Updated: May 26, 2020
Have you ever wondered why its so hard to lose weight & more importantly why it’s even harder to maintain it ?
Most of us have gone on a ‘diet’ at some point in our lives, and most often we go off of it as well! This leads to one switching from one diet to the other (yo-yo dieting) and is associated with fluctuations in weight loss and regain.
When you begin to look into why people don’t follow diets you realise that it is indeed a very complex process to bring about behavioural change, especially when the focus of most fad diets is weight loss instead of establishing healthier lifestyle patterns. So while dieting may help you lose weight temporarily, it can cause you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food that can result in long-term disordered eating and weight regain.
Let’s look into few of the most common mistakes that people make when they want to lose weight:
Viewing a diet as a short term strategy : when we use the term ‘diet’, it should be a representation of our regular eating habits. It shouldn’t be viewed as something that you try for a short period of time until you achieve your weight loss goal. Instead, the focus should be on developing healthy dietary patterns that you will be able to follow in the long-run. It is also important that you understand why you are making certain dietary changes rather than doing it to just lose weight. The first step should be to remove highly processed & refined foods from your diet, and to replace it with nutrient dense foods. This can be challenging for most and hence you can start with ‘5 day-2 day nutrition strategy’ and then progress to fine tuning your diet. Make slow changes at first and then transition into eating based on what your body needs.
Obsessing over calories and restrictive eating: As I mentioned in one of my previous posts the quality of calories is more important than the number of calories that you consume. Staying under your daily calorie goal may work against you in terms of achieving weight loss and may even come in the way of meeting your micronutrient needs. The amount of food you require and your macros should be based on your energy expenditure and not based on the latest diet of the season. Another important factor to consider is the ‘forbidden fruit syndrome’ where we label certain foods as being bad for us, yet our body responds to this by obsessing over it. Hence the more we restrict particular foods the more we think about it. The reason this is relevant is because we inevitably end up eating these foods that we’ve labelled bad, and yet instead of savouring it & being mindful, we scarf it down and feel guilty about doing so. It’s important to change your mindset towards healthy eating and make it an enjoyable experience rather than feeling restricted. This also includes savouring and enjoying your favourites (in moderation), instead of associating a negative emotion with it.
Ignoring protein intake : a number of diets restrict certain food groups that are healthy & nutritious which can lead to reduced micronutrient, protein & fat intake. Insufficient protein intake is one of the biggest culprits associated with unsuccessful weight loss, as dietary protein can assist with sustained satiety, sustained basal metabolic rate and sparing of fat free mass. In fact, following a relatively high protein diet is associated with fat loss & maintenance of weight thereafter. Swapping a meal for fruits seems to be another common trend, unfortunately consuming only fruit is basically providing your body with simple sugars(with negligible protein) that essentially switches off your fat oxidation. Consuming a protein rich meal with plant fibre is a much better option to keep your metabolism in check.
Opting for low fat products & low-fat diets: Ironically, a number of ‘low-fat’ products contain higher amounts of sugar and are rarely healthier. This is done to enhance the taste as the reduction of fat tends to make products less palatable. Over the years fat has been labelled as bad and hence following a low-fat diet had become a popular weight loss strategy. However a number of studies have shown that following a low carbohydrate and high protein/fat diet is more effective at bringing about weight loss. The bottom line is that you need to incorporate healthy fats into your diet and you should be weary of ‘low-fat’ products.
Obsessing over a number on the scales: Jumping on the scales to check progress on your weight loss programme is only natural, however weighing yourself doesn’t take into consideration your body composition. For instance, if you are working out and consuming adequate protein you may gain muscle which could lead to weight gain on the scales (which is good). On the other hand, during calorie restriction you need to be careful about muscle loss, particularly if you are not consuming enough protein. Weight loss during initial calorie restriction can be loss of muscle mass, however gaining this muscle back is challenging and hence the focus should be on preserving lean mass with adequate protein.
Focus on building a healthy & enjoyable relationship with food. Create long-term healthy dietary & lifestyle patterns.
Be mindful of what you are eating, whether you are eating something that you think is healthy or whether it’s something that you know is calorie dense like chocolate cake.
Don’t over analyse your food or obsess over calories, focus on consuming unrefined foods that have adequate protein and healthy fat.
Don’t fall into the trap of constantly weighing yourself. The aim is to gradually build muscle and lose fat over time.