Everyone who diets dreads the diet pitfalls that can seemingly derail weeks and months of hard work. But, if you know what to expect, you can be on the lookout for what to avoid and, thus, save yourself from the stress and setbacks that show up all too often to ruin your diet results.
In other words, you can side-step these all-too-common weight-loss mistakes:
The 12 Common Diet Pitfalls That Ruin Weight Loss Results
#1 Not Getting Enough Water
Dehydration can derail your diet efforts faster than a camel can drink. Water helps your body melt fat, move toxins and wastes out of your system, transport nutrients, and lubricate your muscles and joints.
Not only is it essential for life and health, but if you don’t get enough water, you can’t digest your food properly, and worse, your body may slow down your metabolism to compensate for the lack of water.
Dehydration can also leave you feeling tired, irritable, and craving foods you shouldn’t. Drinking plenty of water will help you avoid all of the above and keep you feeling full longer.
#2 Not Getting Enough Good Quality Sleep
Sleep may seem completely unrelated to your diet and weight-loss efforts, but nothing could be further from the truth. A lack of sleep can mean the difference in pounds on the scale because not only do you tend to reach for junk food as a quick fix or pick me up to get a little burst of energy, but your body sends out a hunger hormone called ghrelin when you’re sleep deprived. This can cause cravings and make you feel like you want to keep eating because nothing is really satiating.
Additionally, your stress hormones skyrocket when you become chronically sleep deprived. That can cause a cascade of reactions in your body that can keep you from losing weight. In fact, studies show you are likely to eat more and gain more weight when stressed and sleep deprived, in addition to making poor food choices and skipping workouts.
Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night.
#3 Not Eating Mindfully
Eating with abandon is a recipe for disaster and a far too common diet pitfall. If you eat mindlessly while you’re watching television, surfing on the computer, or scrolling through your phone, you may not even notice the food you consume.
If you’ve ever finished a meal and still felt hungry, not satiated, or didn’t even notice what you ate, it’s time to slow down and focus on your food as you eat it. Don’t be distracted during meals and you’ll discover your food is more satisfying and your results will improve.
#4 Not Eating Enough Real Foods
As tempting as it may be to just live on protein bars and shakes and premade microwavable “meals,” eating real, whole foods is important, too. Too many “diet” foods can be laden with artificial sweeteners and fillers and won’t be as healthy or as filling as eating real food.
While these often-tasty diet foods may seem like an answer to your prayers, they’re easy to overindulge on, just like junk food. When you eat real, whole, nutrient-dense foods, you’ll feel better, be healthier, and feel more satisfied. After all, when was the last time you felt like overeating on lettuce, cauliflower, or a banana?
#5 Taking In Too Many Extras
Here are three diet pitfalls that appear to be healthy on face value, but have been shown to hurt weight loss results.
Diet Sodas—drinking a diet soda may seem like a good idea at the time, but the overly sweetened taste can set you up for a fall as cravings for more sugary foods set in. In addition, many of those that are artificially sweetened can seriously mess with your microbiome.
Sugarless Gum—too much of a good thing may not be so good. Sugar-free gum is not necessarily carbohydrate- or calorie-free, and too much can really add up. And again, artificial sweeteners come with their own not-so-sweet side effects.
Dressings and Sauces—even when making low-calorie or fat-free choices, the actual portion sizes can be very small, and over-indulging is easy to do. Again, watch the calories and carbs and always put the sauces on the side.
#6 Not Tracking What You Eat
You may think you’ve “got this,” and you don’t need to track your consumption. But, a lack of accountability can put you right back where you started in no time as you start mindlessly reaching for snacks and increasing portion sizes simply because you’re not tracking your intake.
#7 Paying Little Attention to Portions
Along the same lines as tracking what you eat is measuring and/or weighing your food. While this kind of practice can become quite cumbersome and time consuming, if you feel like you’re doing everything “right”—i.e., you’re following your exercise and nutrition plan faithfully—and you’re still not losing the body fat like you feel you should, consider measuring your food. To make it super simple, you can use your hand as your guideline to measure each portion size.
Sometimes folks will start out a diet plan like this and get great results. Then, they slowly morph back into guestimating their portion sizes or just filling up the plate and unwittingly start to overeat again, thus thwarting their efforts.
Going back to a few days of weighing and measuring everything can pull you back onto the path to success and recalibrate your portion-size estimating skills.
#8 Cheat Meals Turned Into Cheat Days… or Cheat Weekends!
Cheat meals can quickly turn into one of the most dangerous diet pitfalls when it comes to the health of your diet. Try to stick to a cheat meal, not an all-out all-day food free-for-all.
#9 Using Food as a Reward
If you’re rewarding yourself with food as treats, try rethinking this policy. Non-food rewards (like a massage, a manicure or pedicure, a facial, a visit to a favorite museum, a new book, a movie, a special event, or a new workout outfit) will garner you much better diet results, and you can use your food as nourishment and care for your body instead.
#10 Failing to Plan
We’ve all heard “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and this is definitely true when it comes to diet pitfalls.
If you don’t take the time to plan your meals, you’ll find yourself reaching for unhealthy choices when you get hungry, stressed, or in a hurry. Meal prepping in advance and always having healthy snacks on hand is just plain smart and can keep you and your diet on track.
#11 Depending on Cardio
Cardio should not be your main focus if you want to lose the fat and keep it off. If you truly want to lose body fat (and not precious, metabolically active muscle tissue), you’re going to want to include resistance training in your program, and lots of it, not just depend on daily cardio sessions.
Doing steady state cardio over and over again will help you burn some additional calories, but building the muscle through resistance training is what will raise your metabolism and change your physique on a permanent basis.
#12 Not Being Consistent
Consistency here is king. Don’t start, stop, quit, and begin over and over again. The turtle really does win the race when it comes to weight loss. Slow and steady progress should be your goal as fast fad diets will strip your body of muscle, and you’ll end up heavier and with a higher percentage of body fat in the end.
Trust the process and realize that weight loss requires consistency and patience.
BONUS TIP: Forgetting to Switch Things Up!
Your body is a smart, well-oiled machine, and it adapts quickly to the things you do. So, over time, if you just keep doing the exact same workouts and eating the exact same diet, you’ll start to see less and less results.
Your body adapts and needs to be “shocked” into making progress again. How do you do this? You kickstart your results by:
- Progressive overloading—meaning you continually push yourself in the weight department and with your cardiovascular workouts. Lift a little more weight than you did the time before, or do a couple more repetitions, or do them a little more slowly. You can also rest less in-between sets or try some new exercises altogether.
- Zig-Zagging your calories—instead of eating the exact same number of calories each day with the exact same macronutrient rations, it’s important to switch it up and confuse your body, so it can’t adapt to your diet plan and instead must keep your metabolism high to keep up with your feeding regimen. Try to have lower carb and higher carb days, coupled with some intermittent fasting and a good old-fashioned cheat meal now and then to boost your results.
By avoiding these 12 dreadful diet pitfalls that are ruining your weight-loss results, you’ll stay on track for greater results in the short and long term!