When you want to lose weight, it’s important to be in the know about the right steps to take to get the scale moving in a favorable direction. It’s just as necessary to know what not to do. Sometimes, you may not even know the habits you’re following are veering you off track, because it doesn’t necessarily seem like there’s anything “wrong” with them. That’s why we consulted with Marissa West, CPT and nutrition specialist, founder of West Kept Secret, and Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, a nutritionist in private practice, and a member of our Medical Expert Board, who set the record straight by revealing the habits that destroy your weight loss efforts.
Obviously, everyone’s body is different and unique. What works for one person may not be the best course of attack for someone else. But there are some habits everyone should avoid at all costs if the goal is to shed unwanted body fat and make the number on the scale move down.
Don’t make things more difficult for yourself! Keep reading to learn what the experts have to say about the habits that destroy your weight loss efforts. And when you’re finished, be sure to check out You’ll Never Lose Weight if You’re Still Eating These 11 Things.
When you give your weight loss journey 100% of commitment and hard work, it can be quite the let-down not seeing physical results a few weeks in. This could be because you’re “bouncing around” to different workouts.
“Bouncing from workout to workout sounds great in theory, but can ultimately be the demise of losing weight consistently,” West explains. “A good rule of thumb is to give any workout program you are trying for one month to see if there are changes and progress happening. Progress doesn’t have to be losing weight immediately, it can be measured in other ways, such as completing more reps of a certain movement or doing a pushup on your toes versus your knees or running a faster mile time.”
Too much of anything is never a good thing—and healthy foods are not exceptions to the rule! Some healthy foods even come with a high calorie count, so practicing portion control is key.
“Although almonds and avocados are healthy superfoods, they are still calorie dense, so it’s possible to go overboard on your daily calories if you’re not sticking to a proper serving size of healthy snacks, especially those that come in a bag,” West says. “For example, if you are eating directly from a chip bag (even your healthiest option), it is easy to double and triple your serving size without realizing it. I always recommend clients review serving sizes of their snacks, then lay the snack out, and lastly put the bag away to avoid this from happening.”
Young agrees that “fats are still fats,” and points out that consuming too many healthy fats is an unhealthy habit. “Incorporating healthy fats into your diet is not only essential, but a good way to get in your macronutrients … [However,] consuming too many healthy fats can lead to weight gain because fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates,” she adds.
Next up on this list of seven habits that destroy your weight loss efforts is not getting sufficient rest. Good quality sleep is not something you should skimp on, because feeling fatigued on the regular is directly correlated to weight gain. “Studies have shown sleeping too little increases cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate-rich foods,” West says. “Sleep gives your body the proper time to recover, conserve energy, and repair the muscles workout during your workouts.”
It’s a smart habit to check in with yourself each morning to see how rested you actually feel, and make any necessary adjustments to your routine if necessary.
Sure, sipping wine when binge-watching reality TV is a fun pairing, but beware that alcohol can knock you off track of any fitness goal you’re working toward. “I hate to be a buzzkill, but drinking affects muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which reduces the possibility of gaining muscle, it disrupts sleep, and it causes dehydration, which all contribute to weight gain. When we consume alcohol, we derail the process of converting fat into energy and that fat is more likely to get stored in our cells instead,” West says.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol cold turkey, but drinking in moderation is the name of the game. At West Kept Secret, they promote “alcohol ranges.” For instance, if four glasses of wine are usually your go-to, lower those glasses to two to three the next time you head to a bar with friends. “And just like that, you have decreased your alcohol consumption by one drink (loosely 100 calories),” West says. “Working with ranges while consuming alcohol promotes fluidity during your consumption, avoids the feeling of ‘restriction,’ and helps foster a healthier relationship with alcohol.”
In addition, with every alcoholic beverage you sip, try to have a full glass of water right after. This will help flush out the toxins and hydrate your body.
In order to make weight loss a reality, establishing around a 500-calorie deficit daily is recommended. When you see you’re making progress, though, this calorie deficit number “can become obsessive,” West says. Don’t become too strict with counting calories. If you do, you won’t give your body the energy it requires to function properly. This can even activate “starvation mode,” where fat is stored rather than being burned.
“Instead of continuing to restrict more calories, simply add those 500 calories back into your diet, but make a conscious effort to ensure they are calorie-dense foods, which will be used as energy and not stored as fat,” West suggests.
Good old H2O is necessary to include in your weight loss journey. Not keeping your body properly hydrated can make you gain weight for a couple of reasons, Young explains. “The first being that water can help you feel full, reducing feelings of hunger,” she adds. “Research has shown that substantial water intake promoted a decline in body weight, body fat, and body mass index. Drinking enough water has also been shown to aid the body in removing waste. When the body doesn’t have enough water and is dehydrated, the kidneys retain fluid. Water helps to dilute the kidneys by filtering out toxins and other waste materials. Being dehydrated and fluid retention can ruin one’s chances of losing weight.”
Last but not least on this list of the worst habits that destroy your weight loss efforts? Dining out or ordering takeout too much. This is a common habit many of us are guilty of when juggling a busy schedule, scheduling a lot of social plans with friends, or feeling a tad lazy.
“When you dine out often, you are not in control of what is going into your food,” Young says. “You don’t know every single ingredient being used for the recipe, and you definitely do not know how much of each ingredient is being used. For example, a salad dish could be served with grilled chicken that was cooked in excessive oil.” When you’re in control of the ingredients going into your meals, you have a much better chance of losing weight.