This article looks at nine dieting mistakes that can sabotage weight loss.
Dropping a couple of pounds isn’t all that difficult. Losing weight and keeping it off is more challenging.
Eating less and moving more is the key to weight loss. This sounds simple, but long-term change remains elusive for many people, even those with the best intentions.
Following are nine ways people can unwittingly sabotage weight loss while thinking they are doing all the right things to achieve their goal.
Dieting Mistakes to Avoid
Using a scale
Many people regularly use a scale to measure their weight loss. A problem with this is that the reading is not always an accurate indicator of progress.
Weight frequently fluctuates for various reasons such as not having gone to the bathroom or due to fluid retention from eating a high-sodium meal.
Additionally, traditional scales fail to distinguish between fat, muscle, and water.
There is another reason you may want to consider ditching the scale: No matter what the number is, it may hinder your resolve.
If the number is too high, it is easy to get depressed and discouraged. When this happens, you may turn to food for comfort, or even give up on dieting altogether.
If the number is on target or lower than anticipated, there may be the temptation to reward yourself with food.
Measuring progress by how your clothes fit, how you feel, and how much energy you have can be more conducive to long-term change.
However, some studies have shown that daily weigh-ins can promote weight loss, so experiment and see what works for you.
If you do decide to weigh in regularly, I recommend using a smart scale. They’re not expensive, and along with tracking weight loss, they can determine body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone mass, and more. This information will give you a more accurate indication of your progress.
Going too hard and fast
One of the most common dieting mistakes is eliminating all of your favorite foods at once.
Most diets veto sugar and processed foods as these are not nutritious and, being high in carbs and often unhealthy fats, they can pack on the pounds.
This means no cookies, cake, fries, pizza, frozen meals, fast food, and all of the other no-nos many of us love. If your diet has been centered around such foods, quitting them cold turkey can be extremely difficult.
It’s human nature to want something we can’t have. We can usually refrain from eating the wrong foods temporarily, so this approach can work if you only have a few pounds to lose.
However, a complete ban on a particular food dramatically increases the chances of eventually giving in to cravings and eating said food, often in larger portions than they usually would.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, a more reasonable approach is limiting these foods but sometimes allowing them in moderate portions.
This could be having a small treat daily, such as a couple of squares of chocolate – dark is the healthiest – or allowing yourself one day a week when you relax your diet a little.
Just be sure to factor in how many calories you are taking in so you don’t undo all of your hard work.
Setting unrealistic goals
If you’re having difficulty losing weight, it may be due to setting yourself too lofty a goal.
Most of us are enthusiastic when starting a new diet as the prospect of fitting into smaller size clothing is tantalizing. This can result in making a lot of changes simultaneously, which is not always the best way to go.
Going from eating ice cream, cookies, or fast food daily to small portions and sugar-free overnight is incredibly challenging. Likewise, aiming to lose 20 pounds in a month. This would be not only very tough but also unhealthy. If you did manage to lose weight that quickly, the odds of keeping it off would be slim.
By all means, set a goal. Doing so will increase your likelihood of long-term success, providing your goal is achievable and does not involve s fad diet.
Gradually reducing your sugar intake and focusing on small weekly lifestyle changes is more manageable and sustainable long-term.
Cutting too many calories
Another one of the most common dieting mistakes people make is thinking the fewer calories they take in, the faster they will lose weight. This is not the case, so if you’re having difficulty losing weight it could be because you are not eating enough.
The human body needs the energy that food supplies to function. When we cut calories, our fat reserves are used as fuel.
But with too large a calorie deficit, your body will use muscle instead. When it does, your metabolism slows, making it harder to lose weight. Sometimes weight loss stops entirely. This is known as a weight-loss plateau.
Exacerbating the situation is that with less energy, you won’t be able to put as much effort into your workouts, so you will burn fewer calories. You are also likely to feel irritable and tired and suffer headaches and lightheadedness.
In this situation, it’s common to question if giving up all of your favorite foods is worth the sacrifice when you feel bad, and your progress has stalled.
Aiming for a reasonable calorie deficit and focusing on eating the nutritious foods your body needs and thrives on is more likely to get you the desired result.
Not getting enough protein
Another big dieting mistake is not eating enough protein.
Salads should be included in your diet daily as they are nutritious and low in calories. However, even a large serving won’t keep you feeling full for long.
Food with a high protein content, on the other hand, is satisfying, so you will be less tempted to break your diet.
Along with keeping you fuller for longer and therefore reducing appetite, studies have shown that when consumed with each meal, protein-rich foods can increase metabolic rate and help retain muscle during weight loss.
Aim for at least 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein for every pound you weigh, daily.
Good protein sources include lean meats and fish, dairy products, nuts, flaxseeds, legumes, beans, and quinoa.
Dieting Mistakes to Avoid
Eating too little fiber
You should eat fiber daily for its many health benefits and because it is filling, so reduces appetite.
When eating filling foods, we tend to eat smaller portions yet feel satisfied for longer. This is thought to be because it interacts with gut microbes that produce hormones that make us feel full.
High fiber foods also typically contain fewer calories for the same serving size than many other foods, and they digest more slowly.
Adult females should eat between 21 and 25 grams of fiber per day, and adult males 30 to 38 grams.
Healthy high fiber foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
NB: When eating a diet high in fiber, be sure to increase your water intake. Not doing so could result in constipation as fiber draws water into the bowel.
Not drinking enough water
Drinking too little water is an often overlooked dieting mistake.
The next time you feel hungry, reach for a glass of water. This often decreases “appetite” because sometimes what we think is hunger is thirst.
Studies have shown that participants ate less when drinking a glass or two of water before meals.
Water, and cold water, in particular, is thought to promote heat production, also known as thermogenesis. This process results in the body expending energy to warm the liquid to body temperature. The more energy expended, the bigger the metabolism.
In one eight-week study, 50 females were instructed to drink two glasses of water before each meal. By the end of the study, all had lost weight and lowered their BMI without eating less.
Water is also thought to increase lipolysis or fat burning. And it is vital during exercise to provide energy and prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Skimping on sleep
If you’re having difficulty losing weight and you’ve been burning the midnight oil, make hitting the sack earlier a priority.
Numerous studies have shown that getting less than 7 hours of sleep nightly can substantially increase appetite, with some people consuming up to 1,000 extra calories when sleep-deprived.
When tired, we tend to reach for junk food to boost our energy. And being awake for more hours, we are more likely to feel hungry and snack.
Even if you have the willpower not to overeat, sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night can still cause weight gain. This is due to a decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin, hormones that control hunger.
Aim to sleep for eight hours nightly. Sleep quality is also important, so make sure your bedroom is dark, comfortably cool, and uncluttered.
Don’t eat closer than two to three hours before bedtime. If you eat or drink alcohol shortly before going to bed you may experience indigestion or broken sleep.
Switch off your electronic devices at least thirty minutes before turning in for the night. Cell phones, tablets, computers, and readers, emit blue light. Blue light interferes with the sleep cycle and suppresses melatonin production, a hormone that produces sleepiness.
Along with dieting mistakes, exercise mistakes can hinder weight loss.
People sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that a regular exercise routine negates poor eating choices.
Unfortunately, the number of calories burned in a typical workout is far too easy to replenish, often simply with one snack. Exercise can also increase appetite, making it more likely you will reach for that snack.
This does not mean you should not exercise. Along with burning calories, being active is vital for physical and mental health, so you should engage in it regularly regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight.
However, don’t solely depend on it for weight loss. Instead, view exercise routine as a means to feel good and be healthy.
The best way to do this is to find a form of exercise – or more than one – that you enjoy and participate in it regularly.
Final Thoughts on Dieting Mistakes that Can Sabotage Weight Loss
The dieting mistakes above are easy to fix, and doing so can make a big difference in how quickly you reach your goal.
There’s no getting around that you will need self-discipline and commitment, but it will be worth it.