Dieting or delving into any kind of weight loss program comes with many preconceived notions of how it’s supposed to be done — whether it’s having overzealous nutritional goals, or all-or-nothing gym requirements for yourself, all of which can be a set up for failure. In addition to being honest with yourself and your capabilities, losing weight requires being in the right mindset, as well as having some level of physical dedication. If you find yourself falling into any of the following traps, realize that you may be sabotaging your weight loss goals. At the end of the day though, remember that the best way to lose weight is to eat a well balanced diet of real unprocessed food, get in any and all physical activity that you can, and make sure that you’re not eating more calories than you’re burning off. Here are four of the most common weight loss mistakes you’re probably making.
1. Going overboard with one particular type of food or ingredient (like protein)
A woman measuring her weight loss | Source: iStock
Even the smartest and most savvy dieters are prone to making this mistake: Too much of any sort of healthy food is not a good thing. One of the biggest dieting pitfalls is not being aware of how much “healthy food” you’re consuming. For example, while avocados are considered a superfood, you could be losing the calorie war if you consume too much avocado — and it’s very easy to go avocado crazy because it’s so healthy and delicious. For example, that avocado toast you love in the morning could clock in at a whopping 150 to 200 calories if you’re eating just half of the avocado on a slice of whole wheat toast. If you choose to also add some avocado to your lunch, the calories will start to add up quickly.
Take another example of a common low-carb diet staple: Poultry and meat, which are known for their high protein content. “Protein is important, but if you have too much, the excess gets stored as fat,” says Felicia Stoler, RD to Health. “And high-protein shakes and bars tend to be sugary and fatty,” she adds. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends women consume 46 grams of protein per day.
Be mindful of food that is considered pretty healthy, as you could end up consuming more “healthy” food calories than if you just reached for that frosted donut. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests to Prevention, that in order to outsmart this common weight loss mistake, write down how much you’re eating throughout the day, “[e]ven if you note it on a napkin and then throw it away, that’s okay. Just the act of writing makes you more aware.” Become familiar with portion sizes and you’ll be on your way to weight loss gold in no time.
2. Making extreme requests of yourself
Two women strengthening their core muscles during Pilates | Source: iStock
“All or nothing” is a bad dieting mindset to have. Setting a goal that’s too big, such as cutting out all meat and working out for an hour a day, can be difficult for even the most diligent and perfectionist of us all to achieve — life and other cravings will inevitably get in your way and sabotage your plan. The “all or nothing” goal may end up making you feel like a failure if you can’t achieve it — it may even make you want to give up. Instead, Eat This suggests that you set small, achievable dieting and exercise goals, and once you’ve achieved them, you can then build upon them incrementally with more achievable ones. For example, start with a small one or two day hit-the-gym goal, and if you can achieve it, add an extra day, achieve it, and so on. This, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD tells Eat This, is the best way to slowly build up a healthy habit “that will eventually feel natural, just a part of life, not a struggle you’re making in the name of losing weight.”
3. You’re consistent with the same steady exercise routine
Whether it’s cardio, strength training, isometric, plyometrics, and every other metric you can possibly think of, exercising boosts your metabolism, as well as your mental and physical health. If you’re a consistent exerciser, you’re in for a real shocker here: According to recent research published in the journal Current Biology, your consistent workout may be causing you to burn less calories each time you workout. If you’re already used to a routine, then you may not even burn more calories if you workout more. Sadly, after the researchers of the study examined 300 men and women’s levels of physical activity, as well as the number of calories each burned per day, they found that those people with moderate activity levels burned 200 calories per day more than those who were sedentary. But here’s the shocker — the participants whose activity was above those with “moderate activity levels saw no effect of their extra work in terms of energy expenditure.” One of the researchers, Herman Pontzer of City University of New York, explained that, “[t]he most physically active people expended the same amount of calories each day as people who were only moderately active.”
Here’s what happens, explains trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S to Women’s Health: As you get more used to your workouts, you may not burn more calories, even if you’re consistent with them. “Think about your job. When you first started, there were some learning curves, it took more energy and more time, but you became more efficient,” he says. “Exercise works the same way. Your body adapts to a specific demand. So you naturally become more efficient, and use less energy [a.k.a. calories] to meet that demand,” he explains. So what’s the fix? Not only should you eat healthy, but you need to HIIT it.
“High-intensity interval training is the way to go,” says Donavanik. According to a 2013 study cited in Women’s Health from the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, subjects who performed a 20-minute high intensity interval (HIIT) workout burned 15 calories more per minute, which was about two times as many as during a long, steady run. Additionally, with HIIT workouts, you’ll also experience a metabolic increase, and you’ll continue to burn calories long after you’ve stopped working out. Kick your steady run to the curb and try one of these high interval training workouts.
4. Not educating yourself beforehand
A woman looking at a menu | Source: iStock
Sabotaging your weight loss plan can be as simple as walking into a restaurant and ordering the “healthiest” item on the menu — and you have no idea what’s in it or how many calories it contains. As it turns out, some of the healthier items may have more calories than you’ve bargained for. For example, think about the “healthy” whole-wheat lunch wrap you order — it may have the same amount of calories as two slices of pepperoni pizza, Tara Gidus, RD, a former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells Prevention. “My clients think they get more nutrients and save on calories with ‘healthy bread,’ but often that’s not the case,” she says. The fix: If you’re planning on dining out, do your research on the dish beforehand. Many restaurants now list the calorie counts for many of their dishes, but it’s easy to do a quick check online or simply do your research; find out what the ingredients are in the dishes you want, and you can figure out a rough calorie estimate for yourself. Here are some great tips to help when you’re dining out.