Working hard to lose weight and then failing to reach your goals is frustrating. These are 8 weight loss mistakes you might be making and how to avoid them.
Focusing only on diet and exercise
Diet and exercise are only part of the weight loss equation. Stress levels and sleep patterns play a role in your success. One study showed that subjects who slept six to eight hours per night and who reported lower stress levels were more likely to reach a 10 pound weight loss goal. Adrenaline, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), and cortisol are hormones released in response to stress. While adrenaline and CRH supress appetite for a short time, cortisol increases appetite and has a longer lasting effect after a stressful situation. Research shows that people who sleep fewer than six hours per night also have elevated cortisol. To make matters worse, lack of sleep also causes an increase in the hormone, ghrelin (increases appetite), and a decrease in leptin (suppresses appetite).
All or nothing
A healthy lifestyle is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. You can’t let one bump in the road send you on a downward spiral of overeating and skipped workouts. Healthy habits such as eating more nutritious foods, controlling portion sizes, and exercising regularly must fit into the natural ups and downs of life. If you attend a dinner party and enjoy dessert, the next day cut back a few calories at each meal. If a late meeting forces you to cancel your workout on Monday, don’t give up the rest of the week. Add 10 minutes of exercise time on Tuesday through Friday to make up for it.
Not eating enough
For many people, weight loss plans include drastically cutting calories or skipping meals. Both practices lead to excessive hunger followed by overeating. According to nutrition and weight loss guidelines set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), women should not consume fewer than 1200 calories per day, and men should have no fewer than 1700 calories per day. Doing so may be detrimental to body functions and metabolism.
Drinking your calories
Research shows that we often fail to compensate for the calories we drink. For example, if you drink a 250-calorie sweetened coffee instead of eating food as a snack, it’s unlikely that you will decrease the calories in your lunch or dinner to balance out the extra intake. The consumption of high calorie drinks (energy drinks, alcohol, coffees, sodas, and juices) make it easy for your daily calorie intake to creep upward, preventing weight loss. Record all of your drinks and any extras you add to them such as cream, sugar, or flavored syrups. Remember that even occasional sips throughout the day count, too.
Underestimating portion sizes
When following a weight loss plan, it’s important to weigh or measure your food to learn what a healthy portion looks like. This makes it much easier to estimate accurately when you are not dining at home. You can also use common household items to help estimate your food intake. (See Tips for Estimating Serving Sizes)
Forcing yourself to love an exercise
There are too many forms of physical activity out there to force yourself to love one that is not a good fit. Just because you heard that indoor cycling burns a lot of calories or your best friend loves the new kickboxing class doesn’t mean that these classes have to work for you. Try as many options as possible when starting out, and think outside the gym. There is nothing wrong with a weekly exercise program that includes 30 minutes jumping on the trampoline with your children, a 60-minute family bike ride, 45 minutes of yard work, 60 minutes of yoga in the living room, and a 30-minute swim.
Faith in the fads
It’s tempting to believe in the promise of quick-fix eating plans and supplements. Despite claims, only a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food and exercise will result in losing weight and keeping it off. Cutting out food groups, detox diets, and diet pills will not give you lasting success. These methods are not sustainable, and any weight you lose is sure to return.
Expecting too much, too soon
Weight loss takes time. In the first week or two, you may see a quick drop in weight due to water loss. Once you begin to lose fat, changes in the scale will slow. Don’t get discouraged. Experts recommend a weight loss of no more than two pounds per week for health and for keeping it off long term. Stick with it, the time will pass, and before you know it you will reach your goal weight.
Malnutrition occurs when there is a lack of necessary nutrients. It is often associated with starvation, but it is now evident that malnutrition applies to overeating as well as undereating. It is possible for a person to become overweight while also failing to get important nutrients.
Macronutrients, micronutrients, and empty calories
The macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) provide the body with calories for energy. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals necessary for health, but they do not provide calories. Empty calories is a term often used for foods which contain excess calories with little nutritional value (soda and junk foods). When these empty calorie foods make up a large part of the diet, you can gain weight without getting all of the nutrients you need.
Quantity versus quality
When we are hungry, we seek out food. But what and how much we eat is influenced by many factors, including time, convenience, environment, culture, and knowledge. The desire to satisfy our hunger often trumps a desire to make healthy food choices. When you choose quantity and convenience over food quality, you risk consuming empty calories.
Nutrients of concern
Many diets poor in nutrition do not provide adequate calcium. Those who consume sweetened soda often drink them in place of calcium-rich milk. Dark, leafy greens and broccoli are sources for dietary calcium, but vegetables are another major food group that are often missing in poor diets.
The chemicals in plant foods (phytonutrients) are not essential to life, but they have numerous health benefits, including protection against disease. A diet of highly processed foods with few fresh fruits, vegetables, or whole grains can be in short supply of these beneficial plant nutrients.
Malnutrition can affect anyone
Foods composed of empty calories tend to be cheap and quick. This makes low-income populations and those with busy lifestyles especially vulnerable to this “overweight and malnourished” phenomenon. The trick is to plan your meals in advance, which will help you keep your food costs down and help you avoid needing to grab something quick when on the go.
Picnics and potluck dinners are not complete without pasta salad. Filled with sweet grapes, crunchy pecans, and a light dressing, this version saves you calories without sacrificing flavor. You can substitute your favorite pasta for the orzo, or use brown rice or whole grain couscous.
Serving Size 1/2 recipe
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.3g
2%Saturated Fat 0.3g
Trans Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 15.7g
Dietary Fiber 1g
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Yield: 8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
2 cups cooked orzo pasta
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
1/4 cup chopped unsalted pecans
3 green onions, whites and greens thinly sliced
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Combine the pasta, grapes, pecans, and onions in a medium-sized bowl.
In a small dish, stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic powder. Stir well, until the sugar begins to dissolve.
Pour the dressing over the pasta and stir to coat all of the ingredients. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.
Grilling fruits and vegetables creates delicious flavors by caramelizing the natural sugars. The following tips will help you get the most out of your fresh produce while keeping your meal healthy.
Flavor without fat and sodium.
Skip the butter and salt, and use marinades to flavor grilled vegetables. Oil and vinegar can be seasoned with herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano, or thyme. Wine, salsas, and tangy marinades like pineapple, orange, lemon, or lime juice provide a tasty alternative. Marinate the vegetables for 30 minutes before grilling. To speed things up, you can also brush on the marinade right before putting them on grill, and again just before they are done cooking.
Easy on the oil.
Vegetables need oil to prevent sticking on the grill, but don’t go overboard. Remember there are 120 calories in each tablespoon of olive oil. Brush or spray them lightly just until coated.
Place these veggies right on the grill.
Slice bell peppers in half and remove the ribs. Cut eggplants, summer squash, and onions in slices about a ½ inch thick. Place these vegetables directly on the grill for about 10 - 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Trim stems from asparagus and place the spears perpendicular to the grate so they don’t fall through. The spears will be ready in about 10 minutes.
Skewers for small vegetables.
Skewers are a good option for vegetables that are too small to place directly on the grill such as cherry tomatoes, small hot peppers, and button mushrooms. Place skewers of vegetables on the grill, perpendicular to the grate, for 10 to 15 minutes. Flip 3 to 4 times during grilling for even cooking.
Packets for easy clean up.
Chopped summer squash, onion, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, and corn cut off the cob can be grilled in packets made from tin foil. Drizzle your packet fillings lightly with olive oil and add your favorite fresh or dried herbs. Fold over the edges to seal and grill over medium heat about 20 -30 minutes. Keep in mind that raw potatoes and carrots may take longer to cook so cut them in smaller pieces, or put them in their own packet and add them to other vegetables after they are done cooking.
More options for healthy eating.
Vegetables are delicious straight from the grill, but they can also be used in other dishes. Chop grilled vegetables and add to whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Use them as a taco filling, omelet filling, or pizza topping.