calories from oversized portions of healthy fat sources like nuts and seeds.
9. Restricting Yourself Too Much
Reducing portion sizes is one of the most common pieces of advice for people trying to lose weight. When done right, it really works. However, you should never eat portions so tiny that you’re constantly feeling hungry. First, it’s obviously unhealthy. And second, when your calorie intake is too low, your metabolism slows down in trying to preserve limited energy, making it harder for you to lose weight.
Another mistake connected to restrictions is cutting out your favorite “bad” foods completely. This usually leads to serious cravings and to satisfy those cravings, you either eat too much of other foods or, if you restrict yourself for too long, end up gorging on your favorite “forbidden” treats and giving up on your diet altogether.
Instead, eat sensible-sized portions that will satiate you but won’t make you feel too full. Allow yourself a cheat meal once in a while. 1-2 cheat meals a week will help you deal with your cravings while allowing you to stay on track with your diet.
10. Cutting Out An Entire Food Group
When people are trying to lose weight, they often cut out an entire food group, like carbs or meat, but this usually just results in an unbalanced diet and even deficiencies in certain nutrients. Plus, for most people, this is not sustainable for a lifetime.
11. Steering Clear of Healthy Fats
Most dieters are stuck eating low-fat or fat-free versions of food, a holdover from the fat-phobic days of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. A moderate amount of fat is important as it helps with satiety. Plus, people end up replacing fat with refined carbs, which we now know can have a detrimental effect on health and weight.
Include healthy fat at every meal, in the form of nuts, seeds, liquid oils, avocados, oily fish, soy, and dairy products.
12. Not Eating Enough Protein
Getting enough protein is extremely important if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, protein has been shown to help with weight loss in several ways.
A review also found that higher-protein diets, containing 0.6–0.8 grams of protein per pound may benefit appetite control and body composition (14).
To optimize weight loss, make sure each of your meals contains a high-protein food.
13. Not Getting Enough Fiber
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to incorporate enough fiber-rich foods into your diet. Soluble fiber is especially helpful since it absorbs water and turns to gel, which moves slowly through your digestive system and makes you feel full longer. Fiber is also known to slow fat absorption, as well as keep blood sugar levels in check, both of which help your body store less fat (15).
You have to eat a fiber-rich diet. Oatmeal, nuts, peeled fruits, and beans are high in soluble fiber, while whole grains, brown rice, leafy vegetables, and fruit skins are good sources of insoluble fiber.
14. Lack of Quality Rest and Sleep
At first glance, it doesn’t look like sleep and losing weight have anything in common, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sleep deprivation leads to the levels of leptin, the fullness hormone, to plummet down while ghrelin, the hunger hormone, gets overproduced. As a result, you’ll always feel hungry, so you’ll eat more and your body weight will increase.
Besides, the less sleep you’re getting, the more you crave high-fat and high-carb foods. And since you’ll be feeling so tired, you find it practically impossible to say no to those cravings.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep to stay healthy. If you have trouble falling asleep, try creating a bedtime routine and sticking to a schedule.
15. Not Drinking Enough Water
A lot of people don’t drink enough water. Changing this habit is one of the easiest ways to help your health. Drinking water or eating a water-rich salad or broth-based soup before a meal can help decrease how much you eat during the meal. Also, staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, which can lead to stress eating.
Figure out how you prefer to get your water. Do you like a bottle with a straw or a wide-mouthed top? Whatever your preference, keep a water container at your side as often as you can. You’ll reach for it a lot more if you don’t have to get up to fill a glass.
16. Eating Too Fast
When you take the time to chew, taste, and savor your food, you naturally eat less and enjoy your meals even more. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach, so eating more slowly can help you realize when you’re satisfied.
17. Not Eating Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods
One of the worst things you can do for weight loss is to eat a lot of highly processed foods. Animal and human studies suggest that processed foods may be a major factor in the current epidemic of obesity and other health problems. Evidence shows that this could be due to their negative effects on gut health and inflammation (16).
Also, whole foods tend to be self-limiting, meaning they are hard to overconsume. By contrast, it’s very easy to overeat processed foods.
When possible, choose whole, single-ingredient foods that are minimally processed.
18. Overeating Healthy Foods
It’s easy to overeat healthy foods because you know they’re good for you. So you think a bigger portion won’t hurt. However, despite their health status, they can still lead to weight gain. Calories are still calories and excess calories mean excess weight, even if they come from nutrient-rich whole foods, and foods like nuts, avocado, hummus, quinoa, and brown rice are pretty high in calories, to begin with.
Check how much the single serving of healthy foods is and stick to them. A single serving of avocado, for example, is 1/3 of a whole avocado. It’s fine to eat more than that, but it is necessary to keep the serving size in mind.
19. Having Unrealistic Goals
Setting realistic, long-term goals for weight loss is a must. Understandably, you want to lose as much as you can and do it as quickly as possible, but that can only be achieved through crash-dieting, which is neither good for your health nor helpful in maintaining your weight after weight loss since you’ll gain it all back after your diet ends. Having realistic expectations and understanding that weight loss is a gradual process will help you stay on track and not get discouraged.
Adjust your expectations to a more realistic goal. For best long-term results, aim to lose one to 2 pounds a week.
20. Not Tracking What You Eat
Eating nutritious foods is a good weight loss strategy. However, you may still be eating more calories than you need to lose weight. What’s more, you may not be getting the right amount of protein, fiber, carbs, and fat to support your weight loss efforts.
In addition to food, most online tracking sites and apps allow you to enter your daily exercise as well.
Weight loss relies on having a healthy and nutritious diet. But weight loss also contributes to physical activity that builds muscle and burns fat.
With weight loss myths out in the open, more people are stumped on why they can’t lose weight. Avoid falling into these traps and you’ll achieve your dream body in no time.