By: Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN
Weight loss can be a challenge for anyone, but sometimes we make things harder than they have to be! If weight loss was easy, everyone would already be at their goal weight. Weight loss is a process to grow and learn from your mistakes.
For those who are just starting their weight loss program, glance over this list of common weight loss mistakes so that you know how to avoid making them. If you are already well underway towards your weight loss goal, then make sure you are not making these mistakes right now. They could be holding you back!
In this article, we will lay out the most common weight loss mistakes and how you can fix them. Maybe weight loss won’t be as difficult once you know how to fix your mistakes!
Mistake #1: Eating too few Calories
Weight loss usually requires you to decrease the amount of calories you are consuming. In the most basic sense, you want to burn more calories than you eat, right? Yes. So, eating as few calories as possible should yield the most weight loss, right?
Actually no. Did you know that eating too few calories can deter weight loss? When we eat too few calories, our body goes into “starvation mode” and tries to hold on to whatever calories come in. This can prevent weight loss!
How to Fix It:
The key is to find the right balance between staying out of starvation mode and not over consuming calories. In general, to avoid starvation mode, men should consume at least 1500 calories per day and women should consume at least 1200 calories per day.
Mistake #2: Not Optimizing your Diet
Maybe you have tried calorie restriction or fad diets, but there are dietary changes you can make (regardless of what diet you may be on). The key to controlling your hunger as you lose weight is to keep you full. When we are full, we tend to avoid large portions, unhealthy foods and excessive snacking.
How to Fix It:
If you want to avoid the misery of weight loss hunger, then make sure you have these components in your weight loss diet:
- Protein: Protein helps with muscle repair, but it also can keep you full for several hours. Make sure you get primarily lean protein (i.e. chicken, eggs, shrimp, nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese) and plant-based protein (i.e. nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, quinoa).
- Fat: While many people think fat is bad, you can use it to your advantage for weight loss. In small portions, fat has lots of calories and it can keep you full. Strive to get healthy fats from fatty fish, cooking oils (i.e. olive oil, corn oil), nuts, avocado and seeds.
- Fiber: Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, starches and grains. More specifically, make sure you get fiber from fresh produce and whole grain sources. Fiber keeps you full because it adds bulk to the meal (and can help you have better bowel movements too).
- Fluid: Next time you’re hungry between meals, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 20 minutes. You may find that the fluid was all you needed to get rid of the hunger pangs. Fluid fills up your stomach to alleviate hunger.
Mistake #3: Drinking your Calories
You may be focusing on the calories you eat from food, but have you looked at what you are drinking? Popular drinks (that you may drink everyday) can be full of calories, fat and/or sugar. Do you drink any of the following?
- Fruit juice drinks
- Sports drinks
- Lattes, Frappuccinos
- Hot chocolate
- Flavored milk (i.e. chocolate milk)
- Tea with syrup or juice
How to Fix It:
If you frequently consume these types of drinks, then it’s time to rethink your drinks. The drinks listed above should be considered dessert items or treats. To reduce your calories from your beverages, choose water, sparkling water, flavored water, unflavored tea and minimally-flavored coffee. Switching out your drinks can yield weight loss without too much effort on your part!
Mistake #4: Alcohol with Dessert
Both alcohol and dessert tend to have lots of calories. Also, both alcohol and dessert are usually add-ons to your meals and do not carry much nutritional value. That being said, if you typically consume both an alcoholic drink and dessert in the same meal, you may be adding on several hundred calories!
How to Fix It:
Here’s a simple tip for controlling calories when it comes to alcohol and dessert: If you consume alcohol with a meal, then avoid consuming dessert (and vice versa). This will help you control calories while still allowing yourself to enjoy extra items with your meal. Lean more about alcohol consumption and other basic rules to healthy eating, here.
Mistake #5: Underestimating Calories Consumed
Many weight loss plans involve some sort of food tracking or calorie tracking. Even if you are estimating how many calories you are consuming by looking at the Nutrition Facts Label, you are tracking your calorie intake. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that we tend to underestimate our calorie intake.
How to Fix It:
To better estimate your calorie intake, see how your portions of food (the amount you actually put on the plate) compares to the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts Label. For example, one serving of Cheerios cereal is ¾ cup. Per the label, ¾ cup is 110 calories.
Thinking about when you eat cereal, do you typically only consume ¾ cup? If you fill up your large bowl, you may be eating 2 or 3 times the serving size. Above all, it’s okay to eat more than the serving size, but make sure you are accounting for that in your calorie estimations. Check out this portion size guide to help you create meals that are of modest portions for better weight loss success.
Now that you know 5 common weight loss mistakes, you can create a weight loss plan that works!