Weight Loss

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4 Ways to Fail at Dieting and 4 Ways to Avoid Them

Find out four of the most common ways that people fail when dieting and how to avoid these pitfalls yourself.


If you're like us, admitting that it's time to shed some pounds and get healthy can inspire quite a few thoughts and emotions. Dread, possibly disgust, and the nagging feeling that we have lost progress that we made in the past. Some of us might see giving up favorite foods in our future and adding salads, both scary for a new dieter. Maybe there are a lucky few of us out there who enjoy eating well after an indulgent holiday season, but we probably agree they are an anomaly.

Diet fail #1: Making too many changes at once.

Just like at New Year's if you make all your resolutions at one time it typically only takes a few weeks until most people have fallen off the bandwagon. Sure, it's great that you are planning on running 5k's every other day and cooking at home every day for a month while keeping a steady job and taking care of your home, not to mention all the New Year's resolutions about saving money, spending more time with friends, and calling your grandma more often. Over-excitement can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Too many new habits at once can be a recipe for failure.

To avoid making too many changes at once, start with something that you are confident you can keep doing almost every day for a month. Nobody is perfect, but if it means making sure that you eat two extra fresh fruits or vegetables each day, then that is a very good place to start. Each time you do complete that goal, you'll feel that sense of accomplishment that spurs you onward to achieve it again. Some easy, small changes include getting 10,000 steps with a pedometer in each day (which is the equivalent of walking about 5 miles), switch to drinking mostly water each day, or go through and replace all of the sweets and candy in your house with a few squares of dark chocolate. Once you meet these goals, you automatically feel empowered to achieve the next one.

Diet fail #2: Over-watching the scale.

If you are waiting and waiting for that scale to budge just one more pound, or if you see it jump up 3 pounds for no apparent reason, you are setting yourself up for a biological let-down. It's normal when you first start dieting to see the scale move a bit faster in the beginning. It's even worse if you've put forth quite a bit of effort and the scale doesn't reflect it very much at all. These kinds of letdowns can chip away at your resolve and might even make you throw in the towel prematurely.

Our bodies are made up of three main components: water, fat, and muscle tissue. These are the primary compartments that will change the reading of the scale. The problem with weighing ourselves – even on one of those fancy body fat percentage machines – is that we don't really know if we've lost muscle, fat, or a little fluid. One of the best ways to counteract this type of frustration that weighing yourself too often can bring is to look at your clothing. If you have a little extra room in your waistband, it's a good sign that you are losing fat, even if the scale reads the same number. Choose a shirt that is a little tight around your arms or chest, and try it on every other week to see if it's a little looser. When your rings fit a little tighter, there's a good chance you're holding a little fluid – so wait for your fingers to return to normal before hopping on the scale.

Diet fail #3: Giving up too soon.

If it took you a couple of years to put on an extra 30 pounds, we have great news! It probably won't take a whole two years to shed those extra pounds. While we can't help wanting to lose weight fast, we can give ourselves a reality check. For most people, losing 1-2 pounds each week is a healthy, sustainable rate of weight loss. Fad diets and cleanses do not teach us how to eat smart over the long haul, and usually the weight you lose from radical dieting attempts will creep right back on. Choose a diet that flows with your normal eating pattern, and contains some food that you enjoy, and some foods that are healthy.

For most people, losing 30 pounds can seem like a huge task. So it's a good idea to be realistic with how busy your schedule is, whether or not you have time to incorporate exercise, and make small goals. For example, a small goal would be to lose 5 pounds in the next 2 weeks. Then re-evaluate the next small goal, such as 5 more pounds before the next holiday. After you've dropped 10 pounds try maintaining it. Keeping your body weight where it is can be a real challenge, and so it's something to practice while you are losing weight. Maintaining your weight is a goal that can be just as difficult as losing weight.

Diet fail #4: Losing your motivation.

Just like young love, when something is new and fresh, it's more exciting and we often devote extra energy to it. The same is true with a new diet or exercise regimen. It's fun, at least for the most part, and initially doing it is much easier. The problem many people have lies in losing that initial spark and losing their motivation. You may find yourself thinking, "If I could lose 20 pounds...then ____________." No matter what you are filing in the blank with: hoping a coworker will like notice you, finding a partner, feeling more energy, sleeping better, looking great in clothing, getting pregnant, or whatever else your heart desires, make sure that when you actually achieve what you wanted that you stay motivated in other ways to keep your weight stable. The most important reason long-term, is that it's healthy. Surround yourself with other people's stories of weight loss, how they persevered, even when they wanted to give up. Look at before and after photos of real people who achieved the weight loss that you want to have. Seeing how other people have done it will hush the naysayers, minimize distractions, and help keep you focused on what you want to achieve.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on January 08, 2016. Updated on January 27, 2016.


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