When you have a goal to lose weight, it’s easy to shift your efforts to all the things you should do. However, don’t forget about the habits you shouldn’t follow, as they can destroy all your hard work. We spoke with experts who break down some common weight loss mistakes that are ruining your progress, so listen up.
While some individuals find it challenging to gain mass, others have difficulty losing unwanted weight, says Daisean Brewster, CPT, Blink Fitness. “Finding yourself caught in the cycle of dieting and frustration is common when trying to shed some pounds,” explains Brewster. “If that’s where you find yourself, you have to take a step back and reevaluate your approach to weight loss.”
If you steer clear of the below weight loss mistakes and implement healthy habits into your routine, you can boost your weight loss efforts and reach your goals in a more efficient manner. Keep reading to learn more, and when you’re done, be sure to check out This Is the New ‘Magic Number’ of Days You Need to Exercise To See Results, Study Says.
Setting unrealistic goals for yourself will only lead to frustration, more stress, and disappointment. It can also end up veering you off course from your weight loss efforts altogether. “Setting realistic and attainable goals is essential to achieving a healthy lifestyle change,” Brewster says. So, establish goals you’ll actually be able to work toward, and be sure to celebrate even the smallest victories along the way.
The amazing health benefits that come with regular exercise can’t be denied. According to research, being physically active on a regular basis and maintaining a high fitness level are linked to a decreased risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease and any cause. In addition, a number of studies reveal exercise is a crucial part of the weight loss equation. So it should come as no surprise that a lack of physical activity—or a sedentary lifestyle—can hold you back from results.
“Diet alone is not enough for successful weight loss,” says Brewster. “Regular physical activity is essential for burning calories, building muscle, and improving overall health. Incorporate both cardiovascular exercise and strength training into your routine.”
Contrary to what you may believe, skipping meals is exactly what you shouldn’t do if you want to lose weight and get into shape. “Many people believe that skipping meals can help them lose weight, but it can have deleterious effects,” Brewster warns. “Skipping meals can slow down your metabolism and lead to overeating later on.”
When you’re hoping to lose weight, fast results always sound appealing, but beware of fad diets. “Fad diets are often popular diets that promise quick results, but they are usually unsustainable and not based on scientific evidence,” Brewster cautions. “Instead, focus on adopting a balanced and nutritious eating plan that you can maintain in the long term.”
Cutting out a whole food group or certain ingredient from your diet—i.e. carbs, fat, sugar, or gluten—is a major no-no, according to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, the founder and director of Real Nutrition, a New York City-based private practice dedicated to healthfully and successfully guiding clients to their optimal nutrition, weight, and overall wellness.
“These tactics are harsh and often unsustainable, especially if you live or spend time with other people. Of course, you will get results, but these practices are hard to maintain, and once you incorporate that food group again, any weight you have lost will rebound back and then some, too,” Shapiro tells us.
It’s common to cut back on calories and even food with a weight loss goal in mind, along with being super restrictive at the beginning. However, this isn’t a sustainable habit, and as time passes, you’ll likely end up consuming more calories and gaining all of the weight you lost back.
“When you lose weight through calorie restriction, your body naturally slows down your metabolism to conserve your body mass, so eventually, you will cause your metabolism to lower which will mean you can eat fewer calories. Once you get to a weight you are happy with, maintaining that weight will be very difficult,” Shapiro explains.
Too much of anything is never a good thing, even when it comes to healthy habits. Take exercise, for example. Pushing yourself to the extreme to burn the calories you consume is an unsustainable approach.
“Many people think they burn off more calories than they actually do during exercise which leads them to believe they can eat more than they actually can,” Shapiro says. “Also, increased exercise increases your appetite, so continuing to eat a healthy diet that will result in weight loss will be harder since you’ll be hungry. Hunger is what will ultimately lead you to fall off your diet plan. Finally, if you get injured, you will not be able to keep up your exercise intensity. So this is unsustainable.”
Cardio is all well and good, but in order to lose weight, you need to establish a healthy balance of cardio and muscle-strengthening activities in your routine. Not focusing on weight training is one of the biggest weight loss mistakes you can make. It’s important to preserve or build upon your muscle mass, since muscle increases your metabolism.
“Many people during weight loss do more cardio than they do weight,” Shapiro points out. “This will often lead to muscle deterioration instead of growth, which will ultimately leave you with a sluggish metabolism and the ability to eat fewer calories and therefore makes it harder to lose or maintain weight loss. I recommend adding weight training exercises at least two times a week to keep your muscles strong and your metabolism high.”
There’s a wide variety of packaged foods out there that promise to deliver “low-carb,” “healthy,” and/or “fat-free” products. As Shapiro puts it, the reality is that these are usually marketing gimmicks that don’t live up to their promises.
“These foods are ultra-processed and often contain ingredients that are not healthy, are void of essential nutrients, or contain artificial sweeteners that are unhealthy and can often lead to further cravings and weight gain,” she says. “Focus on whole foods first, and use these packaged products when in a pinch only. Read nutrition labels and ingredient lists.”
A healthy diet that promotes weight loss consists of lots of fresh fruits, veggies, fiber, and of course, protein. Focus on lean proteins such as fish, beef, chicken, tofu, shellfish, beans, and eggs.
“When you are trying to lose weight, I recommend eating one gram of protein per pound of your ideal body weight,” Shapiro explains. “This will help to maintain muscle mass as you continue to lose weight. Additionally, protein is the macronutrient our body uses the most energy to digest so it keeps us full for longer. It also doesn’t interrupt our blood sugar levels, so eating adequate amounts will prevent hunger, keep our metabolism high, and will prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes leading to hunger and eating more than we need.”
Portioning out your meals properly can be a surefire way to slim down; not doing so can make the scale move in an unfavorable direction. According to a 2004 study published in Obesity Research, 38% of obese individuals who practiced portion control on a consistent basis for two years reduced their baseline weight by 5% or more. On the contrary, 33% of those who did not portion out their meals put on 5% or greater of their baseline weight.
“Even if you’re eating healthy foods, consuming too many calories can prevent weight loss,” Brewster says. “Pay attention to portion sizes, and practice mindful eating to avoid overeating.”
Another one of the worst weight loss mistakes? Not getting enough sleep. Sleeping may not seem like you are doing much for your weight loss efforts, but allowing your body sufficient time to rest and recover is a key part of the overall process. “Poor sleep can disrupt hormones related to appetite control and lead to increased food cravings,” Brewster explains. “Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to support your weight loss efforts.”