They might not be deadly sins, but there are five mistakes easily made when trying to lose weight. Some of these might seem like common sense, but you might also be surprised how many of these weight loss follies you are currently making. Ready to see where you stand?
5. Skimping on Meals
Contrary to what we commonly believe, “starving ourselves thin” can actually stall your 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”. The smart machine that it is, your body knows something is up when you drastically cut calories and begins to slow your metabolism. The less you eat, the fewer calories you burn and the less weight you lose.
The solution: Eat a minimal number of calories to keep your metabolism going. Unless medically supervised, the generally recognized safe lower limits are 1,200 calories per day for women and 1800 calories per day for men. Don’t fear gaining weight if your metabolism has slowed down. A few weeks of “proper” amounts of food will get your body back on track.
4. Skipping Meals
Do you eat two or three meals a day and wonder why you’re not losing weight? You’re not alone. Another common weight loss mistake is not eating often enough. Not eating regularly can not only slow down your metabolism, but also leave you feeling so starved you’re more likely to reach for those donuts or the bag of chips.
The solution: Eating five or so times per day (three smaller meals and two to three healthy snacks) keeps your metabolism running smoothly. It also stabilizes your blood sugars, which helps you stay alert, gives you more energy and puts you in a better mood.
3. Not Skipping at All
Many people ignore a main key to weight loss: Exercise. Any time you diet you inevitably lose some muscle. Muscle uses more calories per pound than fat does as you go about even your basic daily activities, You go on a diet, you lose weight, you lose muscle, you burn fewer calories, you gain weight.
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. Whether you lift weights, work with kettlebells, exercise tubing, strenuous yoga, or machines, firming up those muscles will not only help you lose weight, but will also keep the weight off.
2. Scratching Favorite Foods Off Your List
For the very short term it’s entirely possible to cut out your favorite foods or drink, but in the long run eliminating everything you like from your diet will lead to certain weight loss failure. Never indulging will leave you feeling deprived, causing you to binge or go off your diet.
The Solution: Moderation. Eat a healthy diet 85% of the time, and allow 15% for “less than perfect” foods. (I don’t use the word “bad” to describe foods as no foods are truly bad… it’s all in how you use them.) Try to put some balance into your life and let yourself live every now and then—just don’t overdo it. If the weight is not coming off, then be a bit stricter and schedule in less frequent indulgence. Eat to live—don’t live to eat—but also take a moment to enjoy.
1. Not sleeping enough.
Not getting those pesky zzzzs can really affect your waistline. Watch your food and exercise all you want, but if you regularly don’t sleep enough you are asking for weight loss trouble. The hormone that makes you feel full takes a dive when you are sleep-deprived, while the hormone that tells you to eat ramps up. What does that spell? Hunger… and difficulty adhering to your plan to lose weight.
The solution: Try going to bed earlier. The sleep you get before midnight is more important than the sleep after, so try to get to bed a bit earlier. See if you can clock an extra 30 minutes every night for a week and then bump it up to an hour. If you’re not sleeping enough, that extra hour can really make a difference in your weight loss.
There you have it—five common mistakes with five simple solutions. Try to incorporate these into you daily life, step-by-step, and watch those pounds melt away.
Helen M. Ryan is a fitness writer, ACE-certified trainer, Spinning® director, and author of the upcoming “21 Days to Change Your Body and Your Life.” Follow her on Twitter – aspinchick, on the web at Real World Weight Loss.