The decades-long journey that led me to become the fitness, nutrition, and weight-loss expert (and healthy, happy human being) I am today was just that: a journey.
For years, I searched for the next quick-fix diet or miracle workout. I tried just about every hokey weight-loss trick in the book. But it wasn’t until I made balanced, sustainable lifestyle changes that I lost the weight, got strong, and started feeling like the woman I was meant to be.
Still, plenty of the women I work with today are tempted by the same mistakes and fads that tempted me. These are the five weight-loss mistakes I see most often.
Mistake #1: Juicing
With new brands continuing to pop up on grocery store shelves across the country, juicing is clearly still hot. But although juicing has been advertised as a weight-loss tool, I assure you, it’s not.
Sure, if you shun solid foods and drink all of your calories, you likely will lose some weight. However, you’ll likely incredibly cranky and low on energy—and that weight loss won’t last.
When you juice fruits and veggies, you take out all of the tummy-filling fiber that helps keep you full and satisfied. Plus, you concentrate all of the sugar! Even just eight ounces of OJ contains more than 20 grams of sugar. If you’re guzzling fruit-based juices all day, you could take in more than 100 grams of sugar.
Not to mention, juice doesn’t contain protein. On a juice cleanse, you’ll fall far short on protein and potentially lose muscle mass as a result. (More on that later.)
Related: 9 Ways To Up Your Protein Intake
If you haven’t been eating enough solid fruits and veggies, juice can be a delicious way to get in some vitamins and minerals. However, they should be a carefully limited addition to your healthy eating plan, not your entire eating plan.
Mistake #2: Expecting Weight Loss To Be Linear
Many women I work with have a ‘good’ first week and calculate how quickly they’ll reach their goals based on that.
Thing is, weight loss is a delicate dance of many different factors. At first, extra motivation and water weight contribute to fast success. As time goes on, though, motivation to stick to the plan 100 percent can slip and weight loss often slows.
By looking ahead and projecting their expected progress, women set themselves up for disappointment. Their thinking becomes, well, since I’m not reaching my goals, I’ll just throw in the towel and have the cookies, and they sabotage their progress.
Remember: While anyone can go will power crazy or follow a strict eating plan for a short period of time, long-term success requires changing the core of your behaviors. Learning to understand what hunger truly feels like, eat more mindfully, and prep and pack lunch for work takes time, patience, and dedication!
My advice: Make a commitment not to project or plan your future progress. Focusing on the current moment helps you appreciate the progress you’ve already made and become more aware of the behaviors that need more work.
Mistake #3: Not Sleeping Enough
Aside from eating well and exercising, one of the greatest things you can do for your weight loss is to go to bed.
Sleep governs many of the hormones that govern hunger and cravings (like ghrelin and leptin), as well as insulin, which regulates our blood sugar. In fact, research shows that when you don’t sleep enough, you have higher levels of those hunger hormones and decreased sensitivity to insulin the next day. Plus, you’ll likely eat more to try to boost your low energy.
On another note, your body recovers from exercise while you sleep. So if shaping up is a part of your weight-loss plan, you have to make sleep a priority.
Set aside seven to eight hours a day (no exceptions!) to get some shut-eye. Turn off electronics and dim the lights and hour or two before getting into bed, and try a natural supplement like melatonin or magnesium if you have trouble drifting off.
Mistake #4: Too Many BLTs
‘BLTs’ are what I call the unaccounted for Bites, Licks and Tastes you take throughout the day but don’t think much about.
It seems harmless to have a few licks of your child’s ice cream cone or a couple sips of your boyfriend’s beer, but mindless munching can really add up. Here’s how I prove it to my clients: For one week, I ask them to carry around a small plastic bag filled with little slips of paper. Each time they’re tempted to take a BLT, they write down the food and estimated calories. At the end of the week, they add up the calories. Most have at least several hundred written down!
Not only does this make people more aware of how often they reach for extra food, but it also drives home how many extra calories they consume in doing so.
Try this exercise for yourself and add up the approximate calories on your slips of paper at the end of the week. Are you surprised by how much those little bites, licks, and tastes add up to? How do those extra calories fit into your larger plan? Could they be standing in the way of your success?
Something else to consider: Had these BLT foods not magically appeared in front of you, would you have chosen to eat them? Probably not. So why are you so tempted by them? Well, perhaps you’re not satisfied with the meals you are choosing to eat. By making sure you truly enjoy the foods in your meal plan and feel nourished, you eliminate the appeal of those BLTs.
Mistake #5: Forgoing Strength Training
So many women are still guilty of only doing cardio exercise—and it’s true self-sabotage! Why? If you’re watching what you eat and doing lots of cardio, but aren’t strength training, chances are you’re losing muscle.
When it comes to weight loss (and general health), muscle is precious. Because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, building muscle boosts your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can consume while still losing or maintaining your weight. Lose muscle, though, and you’ll have to eat fewer and fewer calories. Not ideal if you want to get lean for good!
Not to mention, muscle makes doing daily tasks easier, transforms your physique, and does wonders for confidence.
Though some women still fear that strength training will make them ‘bulky,’ remember: Women just don’t have the hormones necessary to radically increase muscle size that men have. End of story.
We naturally lose muscle as we get older, making strength training even more important for our weight and our health as we age. The same goes for women who have had children, since pregnancy often accelerates muscle loss.
Ultimately, I believe that building and maintaining muscle is the most important thing you can do to shed fat and keep it off. Start slowly with two to three sessions of bodyweight exercises per week and add resistance as you get stronger.
Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on.