We Americans like to diet. An estimated 45 million Americans diet each year, spending $33 billion annually on weight loss products, according to Boston Medical Center’s Nutrition and Weight Management Center. Still, nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. So what’s the problem?
Actually, there could be several, says Mindy Probst, a registered dietitian at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Here, she shares five things that might be sabotaging your weight loss efforts:
1. You have unrealistic expectations.
Don’t expect to lose a dramatic amount of weight in a short time and keep it off long term, says Probst. Highly restrictive diets can be hard to maintain and can destroy your morale.
“The key to successful long-term weight loss is to make a couple of small changes at a time, allowing yourself time to develop new habits,” she said.
So don’t try to lose 10 pounds each week. “Losing weight at a healthy rate of 1-2 pounds per week is much more realistic and maintainable,” Probst said. “Keep this in mind as you set weight loss goals.”
2. You’re practicing elimination or extreme limitation.
“Every food group provides important nutrients for proper body function,” said Probst. “Going to the extreme and completely eliminating or severely limiting your intake of particular foods or food groups can set you up for failure by causing intense cravings and lack of energy.”
Instead of totally eliminating a food group or nutrient, look to simply reduce ones you are over-consuming. And be wary of diets that restrict calories below 1,200-1,500 calories a day, says Probst.
3. You’re eating healthy food, but too much of it.
Turns out, there can be too much of a good thing. “It’s true that some foods are more nutritious than others, but that doesn’t mean that we can throw caution to the wind and eat as much of these healthy foods as we want,” said Probst. “It’s important to remember that calorie balance is a key factor in successful weight loss and that even healthy foods can upset the balance if we eat too much of them.”
4. You’re skipping meals.
Conserving calories by passing on breakfast or lunch isn’t helpful when trying to lose weight, says Probst. “Skipping meals often results in excessive hunger and overeating later in the day.”
Following a consistent meal schedule keeps your metabolism running at full speed, says Probst. It also prevents drops in blood sugar levels that can lead to intense cravings. According to research by the Providence, Rhode Island-based National Weight Control Registry, the majority of individuals who successfully lost weight and kept it off ate breakfast every day.
Snacks, too, are an important component of a weight loss plan. Probst says to use snack time to fill any nutritional gaps you may have in your meals, and to limit them to 100-200 calories.
5. You aren’t tracking your progress.
“Research shows that people who track their food intake, physical activity, and weight are more likely to achieve successful weight loss,” Probst said.
Recording everything you eat during the day will help you stay focused on your goal, and keep you aware of what you are eating. And don’t think you can track it all in your head.
“Keeping a mental note of your daily habits isn’t as effective as writing everything down. It’s easy to forget an extra bite here and a nibble there and these extras can add up throughout the day,“ Probst says.
It’s also helpful to monitor your weight on a weekly basis to see if the lifestyle changes you have made are having the desired results. So grab a tape measure and a scale, says Probst: “Measuring and tracking change in inches around the waist, hips, arms, thighs and other body areas can help monitor changes in body composition that might not be obvious on the scale.”
6. You aren’t exercising enough.
It’s difficult to lose weight without some form of physical activity, Probst says. Individuals should exercise 150 minutes a week to maintain good health. That number increases to 300 minutes per week to achieve weight loss, she says.