The 10 Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes

This topic came to my mind while I was in Hawaii this past weekend. After being hounded down by a timeshare salesman, he then proceeded to tell me his life story from ages 22 1/2 to 58. I also believe that it was all lies. He told me that he has shed 45 pounds to try and get down to his goal of 189, but he hit a plateau. I then puffed up my chest and told him he needed to start lifting weights. He responded with the answer that makes me want to set myself on fire: “I have been working out a ton, and following a vegan, low-fat diet”. After that I pretty much shut off my brain and blacked out.

At least the man served as an inspiration for my write up that deals with the 10 most common mistakes individuals make when trying to lose weight. Let’s get started on #1.

1) Severely restricting caloric intake

A starvation diet (i.e., reducing your caloric intake to less than 50% of what your body requires) presents a number of problems to people who are trying to lose weight. First and foremost, it doesn’t work. Any weight that may have been lost is subsequently regained because most individuals cannot maintain such a restrictive eating plan over the long haul. Neglecting their protein and fat intake is also one of the biggest flaws in many weight-loss diets.

2) Having an unduly narrow perspective of the problem at hand

Too many people view losing weight as simply a matter of cutting back on what they eat. In reality, it’s an issue of basic physics-balancing energy in with energy out. As such, if you really want to lose weight (and keep it off), you need to increase your level of physical activity and eat in moderation.

3) Ignoring the need to maintain their level of lean body mass

A common tendency among individuals who exercise is to focus their activity efforts solely on aerobic exercise. In the process, they lose muscle mass, which is replaced by fat when they inevitably regain whatever weight they lost. In turn, their metabolic rate as well as the number of calories that they need to maintain their current weight, is diminished. This adjustment creates a cycle that is counterproductive to sustained weight loss.

4) Misinterpreting what some food labels are actually saying

It is extremely important for individuals who want to control their weight to be aware of the fact that labels that state that a particular foodstuff is either “no fat” or “no sugar” does not mean “no calories.”

5) Trying to lose too much weight too rapidly

Research shows that a weight-reduction program that involves a slow and steady loss has the best chance for success, particularly when it is combined with an effort to change any inappropriate lifestyle habits.

6) Believing that spot reduction is possible

The concept of spot reducing is a complete myth. No exercise will eliminate fat from a specific area of the body, just as no change in your level of caloric intake will guarantee that the fat will melt away in the area of the body you most want to address. As a rule, the pattern in which you lose body fat is genetically predetermined.

7) Mistaking water lost through sweating for actual fat and weight loss

Your body has millions of sweat glands that cover your skin, excreting water and electrolytes. When you exercise, the amount of water (sweat) that is perspired increases in an effort by your body to help keep you cool and regulate your body temperature. The water you lose from perspiring can mislead you into believing that you’ve lost more fat and body weight than you may have actually lost. Such water weight is replaced when you subsequently consume fluids.

8) Buying into the “magic beans” theory

Selling supplements and related pills, powders, and potions that purportedly will somehow facilitate a person’s efforts to lose weight is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Other than being a waste of money and a purveyor of false hope for individuals who are looking for an easy and quick-fix approach to losing weight, such items also can have negative health consequences.

9) Following unproven and spurious dieting advice

The number of unsound diets that target unsuspecting individuals with undocumented claims and unhealthy practices seems to grow exponentially every year. Truth be known, these diets share at least two traits-they don’t work, and they may actually be harmful(physically and financially) to a person who tries them.

10) Considering a surgical solution to their “weight” problem

Some individuals consider a surgical option for losing weight. In this regard, two procedures tend to receive the most attention: liposuction and gastric bypass surgery. Liposuction involves the removal of fat from specific regions of the body. Gastric bypass surgery, on the other hand, is a procedure that makes the stomach smaller and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine, resulting in fewer calories being absorbed. Although guidelines vary, gastric bypass surgery is generally reserved for severely obese individuals.


-ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal

Issue: Volume 12(6), November/December 2008, p 52

Copyright: © 2008 American College of Sports Medicine

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