When it comes to losing weight, a lot of people are unknowingly sabotaging their efforts. Don’t be one of them. In today’s ocean of diet-related data, it’s not that hard to get lost and fall into unhealthy eating habits without even realizing it. When it comes to nutrition, science changes its mind every few years or so, and the same applies to dieting trends. Sometimes we hate fat, other times we swear by its ability to protect cardiovascular health and enhance the work of the immune and endocrine system.
First we lynch all carbs, then declare some of them as actually beneficial health-wise, then go to advocating all-carbs diets that exclude fats and limit protein intake. While the experts are arguing on the best way to diet, regular folks who want to slim down and become fitter are left to experiment on their own and find their own strategies that work. To do so, you need to know the basic rules of the game, which means knowing how to avoid the common mistakes most of us make when dieting.
To help you out with that, we’re going to talk about five major diet blunders that you should absolutely avoid if you want maximum results from your dieting. Some of those are pretty obvious, yet experience tells us that they are committed time and time again, so we’ll try to look at things from a new angle.
Let’s dig in!
#1. Unsustainable Diet Plans
We live in an age of instant gratification. Therefore, it is not unusual for people to choose diets that are very restrictive and hard to follow, but promise instant success. In the long-term, this is highly unsustainable, as most of these diets cut out entire food groups or drastically reduce the number of calories you need to take every day. Since the regime is too hard on the organism, after a while, the entire plan collapses. The result is usually gaining most of the lost weight within six months – if you’re lucky, you’ll gain some additional weight on top of that. These diets can be dramatically effective, but as soon as you stop starving yourself, the effects will vanish.
That’s why you should always look for sustainability in a diet program. Can you keep this up for a long time? Could this way of eating become the norm? If you’re hungry all the time or have had to cut out a food group (needless to say, they all have their own role in your body), think again if this is the right diet for you. Always ask yourself – is this sustainable?
#2. Program Hopping
As the name implies, program hopping is when people hop from one program to another without really giving any of them a real chance to succeed. It’s like you have a goal and then you constantly try new and new ways to achieve it, one on top of the other, looking for the best approach, but never really getting there because you never stick with any of them long enough to make it work.
People like this will question any program they start and lose confidence as soon as it gets hard or the initial results fail to meet their expectations. Most often, the thing that makes them move from one program to the next is the constant search for the best diet, the best workout routine, etc. The newness and excitement of a program attracts them and they will try anything – but their motivation is short-lived. The truth is, there is no best diet of all time. You can easily find a dieting style that theoretically suits you the best and then apply it with little tweaks here and there, but you have to stick with it for a while to find out if it works for you, then tweak it a little bit more or ditch it completely. Finding the right program is easy; what you really want to work on is discipline.
Consistency is often the difference between success and failure, especially with things that demand prolonged effort over a period of time. If you’re struggling with inconsistency in your diet, you are more likely to make slow progress or even one riddled with setbacks. On the other hand, consistency in weight loss is doing something in a similar way day-by-day, decision by decision, that results in pounds dropped over time.
There are tons of people who lose a little bit of weight and then begin gaining weight again. More often than not, this happens because they’ve “loosened up” and stopped making the choices that initially gave them success: you allowed yourself that coke, that additional slice of bread, the huge ice-cream you had yesterday… it all counts. You can’t be consistent to your diet 50-70% (reality) of the time and expect stellar results. It’s simple: the more consistent you are and the less you cheat on your diet, the quicker your weight loss will be. Just accept that progress may be slow at times and bring consistency back to your diet when you begin to falter by repeating choices that bring good results.
Tips to help with this:
- Have a routine for food planning and preparation.
- Shop for food at regular intervals such as once a week – with plan and preparation.
- Track your calories.
- Be patient with yourself. Accept occasional inconsistencies or mess-ups and move on.
- If something clearly isn’t working, change it.
- If you slip back into old eating habits, get back on track as soon as possible.
- Focus on changing a few small but important behaviors at a time instead of trying to change everything in your life at once. If it’s your diet this time, quitting smoking can wait.
#4. The Yo-Yo Phenomenon
Also known as weight cycling, yo-yo dieting means taking your calorie intake from one extreme to the other, i.e. going from severe calorie restriction to a cycle of overeating. It’s a pattern of losing weight, regaining it and then dieting again that has happened to most of us – according to research, 20% of men and 40% of women have done it. For some people, these swings in their eating pattern occur weekly, even daily. And the biggest reason behind yo-yo dieting is choosing an inappropriate diet – one that’s either too restrictive or simply totally unsuitable for the person. For example, diets based on starvation almost inevitably lead to yo-yo effects. The brain interprets extreme calorie intake as famine and goes into survival mode, which prompts the storage of fat for future shortages and makes you more inclined to overeating.
In addition, when a yo-yo dieter overeats, they then try to cut calories further to make up for it and then overeating again, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to break. How to combat the yo-yo effect? The point is discipline, yet again. If you mess up, snap out of it and get right back to your program. If it happens again, repeat. No guilt attached.
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#5. Unrealistic Expectations
Setting the goal of losing 20 pounds in one month sounds great, but it’s totally unrealistic and don’t let any dieting guru tell you otherwise. High standards and goals work only if they can be reached with a reasonable amount of effort and dedication that won’t damage your health in the process. Making unrealistic expectations and all-or-nothing only leads to frustration and disappointment, and will most likely make you feel hopeless. Instead, why not acknowledge small, incremental improvements that are leading towards the greater goal? Focus on all the times you succeeded at following your diet and shook a few pounds off. People often say that it takes little time to gain weight but it takes what feels like forever to lose it, but that’s not entirely true – gaining doesn’t happen overnight but over a longer period of time. So naturally, weight loss won’t happen overnight as well. There will be slower periods, times when you want to quit, and your fat loss will fluctuate depending on both your constitution and consistency in dieting. Don’t forget – a realistic and healthy rate of fat loss is 0.5-1.5 pounds per seven days for females and 1-2 pounds for males.