How to avoid 13 common weight loss mistakes

We’ve seen all sorts of factors, but there are 13 common mistakes that people make that we would like to share with you.

Doing “your version” of a plan.

Commit to a proven program and stick to it. Making changes, even if they seem minor, can mess up the nutrient balance of the program and may affect your body’s ability to release stored fat.

Having a treat or cheat day.

Some people can get away with having the occasional splurge, but most can’t. It’s much better to decide that you are developing a new eating pattern that you can continue for life, rather than thinking about deprivation and rewards. It works better for your body and your mind.

Snacks that have too little protein and too many calories.

This is especially true if you snack on nuts or fruit. While each of these is very different nutritionally, they all have the same problem in that they are low in protein and easy to overeat. If you snack on these foods, consider having them in very small amounts together with some protein.

Too many sweeteners.

Whether they’re natural or artificial, all sweeteners help you retain your desire for sweet foods. They also signal the brain to expect an influx of calories, which can result in hormonal responses that cause over-eating to cater to the brain’s expectation, or increased fat storage, or both.

Eating because “It’s time”.

Part of successful weight maintenance is the ability to understand the body’s true hunger signals. Often people eat when they’re not hungry: they might be bored, with others who are eating, lured by temptation, or the clock says it’s time to eat (habit). It’s far better to be responsive to the body’s cues rather than social cues, and it’s a skill that needs to be learned. Sometimes the cue to eat a meal or snack is triggered by some daily event (ie the news on TV or radio), not your body’s need for food.

Eating too little.

Many people think that minimising their food intake will lead to weight loss. It certainly can (as is obvious in the TV series Survivor), but for most people semi-starvation slows the metabolic rate which stops weight loss. Drastic quick weight loss can trigger loss of lean metabolically-active tissue, so these people end up “skinny fat”. Then as soon as you go back to normal eating you’ll gain weight and often more than you had lost.

You started with unrealistic expectations.

Your neighbour lost 20kg in 10 weeks, so surely you can do the same, right? Actually, not even close. Most people need to aim for healthy weight loss of about half a kilo per week, as long as they’re following their program fully. Some people can lose a lot in the first week and expect that to continue, but they don’t realise that the initial weight is usually the release of retained fluid and not stored fat. Understanding this can help in developing realistic expectations.

Lack of sleep.

Poor quality of insufficient sleep triggers hormones that slow weight loss. Chronic poor sleep can stop weight loss, so it’s important when losing weight to develop strategies to improve sleep.

High stress.

Like poor sleep, chronic stress causes the release of hormones like cortisol that stop weight loss. Learning how to deal with life’s stressful situations is essential, albeit difficult. Getting help from a professional can be worthwhile.

Processed foods.

The label might indicate that the food is suitable (organic, natural, no added sugar, gluten-free, vegan friendly etc) but this does not mean it suits your body. A lot of processed foods have low-quality ingredients, are low in quality protein and may not be nutritionally sound. Ditch the processed foods and choose fresh is best.


It might be lovely to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or your favourite drink, but it never does any favours for your weight loss progress. Alcohol can’t be stored in the body, so the time it takes your body to eliminate the alcohol is time that your body is not metabolising stored fat.

Drinking juice.

Where did the idea that we need to drink juice at breakfast come from? For many it has become ‘normal’ to drink juices and smoothies as a healthy snack or meal option. In reality, juice is just a drink of flavoured sugar with no fibre. Think of it this way: it takes perhaps three to four oranges to squeeze a glass of juice, which is very easy to drink along with your breakfast. Imagine instead eating those three or four oranges with your breakfast! They would contain the same calories, but with a whole lot more filling due to the fibre. The fibre helps slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, so you get full and stay full for much longer. Most of us would not even contemplate eating three or four oranges in one sitting!!

Cheating, and not being honest with yourself.

You may think you can get away with eating something you know is unwise, especially if nobody is there to see you do it. You just keep quiet about it, hide the evidence, and never say anything. While you might get away with it, your body knows.

If you’re getting frustrated with your progress, check if you’re making any of these mistakes.

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