Health & Fitness
A collection of write-ups with health care tips, expert advices and inspiration for overall wellness and fitness.
7 Mistakes You’re Making Whilst Trying to Lose Weight
This year, 50% of Americans will go on a diet to lose weight. It seems Americans have a healthy appetite for weight loss. It’s easy and fun to make resolutions, set goals, and dream about the future. Execution is the hard part.
There are good ways and bad ways to lose weight. Unfortunately, there are more bad ways than good ways. In this article, I’m going to share with you some bad ways of losing it that are, unfortunately, very common. Avoid these mistakes and trends, and you’re much more likely to reach your goal, stay at your goal, and get there with less frustration.
1. Going gluten-free
Gluten has developed a nasty reputation in the last 15 years. All sorts of research and physicians came out and warned us about the potential dangers of gluten. [i]Some of it was true, but it developed a lot of hysteria too. Now, people who would normally be healthy eating gluten are avoiding it and have switched to almond flour and gluten-free products. Visit the site New Day Gluten free to see more information.
This doesn’t mean that there aren't people who should avoid gluten. About 1% of the population has Celiac disease, a condition in which the body is unable to process gluten. But gluten is harmless for most people. Unless you have tested positively for gluten intolerance, you shouldn’t be shopping the gluten-free aisle.
Just because something is gluten-free, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It can still contain a ton of processed carbs, sugar, and artificial ingredients. The “gluten-free” label makes something unhealthy appear as healthy.
2. Cutting out carbs
Another trend over the past 10-15 years has been the ascendency of the paleo, ketogenic, and Whole 30 diets. What does keto mean? When the body is deprived of carbohydrates, it breaks down fatty acids in the blood into ketones, which the body can burn for fuel. While the body prefers carbohydrates, it can burn ketones in the absence of carbs or calories altogether.
Many people have improved their health going keto, or removing almost all carbs, but many others have crashed and burned. Carbohydrates provide essential nutrients, are a great source of energy and nourishment, improve mood, and also play a key role in the production of hormones.
If you lose weight by removing carbs, it’s because you’re also reducing calories. At first, you will see a precipitous drop in weight because carbs retain water in the body. There is nothing inherently fattening about carbs; it’s that they are so ubiquitous in processed foods and it’s easy to overeat them.
3. Overanalyzing everything
I’m guilty as charged. I’m someone who likes to research everything, read every article, watch every video, and then read every book before I make a decision. It’s too much. Once you have 40% of the information you need, make a decision.
The fact is, you’re never going to find the perfect diet for your health. That’s a wild goose chase. It’s impossible to tell if it’s perfect, and it’s simply not worth the time and effort to spend hours of your time figuring out exactly which foods to eat. That doesn’t mean you should stop reading Greatist and other health websites, but your diet should be an evolution, and it should be adaptable. As you acquire new information, you should make modifications accordingly.
It’s also important to not get too regimented about nutrition facts or ingredients. Get the big things right: eat less processed food; drink fewer calories; cook more meals; pay attention to hunger; and emphasize whole foods.
4. Eating anything with the words “reduced” “light” and “low"
We live in an age of niches. There is a niche for everything: veganism, keto, low-carb, gluten-free, low sugar, low salt, diabetic, blood type, alkaline, Whole 30. In many ways, this is a good thing because it means you can tailor your diet and eat only products that meet your specifications. Grocery stores, restaurants, and food manufacturers have been glad to accommodate these niches. But this has a downside: a lot of food masquerades as healthy food simply because it is low in one ingredient.
It’s amazing that we value products more, and will pay more, for a product for what it lacks. Instead of buying regular almond milk with a few grams of sugar per serving, we buy the sugar-free version which costs more! These special versions often cost more and taste worse. Who wants salt-free pretzels and sugar-free cookies anyway?
We think something is healthier because it has a label like “light” and “low” and “free”. This isn’t the case at all. Many of these products taste worse, which compels us to consume more to reach the same level of satisfaction. Manufacturers often add dubious ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of real ingredients. Eat the regular version, or don’t it at all.
5. Snacking Between Meals
Snacking become standard behavior in the age of convenience. This sounds like a good way to maintain energy levels, keep hunger at bay, and to “stoke” your metabolism. But snacking comes at a cost to our health and waistlines. If you’re snacking between meals, ask yourself why. If you’re not eating enough at meals, then increase your portions. Maybe you’re snacking out of habit. Or maybe you’re guilty of “mindless eating.” [ii]
Everywhere you go, there is a vending machine or someone offering snacks between meals: donuts and bagels in the office, the ice cream truck, the popcorn at the theater, the snack shop at the gas station, the airline attendant on the plane, vending machines, the bowl of candy on your coworker’s desk, etc.
A complete meal isn’t always feasible. If your job or life doesn’t permit it, then it’s okay to graze. For example, I do home care where I see patients in their homes. This means I’m on the road and in my car a lot. Prepared meals are often not ideal. I graze consciously during the day when I need to, and then have a complete meal at night.
If you graze, be conscious. If you’re nibbling on high-calorie foods like peanuts and candy, be conscious of portions, or graze on something lighter, like fruits and vegetables.
6. Focusing too much on weight loss
Yes, you want to lose weight and you wanted to lose it yesterday. The truth is, losing weight the right way takes time. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t happen, in a week. One of the biggest mistakes I made during my recovery from my eating disorder, and losing the 30 pounds I had gained, was that I spent too much time planning meals, focusing on my weight, figuring out how much I needed to eat (or not eat), and thinking about my weight loss.
I propose you do the opposite. Focus less and think less about your weight loss. Instead, you should focus on the daily decisions that you make. Decisions lead to actions that lead to results. Focus less on the number on the scale, and focus on what you’re going to do get that number and reach that goal.
If the number on the scale is going down, then ask yourself why, and if it’s going up, ask yourself the same question. Make more of the decisions that make the number go down, and fewer decisions that make it go up. The bottom line: focus less on the result and more on the process and your behavior.
7. Choosing a Diet
In this book Diet Cults[iii], Matt Fitzgerald talks about the cultish behavior many people demonstrate when they adopt a new diet. They treat it like a secular church. It’s easy to adopt a diet, find other like-minded people who follow that diet, and then watch videos and read articles by people who also follow that diet.
Choosing a diet shouldn’t be a team sport where you root for one team and root against the other. The fact is, you’re always following some diet. You shouldn’t get into arguments with people about which is the best diet. Sadly, this is what happens. If you don’t believe me, look at the same of the rancor and venom on some of these nutrition and health forums. I, myself, received some nasty remarks after I made a video that was critical of Robert Lustig and his theory about fructose [iv].
You should choose a diet because you think it will make you healthier. You should keep following it as long as it makes you healthier. But you should stop the diet when it no longer works. This is why it’s important to have objective measurements. How do you know the diet is working and isn’t working? Answer this question before you choose a diet.
You can lose weight the easy way or the hard way. You can cut out foods unnecessarily or you can eat real foods. You can eat real meals, or you can sabotage yourself with unnecessary snacks. You can think about your weight loss all the time, or you can focus on your habits and decisions.
I spent 10 years on the weight-loss and eating disorder roller coaster because I made most of these mistakes (except for going gluten-free). I made plenty of other mistakes, but these are some of the big ones. Focus on the fundamentals, don’t go to extremes, focus on whole foods, and you’ll get to your goal with less headache and frustration.
Kevin Burciaga is a physical therapist based in Dallas, Texas and also an eating psychology coach. He helps people overcome unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. Kevin suffered from every type of eating disorder in his 20’s and early 30’s and is on a mission to make sure nobody suffers the same problem. When he’s not working, Kevin likes to read, make videos, travel, learn, and workout.
You can find him at www.kevinburciaga.com/empoweredeating
[i] Levinovitz A. The gluten lie. New York: Regan Arts; 2015.
[ii] Wansink B. Mindless Eating. New York: Bantam, 2006.
[iii] Fitzgerald M. Diet Cults. New York: Pegasus; 2013.
Get the Latest & Recommended articles in your Inbox[iv] Lustig R. Fat Chance. New York: Hudson Street; 2012.
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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 22nd February 2020.