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6 Weight Loss Diet Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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You start a weight loss program with good intentions, motivation and visions of a healthier and fitter body. But research suggests that as few as 20% of people achieve their weight loss goals.

Why is it so difficult to reach your weight loss targets though?

With so many potential pitfalls along the way, there are a number of common mistakes made by those undertaking body composition programs. These can be easily fixed though, making your journey easier and quicker.

In this article we want to break down the most common mistakes so you don’t make them. Read on to improve the way in which you change your physique…

The Basics of Weight Loss

Before we start, we just want to skim over the basics of weight loss – that way we know that you understand our advice going forward.

In a nutshell, weight loss comes down to thermodynamics. Calories are a unit of energy, and dependent on how much energy you put in our body is to whether you gain weight or lose it.

What that means is that weight is controlled by the calories in – calories out (CICO) model. There are other models that theorize weight control (such as the hormone theory), but at present, the overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that the calorie-based, thermodynamic efficiency model is the most plausible mechanism [1].

The CICO model suggests that if you take in more calories than you need on a daily basis you will put weight on – this is referred to as positive energy balance or a calorie surplus.

A negative energy balance or calorie deficit, is what’s important here though – this is taking in less calories than you burn off each day. And this is the key to successful weight loss.

Without a deficit you won’t lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

Diet vs Exercise

Exercise is a great way to boost fitness, add muscle and improve your overall health. But exercising off 500 kcal requires much more work than not eating 500 kcal, so diet is much more important when you’re trying to lose weight – particularly in the early stages.

It is much easier to modify your diet than it is to make a significant difference with exercise. As the old saying goes ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’.

This is by no means though suggesting that exercise isn’t important. You need to incorporate both into your weight loss plan, however your diet is the way in which you can make quick and easy changes to get the dietary ball rolling.

That said, here is our list of most common diet mistakes that people make when wanting to lose weight. Fix these and you’ll be well on your way to a better, healthier physique…

#1. You’ve Gone ‘All In’ Too Soon

Trying to change too much, too soon can be one of the worst mistakes you can make.

But who can blame you really though? You’ve made a conscious decision to improve your physique and you’re well aware that diet, exercise and lifestyle are all important. You’ll be wanting to put everything into it.

Rather than rushing into it though, a good way of changing your habits, lifestyle and body composition is to approach weight loss as a marathon, not a sprint.

Start off with your diet – not a complete overhaul, but slight modifications to begin with. If you eat 3 chocolate bars a day, then just eat 2, then a week later go down to 1, then none. Smaller changes are much more manageable in comparison to complete abstinence.

Once you’ve done this you can build up momentum and then start to make bigger changes to your diet. You’ll be feeling better already and will probably notice a difference just based on these small changes.

At this stage you can implement a structured exercise plan too. According to research, introducing exercise once you’ve made changes to your diet is the best way forward. Again, this all comes down to habit, but also what’s the point in exercising to lose weight if you’re still packing away a ton of calories each day?

Research has shown that positive habits take a long time to build. Starting off with all the motivation in the world is great, but it’ll only get you so far before bad habits wan’t to creep back in.


#2. You’re Not Tracking Calories

It’s very difficult to plan an effective diet without a frame of reference. You can’t plan on how many calories you have to decrease by if you don’t know how many you’re already taking in.

Using a calorie tracking app, particularly in the early days of your program, helps to give context to your current eating habits. It’ll tell you how much you’re overeating by, which nutrients you might be low on etc.

It is also very difficult to calculate just exactly how many calories you need to eat to hit your moderate deficit.

Trackers are also good at giving you a little eye opener – we sometimes just don’t realize how many calories we’re taking in, and instead choose to forget about certain foods that pass our lips on a daily basis.

Be honest, be truthful, and you’ll benefit massively from this type of technology.


#3. You Like a Regular Cheat Day

You’ve heard the pros talk cheat days and you feel that you deserve them too. Having one full day every week to eat whatever and however much you want is a great way to satisfy your cravings.

But, as we’ve mentioned, in order to lose weight you need to have a negative energy balance. You need to do this on a regular basis to ensure weight continues to come down.

You work hard all week, falling into a calorie deficit each day then you hit the junk foods so hard at the weekend that you undo all of your hard work. You’re weekly calorie intake all of a sudden falls into a positive balance, you’ve fed your junk food addiction and those harmful ingredients are making you feel sluggish. The guilt of falling off the wagon could even make you quit the diet altogether.

We’re not saying that cheat days are bad – they can help with motivation and at times sanity! But they do have the potential to ruin your progress if you have them too often.

In the early days of your diet, try not to have a cheat day at all. Instead, focus on a cheat meal rather than a day, that way you’ll maintain some accountability. One cheat meal a week is fine, but if you aren’t losing weight as quick as you should be, move it to once every 10 days and so on.


# 4. You’re Drinking Liquid Calories

So you’ve started tracking your food and it looks like your’re hitting your calorie deficit. Only you’re not losing weight. Why?

If you like your soda or fruit juice, you need to be aware that many soft drinks are full to the brim with sugar and calories.

Sometimes these sugars aren’t even labelled in a way you’ll understand – dextrose, fructose, corn syrup and glucose are all sugars that are ‘hidden’ in packaging.

A typical soda will contain as much as 8 teaspoons of sugar, and at 4 kcal per gram that can soon add up. Research suggests that the extra calories don’t fill you up either – on average, those that drink soda take in 17% extra calories each day – and that soon adds up.

Regular soda consumption not only ruins your energy balance but is strongly associated with lower intake of healthier drinks such as water or milk. This means that you might be risking missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and hydration.

Fruit juices and punches might be a great source of nutrients, but are loaded with fructose and some even sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. This can lead to a massive increase in belly fat due to how it is stored.

We’re not saying you have to give up fruit as it provides an easy, low-calorie source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. But eating it whole is much more beneficial than drinking it during a weight loss program. That way it’ll fill you up much quicker whilst at the same time limiting overall calories.


# 5. You Haven’t Given up Alcohol

At 7kcal per gram, alcohol is nearly as calorific as fat. And that’s without adding in the extra calories from sugar.

Before you know it you’ve got a liquid ticking time bomb that can very quickly put you in a calorie surplus.

Whilst many people track food effectively, few tend to record the alcohol that they drink – and of course some conveniently forget to record it too!

It’s not that alcohol in itself is going to stop your weight loss progress, but in excess it will certainly have an adverse effect. The knock on effect of excess alcohol is that it can also make you less likely to choose healthy food options. The loss in inhibition can soon see you reaching for those cookies or other sugar-laden sweet treats.

Realistically you’ll eliminate alcoholic beverages from your diet altogether, but keep it to a minimum as a compromise if you have to. Go for lower calorie options such as gin, vodka or red wine.


# 6. You’re Wanting Things Too Quickly

Weighing yourself on a daily basis, constantly changing your diet or exercise program through frustration, or even throwing the towel in altogether are surefire signs that you’re too impatient.

It’s easy to want things quickly – it’s the sort of society we live in nowadays. But in the same way that you don’t gain weight overnight, you won’t lose it as quickly either. It’ll take time to get the physique you’re after, but it’ll be well worth the wait.

Typically, you can expect to lose a couple of pounds of fat a week. However, weight loss works on a law of diminishing returns basis – the more weight you need to lose, the quicker it’ll come off so expect it to slow down the nearer you get to your ideal weight.

Bear in mind as well that the losing weight isn’t linear. Some weeks you’ll lose a few pounds and others you won’t.



When you first start off on your weight loss program, you’ll be motivated, enthusiastic and keen to succeed. But its not an easy journey which is why only a small percentage of people achieve their goals.

There are a number of commonly made diet mistakes that you need to avoid if you are going to get where you want to be. Avoid each of these and you’ll find the journey is a much easier one.

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  1. Fine, EJ et al. Thermodynamics of weight loss diets. Nutr Metab. 2004; 1: 15