5 Weight Loss Mistakes You Must Avoid to See Results

Alyssa Atkinson

They’ll do far more harm than good.


Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Just over five years ago, I embarked on a quest to get healthier. Only, I didn’t take the traditional route.

While fitness influencers, magazines, and advertisers were telling everyone to only eat x calories a day or consume whatever you want so long as you stay within their strictly defined “calorie budget”, I decided to ignore them all and take my own approach.

I was in my second semester of college and I had just completed my first nutrition course. As a result of the countless hours of reading I had done and the documentaries I had seen, my entire view of food shifted immensely.

I set one single goal for myself — to focus on nourishing my body with more minimally processed foods. From there, the rest fell into place. The fast food, added sugar, and packaged snacks no longer made up a substantial portion of my diet.

I listened to my body. I never deprived myself, and I enjoyed indulging in sweets occasionally. Now, over five years later, this is how I continue to eat. I’ve maintained a healthy, stable weight through it all.

I guess you could say I beat the odds, since as many as 80 to 95% of dieters gain back the weight they’ve worked so hard to lose. But then again, I never really played the game, because I didn’t ever diet. I simply focused on natural, plant-based foods, and in doing so, I lost a little bit of weight in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong, making lifestyle changes is never easy. But, there are certain weight loss mistakes that will only make it more difficult for you to achieve the results you seek. Thus, here are five of the top weight loss mistakes to avoid when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

1. Focusing on Motivation Alone

If you focus solely on motivation and willpower, you are setting yourself up to fail. No one is motivated to exercise and eat healthy 100 percent of the time.

That’s why I like to focus on progress and balance, not perfection. Treating yourself to a cookie at the end of the night isn’t going to make or break your weight loss goals.

In fact, Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet, states that:

“You want to eat healthy the majority of the time — roughly 85 percent — and still leave room for the indulgences like French fries, cake, and pizza. The key is moderation and portion control.”

If you deprive your body of what it truly wants, it will only come back at you with a vengeance. Thus, even when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to maintain balance.

Take a rest day every once in a while. Enjoy a cookie at the end of the night when you truly crave it. Otherwise, you’ll grow to resent your diet and exercise routine, which will make you less likely to stick with it long term. After all, it’s what you do the majority of the time will have the greatest impact on your overall health and weight.

2. Eating Out

Not only will constantly eating out thwart your weight loss efforts, but it will also drain your pockets, especially if you’re opting for fancy restaurants.

Now, eating out can still be part of a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy a Chipotle Burrito or some fast food French fries occasionally. Even when I was first trying to get healthier, I never cut them out completely.

However, the hard truth is that you can’t eat out for most of your meals if you want to live a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true for fast food, which is usually filled with a lot of added sugar and salt to keep you coming back for more.

The following study, cited in Psychology Today, shows just how addicting sugar can be:

“Researchers kept rats from eating for 12 hours, then gave them unlimited access to food and sugar water for a brief period, then took the food and sugar away again. They repeated this schedule for a few weeks. The rats formed a cycle of bingeing when given access to sugar, and, over time, increased their intake to twice the amount from when they started. When researchers stopped offering sugar or gave the rats an opioid blocker, which prevents the high by blocking some of the pleasurable effects in the brain, the rats showed signs of withdrawal, such as teeth-chattering and body tremors.”

Therefore, if you’re trying to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle, cutting back on the amount of sugar you consume, as well as how often you eat out at restaurants and fast food chains, is crucial.

3. Restricting Calories

This is one of the most controversial topics surrounding weight loss. People want to know how many calories they should eat each day to lose weight. There is not a one size fits all.

Trying to compare your caloric needs to someone else’s is a very dangerous route to take. Everyone’s body, metabolism, exercise routine, and lifestyle in general is unique.

As an example, before the 2016 Rio Olympics, Michael Phelps stated that he ate up to 12,000 calories a day. Most of us couldn’t even fathom eating a fraction of that. We also aren’t Olympic athletes training hard in the pool for five hours every single day.

The same goes for shrinking your calories to match what your friend, sibling, or your favorite celebrity eats. While you might lose a little bit of weight at first, those results won’t last, and the long term health implications aren’t worth the short term aesthetic gains.

4. Skipping Snacks

This one might not be applicable to you if you prefer to eat larger meals and don’t typically feel hungry between them. However, the universal rule applies that if you’re feeling hungry, you probably need to eat.

That’s not to say you should go eat a bag of chips every single day when hunger strikes. However, having healthy snacks around your house to keep you satisfied between meals can actually help with your weight loss goal.

According to Psychology Today, if you restrict your calories too much throughout the day by skipping meals and snacks, you could end up in a tired and hungry state. Then,

“your judgment is impaired and impulsivity increases. In an attempt to rebalance the lack of food, you’re vulnerable to going overboard, compensating for the profound dip in blood sugar and depleted energy.”

If you’re like me, and you prefer to eat smaller meals throughout the day, you might need snacks in between to meet your caloric needs and feel satisfied. I love to prepare healthy, tasty snacks (like protein packed vanilla muffins or an easy guacamole that’s perfect for dipping carrots into) that I can reach for throughout the week.

The key takeaway here is that you don’t need to view snacks as evil or completely off limits. Just try to keep them healthy most of the time, and plan them out. That way, when hunger strikes, you can easily reach for something that will nourish your body and satisfy you until your next meal.

5. Drinking Hidden Calories

Many people fail to realize just how much sugar and calories are hidden in drinks like soda, fruit juice, and specialty coffees.

In fact, a single 12 oz can of soda alone contains 39 grams of added sugar, which is well above the daily recommended limit.

According to Livestrong,

“The amount of weight you lose on a no-soda diet depends on how much soda you’re drinking a day to start. If it’s one can, you may be able to drop about 15 pounds in a year if all else stays the same.”

It truly is shocking how much liquid sugar and calories can impact your weight, energy levels, and overall happiness. Therefore, minimizing the amount of sugar and calories you consume through beverages can help you reach your weight loss goal.

Final Thoughts

The most common motivation for weight loss today (unfortunately) has everything to do with vanity, and nothing to do with its true purpose — to ensure your best chance at living a happy, healthy, and full life.

I have no desire to lose an extra five pounds so I can have perfectly chiseled abs all the time at the expense of my health or making memories and spending time with those I love. Instead, I choose to follow a sustainable diet that allows me to maintain a healthy, stable weight and enjoy life at the same time.

If your goal is to lose weight, just make sure you’re doing so in a healthy way and for the right reasons. Avoid some of the mistakes described above, like severely restricting your calories or downing liquid sugar. In the end, you’ll be grateful you took a slow and steady approach, and didn’t mistreat your body in the process.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC

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