Nutrition Articles

10 Habits of Unsuccessful Dieters

Bad Habits That Are Preventing You from Losing Weight

What could be more frustrating than not seeing the scale drop despite days or weeks of doing everything right? After all that hard work—all the cookies you didn't eat, all the willpower you maintained, all the time you logged at the gym—how could you not have lost any weight? It's enough to make even the most determined person throw in the towel.
Before you swear off exercise and declare yourself as someone who "will never lose weight," stop, take a deep breath, and remember this:  Weight-loss may seem simple (eat fewer calories than you burn), but often, there's a lot more going on than a simple calorie equation. Our bodies aren't calculators after all!
What's more likely is that you've made some innocent mistakes in your quest to lose weight. Don't feel bad about it—it's extremely common. These bad habits may be preventing you from getting the results you want. Instead of giving up, make some of the smart changes outlined below, and you'll see that scale drop in no time!
10 Habits of Unsuccessful Dieters
Bad Habit #1: Going "on a diet" in the first place. 
Since when did the word "diet" refer to something good? The word itself implies restriction, limitation, and a short-lived effort to get some quick results and then return to a "normal" way of eating. SparkPeople's surveys have shown that people who consider themselves to be "dieting" lose less weight and encounter more problems (such as plateaus and a lack of motivation) than people who are trying to lose weight by creating a lasting healthy lifestyle. Plus diets usually mean giving things up: favorite foods, dining out, desserts—even your social life. You don't have to be a psychology expert to know that when you tell yourself you can't have something, you usually want it more. This way of thinking could directly be sabotaging your efforts.
Smart Fix: Ditch the diets for good and focus on creating a healthy lifestyle based on nutritious foods and small, realistic changes that you can live with for the long term.
Bad Habit #2: Overhauling your eating habits overnight.
How many times have you gone crazy eating all the "bad" foods you know you shouldn't, only to promise to swear them off starting next week or next month or next year? How often have you decided to suddenly clean out your kitchen, throw away all the "junk" and then shop for only healthy food?
How's that working for you? No one can expect to change a lifetime of eating habits overnight—and no one should have to! To lose weight successfully and keep it off, you have to adopt a way of eating that you can stick with for the rest of your life.
Smart Fix: Eating healthy isn't about taking food away; it's about eating MORE of the things that are good for you. To be successful, you have to implement small and realistic changes to your diet. Next week, swap that 2% milk for 1%, and switch out your usual bread for a healthy whole-grain variety. Once you get used to that, you can set a small goal like eating one serving of fresh fruits or vegetables each day. The point is to start small with changes that fit into your lifestyle. Here are more tips on how to start eating a healthier diet.
Bad Habit #3: Giving up certain foods altogether.
We've already touched on the idea that labeling certain foods as diet no-no's can make you crave them even more. Whether you feel out of control when you're around certain foods or you've read about a certain diet plan that promises results if you were to just cut out wheat, gluten, carbs, sugar, or dairy, a lot of people think that to lose weight they have to give up specific things—including foods that they love.
A truly healthy diet that you can stick with forever will include all the foods you love. Unless you plan to give up ice cream or bread forever, then don't cut anything out temporarily. Generally, people can give up foods like that for a while and see some weight loss success (usually because they're eating fewer calories, not because anything about that specific food causes weight problems). But as soon as that food is let back into your life, the weight tends to come back with it.
Smart Fix: All things in moderation. Instead of focusing on the foods you can't have, set goals to eat more of the foods that you know are good for you. This is a much more positive way to think about your goals and get results. Plus, allowing yourself portion-controlled servings of the food you're thinking about banning will keep you happy and content, but also prevent crazed binges that can occur when you're feeling weak. Continued ›
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

    This article is your BEST article!! - 1/20/2016 7:22:20 AM
    I love this article.

    When I was looking for updated info on weight loss, I've been hearing a lot about "keto" diets, and after reading what it's about, I knew right away that that way of eating would not be sustainable for me long term, and I question it's safety. I don't want tricks, I want to feed my body what it needs to be healthy.

    I do track my calories, but this article makes a good point about focusing on more than that. If all my calories are junk, even if it's at/under my goal for the day, that's not very healthy for me, is it? Plus, it doesn't take long before you see a pattern of how trying to juggle high-calorie foods in small enough amounts to stay within your goal will leave you hungry each day. By ADDING things like fiber, protein, etc, you tend to end up with food that leaves you feeling fuller AND healthier. I think a good approach is 90/10, with 90% eating very healthy food, and saving 10% each day for something you love that would otherwise be "banned" from a certain diet.

    All or nothing is not sustainable. Moderation is great. - 12/11/2015 2:07:46 AM
  • One thing that made me feel better about my scale was actually weighing everyday (good or bad) then plugging those numbers into a weight trending site. (Not going to promote one, just look it up. :)) Basically, it averages out your weight and creates a smoother line so you can see your overall weight loss more easily. It's really helped encourage me. - 9/6/2015 10:09:54 PM
    I didn't know a thing about dieting ( the only thing that changed in my life was having a hysterectomy, taking steroids, menopause, and middle age). After I was put on estrodiol , and other hot flash medication, I gained 10-15 pounds each year the last two years! Even though I did not make any other changes in exercise, or what I was eating!! I was never a big eater and could go/would go half to two-thirds of the day sometimes without even eating. Then I would have a bowl of cereal for lunch/supper, and maybe supper. Never gained a pound until the medication/menopa
    use entered my life. I was actually trying to gain weight before then because I was too thin. Now since I stared dieting I want to eat EVERYTHING! All I think about is food. Unbelievable! I used to think eating 1000 calories per day was a lot and couldn't figure out what people were bitching about. Haha. Now I know it's not much at all. I heard the saying , "want to gain weight? Just go on a diet"! Now I know it's true. - 8/18/2015 11:46:14 AM
  • Good Article

    My bad habit was listening to the doctors, in the first place. - 7/2/2015 9:00:55 PM
  • Seriously one of the best articles written ever here, Nicole. I read this expecting now that I'm finally finding success, to find one or two things I disagreed with - but each point was true. I weigh myself every day, but now have the three day rule, that I only record it three days that it has stayed that way. - 5/24/2015 3:44:10 AM
    Some reasonable advice here, but I'd caution everyone against watching the scale too much, it can be a serious de-motivator! If you want to see consistent and lasting results, work on developing habits that promote a healthy LIFESTYLE. Those habits will carry you through the low points in your weight loss journey, and ensure you stay slim for life! In fact, check out the following article that does a wonderful job of explaining the key factors in an effective, long-term weight loss strategy:
    5 - 5/19/2015 10:17:25 PM
  • KTKAT3024
    I am not a water drinker and never have been. In the last month I have had to go to emergency for a cat bite and they could not get a vein for IV because I was so dehydrated.I had to drink 110 ounces of water before they could hook me up. Then I had to have an ultra sound on my bladder. I was told to drink a litre of water. I did. They could not find my bladder! I had to go home drink a lot more water and go back the next day to have the ultra sound. Since that time I have faithfully drunk at least 8 glasses of water a day. Why the story? For the last four weeks I have been losing maybe a pound or staying the same. After I started drinking 8 glasses of water I lost 8 pounds in one week (I had already lost 32 pounds) A little research told me that dehydration will badly effect your metabolism and hence your weight loss. Learned my lesson. - 4/26/2015 1:47:34 AM
  • ACORNS1022
    Oooh, I enjoy being told to eat rather than deprive myself to a healthier me! Seriously, every time someone says, you can't eat that, all I want to do is eat that! So what if I let myself eat 'that' and eat healthier in general? That works! It really is all about balance. Now if I could just adopt that philosophy for good, I'd be good. - 4/25/2015 4:01:34 PM
    Good basic information, except for me. I am not losing weight by exercising and staying within calorie recommendation. I am creating more muscle and losing fat - so that is good. I have gone done one whole size, another good thing, but I still need to lose at least 30, preferably 40 pounds. So now I have to rethink and cut down more on bread/pasta or eliminate them for a while. Everyone is different so your remarks are good for the general population, but not for some of us. - 4/25/2015 3:24:53 PM
  • To me, I enjoy reading all the comments. Take what you want out of it and leave the rest on the table. If I am having a craving I can read these and help keep myself positive and keep moving ahead. Thank you to all - 4/25/2015 9:09:13 AM
  • Me personally...I read these articles for motivation, reminders and maybe something I don't already know. I know that I need to eat healthy and exercise...both together. Sometimes I have my bad days (esp wkends) but I get right back to it. I believe that only you know what works for you and that may be all or some of these suggestions. I enjoy some really bad foods that I have every once and while but not every week like I have done in the past. You have to do what makes you happy or at the least manageable or you will give up. :o) - 4/16/2015 12:41:35 AM
    DIET. FACE IT. FACE THE WORD. And stop trying to put a pretty bow around it. You can make it a better experience with help of SparkPeople, but not facing that you are on a DIET is a mistake - for people like me. I finally lost 40 pounds using SparkPeople tools, but the first step was admitting that I needed to DIET (Read Eat less and better) - 4/13/2015 10:10:02 AM
  • Yvette888 voiced my opinion exactly
    "I really disagree with idea of only getting on the scale once a week (or once every two). Weight fluctuates each day and if you are only weighing in once a week (or once every two weeks) and happen to do so on a bad day you will think nothing is working. I've found its much better to weigh myself every day - and know the 2 lb fluctuations are normal. This is especially true for weight maintenance. I can gain easily gain 5 lbs in a week if left unchecked - its so much easier to eat extra healthy for a couple of days when the scale is up one or two pounds - rather than not realizing it for a week and having the sad surprise of an extra five pounds"

    Otherwise, a very good article. - 4/13/2015 5:59:19 AM
  • 2BFITN23838
    This sentence saved me from going into a deep depression today: "You can lose inches, get fitter, gain lean muscle mass, drop body fat, become better hydrated, look better and feel more energized without the pounds budging at all." I've been feeling frustrated because I have been eating the right nutrients according to SparkPeople and exercising, but the pounds are not coming off. I actually gained a pound since last week! So I'll try to focus on signs other than the scale for benefits to my overall health. - 4/12/2015 9:18:38 AM

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