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9 Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes People Tend to Make

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: August 7, 2023

Trying to lose weight but making little progress?

There’s a ton of common weight loss mistakes that most beginners make when setting out on their fat loss journey.

To help you avoid misguided or outdated advice, our research-based advice covers these common hurdles and the best ways to overcome them.

Quick Summary

  • Disregarding overall nutrition, and ignoring calories from drinks are the common weight loss mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.
  • Skipping meals and ignoring food labels and their ingredients can also affect your weight loss journey.
  • Unbalanced workout routines and lack of sleep can prevent you from attaining your weight loss goals.

9 Most Common Mistakes When Trying to Lose Weight

1. Disregarding Overall Nutrition

A nutritionist listing a required nutrition

What we eat is a massive contributor to our weight. Most people trying to lose weight often focus on reducing their food intake and avoiding unhealthy foods.

The issue with this approach is in ignoring the nutritional aspect of their diets.

If you’re looking to achieve sustainable weight loss results, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough protein and fiber.

Protein is an essential macronutrient that is particularly helpful for weight loss.

It assists with weight loss efforts by reducing your appetite, boosting your metabolic rate, and promoting the feeling of fullness, which reduces your calorie intake.

Protein also contains essential amino acids, which are responsible for the development and maintenance of muscle mass.

The scary part is that you’ll actually lose muscle mass if you don’t get enough protein.

Fiber is known to slow down fat absorption and track blood sugar levels - two traits that are particularly useful in preventing fat deposits in the body.

Fiber also absorbs water to form a gel that travels slowly along the digestive tract, making you feel full for long hours.

Read More: Losing Weight Through Nutrition - The Definitive Guide

2. Ignoring Calories From Drinks

Sweet beverages

Most people track how much food they eat but fail to do the same when it comes to drinks and beverages.

While limiting your caloric intake is a solid idea, you also need to consider the amount of liquid calories taken in - especially carb or sugar-rich drinks like sodas, juice, wine, and beer.

The worst part about these types of drinks is that they’ll leave you hungry afterward, motivating you to seek out even more food.

Consider sticking to water as a thirst quencher containing zero calories that won’t hinder your efforts.

For those who can’t stand the taste of plain water, a few slices of lemons or a spoonful of berries can help improve the taste.

3. Overlooking Food Portion Sizes

1 bowl of serving of avocado

To increase your fat-burning efforts, a balance between too many and too few calories must be met.

It keeps your energy demand in check alongside your body fat.

If your meal portion size is too little, the body resorts to a constant stage of hunger, which slows down metabolism and negatively impacts the fat-burning process.

Dr. Lisa Young, an internationally recognized nutritionist, portion size expert, and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, believes that this is one of the most common mistake in weight loss.

According to Dr. Young, it is important to practice portion control to lose weight but it doesn’t mean that one should starve in the process. Eating a balanced meal with large portions of fruits and vegetables is still the best way to go.

To combat this, eat healthy fats and foods such as avocado, dark chocolate, and cheese. However, as they carry a hefty caloric value, ensure they’re taken in reasonable portions - aim for a golf ball-sized cheese chunk alongside a baseball-sized serving of avocado and fruits.

To combat this, eat healthy fats and foods such as avocado, dark chocolate, and cheese.

However, as they carry a hefty caloric value, ensure they’re taken in reasonable portions - aim for a golf ball-sized cheese chunk alongside a baseball-sized serving of avocado and fruits.

4. Skipping Meals

A thin woman losing appetite

Skipping a meal may seem like a logical solution when losing weight, but in reality, can have the opposite effect.

Adriana Albritton, certified personal trainer, fitness nutritionist and book author, says that skipping meals is not advisable as it may further lead to unhealthy food choices.

If you want to consume fewer calories, skipping important meals like lunch will only lead to snacking and overeating later in the day, which leads to the consumption of more calories.

Instead, opt for a low fat nutrient-rich breakfast which will provide you with the nutrients you need to get you through the day.

This helps prevent snacking and minimizes meal portions.

5. Taking ‘Fat-free’ Processed Foods

A processed sausage food on a bowl

Food manufacturers often market their fat-free foods as ‘healthy foods.’

Unfortunately, most processed foods are loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners to make them appealing to your taste buds.

Take, for example, a cup of low-fat yogurt, which can contain up to 47 grams (12 teaspoons) of sugar.

Not only will this hinder your fat loss goals, it’ll also contribute to cavities and sugar cravings.

This is why snack foods are a big no-no. Every time you eat a bit of sugar, your body starts craving for more.

Eventually, temptation overcomes your willpower, and you overindulge in ‘healthy eating.’

If you are attempting to lose weight, the best solution is to ditch processed foods in favor of natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

6. Ignoring Food Labels and Ingredients

Woman reading food labels

When it comes to guilty pleasures, most people prefer to look the other way than admit their cravings.

It is especially common with labeled foods that falsely advertise claims like “zero calories” or “no sugar.”

In reality, it’s impossible for something to contain absolutely no calories or sugar.

Not reading labels and the ingredients list can mislead you into believing that something has no impact on weight gain.

Make sure to always read food labels and the ingredients list to ensure the calorie count, nutritional value, and servings are what they claim.

7. Unbalanced Workout Routines

A woman taking a selfie with a vegetable

Exercise plays a primary component in losing weight. Trying to lose weight without exercising is difficult, while too much exercise also has its own share of setbacks.

Over-exercising results in an increase in stress, which can affect the production of adrenal hormones.

Not only is working out too much unsustainable, but it does more harm than good, pushing your body past its limits and breaking it down quicker.

To achieve optimal weight loss results, moderation is key.

When you are working out, you’ll want to vary your exercises and the targeted muscle groups.

Performing the same routine over and over conditions the body to get comfortable and eventually reach a plateau, making it difficult to burn more calories and deters gaining muscle mass.

Additionally, ignoring strength training and focusing only on cardio is another big mistake. Weightlifting and other resistance training exercises activate your metabolism, which helps you burn fat during and after working out.

According to studies:

“[participants that were involved in resistance training] showed a significant month-by-group interaction for change in fat mass. [1]

- Todd Miller, Sports & Nutrition Researcher

This makes resistance training a key component behind losing weight and building muscle mass, besides just partaking in cardio.

8. Lack of Sleep

A woman having a hard time to sleep

Most people wouldn’t think that there’s a relationship between poor sleep and weight loss. This is, however, far from the truth.

Sleep helps the body in recovery and re-establishing a homeostatic balance after a long day of work.

When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, your hormonal balance is disrupted.

It leads to side effects such as low levels of leptin, a hormone that is responsible for satiety.

As a result, hunger hormones flood into your brain, resulting in a voracious appetite.

Dr. Suzanna Manzi, physician and owner of Performance Pain & Sports Medicine, adds that the reduced ability to regulate hormones can lead to increased cravings – which can make it more difficult to make healthy food choices and stay on track with your weight plan.

Sleep deprivation also causes fatigue and an energy deficiency. This fatigue effect creates a craving for high amounts of fat or carbs, resulting in unprecedented weight gain.

Certified personal trainer Macy Westlund explains that insufficient sleep affects the body's metabolism, reducing its ability to efficiently process and burn calories, hence weight gain. It also impairs insulin sensitivity which can cause metabolic disorders like diabetes.

For adults, experts recommend getting 7-9 hours of sleep a day to maintain a healthy metabolism for optimum weight loss results.

9. Setting Unrealistic Goals

Woman writing a list for her to-do list

One of the biggest problems with weight loss is unrealistic expectations.

Sure, burning away 30 lbs in a week in time for that wedding sounds like a good plan, but in reality, it’s impossible unless you’re looking to undergo surgery.

Most people that start their weight loss journey often set their goals too high.

Eventually, after not seeing the results they’ve expected, they abandon the program and go back to bad habits due to frustration.

In fact, according to Jinan Banna, PhD, RD,  a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition, most people even cut out their favorite foods from their diet. Thus, they end up miserable and reverting to the same diet they had before they started.Her advice, don't set unrealistic goals and just make small changes and allow yourself some of your favorite foods, while being mindful of what you eat and eating them moderately.

If you’re looking to achieve sustainable results, you’ll need to set realistic goals that you can hit.

Your weight loss journey is a gradual process - one that could take weeks or even months before significant changes become apparent.

Putting too much pressure on yourself will only demotivate you. Instead, set the bar low, and gradually increase it as time goes on.


How Do You Discipline Yourself to Lose Weight?

The secret behind weight loss discipline is through a long-term plan, realistic goals, and by tracking progress.

Setting various milestones will motivate you to keep going even when times get tough, whereas a long-term plan will keep you focused on the end result.

Lastly, track your progress to ensure you’re actually hitting those milestones, which will prevent you from lying to yourself about your results.

What Foods to Avoid When Trying to Lose Weight?

The top foods to avoid include foods that are processed, as well as sugary snacks and beverages.

These foods contain a large amount of carbs and sugars, which will only add more calories to your waist.

Additionally, carb-heavy foods like white bread and pasta should be avoided and replaced with whole grain or brown alternatives when possible.

Ready To Avoid These Weight Loss Mistakes?

Many individuals make the mistake of only focusing on losing fat. In reality, weight management is about balance and adopting a healthy lifestyle - not how many calories you can avoid.

If you’re looking to achieve successful weight loss results, you’ll want to avoid these common mistakes.

Instead, focus on adopting a consistent workout routine alongside a healthy diet.

It will help you increase muscle mass, and with burning calories, speed up your weight loss results to feel better in the long run.


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