We all know how challenging it can be to change habits. So it comes as no surprise that to optimise our weight (and our general health and fitness), we first need to stop and reflect on ALL of our daily actions and decide whether some of these are indeed weight loss mistakes.
Knowledge is power. So once you know what potential ‘mistakes’ to look out for, you can set about tweaking your own behaviours, little by little, until these better behaviours become habit.
Now while that sounds pretty straight forward on paper, I know that weight loss is rarely as clear cut as we would like it to be. Plateaus will happen to nearly all of us at some point. But, the good news is, there is always a valid reason for a weight plateau and therefore a valid ‘fix’.
Here’s my list of 7 of the most frequently overlooked mistakes contributing to a weight loss plateau and some easy fixes:
weight loss mistakes
Weight Loss Mistake #1: Portion Distortion – Over-eating on the good stuff!
We’ve got our ‘healthy foods’ packed in the fridge, our meals made and our snacks at the ready and yet the weight is still not shifting? Unfortunately, failing to accurately portion, no matter how ‘healthy’ the food, can lead to us consuming more calories than we realise. In fact, studies have shown just how common it is for the majority of individuals to underestimate the amount of food we eat each day.
Until you have your meal portions and ingredient portion sizes figured out, it is worth investing (time and money) in tools that help you portion. Scales are the best option, followed by cup/spoon measures. Doing this routinely, even in the short term, will ‘train your eyes’ and improve your ability to accurately eyeball your serving sizes.
Weight Loss Mistake #2: Undereating to lose weight quickly!
On the other hand, drastically decreasing your calorie intake can also be damaging. Not only do you run the risk of missing out on vital nutrients, but a very low-calorie diet can lead to muscle loss (significantly affecting your metabolism) as well as distorted thoughts about food or disordered eating patterns. As energy and nutrients are in short supply, your mood, sleep, immunity and overall well-being will decline. These crash diets are not sustainable long term, and you will likely end up giving in totally and gaining back any weight you were able to lose.
Weight loss should be slow and steady and at a pace that encourages consistency. Don’t try to lose too much weight too fast and instead focus on the overall goal – to change your lifestyle and improve your health.
Weight Loss Mistake #3: Mindless eating – not paying attention!
Mindfulness is highly regarded in the health space these days and eating mindfully is no exception.One BIG mistake is putting food and drink in our mouths without even realising.
Satiety is more than just a physical feeling of not being hungry. Feeling satisfied also often comes from your brain acknowledging the experience of chewing and tasting. How many times have you sat in front of the computer at work (or in front of the TV at home) ready to load up your next spoonful only to look down and the food be gone? Forgetting to pay attention in these situations leaves you hungry for more. AND if you sat down with a family size packet of chips, chocolate or nuts, you could find yourself consuming more than your daily energy requirements in the blink of an eye.
We also can’t forget that grazing on bench-side food (grapes, nuts, crackers), picking whilst we cook or finishing off the kids’ meals also adds up considerably!
Track track track!!! Tracking what you eat and drink is a very important short term weight loss tool. It can help you get an accurate picture of your actual food and nutrient intake (depending on whether you’re counting calories or macros) as well as requiring you to stay accountable, learn portion sizes and recognise behaviours which may lead to mindless eating.
The fix for mindless grazing is first to set up an environment where you have to pay attention. This means removing things like bowls of nuts, chocolates, grapes etc from your view. If you do buy nuts (which are a source of fabulous nutrition), I recommend portioning large bags into small measured portions (30 grams is standard). Also get into the habit of not grazing whilst cooking or serving up your children’s meals and snacks. Serve smaller portions to your children if they regularly leave large leftovers and get them to ask for more if they require it (a good practice for them to trust their own fullness cues).
Weight Loss Mistake #4: Following unsustainable diets!
I am BIG on consistency and eating a variety of real, whole foods that have been processed as little as possible. So any diet that blatantly omits food groups and is full of strict rules is unsustainable in the long term. And anything that is unsustainable screams weight re-gain and potential poor nutrition and eating behaviours.
Balance and consistency are the key. There really is (in the absence of food intolerances or allergies) no substitute for a balanced diet full of a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Weight Loss Mistake #5: Choosing DIET food over Real Food
Real food is nutrient rich and impossible to replicate. It’s as simple as that. Nutrient rich basically means that there are literally thousands of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients in unprocessed foods. These nutrients are naturally produced in a way which can’t be replicated (no matter how much manufacturers may try) into a meal replacement or dietary supplement. ‘Diet’ products may be lower in calories, but the nutrition can be vastly different. This difference can make a huge impact on how we feel, how hungry we get after that food and how ‘healthy’ it really makes us in the long term.
Aim to get your nutrition from real ingredients. Rather than a ‘calorie free’ diet soft drink, which has lots of nasty additives, why not set yourself a goal to increase your intake and joy in drinking water (even sparkling water). And instead of that manufactured protein bar why not consider a couple of boiled eggs, nuts and some fruit?
Weight Loss Mistake #6: Drinking your calories
Liquid calories are a huge cause of weight loss plateaus, because it’s easy to forget they contribute nutritionally. Drinks don’t always affect the appetite parts of your brain the same way that calories coming from solid food do. This means that you can drink much more than you could eat. Tracking your drinks will allow you to change your drinking behaviours, potentially increase your water intake (zero calories) and recognise that some drinks actually have more calories than a main meal.
One word: moderation! Acknowledge the contribution that drinks make to your daily nutrition and energy and keep track of your liquids.
Weight Loss Mistake #7: ‘Healthy’ snack traps!
I love the resurgence of nuts as a snack. But if you’re not careful, unmeasured healthy snacks such as these can really add up in calories. For example 60 grams of nuts (just two of those small ‘nut’ boxes) has a higher calorie count than a full pasta dinner. Likewise, bliss balls and protein balls can also be a calorie trap. If they’re not portioned well or if you’re eating more than one (which is so easy to do), the high percentage of healthy fats will send your calories skyrocketing. Smoothies and juicing can also be a trap if you don’t account for the calories, natural sugars or fats from dairy or coconut they may contain.
Keep your snacks higher in protein and portion into single serves so that you can grab them and pack them rather than eating out of a larger container. Things like edamame beans, veggie sticks and hummus, natural yoghurt and berries are all fabulous snack options.
Habits take time. So prior to setting goals, take a really good look at where you currently are and what behaviours are keeping you there. Then when setting weight loss goals, you can stay focused on changing the behaviour rather than reaching a number. Tracking what you are doing and reflecting often will help you to adjust your strategies as you go along. And remember, consistency is key!