The average woman goes on a diet 16 times in her lifetime.
I wasn’t surprised when I read that statistic. In fact – I thought it might have been higher!
For me – I have been dieting, off and on, for around 20 years (starting from about age 13). I come across some crazy diet (that inevitably included extreme calorie restriction and limiting many types of foods), follow it for a few days, and then give up – defeated.
And, if you’re anything like me (and the ‘average’ woman), you’ve probably had a similar experience.
Losing weight is hard. Keeping it off is even harder.
There are so many things that can keep you from achieving success in your weight loss diet plans, and it’s important to be aware of these things before you even begin so that you can avoid them.
There are 10 common weight loss mistakes that you will encounter while trying to lose weight. Let’s discuss how you can avoid them, so you can reach your weight loss goals.
1. Lack of Knowledge
Many people jump into fad diets without looking at the science behind them. (I was certainly guilty of this when I was younger!)
They hear good things about the diets, or are sucked in by the claims of losing 10 pounds in one week (Military Diet – I’m looking at you!).
However, these diets are often not based on science with studies and facts to back them up. This means putting your health in the hands of something that may not work (and could even potentially affect your health and metabolism negatively).
This is why so many people end up gaining weight back.
Take time to educate yourself about the best diet plan for weight loss. You need to understand how food works with your body before you can know what you need to eat.
Just as you wouldn’t buy a car without finding out more about it beyond what the owner says about it, why would you start a diet plan without finding out how it’s going to work with your body?
2. Focusing on the Scale
Weight loss is about more than just the total number of pounds that you have lost or want to lose. When you focus too much on the number on the scale, then you run the risk of getting disappointed when it’s not moving as quickly as you want or when it goes up even though you’ve been doing everything right.
This is a huge mistake for some people and may cause them to give up.
Measure more than your overall weight and you may find that you are actually losing fat and gaining muscle, especially if you are also working out to improve your weight loss results.
Have your body fat percentage tested regularly to see how much fat you’re actually losing, and measure your body parts (arms, waist, legs, etc.) to see how you’re getting smaller even if the number on the scale isn’t.
One of my best markers for weight loss is using an old pair of jeans I haven’t been able to fit into – over the last few months I have been ‘upgrading’ my wardrobe with jeans I haven’t been able to fit into in years! For me it is a lot more ‘real’ than using a tape measure.
It’s also important to realize that the number you see on the scale includes everything in your body, like water. If you weigh yourself after drinking a lot of water or while dehydrated so your body is retaining more water, you may see the number jump up by several pounds.
For this reason, you need to regularly track your weight, but watch the overall trend, and not worry about the exact number on that day or week.
3. Eating for the Wrong Reasons
Many people who are obese or overweight are like that because they don’t have a good relationship with food. They may use food as a way to comfort themselves when they’re sad, or to keep themselves occupied when they’re busy. Still others eat for the enjoyment of it. This is a problem because when you think of food in this way, it’s hard to change what you’re eating.
I am an emotional eater – when I am down or stressed, I tend to reach for the junk food (fries are my weakness).
If you’re not eating as a way to provide the right type of nourishment to your body, you will get trapped by this roadblock. It takes some time, work, and sometimes the help of a professional psychologist, but you need to make sure you’re eating for the right reasons.
Food should be considered a way to nourish your body, not something you turn to for emotional help.
4. Giving In to Food Cravings
Another common roadblock that can keep you from your weight loss goals are food cravings.
This is especially true of sugars. Sugar triggers your brain’s pleasure center which means it can be addictive, and hard to avoid since your body craves it. However, sugar is also the biggest contributor to weight gain, so you have to resist these cravings.
There are a few ways that you can avoid giving in to food cravings. The best way is to make sure you don’t have any junk food in your house, so you won’t be able to easily eat it even if you wanted to.
You also need to make sure everything you do eat is filling and packed with nutrients so that you feel full and don’t need to eat sugary snacks to satisfy hunger.
5. Letting Others Influence You
Think about the people you spend the most time with, and it’s likely that they weigh about the same as you do. When everyone around you is going out to eat unhealthy food and encouraging you to forget your diet just for the night, it’s easy to give in and keep giving in until you’ve completely fallen off track of your diet.
Sometimes, you may need to cut people out of your life or at least spend less time with them so that you can focus on what you need to do and not let their negative influences affect you. You can also try taking the lead when it comes to planning activities and suggest your get-togethers involve more physical activities or healthy restaurants.
This can be hard when the ‘negative influences’ include your partner and family. Hopefully they are supportive of your choices. But if not, try be a positive influence on them, and perhaps they will start eating healthy, too!
6. Not Planning Ahead
If you don’t plan ahead, then you’re likely to get trapped by this roadblock. When you don’t plan ahead for lunch, for example, you will probably find yourself having to go out to eat during your lunch hour and will grab the first thing you can find, which may or may not be good for you. Or, if you get hungry between meals and don’t have a healthy snack handy, it’s too easy to hit up the vending machine.
The more you plan ahead, the better you will do with your diet plan. Meal planning means sitting down once to plan out what you’re going to eat for the next week, two weeks, or month. This will help you know exactly what you need to shop for so you can have the food on hand that you need to cook so you’re not grabbing whatever you can at the last minute.
7. High Cost of Health Food
Another common problem that people run into while dieting is that many healthy foods are more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, often have a higher cost than simply buying a canned or dried version. Pre-packaged meals are also often cheaper than buying whole foods to prepare meals yourself.
One way to reduce your grocery bill is to shop the sales. When you do your meal planning for the week, have the sales papers from your favorite grocery stores in front of you and use them as a guide. You’d be surprised at how much you can save by simply taking advantage of sales. Another way you can get reduced prices of whole foods is by buying direct at local farmers markets.
Another tip is to only buy what is in season. Buying fresh product out of season can get incredibly expensive. I love avocados, but I am certainly not going pay three times the price just to get it out of season!
8. Exercising Too Much
A common misbelief is that you have to workout to lose weight. But exercising to lose weight will often work against you in a couple of ways. Some people force themselves to get up early to exercise, and miss out on getting enough sleep which is vital for weight loss. Others think that spending an hour on the treadmill will make up for the two donuts they had that morning that someone brought into work.
Diet must be your main focus while losing weight, and you can’t expect exercise to bail you out of a bad dieting choice. Getting up and moving regularly throughout the day can help improve your overall health and some strength training can help boost your weight loss, but these should be in addition to a strict diet and should not be the focus of your weight loss plan.
Exercising will also make you hungrier, causing you to eat more, which can have a negative impact on your weight loss efforts. Exercising also increases muscle mass, which will actually add weight. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be demotivating when it seems like the numbers on the scale are just not budging.
If you currently don’t exercise and you need to lose weight, rather do it in a phased approach. Start eating right, then once you have started losing weight, add in some exercise.
9. Cutting Too Many Calories
If you cut too many calories at the beginning of your diet, then you’re likely to lose a lot of weight fast. This sounds like a good thing, but since you can’t maintain such a low caloric intake for long, you’ll soon find yourself gaining everything back.
Instead, from the very beginning you need to keep your caloric intake below your output and at a level you can maintain for the rest of your life.
10. Unrealistic Expectations
Many people set up unrealistic expectations for their weight loss, and this leads them to quit when they’re not reaching their goals. They often expect to lose too much weight in too short of a time period. Or, they may expect to continue losing the same amount of weight that they were losing at the beginning of their weight loss when they near the end.
Setting up goals is an important part of losing weight, but if they’re unrealistic, then they’re going to work against you and could cause you to give up since you’ll get disappointed when you’re not able to reach them. Make sure that part of your research before you begin your new diet is how much weight you can expect to lose so you can set up realistic expectations.
By avoiding these common weight loss mistakes, you’ll have a much better chance at losing the weight that you want and becoming a healthier version of yourself. It’s going to take some work, especially at the beginning, but it will all be worth it in the long run.