10 Common Mistakes When Trying To Lose Weight

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Trying to lose weight can feel daunting and very difficult. Have you ever felt like you’re doing everything right, but still not getting results you are aiming for?

Without knowing it, you might actually be hampering your progress by making a few mistakes.

Don’t worry, you are not alone! Lots of people make these mistakes, but they can be rectified.

1. Concentrating only on your weight at the scales.

Surely this is the best way to see my weight when I’m trying to lose weight? Well, yes, to a point….

a weight scale

But, did you know that your weight can vary by up to 4 lbs (around 2 kg) over the course of the day? This is absolutely normal, because your body will happily allow a range of about 2 litres of water to be contained. It varies according to your size, but our minimum may be, say, 40 litres of water and maximum, say, 42 litres. If it drops below this range, we get thirsty and increase our fluid intake. If we go above this range, our kidneys clear the excess fluid. As a result, our weight fluctuates randomly.

If you’ve been working out, you may be gaining muscle and losing fat. Your clothes may be getting looser, especially around the waist, but the scales don’t budge. 

When your trying to lose weight try measuring your waist instead and taking pictures of yourself every 2-4 weeks. This will tell you can if you’re making progress, even if the scales don’t show much yet.

Summary:

Don’t worry too much about the scales at first. Fluctuations happen due to water retention and this is normal. Take a longer term view. If you really want to weight yourself every day when your trying to lose weight, do this at the same time each day and take the average at the end of the week

2. Eating Low-Fat foods or “Diet” products – fear of fat

Processed low-fat or “diet” foods are often marketed as being a great healthy option for losing weight, but in reality this is not the case.

When the natural fat is removed from a food or product, the flavour is lost too. So, in order to make this food taste ok, these products are often loaded with sugar or other unwanted, unnatural substances.

Instead of being full, you are likely to feel you hungrier eating low-fat products, so you end up eating even more.

Summary:

Fat-free or “diet” foods are typically high in sugar and may lead to hunger and higher calorie intake.  Ditch them! A diet low in carbohydrate AND low in fat simply will not work.

3. Not eating the right fats

a bowl of salmon and vegetables

Because not all fats are the same, it is important  to understand which ones you need for energy. The two essential fat classes are Omega-6 and Omega-3. There is plenty of Omega-6 in our diet, and for Omega-3, oily fish are ideal: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring. Ideally 3 times per week, or alternatively take an Omega-3 supplement.

We suggest you read the labels and choose foods containing olive oils, canola, safflower, and where possible you should avoid foods containing vegetable oils, soybean, sunflower or corn oils. These are commonly found in mayonnaises and sauces. Butter and cheese are fine too.

Summary: Fish is a great source of Omega-3 and you may consider a fish oil supplement if you are not a fish eater. Choose healthy oils and fats and avoid the unnatural, industrially processed oils in your diet.

4. Not Eating Enough Protein

If you’re trying to lose weight, getting enough protein is really important. In fact, protein has been shown to help with weight loss.

It can reduce appetite, increase feelings of fullness, unlike carbohydrate which can create sudden highs and lows due to spiking insulin. Because you can feel full, or sated, this can result in an overall  decrease in your calorie intake simply because you aren’t hungry, and therefore not tempted to reach for a sugary snack.

Protein can also increase metabolic rate and protect muscle mass during weight loss.

Summary:

A good protein intake can help assist when trying to lose weight loss by boosting your metabolism. It can also help to reduce your appetite, due to longer lasting feelings of fullness. 

5. Eating Too Often, Even If You’re Not Hungry

We have often been told to eat every few hours in order to keep our metabolism boosted, and to prevent hunger.

The problem here is that it can lead to too many calories being consumed over the course of the day. By snacking continually on small meals, you may also never truly feel sated.

In one study of foods eaten by men over 36 hours, blood sugar levels and hunger decreased  in men who consumed just 3 meals, when compared with men who had eaten 14 meals in the same period).

The adage “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” may be misguided. A study found when people skipped breakfast, they consumed an average of over 400 fewer calories for the day overall. 

Eating when you’re hungry and only when you’re hungry seems to be key to successful weight loss.

However, letting yourself get too hungry is also a bad idea. It is better to eat a snack than become ravenously hungry, which can cause you to make poor food decisions.

Summary:

Eating too often can cause weight loss efforts to stall. For the best results, it’s important to eat only when you’re hungry. But don’t get to the point where you feel ravenous. You are more likely to overeat!

6. Not Reading Labels – what’s in my food?

a women reading the labels

If you don’t read label information or understand what you are about to eat, you may end up consuming unwanted calories and unhealthy ingredients.

As we mentioned in post 2, many foods are labeled with healthy-sounding food claims on the front of the package. These may give you a false sense of security, and so-called diet products can be some of the worst culprits.

To get to the most important information for weight control, you need to look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts label, which are on the back of the container.

Summary:

Food labels are essential for us to understand what ingredients, calories and nutrients are contained. Make sure you understand how to accurately read labels.

7. Eating Processed Food, Rather than Eating Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

a women eating french fries

One of the worst things you can do for weight loss is to eat a lot of highly processed foods. Unfortunately, it is very easy to overeat processed foods, because they do not keep us full for long. This is because they don’t really provide the nutrition we need.

Many studies suggest that processed foods are a major factor in the current epidemic of obesity and other health problems, possibly due to their negative effects on gut health and inflammation

The opposite is true of whole, natural foods: they provide the nutrients, vitamins, fats and protein that we need, and as a result we feel fuller for longer. Because of this we don’t tend to overeat. Wherever possible, choose whole, single-ingredient foods that are minimally processed.

Summary:

Concentrate on avoiding packaged, processed foods and look to buy real food as nature intended. 

8. Drinks with Hidden Sugars

Many people cut out energy drinks, lemonades and colas and other sweetened beverages out of their diet to lose weight, which is a good thing.

Sometimes, though, what you think is a healthy option isn’t actually that great. An example of this is drinking fruit juice.

Even 100% fruit juice is loaded with sugar, and may lead to health and weight problems similar to those caused by sugar-sweetened beverages. This is because fructose contributes towards fat production in the liver.

Summary:

Fruit juice contains sugar in similar amounts to fizzy cola drinks, and will not help your weight loss efforts!

9. Unrealistic Expectations

a very strong muscle man

It can be good to have weight loss and other health-related goals in order to stay motivated.

But if your expectations are not realistic, they can actually work against you and stop you achieving your goals.

A study found that the overweight and obese women who expected to lose the most weight were the most likely to drop out of a diet program after 6 to 12 months. It is likely that they felt the diet was not working, when perhaps it actually was.

Adjust your expectations to a more achievable goal, such as a 10% drop in weight in one year. This can help prevent you from getting discouraged and improve your chances for success.

Summary:

Unrealistic or unachievable expectations can lead to giving up out of frustration. Adjust your goals to a more modest level to increase your chances of successful weight loss. Better to exceed your goals than fall short!

10. Not Exercising or Lifting Weights

a women lifting weights

During weight loss, you will inevitably lose some muscle mass as well as fat, but if you are sedentary whilst trying to lose weight, you’re likely to experience a decrease in metabolic rate and lose more muscle mass.

By contrast, exercising can prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which in turn can boost fat loss. The more lean mass you have, the easier it is try to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.

Studies show lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. Resistance training improves overall body composition and boosts belly fat loss.

However, over-exercising can also cause problems, and not necessarily healthy.

Studies show excessive exercise is unsustainable in the long term for most people and may lead to stress. In addition, it may impair the production of adrenal hormones that regulate stress response.

Trying to force your body to burn more calories by exercising too much is neither effective nor healthy.

Summary:

A lack of exercise can lead to loss of muscle mass and lower metabolism. Lifting weights and doing cardio a few times per week will provide health benefits, as well as helping your weight loss goals, when combined with the right diet. However,  make sure that what you are doing is sustainable because too much exercise is neither healthy nor effective, and it may lead to severe stress.

This is a strategy for maintaining metabolic rate during weight loss.

Have a look at our fitness section to give you some information and ideas for the best type of exercises you can do.

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