I hate the words diet and dieting when talking about weight loss. A diet seems like such a short-term thing; something that won’t be sustainable. I like to think about healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to weight loss and maintaining that loss. Something you can continue with long-term! I help people with weight loss in my day job and I hear many common weight loss mistakes very often!
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about lockdown weight gain. It’s definitely not something to beat yourself up over! We have been stuck inside for 3 months, apart from being allowed out for exercise. Even so, for many people they will be less active and eating more at home. We all deal with stress and worry differently; some stop eating and feel sick and scared. Others comfort eat and eat things they may never usually. We are all different but regardless some weight gain over lockdown would be expected for some. And some may not feel ready to tackle that and others maybe desperate to do something.
Which ever camp you fall into, I thought I would share some of the common weight loss mistakes I hear if you are thinking about starting on your healthy living journey.
Common Weight Loss Mistakes
– “I’m going to cut out carbs” – And you don’t need to. Now I’m not saying that a reduction in carbohydrates won’t help; it will. Less carbs, is less calories and out of the macronutrients, carbs are the one you can get away with cutting down the most. They contain insoluble fibre and B vitamins, so do have benefits but for those, who as not as active, you don’t need as many as someone who is out pounding the pavements daily. However, you don’t need to completely cut out. Reduce your portion sizes down, perhaps have a carb-free meal now and then. When you do choose carbohydrates go for whole-grain, brown options and stick to the portion sizes on the packet or have even less. You will notice a difference, as will be ultimately cutting your calories intake down.
Please speak to your dietitian or doctor if you have diabetes or insulin resistance, as a low-carbohydrate diet is a possible treatment plan.
– Drinking your calories – I always remember a chap in clinic telling me he had cut out Coke from his diet. He was having 2 litres of full sugar Coke a day. This is around 800kcals a day! Bearing in mind you need around a 500kcal deficit a day to lose around 1 pound a week, just cutting this out would make a huge difference! Don’t drink your calories. Have water as the first choice, hot drinks with no added sugar and if picking squash or fizzy drinks, again go for a no-added sugar version. I’ll expand on this point again.
– Forgetting about alcohol – this links to not drinking your calories but quite a lot of people forget about the calories in alcohol. In one pint of beer (5%) you are looking at 240kcals, which is the equivalent of a Mars Bar. For a 175ml glass of wine 133kcals, which is the same as 3 Jaffa cakes. For two shots of gin (40mls) you are looking at 95kcals, a small Milky Way bar. Surprising? Check out the NHS Calories in Alcohol page for more details but the calories really add up quickly!! Trying to have alcohol-free days or only having a drink at the weekend will benefit your health and weight loss journey.
– Forgetting about portion sizes – I wrote a whole blog post on this a while ago. However, the amount of times I’ve done diet histories and had pretty healthy diets in front of me but when I probed a little further, I’ve realised the portion sizes are enormous, is many times! I often suggest to people take a photo of their normal meal, then reduce the portion size. So fill your plate with veg and a portion of protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans or lentils are options), then stick to a carbohydrate portion as per the packet or even less! You may be shocked when you take a second picture. People often worry they will be hungry on less but if you eat slowly and wait, most of the time you realise you are full! This is the same if you are having some crisps of sweets. Put a portion in a small bowl and stick to it!! It’s very easy to keep going if you have a bag in front of you.
– Skipping meals – Skipping meals seems to always lead to people feeling really hungry and eating excessively later. If you don’t eat all day you are starving! I’m aware some people don’t like breakfast but perhaps have a piece of fruit or yoghurt later on. Make sure you are not letting yourself get so hungry, you know you won’t have control.
– Panicking and beating yourself up after perhaps eating more than you should – Sticking to healthy eating 100% of the time is hard work and can be a little boring. We all want to eat something nice. We all might fancy a take-away on a weekend and that’s fine! The key is not stressing and thinking you have “ruined your diet”. You haven’t. A one-off won’t do this. It’s the things you do day in, day out that make a difference. If you are eating well and being active, most of the time, that is what counts! Don’t worry. Enjoy it and back to normal the next day.
– Seeing any food as “bad” – This almost links in with the above point but no food is “bad”. There are just some foods we shouldn’t eat excessively! If you have the attitude of certain foods in moderation, predominantly eating a healthy, balanced diet, you will feel better about what you eat. Thinking foods are bad makes YOU feel bad after eating them, instead of enjoying and going back to a healthy diet and exercise the next day.
– Having smoothie or juice as more than one of your 5 a day – this ties in again with drinking calories but there is a common misconception that fruit juices and smoothies are always “healthy”. They can be healthy in small portions, as contain Vitamin C and some fibre (smoothies). Stick to 150mls of either ONLY and this will class as at least 1 of your 5 a day. The issues with juices and smoothies is they are very concentrated in sugar. You would usually only eat 1 orange at a time but think how many you squeeze to make a glass of juice? Plus juices lose all the benefits of the fibre, you get in the whole fruit. Have an apple or orange instead of drinking the juice where you can.
– Assuming going Vegetarian or Vegan will result in weight loss – a vegan or vegetarian diet can be really healthy if planned well and is nutritionally balanced. This post can help you learn more. However, I have spoken to people who have gone more plant based but struggled to know what to eat, so ended up eating more cheese or carbs! These people told me they have actually ended up gaining weight! Just because you cut out animal products, doesn’t necessarily mean instant weight loss. If you are planning on going vegetarian or vegan, do your research first and ask for help.
You may be interesting in these healthy vegan recipes.
You may be interested in these healthy vegetarian recipes.
– Eating large quantities of foods because they are deemed as healthy – foods that come into this category are nuts, avocados, smoothies (as above) and even dark chocolate. All of these are very high calorie, even though the first two contain essentials fats and nuts are a great source of the filling protein. Nuts are a great in-between meal snack but stick to a small handful only, as the calories add up fast! Always have an idea of the calorie content of a portion size when trying a new “healthy food”.
So there you have it – 10 common weight loss mistakes.
My Top Tips for Losing Weight in a Nutshell
When anyone asks me how can I lose weight, I always try and answer in the same way:
– Eat as non-processed as you can, cook from scratch when you can.
– Base meals on lean protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu or lentils), include plenty of vegetables and a small portion of wholegrain carbohydrates.
– Snack on fruit, nuts, plain yoghurt. I have some other healthy snack ideas here.
– Drink plenty of water or no-added sugar drinks.
– Enjoy food and always enjoy something nice. This maybe wine or chocolate, cakes or crisps but eat small portions and not everyday.
– Keep as active as you can! 30 minutes a day where your heart rate is up! This doesn’t have to be the gym.
Eating healthily is for life and is a lifestyle. You don’t want to starve. You want to enjoy food and you can do! Just watch your portions sizes.
Any questions about any of these common weight loss mistakes, let me know in the comments!