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Weight Loss

“I’m a Dietitian and These Are the 5 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes People Make”

Learn the 3 components of a balanced meal that steadies your blood sugar and blocks cravings

Weight loss is often seen as a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. But anyone who has tried to shed a few pounds knows that, in reality, it’s far more complex than that. From emotional eating to the latest fad diets, there are countless weight loss mistakes that can derail even the most determined efforts.

Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a registered dietitian and Fitness and Nutrition Advisor at Fortune Recommends Health, shares why weight loss is so difficult, what an effective plan looks like and the five biggest weight loss mistakes people make.

Why weight loss becomes harder as we age

Losing weight can be particularly tough as we age because of natural body changes like changes in fat distribution and joint pain, explains Mohr. Plus, he adds, “Movement is often more limited and there could be age-related hormonal changes. Indeed, menopausal declines in estrogen and progesterone levels can make losing weight especially more difficult. 

Your metabolism also naturally slows down over time, meaning you burn fewer calories at rest. “There’s also typically a loss of muscle mass each decade, without intentional resistance training and a supportive diet, which together could all slow your metabolic rate as well,” says Mohr.

What makes a weight loss plan effective in the long run? 

“An effective weight loss plan should be comprehensive and sustainable, focusing on more than just calorie reduction,” says Mohr. He emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet rich in whole foods.

Equally important is staying active. “Regular physical activity, and in particular, intentional strength training, is also helpful,” he notes. “Try to aim for consistent activities that are enjoyable and can be maintained over the long term to help burn calories, build muscles and boost metabolism.”

The 5 biggest weight loss mistakes to avoid

Sure, you know that eating right and moving more can help you lose weight. But it’s easy to fall into habits that you may think are good but are actually derailing your goals. Mohr highlights the most common weight loss mistakes to steer clear of (plus what to do instead).

1. Setting lofty goals

One of the most common mistakes people make on their weight loss journey is setting unrealistic goals. “Setting goals too high, like aiming to lose 20 pounds in a month, usually leads to disappointment and loss of motivation,” says Mohr. “It’s better to aim for achievable, gradual progress,” which can build momentum and help sustain motivation over the long term.

What does this look like? Mohr suggests to “instead, try making your goals more achievable, like losing 1-2 pounds per week. This is more realistic and can help maintain motivation.”

2. Relying solely on the scale

Close-up of a woman standing on scale, which is a common weight loss mistake

The scale is a useful tool for tracking weight loss progress, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. “The scale is not the only tool to measure progress,” Mohr notes. “Muscle gains might offset fat loss, which is still a positive outcome even if the weight stays the same.”

Mohr explains further: “Body composition is something that the scale might not reflect, especially if muscle is gained while fat is lost.” So rather than focusing solely on the number, consider other indicators of progress such seeing your blood pressure numbers go down during your annual physical exam or sleeping more soundly.

3. Blindly cutting calories

“Simply cutting calories without considering the nutritional value of food can lead to energy loss and make it hard to stay active,” says Mohr. “It’s important to choose nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. These provide sustained energy, helping you feel more satisfied and active throughout the day.”

For example, instead of opting for a low-calorie, processed snack bar that lacks nutrients, savor Greek yogurt with berries or a handful of nuts. This healthier alternative provides protein, healthy fats and fiber to keep you satisfied longer.

4. Skipping meals

Mature woman looking disappointed while staring at a bowl on her kitchen table

Missing meals in an attempt to cut calories can backfire. “While it might seem like a way to reduce calorie intake, skipping meals can cause overeating later,” Mohr warns.

A better bet? “Regular, balanced meals with a mix of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates help maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce cravings,” advises Mohr.

Related: “I’m a Dietitian, and Here’s Why an Overly Restrictive Diet Can Backfire”

5. Not getting enough protein and fiber

This one is a common mistake people make when attempting a caloric deficit, according to Mohr. “Protein and fiber are filling and help maintain muscle mass and digestive health, making it easier to stay within a calorie deficit while feeling full and satisfied,” explains Mohr.

That said, “the idea isn’t simply to add protein to your existing daily intake,” Mohr notes. “Instead, replace other options like refined carbohydrates and foods that are higher in added sugar.” What do you replace these foods with? High-protein foods, such as “eggs, Greek yogurt or lean meats and fiber-rich foods like beans, lentils and vegetables.”

More ways to support healthy, lasting weight loss:

Better Than Ozempic? Doctors Say These Medications Are Better for Weight Loss Than the Popular Semaglutide 

“I Lost 233 Pounds at Age 62!” — Here Are the Protein Shakes She Used to Jumpstart Weight Loss

Studies Prove Group Walking Is Even Better at Boosting Weight Loss — How Your Health Can Benefit

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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