If you've been trying to lose weight, you've probably started to eat less, exercise more, choose "diet" foods, avoid fat, or eat breakfast. Maybe you've done all this and you're still not happy with what you see in the mirror. Or you've had short-term results, but the weight keeps coming back and you feel stuck.
To be able to lose the weight for good, it's important to understand that both well-intentioned diet advice as well as lifestyle habits can really hinder your success, sometimes on a very subtle level.
Here are five common mistakes that can easily undermine your best weight loss efforts.
1. Eating processed or artificial foods instead of whole foods
It is very common to go on a diet and still eat lots of processed foods. You've probably heard many times that losing weight is about eating less. But if what you eat less of are still the same processed foods, you'll have a hard time losing the weight.
In fact, some studies have shown that a given amount of calories from processed foods will lead to about 50 percent less calories burnt after the meal than the same amount of calories from whole foods. This means diets that feature a high proportion of processed foods may be a contributor to weight gain and may be preventing you from losing weight.
Similarly, it has been recently suggested by research that artificial sweeteners modify the microbiome in our gut. And even though these sweeteners contain zero calorie, these changes in the gut are responsible for both high blood sugar and weight gain.
2. Restricting and depriving yourself all day long
It can be very easy to fall into the food restriction trap, with a cycle of eating less, skipping meals, over-restrictive dieting, then self-punishment in the form of binge eating at night upon realizing this unrealistic diet cannot be sustained for very long.
Some research also showed that deprivation causes craving and overeating, particularly if you have been restricting yourself. Your cravings don't mean you are doomed to be addicted to processed foods or sugar for the rest of your life; they are simply a good reminder that you can't enjoy life while experiencing permanent feelings of deprivation.
3. Not keeping an eye on calorie intake or watching portions
Eating whole foods is good for your health and it will also help you lose weight, as we've seen above, but overeating healthy foods may also prevent you from dropping extra pounds. I have seen this very often with people I know or clients who switch to a healthier diet.
Even though it's not about counting calories in an obsessive way, it's essential to actually keep an eye on how many calories you're eating per day so you have at least a rough idea of your food intake and can compare it with what your body needs.
Some people will want to count calories for a few weeks just to get a good feel for how much food they really eat, while others will reach the same goal by simply watching their portion sizes. Watching portions is also a great way to keep the weight off.
4. Eating breakfast when you're not hungry
While traditional wisdom as well as some research have shown that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, there are people who are simply not hungry for breakfast, even though they didn't overeat the night before. We just don't all have the same metabolism and the same hormonal sensitivity to carbohydrates and fats.
Many people force themselves to eat breakfast although they haven't got any appetite, because they have been told that it's healthy, but in fact this practice can make them gain quite a lot of weight over time.
Based on my observation and experience with both people around me and clients, eating breakfast, even a healthy breakfast, while not hungry can mean gaining up to ten pounds over the course of just six months. And when you are trying to lose weight, this habit can really hinder your success.
5. Not getting enough sleep
Researchers found that sleep deprivation could hinder fat loss and lead people to feel hungrier because of higher levels of the hormone ghrelin. This means that you will manage to lose more weight when you get enough sleep because you'll feel less hungry and you'll eat less.
Studies have also shown that being sleep deprived can lead to overeating and cravings for junk food. Getting the recommended amount of sleep of seven to nine hours can therefore help lower cravings for calorie-dense foods, which in turn can help you lose weight without struggling so much.
Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women eat more real food, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.