Are you one of the many people who have tried and failed to lose weight? If so, you're not alone - statistics show that the majority of people who lose weight gain most of it back within a few months. In many cases, this is because they go about losing weight in the wrong way.
However, you don't have to remain part of this depressing statistic - follow the tips in this article and you can join that elite minority of people who manage not only lose weight, but to keep it off for life.
1. You eat too quickly Mistake number one is a very common one, and it is simply eating too quickly. This hinders your weight loss efforts because it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the brain to fully register how much you are eating, and to send out signals to tell you to stop. Obviously, the faster you eat, the more food you're likely to consume before your satiety mechanism kicks in.
Avoid this mistake by making a conscious effort to chew your food more slowly and thoroughly, and to pause between each mouthful.
2. You rely on junky 'diet foods' Many people also make the mistake of trying to lose weight by eating diet foods, such as shakes and meal replacement bars. While these can be helpful in the short term, they're not a viable long-term solution for most people. Think about it - do you really want to spend the rest of your life eating these over-processed 'foods'? The answer is probably no - you want to eat real food like everybody else. And sooner or later, you will return to eating regular foods, but because you haven't retrained your eating habits, the weight will pile back on.
Avoid this mistake by forgetting about fake diet foods, and instead focus on consuming moderate quantities of real, healthy foods that you will be happy to eat for the rest of your life.
3. You go to extremes Another common problem with people who fail to lose weight is that they go to extremes. A common example is crash dieting, where people virtually starve themselves for a few days or weeks, achieve a drastic weight loss, and then pile it all back on. This happens because the body's survival mechanisms kick in and literally force them to eat more. Other examples include cutting out entire food groups (such as fat or carbs), or taking excessive amounts of exercise which leads to injury.
Avoid this mistake by accepting that healthy weight loss takes time, and it will probably take at least several months or more to reach your goal weight and size. If you think about it, this isn't really a long time when you consider it in the context of the rest of your life, and it's certainly a better alternative than spending years on end yo-yoing up and down, but never reaching your goal.
4. You don't exercise It's no secret that people who are physically active less prone to overweight and obesity than those who are sedentary. Exercise helps to burn off fat directly, and by building extra muscle tissue it also helps you to burn more calories even when you're at rest. In addition, exercise is a great stress reliever and can give you a mental boost, making it less likely that you will overeat as a result of stress. Frankly, if you don't exercise, your weight loss efforts are almost certainly doomed to failure - unless you want to spend the rest of your life obsessing over every mouthful that you eat.
Avoid this mistake by making a commitment to exercise regularly, even if you really don't feel like it at first. The good news is that once you establish a routine, it really is much easier to keep going. Choose an activity or activities that you enjoy, and commit to just doing five or 10 minutes at a time at first, then building up gradually.
5. You listen to your taste buds, not your stomach Most people are overweight because they overeat and/or are inactive, and one of the most common causes of overeating is paying too much attention to the pleasurable aspects of food, and ignoring the signals that your body sends to tell you that you've had enough. There's no shame in enjoying a delicious meal, and most of us overeat sometimes, simply because the food we are eating is so tasty. But if you do this on a regular basis, you're almost certainly going to gain weight, or least fail to lose it.
Avoid this mistake by making a conscious effort to pay attention to how the food feels in your stomach, and to differentiate between genuine hunger and the false 'hunger' which is caused by mere appetite. You can make things easier for yourself by restricting the variety of food types you eat at any given meal - it's especially easy to eat too much when there are many tastes and textures available.
6. You give in to social pressures Weight loss mistake number six is related to the people around you. We live in a society where eating is a part of normal social life, in the form of meals out, dinner parties, office snacks and the like. It's also seen as normal to eat unhealthy junk foods, and people who make an effort to eat healthily are sometimes looked at are somehow strange or fanatical.
As a result, many people find themselves eating too much, or eating foods that are not part of their weight loss plan, in order to fit in or to avoid causing inconvenience to others. But if you want to lose weight successfully and keep it off, you must give your diet needs top priority, which may sometimes mean standing apart from what those around you are doing.
Avoid this mistake by planning ahead as much as possible - for example, if you're going to be eating out at a restaurant, you might want to have a snack beforehand so you're not tempted to overeat, or to make a prior commitment to yourself to choose the healthiest item on the menu. Above all, you may need to develop a thicker skin and stop caring what others think about you. You could also make an effort to find support either in person or online, from those who share your diet and fitness goals.
7. You have a poor self-image Many people suffer from low self-esteem, especially in relation to body image issues. This is a source of stress, and if you're prone to overeating in response to stress, you may find that your negative self-image directly hinders your weight loss efforts. You may also have (possibly unconscious) beliefs that cause you to act in self sabotaging ways - for example, if you believe that you're unworthy of having a slim, healthy body, you might go on an eating binge every time you start to lose some weight.
Avoiding this mistake can be particularly challenging, because the roots of poor self-esteem tend to run deep. If this is the real problem for you, I recommend seeking support, perhaps in the form of a councillor, a therapist, or an online group.
8. You wear the wrong clothes Weight loss mistake number eight might seem a trivial one, but it can have a major effect. And it is simply wearing clothes that are poorly fitting and unflattering. Many overweight people try to squeeze into clothes that are too small, or they delay buying nice clothes until they have lost weight.
The problem with this is that wearing clothes that fit badly or are too tight will cause you to feel stressed and miserable, and may trigger overeating. More insidiously, you're also sending a message to your subconscious that you are undeserving of looking and feeling attractive - a harmful message that can damage your self esteem further, and possibly provoke eating binges in an attempt to feel better.
Avoid this mistake by having at least a few outfits that fit well, that are of good quality, and flattering to you. You don't have to spend a fortune, especially if money is tight - if budget is an issue try looking for discount retailers online, look for a bargain on eBay (where you can also sell your larger clothes as they become too big for you), or try local second-hand shops.
9. You're looking for a quick fix This dire mistake is all too common - people want to lose weight as quickly as they can, and instead of taking the slow steady approach which is most likely to lead to success, they instead look for shortcuts such as diet pills or dangerous fad diets. The problem with such measures is that while you may be able to drop a few pounds very quickly, not only is it not sustainable, but you could be damaging your health too. Furthermore, you're going to end up in a worse position than when you started, because the chances are that you will lose muscle as well as fat, and when you gain the weight back it will be pure fat. Even worse, because you've lost muscle tissue, it'll be harder to lose that weight the second time around.
You can avoid this problem by deciding from the outset that you're only going to make changes in your diet and lifestyle that you're willing and able to sustain over the long term. This also means accepting that you're not going to lose much weight before that wedding or holiday that's only two weeks away - it's very important not to let such short-term goals distract you from your larger purpose of safe, healthy, permanent weight loss.
10. You refuse to change your lifestyle Lastly, people who repeatedly failed to lose weight are typically those who are simply not willing to make the necessary fundamental lifestyle changes. These changes are simple - eat the right amount of food, make sure the majority of your diet consists of healthy, unprocessed foods, and take some form of regular exercise. So why is it seemingly so difficult to put these simple steps into practice?
While each individual's reasons may vary, it basically comes down to the need to build new habits. Unless you're one of the very few people who are overweight as a result of the genuine medical condition, chances are you're eating too much, you eat the wrong things, and/or you're just not active enough. The first step to change is admitting this, taking full responsibility for your weight and health, and acknowledging the need to make some very basic alterations in how you live. Making such changes is not always fun, but it really does get easier with practice, so the key is to see this as a long-term endeavour, and not expect instant results (which can mean being strong enough to resist the cultural pressure which tells us that faster is better in all cases).
If you make a deliberate effort to avoid the mistakes discussed here, and to put the associated suggestions into practice, it'll be hard not to lose weight and keep it off.