For most people it can seem really easy to lose weight from diet and a good exercise plan in the beginning, but after a month or two, your results begin to plateau causing you to lose motivation and give up altogether. But there are a lot of common diet and exercise mistakes you might be making that can easily be fixed to get you back on track. Losing weight can be a difficult task, and there is often a disconnect between what you know you should be doing to lose weight and what you actually do. You may not realize how many calories an extra tablespoon of salad dressing is or how many calories are in your morning coffee drink. The best approach to a new diet is not to think of it as a diet, but as a permanent lifestyle change. That way when you start to lose weight you’re setting yourself up for the healthy habits required to sustain that weight loss for good. Diets create food obsessions, stronger cravings, and a quitting mentality because they often fail. Do some research on proper nutrition and pay attention to food labels to help you make healthy choices and start new healthy habits. If any of these diet or exercise mistakes sound familiar to you, then find ways to fix your bad habits and you’ll be back on track to meet your weight loss goals.
- You Don’t Drink Enough Water
Hydration is important, especially when you’re exercising regularly, but drinking water has a lot of other benefits too when thinking how to lose weight. Drinking a glass of water before every meal can help with portion control by filling you up before you start eating so that you eat less. Eating fruits and vegetables that contain water will also help fill you up faster. Drinking cold water can speed up the metabolism to help get rid of cravings for sugary juices and sodas, so always trying drinking a glass of water when you’re craving something sugary before you give in. Water is also essential to kidney function. When you become dehydrated, the kidneys can no longer function properly which causes the body to turn to the liver for support instead. When the liver is overworking itself, any fat you consume will be stored instead of burned off. A healthy diet should also be high in fiber, and when high fiber consumption is combined with good hydration, it can lead to constipation. Aim to drink one-half of your body weight in ounces of water per day, plus another 8-16 ounce if you consume a lot of fiber.
- You’re Overeating Healthy Foods
Some healthy foods are high in calories and need to be consumed in moderation. The healthy fats found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil are important for weight loss, but they can also cause you to start adding on the pounds if you’re eating too much of them. Even if you’re eating healthier, you still need to watch how much you’re eating. Pay attention to serving size to help you lose weight.
- Your Only Exercise is Cardio
Cardio is important for weight loss, but it isn’t the only effective exercise. Your weight loss program should combine cardio and strength training for the best results. Weight training has many benefits, including preventing injury by strengthening joints, building muscle mass, and increasing metabolic rate. Because weight training increases metabolism, your body keeps burning calories for hours after you’ve finished your workout and left the gym. Don’t rely solely on cardio anymore for weight loss. Combine a strength training exercise plan 3-4 days a week with cardio 2-3 days a week, and remember that cardio doesn’t have to be boring. If you stop seeing results from steady state cardio then opt for some interval training to get the weight loss ball rolling again.
- Exercising on an Empty Stomach
Having an empty stomach while working out causes calories to be burned from your muscles rather than from fat. Fat burns fewer calories than your muscles do, so the more muscle mass you have, the easier it will be for you to lose weight. This is another reason why it’s so important to combine strength training with cardio for optimal weight loss results. Eat a healthy snack before your workouts to fuel your body and prevent muscle loss while also providing you with energy to push through a tough workout.
- You Leave Entire Food Groups Out of Your Diet
Giving up food groups leads to nutrient deficiencies and cravings for foods that have been removed from your diet. It’s important to eat foods from every food group to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs for health and maintaining a healthy weight. Don’t try strict diets like a low carb diet. Opt for whole grains instead and watch your portions. There’s no need to eliminate carbohydrates completely if you eat healthier versions like brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes. Even whole grain pasta is ok on occasion as long as you are sticking to one serving size. Keep in mind that extra serving is probably what is hurting your waistline, not the foods themselves.
- Lack of Sleep
For busy people, it seems like you have to cut sleep time if you’re going to make time for workouts, but sleep is essential to weight loss. Sleep is the recovery period where your body rebuilds muscle, and studies have shown that lack of sleep leaves you unable to control appetite by stimulating appetite increasing hormones. If you want to lose weight, it’s important to prioritize both sleep and exercise so that you have energy for working out and enough time asleep for proper recovery.
- You’re Not Eating Enough Vegetables
The recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables is five to seven servings per day. A diet heavy on fruits and vegetables promotes weight loss and helps keep weight off permanently because plant-based foods contain more nutrients and fewer calories, plus the fiber found in fruits and vegetables helps keep you fuller longer.
- You’re Not Eating Clean
It’s a common mistake to think you’re eating a healthy meal by having a salad for lunch and dinner and then loading on unhealthy toppings and high-fat dressings. A salad is one of the healthiest meals you can eat, but only if you aren’t adding other unhealthy additions. Ranch dressing might make your salad taste better, but it can add hundreds of additional calories that are negating your healthy salad habit. Stick to leafy greens for your salad base, top it off with as many fruits and veggies as you like, then stick to a low-calorie dressing like lemon juice or vinegar, and maybe a little extra virgin olive oil. If you really want to lose weight by eating salads then it’s time to stop adding on the bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing.
- You’re Skipping Breakfast
If you’re trying to lose weight fast, it may seem like a good idea to start skipping meals to save calories. Skipping breakfast certainly saves calories, but it actually ends up doing more harm than good because the body holds onto fat when it’s starved. If you want to lose weight, then you have to eat a healthy breakfast to jump start your metabolism after a night of sleep. Studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly lose more weight. This doesn’t mean that you can eat anything you want for breakfast; it’s still important to stick to a healthy meal that includes protein to give you lasting energy through a busy morning and fiber to keep you full until lunch or a mid-morning snack if you eat breakfast early.
- You Aren’t Watching Your Portion Sizes
Portion control is essential to weight loss. It might seem annoying or unnecessary to measure out every cup or handful of food that you eat, but if you want to eat a balanced diet then you have to eat appropriate servings. Portion sizes help control calories and help teach your body to know when it feels full instead of allowing yourself to eat endless amounts of food.
- Mindless Eating
This is a serious modern-day habit of people who are busy and constantly surrounded by technology. You may think it’s easier to stand up and eat at the kitchen counter to save time or relaxing to eat dinner while you watch TV, but mindless eating leads to overeating and can seriously hurt weight loss goals. Meals are an important time of day and a time to fuel your body so don’t let yourself get distracted. If you aren’t paying attention to the food you’re eating, then you might end up scarfing down your entire meal before you realize it. Connect with your food and your meal times by putting aside enough time to eat slowly and enjoy the healthy food you’re putting into your body without any distractions.
- You’re Not Eating Enough
Starving yourself to cut calories puts your metabolism out of whack and leads to overeating later because you feel so hungry. This is not a sustainable or healthy weight loss practice, and eating too-small portions leads to excess snacking between meals. Watch your portion sizes, but make sure you are giving your body enough healthy food and nutrients for your lifestyle. Food is fuel and it gives you the energy to get through busy days at work and tough workouts in the gym.
- You’re Not Making Weight Loss Fun
Most people think that a healthy lifestyle is miserable. You don’t get to eat anything you like, you hate your workouts, you can’t enjoy meals with friends and family anymore, etc. But none of that is true and it creates unnecessary stress that has been shown to cause weight gain and cravings for high sugar and high-fat foods. Put yourself in the mindset that you want to lose weight so you can live the long and healthy life you’re always dreamed of. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy birthday cake every now and then or an indulgent dinner out with friends or family. One bad meal won’t hurt your weight loss goals as long as you don’t let a cheat meal turn into a whole cheat day or weekend that quickly spirals out of control. Remember to keep exercise fun too. The best exercise is the exercise that you enjoy because then you’ll actually stick with it. Work with a personal trainer or try new classes at the gym until you find something you truly enjoy. And remember that activities like dancing, hiking, and shopping are all great calorie burners too.
- You Don’t Keep Track of Your Diet
One of the most effective ways to stick to a diet and monitor your meals and calorie intake is by writing it down. If you don’t like the old school method of keeping a food journal, then download a weight loss app to help you. One study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that women who lost weight most successfully carefully monitored their calorie intake with a food journal.
- You’re Not Cooking at Home Enough
Calorie counting can be hard at home, but it’s even more difficult to keep track when you’re eating at a restaurant. Going out to eat can be a great treat and help with stress relief when you spend time eating with friends and family, but you’re more likely to indulge and add on extra calories from drinks and dessert so it should be kept to an occasional treat. When you eat at home you know exactly what foods and ingredients you’ve prepared your meal with so that you can stick to healthier options. If you do enjoy going out to restaurants too much to really limit yourself from doing it a few times a week then try healthy restaurant habits like splitting meals, ordering healthier options like salads or grilled chicken, and drink plenty of water.