You’ve been eating healthy and working out, but the scale refuses to budge. As far as you can tell, you’re doing everything right, but you’re just not getting the results you want.
If this frustrating scenario sounds familiar, weight loss mistakes might be getting in the way of your success. These can happen to anyone, especially because these problems aren’t obvious unless you know what to look out for.
Here are four common weight loss mistakes along with science-based tips to help you get past them.
1. Forbidding Your Favorite Foods
It makes sense that the types of indulgent foods that we crave most — think of decadent desserts or savory snacks — should be removed from our diet when our goal is weight loss. Eating too much of these foods will work against your weight loss efforts, but you should not completely cut out your favorite foods.
Research suggests that eliminating favorite foods during weight loss can make food cravings harder to resist and may lead to unintended overeating (1). Other research has found that when commonly craved foods like sugar are restricted, it makes eating them significantly more rewarding than eating these foods under other circumstances (2).
The solution: Make sensible, portion-controlled treats a regular part of your weight loss plan.
2. Skimping on Sleep
Many of us fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but mounting evidence shows that inadequate sleep can make it difficult to reach or maintain a healthy weight (3). Too little sleep has been shown to cause changes in hormone balance, metabolism, and appetite regulation that tend to promote weight gain (4, 5).
The solution: Make sleep a priority. Aim for the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
3. Getting Stuck in an Exercise Rut
Whether it’s cardio or weights, if you tend to stick to one type of workout, you are likely not getting the most out of the time you spend at the gym. For the greatest weight loss benefit, research suggests that you need a mix of both strength training and cardiovascular conditioning.
Researchers combined the results of 15 exercise trials involving over 740 participants and compared the type of exercise —cardio, strength training, or a combination of both — to the participants’ weight loss results (6). Study participants who did both types of exercise lost significantly more weight on average than those who focused on either type alone.
4. Missing Out on Protein When You Need It Most
Managing calories is an essential part of any weight loss strategy, but limiting what you eat can also mean that you fall short on the nutrients your body needs. Protein is among the most important nutrients for helping to support your weight loss success, but it can be a challenge to get the extra protein you need while controlling calories.
Higher amounts of dietary protein help manage appetite during weight loss and can help support greater weight loss overall (7, 8). Getting more protein helps offset the muscle loss that usually accompanies weight loss, which is important for helping you maintain your results (9, 10).
The solution: Include plenty of high-quality protein in your weight loss plan. Aim to get 20-40 grams of protein at each meal or snack four to six times per day. You might need a little more or less protein each day depending on your goals, body size, and other factors like physical activity.
Now that you know solutions to common weight loss mistakes, you can focus more on achieving your goals!
- Flack KD, Ufholz K, Casperson S, Jahns L, Johnson L, Roemmich JN. Decreasing the Consumption of Foods with Sugar Increases Their Reinforcing Value: A Potential Barrier for Dietary Behavior Change. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019 Apr 5. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2018.12.016.
- Gilhooly CH, Das SK, Golden JK, McCrory MA, Dallal GE, Saltzman E, Kramer FM, Roberts SB. Food cravings and energy regulation: the characteristics of craved foods and their relationship with eating behaviors and weight change during 6 months of dietary energy restriction. Int J Obes (Lond). 2007 Dec;31(12):1849-58.
- Jean-Louis G, Williams NJ, Sarpong D, Pandey A, Youngstedt S, Zizi F, Ogedegbe G. Associations between inadequate sleep and obesity in the US adult population: analysis of the national health interview survey (1977-2009). BMC Public Health. 2014 Mar 29;14:290. doi: 0.1186/1471-2458-14-290.
- Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism. Endocr Dev. 2010;17:11-21. doi: 10.1159/000262524.
- Yang CL, Schnepp J, Tucker RM. Increased Hunger, Food Cravings, Food Reward, and Portion Size Selection after Sleep Curtailment in Women Without Obesity. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 19;11(3). doi: 10.3390/nu11030663.
- Schwingshackl L, Dias S, Strasser B, Hoffmann G. Impact of different training modalities on anthropometric and metabolic characteristics in overweight/obese subjects: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013 Dec17;8(12):e82853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082853.
- Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85.
- Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, Purnell JQ. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):41-8.
- Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21-41. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141056.
- Arciero PJ, Edmonds R, He F, Ward E, Gumpricht E, Mohr A, Ormsbee MJ, Astrup A. Protein-Pacing Caloric-Restriction Enhances Body Composition Similarly in Obese Men and Women during Weight Loss and Sustains Efficacy during Long-Term Weight Maintenance. Nutrients. 2016 Jul 30;8(8). doi:10.3390/nu8080476.