You seem to be doing everything “right” – cutting out junk food, eating salad all day, snacking on nuts or celery sticks and exercising more, but just don’t seem to be seeing the results you want or ever reaching your “goal weight”. Here are some common dieting mistakes that could be stopping you lose the weight you want, and my tips for making the simple changes you need to fix them and finally shed those pounds!
1. Allowing yourself to get HUNGRY
You might think you’re being virtuous by skipping meals or even going from lunch to dinner without snacking at all… but think again! When you’re ravenous two things happen: First, anything and everything looks and tastes delicious. Second, it takes a LOT more food to feel satisfied. As a result, you end up eating a lot more of the wrong food! The solution is to eat small, healthy snacks between meals. These will help keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism going strong. Always carry healthy snacks with you if you know you’re going to be out and about for a long time, or working crazy hours and there’s risk of getting starving!
Snacks should be 200 calories or less, and a combination of fibre, healthy fats and protein for optimum satisfaction and blood sugar stability. Good examples are a portion of nuts, seeds and dried fruit; an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter; or whole-grain crackers with hummus.
2. Portion Distortion
It is essential to understand that “healthy” does NOT equate to “not fattening”. Even if you stick to consuming only healthy foods such as nuts, hummus, avocado, olive oil and dark chocolate, you still have to watch your portion sizes and quantities. Just because they’re healthy, it does NOT mean you can eat them freely. Whilst there’s certainly benefit in consuming a little olive oil… if you pour it liberally over your pasta and dip your bread in it, it will lead to excessive calories and weight gain! The same goes for nuts… learn what a normal serving size looks like (it’s VERY EASY to eat the whole big bag!) and limit yourself to that.
It may be the case that you were once well aware of sensible portion sizes, but have just gotten lax about things – another factor that leads to “portion distortion”. You may have started out being diligent about measuring, weighing or pre-portioning food when you first started watching your weight, but now you feel like “guesstimating” will do the job just as well. Whilst it is not necessary to measure or weigh your food every day as a way of life, perhaps you just need a “re-check” as to what a normal serving size looks like (pull out your measuring cups or scale just the once!) to get you back on track!
3. Mindless munching
Whether it’s the odd nut here or there or tasting while you cook and bake… every bite adds up! If you find you mindlessly eat at frequent times throughout the day, try keeping a food diary for a few days (at least 3) – to bring back your awareness of everything you eat and drink. This will allow you (or a qualified nutritionist) to analyse and identify where your eating habits could do with some improving!
4. Avoiding carbs like the plague
Cutting out carbs completely might lead to weight loss at first, but it WON’T be sustainable and you will end up tired, lethargic, cranky and irritable. You will also pile on the pounds (and more!) the minute you start eating “normally” again… (unless you like the idea of living off dry tuna, chicken, lettuce leaves & steamed broccoli for the rest of your life!)
However, whilst cutting out all starchy foods is a MAJOR diet disaster, when eating them you must stick to the rights types! These include whole-grain unrefined carbohydrates such as whole-grain / rye bread, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes and oats. These are great sources of fibre and full of a variety of other nutrients.
5. Trying to go “fat-free”
Remember: you need some good fats to burn fat! This means eating good, healthy unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocado, olive oil and various other healthy oils. These fats are super-healthy and add satiety to food. They should be included in your daily diet, as they are proven to lower the risk of heart disease and aid the body in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. As long as you incorporate them in moderate amounts (as they are calorific), you’ll feel fuller and more satisfied, helping you lose weight (and keep it off for good!). In their absence, we tend to reach for sweet and starchy foods. Incorporating good fats into your diet will help reduce sugar cravings, increase energy levels and keep you fuller for longer!
6. Over-reliance on exercise
Whilst exercise is great and essential for health, it is NOT the key to weight loss… that depends (virtually entirely) on what goes into your mouth. As any personal trainer will tell you: “You can’t out-train a bad diet“. Exercise can also serve to increase your appetite (which is natural), and whilst you DO need to re-fuel properly after a workout (neglecting to do this is another diet disaster), it must be done properly. I will leave the details of optimum pre- & post-workout nutrition for another time, but the key point to have in mind is that exercise doesn’t give you carte-blanche to eat whatever you like, and the calories you burn play a very minor part in your weight loss efforts compared to the food you eat. So view exercise as essential for your HEALTH, NOT weight loss!
7. Getting despondent…
…and giving up! Don’t get “weighed down” by the number on the scale – it’s really NOT everything. Getting despondent and impatient, with a need to see “fast” drastic results, will sabotage all your efforts. Besides, there are other (perhaps more important) ways to track your progress, such as how your clothes fit, how you look and feel, energy levels, mood and stamina, or your waist circumference and body fat percentage. Giving up or getting despondent just because you don’t see the number on the scale dropping as much as you’d like is the worst thing you can do.
Making sustainable changes to your diet and noticing results can be a slow process, taking several weeks to achieve noticeable results. It is critical to be patient and stick with your new healthy habits. Your body is benefiting every day from the changes you make. Stick with them and you are guaranteed to see results (and most importantly, ones that will LAST!).