Deciding to go on a diet is a good way to work on a new you for the New Year – losing weight is one of the most common resolutions we make.
However, dieting can be a difficult thing to get right. Many people have a bad relationship with their diet, typically down to following bad information and encountering yo-yoing results.
Finding a healthy eating plan that works is crucial to successful weight loss.
For a lot of people, working out what is best to eat can be a time consuming and, above all else, confusing task.
If any of this sounds familiar, it may be because you have been making one or more of the five dieting mistakes we’ve discovered here. They are common nutrition problems which prevent people from achieving their weight loss goals and leave them feeling disillusioned.
5 Biggest Diet Mistakes To Make In 2019
1. Focusing only on scale weight
It’s common to feel like you’re not losing weight quickly enough, despite sticking to your diet.
However, the number you see when you step onto the scales is only one measure of weight change. Weight is influenced by several things, including fluid level changes and how much food remains in your system.
For example, weight can fluctuate by as much as 4lbs, or 1.8 kilos, over the course of a day, depending on how much food and liquid you’ve consumed.
If you’re finding the number on the scale isn’t moving, you may well be losing fat mass but holding on to water.
Also, if you’ve been working out, you might be gaining muscle and losing fat.
Measuring your waist with a tape measure and taking regular pictures of yourself can show you that you are in fact losing weight, even if the scale number doesn’t change too much.
If you find you cannot shift water weight, there are a number of things you can do. One is to monitor your salt intake. A high salt intake, usually due to having eaten processed foods, can increase water retention. Cutting back on this can soon see that extra weight fall off.
Try becoming more active, shifting the water weight though more physical activity, and sleep more, as a good night’s sleep helps your body control hydration levels and minimise water retention.
Finally, drink more water. Being well-hydrated can reduce water retention by clearing out excess fluid and toxins in the body and it prevents dehydration, which can lead to the body storing more water to prevent water levels becoming too low.
2. Eating too few calories
While it is well known that reducing your calorie intake can help you to lose body fat, some people can take it to extremes. Following a very low calorie meal plan for weeks and months on end can in fact do more harm than good.
Eating too few calories can make you extremely hungry and reduce your metabolism, as well as reducing your muscle mass.
Long-term extreme diets, while they may be good for your body composition, can have adverse effects on your overall health. A study in 2013 discovered that those on long-term low calorie diets, despite weight change, showed minimal improvement in fasting glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
So the participants were lighter but not necessarily healthier.
It is recommended you take a break from your diet to allow your body to recover from the stress that they can cause, for example a 1-2 week break following six weeks of maintaining a consistent calorie deficit.
Short breaks in you dieting can help your metabolism and, if you’re following a training programme, improve your performance there too.
Be aware that cutting your calories low can stall your metabolism and stop the weight from being burned off. So, ensure you’re eating regularly and taking on enough calories to keep your body ticking over, without going too overboard and preventing weight loss.
3. Opting for low fat or 'diet' foods
Processed low fat or ‘diet’ foods are thought to be good choices for losing weight, but they can actually have the opposite effect.
Many of the products are loaded with sugar in order to improve their taste.
Rather than keeping you full, low fat products are more likely to make you hungrier, so you wind up eating even more.
In some cases, low fat foods contain high levels of sugar – high sugar foods can also contain lots of calories and contribute to weight gain.
Instead of choosing low fat or ‘diet’ foods, choose a combination of minimally processed foods which are more nutritious.
Also, make sure you read the labels on products, paying particular attention to the overall energy and calories. While a food may have a reduced amount of fat, it might still contain the same amount of calories.
4. Jumping plans
With the vast array of diet plans out there, it’s very easy to jump on to a new diet plan, especially if someone you know is raving about the success they’ve had on it. While it is tempting to try new diets, if you don’t stick with a plan long enough you won’t know if it really works for you.
Changing your plan regularly will only hinder your results.
Dieting results vary from person to person, depending on their body genetics and the type of diet they’re doing. Some people will see results quickly then level out, while others might not see anything change for weeks or months, before suddenly gaining a new body overnight.
Stick with a new diet plan for 10 to 12 weeks before moving on to another. It is important to give your body time to adjust to the new foods you’re eating, a new macronutrient profile and possibly new meal times.
Even if you feel that results aren’t coming quick enough, you’re doing good work inside. These good things can sometimes take time to become visible on the outside.
The only time you should change plans more quickly is if you have a bad reaction. If you become sick, lose weight or gain weight rapidly or encounter an allergic reaction to some of the food, you need to choose a new plan.
5. Having a defeatist mentality
Having an all-or-nothing mentality to dieting leads to you giving up on plans before they’ve even begun. Don’t panic if you aren’t on plan all of the time. Healthy eating is a habit and a lifestyle choice that you establish along the way and shouldn’t be seen as a chore you can dip in and out of.
Treating nutrition as a chore can lead to you developing a bad relationship between you and your food. Instead of enjoying the occasional splurge, you end up feeling guilty for treating yourself.
Instead of guilt-tripping, try to develop a positive relationship with food. Eat foods which you enjoy, foods that make you feel good and foods which do good things for your body.
Avoid an ‘I’ve messed it up’ mentality. Good nutrition is important and works in the same way as exercise. If you skip a day of exercise, don’t worry – you can pick it up again the next day.
Think of nutrition in similar terms. One bad meal a day, or even a bad day altogether, does not ruin your goals. You know you can pick it up again the following day or with your next meal – don’t think about falling off the wagon.
A consistent, positive mindset is the best way to succeed at healthy eating and fitness.