5 Weight Loss Diet Mistakes You May Be Making

authorThe struggle is real and everyone who has ever tried weight loss programs and failed knows it that all too well. It seems no matter what you do you simply cannot lose that extra weight. Worse is when you try so hard and it actually backfires and causes you to gain more weight.

You have cut out carbs and fat, and sugar, and whatever else they told you caused weight gain or hindered weight loss. You have juiced and detoxed and everything else they told you would help you lose weight and/or stop the gain.

Still, you keep trying. You eat a ton of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. The healthy foods that everyone says you need to eat to lose weight.

You completely eliminate those ice cream sundaes that you love so much and all of your other unhealthy favorites and replace them with – gag – Brussel sprout smoothies and kale salads without dressing. You buy everything you can in the low fat alternative and take diuretics to eliminate unnecessary water weight that makes you feel like you are not getting anywhere.

You have even gone so far as to exercise – the kind that makes you sweat.

Still, you cannot fit into those cute jeans that you wore last year. In fact, the mom pants you are wearing now seem to be getting a little snug.

What is going on?

The fact is you may be getting in your own way. With all of the information out there about weight management, it is little wonder that the majority of people who try to lose weight actually end up gaining more.

When in doubt, always go to the experts. In this case, that means widely respected and recognized experts in the dietary and nutritional fields. Before you make any major change in how you feed and use your body, consult your doctor.

At the very least, consult those associations that specialize in nutrition.

What is the Best Way to Lose Weight?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietary Association or ADA) and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, the ideal way to manage your weight is through careful management of your calorie intake combined with exercise.

The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation is as follows:

For men: BMR = 10 × weight(kg) + 6.25 × height(cm) - 5 × age(y) + 5
For women: BMR = 10 × weight(kg) + 6.25 × height(cm) - 5 × age(y) - 161

*You can convert your weight and height by just typing them into Google.

The value obtained from this formula tells us the number of calories a person needs to consume each day to maintain their current weight. Assuming of course they have a zero activity level.

Since very few people have zero activity, the value from the previous step should be multiplied by an activity factor that generally falls between 1.2 and 1.95.

Where on that range a person falls depends on their typical level of exercise, the more active the person, the higher the number. This gives a more realistic estimate of for maintaining body weight.

Calories Burned from Common Exercises:

Activity (1 hour) 125 lb person 155 lb person 185 lb person
Golf (using cart) 198 246 294
Walking (3.5 mph) 215 267 319
Kayaking 283 352 420
Softball/Baseball 289 359 428
Swimming (free-style, moderate) 397 492 587
Tennis (general) 397 492 587
Running (9 minute mile) 624 773 923
Bicycling (12-14 mph, moderate) 454 562 671
Football (general) 399 494 588
Basketball (general) 340 422 503
Soccer (general) 397 492 587

*Via http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), one pound of body weight equates to roughly 3,500 calories. As such, it is recommended that 500 calories be shaved off the estimate of calories necessary for weight maintenance per day.*

The AMA further says that it is inadvisable for a person to lower their daily caloric intake by more than 1,000 calories per day. Losing more than two pounds per week can be unhealthy and can actually backfire by reducing the metabolism. A sustainable safe weight loss per week is 1 to 1 1/2 pounds.

So now, you have a target for your calorie intake and can eat accordingly. However, that is not all there is to losing weight. Some common misconceptions have led to the development of some common mistakes.

To that end, below is a list of common mistakes that you are probably making without even knowing it.

Mistake #1 – Overeating Healthy Foods

It seems like this should not even be possible. If they are healthy foods then how can a person possibly eat too much? As the old adage says, you can never have too much of a good thing, right?


It turns out that some good things are not as good as they may first seem. Certain foods that are otherwise considered healthy need to be limited when you are trying to lose weight.

Foods such as avocados, coconut and other oils, and nuts, for example, are very high in calories.

For instance, one avocado has around 320 calories. While, a Snickers Bar only has 215 calories. Even though the avocado is better for you, the calories can add up fast.

Likewise, nuts are typically recommended when trying to lose weight, but a small amount adds up fast in terms of calories. While they are otherwise very good for your health, they can be deadly for your diet.

Nuts are extremely calorie dense, meaning that only small amounts of them pack a huge amount of calories. For example, only four walnuts are 100 calories. Most people can eat way over triple that amount in one sitting without realizing how many calories they have consumed.

For about the same number of calories as eight walnuts, you could eat a milk chocolate Hershey's Bar. Again, always choose the more nutritious option, but watch out for overeating by watching your portions.

It is important for you to know what you are putting in your body. Pay attention to the calorie content of foods in addition to the nutritional value. Just because it is good for you does not mean that it is good for your diet.

You are eating to fuel your body. You would not overfill the gas tank of your car. Likewise, you should not overfill your body with high calorie, yet nutrient rich, foods.

Knowing the calories contained in each of the major food components can help you keep track of how many calories you are putting into your body from those sources. It can also help you develop a diet based around those components, which you value over others, for whatever reason.

Energy from Common Food Components

Food Components kJ per gram Calorie (kcal) per gram kJ per ounce Calorie (kcal) per ounce
Fat 37 8.8 1,049 249
Proteins 17 4.1 482 116
Carbohydrates 17 4.1 482 116
Fiber 8 1.9 227 54
Ethanol (drinking alcohol) 29 6.9 822 196
Organic acids 13 3.1 369 88
Polyols (sugar alcohols, sweeteners) 10 2.4 283 68

*Via http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

Mistake #2 – Low Fat Product Overload

Another mistake that you probably thought was helping you is overloading on low fat products.

Many products touted as low fat are high in sugar to compensate for the reduction in fat. That means that they are still high in calories and will actually contribute to weight gain rather than promoting weight loss as is commonly believed.

A recent UK study found that 10% of diet foods with the low fat label actually contain the same or more calories than the regular stuff, and that 40% had more sugar. When companies remove fat, they have to use more sugar, salt, and additives to make the food better tasting.

There are "fat-free," "low-fat," "light," and "reduced-fat" products available. Here is what those terms mean:

  • "Fat-free" foods must have less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving.
  • "Low-fat" foods must have 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
  • "Reduced-fat" foods must have at least 25% less fat than regular versions of those foods.
  • "Light" foods must have either 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat.

In addition, research shows that a "low-fat" nutrition label leads all consumers, especially those who are overweight, to overeat thinking that they will not gain weight because of the lowered fat content.

Moreover, when it comes to losing weight, a little ‘good’ fat can actually help you slim down – as long as it is a monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat.

According to Lisa Young, Ph.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan, “The good-for-you fats in foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon can help you feel more full, meaning you take in fewer calories throughout the day overall.” Just make sure to watch your portion size; since these foods do contain a healthy amount of fat, they also tend to be calorie-dense.

If you want to lower the fat in your diet – which is commendable – and lose weight at the same time, entirely cut out the processed foods with the bright labels screaming “Low Fat” from the supermarket shelves. It is always best to get your food as close to its natural state as possible but it is especially important if you are looking to drop a few pounds.

Bananas, beans (green snap and red kidney), broccoli, carrots, fish (haddock, Orange Roughy, and white tuna), grapes, and many more foods are both low in fat and low in calories. When you shoot to lower your fat intake during a diet, choose one of the foods in that category.

Mistake #3 – Banning Your Favorite Treats

Every piece of dietary literature and advice tells you that if you want to lose weight you must completely eliminate anything unhealthy or containing sugar, fat, carbs, or what have you from your diet. That is not only wrong; it can backfire and make your diet fail.

How many of us have punished ourselves for putting on a few pounds by going into a state of denying ourselves sweets, fats, and just about every food that makes us happy.

Eliminating your favorite foods only sets you up for failure. When you feel hungry all the time, you are more likely to binge. "I think it's really unrealistic for most people to eat that way for the long-term," says Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, CDN, CPT, a registered dietitian in New York and national ADA spokesperson.

Trying to keep to a diet that forbids the things that you most enjoy eating will only make you want those things even more. It increases the chance that you will go on a binge of those foods you have been refusing yourself and destroying, not only your diet, but also your confidence. Falling off the wagon like this can leave you feeling like you cannot do it.

Do not believe that bull. You can!

"It's all about small splurges without being overindulgent when it comes to very calorie-dense foods," says Sari Greaves, RD, nutrition director at Step Ahead Weight Loss Center in Bedminster, N.J., and an American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokeswoman. She suggests combining sweets with healthy foods, like drizzling melted chocolate over strawberries, or adding a few chocolate chips into your granola.

Like everything else in life, the key here is moderation. Try a lower calorie version of your blacklisted favorite or eat a ‘junior’ size serving of one of your favorite treats once a week. Make it a celebratory gift to yourself for reaching your dietary goals for the week.

Diets do not have to be torture to work but they do require planning, discipline, and vigilance.

Mistake #4 – Not Eating Enough Fiber

Fiber is a hunger satiating, zero calorie group of nutrients that are great for keeping you feeling full longer. Unfortunately, the modern American diet is highly deficient in fiber.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that eating 30 grams of fiber each day can help you lose weight. Fiber has no supernatural fat-burning properties; it simply helps you feel full without adding a lot of extra calories to your diet.

Like anything else, it is best to get your natural nutrients from their natural sources. This is even more true of fiber as the supplemental fiber added to most processed foods is not considered to be very healthy. In fact, some may even be harmful to your health.

Some natural sources of fiber include carrots, green leaf lettuce, celery, okra, radishes, asparagus, broccoli, and cabbage, among others.

Do a little searching and find the low calorie, high fiber foods that you enjoy the most. Plan your meals to include these foods and they will help you lose weight.

According to the Institute of Medicine, women require around 25 grams of fiber per day while men need closer to 38 grams. Not eating enough fiber leaves you more vulnerable to bouts of hunger and binging. Luckily, just a few clever switches and shrewd add-ons can help get you there!

Mistake #5 – Not Drinking Enough Water

Water is one of the central building blocks of life. It is essential to keeping your body running at peak levels. It is no wonder then that you are dehydrated your metabolism slows down.

In order to burn the maximum amount of calories – and thus lose weight – you need to drink as much water as you can and stay hydrated. However, drinking water is not the only variable in whether or not you stay properly hydrated.

Dehydration is caused not only by poor water intake but also by losing more water than you take in. Further aggravating factors are high sodium, caffeine, alcohol intake and sweat lost through exercising can cause dehydration as well.

Diabetes, some illness, and sweating – whether from fever or exercise – can also add to dehydration.

Hydrating your body is one of the easiest ways to amplify your fat-burning capacity. Not to say that drinking water alone will produce weight loss; however, even with an ideal diet, if you are dehydrated, your weight loss will be reduced. At a minimum, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water per day - eight 8-ounce glasses.

When your body is dehydrated, it cannot burn fat.

It is important to know what components of your diet are working against you. That way you can limit or – ideally – eliminate those factors and increase your chances of successfully losing weight.

Wrapping It Up

If you want to lose weight, the best bet is always a balanced diet combined with targeted and aerobic-like exercise that gets your heart pumping. As for dieting, the best thing you can do is limit your calorie intake to less than your body needs, thus forcing your body to burn some its fat reserves for energy. Then add some activity to your day.

Take a walk on the treadmill, work out at the gym, or go out and hunt some Pokémon … whatever gets you moving and gets your heart pumping. The more aerobic the exercise, the more calories burned.

“Ultimately, weight loss is about calorie intake. If you take in fewer calories each day, you will slim down,” says Young.

If you are trying to lose weight, do it in a way that is going to last … or the pounds are going to come back. "I think when you're going on a diet, the most important thing is to find a way of eating that suits your lifestyle," Greaves says. "Ask yourself when it comes to any new diet, 'Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?' If the answer is 'no,' that's probably not the diet for you."

However, you look at it, building a diet that you can stick to that limits you calorie intake to a level below that which you need to maintain your current weight is the one true path to weight loss and part of a healthy lifestyle. Others may produce some results but they will likely be short lived and may cause more health problems.

Not losing weight can be as simple making these mistakes over and over until they become a habit - albeit a bad habit, but nevertheless a habit. But if one of your goals this year is to lose weight, then you have to break those old habits that are holding you back and replace them with new more weight loss-oriented habits.

And because it takes around 30 days to break an old habit and replace it with a new habit, our 30-Day Diet Challenge is the perfect way to create new habits that will help you weigh less in a month than you weigh right now.


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