Avoiding fundamental mistakes when trying to lose weight

dietingBy Amy Jaya with Paul Clifford

According to the Australian Government’s ‘Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’, 60% of Australians are overweight, which is over 14 million Australians.  We know this is cause for concern and have for some time.  Despite the plethora of information that exists on strategies to lose weight unfortunately some people find it incredibly challenging.

We also know that many people make fundamental mistakes as they go about the process of trying to lose weight.  The following outlines some of these mistakes that we need to be wary of as we embark on a weight loss journey.

1.    Failing to set goals and understand the implications of our decisions

The first thing to do if you have decided to diet is to get clarity on what your objective is.  Are you looking to lose weight in the short term or the long term?  Your answer to this will guide your actions.  You may tell yourself your aim is long term but take actions to bring about short term weight loss which can undermine your chances of long term weight loss.

Alternatively you may tell yourself that your primary goal is to improve your health but if you start taking drastic steps in cutting out meals then you may in fact be jeopardising your health.  Losing weight and being healthy are not necessarily the same thing.

When dieting you will also need to consider how realistic your goal is.  You may set a goal for short term weight loss that is simply unachievable.   Striving to reach it may undermine your health and leave you unjustifiably thinking you are a failure which may lead you to give up future attempts.  Before you know it you are back to your old habits.

So it’s important to be clear on what you really want to achieve through ‘dieting’ and set realistic expectations.  Shedding huge numbers of kilos in the short term without jeopardising your health and long term weight loss may simply not be possible.

2.    Focusing only on eating less

If your goal is to lose weight then it may be necessary for you to eat less, but what might be more critical is switching from unhealthy to healthy foods.  Sure your calorie intake may need to be less but you still may be eating the same number of meals.  Adopting a ‘dieting’ frame of mind for some people only means subtracting things from their eating plan.  For these people there isn’t a subsequent thought of ‘and I will also start to eat x, y or z such as fresh fruit and vegetables.  What goes in your body is just as important as what does not.  So rather than focusing too much on ‘eating sparingly’, many of us should be ‘eating selectively’.  The former suggests only eating less bad food, the latter suggests switching from bad food to good food.   Maybe the terminology you use might help too.  Rather than saying “I’m on a diet” you could say “I’m on a nutrition plan”

3.    Not drinking enough water

When some people fixate on dieting and eating less they also start drinking less and that can mean drinking less water.  But keeping up water intake is critical to staying healthy.  Drinking 2 to 3 litres a day is a one of the best things you can do to maintain your health.  Water flushes out toxins from the body.  It is also common to mistake thirst for hunger and when this happens we often consume more food than we actually need.

The key to making sure you drink enough water is to start your morning with 2-3 glasses and aim to have had 1.5 to 2 litres by lunch time.  Starting the day with a glass of luke warm water with lemon is a great way to kick start your metabolism. If you can’t stomach water on its own try having some lemon slices, strawberries , pomegranate seeds  or chia seeds in your water with ice. It makes a refreshing drink and it is fun way to get the adequate amount of water. Sparkling and mineral water are also some good alternatives.

4.    Relying on convenient weight loss products

Weight loss bars, shakes, soups and powders are in every super market, health food store and all over magazines and they make huge claims about how easy it is to lose weight using these products. The reality is whilst they may be convenient, many report that they don’t work and they may deprive you of the nutrients you need.  They may also get you into bad habits of eating on the go and choosing packaged foods.

What is more advisable is to select whole foods, protein, low fat/no fat Greek yoghurts, seasonal fruits or a handful of nuts.  These foods will keep you feeling fuller for longer and contain fewer calories than packaged processed foods.

5.    Not getting enough sleep

We often forget the important role sleep plays when it comes to losing weight and remaining healthy.  Ideally getting eight hours sleep is what is needed to promote weight loss.  However most of us with our busy lives and schedules are not able to get eight hours sleep. We are lucky if we get six to seven hours. Lack of sleep places a great amount of stress on our bodies and when tired we tend to make poor food choices.

Make it a priority to go to bed at a consistent time each day – one that gives you a minimum of seven hours’ sleep.  It will not only help you to lose the kilos, it will help you wake up feeling refreshed, more alert and less tired. All needed to curb unnecessary or mindless eating.

6.    Not planning out your nutrition intake

Whether your goal is weight loss or to simply start eating healthy, you need a plan.  You are not magically going to start eating the type and quantity of food and drink you need.  If you leave it to chance you’ll just end up falling back into bad habits.   If its weight loss you are after, you are not going to be able to rely just on exercise and less junk food.  About 60 to 80% of weight loss is attributed to the quality and quantity of food intake.

So taking the time to plan your food for the week is essential.  At the beginning of the week have your veggies chopped, your fruit selected, your meat in the fridge either cooked, pre-cooked or at least in the fridge to cook fresh each day.  The sure fire recipe for failure is to come home and discover that you have nothing prepared and start raiding the convenient snacks or calling for take-way.  You will end up eating high calorie food and more food than you need.

7.    Expecting no hiccups

As you commence your weight loss journey, there is a chance that you may relapse. This could be for various reasons.  You may find yourself at some celebration, office functions, Christmas, weddings, birthdays etc.  All too familiar temptations could possibly lead you a stray. If you find yourself in a situation where you have reverted back to bad habits temporarily it is critical that you don’t throw the whole plan out the window.  Your nutrition journey will never be perfect.  You can get back on that horse, so to speak, and get your plan back on track.

 

Losing weight is a complex task and many of us struggle along that journey.  It is important that in pursuit of our weight loss goal that we don’t sabotage other important objectives.  Like most things in life, good planning and patience with setbacks are essential criteria for success.   Part of an intelligent, considered approach requires us to keep some of the basics in mind.  In an era where many of us are fascinated with new quick fixes, the basics should be food for thought.

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