Do you feel like you’re trying everything to lose weight with no success? You’re not alone. My days are full of patients that want to lose weight, have more energy, and have better health. But when they come to me they feel like they’re doing it all right. They’ve cut carbs. They’re eating 1200 calories. They fast all day until dinner. They only drink diet drinks and they only eat Lean Cuisines. And they are killing their metabolism with their “dieting” mistakes.
That’s what dieting does. It kills your metabolism. I won’t sugarcoat it. Every time you commit 7 days or 2 weeks or whatever to the latest weight-loss hack and restrict whole foods groups, starve yourself, choose bars and shakes over real food, you do more and more damage to your metabolism. That’s what diet culture wants for you. That’s what these weight-loss shake companies want for you. Because they know you’ll inevitably fail (because humans literally can’t restrict themselves long-term from something they have a physiological drive to do, which is eating real food) and decide to spend more money at a later date to “get back on track”. We’ve talked before about what depriving yourself of your food cravings can do to you.
You absolutely CAN lose weight while eating real food. You can lose weight while eating your favorite foods. I work with people on this daily and they have great success. But one of the biggest problems people have is retraining their brains to ignore what diet culture taught them and focus on the long-term. To work on real, sustainable change. It takes building trust with their bodies, it takes learning the science of metabolism and eating, and it takes TIME. But it’s worth it, right? You only have one body and you have it for (hopefully) a very long life.
Here are a few common diet mistakes I see people making while trying to lose weight.
- not eating enough: oh my gosh this is probably THE biggest mistake I see people making. 1200 calories is not for everybody, but everyone seems to think this is the calorie goal for weight loss. caloric needs are determined by a number of different factors such as age, weight, height, activity level, and sex that go into an equation. Eating too few calories can lead to a slower metabolism, weight loss plateau, not getting enough nutrients through food, and honestly, it’s just not sustainable. When I see people eating really low calories, they usually say they are doing it to lose weight faster. The problem with this is we want to make sure we are burning FAT, which means we need to eat ENOUGH calories to prevent muscle breakdown. It’s also important to note that lifestyle change means we want to pick a sustainable calorie goal that also puts you in a deficit. Our bodies are built for adaptation, so we do NOT want to adapt to very low-calorie levels! Restricting your calories too harshly is not sustainable and not necessary.
- unbalanced macronutrients: macronutrients = protein, fat, and carbohydrate. These are the nutrients we get our energy (calories) from. These can be just as important as calories because if your diet is very high in fat, you’re not getting the protein and carbs you need within your calorie goal. Macros are also important for balancing blood sugar. Blood sugar is crucial for regulating weight, appetite, mood, and more. Balancing macronutrients doesn’t just help the number on the scale start to move, but it also helps you feel better (i.e. not hangry) while trying to lose weight.
- not eating frequently enough: This is related to blood sugar. If you’re unable to eat every 3-4 hours, you need a snack to bridge the gap between meals. Here’s why: it takes our bodies 3-4 hours to clear a meal (or snack) from our bloodstream. If we’re going longer than 4 hours without eating something during the day, the blood sugar is dropping too low and the body has to create sugar to dump in our blood and keep our engine running. The problem is this isn’t an efficient way to get energy and it makes our bodies more likely to hold onto excess fat AND overeat at the next meal.
- eating mostly highly processed convenience foods: These can be FULL of sodium, additives, sugar, and fat. These can be great for saving time but may be causing inflammation that is preventing you from losing weight, not to mention potential damage to the gut. Start checking your labels for sodium, added sugar, and a lot of funky ingredients and then let’s talk about ways to make your food more convenient without all the added junk.
- not drinking enough water: You use water for EVERY process in your body, but for the sake of time I just want to let you know that water is used in your metabolic processes. It is used for turning your food into energy and ridding the body of waste. Typically, people need about half their body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, a 200-pound person needs 100 oz water. If you HATE water, sugar-free crystal light or lemon or lime could be a good way to up your intake. Anything caffeinated is not a substitute for water. Because I’ve seen this going around on the internet, it’s also worth noting that even unsweetened decaf tea is not fully a replacement for water!!! Too much tea can be hard on the kidneys and affect iron absorption!! Please drink water 🙂
Bottom line: avoid “diet” mistakes by not dieting. Choose lifestyle change instead. Not sure how to tell the difference? Ask yourself “are my weight loss efforts something I plan to do long-term?” If the answer is no, you may benefit from nutrition coaching with a dietitian. Schedule a call with me if you need help losing weight and keeping it off for good!