Weight loss is never an easy journey, but sometimes the simplest shift in our focus can help us plow through a plateau or maintain the weight loss we’ve already achieved. If you’re feeling frustrated with your weight loss journey, read over this list of 17 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight and you just may find the solution to your problem!
1. Setting Unrealistic Goals
Oftentimes the goal itself isn’t the problem – it’s the timeline. If you want to lose 50lbs… in 4 months… Yeah – that’s going to be a miserable journey. It leaves little room for any slip-ups, which is a lot of pressure to put on yourself; plus, if you do manage to lose that much weight that fast, your chances of gaining the all that weight back, [plus more!], is incredibly high. The ultimate goal can be a lofty one! Just keep in mind that the step by step plan and milestones along the way need to be realistic and support a lifelong lifestyle change.
2. Only Doing Cardio Workouts
When we get too focused on the “calories in vs. calories out” mindset, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending an unreasonable number of hours every week doing cardio because our fitness and calorie trackers tell us that cardio burns the most calories. During the actual workout, yes, cardio generally does burn more calories, but the reality is that strength training triggers a metabolic response that increases calorie burn post-workout, and your body ends up burning more overall calories from this after burn effect than it does from a cardio workout.
In addition to the after burn effect, strength training builds more lean mass, and the more lean mass your body has, the better it is at burning away fat. So don’t drop cardio altogether – it’s essential for your heart health – but know that your gym time is most efficient spent strength training at least 3 days a week if you’re trying to lose fat.
3. Focusing Only On The Scale
On that note, a lot of people get frustrated when they begin strength training because they don’t see the dramatic difference in their weight that they expect to see as a result of their hard work. This is why it’s important to identify your true goal: fat loss and transforming your body composition. With a proper strength training regimen, you will gain muscle mass, which, as we covered above, will help your body burn away fat more quickly.
The thing with lean muscle mass is that it’s more dense than fat mass – it’s heavier, but also takes up less space. So when you lose a pound of fat, but gain a pound of muscle as a result of strength training, no, the scale won’t have changed, but your body composition will, meaning you will have lost inches. This is why taking and tracking measurements is a more accurate and motivating way to track your results than using the scale.
4. Reaching for Low Fat, Low Calorie & Lite Food Options
If you’ve really done your research about weight loss and dieting, you’ll know that, when it comes to calories, quality is more important than quantity. We need to feed our body high quality, nutrient dense foods in order for it to feel satisfied. “Lite” food options tend to be packed with sugar, and even though it’s “only 100 calories” what good does that do us if it has negative consequences on our health and leaves us feeling hungry just an hour later? Focusing on nutrients instead of calories will get you way ahead of the game when you’re trying to lose weight.
5. Consuming Too Much Fat On Low-Carb Diet Plans
This is another quality vs quantity issue. When we restrict one macronutrient, we tend to over-consume another. The issue with low-carb diet plans is that people will reach for foods like bacon and burgers simply because it’s not directly stated on the “can’t have” list. Is this a good quality food though? No. Don’t use fad diet rules to justify food choices you know are poor.
6. Forgetting to Monitor Beverages
Alcohol counts! Soda counts! Lattes with creams and drizzles count! Fruit juices and sports drinks count! These are, again, low quality sources of a ton of calories. It’s best to leave them be.
7. Eating Even If You’re Not Hungry
A lot of diet advice out there encourages “grazing” – eating small portions and eating often. This approach is incredibly effective for a lot of people! However, at the end of the day, it’s about developing a deeper understanding of and listening to our body. Just because a diet tells you not to go more than 3 hours without eating doesn’t mean you have to shove a meal down your throat even if you’re not hungry.
What’s more important is that you learn from it. Reflect on the last meal you ate – what was in it and how much did you eat? If that kept you full “too long”, adjust your portions to a smaller size in the future so that your appetite can fall into the rhythm you’re trying to create.
8. Neglecting Fiber Intake
Not only does eating fiber help us feel fuller longer, but our body needs to be able to excrete waste efficiently, and lack of fiber can put a dramatic halt on our digestive system. To fight bloating and keep things moving along you need to ensure you’re eating enough fiber, which can be found in a variety of vegetables and fruits, as well as in whole grains.
9. Not Sticking to the Plan Long Enough
Patience is key here. As discussed above, quick fixes and quick, dramatic results are even harder to maintain than they are to attain. Slow and steady improvements are going to get you where you want to be. Consistency and patience are a must for any weight loss journey.
10. Failing to Make a Game Plan for Moments of Weakness
Are you an emotional eater? What are you going to do on that first emotionally draining day you experience now that you’re trying to make a change? Do you always stop for fast food after a night on the town? What are you going to do now instead of choosing options that will sabotage your goals? Be honest with yourself about when and why you’re most vulnerable to making poor choices, and create a game plan that’s a healthier alternative than your current habits.
11. Neglecting Stress Management Practices
Cortisol is a stress hormone that can wreak havoc on our weight and weight loss goals. When we’re over-stressed, our cortisol levels increase and our metabolism is pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place, making fat loss next to impossible. Taking time to unplug, reset and recharge is a necessity if you want your metabolism to work its magic.
12. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the worst forms of stress that increases our cortisol levels. If working your butt off and being more disciplined than ever is still getting you nowhere, it may be time to take an honest look at your sleep quantity and quality.
13. Using Too Many Liquid Replacements
A nutritious smoothie with greens and fresh fruits is a great option for a meal, but attempting to cut the calories of a meal by drinking a low calorie beverage instead is not only miserable, but ineffective. Restricting yourself in this way during one meal will likely cause you to overcompensate during your next meal. It’s best to move away from the all-or-nothing mentality and adopt a moderation approach instead.
14. Approaching Your Goals With Negative Motives
People like the Kardashian’s have made the concept of “revenge body” a new trend… but ultimately, if you seek change for negative and unhealthy reasons, you’re going to associate healthier habits with an unhealthy mindset, and that can make for a real difficult road to achieving optimal health. Losing weight is not a way to get back at an ex or revenge on bullies – it’s an improvement of your health and well being. Do this for you and no one else.
15. Relying Only On Diet
As we pointed out above, to kick your metabolism into gear and change your body composition, you need to hit the gym.
16. Relying Only On Exercise
On the other side of that, you can’t out-exercise a poor diet. If you’re eating poor quality foods and too much of them, kicking your metabolism into gear is going to be difficult because your body and organs won’t be properly nourished to function at their highest potential. You need to provide your body with the fuel it needs to get the job done.
17. Believing the Adjustments Are Only Temporary
Hate to break it to you, but resorting back to old habits will only bring you back to where you started. If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, you need to commit to changing your lifestyle and then maintaining those changes. No ifs, ands or buts!