Common Weight Loss Mistakes & How To Fix ThemSep 16, 2021
Across our careers as Registered Dietitians in Saskatoon, we have worked with hundreds of clients inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program. Throughout this process, we’ve identified ten of the most common obstacles that hold people back from achieving their weight loss goals. When equipped with the right knowledge, dietitian-approved tools, and evidence-based support, you too can avoid and conquer these nutrition and weight loss pitfalls!
1. Setting a weight loss goal outside of your set point range
Setting a weight loss goal below your body’s natural set point weight is a common mistake made by clients who have struggled with weight loss prior to working with a Registered Dietitian. But what is set point weight?
Essentially, each one of us has a biological blueprint, and with that, a set point weight range. Your set point weight is the weight range where you thrive and are not fighting against your body’s cues to maintain a weight above or below the range (1). When the brain identifies that food is scarce or body fat percentage is low, it instigates a sophisticated mechanism that increases appetite and conserves energy to help return the body to its natural set point weight (2). Therefore, if your goal is weight loss, the solution lies behind an understanding of your healthy set point weight range or body fat percentage.
Nutrition choices, past experiences, activity level, and environment can push our body above or below its healthy set point range (3). If weight loss is a goal for our nutrition clients, we complete a thorough assessment of body composition, past experiences, lifestyle habits, and weight history to help clients set healthy and realistic weight loss goals. From there, we assist clients in adopting supportive eating patterns and lifestyle habits that help them return to their set point range!
Bottom-line: a supportive weight loss goal is one that considers your natural set point weight range or body fat percentage to ensure that you are not fighting against sophisticated physiological mechanisms that serve to keep your body safe and healthy. Working with a Registered Dietitian - like those at Vitality Nutrition in Saskatoon - can help you identify your set weight point and set realistic and healthy goals.
2. Consuming too little protein
Prior to their initial appointment with our team of Registered Dietitians, we ask our clients to complete an assessment phase, wherein they track or monitor their food intake for five days. More often than not, we discover that clients are consuming less protein than what we would recommend for their weight loss goals! The solution to this common mistake is to prioritize a protein-rich food during each meal and a snack.
Enjoying protein-containing foods throughout the day can help you achieve your natural set point weight range in three key ways:
- Increase your metabolism: Protein-containing foods have a high thermic effect meaning that they require more energy to digest. By this mechanism, a higher protein diet can boost your metabolic rate, which can assist with weight loss (4).
- Decrease hunger hormones: Consuming protein decreases circulating levels of a hunger hormone (i.e., ghrelin) that serves to increase appetite. In other words, you’ll naturally feel more satisfied throughout the day following a higher-protein meal or snack, allowing you to achieve a calorie intake that helps you reach and maintain your set point weight (5).
- Stabilize blood sugars: Consuming a protein-containing food at each meal (and even snack!) helps to slow the release of glucose from the carbs you consume. This leads to more stabilized blood sugar throughout the day and prevents cravings that can lead to overeating (6).
When we work with a client in our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program, we identify and customize the protein requirements in accordance to their unique body, activity level, and weight loss goals.
Bottom-line: Aim to include a protein-rich food during each meal and a snack. We consider a high-protein food to be a portion that contains at least 15g. Review the sample menu below for how you might better include protein throughout the day!
3. Cutting out fat or carbs
Before working alongside our Registered Dietitians through the Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program, many of our clients have been led to believe that they need to completely cut out either carbs or fat to lose weight. Clients are often surprised to hear that consuming both fats and carbs can not only improve their overall health, but also help them reach their weight loss and body composition goals more sustainably! While the benefits of fats and carbs are far reaching, some reasons we recommend that our clients enjoy both important food-groups in their weight loss plan include:
- Healthy fats improve blood sugar balance by delaying the digestion and absorption of glucose from a meal (7). When blood sugars are stable, you’ll find yourself more satisfied and less likely to overeat or graze throughout the day!
- Including carbs keeps cortisol low because as carbohydrate consumption becomes inadequate, the body relies on stress hormones (like cortisol) to maintain blood sugar levels (8). Restricting carbohydrates can lead to a physiological drive to consume carbohydrates later in the day (9). This dynamic is a natural consequences of elevated cortisol and/or the draining of psychological resources required to 'control' food intake (10). Both of these barriers to weight loss can be avoided by planning carbs into most meals and snacks!
Much like protein, we assess clients' personalized carbohydrate and fat requirements based on their body composition, activity level, and food preferences. When supporting clients in our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program, we help individuals from all walks of life overcome their fear of carbs and fats so they can finally nourish their body with key nutrients that will allow them to achieve a consistent and balanced intake.
Bottom-line: It can be scary to reintroduce carbohydrates or fats if you come from a history of restricting them. However, by including both carbs and fats, we find clients achieve more consistency in their eating patterns, which ultimately allows them to return to their healthy set point weight with more ease!
4. Not getting enough sleep
Our clients are often surprised to learn that our roles as Registered Dietitians include supporting the adoption of healthy habits beyond those that involve food and nutrition. Lifestyle factors, like the quality of your sleep, are key considerations in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. A single night of poor sleep influences the regulation of the neurotransmitters ghrelin and leptin, leading to an increase in appetite (11). Furthermore, several studies have indicated that sleep-deprived individuals tend to choose foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates (12). Our job as nutritionists is to help our clients establish supportive bedtime routines which often includes timing their nutrition in a way that leads to more restful, high quality sleep!
Bottom-line: Prioritizing sleep is a key lifestyle habit that can help you reach your weight loss goals with greater ease.
5. Aiming “too high”
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the early years of coaching my nutrition clients was setting goals with them that were too “high”. Both myself and the client would be motivated to implement changes to help them achieve safe weight loss, but in this excitement we tended to commit to habits that were too challenging. When the client wasn’t able to follow through on the commitment, it left them feeling frustrated and deflated. Overtime, I learned that the solution to this problem is what we now refer to as ‘aiming low’. This doesn’t mean that the ultimate goal can’t be big, but rather, the first actionable step taken is ideally so low that when you say it out loud it almost seems too easy. Then, stick to that one habit for one week - even when motivation waivers. This strategy not only leads to consistency with habits that will allow you to achieve your weight loss goals, but also builds confidence and self-integrity. By aiming low (and following through), our clients find themselves becoming the type of people who doesn’t break the promises they make to themselves. Overtime, our clients build up an arsenal of simple but highly effective habits that they consistently implement. This consistent routine not only allows our nutrition coaching clients to reach their weight loss goals, but also to feel more confident in themselves (and their word!), which has shown to have crossover benefits to other areas of their lives.
Bottom-line: Commit to habits that you are confident you will consistently follow through on. This builds and maintains your self-integrity which is a crucial personal characteristic in creating the consistency you need to experience a lasting transformation!
6. Not eating enough fibre
After completing our initial assessment with clients inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program, we often come to realize that they are consuming inadequate fibre for both their weight loss goals and their overall health. It’s difficult to lose weight if you are feeling hungry and unsatisfied with meals. Much like our earlier discussion of protein, consuming adequate fibre contributes to stable blood sugars and ensures you feel satisfied for longer (13). If you're curious whether or not you are consuming enough fibre, we recommend tracking your fibre intake in an app like MyFitnessPal for at least three days. We find our clients feel best with at least 25g of fibre and oftentimes more! If you are looking to boost your fibre intake, try incorporating some of these very high fibre foods into upcoming meals or snacks:
- Sprouted grain bread (eg. Silver Hills or Dave’s Killer Bread)
- Berries (raspberries are especially high)
- Chia seeds (we love using them in chia jam, smoothies, overnight oats, or chia pudding).
- Popcorn ( we love the brand Buddha Bowl)
- High fibre protein bars (eg. Oatmeal Gold Bar)
- Oats (eg. egg white oatmeal, banana muffins, or baked oats)
- Vegetables and fruit (note: any veggies will increase your fibre but apples, pears, and jicama are exceptionally high sources!)
- Beans and lentils (eg. black beans in a burrito bowl or Sante Fe Salad)
Bottom-line: Ingesting adequate amounts of fibre is key to feeling full for longer. Track your fibre intake for three days to determine if you are consuming at least 25g per day!
*Note: There are some cases where a low fibre diet is beneficial. Our work as Registered Dietitians allows us to personalize our clients' fibre recommendations in a way that optimizes their unique digestive health requirements.
7. Focusing on what you “shouldn’t” be eating
When clients come to their initial consultations with our team of Dietitians in Saskatoon, they often arrive with a long list of foods they believe they “shouldn't '' eat or “bad” habits that they feel they need to get rid of. While this strategy may be well meaning, this mindset actually attracts more of what you “don’t want” in your life. The alternative is to intentionally focus on what you want to do want to eat more of. We call this the “add mindset”. For example, instead of focusing on eating less processed foods you might instead focus on adding nutritious foods to your environment, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins! Having these healthful foods around you helps program your subconscious mind to eat more nutrient-dense foods. This 'add mindset' will lead to the same end goal of eating less processed foods, without the negative self-talk or focus.
Bottom-line: Instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t eat or do, train your mind to focus on the food and habits you could add to your life to reach your goals.
8. Going longer than 5 hours between meals
Something our team of Registered Dietitians like to remind our clients is that going longer than five hours between meals can cause one to become 'too hungry', leading to overeating when one does finally have access to food. While your total caloric intake is the most important factor for weight loss, it is difficult to maintain a balanced energy intake when you feel ravenously hungry between meals! Much like a pendulum swinging, many clients find that when they get 'too hungry' they crave calorically dense foods and/or eat too quickly, causing a drastic swing towards feeling 'too full.'
The solution to this all too common dynamic is to space meals every five hours apart, and to plan a snack if you will be going longer than this recommended time. This method avoids activating the body's primal drive to obtain as much food as possible in anticipation of a longer period of time between meals. We assess our clients' personal caloric requirements inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program and help them plan and space their meals and snacks in a way that supports their weight loss goals and overall health.
Bottom-line: Plan a meal or snack every 3-5 hours to avoid overeating.
9. Overcomplicating Meal Prep
Planning out your menu is an important way to stay on track with your healthy eating goals. However, committing to new recipes, switching up your meals daily, or purchasing complicated ingredients can be overwhelming. When you feel overwhelmed, you’re less likely to take action towards preparing healthy meals. By keeping your menu planning simple, you’re more likely to be consistent with your meals. Here are our top three Dietitian-approved tips:
- Upgrade your favourite meals. Instead of completely changing your menu (which can be overwhelming!) try making strategic upgrades to boost the nutritional content of meals you already enjoy. For example, top your oatmeal with berries for more fibre; add a side of vegetables to compliment your sandwich, or switch to Greek yogurt or Skyr yogurt to increase the protein content of your snack!
- Choose a weekly dinner theme night. A weekly dinner theme night is a way to create consistency in your routine and reduce some of the energy and time required to map out your meals. Some theme nights our nutrition coaching clients love are taco Tuesday, breakfast for dinner, and build your own pita pizza!
- Automate one meal per day. Try keeping one of your meals the same whether that be breakfast, lunch, or a snack. This reserves mental space and energy to plan your other nutritionally-balanced meals! For example, Dietitian Darian has been enjoying her egg white oatmeal daily for the past 4 years, Dietitian Courtney enjoys a Greek yogurt bowl with berries and nuts almost every day for a snack, and Dietitian Hannah always has the ingredients on-hand to make her homemade breakfast sandwich .
Bottom-line: Commit to simple recipes that you know you enjoy with subtle upgrades to boost the nutritional content of the meal. Plus, there is no shame in automating a meal or snack if it is one that you enjoy!
10. Making change From a negative headspace
“You cannot hate yourself into a version of yourself that you can love.” - Lori Deschene
If you’re trying to get healthy from a place of self-hatred, every action you take to create that “lovable” body probably feels like punishment. And punishment-driven actions don’t lead to great overall health in the long term. When we instead root dietary and lifestyle changes from a place of love, curiosity, and kindness we create an uplifted energy that actually allows us to make consistent, nourishing choices that lead us to optimal health! For example, let's say you ate more snacks than what felt aligned to your goals and values.
A judgemental inner dialogue may sound like:
- "You are so bad for eating all that junk" or "time to get strict with myself starting Monday."
A curious inner dialogue may sound like:
- "What can I learn from this event and how might I adjust my choices next time?" or "Recommitting to supportive habits will have me feeling better in no time."
Many nutrition coaching clients believe that a kind and understanding inner dialogue lacks the commitment to achieve amazing results. However, as Registered Dietitians we firmly believe that compassion is the path to creating the type of uplifted emotion to inspire lasting behavioural change!
Bottom-line: Dietary changes that come from a place of judgement and unworthiness will not lead to long-term, supportive actions. Instead, we help our clients adopt a compassionate inner dialogue so they can create the uplifted emotion they need to create a lasting transformation!
While many of these fixes are simple in nature, we understand that it can be challenging to change your mindset and habits - especially when it comes to sustainable weight loss. Knowing this, we have designed our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program to include weekly follow-up, ensuring that our clients have the accountability and support they need to overcome their personal obstacles and finally reach their unique goals. If you’re ready to start your weight loss journey, one of the Registered Dietitians on our team would love to support you!
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