The 11 Most Common Weight-Loss Blunders Dietitians See

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The 11 Most Common Weight-Loss Blunders Dietitians See

Losing weight can be tricky business: When you’re insanely busy, it can be tough to focus on your goals in a healthy, sustainable way, let alone work towards them at all. It’s easy to fall into pitfalls, but hey, knowledge is power—when you know the traps you’re most likely to fall into, it’s easier to steer clear.

Registered dietitians know these roadblocks all too well, and they’ve helped their clients get past them, too. Here are 11 weight loss mistakes registered dietitians warn against:

1. FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU CAN’T EAT

“So many people embarking on a weight loss journey focus on what they can’t have—[such as] no sugar, no alcohol, no dessert, no bread, no cheese. I like to tell my readers to focus on what they can have and tally up all the filling and nutritious superfoods out there.”

–Kath Younger, R.D., blogger at Kath Eats Real Food

tomatoes
Betsie Van der Meer, Getty Images

2. ADOPTING AN ALL-OR-NOTHING ATTITUDE

“[Don’t] eliminating foods you love. Too many people who are trying to lose weight develop the all-or-nothing attitude. This way of thinking can be detrimental in the long run. Instead of depriving oneself of foods they love, they should learn how to incorporate them into their diet in a healthier way. For example, love pasta? Instead of adding a creamy high fat sauce, add lots of veggies, grilled shrimp, and toss in olive oil and garlic. Can’t live without bread? Well, you shouldn’t have to. Make a healthy sandwich for lunch on 100 percent whole grain bread with grilled chicken, avocado, lettuce, and tomato.”

—Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet

3. NOT HAVING A SOLID PLAN

“Not having a solid, realistic plan [is a mistake]. People should set themselves up for success by coming up with small, challenging yet attainable action steps to work towards. Start off with a few actionable and specific goals for the first week. Once you master those, keep adding on. Before you know it, those action steps will become lifelong healthy habits.”

—Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition

4. CUTTING OUT AN ENTIRE FOOD GROUP

“When people are trying to lose weight, they often cut out an entire food group, like carbs or meat, but this usually just results in an unbalanced diet and even deficiencies in certain nutrients. Plus, for most people, this is not sustainable for a lifetime—I always say if you couldn’t do it for the rest of your life, it’s a diet that’s probably not going to work in the long run.”

—Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N.

yogurt
andresr, Getty Images

5. REPLACING MEALS WITH LIQUIDS

“Green juices and smoothies are very popular right now, and a lot of people will use these as meal replacements. Unfortunately, oftentimes these beverages aren’t made up of the right mix of nutrients. Green juices lack fiber and protein, which are key nutrients in keeping you full and helping you meet your nutrient recommendations, and smoothies are typically loaded in sugar from juice, sweeteners, or too much fruit, and can be really high in calories from oversized portions of healthy fat sources like nuts and seeds.”

—Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk

6. EATING TOO FEW CALORIES

“The biggest pitfall I constantly see my clients falling into is the calorie counting trap. Many women come to me struggling to follow a 1,200 calorie per day diet and ask me what would help them to feel more full during the day. My answer is always to eat more! We live in a culture that is so obsessed with calorie counting that oftentimes we are depriving our body of the very nutrients that will actually help us not only to live healthier, but lose more weight. In my practice I try and help my clients transition from counting calories to counting nutrients because at the end of the day, what you eat is just as important as how much you eat.”

—Emily Cope-Kyle, M.S., R.D. owner and consulting dietitian at EmilyKyleNutrition.com

7. STEERING CLEAR OF HEALTHY FATS

“I find that many people are stuck eating low-fat or fat-free versions of food, a holdover from the fat-phobic days of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. A moderate amount of fat is important as it helps with satiety. Plus, people end up replacing fat with refined carbs, which we now know can have a detrimental effect on health and weight. Include healthy fat at every meal, in the form of nuts, seeds, liquid oils, avocados, oily fish, soy, and dairy products.”

—Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

avocado toast
juj winn, Getty Images

8. DITCHING FRUITS AND VEGGIES WITH HIGH SUGAR CONTENT

“[I see people] cutting out certain fruits and vegetables because they think they contain too much sugar. Sure, some do contain a bit higher amount of naturally occurring sugars, but they also contain fiber, which helps counterbalance the effect on blood sugars. Compared to highly processed snacks and drinks, there is nothing to be worried about.”

—Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., creator of the Clean Eating Cooking School.

9. RELYING ON WEIGHT LOSS PILLS

“The bottom line here is if there was a pill or a potion that really worked in the long term, then not one of us would be talking about weight management at all! The weight loss industry is…so successful because we are so desperate to find a quick fix. The only long-term effective weight management skill is to change the way think about fueling our bodies. We need to think of food as fuel for daily living and to fuel it the best way we can. The rest takes care of itself.”

—Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.


READ MORE > WEIGHT LOSS 101: WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING INSIDE YOU? [INFOGRAPHIC]


10. TAKING THE WEEKENDS OFF FROM HEALTHY EATING

“You should take the weekends off from your job, not your diet. Sure, you can still have fun and go out to eat on the weekends, but make an effort not to stuff yourself to the brim with food or drinks. Simply eating mindfully when you are enjoying good food can be enough to not wreck your hard work during the week. If the weekends are a problem for you, consider weighing yourself Friday mornings and Monday mornings. If you see that number routinely creeping up on Monday, try changing your weekend routine to include more exercise and healthier food choices.”

—Heather Mason, M.S., R.D.

weekend
Jake Curtis, Getty Images

11. NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER

“A lot of my clients don’t drink enough water. Changing this habit is one of the easiest ways to help your health. Studies show that drinking water or eating a water-rich salad or broth-based soup before a meal can help decrease how much you eat during the meal—plus, staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, which can lead to stress eating. Figure out how you prefer to get your water: Do you like a bottle with a straw or a wide-mouthed top? Whatever your preference, keep a water container at your side as often as you can. You’ll reach for it a lot more if you don’t have to get up to fill a glass.”

—Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition

By Alexa Tucker

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  • Niamh

    Lmao I cannot believe this article says cutting out meat will lead to an unbalanced diet, as well as promoting dairy products as a “healthy fat”. All that meat, dairy and eggs will do is make it harder for you to achieve sustainable weight loss and vibrant health

    • Lois Martin

      While you are certainly entitled to your own opinions on healthy eating, you are not entitled to stand on your podium and preach to those of us that have a different method of obtaining “sustainable weight loss and vibrant health.”

    • mrwufpack

      Funny. I tried vegan and over a few weeks became lethargic, sleeping as much as 16 hours/day and still being tired. I substituted lentils and beans for the meat I used to eat every day. I tried tofu but couldn’t stomach it. My Indian doctor, who is vegetarian herself, ran a lot of blood tests including looking for hypothyroidism but everything checked out. She said that not everyone can absorb plant-based protein as well, and that I should go back to eating meat. Within 1 day of eating meat, I was back to normal.

      We evolved to eat meat. Just because some see it as an ethical or moral issue (I agree, I love animals and recognize they have personalities/consciousness) doesn’t mean it is healthy for us to not eat meat. Please consider what you’re advocating may harm people as well.

      • Randall Hamlet

        I was a vegan for years. I didn’t feel any different than before or now. Even when I immediately started eating meat again (something people think makes you sick for whatever reason). You just have to be responsible enough to actually look at what you are eating.

        I do not believe you slept 16 hours a day. I do not believe your story at all, you are just lying.

        We evolved to eat mostly plant-based foods and some meats. We do not need meat anymore though.

      • vh1

        Agreed I feel weak if I go too long without real protein–MEAT! A small red steak goes a long way in making me feel more energetic!

      • laura

        If you were tired all the time you clearly were not eating enough. 1200 calories is far too little. To feel your best you need atleast 2000 calories on a plant based diet

    • Eliot

      If that is true, why are vegan diets and literature full of substitutes for the nutrients in meat & dairy products? You want to be a vegan, that’s fine. Telling me it’s that way or the highway is based in your need for reassurance, not science.

    • Eliot

      Spoken like a vegan with an agenda.

    • chexwarrior

      I have been doing a ketogenic diet (which includes: lots of meat, eggs, and cheese, with little to no fruit; among other things) for several months now and lost around 30 lbs and just over 2% body fat. I also feel more energized throughout the day since my blood sugar isn’t falling off between meals. Meat and dairy are not the enemy, sugar is a much bigger problem.

      • laughingwater

        I too have switched to keto, due to dental issues. In my case, I made rapid improvement when I gave up dairy (except for butter from grass-fed cows). Although I avoided processed carbs, in the end, all carbs break down into sugar. All that fruit I used to eat was spiking my blood sugar. Now I get my carbs from green leafy vegetables. I use tahini instead of salad dressing.

        • chexwarrior

          Yeah, milk has a fair bit of carbs in it from the lactose so you have to watch out for that. Butter is just the milk fat, and hard cheeses have far less carbs than the wet stuff, before I hit my goal weight I was strict enough on keto to even cut out things like milk, and carrots.

      • vh1

        Don’t forget your veggies! Those ketogenic diets are dangerous in the long run to your kidneys especially.

        • chexwarrior

          I ate a spinach and radicchio lettuce while I was starting out (Fiber is keto safe) and now that I’m below my weight goal and just looking to maintain weight; carrots and the like are back on the menu.
          How long is “the long run”? Does going off keto for a week or two every few months mitigate the kidney danger? Does the strictness of the diet matter (25g/day vs. 50g/day etc…)?

    • Jeanette Santori

      The way I understood that one, was if you are cutting out entire food groups of food that you are used to eating, with the only reasoning being trying to lose weight, that isn’t going to last or promote a healthy diet (alone). Deciding to be vegetarian or vegan because it means something to you, because you believe in it as a lifestyle and for health reasons, and going in informed on how to eat healthy as a vegan, is a different story. But if I go into it saying “meat makes me fat, I’m not going to eat it anymore,” I don’t think that’s particularly sustainable, most people will probably cave after a few weeks or a month. Sustainable diets need to create a lifestyle for you that you believe in, they can’t just consist of exercising enough willpower to deprive yourself enough to drop a few pounds.

    • Captain Jeff

      I am on a high protein vegetarian diet for almost 10 years now (somewhere in 2007). I tried to go vegan (lasted 2 weeks), but found it hard missing eggs & dairy, both very high in protein. I went veggie for a plethora of reasons…my own reasons. I have been told I have progressive thinking in life as a whole, so i stick to my own ideas. Today, unless you are eating organic or making everything from scratch, has crap in it…additives, preserves, refined sugar, words you cant pronounce, etc. A friend of mine is from Peru & tells me they dont use any of that in their foods. Our food industry, IMO, is responsible for so any diseases & deficiencies in this country. When I was growing up there was no ADD, ADHD, or anything like them, atleast it wasnt diagnosed as so. I grew up next to a “hyper” kid. He wasnt put on all these BS drugs our government/health industry is making millions from. So sad.
      Try to go as natural as possible so you know exactly what you’re putting in YOUR system.
      Most vets & dog specialists will tell you that every issue with your dog starts with their diet. I agree that should pertain to humans as well, if not every living organism.

  • Debbie

    Why is there a link to an ad for a skinny pill accompanied by this article? I am so annoyed…

    • Jennifer Robbers

      That annoys me too. Most of the ads are for reasonable things, but I saw one for something called “fit tea” with progression photos of someone going from a soft belly to rock star abs. Not sure what those abs have to do with tea. SMH

    • Christie Lane

      That’s actually a third party ad server. Unfortunately they have no control over the content of those ads.

  • Jennifer Robbers

    Where’s #12? 😉

    • Tanya Scott

      There’s a link in the article to the Self website to get the last tip. 🙂

  • Niamh

    Dairy products are not a healthy fat when they are so high in cholesterol and hormones. Also fish (no matter how oily) are some of the most toxic things we can put in our bodies.

    • Anna

      I agree vegan all the way !!

      • Alisha

        I bet you do cross fit too

      • vh1

        It’s a personal choice, having nothing to do with health. Which is fine!

    • Jagan Kumaravelu

      Say WHAT??? I don’t know about fish, but I am not giving up my eggs for anything in the world. And I will never believe eggs are dangerous at all. And there are studies coming out in hordes which proves that dietary cholesterol does not affect your body’s cholesterol levels. So if you still want to keep that thought, its your problem.

      • chexwarrior

        The studies that vilified dietary cholesterol looked at blood levels shortly after eating, however longer term studies show that the body regulates cholesterol to normal levels even after eating a cholesterol heavy meal. Additionally eating fat helps your body burn fat, carbs reduce your ability to burn fat. So in a high fat low carb diet your body is burning the cholesterol and keeping it from building up, while a low fat high carb diet means that your body is retaining nearly all the fat that comes in.
        TLDR eating cholesterol is not the heart killer some people believe it is.

        • He-Man

          Sorry, but this is wrong. A low fat high carb diet does not mean that the body is holding onto all fat because of high insulin or anything because your body is strong fat every time you eat, partially due to the action of insulin but also other hormones as well. What matters is that at the end of the day that insulin returns to baseline, which is what happens when you are in a calorie deficit or sleeping.

          And I need to respectfully correct you on the eat fat to burn fat mantra. The body does not burn more body fat by ingesting more dietary fat, but it does burn more intramuscular triglycerides as energy. The only thing that causes the body to burn stored fat is an energy deficit. This is all that the scientific literature has shown for the past 100 years. Metabolic ward studies have also never shown a metabolic advantage to a low carb diet. If you prefer it and enjoy it and can stick to it, more power to you. But please don’t confuse people anymore than they already are by telling them things which just aren’t true.

          • He-Man

            But you are correct: cholesterol is certainly not the villain it was made out to be, but neither are carbohydrates. Extremes in both directions are rarely a good idea.

    • chexwarrior

      Depending on the species and how it is harvested some fish can be high in mercury, but to say that fish “are some of the most toxic things we can put in our bodies” is pure falsehood.

  • John

    I like the article but disagree about the calorie counting. If you have no idea how many calories you are eating, how are you suppose to be in a caloric deficit?

    The number one problem I see with people is they simply eat too many calories, even when they think they aren’t or they aren’t eating enough, but don’t know it. The reason, they are not counting calories or not doing it accurately.

    Also, counting calories with measuring cups is not accurate enough. Use an electronic gram scale. I have seen plenty of people go from gaining to losing weight by making this one change in their life.

    Once you lose the weight you will have a much better idea of what you are eating and can usually put the counting calories away while at maintenance. If your weight creeps up, start counting again, figure out your mistakes and make adjustments.

    • My husband’s trainer suggested an app to keep up with what you eat. I was one that wasn’t eating enough and feeling it. Since I’ve started using the app, and with recommendations about diet changes that help me focus on the positive, after 4 weeks I’ve lost 10 lbs. My goal is “healthy” not just the weight loss. I agree that we need to keep up with what we’re eating. One thing the app taught me, as we do splurge once in a while for a special occasion, is I do not want to eat hot wings from a restaurant. Too much sodium for someone who is trying to get her blood pressure down. I have looked up recipes to make changes in the comfort foods to have healthy alternatives to the traditional items we were raised on.

    • Melba

      Totally agree! I couldn’t believe how off I was when I was “eyeballing” measurements. Oy, pasta? Definitely measure it and when it’s cooked. And I’m glad I started measuring peanut butter too. While it does have some nutritional value, I suspect most people don’t know what an actual serving size of it looks like.

      I thought I was eating 1500 calories a day but it ended up being around 1800+ . -___-

      Lesson learned!

      • Jagan Kumaravelu

        I tend to disagree. Since you took the example of pasta, what I have been doing so far is get the electronic gram scale, put the bowl on the scale and tare (i.e. subtract) the weight of the bowl. Then I break the dry pasta in a way that I can put it into the bowl. The common serving size for pasta (on the nutrition labels) is 200 calories for 56g of dry pasta. If you want to eat only 200 calories from the pasta, put in exactly 56g of the dry pasta and stop. Then cook that 56g of pasta with water. Since water carries no calories or nutrients, your cooked pasta’s macros will be the same as the macros for the specific amount of dry pasta that you used. Note: This assumes that you only use dry pasta and water to cook your spaghetti. If you put any other ingredients, then this theory is not valid and you will have to add the macros for every additional ingredient you add.

        • BMS

          My biggest issue with this is cooking for more than one person. If I have to cook two meals – one for me, one for the family – then I’m going to give up. I did some calibrating so that I could know how many calories and whatnot were in typical cooked portions, because it makes family meals easier.

          I definitely envy single people sometimes. My skinny teenagers can apparently eat an entire whale without gaining an ounce, so making sure there is enough food for them without me eating all the leftovers is a challenge.

      • Pete Foret

        I think what they are saying is calorie counting all the time because calorie counting is not a lifestyle.

        • chexwarrior

          Calorie counting is a good starting point, but once you get used to how much you can eat in a typical day and stay within your calorie (and macro nutrient) goal it becomes more hassle that it is worth to count every calorie every day for the rest of your life.

      • Tish

        Try PB2 it’s a dry peanut butter. And depending how much you weigh is how much calories you need to get cause if you body goes from 1800 to 1200 your body is going to go into survival mode and feel it’s being starved.

    • Lihong Chen

      I don’t agree that counting calorie is a good way for weight-loss. First, it is not listening to our body. If our body is telling us that we are hungry while we are eating a lot, it means that we are either not eating the right food or not at the right time. Second, the body is very smart. When we cut down our calorie intake, the body will adjust its energy expenditure to meet the energy intake. Overall, we are not in much a calorie deficit as we think unless we are fasting or doing extreme exercise. Third, it will cause anxiety, which is one of the biggest enemies for weight management. For most people, calorie counting will work temporarily and they will regain their body weight just like those people in the “Biggest Loser”.

      • Beth

        Weight loss only happens with a calorie deficit. This has been proven time and time again in scientific metabolic ward studies. Sure, psychologically one might be affected by whether or not one knows that they are in a calorie deficit, but regardless, a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss. Yes, the body adjusts energy expenditure to a point, but that is exactly why Emily Cope-Kyle above suggests not reducing to 1200.. it’s not sustainable, unless you are a smaller woman. And I’m not sure what you mean by “We are not in much of a calorie deficit as we think unless we are fasting or doing extreme exercise.” Most people who are tracking/measuring their food are also tracking/measuring activity, and if they are honest and accurate about both, they likely have a pretty darn good idea what kind of calorie deficit they have. I count calories, and I track my food and activity, and I’m fully aware that I’m running a very small deficit.
        As for your last comment, I feel like “Biggest Loser” is a pretty extreme comparison. We are talking 3000 calorie deficits on starvation diets with extreme exercise on that show.. a far cry from someone trying to cut out 500 calories per day and lose a pound per week.

        • Lihong Chen

          First, I am not arguing about calorie deficit. It is the first law of thermodynamics. Second, I am glad that calorie counting actually worked for you. It will be interesting to know how much and how long it worked. Anyway, most of the people I knew couldn’t stay on that track for a long time. Not to mention that many of them didn’t even want to start or miscalculate their energy balance. However, I have to say that there was a group of people who started on that path and kept their weight loss for a long time. The true driving force was the general awareness of healthy eating (or lifestyle) but not calorie counting. Third, I never said that calorie counting won’t work for weight loss. Personally, I still don’t think it is a good way. Maybe I should say there are better ways for sustainable weight management.

          • Beth

            I know you posted this response a month ago but I only just now saw it on disqus and if anything, it’s probably helpful I’ve had a month to reflect.. 😉
            I actually see now that we are not really in disagreement. Even people who use calorie counting are only successful when they make healthier choices overall.. not because you can’t hypothetically lose weight eating 1200 calories of Twinkies, but that is entirely unsustainable. If you aren’t making the right eating choices, you will feel more deprived with fewer calories.

            While I credit a calorie deficit to my latest weight loss, the truth is that when I lost weight in my early 20s, at first it I wasn’t calorie counting at all — just making (forced) healthier decisions due to changes in my environment, such as walking more, having more limited and healthier food options, etc. I am sure part of the reason I have been successful now, in my early 30s, with calorie counting weight loss is simply because I know WHAT to eat with those calories. I’m also very analytical, so the idea of entering all the information about calories in/out is “fun” to me (yes, I know, I’m a weirdo).
            Sigh. Ultimately, I think that what works is different for everyone, which makes it such a challenge. What’s sustainable for most people is a moderate, balanced diet that doesn’t feel like deprivation — this is where calorie counting is helpful, because it doesn’t necessarily eliminate any foods. But, the activity of calorie counting in and of itself can be tedious, and you are right, those who are not as obsessed with spreadsheets as I am are likely to abandon it.

        • Jaynekotter

          I know people who have increased their calorie intake to 3,000 calories or more per day, in order to lose weight. The Atkins diet is one example, where the first phase requires higher intakes of fat and calories, but severe reduction of carbs. So, weight lose does not only happen with a calorie deficit.

      • Debby

        Some people, including myself, do not have the proper signals for hunger and fullness, which may be partly caused by a dysregulation in obesity-related hormones, such as leptin and ghrellin. I cannot rely on what my body is telling me to determine hunger and satiety. I would rather ‘listen to my body’ but it just doesn’t work. So I rely on calorie counting

        • Lihong Chen

          Most important, do whatever works for you and stick with it. I just want to say that lacking proper signals can be a misconception. Most of time, your body’s ability to release those signals or sensitivity to those signals can change.

      • I’m 5’4 and I’m a 21 year old female I used the app Pacers and my fitness pal. I started counting calories weighing 198.6lbs in June 2015 I’m now 148lbs sometimes 145 when I weigh in the morning in June 2016. I’ve been moving around from 145 to 151 during menstruals. But my body weight always go back to 148 for the past 2 months. I must say calorie counting wasn’t the only thing that help. Drinking only water and eating small pieces of food throughout the day and working out maybe 2 times a month did the trick for me.

    • Tanya Fritzinger

      I agree 100 % , calorie counting is important, along with keeping track of your nutrition . That’s why I LOVE “my fitness pal ” app. It keeps track of everything so you don’t go over your calories, fat, sugar,sodium,ect….

      • Cynthia Buechler

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        • ctujian

          Hi Cynthia,
          I just read that you lost 40 lbs. I have to lose that same amount and I am really struggling. Is there any chance I could communicate with you some more? I feel the need for someone to talk to who has been through it.
          Thanks,
          Caroline

          • Val Carter

            Me too. I seem to always sabatoge myself at the end of the day. Do good during the day and then I sabatoge myself by saying I deserve a reward for whatever reason I put there.

          • Steph

            Maybe change what your reward is? For example, I use a reward list that includes things like a new watch or a new shirt. Make a goal and attribute a reward to that goal. (e.g., lose 5 pounds, get new shoes/watch an extra episode of something; work-out 5/7 days, go see a movie). I used to reward myself with wine, but found that I ended up rewarding myself every day with a glass (or two…). It’s not to say you *don’t* deserve a daily reward, its that rewarding yourself with food/drink is counter productive (but very easy to give in to!). I look at my daily reward now as the pride I feel in being one day/pound/exercise closer to my new shoes. Hope that helps!

    • Susan Kochevar

      I also agree. When I started watching my calories, I quickly realized I was drinking too many calories. Juices, coffee with creamers, green tea with soy milk, etc. I switched to water and now eat better foods. Once in a while, I’ll enjoy a green tea latter, but I’m cafeful. I treat it like dessert, once in a while and small portions.

      As long as I stay in the calorie range, I lose weight. If I want an extra portion, I excerise so that I can have it without guilt. I feel in control.

      • stellamaris73

        So true. One of the things Weightwatchers essentially forced me to do was to take a hard look at my drink consumption… not just high-calorie alcoholic beverages but also the number of calories I was consuming by putting 1% or skim milk in many cups of tea or coffee. I switched to unsweetened almond milk, drink more water, and no longer hit Starbucks except for a treat. I’d rather eat those calories than drink them.

    • Mina

      Absolutely true!!

    • julie

      totally agree, through experience. I am back to losing what I had already lost last year, I went a bit stupid at Christmas.

    • drake H

      If counting calories works for you, more power…..some people may need to count calories if they are still trying to balance old eating habits with better eating habits. I do not count calories for a pretty simple reason, I only eat things that are healthy for me, mostly fruits and vegetables and reasonable amounts of lean meats. I find that because I eat so well, I get full long before I would have eaten too many calories. In other words, if you are eating properly, counting calories is not all that important. If one is going to count anything, i would suggest less worry about calorie counting and worry more about reading food labels properly. Cutting out foods with tons of added sugar is more important than worrying about 100 calories here or there. One might be eating the appropriate umber of calories. but consuming way too much sugar in those food items. And Im talking about sugar that is added to products not the kind found naturally in fruit.

    • S B

      Calorie counting is old school. It has nothing to do with nutrition. Sodium, carbohydrates and sugar content are way more important than counting calories.

      • He-Man

        Sorry, but this is wrong. You can easily eat too many healthy foods and end up gaining significant amounts of fat or losing none at all. I think what you mean to say is that it is much harder to overeat on nutrient dense foods than hyperpatable foods which have the right combination of sugar, salt, and fat to make them irresistible. They also tend to do a poor job with satiety, due to being low in fiber and micronutrient content, which tricks the stomach into being full by adding bulk to digested chyme.

      • thohan

        As per the Taubesian (Why We Get Fat, etc.) way of thinking, I have to agree. However, when I track what I eat (within, say a few hundred calories of accuracy), I find I do better. My thinking here is that calories are not causation but perhaps a strong correlation with my weight goals. After counting the calories of the good foods, I don’t have anything left for the fun stuff I shouldn’t be eating anyway. And dinners have gotten much simpler/smaller. Just one anecdote for what it’s worth.

    • Jason

      A couple of things to point out here. 1) Most people aren’t going to use an electronic scale, and if the difference in gaining/losing weight is using a precision calorie scale versus an educated rough estimate of calories, then you’re still doing something wrong overall. (Key word here being “educated”–keeping an accurate rough estimate takes experience) It’s also worth considering here that gaining weight does not mean going from 142 to 144 over two weighings, either. It’s long-term maintained increases or decreases in weight that matter.

      2) The point being made was not “don’t count calories”, it was “don’t count calories to an exacting limit every day”. Calories are always estimates, even when precisely measured, because (especially with meats), things like marbling, fat content, etc., all matter with respect to exact calories. The point was to be more worried about nutrient intake while sticking to a reasonable level of food intake, without feeling like you need to punish yourself if you break a specific number. That sort of thinking is what leads people to poor health habits.

      CAVEAT: Obviously, this is not all aimed at John, since a couple of points he mentioned indicate that he’s already capable of doing what I’m talking about. It’s more just to help people realize that they don’t need to be slavish to measuring, as that will kill a “diet” quicker than anything. If health is too work-like, most people won’t do it.

  • joe3eagles

    All these complainers. Sheesh! While a viable alternative for many, vegan is not a healthy choice for everybody. Inflexible, lock-step totalitarianism in your food regimen is rarely a smart way to go.

  • Lisa

    I use MFP app and I do use the 1200 Calorie limit…I find ways to eat what I want and some days I go over by 100-300 calories, but I figure in the long run it will all work out. I have have lost 20 lbs. in about 10 weeks with exercise.

    • Eliot

      Me too. The idea that eating a cheeseburger once in a while, or the magic couple of hundred calories over 1200 will somehow wipe out any value of your other diet efforts is counter-productive. If I have realistic hope that I can maintain a diet and lose weight, even slowly, over time, I will do it. Tell me one hamburger during the week defeats all my effort and I won’t bother. I’m far from the only one.

    • Lissa J Barnes

      I use MFP too.
      I eat anything from 1600 to 2000 as a minimal.
      I run 5k 3x a week., Walk 4k+ everyday and I weight train.
      Lost 4st so far

  • Eliot

    Like just about every such article, this one doesn’t offer anything to people struggling. #1 clearly conflicts with #10. It is virtually impossible to eat healthy at the vast majority of restaurants. Healthier, yes. Healthy, no. Plus, going to a restaurant and skipping what you really want to eat a “healthy” alternative has just the negative effect addressed by #1. To suggest that 6 days of eating well are wiped out by a day of eating what you really want it, to say the least, counter-productive.

    • Chris

      The idea is to do #1 a lot so that when you DO go to a restaurant, what you REALLY want IS in fact THE healthier alternative.
      If you find that you are still hankering after that unhealthy restaurant choice, then you have not done #1 enough.

      • Eliot

        Completely disagree. This is the same “you can never eat a hamburger again” mentality that causes people to fail. Don’t tell me if I really want veal parmesian, i can have fish with tomato sauce instead. Don’t make me believe eating that one 2000 calorie dish is thd same as if i had eaten 3000 calories every day during the week.

        • Debby

          Here are my choices at a restaurant:
          1. Have exactly what you want, but adjust portion size accordingly – take home the rest
          2. Choose a less calorie rich alternative if volume is your thing,
          3. Don’t go to restaurant really hungry – will help to make better choices
          4. Eat whatever you want in whatever volume it comes in as long as this is a very occasional occurrence and it doesn’t trigger more eating experiences like that!

  • Martin

    I totally agree with the fats intake part of this article, as I too see this frequently; people seem to still be scared by yester-year’s threats/misunderstandings. What I don’t agree with, is eating soy products in any other form besides: soy sauce, tempeh, and miso. Otherwise, good points, and a good article.

  • Miedina Dita

    Oh my goodness! I think what it boils down to are: eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, limit grain intake, eat healthy protein, include healthy fats in your diet, stay away from all processed food, and drink plenty of water. I don’t think you can over eat on those.

    • drake H

      Agree 100%. Lost 40lbs in about 5 months, no exercise and only counted calories for about 1 week until I realized I didn’t need to. I followed one simple rule, stop eating crap and I had the discipline to do it. After that, I got full long before I ate too many calories.

    • thohan

      I don’t think you’re going to go far afield with that approach.

    • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

      You can easily overeat calorie-rich foods.

  • Captain Jeff

    IDK….I lost 30Lbs in 60days. Had numerous people tell me that was too much, too fast. I discounted every single one of those remarks. First of all, thats an average of a half a pound a day, that is NOT unhealthy. I am vegetarian & my friend (who graduated with a Holistic Nutritionist degree) developed an extremely high protein diet for me. The diet did cut sugar out of my diet, other than the low amount in each food I ate.
    I am a male & never really tried dieting before, but I reached an all time high weight & knew I had to do something. Girls say, “Oh its easier for guys.” That statement to me is complete BS. Do you know how hard it was to reach my goal? My secret…

    1. Eat right….not just what you eat, but when/how often you eat to keep metabolism
    going.
    2. Exercise…strength training as well as cardio. Muscle burns fat. I didnt lift heavy, I
    do low weights, high reps, leading to being more toned/defined
    3. Determination…this is of utmost importance. More important than eating right &
    exercising because if you you arent determined you wont do either.

    • vh1

      It IS much harder for women. I’m 5’4″ and only need about 1800 calories at most for maintenance. So half a pound per day leaves me with 100 calories left. Everyone knows, too, that men have more muscle, higher metabolism. It’s a given. I am glad you did well, though!

      • Captain Jeff

        I still disagree with the statement that its easier for men. I think EVERY body is different. The only thing i paid attention to while on my diet was what/when I ate. Didnt count cals, didnt do anything special. Metabolism changes in each person, thats how I gained my weight in the first place. I worked my butt off while i dieted/exercised…so saying its easier for men to me, is a cop out (please dont take offense VH1) Nobody has any idea whatsoever the hard work went into my achievements….but I can tell you, it wasnt easy. I stayed determined. still my #1 part of losing weight.
        And people cheat on their diets, then turn around & say the diet doesnt work. That irritates me more than anything. If you cheat on your diet, you’re only cheating yourself….cos not 1 other persin in this world really gives a poop if you lose it or not. I’ts 100% about no one but YOU

        • He-Man

          While it is true that some people have what is called a thrifty metabolism, most people’s metabolisms are pretty on par with everyone else,with only about a 200-300 calorie difference in review on the literature.

  • jpatin241

    This is true. I am 44 and was having trouble with testosterone levels and weight. Then I found out about healthy fats. I eat at least one alvacado, one egg (raw), a handful of nuts and a glass of 2% lactose free milk a day. I have lost 13lbs in a little over a month and my energy and sex drive are not only back but in overdrive. I also find like the article points to that if I’m just under my calorie intake goal (1947/day), say 200-300 under is when I lose the most weight consistently. If I’m any lower than that I don’t seem to lose any.

    • vh1

      That’s great! But I’m a 5′ 4″ woman. I have lost 14 lbs in 2 months with counting calories (about 1200 per day) and exercising some. You’re a man, and can lose more much more quickly. I can’t have nearly 2000 calories per day and lose weight. I would probably gain, actually. I do use the myfitnesspal website, and that helps me to see my calorie count and what effect exercise has on that. If I lose a pound a week, I’m doing well. Our bodies are all different. .

  • Tamas Dora

    Where is the 12th one? 🙂

  • Stacy

    Did anybody else notice there are only 11 tips, and the article is titled The 12 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes?

  • VilcaAmazon

    The best way to gain weight is to diet. STOP, check out The Moderation Movement.

  • delicate_dream

    This is a good article, IMO, and it doesn’t just address the reasons people may not be seeing results, but also why they don’t begin to make changes to begin with (ie convincing themselves it’s too “hard” or “miserable” because they use black and white thinking and conclude they would have to “cut out everything”).

    Those criticizing the point on calorie counting, well, miss the point. It doesn’t say calories counting itself is bad, it says that too many people eat TOO little calories and they focus too much on calories and not enough on nutrition. There is the trap of thinking that all calories are equal, whatever their nutritional content, but that suggests that overall health won’t affect weight.
    I agree that calorie counting can be an eye opener for those who don’t realize just how much they are eating, but cutting calories too much can set you up to fail and can be too harsh for your body. Calorie counting is not realistic to do everyday for the rest of your life, but doing it initially can help you understand just how much you eat and become better at so-called “intuitive” eating. IMO, intuitive eating is kind of like “common sense” – a fair amount of it is based on old habits/traditions and biases that are inaccurate. I think we have to train our “intuitions” and inform our reasoning, or else we may fall prey to bad habits and silly myths.

  • Greenxblack164

    My problem is I gained all the weight through pregnancy, and I eat when I’m hungry, but the problem is I’m lucky if what I eat even amounts to 1200 calories. I eat about 4 times a day and can’t manage. I’m not underweight either, I’m actually 30lbs overweight. Because of this lack of calories working our is even harder.

  • Marisa Cherry

    Calorie counting never worked for me, I would lose 2 if any pounds a month while on a calorie deficit (meticulously counted) that said I should be losing 10lbs a month minimim, even without adding in exercise. Keto diet was the only thing that worked for me, lost 24 lbs my first month but I might be slightly different from the average person since I have hashimotos and pcos. My metabolism seems hugher, I can eat more food and remain the same or even weight. Tackle your sugar demon, make sure you’re eating because you are actually hungry and not stressed, dehydrated, sleep deprived, bored, angry, sad, lonely etc. You need to correct your hunger signals no matter what diet you choose and to me ignoring my hunger to stay within calorie guidelines was torturous and ineffective

  • Goldie

    Myself personally LOVE My fitress tracker what I’ve come to understand is that your body is like a motor it needs fuel to perform that’s why exercise is the big key here
    Exercise exercise exercise it’s a natural high. .burns fat and calories and makes ya fell like you’ve accomplished something
    Indulge if u want never deprive yourself after alll food is one of the biggest pleasures in life and exercising hand in hand they work well together. Wether it be walking. Running.MOVE IT WORKS

  • Maria Parenti-Baldey

    Thank you, I can relate to water, good fats, fruits and not depriving yourself. Also MFP is a good way to balance your food intake.

  • Jimmy NoChit

    I dropped 50# and I didn’t follow any of this advice

    • Justin Lewis

      Awesome! I was hoping someone would have that experience. How did you manage to drop 50 pounds of body weight without using any of the pointers leveled in the article?

      • Jimmy NoChit

        I switched to a diet high in fat (70%), moderate amounts of protein (25%) and very low amounts of carbs (5%). My body went into ketosis, where I burn fat for energy. My energy levels are higher and more consistent and I sleep way better too!

  • Lauryn Elizabeth

    Okay, but.. in the “healthy fats” part, it states dairy as a healthy fat.

    Dairy isn’t healthy at all. Dairy causes cancer.
    Leave baby cows and their momma’s alone and be healthier.

    • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

      sources for this claim?

    • Lucas Willand

      Please show evidence that dairy causes cancer. Dairy has been weakly linked to prostate cancer in high amounts, but even the authors of that study admit that it is highly flawed.

    • thohan

      Now, you know you’re going to get challenged on this claim, right? Please, no more Food, Inc. viewings, people. We need a sane populus.

  • Calum Fraser

    Counting calories is the most sustainable way to “diet”. You can gain/lose weight whenever you need to by simply manipulating your intake, plus i personally like knowing every single thing that im putting in my body.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c8ccc91d3b0f3702eb33cc34d17387218580df83164eb830a97d46a91573fe4.png

  • Kaiser

    Decent article. Agree with most of, however, in the future, you could give examples of what smoothies would be good to make. What fruits and vegetables you should avoid.

  • Caroline

    Yup! Calorie counting a a must. That’s why I love “MyFitnessPal” they do it for you. I’m down 10 pounds in 4 weeks thanks to the app 🙂

    • davedave12

      analyze as well as count MFP shows me when I eat too much salt or carbs or too little protein or fiber

  • Anne

    I lost 240 lbs counting calories. Until now I stuck to 1200 a day and an hour either swimming or walking each day. I have increased to 2 hours exercise and uped my calories to 1400 because I was gaining weight at 1200 calories. I am losing weight again at 1400 calories. I would like to lose 30 more pounds but won’t be to upset if I don’t reach that goal.

  • Sammie Becker

    I lost 106 pounds in 7 months and have kept it off for 7 years. My anniversary date was March 7th. I always food journaled to keep myself honest ( it’s a lot harder to eat that cookie when u have to write it down) and walked. Now I am to a point where I just weigh myself every morning and if I see any gain I watch my intake for a couple days to regain control. I have a mantra that is “If you’re not hungry enough for an apple than your’re not hungry.”

    • thohan

      Congrats, awesome progress! It really is a head game, isn’t it? So true about hunger: If something good for you isn’t appealing, you aren’t hungry, you just want to engage in a little food-based recreation.

  • Laura

    I like this article as well. However, the weigh yourself Friday and Monday is a questionable tactic. It’s well known among the literature that your weight on Monday is rarely a direct representation of your eating over the past 48 hrs with a few exceptions (e.g. high salt the day before leads to water retention the next day).

    Leading many weight management groups we had to constantly debunk the myth of some women who would come back from a holiday “binge” and have not gained weight or actually were down 1-2 lbs. We often caution them that weight is representative of the past week or more and they may see the scale creep up in a week.

    Or vice versa, folks would cut calories gradually and increase their activity but not see change on the scale and we’d encourage them to stay with it because everyone is different and change on the scale manifests at a different rate based on the individual

  • Nancy

    I lost 55 pounds on the Atkins diet in 6 weeks. My husband lost more. Our military dr was so impressed, he had us in for for a long discussion about the diet, because he wanted to put other pts on it after seeing our labs change from terrible, when meds hadn’t helped much before but were now excellent. I stayed on the first stage, eating 20 carbs but many days found it hard to eat that many because I was satisfied with it, but my husband increased his by 5 carbs each week or 2 after stage one was over for him. I find the plan very easy to maintain, because it isfood I enjoy. We took an extended vacation to Hawaii and decided to go off it to enjoy some of their foods. But continued to do water therapy while there, and walked all day and evening, so kept the weight off, and didn’t go back on right away. I occasionally take a break, but always go back, because I enjoy that lifestyle of eating, and it’s the only way my labs stay in the right areas.

  • thohan

    Not necessarily apropos of this list, but it can’t be said enough: Restaurants don’t care about your health. Make your own food!

  • Sherry Shoemaker Rippin

    Myfitnesspal is a great app to track calories and nutrition.

  • Becky2eyes

    my fitness pal is a good tool, but I’m still in the “calories-in/calories-out” is a little bit of garbage too. I’m currently at a 500-900 PER DAY calorie deficit (according to myfitnesspal and fitbit) and I’m NOT losing weight. I’m drinking 8-10 glasses (64-80 oz) of water per day. seems to me that it should not matter if I’m eating 1200calories of cotton candy or 1200 calories of carrots. I should be losing weight. so what’s next?

  • Joanne Lawrence

    Just thinking about this, man, if my diet had that much sugar, I could run forever! I find the day after I eat a lot of fruit or have a big family meal with a lot of carbs, my workouts are amazing, whether running or lifting weights, which makes sense considering carbs tend to be our preferred fuel.

    And really, I always wondered what the heck the value was of the glycemic index so long as you’re controlling for calories. I would think that metric is only useful if 1) you’re diabetic or have some other insulin-related issue or 2) if you want a good indicator of how different carbs will affect how soon you feel hungry again after you eat them.

    I had a bowl of steamed broccoli and cauliflower with leftover white rice, two eggs, and salsa for lunch. I felt at first like the white rice was a waste of calories(like I often do. Gotta break that mindset), but in the context of a complete meal, it really was fine.

  • Debbie

    I think counting calories and keeping tabs on macros and micros are essential for healthy and successful weight loss. And I use MFP to log my water intake and exercise.

    It’s my belief, however, that there should have been a caveat in place re: eating medium or high glycemic load fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic. I discovered I was pre-diabetic in May 2015. I completely reversed it in six months. I cut out all sodas (including diet), potatoes, and bananas immediately. Then I worked on cutting out processed foods, pasta, white rice, desserts, added sugars, carrageenan, etc. I ate low glycemic index fruits and veggies like strawberries and watermelon. I ate protein with every meal and snack. I lost weight.

    My A1C has been normal for 1 1/2 years even though I am still working on losing more weight. (I’ve had two surgeries in one year and my metabolism seems to have slowed dramatically each time. I’d love someone to weigh in on THAT because this standstill is driving me nuts.)

    I eat very little added sugar, and I still eat no bananas or white potatoes. I eat sweet potatoes with nothing on them. Love them! I occasionally eat white rice and whole grain pasta, but only after I was no longer insulin resistant. And I always eat protein with every meal or snack.

  • Debbie

    I’ve lost 64 lbs. Need to lose more weight but I’m stuck. MFP now tells me to only eat 1200 calories if I want to lose two pounds/week, but that’s not sustainable. I get too hungry. I’m not eating junk though. I have coffee with half n half in the morning only, and I’m finally drinking at least 84 oz of water daily. No sodas. The occasional glass of herbal tea with sugar for dessert. No dessert. Lots of fruit, veggies, black beans, some chicken, etc. Peanut butter, yes. I think I need to eat smaller portion sizes there. I need a food scale for better accuracy.

    Question: does surgery affect metabolism? I think it does.

    I was losing weight easily, starting May 2015. had knee surgery late Jan 2016. Weight loss slowed dramatically even after I could start exercising again. Weight started coming off around November. Then I had shoulder surgery in early Jan 2017. Gained 9 lbs in ten days immediately afterwards. I did not pig out that much! Believe me. Some of that was fluid retention, of course.

    I’ve lost about 5 lbs of that, but that’s it. I’ve been going to the gym but still am not cleared for upper body work. I use the machines for core and lower body and use the stationary bike. My knee is still not working well—I have bone-on-bone arthritis.

    I’m still going to PT. I’m swimming but am not cleared for freestyle or backstroke. I do some water aerobic exercises, kicking, sidestroke, dog paddling (sounds stupid but it’s one way for me to work my triceps), etc. I wouldn’t say my heart rate is madly elevated, but I’m working my core and am continuously moving for over 35 minutes. Plus I have to work against the water’s natural resistance and helps guard against stressing my joints.

    Before the surgeries, I was losing weight. Now it seems practically impossible. Do I have to wait until November to see any weight loss again and just pray I don’t need any more surgeries?

    Also, my ortho wants me to get a cortisone shot for my knee. (It also needs draining, I think… and my ankles too—just love OA.) But I’ve read that a cortisone shot can slow down metabolism. If that’s true, I don’t want the shot.