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  • Writer's pictureClare

5 Common Weight loss Mistakes

So you're trying to lose weight and you think you've been doing all the right things. Eating less of the 'bad' food, eating more 'good' food, drinking more water, working out... and still the number on the scale isn't changing.

Weight loss doesn't always happen in the way we expect it to or want it to. Here are some common mistakes that might be impacting your ability to lose weight.

1: Skipping meals

The first logical step to start weight is to eat less, and one way to do that is to skip meals. Or you may already miss meals for other reasons, like being too rushed in the morning for breakfast, or too busy during the day for lunch. You'd think that because you're eating less meals you should be losing weight, right?

But what often can happen, especially if you miss meals earlier in the day, is that you start to overeat later in the day. Like that afternoon slump where you want something sweet or serving yourself a larger portion at dinner to make up for missing lunch, or the nibbling later in the evening when you're watching tv. These occasions can also lead to 'non-hungry' eating because you start to do it out of habit, or you don't notice when you're full, or you've just had a really stressful day and it's 'comfort eating'.

Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast can end up eating more total calories in a day because of how much they overeat later in the day. Skipping breakfast in particular also means you're less likely to meet your fibre requirements for the day, and fibre is key to feeling fuller for longer and reducing 'non-hungry' eating.

What to do

  • Aim to eat regular meals and snacks through the day according to your hunger levels. If you don't feel hungry in the morning, just start with a mid-morning snack

  • Include fibre in your meals and snacks, eg wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds

  • Watch your portion sizes and snacking at times of the day when you tend to eat for reasons other than hunger

2: Eating too much

Too much of a good thing can be a hinderance to weight loss. If your diet looks amazing on paper, with all the healthy foods; wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, salad, nuts, dairy, lean meat, smoothies, juices, etc. and none of the unhealth foods; biscuits, chocolate, chips, lollies, desserts, etc. but you're still not losing weight??

It could be because your portions are too big, or you're having too many healthy snacks, which is pushing your total calories up. For weight loss to occur, in simple terms, you need to be in a calorie deficit. That means consuming less calories than you expend. Some healthy foods can be high in calories and having large portions or eating 5-6 smaller meals per day, can equal a higher total calorie count than what you need to be in a deficit.

Another way you could be getting unexpected calories is through drinks. Fruit juice and smoothies, while healthier than other drinks, can still be high in calories. Adding sugar to tea and coffee or buying a latte everyday can also increase your calorie intake without you realising.

What to do

  • Make sure your portions aren't too big. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 vegetables or salad, 1/4 carb, 1/4 protein

  • Only eat when you're hungry, eating 5-6 meals a day may work for some people, but if it means you're eating when you're not hungry it's not working for you

  • Watch added calories in drinks. If you're having fruit juice, 1/2 a cup is the equivalent to a serve of fresh fruit. Consider a smoothie like a meal or snack replacement. Reduce sugar added to tea and coffee, and try ordering a long black with a splash of milk instead of always getting a latte or cappuccino

3: Overthinking food choices

Sometimes you can end up getting over-analytical about your diet and think you need to eliminate something in order to lose weight. This could be a food group, like carbs, or a nutrient, like sugar or fat. Or you might think you need to follow a specific type of diet, like high protein, low carb or low fat. This can often lead to restrictive eating patterns that make it hard to go out to eat and can be hard to stick to long term. In some cases you can also miss out on important nutrients from restricting certain foods.

The main thing to note is that there are countless ways to eat a healthy diet. There is no one diet that is the most perfect and best one for losing weight and that will work for every person. We are all individuals with different lifestyles, tastes and preferences, and so our diets should also be individual. All food has a place in a healthy, well-balanced diet.

What to do

  • Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups

  • Include all the foods you love, including the 'bad' foods

  • Choose an eating pattern that works with your lifestyle and that you can stick to long term

4: Not doing enough exercise

Exercise is the other part of the calorie deficit. Total energy expenditure is made up of three main components: basal metabolic rate (the energy required for essential body processes; ~60-80%), thermic effect of food (the energy required to digest and absorb food; ~10%) and activity energy expenditure (the energy from exercise and movement; ~15-30%).

The main one that we have control over out of those three, and the one that varies the most between individuals, is activity energy expenditure. This can further be broken down into intentional exercise (going to the gym, going for a walk, etc.) and non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which includes incidental exercise, like walking to the bus stop, walking around the shops, doing housework, fidgeting, etc.

Any activity will be better than none at increasing your total energy expenditure. You can increase your NEAT by parking further away from the shops or taking the stairs instead of the escalator. When thinking about exercise for weight loss, cardio often comes to mind first. Cardio exercises, like walking, running, and classes at the gym like step class or spin class, are all good for increasing your energy expenditure and also your cardiorespiratory fitness, so that you can do more for longer.

The other type of exercise that can be good for weight loss is weight training, either just with body weight or with free weights like dumbbells or barbells, or the machines at the gym. Including weight-based exercise increases muscle mass which is more metabolically active so it helps you burn more calories

What to do

  • Increase your NEAT by parking further away from the shops or taking the stairs

  • Include some weight exercises eg body weight squats and lunges, or using hand weights

5: Too much focus on the number on the scales

Our weight naturally fluctuates day to day and even during the day. If you weigh yourself daily and the number keeps changing it can be really down heartening. Try not to weigh yourself more than once per week, and ideally at the same time of day, eg in the morning after you've gone to the toilet and before breakfast. That way you'll know you're weighing yourself in the same conditions and so the weight change will be more reliable.

Weight loss is also not a linear process, you'll have some months where you're losing weight and other months where all you do is maintain your weight, and that's ok. Losing weight is a stress on the body, so sometimes it needs some time to relax a bit. Maintenance is also an achievement.

What to do

  • Weigh yourself once a week at most, at the same time of day

  • Think of weight maintenance as an achievement as well; it's practice for maintaining at your ideal weight

Final Thoughts

Weight loss can be hard, and it's not a straight forward path, but there are some straight forward things you can implement into your daily routine and eating habits to help you on your way.

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