15 Things You Don’t Realize Are Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

You can sidetrack weight loss with deprivation, lifestyle choices, and your sleep habits. We asked nutrition experts to identify the most common obstacles to weight-loss success. Their advice can help you get back on track.

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Over-emphasizing health food

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Start with the fact that there are plenty of unhealthy foods that masquerade as healthy—like these 17. Although choosing healthy foods are the correct path, they can't be consumed without keeping portions in check. "My patients often report eating low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets full of healthful foods like quinoa, green leafy vegetables and berries, but they are eating too much of these foods," says Gillian Goddard, MD, an endocrinologist and certified nutrition support clinician in New York City. "What makes foods healthy is their nutrient content. This does not mean we can eat them in limitless quantities." For example, a half cup of quinoa has 111 calories. "Most people are eating two or three cups of quinoa in a sitting which can come in at 400-600 calories. That doesn't include, the nuts cheese and olive oil they are adding," adds Dr. Goddard.

Failing to understand cravings

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They're not easy to deal with—but give these seven craving-control strategies a shot. Julia Ross, author of the new book, The Craving Cure: Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control, says that when it comes to eating, the brain's directives are all-powerful. Unfortunately, she says, the brain is telling most of us to eat sweets, fried foods, and starchy pastas and breads. Instead she advises not to skip meals and to make better choices to ward off bad choices. "Increase your protein at each meal and include some red meat along with poultry and fish. This kind of dense protein, eaten regularly, is the most effective food for turning off cravings for sweet and starchy 'treats,'" Ross continues.

Treating weight loss as punishment

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Finding the willpower to shed pounds is tough enough—here are some ways to stay motivated to lose weight. If you consider your weight-loss efforts as punishment, you'll start to resent your diet—especially in social situations. "You're staring down the bread basket or considering dessert," says fitness instructor Jenna Bergen Southerland in an article in Prevention. Your thought process may be that everyone else is getting to eat those things, and you can't. Southerland says don't look at it as deprivation. "Food, in general, is certainly a necessity. But a brownie? So the next time this thought whispers across your brain, take a step back and ask yourself two questions. 1: Am I really depriving myself of a necessity? And 2: If I don't change my eating habits, what am I really depriving myself of? The answer: A healthier, happier life. Keep that in mind and you'll happily pass up the junk."

Not watching liquid calories

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And this is not just about soda—though here are 10 reasons you should cut out all soda, diet included. Even healthy drinks like fruit juice or smoothies have a ton of calories and sugar. When you're trying to lose weight these drinks can seem like a sensible tactic, but if you have too much it can seriously undermine your success, points out, Yvonne Sanders, U.S. head of operations, with Slimming World, an online weight-loss food optimization platform based in Dallas.

Not snacking strategically

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When people go more than three hours between meals they can become too hungry and then overeat whatever comes their way, explains Dafna Chazin, RDN, a dietitian at a weight loss practice in Voorhees, New Jersey. "Most people need two snacks in the afternoon hours, spaced out and protein-rich, to curb hunger and reduce impulsive eating." Some good snack choices include Greek yogurt, hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, fruit, and nuts, she says. Here are some additional great snack ideas to keep hunger away for hours.

Relying on calorie counting

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Many weight-loss experts still claim that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie—but that's flat out wrong. Just check out these side-by-side food-calorie comparisons if you're not convinced. "A 100-calorie pack of cookies is not going to provide the same nutritional value as something like a green smoothie," says Lindsey Smith, author of the forthcoming book, Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl's Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. "While the green smoothie may have more calories, it also has way more nutrients that can help your body lose weight, keep it off, and feel mentally and physically healthy."

Cutting out fat

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Saying fat will make you fat is so 1990s, quips Smith. "You need it to keep hunger away for hours, to think clearly, and to make good decisions and function throughout the day," Smith says. "Plus, most items that claim they are 'low-fat' are usually packed with sugar or other chemicals to make up for the flavor loss, and they can actually lead to more weight gain." She also advises to incorporate healthy choices such as avocados, coconut oil, fish, nuts and seeds. Here are 12 more so-called "healthy" habits you need to change.

Skipping meals

Meal-PlanProstock Sotudio /Shutterstock
"It's almost logical to think that if you skip meals or cut your food intake drastically, you'll cut out more calories over the course of the day, but it rarely works that way," says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND, director, worldwide nutrition education and training Herbalife Nutrition in Los Angeles. "Skipping meals and cutting back invariably leads to uncontrollable hunger and overeating."

Instead, she advises to plan out how you can distribute your daily calories over three meals and one or two snacks. "It's easier to practice portion control when you know you'll be eating every few hours, and you'll help to break the 'starve-then-binge' habit," Bowerman says.

Rewarding exercise with food

ExerciseDean Robot /Shutterstock
Many people fool themselves into thinking they've burned off a lot more calories during exercise than they actually have, and they use that as an excuse to indulge, Bowerman says. "Be aware of how many calories you actually burn when you exercise (you can find lots of resources online), and compare that to the calories you're tempted to take in afterwards." Also, keep a log of the type of exercise you do and the amount of time you spend doing it. This journaling can keep track of what you're taking in and what you're burning.

Negative self-talk

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Don't be so hard on yourself, Bowerman says. "If you think you should be perfect—that you'll always exercise every morning or never eat another piece of candy—you're setting the bar awfully high," she says. The fix here is to practice positive self-talk. "Offer the same support to yourself as you would to a friend. You wouldn't tell your friend who's struggling with his weight, 'You just don't have the willpower. I guess you'll just be fat for the rest of your life.' So, why do you say that to yourself?" Try these nine tricks for making your conversation with yourself more upbeat.

Practice talking nicely to yourself. Says Bowerman: "Offer yourself support. Instead of 'This is too hard' Think to yourself, 'I can do this.'"

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