Losing weight isn’t always easy. For some people, it’s highly challenging! But sometimes, we make it even harder by taking part in unhealthy weight loss practices that, ultimately, make it harder to lean down and maintain the weight that you lose. There’s no shortage of weight loss recommendations or fat loss diets out there and some of what you read and hear about is simply bad advice. Some of these products have a profit motive as well. Weight loss pills, cleansing diets, and fad exercise gadgets won’t get you there. In fact, they’ll probably do more harm than good. But these aren’t the only bad weight loss practices that can undermine your health and attempts to lean down. Here are some others to avoid.
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Weighing Multiple Times Per Day
Studies show that weighing daily, at least weekly, helps prevent small amounts of weight gain from ballooning into larger ones. But weighing multiple times per day can morph into an obsession with the number on the scale. It’s best to weigh no more than once per day at the same time, usually as soon as you wake up. Weight loss can fluctuate significantly throughout the day depending upon the sodium content of your diet, when you last ate, when you last had a bowel movement, and whether you ate a big meal. It also fluctuates throughout the month in women due to monthly hormonal changes. Also, don’t forget that body weight says nothing about body composition. A better tool to follow body fat and health risks is calipers and a tape measure. Don’t be overly obsessed with the scale!
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Obsessive Calorie Counting
Stop tabulating calories and scrutinizing the calorie content of everything you eat. Instead, focus on the quality of your diet. Obsessive calorie counting can, at best, make life unpleasant and, over time, can be the start of an eating disorder. The changes that you make must fit into your lifestyle and be sustainable. Can you count every calorie that goes into your mouth for the rest of your life? Probably not. Establish good eating and exercise habits you can live with and ones that will nourish you and foster long-term health.
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Drinking Diet Sodas
Diet sodas might be calorie free, but we don’t know the impact artificial sweeteners have on the gut microbiome. Some studies suggest the sweeteners that come in little pink, blue, and yellow packets can alter the gut microbiome in a way that increases insulin resistance. That’s bad for your metabolic health and your waistline. One study found that people who consumed more beverages with artificial sweeteners gained more belly fat and body weight than those who avoided these sweeteners. What about the natural stuff that comes from your spigot? It’s free of sugar and artificial sweeteners. If you’d like more flavor, add fruit slices or herbs.
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Being So Obsessed with Sugar That You Give Up Fruit
Low-carb diets that send your body into a state of nutritional ketosis are popular right now. Proponents of these diets suggest giving up all starchy vegetables and fruits and eating high fat and moderate protein. Fruit is off limits with the possible exception of small quantities of berries. Yet, there’s no evidence that eating fiber-rich fruit, despite its natural sugar content, causes weight gain. In fact, studies show that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have a lower BMI. The fiber in fruit helps moderate the rise in blood sugar and insulin that you get when you eat sugar in an isolated state. It is important to consider a dietary component in context and fruit provides lots of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients for good health. Make sure the fruit you eat is whole and in its unaltered state. Fruit juice is almost devoid of fiber. But all in all, fruit can still be part of a healthy weight-loss diet. It’s the refined carbs and junk food you need to worry about!
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Going “Cold Turkey”
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might worry about all the foods you can’t have. No more doughnuts, cookies, French fries, chips, and other indulgences. Stop focusing on what you can’t have! You’ll end up frustrated before you’ve lost the first pound. Find healthy substitutes for your favorite foods. But it’s okay to have a small slice of birthday cake at a party or a serving of pasta on occasion. Don’t be so austere with your diet that an occasional splurge is off limits. Science supports the concept of a splurge! A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that intermittent energy restriction and taking breaks from restricting calories leads to more weight loss than sustained calorie restriction.
Worst Weight Loss Practices: Too High of a Ratio of Cardio to Strength Training
Too often, women focus more on cardio than strength training when trying to lose weight. The thought is that cardiovascular exercise burns more calories and will ultimately lead to greater weight loss. It’s true that you burn more calories doing moderate-intensity cardio than you do doing an equal amount of strength training. But you need strength training to build lean muscle. Remember, it’s not your body weight that matters as much as your body composition. With cardio, you lose body fat and muscle, but strength training helps you hang on to your muscle as you shed body fat. So, don’t focus so much on cardio that you don’t have time to invest in strength training. Remember, muscle burns slightly more calories at rest than fat does. Maximize your muscle!
The Bottom Line
Now you know some of the worst weight loss practices and why they don’t work. Think in terms of healthy lifestyle habits rather than weight loss strategies. What you do has to be sustainable. Otherwise, you’ll regain the weight you lose over time. Skip the quick fixes and learn to eat more mindfully, make nutrient-dense food choices, and keep your body moving. It’ll pay off!
- Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “Volume 63, Issue 4. April 2015. Pages 708-715.
- com. “Does Sugar in Fruits Cause Weight Gain?”
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec; 92(6): 1369–1377.
- International Journal of Obesity volume 42, pages 129–138 (2018)