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

  • I agree with all points except the starvation mode section. For 99% of women eating 1,000 cal a day will NOT put you in starvation mode. Yes you will Feel like your starving because your used to consuming alot more calories. If you eat healthy fats and more protein, less carbs and stay at 1000-1400 Cal daily and 50 net carbs or less you will see weight loss & blood sugar stabilization. Going below 1000 cal daily is unhealthy, above that is low but not starvation mode. You are making your body burn stored fat for energy instead of getting energy from eating carbs.
  • MISCH42
    That is why I weigh in weekly! You will get discouraged getting on the scale daily! I have my husband to keep the scale in his truck so I don't get on it! Sounds silly but I was sabotaging myself by getting on it every day!
  • Little steps lead to big changes.
  • 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.

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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