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10 Things to Stop Doing if You Want to Lose Weight

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Updated June 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Avoid common diet mistakes to lose weight faster

Jamie Grill/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Are you beginning to think that you can't lose weight? Does it feel like all of your diet efforts backfire and cause weight gain? If you want to shed pounds, find out which common weight loss mistakes might be preventing you from getting the results that you want.

10 Things to Stop Doing if You Want to Lose Weight

  1. Stop choosing the wrong diet.
    How often have you chosen a diet because it worked for a friend? Perhaps you were inspired by a celebrity spokesperson? A diet might be perfect for someone else, but their needs, their lifestyle, and their food preferences could be completely different from yours.

    Instead, ask yourself five important questions about your diet history, medical background, and emotional support. The answers will help you to identify your specific needs as a dieter and help you to choose the best weight loss plan for you.

  2. Stop setting unrealistic goals.
    Dieters are often highly motivated and full of excitement at the beginning of their weight loss program. It is often during this phase that they set unrealistic goals for weight loss. But high expectations can cause weight gain when lack of progress leads to lack of motivation.

    Instead, take the time to sit down and set small goals that you'll actually reach. By defining small, achievable steps on the way to your larger goal, you set yourself up for gradual success. Incremental steps will also help you to stay motivated through the entire weight loss process.

  3. Stop using "lack of time" as an excuse.
    One of the most common barriers to weight loss is the belief that you don't have enough time. One study found that 41% of women said "lack of time" was the reason that they didn't eat better and 73% of women said they didn't exercise because their schedules were too busy. The bottom line is that if you want to lose weight, you have to find a way to make time for healthy activity. It is hard, but don't give up. Get out an old-fashioned paper calendar and find windows of time that are not consumed by absolute necessities. Then create a schedule for healthy weight loss activities. Pen in the most important tasks and schedule everything else around them. Don't be afraid to put other priorities on the back burner or ask for help (see item #4) so that you can take the time you need to make your health a top priority.
  4. Stop isolating yourself.
    In a recent interview with Biggest Loser runner-up Hanna Curlee, she said that the most important thing she learned during her successful weight loss experience was to ask for help. "I was ashamed to ask for help," she said. "I could have called someone and reached out for help, but I thought I didn't have anyone." She realized later that she had friends and family who were willing and able to help her through her weight loss journey.

    Instead of isolating yourself, learn how to get diet support from family and friends. Take the time to identify your needs for yourself and then approach others. That way, you'll be clear about defining specific ways in which they can help.

  5. Stop underestimating your food intake.
    Do you really count all of your calories? Remember that even tiny 25-calorie nibbles here and there throughout the day can add up. Snacks count, food from your dining partner's plate counts, and calories consumed during food preparation count.

    Instead of relying on guesswork, use a food tracker like the one at CalorieCount.com. The website provides a great tool, and there is even a mobile app that will help you track every food that you consume. Make your entries more accurate by purchasing an inexpensive food scale. The tool will allow you to report the exact size of each portion you consume.

  6. Stop believing that "healthy" foods will cause weight loss.
    Several studies have shown that people are more likely to overeat foods that they perceive to be healthy. One study at the University of Michigan found that when a food was labeled "organic," dieters ate more of it. There may be health benefits to the food you are eating, but if you eat too much of it, it will cause weight gain.

    Instead of reading product claims on packages, read the nutritional facts label. First, check the serving size, then see how many calories are in the amount that you actually eat. You may find that your "healthy" snack is causing unhealthy weight gain.

  7. Stop sitting all day.
    Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is a fancy term for all of the non-exercise movement that you do every day. It can account for up to 15-30% of your total calorie burn. If you spend your day sitting at a desk or your evenings lying on the couch, the calories you burn from NEAT will be minimal.

    Instead of being sedentary, learn how to increase your NEAT. If you have a desk job, get up every hour and walk to the restroom on a different floor, refill your water, run an errand on foot, or climb the stairs in your office building. If you like watching television at night, fold laundry or dust furniture instead of just lying on the couch.

  8. Stop overestimating your exercise activity.
    Many people who want to lose weight join a gym. But you actually have to go to the health club to burn calories. And your workout time is only the time you spend exercising. It should not include the time you spend in the locker room, parking your car, and chatting with friends.

    Instead of using ballpark figures, invest in a heart rate monitor. There are quite a few models on the market, so Compare Prices to find one that fits your budget. A heart rate monitor not only lets you know how hard you are working, but most models will measure your "time in range" to let you know exactly how many minutes you can count as exercise.

  9. Stop compensating for exercise by eating more.
    It is normal for your appetite to increase when you begin to exercise. A common weight loss mistake is to indulge in extra snacks and treats as a reward for the workout. But eating those treats can cause weight gain.

    Instead of overeating after your workout, plan to eat a healthy, low-calorie snack right after you exercise. Combine a lean protein with a carbohydrate to satisfy your hunger and replace nutrients lost during the workout. A glass of skim chocolate milk works well and tastes decadent enough to feel like a treat. 

  10. Stop expecting major results from minimal change.
    There are certain facts about weight loss that smart dieters learn after a while.  One of the them is that dieting is difficult.  Of course, you'll see ads for popular weight loss pills that claim to help you lose weight without any effort.  Any many trendy fad diets make the same promises.  But those products and plans don't work. The truth is that weight loss is hard. Don't let the difficulty of the process deter your consistent effort.

    Instead of getting frustrated, focus on small accomplishments as you lose weight. At each stage of the weight loss process, find an accomplishment to be proud of. Then focus on what you have gained. For example, if the scale isn't giving you the weight loss results that you want, then celebrate the fact that you ate a well-balanced diet during the day and remind yourself about the health benefits you gain from eating well. Your exercise plan may not be resulting in weight loss yet, but it may help you sleep better at night and feel better during the day. Look for and acknowledge the little perks along the way.

Sources:

G. A. Kline, S. D. Pedersen. "Errors in patient perception of caloric deficit required for weight loss-observations from the Diet Plate Trial." Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Volume 12, Issue 5, pages 455-457, May 2010.

Veronique Provencher, Janet Polivy, C. Peter Herman. "Perceived healthiness of food. If it's healthy, you can eat more!." Appetite Volume 52, Issue 2, April 2009, Pages 340-344.

Jonathon P. Schuldt., Norbert Schwarz. "The "organic" path to obesity? Organic claims influence calorie judgments and exercise recommendations." Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 5, No. 3, June 2010, pp. 144-150.

Welch N, McNaughton SA, Hunter W, Hume C, Crawford D. "Is the perception of time pressure a barrier to healthy eating and physical activity among women?." Public Health Nutrition. 2009 Jul;12(7):888-95.

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