Motivation Articles

6 Weight Loss Mistakes to Avoid

Small Changes for Big Results

Welcome to SparkPeople! Hopefully your program is off to a smooth start, and you’re happy with your progress so far. But for others who aren’t seeing results yet, it’s been a little more frustrating. Many dieters tend to make similar mistakes when trying to lose weight. But being aware of these mistakes—and making small physical and mental changes—will help you lose the weight and keep it off for good. Here’s how:

Slower is Better
The first mistake dieters make is having unrealistic weight loss expectations. The SparkPeople program is set up to help you safely lose between half a pound and two pounds per week. Studies show that individuals who rapidly lose weight are more likely to gain it back. So if you’ve lost a few pounds this month—excellent! Don’t discount that because you see someone on T.V. losing 15 pounds in two weeks.

Everyone is Different
While some people lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks, others might not lose any weight for a few weeks. Although this can be frustrating when you’re doing everything right, it’s not a reason to give up. Sometimes it just takes a little while longer to see the results of your hard work reflected on the scale. Remember, eating right and exercising regularly have positive impacts on your health in many other ways, such as more energy, less stress, better sleep, and reduced risk of many diseases. You’ll receive those benefits—regardless of the number on the scale.

Weight Loss is Rarely Constant from Week to Week
Many people lose a lot in the first few weeks, and then their weight loss slows down considerably. It’s totally normal to have weeks when you lose more than expected, and weeks when your weight remains the same despite your consistent efforts. Our bodies are very complicated and don’t always cooperate with the estimates of how much we should expect to lose. People rarely lose a consistent amount of weight each week. Measuring your weight loss on a monthly basis can be a more accurate gauge of how well you are doing.

Weight Loss is Not Immediate
Cutting calories today (through diet and exercise) will not necessarily show up on the scale at the end of the day or even by tomorrow. Your weight can fluctuate from day-to-day for reasons that have nothing to do with your diet and exercise program. Much of this fluctuation is due to water and food intake. While your scale may show changes throughout the day, fluctuations that could be due to food & water alone are not permanent weight losses or gains.

Weighing yourself immediately after wearing a “sweat” suit, getting into a sauna, or finishing an intense workout might (or might not) show a loss on the scale. But that is temporary water loss that will come back after you rehydrate yourself by drinking. Remember—you’re trying to lose fat, not simply “weight” or water weight.

This is a good reason to not weigh yourself more than once a week. The Fitness Resource Center has several articles that expand on this idea, including Body Composition Measures Results and Measure Progress Without the Scale.

Setbacks Are Normal
No one is perfect. You can expect to hit some bumps in the road, no matter how hard you’re trying. The important thing is not to let those bumps get you totally off track, but to learn from them and move forward.

The article ”1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward”, located in the Motivation Resource Center, offers tips for dealing with setbacks, and Coach Dean’s message board post about staying motivated includes even more helpful advice.

Eating Less Isn’t Always Better
A lot of people assume that the less you eat, the faster you will lose. One of the biggest mistakes dieters make is not eating enough. Your calorie range is based on your current weight, goal weight, how aggressive your goal is (whether you want to lose weight quickly or slowly) and how much exercise you are doing. Your recommended calorie range might seem like a lot of food—especially if you are accustomed to fad, restrictive diets.

But if your body is not getting enough nutrients and calories (especially if you eat less than your recommended calorie range), your metabolism will slow down. This is called “starvation mode” because your body thinks it is experiencing a famine, so it starts holding onto every calorie you give it, making weight loss much slower or impossible, and weight gain more likely. That's why it's so important to eat within your calorie range. If you aren’t, you could be doing more harm than good.

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid many of the common pitfalls dieters face, and deal with the ups and downs of weight loss more easily. Hang in there! It’s not always easy, but you can do it!

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Member Comments

  • C53074
    Good article. We always want instant results. Good points to stay on track.
  • Thanks for the reminders!
    Thank you for some timely reminders.
  • Slow and steady really is best. And when you need to lose a lot so is breaking it down into mangeable goals and then maintaining each goal for awhile. I need to lose 10 - gained after very hard year dealing with meds and medical issues. Goal # 1 is to lose that 10 and maintain for a month, maybe 2 - then I'll hit the 10 I always wanted to lose. When I do that then I'll maintain for 2-3 months before moving to the 10 I feel I should lose to enable others to help me more easily when I need it - and yes, move to maintain it and the other 20 for as long as I am able.
    This broadly encompassing article really grounded some of my more constructive thinking regarding weight loss. Based on the "steady, easy-does-it" wise philosophy recommended here, I think I'll concentrate on consistency and weigh myself just once a month (which has been a successful technique for me in the past). I've also gone through destructive bouts of "scale-hopping," i.e., jumping on the scale once a day and "living 'n' dying by the scale" - always a rotten idea for me, as my weight can vary up to 5-6 pounds within a day. Thank you!
  • I thought this was a good article, and motivating as well. I have a comment regarding daily weighing. I recently read an article that said research shows that people who weigh themselves daily tend to lose more weight. I've read comments on both sides of that issue. Personally, when I weigh daily, I am more conscious of my decision to lose weight.
  • This blog was very helpful. Even I am trying to loose weight from long back but reading this blog I got to know where I use to commit mistake. Keep posting such helpful blogs.
  • Good article, timely reminders of things I should know but helps to see reinforced.

    My 2 cents is that I do much better mentally if I weigh-in daily. I can deal with daily fluctuations (I understand trend lines!) and can often rationalize day-to-day why my weight is the same or went up. Weekly weigh-ins carry too much "weight" (pun alert) and with less data, the trends can be more difficult to see.
  • Right on the money!!! Yesterday I did a blog centered around why I'm losing only a few ounces when I had been on an average 1.5lb a week. I had not been reaching my calorie range set by my dietician of 1550. Instead I had slipped back into the range of 1,00,,,perhaps less to 1200. I'm of course correcting this. I started off at 248 beginning of Jan,,,, I started at 288,,, goal is 198 end of the year. Just need to stay focused.

    Yes there WILL be those times of eating more ,,,,remember SPARKS is NOT a diet,,, those DEPRIVE us,,, it's a LIFESTYLE change,,, celebrating!!!
  • I love this article! Great reminders for losing and maintaining.
    @dietsuggestions gives some more about what to avoid and what to eat.
    Nourishment Labels
    Reducing Calories Too Low
    Coming to be Obsessed With Your Weight and the Scale
    Changing Up Your Routine Too Often
    g Your Food Choices
    Obsessing Over Calories as well as Macronutrient Ratios
    Only Focusing on External Appearance
  • I found this article had a lot of good reminders for me. I have gotten extremely frustrated with my weight loss! The first 40 lbs came off pretty quickly and easily for me while I was doing the HCG diet which some people may or may not be familiar with. Basically I would call it a "near starvation diet" and it was miserable. It was effective at making me lose weight quickly, but when I went off that diet I gained 10lbs back within less than a month. Due to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, after gaining the initial 10 back, I have maintained where I am at but any time I try to lose any more weight it comes off EXTREMELY slow! So slow that I often feel like giving up! I have only lost 2 lbs in the last 3 weeks which I assume is just water weight since I am no longer eating overly processed foods. So, now I am resorting to calorie counting which I absolutely hate but hopefully this will get those last 30-35 lbs off!
  • This was a good article except for one glaring problem. I was so disappointed to see "starvation mode" invoked. This concept continues to be misunderstood and incorrectly applied, as happened in this article. I try to avoid nit-picking others' writing, but the whole "starvation mode" thing continues to be thrown around in discussions about weight loss, and leads to a lot of misunderstanding and poor decisions.

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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