Let’s face it: Most weight loss no-nos are total no-brainers. That plate of soggy fries? Bad idea. Same for those processed foods and bottles of soda. Too many hours binging The Queen’s Gambit on the couch without exercise? It may be wildly entertaining, but it won’t do any favors for your waistline.
But then there are weight loss mistakes that aren’t quite so obvious. For instance, did you know that you could be eating healthy foods that simply aren’t filling enough and therefore could be causing you to overeat over time? Or that using one of the oldest weight loss technologies ever—the humble scale—can backfire? Or that your favorite exercise routine could be holding you back from reaching your goals? All true, according to top weight loss experts we spoke to.
To learn some subtle and sneaky weight loss no-nos that will leave you surprised, read on, because we’ve compiled them all right here. And for some things you should do to slim down, read our comprehensive list of Lazy Ways to Lose Weight All December Long, Say Experts.
You’re overly obsessed with the scale.
Countless weight loss coaches will tell you that you’ve got to weigh yourself as often as possible to track your progress. Not so fast, advises Michelle Thompson, Ph.D., a psychology-based weight loss expert and founder of The OM Institute.
“I know it sounds counterproductive to stop weighing yourself, but your weight fluctuates so much throughout your days, weeks, and months, it’s almost an impossible measure of success and will likely throw any weight loss endeavors on an emotional roller coaster,” she says. “Your clothes will tell you if you are losing true pounds and there are more important markers of success besides the scale.”
It’s fine to step on the scale every now and then, but she advises you to put less emphasis on the number itself and more on other factors associated with successful weight loss. “Try focusing on how you feel, your energy levels, your mood, and if these are all improving there is no reason to get caught up in what a piece of metal reads. Consistently helping yourself feel better every single day will lead to the long-term results you crave.” And for some great foods you should add to your shopping list, make sure you’re aware of the 12 Foods That Drive the Most Weight Loss of All, According to Science.
You do the same workout over and over.
“Many people who want to lose weight don’t realize that doing the same workout at the same intensity and duration each day—such as running two miles at a relaxed pace—will not guarantee weight loss,” says Marnie Kunz, an RRCA-certified running coach and founder of RunStreet. “It’s important to add intensity to your workouts and challenge yourself with variation so you don’t get stuck in a fitness rut or hit a plateau.”
Studies have shown that the more you do a single workout, the more your muscles get used to it. (Also, the greater the chance you’ll get bored!) So it’s important to change up your routine—to work new muscle groups, to alter intensity levels—in order to keep your muscles adapting and to ensure that you’re seeing the results you want. So mix it up! And for some great exercise inspiration, don’t miss this list of 50 Amazing Workouts You Can Do in 5 Minutes.
You eat low-in-fluid foods that aren’t filling enough.
If eaten by themselves, low-fluid foods—which include avocados, nut butters, cheese, and nuts—will take up less room in your gut and may therefore cause you to overeat because you’ll still be hungry, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, a sports dietitian who works with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. So pair these healthy foods with others to ensure that you’re filling your gut with the right foods. “Eating foods that are low-in-fluid means there will extra space to fill in your gut, so pair a nutrient-dense foods with a lower-calorie foods to increase satiety,” she says. She recommends adding peanut butter to celery, cheese with an apple, chili with lots of chopped vegetables and beans, and blending your burgers to make them half chopped mushrooms.
You’re eating the wrong healthy breakfast.
“The one thing I notice in 90 percent of my clients who can’t lose weight is that they are skipping heavy protein in the first meal of their day,” says Anthony Coffey, owner and head trainer at Bloom Training. “Having a higher protein diet, especially starting the day high, leads not just to a higher thermal effect (burning more calories throughout the day), but better preservation of lean body mass, which further protects the metabolism, and aids in a more tone and defined look. It also lessens cravings, mood disturbance, irritability, stress, and fatigue levels throughout the entire day—all things leading to weight gain, or trouble losing weight.”
You’re cutting out too many foods you actually like.
If you deprive yourself of everything you enjoy, you could be setting yourself up for failure. “If your weight loss plan includes cutting out something you truly love, chances are this will cause you to think about this more and feel deprived,” says Rebecca Leslie, PsyD, MS, a psychologist who specializes in eating, weight, and body image concerns. “You then likely will have increased cravings for this food.”
Ironically, the psychologist notes, this will increase your likelihood of binging on the food. So be sure to avail yourself of some of your favorite foods in moderation. And for more great tips you can use, don’t miss this roundup of Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, Say Experts.
You’re Eating the Same Amount All the Time
Just like your body adapts to your workouts, your metabolism adapts to your eating habits. (It’s called “metabolic adaptation.”) As you cut down on calories to lose weight, your metabolism naturally slows down your calorie burn on a daily basis in an effort to hang on to that fat you’re so desperate to lose. To sustain your weight loss, you need to boost your intake of the right, high-fiber foods to ensure that your metabolism is firing at full force.
You slash your calories too much.
Countless studies have shown that crash dieting—eating a really harsh, low-calorie diet—simply doesn’t hold up over time. “If you go on a crash diet, you will lose the weight,” says Leslie. “But then you’ll likely gain it back. There is even the chance that you will gain more weight back than you lost.”
You do your grocery shopping while you’re hungry.
Fact: It’s simply never a great idea to buy your groceries when you’re hungry. Research has shown it inhibits your ability to make smart choices about what you wish to eat. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that even short-term fasts can lead people to make more unhealthy food choices, picking a higher quantity of high-calorie foods. Want to ensure you buy healthy foods? Eat a healthy meal before you go!
You make excuses.
“The single worst thing you’re doing for your health and weight loss goals is making excuses,” says Emily Tills, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition coach. “You’re giving yourself the right to say, ‘I’ll work out tomorrow and continuing to push away at my goals because I have nothing to keep myself accountable to.’ You’re giving yourself an inch and you’re taking a mile. Every time you set a goal and don’t follow through, you’re conditioning yourself to accept that you’ll never change and that things will never change.” For more great tips, be sure you read our ultimate list of the 200 Greatest Weight Loss Tips Ever!