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15 Weight-Loss Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

Experts reveal the tiny (but mighty!) mistakes that can derail your weight-loss goals.

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Cruising on the elliptical machine

Countless studies show that cardio alone won’t make the pounds melt away. “People don’t need to be doing cardio for an hour as their only workout,” says Erica Suter, MS, a certified strength and conditioning coach. That said, cardio isn’t all bad; in a survey of 700 people, a mixture of aerobic exercise and weightlifting was found to be the best exercise routine for weight loss. Suter recommends carving out two or three days a week for resistance training, with steady-state or high-intensity cardio workouts in between. Check out these 7 easy resistance band moves to increase your strength.

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Eating less—but not healthier


Skipping meals or limiting yourself to tiny portions can backfire, stalling weight loss or causing you to put on pounds instead. “It may sound counterintuitive, but you need to eat to lose weight,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition. In fact, you actually need to eat more—more healthy items like vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains, that is. Don’t know how to start? Here’s a list of the 10 healthiest vegetables.

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Expecting instant results


Avoid getting discouraged if you don’t shed pounds right away, says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN. “Some will try to have you believe if you follow these three (five, eight, ten, whatever) ‘simple’ rules, that the weight will just fall off and you’ll be successful—no sweat, no problem,” she says. “That just isn’t true.” To slim down successfully, patience is key; a 2016 study found that long-term weight loss could take at least one year of dieting. Learn the 10 things your doctor secretly wishes they could tell you.

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Sticking to the same workout


If you zone out while jogging on the treadmill, you might not be getting the most bang for your buck (or booty!). “The exercise habits that backfire the most are the ones that do not progress people,” Suter says. When it comes to getting in shape, she says, “Progressing with either intensity or volume will go a long way.” If you follow a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program, for example, try reducing the rest periods between intervals. Check out these easy-on-the-joint HIIT exercises.

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Eating too much protein—or not enough


According to a 2015 Canadian community health survey, Statistics Canada reported that Canadians consumed more of their calories from protein and fat rather than carbohydrates. “Protein is important, but if you have too much, the excess gets stored as fat,” Felicia Stoler, RD, told Health. “And high-protein shakes and bars tend to be sugary and fatty.” Women should eat 46 grams of protein per day, while men should aim for 56 grams, according to the CDC. (These 7 things happen to your body when you don’t get enough protein.)

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Torturing yourself to shed pounds


Many dieters take the phrase “No pain, no gain” a bit too literally, according to Zeitlin. The truth is, you won’t stick to a weight-loss plan that feels like punishment. “No torture treatment is going to be maintainable,” Zeitlin says. “The key to weight loss is to find a healthy plan for you that you can maintain so that the weight does not come back.” Focus on adopting small, healthy habits that feel doable for the long run, like riding your bike to work or drinking tea instead of sugary lattes. Here are 18 tips a weight-loss coach won’t tell you.

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Exercising too much

When it comes to losing weight, exercise can hurt as much as it helps. “Too much exercise can lead to injury [and] burnout, and it can actually cause your body stress, which can hinder weight loss,” says Jennipher Walters, cofounder of Fit Bottomed Girls and author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet: 10-Minute Fixes to Get the Body You Want and a Life You’ll Love. Scheduling “rest” weeks into your workout regimen gives your muscles time to recover, helping you to slim down in the long run. Mix up your routine with this ground-based workout that requires zero equipment.

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Banning treats


Go ahead and eat that chocolate cupcake at your friend’s birthday party. By allowing yourself to indulge here and there, you are actually doing your waistline a favour. “We naturally want what we can’t have,” Walters says. “Restriction creates stress in the body—and it causes your body to crave the very thing you’re trying to avoid.” Instead of depriving yourself of treats, Zeitlin suggests following the 80-20 plan: Healthy foods make up 80 percent of your diet, and you can still enjoy your favourite indulgences the other 20 percent of the time. Don’t miss these 30 simple way to burn fat fast.

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Not getting enough sleep


In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicinedieters who cut back on sleep felt hungrier and lost less weight than those who got a full night’s rest. Translation? “If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,” says study director Plamen Penev, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to nine hours of shut-eye every night. Plus, find out how sugar could be ruining your sleep.

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Ignoring your body’s hunger cues


Mindless snacking and eating your emotions are just two of the culprits that sabotage weight loss. But by snacking only when hunger strikes and putting the food away when you’re full, you can stop binge eating in its tracks. “When we shift to honouring ourselves and tuning in to how we feel, we are naturally more mindful and therefore consume foods that are better for us, in the right amounts for us,” according to Walters. This may take time to master, she says, but the results will be long-lasting. Find out which breakfast food could help you lose weight.

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Copying someone else’s diet


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to losing weight—no matter what the celebrity on your social media feed might claim. “It is definitely hard to shut out all that white noise coming from social media, but understand that no one diet works for everyone,” Zeitlin says. Instead, make a list of goals and follow a lifestyle that helps you achieve them, and don’t be afraid to seek out a registered dietitian for extra guidance if you need it. Learn about the surprising way social media is harming us.

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Using exercise as an excuse to eat


Think you earned a cookie after your 30-minute run? Not so fast. Research shows that this seemingly harmless habit could sabotage your weight-loss goals. In one study, people estimated that they had burned nearly four times more calories than they actually had—and then, they consumed more calories than usual as a “reward” for exercising. Luckily, there are plenty of diet-friendly ways to motivate yourself to hit the gym, such as buying new workout gear or finding an exercise buddy.

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Focusing on the number on the scale


Progress isn’t always about shedding pounds. Instead of getting wrapped up in the number on the scale, Walters recommends focusing on how dieting and exercising make you feel. “Do you feel more confident? Stronger? Proud of yourself and your body?” she says. “Focusing on those wins can help you to not only improve the relationship with your body, but also develop a deeper motivation for being active.” Check out more unexpected ways to lose weight.

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Drinking your calories


Dieters, beware! Those smoothies aren’t as effective at whittling your middle as you might think. Not only do they contain high amounts of sugar, but they can also leave you feeling less full. As a result, you’ll be reaching for more food in a matter of minutes, Zeitlin says. Pro tip: Lower the smoothie’s sugar content by ditching added sweeteners, and limit your intake to a small snack rather than a full meal. Learn how mindful eating can help you lose weight.

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Having an “all or nothing” mindset


Don’t let one small slip-up derail your entire weight-loss plan. A plate full of fruits and veggies is ideal, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you eat a bag of chips sometimes. After all, long-term weight loss is all about leading a balanced, sustainable lifestyle. “It’s not all or nothing,” Bazilian says. “It’s a continuum where you make efforts to focus on quality every instance you can.” Get started by trying these 6 simple morning habits to lose weight.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest