You're eating right and even hitting the gym, but you're not losing weight. It's so frustrating! Maybe it's not the right things you're doing, but the wrong things that are affecting your progress. We asked registered dietitian Lisa Bunn, director of nutrition at the Genavix Wellness Network, to share the three worst diet mistakes you can make when it comes to weight loss.
Eliminating Entire Food Groups
Lisa says that swearing off entire food groups, like no grains or no fruit, usually works for people because when you restrict your intake of specific foods, you are naturally going to restrict your intake in general, leading to initial weight loss.
"This becomes a balancing act, however, because what people often forget is that by eliminating specific food groups, they are also eliminating the nutrients that go along with those food groups." So you have to ask yourself if you're willing to miss out on the nutrients that certain food groups are providing, like the fiber in grains or the vitamins and minerals in fruit. Oftentimes the long-term answer is no.
Registered dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition agrees that "cutting out too much" isn't sustainable, so you're more likely to give up and gain any weight back you may have lost. Cutting out foods like sugar, alcohol, and carbs can also make you feel so deprived that you won't be able to control those natural cravings, forcing you to overindulge. You'll end up consuming way more calories than you would normally, which can make the scale numbers go up.
Not Eating Enough
Drastically reducing your daily calorie intake seems like the simplest and easiest way of losing weight, which is why many people try it. Lisa says, "While calorie deficit is a must for weight loss, the nuance is that we don't want it to be too much of a deficit."
Without enough food for survival (including our normal daily functions), your body will send signals to conserve calories, slowing down your metabolism. Your body will then choose to get its energy from a more efficient source than our fat stores — our muscles. Lisa says it's essentially like "using the structure of our house to burn in the woodstove and leaving the insulation there." The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that women should eat at least 1,200 calories per day, and men should eat at least 1,800.
Eating "Diet" Foods
Marketing convinces us that "diet" foods (like diet soda) work — after all, the lady in the advertisement looks great! You may lose weight initially, but there are some not-so-good long-term effects. Lisa warns that "diet" foods tend to be more expensive and, more importantly, our body doesn't recognize them as food. "When we eat something that isn't recognized as food our body sends inflammatory signals to that site in order to fix the perceived problem. Much like when you sprain your ankle and it swells up, if you replace whole foods with artificial stuff, this can lead to increased inflammation in your intestines and across your whole body," Lisa says.
"Fat-free" foods are often high in sugar or salt to replace flavor, and "sugar-free" foods contain chemicals, so your body actually feels more hungry since you're not giving it the nutrition it craves. This means eating these foods can actually cause weight gain, so they're best avoided.