19 Mistakes Most People Make When Trying to Lose Weight

When trying to lose weight, many people inadvertently make mistakes that can hinder their progress. Avoiding these 19 common mistakes by setting realistic goals, maintaining a balanced diet, incorporating a mix of physical activities, and seeking professional advice can significantly improve the chances of successful and sustainable weight loss.

Eating Too Many or Too Few Calories

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A calorie deficit is required for weight loss, says Healthline. This means you need to burn more calories than you consume. Consuming more calories than needed can prevent weight loss, while eating too few can slow metabolism and lead to muscle loss.

Not Exercising or Exercising Too Much

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If you don’t exercise at all while restricting calories, you’re likely to lose more muscle mass and experience a decrease in metabolic rate. Studies show excessive exercise is also problematic, as it is unsustainable in the long term for most people and may lead to stress. It also negatively impacts endocrine hormones, which help regulate functions throughout your body.

Eating Too Much Fat on Low-Carb or Keto Diets

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Low-carb and ketogenic diets help reduce hunger and calorie intake, and adding too much fat or overall calories may slow down or prevent weight loss. If you are not experiencing weight loss on these diets, you may need to reduce the amount of fat so your brain can get the signal that it is full.

Focusing Only on the Scale

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It’s important to remember that the number on the scale is only one measure of weight change. Weight is influenced by several things, including fluid fluctuations and the amount of food in your system. A 2017 study showed that an average of two to four pounds can be gained or lost over a few days, depending on factors like how much food and liquid you’ve consumed.

Having Unrealistic Expectations

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Weight loss goals are like setting any other goal; if you want to be successful, you have to take action steps that are attainable and practical. Setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and may deter future weight loss efforts.

Not Eating Enough Fiber

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The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that all types of fiber may promote weight loss. However, several studies found that viscous fiber reduced weight and waist circumference even without a calorie-restricted diet. Viscous fiber helps reduce appetite by forming a gel that holds water. This gel moves slowly through your digestive tract, making you feel full.

Overestimating Calories Burned

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Studies show that people with moderate weight or who are overweight may tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise. People also overestimate their exercise levels. The Canadian Center of Science and Education revealed that, of 1,153 individuals in a 2016 study, 29.1% of participants reported higher physical activity levels than they had. Exercise is absolutely a great way to burn calories, but it’s crucial to understand how many calories you are burning.

Allowing Too Many Cheat Meals

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If you eat healthy, nutritious meals all week but on the weekend let yourself go wild with fried foods and bottomless mimosas, you’re doing your body and weight loss journey a disservice. To lose weight, you need to be in an energy deficit, but the amount of food and drinks consumed on the weekends often puts many people into an energy surplus for a weekly average. Consistency is key, so try not to be so strict during the week that you lose it all on cheat day.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

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Sleep and weight go hand in hand. Your body makes leptin and ghrelin, your satiety and hunger hormones, while you sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, about 7–9 hours, you’ll be hungrier the next day. Sleep deprivation can lead to inflammation. Combined with feeling tired, it’s more likely that you may overeat and opt for more energy-dense foods.

Being Deceived by “Healthy” Snacks

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Many snacks marketed as healthy are high in calories, trans fats, and sugars. The CDC recommends that a 2,000-calorie diet include less than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. If you’re reaching for a food claiming to help you lose weight, be sure to check the label, or better yet, skip them altogether and reach for some fruits and vegetables as a snack.

Not Seeking Professional Advice

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Weight loss is a very individual journey, with no one-size-fits-all options. A tailored diet and exercise plan from a professional can significantly improve weight loss outcomes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a personal trainer, nutritionist, or even your doctor to find the best way to lose weight for your health and body.

Not Lifting Weights

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A review of 32 studies by Wiley, including more than 4,700 people with obesity, found the best strategy for reducing fat appears to be combined aerobic exercise and weightlifting. Lifting weights is the most effective exercise strategy for gaining muscle and increasing metabolism. It also improves strength and physical function and may help increase belly fat loss.

Rejecting Daily Accountability

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You may think you’re eating right and exercising enough, but not tracking progress through methods like calorie counting or regular weigh-ins can lead to slow or no progress. This is because you have nothing to look back on and check in on what was working and what may have been a misstep. Keeping a simple food, exercise, and weigh-in log could make or break your results.

Blaming Water Weight for Long-Term Plateaus

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Water weight can cause pretty sizable short-term fluctuations, but many people say “water weight” explains plateaus or weight increases that have lasted over a week. “It’s probably just water weight” can be accurate in the short term and is definitely a day-to-day factor, but too often becomes a rallying cry for people who don’t want to face up to the fact that they’re not in a calorie deficit.

Overestimating the Impact of Exercise

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Diet plays a more crucial role in weight loss than exercise. There are certain foods that, calorie for calorie, make it much more difficult to lose weight on a practical basis: processed carbs, refined sugars, and liquid calories. They cause spikes and crashes in blood glucose that trigger sugar cravings stronger than mere hunger, and they wreak havoc on your insulin production. Eating anything you want and then “running it off” rarely works.

Not Eating Enough Protein

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Make sure each meal contains a high-protein food to help with weight loss. Your choice of protein isn’t limited to meat or dairy; beans, legumes, quinoa, and flaxseeds are also great and affordable options. Protein can help you feel full, increase your metabolic rate, maintain muscle mass, and lower the amount of weight you put back on.

Looking for Quick Fixes

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The goal is to focus on sustainable weight loss that keeps the weight off in the long term realistically and enjoyably, even if it takes more time. Quick-fix diets and supplements are not sustainable and often lead to weight gain.

Not Practicing Portion Control

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Even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain if eaten in large quantities. The YMCA uses the example, “Almonds are seen as a nutritious snack containing healthy fat, fiber, and protein. But when a seemingly harmless handful (¼ cup) turns into 4, you’ve racked up over 800 calories!” Make sure to keep in mind that quality and quantity are both factors in your nutrition journey.

Starting a Diet in the First Place

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Diets don’t work. “According to the latest weight loss research, 95% of dieters end up regaining the weight they lost within two years,” says Dr. Jen Carter, counseling and sport psychologist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. It is more important to find healthy habits that work for you than strict regimens with very specific food rules and limitations, which in the long run will keep you yo-yo dieting.

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