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Five Dieting Mistakes to Avoid

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Five Dieting Mistakes to Avoid

Some people say “dieting” is a mistake. And, it’s true; the best approach to weight loss is making gradual changes in your eating and activity that you can sustain for life. Think lifestyle, not diet. However, to help circumvent our food-focused environment (food is everywhere) and our emotional connection to food, most people need some structure and a few key tools to get the scale moving in the right direction.

Many approaches work for weight loss – keeping a food log, using pre-portioned foods, cutting out alcohol, pre-planning meals and snacks, the list goes on and on. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet, but there are common mistakes we all should avoid. Here’s a look at what not to do.

1. Don’t expect to lose 3, 4 or 5 pounds each week. You didn’t gain 20 lbs. in a month, so don’t expect to lose it that quickly either. Weight loss is often a long, slow process. You may lose a little more weight the first week or two but then ½ lb. to 1 lb. per week is more realistic. Setting reasonable expectations is the first step on the path to success.

Tip: Do the math (using 2 to 4 lbs. of weight loss per month) to see when you may be able to reach your goal.

2. Don’t diet without exercise. If you just cut calories to lose weight without exercise, you’ll lose more muscle and less fat. Keeping your lean muscle is critical for a revved up metabolism. In addition, an active lifestyle (approximately 60 minutes per day) is a vital component for keeping off the weight you lose.

Tip: Aim to increase your activity throughout the weight loss journey. Incorporate lifestyle activity (more daily steps), cardio (150+ minutes/week) and resistance training (2 total-body sessions/week).

3. Don’t eat unlimited amounts of healthy food. Eating natural, whole foods is the way to go, but healthy food has calories too. It’s not uncommon to have health-conscious people be baffled by weight gain. They’re eating balanced meals, cooking with olive oil and snacking on hummus, nuts and fruit. The food choices aren’t the issue – it’s the portions! Calories from healthy food can add up too, so be mindful of portion sizes.

Tip: Try tracking your food intake with an app like My Fitness Pal for calorie accountability.

4. Don’t go it alone. Weight loss would be so much easier if we were surrounded only by people with the same mission. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a bubble or on a special weight-loss ranch. Friends, family and co-workers influence our choices–sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Sharing your goals with those close to you and asking for their support can help. As an added benefit, sharing your goals may help hold you accountable for your food choices.

Tip: Tell the people with whom you spend the most time about your goals–both the outcome goal (weight loss) and the behavior change goals to get you there.

5. Don’t demand perfection. Weight loss takes time and on-going effort. Weight loss happens through changing our behaviors (e.g., what we eat, how much we eat, how much we move or don’t move, how we handle stress), and changing our behaviors takes practice. Think of it like learning to play the piano; you aren’t going to master each new song you try. Slip-ups will happen. It’s important to expect lapses in your efforts and strive to learn from them. This “get-back-on-the-horse” attitude is key to success in your weight loss journey.

Tip: Create a game plan for each of your high-risk situations (e.g., movie theatres, football games, evening TV time), and then treat yourself kindly when lapses happen.

There’s no doubt that weight loss is challenging. With the right frame of mind, a balanced approach and resiliency, it is possible. Steer clear of the pitfalls above, and make 2016 your year to achieve your weight loss goals.

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.