To lose weight, we need to create an energy deficit, either by eating less calories or increasing the number of calories we burn through physical activity, or both. Some people – the lucky ones – are able to do this without too much trouble.
Most, however, find it anything but easy. You think you are doing everything that you should be but the weight stubbornly refuses to disappear. In all too many cases, the reason is that people are making mistakes.
The following are the most common of these mistakes:
Fixation With the Scales
Many people when dieting become fixated by what the scale is telling them. Despite sticking religiously to the weight-loss plan, the figure stubbornly refuses to drop. What many don’t know, however, is that the scale reading is just one measure of weight change.
Weight is actually influenced by several factors. For example, fluctuations in the quantity of food and fluid in the body which can cause a persons weight to change by as much as 4 lbs (1.8 kg) during any one day.
A lot of people combine their weight-loss plan with an exercise routine in the hope of getting fit as well as losing weight. What many of them fail to realize though, is that in terms of body weight, one can cancel out the other. They may be losing weight thanks to loss of fat caused by the diet but they are replacing it with muscle gained by the exercising. A simple way of establishing if this is happening to you, is to measure your waist with a tape measure. This will show if you are losing fat. If so, you will also notice that your clothes are looser than they were, particularly around the waist.
An issue that affects the fair sex is that of estrogen levels and hormones. Increases in the former and changes in the latter can cause the body to retain water which, of course, causes an increase in weight, albeit temporary.
Misjudging Calorific Content
In order to lose weight, the body has to to burn more calories than it actually gets. With regard to the precise amount of calories needed for this to happen, there is no easy answer – it varies from person to person. Occupation, age, gender and genes are just some of the factors involved.
Furthermore, most people simply have no idea of the calorific content of the foods they are eating. This makes it impossible for them to regulate their calorie intake to the degree necessary, not just to lose weight, but to lose it at a sensible rate that is both safe and sustainable.
Study after study has shown this to be so. People consistently underestimate the amount of calories they are taking in – wishful thinking perhaps?
Assuming Healthy Foods Are Low in Calories
Many people assume that because a particular food is known to be healthy, it follows that it must be low in calories as well – it’s an understandable way of thinking. With many foods it is indeed true – vegetables for instance. However, many other healthy foods are anything but low in calories – nuts and dairy produce being just two examples.
Consuming too much of the latter will cause you to put weight on. You will be healthier than fat people who don’t eat healthy foods but you will still be fat yourself, and thus not as healthy as you could be.
Again, this where it pays dividends to know the calorific content of the foods you are eating.
Dieting Too Rigorously
Some people take it too far – they reduce their calorie intake to the point where their bodies simply cannot function properly. When this happens, the body shuts down as much as possible in an attempt to conserve what little energy it has. It does this by slowing its metabolic rate (one aspect of metabolism is the conversion of food and drink into energy).
Unfortunately, any weight lost during an extremely low-calorie diet will usually be swiftly regained when the person starts eating normally again. The reason for this is that their metabolism will be unnaturally low for some time after the diet ends and, during this readjustment period, the body will store as much fat as it possibly can – it is programmed to do just this.
Lack of Exercise
An unavoidable side effect of losing fat when dieting, is the simultaneous loss of muscle mass. And since muscle tissue burns many more calories than fat tissue does, it follows that muscle mass is a key factor in weight loss.
This is why it is very important to exercise while you are dieting. Doing so will limit the amount of muscle you lose and, in turn, prevent your metabolic rate dropping as low as it otherwise would. This helps the body to burn as much fat as possible.
With regard to what type of exercise is best for this purpose, it is important to realize that you don’t need to do anything extreme. Moderate weight lifting and cardiovascular exercises like brisk walking, jogging and swimming fit the bill perfectly here.
Lack of Resistance Training
Resistance training is extremely important when embarking on a weight loss regime. Numerous studies have shown that lifting weights is one of the best exercises for increasing muscle mass and metabolic rate.
It also improves overall body composition and is particularly effective when it comes to losing the stubborn fat around the waist. If there is such a thing as an ideal weight loss strategy, combined aerobic exercise and weightlifting appears to be it.
Eating Diet Foods
Almost always advertized as being low in fat and so ideal for losing weight, so-called diet foods appear to fit the bill perfectly. What usually happens when people eat them regularly however, is that they either don’t lose weight at all or, even worse, actually put weight on.
The reason for this is that foods of this type contain little in the way of fat. This makes them inherently tasteless (most of a food’s flavor is found in the fat). So in order to make them palatable, the manufacturers load them with large quantities of sugar. As a typical example of this, one cup (245 grams) of low-fat yogurt can contain as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar.
Another issue with these foods is that they have a low content of fiber and nutrients. As a result, it’s not long before you’re feeling hungry again and so eating more of them. Once again, this often results in weight gain rather than weight loss.
Overestimating Calories Burned While Exercising
Just as many people underestimate the amount of calories they are consuming, other people overestimate the amount of calories they are burning while doing their exercises.
In most cases, it is a lot less than they think – often several hundred calories less. Having got their breath back after a run round the park, they head for the kitchen thinking they can fill up to the tune of four or five hundred calories. The reality, however, is that their 30 minute run has only burned about 300 calories. So, at best, they lose no weight and, at worst, actually put it on.
Having said that, exercise is still crucial for overall good health and will help you to lose weight. It’s just that it doesn’t burn quite as many calories as some people think.
Not eating enough protein
In a recent clinical study, subjects who reduced their intake of calories while following a high-protein diet, lost more weight than subjects with a similar reduction in calorie intake but who ate less protein. This is thought to be because protein is a more satiating nutrient than either carbohydrates or fat.
However, be aware that you can overdo the protein as some foods rich in it are also high in carbohydrates. Protein bars and shakes are examples of this. The types of protein you eat matter, too. A tub of plain, fat-free yogurt won’t set you back very many calories but a large steak and fries followed by crackers and cheese will, not to mention being high in saturated fat.
Lack of Fiber
A diet that lacks fiber will definitely hinder your weight loss efforts. Although it is a carbohydrate, it is a type of carbohydrate that is low in calories and also one that the human body finds difficult to digest. As a result, a meal rich in fiber keeps you feeling full for much longer periods than a low-fiber meal will.
Because high-fiber foods are so filling while, at the same time being low in calories, you can eat large portions of them and so do not have to go hungry as you do with some of the diet plans out there. Furthermore, fibrous foods must be well chewed which also helps to create a feeling of satiety.
Fiber comes only from plants. Their skins, seeds and membranes are particularly rich in it. Good sources of fiber are beans, legumes, flax seeds, asparagus, brussels sprouts and oats.
If you have read this article, it won’t surprise you to know that the processed food industry has moved in on this market with it’s range of fiber supplements. Don’t waste your money – it’s cheaper and much more effective to buy the real thing.
Eating Too Often
Conventional dietary advice decrees that we must eat something every three hours or so in order to prevent hunger and a subsequent drop in metabolism. It shouldn’t be much – just enough to keep those hunger pangs at bay. And, indeed, for people who don’t need to lose weight it makes perfect sense. However, for people who are overweight because they cannot control how much they eat, it is dangerous advice.
If you are one of the latter, you must do the precise opposite – quite simply eat less often. Restrict yourself to breakfast, lunch and dinner – nothing else. People who try this usually find that once they get out of the habit of snacking, they quickly lose the urge to do it.
Many people are more likely to hit a target, regardless of what it is, if they start off with a clear plan and a realistic idea of what it is they are trying to achieve. It keeps them motivated.
However, setting the target too high can be counter-productive. A number of studies show that dieters who expect to lose large amounts weight, or to lose it very quickly, are actually the ones least likely to succeed.
The message from this is clear. Restricting your expectations to a realistic level that is more likely to be achieved can stop you from getting discouraged, and thus improve your chances of success.
Not Reading Food Labels
Virtually all food products these days come with dietary information on the rear label. This information can provide very good insight as to whether a particular product is fit for your purpose.
The first mistake many people make with regard to these labels is simply not reading them. While most labels consist mainly of a long and incomprehensible list of God knows what ingredients, they do also provide information vital to the dieter – specifically, the calories in the food, and the amounts of fat and sugar it contains. Taking note of this info will stop people who have a limited knowledge of the calorific content of foods eating stuff that will prevent them losing weight.
Needless to say, the processed food industry hates having to provide these details and fought the requirement tooth and nail when it was first mooted. They would much rather their customers have no idea at all about what’s in the food they’re buying. With no choice in the matter, however, the PFI’s only option is to deceive and confuse as much as possible. So, not only do you have to read the food labels, you need to read between the lines because the PFI simply cannot be trusted.
Eating Processed Food
Absolutely the worst thing people can do when trying to lose weight is to eat processed foods – usually, this is the reason they’re overweight in the first place! One of the main problems with these foods is that most of the fiber and nutrients have been processed out of them. What’s left is simply not substantial enough to create a feeling of satiety.
Because of this, it won’t be long before they’re feeling hungry again, Basically, it’s very easy to overeat processed foods. Natural foods on the other hand are difficult to over- consume because they contain fiber and so are satiating.