It’s common to make the decision and jump head first into a weight loss effort. But after a great start, many people gradually lose their motivation when reality doesn’t meet their expectations.
Not having a solid, realistic weight loss plan and being impatient are two very common problems that discourage people.
Realistic goals can help keep you on track and motivated so that you hit your mark. Don’t expect to lose several pounds within a few days. Gradual and slow weight loss is not only healthy but also more sustainable.
A weight loss program is not a straitjacket. You can be successful if you follow the rules 90 percent of the time and avoid some of the common mistakes.
Here are the top 10 biggest weight loss mistakes you should avoid.
1. Skipping Meals
Eating patterns, such as frequency and distribution of eating throughout the day, can have a huge impact on your weight loss progress.
Many people think reducing calorie intake by skipping meals will help speed up weight loss. But in reality, skipping a meal can often lead to overeating at the next meal because you are even hungrier.
Plus, skipping meals can negatively impact your blood sugar level, metabolism and energy level.
A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggested that eating patterns are associated with obesity even after controlling for total energy intake and physical activity.
Moreover, the risk of obesity was lower among subjects with greater numbers of eating episodes per day. Plus, skipping breakfast was associated with an increased risk of obesity.
In another study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2006, researchers studied 9,919 adolescents up until adulthood and found that the trend of skipping breakfast increased with age and caused an increase in weight gain.
A recent 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry shows that skipping meals leads to abdominal weight gain.
It can also lead to the development of insulin resistance in the liver, a telltale sign of pre-diabetes.
So, if you’re a born eater at regular intervals, keep it up. Just be sure to choose healthy foods.
2. Relying on Low-Fat and Diet Foods
When trying to lose weight, many people adopt the habit of looking for ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ labels before deciding whether a food is diet-friendly.
Such foods, however, may contain abundant fats and hidden calories as well as artificial sweeteners.
Furthermore, eating such foods can cause sugar cravings, reduce your energy level and lead to weight gain over time.
Foods high in saturated fats should be replaced with foods high in monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats. This means you should focus on eating foods made with liquid vegetable oils but not tropical oils.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Obesity reports that a healthy diet can be moderately high in fat, with saturated and trans-fatty acids kept low and the remainder as a mixture of omega-9, omega-6 and omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids.
Just like low-fat foods are not always the best choice for weight loss, switching to diet drinks is more harmful than good.
Diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners that may trigger your appetite and even inhibit the brain cells that tell you that you are full.
A recent 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference.
This escalating abdominal obesity is a potential pathway for cardio-metabolic risk in the aging population.
For weight loss, it is better to follow a low-carbohydrate diet. This type of diet is highly effective, as it helps reduce insulin resistance and even addresses the underlying problem rather than just treating the symptoms.
3. Being Sleep Deprived
If you are not losing weight despite exercising a lot and following a strict diet, the reason can be sleep deprivation.
In fact, not paying attention to getting proper sleep is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.
Sleep levels are linked to our hormone levels. Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in the secretion of the hormone cortisol, which triggers fat storage.
It can also cause fluctuations in the key hunger hormones, leptin (a hunger-inhibiting hormone) and ghrelin (a hunger-inducing hormone).
A 2004 study published in the Annals of Medicine found that sleep restriction caused reduced levels of leptin, increased levels of ghrelin and an overall increase in appetite.
A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that short sleep duration is associated with a modest increase in future weight gain and obesity.
However, it noted that further research was needed to understand the mechanisms by which sleep duration may affect weight.
The mechanism was explained in a 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
In this study, researchers reported that acute sleep deprivation leads to increased brain activity in response to food images, independent of calorie content and hunger ratings. However, no change in fasting plasma glucose concentration was found.
To make your weight loss target a reality, try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep daily.
4. Going Through Stress
Stress is a fact of life, but unfortunately excess stress can prevent you from losing weight. Even worse, it can add some extra pounds despite eating healthy and exercising daily.
During stress, your brain instructs your cells to release cortisol, a hormone that makes you crave sugary and high-fat foods.
A 2007 study published in Nutrition suggests that stress-induced eating may be one factor contributing to obesity. The effect is more common in men than women.
The burst of adrenaline during stress ultimately leads to adrenal fatigue, which causes your body to store more fat. This ultimately results in weight gain.
A 2009 study published in the Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity shows that alterations in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis during chronic stress may contribute to an increased risk for obesity as well as metabolic disease.
A recent 2015 study published in Preventive Medicine suggests there is a relationship between long-term exposure to three specific types of family stressors and children becoming obese by the time they turn 18 years old.
Obviously, getting rid of all anxiety and stress is not possible. However, you can manage your stress to keep your cortisol levels and weight under control. Try relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing to help reduce stress.
5. Neglecting Protein
Several nutrients play a key role in several aspects of body-weight regulation and protein is one of them.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and it helps keep sugar cravings at bay and prevent excess fat deposits due to sugar overloads. So, increased dietary protein along with physical activity and an energy-controlled diet can help reduce weight.
A 130-pound adult should try to eat at least 47 grams of protein daily.
Protein aids in thermogenesis, a metabolic process in which the body produces heat to burn calories.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reports that a high-protein diet increases thermogenesis in the body as well as improves satiety and promotes weight loss.
Another study, published in Obesity in 2011, notes that a high-protein intake induces satiety and improves appetite control in overweight/obese men during energy restriction-induced weight loss.
A key finding in a 2014 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition was that consuming a hyper-caloric, high-protein diet has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals.
Include protein-rich foods in your diet to enhance fat burning, reduce appetite and improve your overall health.
6. Not Staying Hydrated
Water makes up over two-thirds of a healthy body and plays a significant role in determining your body mass and overall weight.
Dehydration affects how your body burns fat, encourages excessive calorie intake and slows down your metabolism. It also causes a drop in your energy level, leading to increased tiredness that makes it difficult to be active.
In a 2005 study published in Obesity Research, researchers analyzed 4,755 adults whose food and beverage consumption was studied from 1999 to 2001.
Out of these adults, 87 percent consumed 51.9 ounces of water every day. Water intake was found to be linked to consumption of fewer sodas and fruit drinks as well as calories every day.
A 2012 study published in Nutrition Reviews suggests that when it comes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, increased water intake may reduce caloric intake for some individuals. However, future studies are needed to determine the total recommended fluid intake.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research in 2013 shows that drinking 500 ml (a little more than 2 cups measuring 8 ounces) of water three times per day (30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner) can lead to highly significant weight loss.
Also, we often tend to confuse the brain’s signal for thirst as that for hunger because both originate from the same region of the brain– the hypothalamus.
Instead of eating something the next time you are hungry, drink a glass of water. Your body may be thirsty.
7. Following a Liquid Diet
Those who wish to lose weight with minimal effort often opt for a liquid diet. This is another weight loss mistake people make.
Replacing healthy meals with green juices, fruit juices and smoothies will not provide your body with all the essential nutrients. Juices lack fiber and protein, which are key nutrients in keeping you full.
Moreover, fast-food smoothies and prepackaged juices are often loaded with artificial sugar, preservatives and harmful chemicals.
Drinking prepackaged juice will raise your blood sugar level, leading to hunger and overeating.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages caused weight gain and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in women.
This happened mainly due to the high calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars present in the beverages.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2009 notes that intake of fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in obese people.
To aid weight loss, follow a diet that includes both solid food and liquids. This will help control the number of calories you eat and provide your body with all the essential nutrients.
8. Relying Only on Exercise
Another mistake that people often make is simply relying on physical exercise.
Exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and for getting rid of the extra pounds. But if exercise is not combined with a strict diet plan and other lifestyle changes, you can forget about your weight loss goal.
A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that it is possible to achieve and maintain significant amounts of weight loss with the help of six key strategies:
- Engaging in high levels of physical activity
- Eating a diet that is low in calories and fat
- Eating breakfast
- Self-monitoring weight on a regular basis
- Maintaining a consistent eating pattern
- Catching “slips” before they turn into larger regains.
Moreover, people who are newly engaged in physical exercise often overestimate the calories burned through exercise.
They even make the mistake of increasing their calorie intake to fuel or reward their workouts. This in turn leads to weight gain rather than loss.
A recent 2014 study published in Marketing Letters found that people who indulged in a 1-mile walk for exercise ate about twice as much afterward as compared to those who took the walk as an outing for fun.
For maximum weight loss benefits, forget the notion that an hour of rigorous exercise gives you the license to eat anything you like. Try to incorporate both exercise and necessary dietary changes into your daily routine.
9. Doing the Same Exercise Daily
If you are used to doing just one exercise over and over again, it is another weight loss mistake.
When you perform the same exercise daily, your body gets used to it, leading to little or no weight loss, or strength gains. It can even cause muscle development in some areas of the body more than others.
Plus, indulging in the same physical routine leads to boredom and soon you stop doing it.
A 2009 study published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders reports that short-term, high-intensity aerobic exercise training helps reduce the visceral fat in elderly, overweight adults.
However, it does not cause any significant change in abdominal subcutaneous or thigh fat.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Obesity notes that engaging in a greater variety of self-reported moderate-to-vigorous activities help in successful maintenance of weight loss.
If you’ve being doing the same exercises and workouts repeatedly, then stop and include a variety of exercises in your routine.
10. Overindulging on the Weekends
After following a strict diet and exercise routine all week, most people get lazy during the weekend. This can significantly hinder weight loss efforts.
Weekend routines differ considerably from weekdays, often providing more opportunities for eating and drinking as well as less exercise.
Social events and outings during the weekends often include eating and drinking. In fact, during the weekends, people consume more alcohol and more calorie-dense foods, which is a recipe for easy weight gain.
Moreover, people tend to spend less time exercising during the weekends.
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Obesity reports that activity levels dropped dramatically in overweight adults on a Sunday.
Another 2008 study published in Obesity reports that weight gain occurs more during weekend days than weekdays. This effect is attributable predominantly to higher calorie intake and lower physical activity on weekends.
To avoid the weekend weight-gain, it does not mean you need to miss all the weekend fun. Plan your weekend in advance and choose your food and drinks wisely. Pay close attention to portion size, weigh yourself daily and strictly watch your alcohol intake.