Achieve weight-loss success by avoiding these common diet slip ups. By: Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
November 17, 2014
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Top 10 Diet Mistakes
Starting a new weight-loss plan can be daunting, and honestly, a bit frustrating. You work hard to eat less, but still find the number on the scale discouraging, or you mentally torture yourself for eating that slice of pepperoni pizza. The truth is, losing weight is not easy, but it's also not impossible. To ensure you're on the right track, we've identified the most common mistakes when beginning a new diet and what you can do to avoid them.
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1. Don't Keep It a Secret
It's often tempting to keep weight-loss goals quiet until you achieve success. However, letting close friends, family, and co-workers know about your new diet and asking for support actually increases your motivation and accountability.
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2. Don't Cut Out Your Favorite Foods
Whether it's cheese pizza or your grandmother’s caramel cake, everyone has favorite foods that don't fit into a weight-loss plan. However, depriving yourself of a certain food makes you crave it even more, which can lead to overeating. The best way to combat cravings is to enjoy your favorite foods every now and then in moderation. Treat yourself to a small chocolate ice cream cone once a month. Order pizza on a Friday after a tough week of work, but tack on a healthy side, such as a green salad.
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3. Don't Go Hungry
Losing weight doesn't mean you should deprive yourself of food. In fact, allowing yourself to be too hungry during the day can lead to overeating. Instead, aim to eat every two to four hours to control hunger and regulate your metabolism. Try to include three well-balanced meals (300 to 500 calories) and two to three small snacks (100 to 200 calories) throughout the day.
Willpower is important, but it’s not always the best way to stick to a diet. Instead, take an "out of sight, out of mind" approach by changing your environment to eliminate tempting foods in your home or workspace. Recognize your trigger foods, such as that mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer, and stop buying them. Next, clean out and restock your pantry and fridge with your favorite healthy foods. Finally, reward your hard work by enjoying your favorite foods on occasion while you're out.
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5. Don't Do It Alone
You’re much more likely to be successful if you buddy up with a partner who has similar weight-loss or exercise goals. With others holding you accountable, you’ll feel more obligated to stick to your diet or workout routine. If you can't find anyone in your area, consider online weight-loss groups and smartphone apps that allow you to log your exercise and connect with other users.
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6. Don't Expect Perfection
When it comes to dieting, adopting an “all-or-nothing” mentality can easily lead to frustration. There's no need to be so hard on yourself—one diet slip up isn't going to derail all of your efforts. Accept that there will be times, such as the holidays, when you may not make the best food choices. If you do stray from your diet, acknowledge your mistake, think about how to prevent it in the future, and jump back into healthy eating and exercising with renewed vigor.
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7. Don't Think Dieting is Just About Food
We all have different emotional relationships with food. Some eat when stressed or sad, while others eat to celebrate an achievement. Practice mindful eating by recognizing how your emotions affect your food choices, then by creating a plan to combat cravings. If you eat mindlessly when you’re bored, occupy your mind with a crossword puzzle. If you’re a stress-eater during the week, stock your workspace with healthy snacks.
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8. Don't Overhaul Your Lifestyle in One Day
When committing to a new diet, you might feel like you have to change your eating and exercise habits all at once. However, you're more likely to form lasting habits by taking small steps instead of drastic ones. Make one change each day—skip your pre-dinner glass of wine, pack fruit and yogurt for a snack at work instead of chips, or add five minutes to your exercise routine. These small victories will keep you motivated on the way to achieving your long-term goals.
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9. Don't Expect Instant Results
Today's society craves instant results. However, when it comes to weight loss, patience is a virtue. According to research, the safest, most effective way lose weight is at a rate of ½ pound to two pounds each week. This may not sound like much, but dropping weight too quickly can slow your metabolism and deprive your body of essential nutrients. If you have a large amount of weight to lose, creating small weekly or monthly goals is a great way to stay motivated. For example, aim to lose 10 percent of your body weight in six months. If you’re 300 pounds, this means 30 pounds in six months at an average of five pounds per month or 1¼ pounds per week.
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10. Don't Step On the Scale
Your weight fluctuates due to water, sodium, hormones, and other factors, so you may notice a few pounds difference from morning to night. While it's perfectly healthy to be aware of your weight, stepping on the scale daily or even several times each day can send you on a roller coaster of emotions. Instead, weigh yourself once a week on the same day, at the same time, and in the same amount of clothing. Create goals for next week's "weigh-day," and then move on.