Advice and opinions are two things people never run out of. The internet is filled with all kinds of “experts” weighing in on issues with their two cents. If you’re taking a DIY approach to your health, diet, and exercise, the good news is you can certainly find reliable, accurate information without paying the big bucks. The down side is you can also easily be mislead by false information leading you to make costly diet mistakes. These cases of misinformation often cause your diet to not be effective, which ultimately might cause you to stop bothering altogether.
This list outlines the top 8 diet mistakes we see people make and how you can avoid them.
1. Being unaware of diet saboteurs
While we don’t think calories are the only thing that matters in weight loss, it’s still an important thing to keep track of. Some foods are sneaky sources of more calories than you realize – salads and baked goods in particular. Simply being aware of the calorie count will help. Another diet saboteur is the concept of eating every 3-4 hours. While this is still a good idea, it’s important to not use that as an excuse to overeat. You still need to manage portion sizes and eat healthy.
Solution: Be aware and mindful of the food you eat. Salads seem healthy, but adding too much dressing will load on the calories. Nuts and fruits are healthy snack options, but are high in sugar and calories, respectively, if eaten in excess. Even the healthiest foods are guilty of sabotaging your diet if you eat them mindlessly.
2. Not eating enough
It seems counter-intuitive, but you have to give your body enough fuel to function properly. Getting too aggressive in cutting calories will backfire in a huge way. If your body isn't getting enough calories to fuel your day, it will resort to using muscle as energy, as it's more nutritious than fat. It's only after that muscle is gone that your body will resort to burning fat for fuel. Not only that, but your metabolism will slow drastically in an attempt to save all the calories you do consume.
Solution: Instead, cut your calories by a reasonable percentage (15% - 20% less is a good place to start). Talk to your doctor to figure out what your resting metabolic rate is (how much energy you burn when you aren't doing anything) and how many calories to cut from your daily diet for effective weight loss. The general rule is that by cutting 500 calories a day, you should lose 1 pounds a week.
3. Eating processed foods
You know the drill – just because a food says “healthy,” “organic,” or “non-GMO” doesn’t make it nutritionally beneficial to your body. Even though those might be healthier alternatives to “regular” junk food, they’re still junk food in disguise.
Solution: Eat real, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables and stay as far away as you can from anything that comes in a box, can, or bag.
4. Focusing too much on calories
Fact: calories are important in weight loss.
Fact: calories are also not the only thing that matter.
What’s more important is spending time and energy on the quality of the food you feed your body, as well as the proper balance of nutrients. Macronutrients in particular are the vital nutrients1 that supply your body with energy. Learning how they work is a great step in understanding the most effective way to lose weight. Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Solution: Rather than simply cutting calories, put the effort into understanding how each macronutrient affects your energy input and output. Carbohydrates and protein both provide 4 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
5. Cutting out fat
Sometime around 50 years ago, scientists thought saturated fat caused heart disease. This conclusion has since been debunked, but people are still scared of eating fat. Your body needs healthy fats to maintain a healthy metabolism. Omega 3 fatty acids in particular have been proven to help with weight loss. The only exception is trans fats: these you can cut out completely.
Solution: Using your newfound knowledge about macronutrients, incorporate a healthy amount of fat into your daily diet. Stay away from trans fats, focus on eating more healthy fats (especially omega 3’s).
6. Drinking calories
It’s easy to think fruit juices are a healthier beverage alternative to soda, but most of they time they aren’t. Usually, these drinks have very little real fruit in them, and are mostly made up of sugar, water, and artificial flavorings created to taste like fruit. Not only do they provide little to no nutritional value, but they often contain enough sugar to add inches to your waist. Other beverages to avoid are sugary/milky coffee drinks, sodas, and alcoholic drinks.
Solution: If you're craving fruity juice, eat it in the fruit form instead. Stick with water for your meal, and try adding some of our new 310 Lemonade to suppress your appetite and still add sweetness. When you do want a treat, check out our easy “Swap” chart on healthier choices.
7. Completely avoiding carbs
Most Americans eat a diet far too heavy in carbs, so yes, you will have to restrict your carbohydrate intake somewhat to lose weight. But avoiding them completely isn’t good, either. There are simple and complex carbs. The former is great for a quick energy boost and the latter is important for long-term fuel.
Solution: Eat carbs at strategic times of the day. Breakfast and right after you workout are both important. Don't over eat simple carbs, particularly sugar, because your body can only metabolize so much at once - too many simple carbs will turn into fat.
8. Underestimating the amount of protein you need
Getting adequate protein is the #1 way to lose weight. It's an important energy source and a little goes a long way Your body type and fitness level will change the ratio a bit, but chances are you’re not getting as much protein as you think you are. A general rule of thumb is to eat .75 grams of protein for every pound you weigh. For instance, if you’re 150 pounds, you need about 112 grams of protein a day.
Solution: Do the math on how much you need, and do your research to find out exactly how much you’re actually getting in your diet!
Don’t let these top 8 diet mistakes define your weight loss journey! Choose to be informed and start making changes now to stay away from these common weight loss misconceptions.