10 Common Dieting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Dieting and trying to lose weight is one of the most complicated goals a person can have.
Why? Because everyone’s body is different.
Your co-worker could have wild success with a specific diet and lose 15 pounds in a single month. However, if you were to try the same diet, there’s nothing saying you will have the same results.
That being said, there are some pretty basic rules to losing weight almost everyone can benefit from. For that matter, there are also common dieting mistakes that will inhibit anyone’s progress.
The key is knowing what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do. We’re here to provide a little guidance. Keep reading for the top 10 mistakes that will get in the way of your weight loss goals.
1. Not Knowing What to Expect
First, you need to walk into dieting with your eyes wide open. There are both unrealistic and realistic goals.
Dieting is an effective tool for losing weight and getting healthier. However, there is such a thing as unhealthy weight loss. While it’s possible to lose more, the human body should only lose one to two pounds per week.
If we force our bodies to lose too much weight too quickly, it can result in serious health issues. These include:
- Decreases lean muscle mass
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Slower metabolism
- And more
It may be more gratifying to see major drops on the scale, but it can also be dangerous. Give yourself a goal of two pounds per week to stay on a healthy weight loss trajectory.
2. Jumping In On Fad Diets
One of the worst things you could do is commit to a fad diet. Fad diets are popularized because they help people lose drastic amounts of weight quickly. As noted above, however, this can have negative side effects on your health.
The reason these types of diets work is because they literally starve your body. Most fad diets are heavily restrictive on carbohydrates or calories or both.
While this is an effective weight loss strategy, starving your body puts it into survival mode. Your body will start feeding off its fat reserves (which is good). However, it will indiscriminately start feeding off your muscle as well (which is bad).
This can lead to a toxic reaction in your body called ketoacidosis as well as extreme fatigue, lethargy, mood swings, low blood sugar, dizziness, and more.
There’s nothing wrong with limiting how much you consume, but don’t take drastic measures.
3. Not Knowing Your BMR
The question you may be asking now is, “How do I know how many calories to eat?” You want to restrict yourself enough that you create a caloric deficit but not so much that you do your body harm.
Finding the right answer for your weight loss goals means calculating your basal metabolic rate or BMR. Your BMR reflects how many calories you burn per day.
A BMR calculator takes your age, height, and weight into consideration. The most accurate ones will also account for your body fat percentage. Then, you can see how many calories you burn per day based on your physical numbers and regular daily activities.
Based on your results, find a healthy caloric deficit between 10% and 20%. For example, if you BMR is 2,500 calories a day, a 10% deficit would put you at 2,250 calories a day.
4. Looking at Carbohydrates as the Enemy
Because of the popularity of low-carb and keto diets, one of the most common dieting mistakes people make is looking at carbohydrates as the enemy. As with any food, too much carb consumption can absolutely lead to weight gain and increased body fat.
However, carbs aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they are our bodies preferred source of energy. The key is consuming carbs at the right time and in the right amount.
If you eat too many carbs, your body won’t have anything to do with all that energy. Your body will release insulin which will trigger a process in which the carbohydrates (broken down into sugars) will be stored as fat.
To avoid this, consume the majority of your carbs for the day before and after your workout. If you don’t exercise, limit your carbohydrate intake to the morning and early afternoon.
If you deprive yourself of carbs in the second half of the day, your body will burn fat stores for energy. But because you aren’t totally restricting yourself of carbs, your body won’t go into ketoacidosis.
Finally, focus on complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbs. Complex carbs have fiber that helps slow down the digestion process and burn more calories.
5. Drinking Your Calories
One of the worst common dieting mistakes is consuming your calories through beverages. This problem is two-fold.
First, drinking your calories means you are depriving yourself of foods with better macronutrient and micronutrient values. That is unless you’re drinking protein shakes.
Secondly, most high-calorie beverages are high in sugar. As noted above, when you consume simple sugars, it’s a straight shot of energy to your body. If your muscles aren’t primed for absorbing this energy (like after a workout), it will be stored as fat.
6. Letting a Cheat Meal Get Out of Hand
One of the best things about dieting is allowing ourselves that glorious cheat meal once a week. However, this can quickly get out of hand and sabotage all of our weight loss goals.
A cheat meal is fine, but give yourself a window in which to eat your cheat foods. Otherwise, a cheat meal will turn into a cheat day and a cheat day will turn into a cheat weekend.
Why is this a problem?
Let’s look at it from a mathematical standpoint. Given the caloric deficit example from above (a 250 daily deficit), you have a 1,750 weekly deficit. However, if you spend an entire day allowing yourself to eat donuts, pizza, burgers, and french fries, you’ll end up in a calorie surplus for the week.
Did you know a single slice of pizza can have anywhere from 150 to 700 calories? Imagine how far back you’ll set yourself if you have a full cheat weekend.
7. Not Tracking Your Food
Dieting is mostly a game of numbers. While there are several other factors that go into losing weight and decreasing body fat, it comes down to burning more calories each day than you consume.
As such, it’s absolutely imperative that you track everything you eat or drink each day. When you don’t track your food, you’re more likely to make concessions here and there for “small” things like a cookie or small bag of M&Ms. The problem is, these foods pack a big caloric punch and they add up rather quickly.
We recommend looking into calorie counting apps that will make tracking your food easier and more convenient. Tracking your food will keep you honest and help you identify bad habits you may not realize you have. For some people, it’s something simple, like realizing they’re using way more peanut butter than they think which could be leading to hundreds of extra calories per week.
8. Not Eating the Right Foods
Next, it’s important to understand that dieting is about more than eating less food, its’ also about eating the right foods. We’ve been raised in a society based on fast, convenient, highly processed, and incredibly unhealthy foods.
Most people don’t recognize how unhealthy “healthy” snacks are. Just because something says “reduced-fat” or “low sugar,” it doesn’t mean that product is actually good for you.
To ensure you’re avoiding one of the most common dieting mistakes of eating unhealthy “healthy” foods, stick to whole foods. These include:
- Lean meats (poultry, fish, game meat)
- Plant-based proteins (tofu, lentils, quinoa, etc.)
- Seeds, nuts, beans, and legumes
- Whole grains (brown rice, oats, whole-wheat pasta, multigrain bread, etc.)
- Fruits and vegetables
Not only will these foods help you keep the weight off, but they’ll also provide you with vital vitamins and minerals. In many cases, it can be helpful to invest in supplements to help ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
9. Not Exercising
Another common mistake people make that inhibits their weight loss goals is approaching them from a single angle. Being healthy isn’t just about being thin. You also need to exercise, particularly with resistance training.
Resistance training will increase your lean muscle mass, improve your strength and functionality, boost your mental well-being, increase bone density, and keep your joints healthy. Strength training will keep you healthier, longer. Furthermore, the more lean muscle mass you have, the stronger your metabolism will be, which will make your body more efficient at burning fat.
10. Not Exploring Your Options
Finally, don’t make one of the most common dieting mistakes of not doing your homework. As noted above, different types of diets work differently for different people. Different body types respond better to different weight loss methods.
Additionally, things like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and other underlying issues may affect your ability to lose weight. Know your body and research the best dieting methods for your specific circumstances.
Most importantly, find a diet that works for you and stick with it. Consistency is everything.
Create a daily meal plan for yourself and don’t deviate from it. Take time during the weekend to meal prep for work so you’re not lured into going out for lunch.
Do You Want to Avoid the Common Dieting Mistakes and Reach Your Goals Faster?
Success in any aspect of life comes down to making a plan, being consistent, and committing yourself to goals. We know how difficult dieting can be, especially when you’re not seeing immediate results. Before you give up, make sure you’re not making any of the common dieting mistakes listed above, which can completely derail your progress.
And if you’re looking for more help on your weight loss journey, check out our supplement store to find everything you need to boost your progress.