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What is the biggest mistake people make who are trying to lose weight?

Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There are a lot of reasons why someone can’t or isn’t losing weight, and many have nothing to do with food. Overall food choices and calories are most important. And if you’re not losing weight you probably need a diet overhaul. This includes when you eat, food combinations, and amount. You may be surprised there is a whole other side to weight loss that doesn’t include food at all. Here is a list of the most common food and non-food dieting mistakes that may be slowing down your weight loss progress.

  • You sleep less than 7 hours per night. Studies show that less than 7 hours sleep for the average adult will inhibit weight loss.
  • You exercise too much. Exercising is not an automatic pass to eat more, and exercising generally burns a lot fewer calories than what dieter think.
  • You skip meals. It may seem to make sense, you’re eating less therefore you will lose more. But skipping meals will only hurt your weight loss effort.
  • You're eating “diet” or fake foods. While prepackaged weight-loss products like shakes and bars are convenient, they may not be helping you to lose weight in the long run. These foods leave you unsatisfied and hungry, which is for sure a set up for overeating later. There are lots of healthier, more filling options with the same or fewer calories, like a cheese stick or a serving of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • You don’t like to drink water. Drinking water helps you manage your appetite. This is because thirst and hunger are easily confused. In one study, people who drank two glasses of water before eating a meal consumed up to 90 fewer calories.

The biggest mistake most people make who are trying to lose weight is thinking that nutrition is a deal-making exercise. For example, you may think if you skip breakfast, you can eat pizza. Or if you eat veggies today, you can have pastries tomorrow. The reality is that there are no deals to be made: eat the wrong foods, and your body pays the consequences. It's important to add that this isn’t even about calories: you can’t just “exercise off” a bad meal. While doing so may help control weight gain and can even help you lose weight, the calorie burn doesn’t counteract the damage that unhealthy foods can do on the inside—and that’s most important when it comes to overall health outcomes, longevity, staying disease free, feeling energetic and enjoying a high quality of life no matter what your age.

Here’s the reason: your genes make proteins that help your body function. For instance, hemoglobin (a protein) helps deliver oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from each cell. Most changes that are made to your proteins last the lifetime of that protein in your body—as long as 180 days. So when you eat ingredients and nutrients that are bad for you, their joy may last for an hour, but their ill effects on your body can last for six months—even if you burn off the calories. Think about that: those few moments of pleasure from drinking soda come at the cost of damage on the inside that lasts for 180 days. Once those foods flip the switch, your eating a few handfuls of cauliflower can’t flip them back. 

This Is Your Do-Over: The 7 Secrets to Losing Weight, Living Longer, and Getting a Second Chance at the Life You Want

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Small, gradual changes will make the biggest impact on helping people with weight loss, and ultimately, weight maintenance. 

I share with my clients to make a few small changes and these will lead to big results. A few suggestions include choosing 100% whole grain products, fruits and vegetables at most meals, healthy fats like olive oil, and limiting added sugars. 

Of course I would suggest daily activity as well. Activity and portion control go hand in hand. 

Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The biggest mistake people make when trying to lose weight is going on "fad" diets. Many fad diets do work for quick weight loss, but can eliminate certain foods or food groups that are important for healthy nutrition. People often feel very "deprived" and tend to quickly re-gain the weight lost, and many times gaining more due to the yo-yo effect. Learning moderation, balance, portion control, and exercising are key to healthy lifestyle weight management and maintenance.

Trying to lose it too fast. Most people have very little patience once they have decided to lose weight. They have put time and thought into the decision and the forecast that significant weight loss may be months off is frustrating and disappointing. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to follow an overly restrictive diet. Before the day is up they are starving, shaky, and irritable. It is no wonder most diets end before the end of the first day! Approaching weight loss with a more moderate plan, involving long term behavior change, may not seem very appealing if you are ready to lose weight now, but study after study validates that slow and steady weight loss has a much better chance of staying off.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.