Excuse the catchy, rather click bate styled title. However, recently I’ve been noticing a trend with a lot of my patients. Over and over again they are committing the same weight loss mistakes and so thought it might be useful to write an article on this.
Hopefully the list below are things you hadn’t previously thought about.
To be fair, mistakes sounds quite harsh. Another way of phrasing this would be behaviours that prevent weight loss. Regardless, of what we call it, if you’re trying to lose weight and not seeing results, it can be very frustrating.
Therefore, if you’re struggling with weight loss or you’ve had a chronic weight problem, have a read/watch of this and see what you think.
1. How you eat fruit and vegetables
You might be shocked to see these 2 foods on the list. You’re always told fruit and vegetables help you lose weight right? Well, you’re right, they do help with weight loss and also help lower your long term disease risk.
What I’m referring to is how you eat them. A common theme in my patients is they merely add extra vegetables to their normal portion size of food. So if anything they are actually eating more calories. To their mind, they are eating lots of vegetables but in terms of weight loss, this won’t work.
Fruit and vegetables are healthy food options. However, for them to have a weight loss effect, they need to replace the higher calorie foods on your plate or in your cupboard.
So reduce the amount of meat, dairy and starch on the plate and replace it with vegetables. Replace processed sugary snacks with fruit. So rather than having a chocolate bar in the evening, snack on some fruit.
This is opposed to having an apple, that you wouldn’t normally eat, as a snack but then still eating the chocolate in the evening.
So try to reduce your portions of the big calorie hitting foods and replace them with the lower calorie foods.
2. Not exercising
Exercise helps you burn up energy. To lose weight you need to create an energy deficit. Therefore, exercise helps you achieve the conditions to lose weight.
The mistake people make is thinking what they are doing is enough when it is not. I hear it all the time where a patient says they are very active and always on the go. Yet when I check their step counters on their phone, seldom do they achieve above 2000 steps per day.
To put this into perspective, it is estimated to lose weight just from walking, you need to do around 15,000 steps per day.
So feeling on the go and actually being physically active are 2 different things.
They may also over estimate how effective their exercise is. A 30 minute walk each day is great for your health and it’s better than doing nothing. However, it is not going to have a significant effect on your weight.
If you only exercise for a short amount of time, you need to do higher intensity exercise where you raise your heart rate significantly to get the calories moving. Alternatively, if you lack the fitness or mobility and struggle to increase your heart rate, you need to do longer duration exercise. For example, a spin class will burn around 650kcal per 45 minute class. Not bad. A walk will burn around 300kcal per hour. So already you can see it takes over 2 hours of walking to achieve same calorie expenditure as a 45 minute spin class.
So if you do low intensity exercise for short durations, you will not be burning many calories.
I’ve mentioned this before but not only does exercise help burn up calories it also helps to keep your lifestyle change on track. Think about it. If you can eat more and still lose weight because you are burning up calories through exercise, your diet will feel less restrictive.
You will be able to have more treats and relax a bit more with your dietary intake. This then makes it feel less like work and more fun. Therefore, you’re able to sustain it longer.
Whereas, if you’re inactive, you have to be super strict just to create the necessary calorie deficit to lose weight.
3. Not being consistent
If I asked you how many diets you’ve tried in your life, what would be your answer? Jumping between diets is not being consistent with your lifestyle change.
To successfully lose weight you need to be consistent. The best diet is the one you can stick to. The evidence for diet and weight loss is pretty clear on this.
However, sticking with your diet is the most common problem people have. I always see patients who are locked in this cycle of taking 1 step forward and then 2 steps back.
They don’t lose weight for a week or two and so give up. However, weight loss doesn’t happen in straight lines. Your weight will fluctuate. It is the overall trend we’re interested in.
So why can’t people keep up their lifestyle changes?
I think this is for lots of reasons. Though, from experience, it is due to 3 main factors.
The first is any changes in your diet and lifestyle are a deviation from the norm. So you’re used to your normal behaviour so to suddenly change and sustain that change is difficult.
The second reason is because people often choose quick wins or the so called more fad based diets. They choose any methods necessary to lose weight quickly with little thought about the long term. Inevitably these methods turn out to be unsustainable.
The third reason is when they don’t see dramatic results for all this perceived effort, they become demotivated. So they give up and think what’s the point?
Whereas, the mind set to get into is to focus on healthy behaviours such as eating healthier and exercising regularly. If this is your focus, the weight loss will follow but it isn’t the focus of your plan. This helps to prevent becoming demotivated because weight loss isn’t the key outcome. Becoming healthier is.
Don’t give up, every change is a step in the right direction. Eventually you’ll take enough steps to see results.
This is why we call it a lifestyle change. For lasting results, you need to follow your new diet/lifestyle forever. The second you change what you’re doing, you’ll get different results.
Therefore, being consistent is the biggest factor as to whether or not you will lose weight or not.
4. Appreciate it’s an average
Everything you eat or drink and every exercise session you do or don’t do feeds into your weight loss bank account.
Sometimes you make a payment in (eating and drinking) and sometimes you make a withdrawal (exercising).
However, the overall balance is the sum of all your behaviours. Regardless of when you do them.
A good example of this is someone who thinks they have been good Monday to Friday. So they throw caution to the wind at the weekend and over do it. Yet to them, they have a good split of 5 good days to only 2 bad days.
Another example is when someone has only had a few bad days in a month. However, if those days increase their total calorie intake to exceed their calorie requirement, they will in fact, gain weight. Yet, they think they’ve been good but their average has not been good enough to lead to weight loss.
You can overeat by more than you can under eat. So if your weekend or once in a while behaviours add up and tip your overall calorie average from weight loss to weight maintenance or even weight gain, you might not see the results you want.
So you really need to factor in everything you do if you’re not seeing the results you want to see. Over time, this will become more automatic.
This is why exercise is so powerful. You will have a greater margin of error with your diet if you’r able to burn up more energy. So you can eat more without effecting your average too often.
Not aiming for 100 percent perfection
Therefore, we are aiming for a good average. Don’t aim for 100 percent dietary perfection because it is not sustainable. So many patients I meet think they have blown it with even the slightest slip on their diet. When in reality, the odd slip or even small daily treat, is normal. In fact, it’s part of any healthy lifestyle change. You should be able to enjoy a cake out with a friend. It keeps your diet sustainable. However, if simultaneously your portions are too big, you’re not exercising enough, perhaps there’s too many treats, or your meals are too calorie heavy, you’ll unlikely get away with the odd cake too.
So it’s when the more unhealthy behaviours occur too regularly. This pushes you towards having a bad average. So the goal is to maintain a good average. This allows for the small or irregular treats if all the other pieces are in place.
Remember, diet AND exercise feed into this average. Therefore, if you are only doing one of these well, your average may not be as good as you think.
5. Acting before it’s too late
This final point is to demonstrate something a lot of my patients have to deal with.
They neglect their health for too long. As a result, they gain weight and develop chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney problems and/or become less physically mobile. Obviously, sometimes these occur for other reasons other than lifestyle but were talking in the context of being overweight.
Suddenly the need for lifestyle change becomes imperative to help ease their ailments because it is their weight that is driving the problem.
The problem is, they don’t have the fitness to get active. Their health conditions prevent them from burning significant calories through exercise.
So they can only try to lose weight by dieting. However, often this diet has to be much more extreme than is ideal because they have zero margin of error with their calorie intake. This makes any more extreme dietary measures less sustainable.
Weight loss remains possible but often their habits are long set in and so a complete change to very low calorie diet primarily made of vegetables, salad and lean meats is too much. Not to mention a very limited allowance for snacks and treats.
So they struggle to lose weight and thus become demotivated. In fact, often they put on weight.
I see this scenario play out almost every week. It becomes too late for significant lifestyle change.
This is why acting right now, today, is the best time to start.
Hopefully you found this article useful. My goal is to give you tips slightly different from the normal tips you might see.
Getting into the right mindset and knowing how to think about weight loss will help you long term.
Therefore, if you aren’t seeing the weight loss you want to see, don’t quit. It can be demotivating but if you quit, you’ll soon be back to square one.
Every change you make is a step in the right direction. If you make enough changes, eventually the weight loss will happen.
Often you just need to be patient. Sustainable weight loss take time and so you need to give it time.