The 7 biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight

Do you ever feel like everyone has an opinion about the best way to lose weight, but despite your best intentions you just can’t seem to crack it? Attempts to lose weight have a high failure rate. Additionally, weight loss maintenance is widely accepted as being more difficult than the initial weight loss itself. This post looks at some of the unsustainable ways people commonly try to lose weight, and how to avoid getting caught in the trap yourself.


Choosing products that are promoted for weight loss.

Weight loss products, also called “diet snacks”, are highly refined. They are promoted as a nice-tasting, low energy snacks that help weight loss. Unfortunately, these snacks are often not filling and portion sizes are such that you will most likely have more than one. They are also very low in any kind of actual nutrition. This means you have effectively wasted an opportunity to provide your body with important vitamins and minerals contained within whole foods. Ditch the packages promising you the world and have a (much more reasonably priced) piece of fruit or a low fat yoghurt instead.

Miscalculating portion size for energy dense “healthy foods”.

The research is in and it’s not about how much fat you have but the type. Fat from nuts, fish, avocado, some oils (olive and canola to name a few) and seeds is healthy. Fat from pastries, biscuits, deep fried foods and red meat is not. However – fat is still fat! 1 gram of fat from a meat pie contains the same amount of energy as 1 gram of fat from a handful of almonds. While type of fat is important for chronic disease prevention, if weight loss is your goal you need to reduce your energy intake. Fat is the most energy dense of the macronutrients (read: more energy dense than protein or carbohydrates).

Make sure you know your portion sizes when including healthy fats in your diet. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating website, Eat for Health (https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes) is an easy place to check what portion sizes you should be having.

Not counting energy from drinks.

So you’ve made some healthy swaps and reduced portion size – but what about that “healthy” juice you have every morning? Or the 2 jumbo store-bought coffees you have every day? Or (and I’m sorry in advance) the couple of glasses of wine you knock back every evening to “de-stress”. These drinks may all be contributing the extra energy that’s stopping you from seeing a change in the scales. Start by swapping full cream milk for no fat, switch to a vegetable juice and make it every second day, and gradually introduce some wine free nights. Small changes like these will all help.

Over restricting.

Taking a cold turkey approach to weight loss will always end in failure. Research tells us that restricting everything all at once results in a cycle of weight loss and weight gain. You oscillate between punishing yourself with too little energy and foods you don’t enjoy, then throwing in the towel and having everything you’ve craved since you started the unsustainable diet.

The worst thing is yo-yo dieting often ends with you being heavier than when you started. Talk about demotivating! Instead, give yourself a manageable time frame for weight loss (0.5-1kg loss/week is generally sustainable), making 1-2 small changes at a time. Once you’re able to successfully stick with a change you can move onto another one. Of course there will always be times when you go back to old habits. However by not adopting an ‘all or nothing’ approach, you should easily be able to continue with your weight loss journey.

Excluding whole food groups.

In a similar vein to the above point, excluding whole food groups is a common mistake people make when trying to lose weight. As well as tending to be overly restrictive, food group exclusion is the quickest way to a diet deficient in important nutrients. The most vilified groups tend to be dairy and grains (I’m surprised people don’t dress up as bread for Halloween). However, unless you have an allergy or intolerance, there is no reason to restrict any of the food groups. All food groups provide very important nutrients. Dairy is particularly important for women over 50 years. After this age you need 4 serves to get the required calcium for osteoporosis prevention.

Not getting enough fibre and protein.

What do we want? To feel full! When do we want it? Most of the time! Enter fibre and protein – your best friends when it comes to creating satiating meals and snacks. Fibre is another of those nutrients you risk not getting enough of if you try and restrict carbohydrates. Wholegrains are a great way to keep meals filling and interesting. Protein is also important and tends to be overlooked particularly in snacks – have a couple of boiled eggs for afternoon tea, or a few tablespoons of hommus with your vegie sticks.

Overestimating how much energy is burned from exercise.

So you’ve done a 30 minute run, or a pump class, or pushed a pram around the block. Surely that’s got to be worth a piece of banana bread with melted butter from the cafe, or a scone, or that piece of a colleague’s birthday cake? Sorry, not the case. Exercise helps you build muscle, keeps your heart healthy, and improves your mood. However it’s not going to promote weight loss if you follow it with an energy dense, nutrient poor snack (dietitians call such snacks “discretionary food” – go ahead, ask me how many parties I’m invited to).

Unfortunately, you’re most likely going to overestimate how much energy you’ve burned. Smart watches and other activity trackers are never exact. So it’s best NOT to adopt the mentality of a workout now equating to a treat later. Instead, save your treats for social events and celebrations. This will help you stick to more of an 80:20 approach – with those discretionary foods included occasionally. It helps make them more enjoyable too!

Weight loss can be tricky, and very difficult without support. If you’ve tried to lose weight and found it too difficult, come and see me for a consultation at PMPP. If you’re curious about how my services can help you, I offer free 10 mins assessments on Tuesdays and Saturdays – just call reception to book.


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