Are You Making These Weight Loss Mistakes?

by Helen M. Ryan

They might not be deadly sins (yay), but there are five mistakes a lot of us make when trying to lose fat. Some of these are common sense, but you may be surprised how many of these weight loss blunders you’re making. Ready to see?

1. Not eating enough. “Starving ourselves thin” can short-circuit weight loss efforts. When you eat too few calories, your body thinks it’s starving and goes into “fat conservation mode” instead of “fat-burning mode.” (Don’t you hate that?) The smart machine that it is, your body knows somethin’s up when you cut calories, and starts to slow your metabolism (beotch). The less you eat, the less you burn, and the less weight you lose. (Beotch again.)

The solution: Eat at least the minimum number of calories to keep your metabolism moving along Use online tools to figure out your daily calorie requirements.

2. Skipping meals. Do you eat one or two meals a day and wonder why you’re not losing weight? You’re not alone. Not eating regularly can not only slow down your metabolism but—more important—also leave you feeling so starved you reach for those donuts or the bag of chips. If you are intermittent fasting, make sure it actually works for you. Every single body is different. Some people do well eating only at certain times. But many (like moi) get so hungry they can’t resist temptations. When I get that way, I shove the first edible thing I see into my mouth. Game over.

The solution: Eating five or so times per day (three smaller meals and two healthy snacks) keeps your metabolism running smoothly. It also evens out your blood sugar, which helps you stay alert, gives you more energy, and puts you in a better mood.

3. Not skipping at all. Many people ignore the other part of the weight loss puzzle: Exercise (woo hoo). Any time you diet you lose some muscle. So you go on a diet, lose fat, lose muscle, and burn fewer calories. Then you gain weight and gain fat because you lost muscle. (WTF?).

The solution: Find a way—any way—to fit exercise into your day. 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there are better than nothing, and it all adds up. The most important way to keep your metabolism up? Strength training. Tightening those muscles will not only help you lose weight but will also help keep the weight off. Plus you’ll have rocking ­shoulders. (Don’t you just love good shoulders?). Or a great butt.

4. Scratching favorite things off your food list. For the very short term it’s possible to cut out your favorite foods or drink (“Why?” I ask. Why?). In the long run, eliminating everything you like from your diet will make you whack y and more likely to fail. Never indulging leaves you feeling deprived (angry, sad, depressed...need I go on?), so you eventually break

The Solution: Moderation, baby. Eat a healthy diet 85% of the time, and allow 15% for “less than perfect” foods (80/20 as time goes on). Put some balance back into your life and let yourself live every now and then...just don’t overdo it. If the weight isn't coming off, be a little stricter and have fewer indulgences. Eat to live—don’t live to eat—but also take moments to enjoy. Life is short. 

5. Not sleeping enough. OK so this is a big fail for me 95% of the time. Here’s the truth: Not getting those sleep affects your health. Watch your eating and exercise all you want, but if you regularly don’t sleep enough...you’re asking for weight loss problems. The hormone that makes you feel full takes a dive when you’re sleep-deprived, while the hormone that tells you to eat goes into high gear.  

The solution: Try going to bed earlier. The sleep you get before midnight is more important than the sleep after. See if you can get an extra 30 minutes of ZZZs every night for a week and then bump it up to an hour. It’s not easy to do when you have insomnia. (Hello insomnia, my old friend. Here you are keeping me awake again...). There are some good apps with sleep stories that may just let you conk out a little quicker.

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, try to incorporate the solutions into your life. You might see some change.

Published February 29, 2012