7 of the Biggest Dieting Mistakes
Let’s face it, losing weight is no simple task. If it were, we’d surely see fewer people struggling to get their weight down and keep it off. Taking in fewer calories than you spend every day sounds like a simple enough formula, but counting calories accurately—both the ones that you eat and the ones that you burn—takes considerable practice when dieting.
On top of the calorie counting problem, I’ve found many dieters—with good intentions, mind you—who make critical mistakes when it comes to devising their own health plans. So, when patients tell me they can’t lose weight, it’s often because they’re committing a few of these common dieting mistakes.
- Skipping meals. Lots of people think that skipping meals is a quick and easy way to cut calories, but it’s rarely a good tactic. It’s almost a given that if you skip a meal, you’ll get overly hungry at the next one—or tell yourself that you’ve “hardly eaten all day”—and then overeat. The most successful dieters eat regular meals, and snack in between if the meal interval is longer than 4 hours or so.
- Not eating enough protein. Most dieters know that veggies are the lowest calorie foods out there, so they try to power through the day on little else. But without enough protein, you’ll be hungry in no time. Protein satisfies hunger more than carbohydrates or fat. Make sure you have protein at each meal and snack.
- Not eating enough carbohydrates. I know there are still some low-carb dieters out there, but cutting back too far on carbs means you’re avoiding the ‘healthy’ carbs, too. In particular are antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies. You need the carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables to help fuel your activity, and their fiber helps to fill you up.
- Not keeping track of what you’re eating. You may have a general eating plan and you may feel that you know pretty well how much you’re eating, so you don’t bother to write it down. But you’re more likely to forget all the little extras—the little nibbles throughout the day, the slightly larger portions, the condiments and dressings you didn’t account for. Write down everything you eat, every time you eat, for better accuracy.
- Thinking that all ‘healthy-sounding’ foods are low calorie. Don’t assume that just because a food is labeled low-fat or sugar-free, for example, that you can eat it with abandon. Calories still count, and you need to look at your nutrition facts labels to make sure you know how many you’re taking in.
- Tackling too much at once. If most of your foods come from the drive-through and you get winded walking up a flight of stairs, you’ve got some work to do. Some people do successfully tackle a lot of diet and lifestyle changes at once, but the majority of people need to take things a step at a time. If you’re planning a complete lifestyle overhaul, you may be setting yourself up to fail. Make small changes you know you can stick with, like adding extra steps on your pedometer every day.
- Overestimating how many calories you’re burning through exercise. Studies have shown that people overestimate the number of calories they burn by as much as 25%. Despite what some people may think, a jog around the block won’t burn off the calories in a hot fudge sundae. It’ll take more like two hours of singles tennis to do that.