In the past, I struggled to lose weight and made many mistakes. In making these mistakes, I ended up gaining more weight than I had lost to start with. I’m hoping that in sharing my mistakes with you, you can avoid some of the pitfalls I endured over the years. I eventually changed my lifestyle, regained my health, and lost 80 pounds. I’ll share the mistakes I made and the steps I took to lose the weight and feel great!
Mistake #1: Meal Replacement Shakes
They can be convenient on the go or if you’re in a rush, but they never made me feel full and they are not the most nutritious choice. Real food is where it’s at!
Mistake #2: Under-eating / Over-restricting Portion Sizes
Restricting portion sizes is a typical strategy that people try to use to lose weight. Most of us have been told to “eat less and move more” to lose weight. Portion control is an important component in weight loss on the Standard American Diet. However, I would over-restrict to such a degree that I would overeat to compensate for it and not reach my weight loss goals.
Mistake #3: Over-exercising
I enjoy exercising, but I would often over-exercise to the point where I didn’t even like it anymore. I would work out to the point of extreme fatigue, pain, and even injury. I would go between either going full out and overdoing it, or I would stop exercising completely because I didn’t enjoy it and/or was too sore or injured to exercise.
Mistake #4: Expecting Results Too Quickly
I would get discouraged when I didn’t get an immediate result. If I didn’t get an immediate “incentive” to continue, I would give up. I gave up way too easily, and expected results to happen way too quickly.
Mistake #5: Using the Scale as a Mood Indicator
The number on the scale can fluctuate for so many different reasons including how much water you’ve been drinking, when your last meal was, when your last bowel movement was and more. I allowed the number on the scale to change my mood and to be the barometer of whether I would have a good day or a bad day.
Later, I realized that the number on the scale is just a number. I started to look at it as an indicator of health, and a data point in my health and weight loss journey. Whether you are obese, overweight, or normal weight, the number on the scale does not dictate your worth!
Mistake #6: Weight Loss as a “Diet” (A Temporary Fix)
I looked at weight loss in terms of going on a diet in the short-term to lose weight, so that I could go back to my old ways and eat processed foods again. This strategy never works. For a diet to be effective, it has to be something that you can commit to long-term.
Mistake #7: Fear / Gymtimidation
I allowed my fear of new experiences, fear of not being good enough, fear of being judged to control me. I didn’t join a gym for a long time even though I wanted to because I felt so insecure. I thought I needed to lose weight before joining a gym! How backwards is that? Once I joined the gym, I would only go with my Mom or a friend. Once I got a bit more comfortable, I would go by myself, but only to specific classes with specific instructors at specific times. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to try new things and do the things I wanted to do sooner!
Mistake #8: Excessive Cardio, No Strength Training
I always thought I had to do tons of cardio in order to lose weight. I didn’t lift weights and I was constantly on the treadmill, the elliptical, or hitting a Zumba class. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great! My problem was my extreme focus on it and overdoing it to the exclusion of doing strength training or focusing on nutrition.
Mistake #9: Thinking I Could Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
I thought that I could out-exercise a bad diet. I thought if I moved my body enough, I could out-exercise my poor eating habits. To a certain degree this strategy could work for me in the short-term, but it never provided me with sustainable long-term weight loss. I had to shift my focus to nutrition and the food I was eating to fuel myself.
Mistake #10: Any Excuse to Eat
Happy? Eat. Sad? Eat. Lonely? Eat. Celebration? Eat. Event? Eat.
I love food! Any feeling, celebration, event, or holiday was an excuse for me to overeat, “treat myself,” and over-indulge in C.R.A.P. (calorie rich and processed foods).
Mistake #11: “Moderation”
Moderation is meant to be helpful to people in their weight loss and health journeys to allow for the occasional treat once in a while or for a special occasion. But, what is moderation anyway? Moderation is being moderate from the perspective of your current habits. Moderation means something different to every person. For me, coming from such poor eating habits, I thought being moderate was ordering a muffin instead of a donut at the coffee shop. It turned out that the muffin I was eating was equally high in calories, fat, and sugars as the donut. Moderate for me wasn’t moderate at all! One indulgence would spin into the next, and the next, until I was back into my old habits. Moderation only works if you can successfully moderate your food intake.
Mistake #12: “Cheat” Meals
For me, having a cheat meal always spiralled into a cheat dessert or a cheat meal the following day, or a few days later. If having a cheat meal works for you, and keeps you on track that’s great! For me it was a slippery slope to consuming more and more processed and unhealthy foods.
Mistake #13: Defeatist Attitude
We often hear the statistic along the lines of: 95% of people who lose weight regain it. This stat (which I no longer believe is true) made it seem as if weight loss was so difficult and nearly impossible to maintain. I had experienced weight loss followed by regaining more weight than I started with, so I believed that people who lost weight and didn’t gain it back either: A-didn’t exist or B-were anomalies, exceptions to the general rule, and in the minority of people trying to lose weight. I started to think I would always be obese and despite my best efforts would never be able to lose the weight and keep it off.
Mistake #14: Negative Mindset – “I Can’t”
I told myself that I couldn’t do certain things because I looked a certain way or weighed a certain amount. I told myself: “I can’t run. I can’t lift weights. I can’t lose weight.” Having this negative mindset really held me back.
Win #1: Eating a Plant-Based Diet (mostly whole foods)
I decided to go vegan and switched to a fully plant-based diet. In the first year, I lost 70 pounds. I had more energy and my health improved.
Win #2: Moving my body – running, lifting weights
I found joy in moving my body again and tried new things that I was previously too afraid to do. I took up running about 4 months into my plant-based lifestyle and started lifting weights after a year or so. I felt grateful for having more energy, being able to move my body and do the things I wanted to do.
Mistake #15: After going plant-based, reincorporating processed foods into my regular diet
I gradually reincorporated processed foods into my diet, and I had the mindset that I was “done” regaining my health and “done” losing weight. As previously discussed, my one processed food indulgence would spiral into the next and the next until I was eating processed food regularly again.
Win #3: Refocus on health as number 1 priority
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having weight loss as a goal. However, when I focused on weight loss as my goal, it wasn’t enough to keep me going and on track long-term with my weight loss. Focusing on health was crucial to me regaining my health and losing the weight.
Win #4: Changing My Mindset – “I Can!”
In the past I ate what tasted good, and went on diets periodically, with little success. I shifted the focus to nourishing my body and changed the way I thought about food and my relationship with food. I recognized that I could lose weight. I told myself: “I can do this! I can change my habits and behaviours. I got this!” I focused on nourishing myself and fuelling my body with health-promoting foods and exercising in ways that made me happy.
Win #5: Understanding Nutrient Density and Calorie Density
Nutrient density is the amount of nutrition in any given food. Calorie density is the amount of calories per pound in any given food. Focusing on whole plant foods that were high in nutrient density and low in caloric density was essential to my healing and weight loss. Examples of foods that are high in nutrient density and low in calorie density: non-starchy vegetables, fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and beans/legumes.
Win #6: Perseverance is Key
After regaining about 20 pounds after reincorporating processed food into my diet, I was upset and disappointed in myself. This is normal and I could have dwelled in that and continued to gain weight back. Instead, I did everything in my power to change my circumstances.
Win #7: Trust the Process (Be patient, be consistent, and enjoy the process)
I trusted myself to be consistent and go through the process. I knew that it would take time to regain my health and lose the last few pounds. I did my best to be patient with it and have fun along the way. I tried new recipes, developed my own recipes, and found new and fun ways to move my body (calisthenics).
I hope this post was helpful and will help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made. As always, do what works best for you for your health and weight loss. I always recommend consulting with a qualified healthcare provider before changing your diet or fitness routine.
If you are on a weight loss journey, think of the long-term, sustainable strategy that will have you losing the weight and successfully keeping it off in the coming years. Stick with it. You got this! I’m cheering you on and if you need extra support, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to consult with you about your specific lifestyle and goals.
- The Calorie Density Approach to Nutrition and Lifelong Weight Management
- The Healthiest Diet for Weight Control
- Cut the Calorie-Rich-And-Processed Foods
- What Are the Healthiest Foods?
- Calorie Density: How To Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer
- Tim Hortons (comparison of donuts to muffins)
- New York Times Article “95% Regain Lost Weight. Or Do They?”
- Long-term weight loss maintenance