15 common mistakes that prevent weight loss and how to avoid them

  • Ali

I know from first hand experience that losing weight can seem very tough.  It often feels like you’re doing everything right, yet still not getting the results you desire. I’ve found that you’re often preventing your own progress by following old, often misguided advice,

Here are the 15 most common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. 

1. Only focusing on what the scales say 

It’s very common to feel like you’re not losing weight fast enough. We live in an I WANT IT NOW society and for most of us we want to see instant results.

But the number on the scale is only one measure of weight change. Weight is influenced by several things, including fluid fluctuations and how much food remains in your system. Increased estrogen levels and other hormonal changes in women, which can lead to greater water retention, can also be reflected in scale weight.

Weight can in fact fluctuate by up to 4 lbs (1.8 kg) over the course of a day, depending on how much food and liquid you’ve consumed.

If the number on the scale isn’t moving, you may very well be losing fat mass but holding on to water.

This is especially true if you are working out as you may be gaining muscle and losing fat – let’s hope so anyway! When this happens, your clothes may start to feel looser — especially around the waist and hips — despite the number on the scale not shifting.

I always advise clients to measuring around the waist with a fabric tape measure and to take monthly pictures of themselves as this can reveal that they’re actually losing fat, even if the scale number doesn’t change much.

What you need to know: Many factors can affect scale weight, including fluid fluctuations, muscle mass gain and the weight of undigested food. You may be losing body fat even if the scale reading doesn’t change much.

2. Eating too many or too few calories 

For weight loss to occur you need to burn more calories than you consume. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many calories you need to decrease personally in order for weight loss to start to happen as it varies from person to person.

For many years, it was believed that a decrease of 3,500 calories per week would result in 1 lb (.45 kg) of fat loss. But this isn’t always the case.

You may feel as though you’re not eating very many calories. But in fact, most of us have a tendency to underestimate and under report what we eat. Keeping a food diary can really help you understand what you eat and the triggers to why you eat it which is often the starting point to making lasting changes. Not sure what a food diary entails? Get in touch to ask me how to keep one?

For many gaining weight may be about consuming too many foods that are healthy but also high in calories, such as nuts. Watching portion sizes is also key.

On the other hand, decreasing your calorie intake too much can be counterproductive.

Studies on very low-calorie diets providing less than 1,000 calories per day show they can lead to muscle loss and significantly slow down metabolism. That’s why I advise clients to avid skipping breakfast. When you skip breakfast your metabolism drops. Eating breakfast is like adding firewood to an already burning fire. It’s easier to keep it stoked and going than let it go out and light it again. Your metabolism is the same. Without breakfast you’ve managed to put the fire (your metabolism) out. Which in turn can make your metabolism extremely inefficient.

What you need to know: Consuming too many calories can stop you from losing weight. On the other hand, too few calories can make you ravenously hungry, craving unhealthy foods and reduce your metabolism and muscle mass. 

3. Choosing low-fat or “diet” foods 

Processed low-fat or “diet” foods are often considered good choices for losing weight, but they may actually have the opposite effect as many are loaded with sugar to improve their taste. Low fat options often only contain 10% fewer calories yet because they are deemed ‘healthy’ you often eat up to 50% more of them!

Rather than keep you full, low-fat products are likely to make you hungrier, so you end up eating even more.

Instead of low-fat or “diet” foods, choose a combination of nutrient dense wholefoods  which are minimally processed.

What you need to know: Fat-free or “diet” foods are typically high in sugar and may lead to hunger and higher calorie intake.

4. Not exercising or exercising too much 

During weight loss, you inevitably lose some muscle mass as well as fat, although the amount depends on several factors. Without exercising at all while restricting calories, you’re likely to lose more muscle mass and experience a decrease in metabolic rate, which is very unhelpful.

Exercising helps minimize the amount of lean mass you lose, boosts fat loss and prevents your metabolism from slowing down. The more lean mass you have, the easier it is to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.

Conversely, over-exercising can also cause problems.

It’s been shown by various studies that excessive exercise is unsustainable in the long term for most people and may lead to stress. In addition, it may impair the production of adrenal hormones that regulate stress response.

Trying to force your body to burn more calories by exercising too much is neither effective nor healthy.

Lifting weights and doing cardio several times per week is a sustainable strategy for maintaining metabolic rate during weight loss.

What you need to know: A lack of exercise can lead to loss of muscle mass and lower metabolism. On the other hand, too much exercise is neither healthy nor effective, and it may lead to severe stress. 

5. Not lifting weights 

Taking part in some form of resistance training is incredibly important during weight loss.

Studies show that lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. It also improves overall body composition and boosts tummy fat loss.

It’s been said that the best strategy of all for weight loss appears to be combined aerobic exercise and weightlifting.

What you need to know: Weightlifting or resistance training can help boost metabolic rate, increase muscle mass and promote fat loss, including tummy fat. 

6. Overestimating how many calories you burn during exercise 

I honestly believe you can’t out exercise a bad diet! Many people believe that exercise “supercharges” their metabolism but it may actually be less than you think.

Studies show both normal and overweight people tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise, often by a significant amount.

In one study, people burned 200 and 300 calories during exercise sessions. Yet when asked, they estimated they had burned over 800 calories and ate far more than they had burned believing they were entitled to the ‘treats’ because they had exercised.

What you need to know: Exercise is still crucial for overall health and can help you lose weight but studies show people tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise. 

7. Not eating enough protein 

Getting enough protein is extremely important if you’re trying to lose weight. Protein has been shown to help with weight loss in several ways.

It can reduce appetite, increase feelings of satiety (fullness), decrease calorie intake, increase metabolic rate and protect muscle mass during weight loss. One of my favourite ways to add it to my diet is in the form of a plant based protein shake. Here’s my favourite

If you want to optimize weight loss, make sure each of your meals contains a high-protein food (plant or animal based) as well as fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and a small amount of carbs. To check you’re getting enough protein read this blog 

What you need to know: High protein intake helps with weight loss by reducing appetite, increasing feelings of satiety and boosting metabolic rate.

8. Not eating enough fibre 

A low-fibre diet may be compromising your weight loss efforts.

Studies show a type of soluble fibre known as viscous fibre helps reduce appetite by forming a gel that holds water. This gel moves slowly through your digestive tract, making you feel full.

Research suggests that all types of fibre benefit weight loss, however, a review of several studies found viscous fibre reduced appetite and calorie intake much more than other types.

Most UK diets only contain half the recommended daily amount of fibre so adding a fibre supplement as well as increasing your intake of high fibre nutrient dense foods can help with weight loss.

What you need to know: Eating enough fibre can help reduce appetite by filling you up so you eat less. It may also help you absorb fewer calories from other foods. 

9. Eating too often, even if you’re not hungry 

For many years, the conventional advice has been to eat every few hours in order to prevent hunger and a drop in metabolism. Unfortunately, this can lead to too many calories being consumed over the course of the day. You may also never truly feel full.

Eating when you’re hungry and only when you’re hungry seems to be key to successful weight loss. Before reaching for a second helping ask you self am I really still hungry? It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full so allowing enough time to eat and digestion to begin is key. Likewise when reaching for a snack ask yourself ‘Am I hungry or is this feeling something else, boredom, procrastination, distraction, etc’

Letting yourself get too hungry is also a bad idea. It is better to eat a healthy snack than become ravenously hungry, which can cause you to make poor food decisions.

What you need to know: Eating too often can hurt your weight loss efforts. For the best results, it’s important to eat only when you’re hungry. 

10. Eating too much fat on a low-carb diet 

Ketogenic and low-carb diets can be very effective for weight loss. Studies show they tend to reduce appetite, which often leads to a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake.

Many low-carb and ketogenic diets allow unlimited amounts of fat, assuming that the resulting appetite suppression will keep calories low enough for weight loss.

However, some people may not experience a strong enough signal to stop eating. As a result, they may be consuming too many calories to achieve a calorie deficit. It’s important to remember that not all fats are equal. This blog explains more about healthy fats that don’t make you fat! http://www.ali-hutchinson.co.uk/blog/6-fats-dont-make-you-fat

If you’re adding large amounts of fat to your food or beverages and are not losing weight, you may want to cut back on the fat.

What you need to know: Although low-carb and ketogenic diets help reduce hunger and calorie intake, adding too much fat may slow down or prevent weight loss.

11. Having unrealistic expectations 

It’s important to have weight loss and other health-related goals as this can help keep you motivated butt having unrealistic expectations can actually work against you.

Adjusting your expectations to a more realistic goal, such as a 10% drop in weight in one year can help prevent you from getting discouraged and improve your chances for success. Likewise setting yourself a goal of exercising for 90 minutes 7 times a week is unrealistic and you’re more likely to drop out after 2 or 3 days than if you set yourself of a target of exercising for 30 minutes 3 times a week and build up from there.

What you need to know: Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and giving up altogether. Make your goals more modest to increase your chances of success and celebrate small goals along the way.

12. Not tracking what you eat in any way 

Eating nutritious foods is a good weight loss strategy. However, you may still be eating more calories than you need to lose weight.

What’s more, you may not be getting the right amount of protein, fibre, carbs and fat to support your weight loss efforts.

Studies show that tracking what you eat can help you get an accurate picture of your calorie and nutrient consumption, as well as provide accountability as it’s more difficult to overlook the indulges you allow yourself but conveniently forget!

An online App may be the answer, especially as, in addition to food, most online tracking sites allow you to enter your daily exercise as well.

What you need to know: If you’re not tracking what you eat, you may be consuming more calories than you realize. You may also be getting less protein and fibre than you think. 

13. Still drinking sugar 

Many people cut soft drinks and other sweetened beverages out of their diet to lose weight, which is a good thing. However, drinking fruit juice instead isn’t smart.

Even 100% fruit juice is loaded with sugar and lacking in fibre so may lead to health and weight problems similar to those caused by sugar-sweetened beverages.

It’s much easier to drink calories and not count them than to eat calories. And what’s more, liquid calories don’t seem to affect the appetite centres in your brain the same way calories from solid foods do.

Studies show that you end up consuming more calories overall, instead of compensating for the liquid calories by eating less later in the day.

Wat you need to know: If you cut out sugar-sweetened beverages but continue drinking fruit juice, you’re still getting a lot of sugar and are likely to take in more calories overall.

14. Not reading labels 

It’s important to be a label reader. Failing to accurately read label information can cause you to consume unwanted calories and unhealthy ingredients.

Unfortunately, many foods are labelled with healthy-sounding food claims on the front of the package. These may give you a false sense of security but ultimately not help your health and weight loss goals.

To get to the most important information for weight control, you need to look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts label, which are on the back of the container.

What you need to know: Food labels provide information on ingredients, calories and nutrients. Make sure you understand how to accurately read them.

15. Eating processed foods over wholefoods 

One of the worst things you can do for weight loss is to eat a lot of highly processed foods.

Animal and human studies suggest that processed foods may be a major factor in the current epidemic of obesity and other health problems.

Some researchers believe this could be due to their negative effects on gut health and inflammation. Whole foods tend to be self-limiting, meaning they are hard to overconsume. By contrast, it’s very easy to overeat processed foods.

When possible, choose whole, single-ingredient foods that are minimally processed. My manta is ‘if it was living or growing on a plant then eat it. If it was made in a plant then don’t!’

If you feel you need hep or advice on starting a weight loss or weight managment programme please reach out to me. I'd love to help.