For most people, January 1 starts with a hangover and a promise, “This year I am going to lose all the excess weight that I’ve put on” they say, while searching for the paracetamol. “I’m going on a diet”.
Those five words are repeated across the globe in many different languages – and most of the people saying them are almost guaranteed to fail.
Harsh? Yes, but the science backs this statement. In terms of long term effectiveness most diets hit around a 0.9% success rate.
This is for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that almost all diets are designed to be short term.
They are purposefully insane so that you get fast results, but they are not sustainable – because of this people end up as heavy (if not heavier) than they were before they started, just a few months later.
In this article we are going to look at 10 of the most common dieting mistakes in an effort to prevent you from making them yourself.
1. Not Setting a Goal
When we talk about goals, we mean proper ones! Vaguely stating that you want to lose weight is not a proper goal. Weighing yourself, working out what your current body fat percentage is, and how much you will weigh when you lose that unnecessary fat, is how to set a goal. Once you know how much weight exactly you need to lose, you can then work out how long it should take you to do, then find an average weight loss per week goal. If it is above 0.5kg then you need longer to get results safely.
2. Not Counting Calories
Download yourself a calorie counting app and use it for two weeks religiously. This will give you an idea of how many calories your current diet contains, and what foods are contributing most to it. Once you know this information you can replace those very high calorie foods with slightly lower calorie equivalents and you will lose weight. Simple! The more you use the calorie counter, the easier dieting is.
3. Not Being Honest
When it comes to dieting we all lie, even if we don’t mean to. If you have a dieting breakdown and order 4 Big Macs on a Sunday, you’ll struggle to honestly write that in to your calorie counter. This then messes up your calories in/calories out equation, and gives you inaccurate data. There are many other ways to be dishonest, such as not counting foods that you eat, underestimating how much rice/pasta you put into a meal, and the biggest lie of them all – saying that you don’t actually need to diet. Trust me if you are reading an article titled “10 Dieting Mistakes” you probably need to lose weight!
4. Confusing Weight Loss With Healthy Eating
Are you aware that it is possible to eat nothing but healthy foods and yet still gain weight? Sadly this is true, it is also true that you can eat an unhealthy diet and lose weight. Think about it, if you only ate 20 tablespoons of sugar every day for 4 weeks you would be close to starvation right? So you would lose weight. But 20 tablespoons of sugar isn’t healthy is it? Or looking at it the other way – if you ate 5,000 calories worth of vegetables you would gain weight wouldn’t you? Dieting is all about burning more calories than you consume, so while you should prioritise healthy foods, that doesn’t give you a free pass to eat 30 avocados a day!
5. Using Olive/Coconut Oil
Both olive oil and coconut oil are healthy oils, and used in place of many other oils they are a good choice. But they are NOT going to help you to lose weight. A tablespoon of either can equal 120 calories, and most people use more than that when cooking. If you decide to cook a healthy 500 meal, but use 5 tablespoons of oil, you have turned that 500 calorie meal into an 1100 calorie meal instead! Try using cooking sprays when dieting, you can use 1-3 sprays, for a total of 3-4 calories.
6. Drinking Your Calories
Fruit juice is a healthy option, unquestionably. So are smoothies. But they are very high in calories. When dieting you want to get as much food as you can for as few calories, so that you feel full. If your calorie target is 2,000 but you consume a 400 calorie smoothie, and then buy a 1,000 calorie coffee from Starbucks then you’ll have almost nothing left to eat.
7. Avoiding Diet Drinks Because of Aspartame
Did you know that Aspartame has overwhelmingly been proven to be completely safe to consume? And that it does not lead to weight gain, migraines, cancer, or any other issue. That means that swapping your high calorie cola for a diet cola (0 calories) could really help you lose weight. Making this swap has consistently been proven to help lose weight, but people are so scared of Aspartame because their Mother’s Friend’s Son who knows a guy has told them that Aspartame is bad. It’s not, make the swap, and save yourself 100-300 calories per day.
8. Not Taking Progress Measurements
If you aren’t measuring your progress then how can you tell if your diet is succeeding? Use a set of scales, a measuring tape (to measure your abdominal area, chest, legs, arms etc.), and take progress photos in front of a mirror each week. This is the only way to tell if the diet is working. Don’t trust your friends or family to tell you – because it is impossible for them to accurately assess – and their opinion is probably clouded by their love for you!
9. Not Eating Enough Protein
You NEED to be eating a lot of protein, not only will it help you to feel fuller after a meal (therefore preventing snacking), but it will also help to preserve muscle mass. See, when you begin to lose weight, most of it will come from fat stores, but it can also come from muscle mass. That’s why when you see someone who has been starved for a prolonged period of time his or her muscles have atrophied. Eating lots of protein can prevent this from happening. Even if you don’t want to build any muscles, your physique will look better without muscle loss.
10. Eating Too Many “Clean” Foods
There are many benefits to clean eating, but one thing that people get confused with, is that they think that just because a meal has fancy sounding ingredients then that means it’s healthy. For example go on Facebook and you’ll see loads of “Healthy Desserts” which contain 100% Cocoa chocolate, organic almonds, and organic nut butter (obviously the recipe would have more than that – these are just examples). Sounds healthy right? Yeah, but it’s still chocolate, and almonds and nut butters are ridiculously high in calories. Often, the healthy desserts end up being higher in calories than the unhealthy originals! Remember you are primarily concerned with calories in versus calories out.
Remember, the biggest mistake of all is giving up, so stay strong, stay healthy, and stay in a calorie deficit!
- About the author: After building a reputation as a no-nonsense trainer to the stars in New York, former model Joe Dowdell, above, pivoted from running one of America’s top gyms to delivering his knowledge and expertise on a global level. His one-of-a-kind online fitness coaching platform can now be accessed by absolutely anyone, anywhere in the world.