Are you trying to lose weight with no success? We get it. The process can be frustrating at times as well as confusing. There are so many myths and bits of misinformation floating about. Often it’s just a few changes to your lifestyle to offer big results. To help sort this out, we asked registered dietitians to share the biggest mistakes they see their clients making when trying to lose body fat. Take this advice to heart and know that slow and steady wins the race.
Extreme dieting usually involves overexercising and extreme calorie restriction. Never dip below 1,200 calories per day. Registered dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition, says “cutting out too much” isn’t sustainable. Find a nourishing, simple (yet delicious) way of eating that offers you enough calories, nutrients, and energy to live a healthy, happy life.
Swearing Off Treats or Food Groups For Good
Saying no to bread, chocolate, cookies, or french fries can be downright depressing. Including these foods in small amounts on a regular basis can help prevent an urge to go overboard later.
Eating Too Much Sugar and Processed Foods
While you shouldn’t swear off sweets forever, the typical Western diet tends to be high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed food. It’s not just the empty calories you need to worry about; it’s how these foods affect your insulin. Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist (kidney specialist), explained that processed carbs and sugary foods such as ice cream, cookies, muffins, crackers, bagels, and white bread spike your insulin levels, which can causes weight gain.
Not Planning Ahead
Stephanie Clarke also recommends planning ahead as much as possible. When hunger strikes and you’re not prepared, that’s when unhealthy decisions are made. At the beginning of the week, plan out your meals and snacks, then hit the grocery store to stock up on everything you need. It means that you’ll have the food you want to eat on hand when you want to eat it, “which is the key for sticking to healthy eating for the long term,” Stephanie said.
Too Much Protein or Not Enough
While carb-free, high-protein diets do offer results, Willow, of C&J Nutrition added, it’s not sustainable or healthy for the long term. You will miss out on vital nutrients from fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This variety of healthy foods “helps keep your gut bacteria happy and your digestive system regular and keeps you feeling satisfied.” So you don’t want to be downing protein smoothies all day.
Compensating For Eating With Exercise
Working out just so you can eat more, or eating a ton and “punishing” yourself with a grueling workout to burn it all off not only promotes an unhealthy relationship with food, but it can also lead to weight gain, warns Stephanie. A 30-minute run only burns about 250 calories, so if you devour 300 calories worth of dessert, it’s no wonder you’re not losing any weight and actually gaining instead. Use workouts to complement your healthy diet, not to make up for unhealthy eating habits.
Keeping It to Yourself
Having the support of everyone around you will make it much easier to stay on track with your a weight-loss goals, so don’t go at it alone! Willow suggests telling your family, friends, gym buddies, and co-workers that you’re trying to lose weight. Therefore suggesting going out for ice cream after work, they’ll invite you for a pre-dinner workout. They can keep you fired up about your goals, and be there to celebrate when you conquer them.
Not Eating Enough
Drastically reducing your daily calorie intake seems like the simplest and easiest way to lose weight, which is why many people try it. “While calorie deficit is a must for weight loss,” registered dietitian Lisa Bunn, director of nutrition at the Genavix Wellness Network, said, “The nuance is that we don’t want it to be too much of a deficit.” Without enough food for survival the body will send signals to conserve calories, slowing down metabolism. It will then choose to get its energy from a more efficient source than our fat stores, namely our muscles.
Having Cheat Days
Kale salads and HIIT workouts are on point all week, so when the weekend rolls around, you deserve a little reward, right? Not so fast. “One cheat day can undo all the weight-loss work you’ve put in during the week,” warns Willow. If you devote an entire day to eating foods that don’t push you toward your goal, “the only person you’re cheating is yourself and that’s not good in the short term or long term.” Plus, a cheat day can easily turn into a few cheat days, making it harder to get back on track.
Instead, stick to the one small treat each day to satisfy your cravings, and you shouldn’t need a whole day to let loose. It also helps to make sure the healthy foods you’re eating are enjoyable.
Not Drinking Enough Water
“Water intake is, I believe, one of the best weight-loss tips,” Fitness trainer Bob Harper said in an Instagram video as part of a series he calls #TwoCupsIn.
Since thirst is often mistaken for hunger, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. It will help keep energy levels up and prevent headaches. These can be reasons to reach for extra snacks, which leads to weight gain.
Not Eating Enough Veggies
Vegetables are the food group you want to be filling up on the most. “They are high in volume and weight and fill up our stomachs. This helps register the feeling of fullness,” Ilana said. Stephanie and Willow agree and say that veggies are also high in fiber, so they’ll satiate hunger longer, helping consume fewer daily calories. Leslie adds that veggies aren’t just for dinner! Include veggies in every single meal and snack.
Skipping Dinner For Cocktails
Seems like you’re saving calories, but this is detrimental to weight loss for a number of reasons. Willow reminds us that “drinking on an empty stomach can lead to quicker intoxication”. If the calories level out because of skipped dinner, you’re still missing out on valuable nutrients, dropping blood sugar levels. The result? Hunger coupled with the effects of alcohol will quickly nix that trip to the gym. If you do enjoy a drink with a meal, don’t forget they add hundreds of calories without making you feel satisfied. Excessive alcohol will cause the liver to stop metabolizing fat and carbohydrates in order to get the alcohol metabolized first.
Eating Diet Foods
Marketing convinces us that “diet” foods (like diet soda) work. Weight loss may occur initially, but there are some not-so-good long-term effects. Lisa warns that “diet” foods tend to be more expensive and, more importantly, our body doesn’t recognize them as food. “When we eat something that isn’t recognized as food the body sends inflammatory signals to that site in order to fix the perceived problem. Replacing whole foods with artificial stuff, can lead to increased inflammation in intestines and across the whole body,” Lisa says. “Fat-free” peanut butter, as well as “sugar-free” cookies and ice cream may have fewer calories, but there are chemicals, extra salt and sugar to make up for the flavor. Willow points out that a recent study showed that we might not feel as satisfied with low-everything diet foods since the body is not getting the nutrition it craves. This could cause eating more in the long run. This means eating these foods can actually cause weight gain, so skip them and go for whole, all-natural foods instead.
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