The Biggest Mistakes You're Probably Making When Trying to Lose Weight
In my journal over the last decade of losing weight as well as watching and helping others lose weight, these are the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make when they’re trying to get rid of fat and keep it off…
1. Following a One Size Fits All System
When I first decided to do something about my health, I went straight to a nutritionist.
She told me that I needed to get to as close to a raw, organic, vegan diet as I possibly could and that this was what most nutritionists agreed on.
Which, by the way, I’ve been to many other nutritionists since then and I can tell you that most of the ones I’ve talked to only partially agree with that, at best.
But I took the advice and decided to go vegan. I got rid of every food in my apartment that came from an animal and packed my fridge with vegan foods.
I went and got vegan friends and started hanging out with them.
One of the things that I noticed when I went vegan was that I started to actually GAIN weight, in all the wrong ways.
I lost my muscle tone and I gained this pot belly. I started having emotional and energy highs and lows that destroyed my ability to be productive.
And the weirdest thing that I noticed was that my vegan friends were mostly overweight (some were very thin but most were chubby or fat).
So I asked a lot of them why they were vegan and most of the answers revolved around things that had nothing to do with health like…
“I do it for the wellness of the planet.”
“I don’t want animals to get hurt anymore.”
And many others that had nothing to do with being healthy…
While these may be noble pursuits, I was most interested in healing my body, losing weight, and feeling good on a day-to-day basis.
Don’t get me wrong. I really do think that vegan diets work for some people.
Here’s the point though:
Just because someone else is doing a diet or recommends a diet, doesn’t mean that the diet is going to work for you.
People do diets for all kinds of reasons. Some do it for social reasons because they think they’ll be more accepted by their peer group.
Some people do diets for spiritual reasons. They think the diet will make them more in touch with spirituality.
Some people do diets for political reasons, social justice reasons, or even because they have bad or outdated information regarding health (we’ll talk about that next).
If you want to lose weight, rid yourself of disease, and feel better about yourself, you need to figure out what works for YOU and YOUR body.
2. Using Outdated or Just Plain Bad Advice
When I was a kid, low-fat diets were all the rage!
Everyone wanted to lose weight and fat was the enemy!
Unfortunately, fat isn’t the real enemy when it comes to losing fat, although it would make sense at first glance (and pretty much fooled our entire country).
These days, there still are some health care professionals that live by the low-fat diet but there’s been so much evidence that shows that it can do more harm than good and that there are much safer and healthier ways to lose fat that the low-fat fad is quickly dying off in most fat loss communities.
Unfortunately, there’s a LOT of information like this. What we once thought was true 10, 20 or 30 years ago, has been proved to be untrue today.
So what can you do about this? Well, you can certainly get some of the latest information about studies and facts that are most current…
But the real solution is to figure out what works for you and your body.
The research we have today will be outdated in the not-to-distant future and we’ll eventually laugh at the ideas we have today like a lot of people laugh at the idea of a low-fat diet from years past.
Fortunately, there are great systems out there to help you figure out what works for you and your body and we’ll talk about some of those later.
3. Not Learning About What Works For Your Body and Your Lifestyle
Look: I get it…
Figuring out what works for your body takes time, energy, and effort.
It would be so much easier just to have someone tell you exactly what you should do and have it work for you.
However, as you probably know, people respond differently to different things.
If you’re anything like me, you know people who can eat almost anything and never gain a single pound.
And you probably know people who seem like anything they eat makes them gain weight.
That’s because we’re all different. We come from different places around the world, our bodies evolved to eat different types of foods, and there’s even enough differences in genetics between two people of the same family that not everything works the same for everyone.
You need to figure out what works specifically for you.
If you don’t, you’ll struggle with this for the rest of your life unless you happen to get lucky and stumble on something that happens to work for you and your lifestyle.
Like I said, I’ll tell you more about exactly how to figure out what works for you later.
For right now, just remember that what works for one person might not work for you, even if that person is in your family.
I know a set of twins who have vastly different metabolisms and one is skinny and the other is chubby. One can eat whatever she wants and the other has to be very particular.
It takes a little time, a little effort, and some energy but once you’ve figured it out, you’ll know exactly what works for you.
4. Not Setting Up Your Environment to Win
I have a big weakness for potato chips. I actually have a big weakness for several different foods, but especially potato chips.
Because of that, I avoid having potato chips around me.
I keep them out of my workspace. I keep them out of my sight as much as possible. And I even keep them out of my house.
The willpower that it takes for me to NOT eat potato chips is enough that I’ll eventually break down and eat them.
Now I know that there are some aspects of your environment that you might not have a lot of control over…
For instance, if you work in an office where they bring donuts in the morning for people to share, you may not be able to do a lot about that.
Or if you have other people who live with you, you may not be able to control what kinds of food they have around them.
But to the degree that you can, control what your environment looks like.
Here’s the key to this…
Make it as hard as possible to eat foods that make you fat and as easy as possible to eat foods that make you thin.
Studies have shown that you’re more likely to eat foods if you have them in your visual field.
And my own experience has shown me that if it’s easy to eat the wrong foods, I will. And for most people I know, it’s the same.
5. Not Allowing Yourself to Cheat Sometimes
Sometimes, you need to cut food out for long enough that you no longer crave that food.
For instance, if you want to get over a sugar addiction, you should probably cut your sugar down for at least three weeks before reintroducing any back into your diet.
Sugar as an actual chemical addictive quality to it and it takes a little bit before your taste buds normalize to food that doesn’t have sugar in it… making you realize how overly sweet your foods used to taste.
Getting rid of the addiction and changing your taste buds best happens stopping your sugar consumption for a few weeks.
But in most cases, letting yourself cheat can actually help you get deeper into your diet and make it work longer, as long as those cheat meals are limited.
I have a friend who’s been on his diet for about 6 years now. One of his claims to being able to maintain it for as long as he has is that he allows himself to cheat on a couple meals a week.
It can eliminate stress and eventually the cheating can become less and less because you can feel the negative effects that it has on the body (I know several people who have experienced this, including myself).
6. Lying About Cheating or Hiding It
If you cheat, just be honest about it.
If you can’t admit that you’re cheating, you’re going to have a really hard time confronting it (if it’s out of control) and you won’t be able to have a conversation about it.
Most people, even people you’d think were super strict and never cheat, most of them cheat from time to time.
Don’t hide from it. Don’t fight it. Don’t lie about it.
Confront it. Be real. Be honest. Create dialogue.
7. Not Having a Support Structure
One of the challenges that you might run into when changing your diet is the resistance that other people have to you doing something different.
I’ve had friends who would try to push me into eating foods that they knew I was trying to avoid by saying things like…
“C’mon, it’s not going to kill you.”
Or they want things to be like, “old times,” when we all ate like crap and felt horrible all the time.
Unfortunately, you may end up running into resistance like this.
Your friends, your family, the people you spend time with… they might try to hinder your progress.
Just realize that most of them aren’t doing it because they want you to be overweight. They usually are afraid that they’ll lose you or that they won’t be good enough for you when you’ve lost the weight.
To counteract this and to accelerate your progress, you need people who support what you’re doing, who are on the same path as you, and who have progressed further down the path than you have.
If nothing else, an online community can help with this. But if you really want a strong impact, you need to get other people around you who will support you on your journey.
8. Not Having a Strong Reason
Why do you want to lose weight?
How is losing weight going to benefit your life?
What are you missing out on from not being in shape?
I’ve heard things like…
“I’m afraid my wife is losing interest in me and that she’s going to leave me for someone thinner.”
“I don’t want to miss out on playing with my grandkids when they’re young and miss out on some of the most important times of their lives."
The thing that initially sparked me was looking at the end of my life and not wanting to have eaten so badly for so long that I wasn’t willing to change my diet to save my own life.
One of the things that helped my dad keep going is that he wanted to live long enough to help raise his grandson (my nephew).
What’s important is to find out what it is for you.
What is behind your desire to lose weight? How can you remind yourself of this reason on a daily basis so that you can be motivated enough to lose the weight and keep it off?
9. Blaming Things You Have No Control Over
I’ve heard every excuse imaginable about why someone isn’t losing weight.
The worst thing you can do is focus on and blame things that you don’t have any control over. Things like…
- Your genetics
- Corporations that sell the food you eat
- Ease of access
- Too hard
I’m not saying there isn’t any truth in these arguments. There certainly is.
What I am saying is that if you focus on these things, you’ll never lose weight.
If you focus on things that you can’t control, you’ll lose control over your life.
If you focus on things that you can control, you’ll begin to start taking control of your life, your weight, and everything else.
It’s certainly easier to blame. It might feel good temporarily.
But the only way that you’ll ever lose the weight you want to lose and keep it off is if you start taking responsibility for what you’re doing.