Weight loss is simple, but “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.” If weight loss were easy, there wouldn’t be hundreds of diets, tips, and tricks out there! The truth is, there are a lot of very common mistakes that people make when attempting to lose weight. Some of these are:
1. Cutting out carbs.
Note that “cutting out” isn’t the same as “reducing.” There are plenty of people who reduce their carb intake and go on to lose weight and discover that they thrive with a low-carb lifestyle. However, eliminating carbs from your diet completely isn’t a great way to go.
For one, whole grains and other complex carbs are excellent sources of many vitamins and minerals. Since your body and brain are designed to use carbs efficiently for fuel, suddenly eliminating them can trigger strong cravings as you adjust. Carb-containing foods are also a source of fiber. While many people think of fiber as just something that makes you feel full and adds bulk to stools, nutritional studies show a very strong correlation between longevity, health, and an adequate fiber intake. While you may not need the number of carbohydrates that you’re taking in now, eliminating carbs entirely spells trouble.
2. Only focusing on weight.
Not all weight is the same. This is where the body mass index falters — some people have high weight relative to their size because they have a lot of muscle mass. If all you’re focusing on is the number on the scale, you may inadvertently be doing things that cause you to lose lean muscle mass and bone density as well as fat. In the end, it’s important to eat in a way that supports your body’s lean tissues — not just restrict until you weigh less.
3. Looking for special “diet secrets.”
The truth is, all diets work. You could follow the grapefruit diet, eat nothing but cabbage soup, or go full keto. It really doesn’t matter. As long as you can adhere to them, you will lose weight.
This is because, at their heart, all diets still revolve around consuming fewer calories than you use. The exact foods or balances of macronutrients may vary, but there is no diet that allows people to eat unlimited amounts of high-calorie, low-nutrient food and lose weight. There is no secret.
The diet that will work for you is one that you will stick to. Many people cite a study that claimed that most diets fail, but this is because the people studied returned to their old eating habits once the “diet” was over. Find a balanced way of eating that fulfills your nutritional needs without putting you in a calorie surplus and keep eating that way.
4. Relying on “diet” snacks.
“Diet” snacks aren’t actually helpful for losing weight — in fact, they often do the opposite. Fat enhances flavor and satiety, so foods that are low-fat or fat-free often ramp up the sugar and salt content to compensate. They might be lower in calories, but they’re not actually better for you. What’s more, their high sugar can cause rapid changes in blood sugar, leading to hunger, cravings, and crashes. Eating a lot of sugar and salt can also negatively impact your sense of taste, making it more difficult to taste and appreciate whole, unprocessed foods.
5. Trouble with math.
Research has shown that people who are thin overwhelmingly tend to underestimate the calories they eat and burn in a day, while people who are overweight do the opposite. As a result, many people claim that they eat fewer calories than they burn, but still can’t lose weight. Unfortunately, this is impossible — human bodies can’t create mass out of nothing. The good news is that this is an easy fix. Use an online calculator to figure out your basal metabolic rate, and the caloric needs for your age, weight, and activity level. Weigh and measure your food in order to get a more accurate idea of what you’re taking in. Lastly, remember that a lot of exercise trackers overestimate your calories burned.
6. Eating things you don’t want, or when you’re not hungry.
For years, people were told to eat small meals often to stave off cravings and drops in metabolism. Stereotypical diet tropes also revolve around healthy food being boring or unpleasant to eat. As a result, many people trying to lose weight find themselves choking down the food they don’t even want when they aren’t even hungry. This isn’t just unnecessary; it can make losing weight more difficult. If you don’t like something, find something with a similar calorie count and nutrient profile that you do like. If you aren’t hungry, don’t force yourself to eat.
7. Exercising without making dietary changes.
There’s a saying that “abs are made in the kitchen.” This is just a fun way to say that you can’t out-exercise a poor diet. If a diet is too high in calories and too low in actual nutrition, it’s not doing you any good to try to exercise harder. Most forms of exercise don’t burn nearly as many calories as people assume they do, and it’s very easy to eat back all the calories you burn. For example, it would take approximately two hours of weightlifting to work off a single plain cheeseburger. Any attempt to lose weight has to explore diet as well as exercise.
The word “diet” has gotten a bad rap over the years. People hear it and imagine a life of restriction and mounds of dry salad. In reality, the first definition of “diet” is “the food and drink a person or animal consumes.” That’s it. Your diet can be whatever you need it to be, as long as it’s meeting your nutritional needs and providing you with the right number of calories. When you can simplify things, you can avoid falling into common weight loss mistakes.