Top 9 Diet Mistakes
Dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry that grows every year — right along with a large majority of the population’s waistlines. Something is wrong with that, wouldn’t you say?
What’s going on? Why do millions of people desperately want to lose weight, but fail?
In most cases, they’re making some of the following diet mistakes. Learn to not make these mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to weight-loss success.
Mistake #1: Is following any type of extreme diet. This would be your typical low-fat, or low-carb, or extreme low-calorie diet that we hear so much about. Weight loss may be a side effect of a short-term diet, but diets can have detrimental effects on long-term health. Furthermore, many people gain back the weight they originally lost and more. This is why people should learn how to implement healthy strategies for a lifestyle, not just as short-term fix. The healthiest diet of all is one that can be maintained over the long haul and has you eating real food that doesn’t eliminate any of the three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. For weight loss, it is still important to find out what your daily estimated energy requirements are and eat below that amount, but again eliminating any particular food group is not necessary and can actually be detrimental to long-term, and many times even short-term success.
Mistake #2: Taking on too much, too soon. This is the single biggest reason why most people fail in their diets. They become so excited about starting a diet that they give up all their favorite foods on the first day. Then they grow discouraged and give up. To avoid this, try to slowly adapt yourself to new eating habits. After a month, you’ll have changed your diet drastically without experiencing the shock of a complete turnaround.
Mistake #3: Eliminating fats. In fact, you need healthy sources of fat to maintain essential body functions, sustain energy levels, slow digestion and feel fuller longer. For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But that actually proved to be a big fat lie (pun intended). It’s more than just the amount of fat; it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the waistline wars. Bad fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. Including healthy fats in your diet is good for you and can actually help you lose weight. Healthy fats include: vegetable and nut oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, fish and tofu.
Mistake #4: Eliminating carbohydrates. Carb-free diets are popular because of the dramatic weight loss that can occur. But this is typically due to several reasons. First, most of the weight lost is from water, not fat. Second, when you’re on a carb-free diet, most processed foods are eliminated — and these are the foods that tend to add the most calories. Once you return to your old eating habits, the water weight returns, as do those high-calorie processed foods that lead you to gain weight. Complex, high-fiber carbohydrates like brown rice, beans and lentils should be part of any diet regimen.
Mistake #5: Reducing calories too much. This often leads to yo-yo dieting. When you follow an extreme diet, you’ll lose a lot of weight at first — but then your body will catch on and lower your metabolism to accommodate the reduced supply of fuel. Then, when you return to your normal diet — wham! You regain that weight because you’re now consuming more calories.
Skimping on calories ultimately decreases metabolic rate as the body tries to conserve energy. This is why low-calorie eaters may feel lethargic. Furthermore, as metabolism slows, the body subsequently burns fewer calories, leading to a greater susceptibility for weight gain when more calories are inevitably consumed. To keep energy levels high and metabolism revved up, it’s important for people to meet their daily calorie needs. And since the body uses energy-yielding carbohydrates, protein, and fat in very specific ways, consuming each in proportion to the other is essential to ensure sufficient energy to complete daily tasks, feel good, and to maintain an optimal state of health.
Mistake #6: Eating too much healthy food or choosing incorrect portion sizes. Eating too much of anything leads to weight gain. No matter how healthy the food is, a calorie is still a calorie. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns, no matter the source. Also, many people aren’t aware of what an appropriate portion size really is. They eat much larger portions than they need to, which inevitably leads to weight gain.
Mistake #7: Skipping exercise. Many people are trying to lose weight — but only 15 percent exercise regularly. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here. You may not enjoy exercise very much — but if you want to lose weight, you simply have no choice.
Mistake #8: Consuming too much alcohol. Many people believe that alcohol doesn’t contain a lot of calories. This is especially the case with red wine. In fact, alcohol is loaded with empty calories (for example, five fluid ounces of red wine contains 125 calories). Limit your intake and include the calories in any alcohol you consume as part of your daily calorie count. Sorry — there are no freebies!
Mistake #9: The “one-size-fits-all” approach. Don’t assume that what worked for Jim or Jane will work for you. Dave may be able to eat dessert after every meal without gaining a pound, while Mark gains three pounds just looking at a piece of cake. Melissa may be able to fast all afternoon with no cravings, while Judy craves sugar on the three-hour mark after her last meal. When it comes to our unique bodies, metabolism and genetics, we aren’t all created equal. What works for someone else may not work for you. Also know that people often post their successes MUCH more than they post their struggles. Just because the struggles and ups and downs aren’t posted about as much, doesn’t mean that every single person doesn’t face them. So understand there might be some trial in error and figuring out what works for you with your weight loss journey, and that is okay!
Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has recently published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
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