Common Weight Loss Mistakes

Have you tried everything you can think of and still aren’t able to lose those pesky pounds?

Or, you’ve lost weight successfully in the past, but just can’t seem to keep it off in the long term? Having helped hundreds of clients reach their body composition goals over the years, I’ve truly seen it all when it comes to common weight loss mistakes!

By far the most common weight loss mistake I see is failure to eat in a calorie deficit for as long as is needed to reach the goal weight. In order to lose body fat, we must burn more calories than we consume throughout the day. Eating in a calorie deficit can be very challenging and requires consistency, self-discipline, planning, and patience. Not everyone who decides to embark on a weight loss journey is ready to put the time, effort, and energy into what it really takes!

It’s possible to go “off plan” here and there and still see results, however, these indulgences need to be well-controlled and accounted for in the larger scheme in order to keep moving toward your goal. Say your target calorie deficit is 1,600 calories and you do great meeting it Monday through Friday, but then on Saturday and Sunday your intake is closer to 2,100 calories. Even just those two days would bring your whole seven-day average up to about 1,750 calories, and that may no longer be within your deficit range.

A food tracking app such as MyFitnessPal can be very helpful with this. Proactively tracking in advance helps you fit higher calorie days into your week and make adjustments so you still wind up in an overall deficit. It also helps you plan less healthy, calorie-dense foods into your day to still keep on track with your targets. The big kicker is, we have to be willing to put in this work!

Another common weight loss mistake is under eating protein.

Sufficient protein intake is essential not only for appetite regulation and keeping cravings at bay, but also for ensuring we have optimal levels of lean muscle mass. Muscle is a highly metabolically active tissue. Even if you can’t see it, it’s always twitching, contracting, and moving. This is why, the more muscle mass we have on our body, the more calories we burn (even at rest!). When helping clients increase their total daily protein intake, not only do they report a marked improvement in energy levels, but they also notice an impressive shift in satiety, feeling much less dependent on food and hooked on constant snacking throughout the day.

Similarly to eating enough protein to support optimal lean muscle mass, strength training is another important part of the fat loss process. Strength training, also referred to as resistance training or weight training, is any form of physical activity that requires our muscles to oppose an external force. It can be performed through body weight exercises like air squats or planks, or weight lifting with equipment like dumbbells and/or a squat rack. People tend to underestimate the importance of muscle’s role in adiposity, however, even just three days per week of strength training can significantly improve weight loss outcomes. 

Speaking of exercise!

It’s important to realize that even if we’re keeping on track with workouts, we still need to make sure we’re moving our body periodically throughout the entire day to aid in body fat loss. Say you work out for one hour – that’s only about four percent of the entire day. We can’t expect to move for four percent of the day and then remain sedentary for the rest and still see results. Exercise is immensely important, but it doesn’t check the whole box for all of our daily movement. Try making a point to get up every 90 minutes and stretch, go for a walk, or, if you work from home, work on some chores around the house.

One way in which prioritizing regular daily movement and hitting your walking goals aids in fat loss is by improving blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity. Any time we ingest carbohydrates from our food, our body breaks them down into glucose, AKA, blood sugar. In response to rising blood sugar after a meal, our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the sugar in our bloodstream to enter our cells and subsequently be used for energy, or stored in muscle tissue or as fat for later use. You can think of insulin like the key that unlocks the door of cells to let glucose in.

While this process is essential for nearly all bodily functions, too much insulin can become problematic. When insulin is elevated in the bloodstream, our body is not able to prioritize fat burn. It’s important to give our body a sufficient break from eating between meals so that both blood sugar and insulin can come back down to baseline before stoking this process again. If we’re constantly grazing all day long without taking breaks, we’re constantly living in that zone where fat loss is compromised. In addition to optimizing meal spacing… walking, exercising, and any other form of movement helps improve our insulin response.

Earlier we talked about the “calories in, calories out” principle, by which we must burn more calories than we consume in order to lose body fat. Our calorie consumption, “calories in,”  is the simple part: what we put in our mouth equals calories consumed. However, the “calories out” side of the equation is much more complex. Just like with blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity, the amount of energy we burn throughout the day can be greatly affected by many additional factors, including thyroid function, hormone balance, and gut health.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of our neck.It functions to produce hormones that regulate our metabolism. These thyroid hormones play a key role in determining our body’s energy expenditure and metabolic rate. When thyroid hormone output is optimal, we’re much better able to maintain a healthy body weight and to lose weight successfully. However, when thyroid function is suboptimal, it can lead to weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight.

In particular, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is often associated with weight gain, as the body’s metabolism slows down. If you’ve been tracking your food intake and you’re certain that you’re maintaining a calorie deficit, you’re moving your body throughout the day, and you’re strength training three or more days per week, but you’re still not seeing any results from your fat loss efforts, it’s a good idea to have your thyroid checked.

It’s common for people to go to the doctor and ask to have their thyroid checked, and their doctor will only run TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and maybe T4. If these numbers fall within the reference range, they’re told everything is fine. However, just these two markers alone really do not give us the full picture of thyroid function! At Rachel Scheer Nutrition, we run a full thyroid panel on all of our clients in order to rule out any complications that could be putting a damper on not just body composition, but also energy, mood, and digestion.

Speaking of digestion!

Our gut health is another factor that plays a key role in fat loss. A healthy gut is important for proper digestion, absorption of nutrients, and the elimination of waste. Research continues to demonstrate a profound connection between gut health and weight management.

One way in which gut health can impact weight loss is through the role of the microbiome, or the community of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome has a massive influence on appetite and metabolism, and an imbalance in our gut microbes, referred to as dysbiosis, has been closely linked to obesity. In fact, just by examining the gut microbiome alone, we can determine whether someone is obese or not with 90 percent accuracy. Researchers have conducted experiments in which they’ve inoculated skinny mice with the gut microbes of obese mice and found this to cause the skinny mice to resultantly become obese. This same phenomenon occurs in humans. When gut bacteria is out of balance, we can extract more calories from the exact same amount of food as someone with a balanced microbiome.

Gut health can also impact weight loss through its role in digestion and nutrient absorption. When the gut is functioning properly, the body is able to extract the nutrients it needs from food and eliminate waste efficiently. However, when digestive function is suboptimal, nutrient absorption is compromised and we may wind up with deficiencies that hinder many weight loss-related processes downstream.

To support gut health, in a nutshell, it’s important that we eat an abundance and a wide variety of plants that contain fiber and polyphenols. We also need to consume probiotic-rich foods such as cultured yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. These compounds allow the healthy, probiotic organisms in the gastrointestinal tract to thrive, as well as aid in excreting waste.

As you can see, the process of weight loss poses many challenges when going about it on your own. At Rachel Scheer Nutrition, we strive to take the guesswork and troubleshooting out of the way for our clients and make the process as attainable and seamless as possible. 

Weight loss is a challenging process that requires a great deal of dedication, planning, patience, and consistency. On top of that, going about weight loss on your own without the help of a professional can lead to months, years, and even decades of trial and error and failed attempts that may ultimately wind up serving as more of a setback at the end of the day. At Rachel Scheer Nutrition, our Dietitians and Health Coaches have years of weight loss expertise, backed by Bachelor’s degrees in the field of dietetics, Master’s degrees in advanced nutrition, functional medicine certifications, and the experience of working with hundreds of clients from all different backgrounds. This allows us to take the painstaking time, guesswork and non-stop troubleshooting out of the equation, and skip right to the progress! If you’re ready to put the work in, we’re here to provide a customized and tactical action plan to finally get those results you deserve!

Click here to begin your journey with Rachel Scheer Nutrition. We are here to answer your questions and help you begin your journey to better health!

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