What could be more frustrating than not seeing the scale drop despite days or weeks of seemingly doing everything right? After all that hard work— all the treats you avoided, all the willpower you maintained, all the time spent at the gym— how could you not have lost any weight?
Before you completely throw in the towel, remember that weight loss may seem simple (eat fewer calories than you burn), but often, there’s a lot more going on than a simple calorie equation.
What’s more likely is that you’ve made some innocent mistakes— but don’t feel bad about it, because it’s extremely common. Instead of giving up, make some of the small changes outlined below, and you’ll see your body change in no time!
1: Going on a “diet” in the first place
The word itself implies restriction, limitation and a short-lived effort to get some quick results and then return to a “normal” way of eating. Plus, diets usually mean giving things up: favorite foods, dining out, desserts— even your social life. You don’t have to be a psychology expert to know that when you tell yourself you can’t have something, you usually want it more. This way of thinking could directly be sabotaging your efforts.
Fix: Ditch the diets for good and focus on creating a healthy lifestyle based on nutritious foods and small, realistic changes that you can live with for the long term.
2: Overhauling your eating habits overnight
How many times have you gone crazy eating all the “bad” foods you know you shouldn’t, only to promise to swear them off starting next week or next month or next year? How often have you decided to suddenly clean out your kitchen, throw away all the “junk” and then shop for only healthy food?
How’s that working for you? No one can expect to change a lifetime of eating habits overnight— and no one should have to! To lose weight successfully and keep it off, you have to adopt a way of eating that you can stick with for the rest of your life.
Fix: Eating healthy isn’t about taking food away; it’s about eating MORE of the things that are good for you. To be successful, you have to implement small and realistic changes to your diet. Start small with changes that fit into your lifestyle.
3: Giving up certain foods altogether
A truly healthy diet that you can stick with forever will include all the foods you love. Unless you plan to give up ice cream or bread forever, then don’t cut anything out temporarily. Generally, people can give up foods like that for a while and see some weight-loss success (usually because they’re eating fewer calories, not because anything about that specific food causes weight problems). But as soon as that food is brought back into your life, the weight tends to come back with it.
Fix: All things in moderation. Instead of focusing on the foods you can’t have, set goals to eat more of the foods that you know are good for you. This is a much more positive way to think about your goals and get results. Plus, allowing yourself portion-controlled servings of the food you’re thinking about banning will keep you happy and content, but also prevent crazed binges that can occur when you’re feeling weak.
4: Focusing on the scale
Weight is an easy way to measure your progress, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Even if the scale isn’t budging, that does not mean that you’re not making major progress toward losing weight and getting healthier. You can lose inches, get fitter, gain lean muscle mass, drop body fat, become better hydrated, look better and feel more energized without the pounds budging at all.
Fix: Remember that the scale tells you only one thing: the total mass of all your body parts at a given moment. Don’t stress about it too much. Weigh yourself less frequently (about once every one to two weeks), and track all the other signs indicating that amazing changes are happening in your body, even if the scale doesn’t move. Things like how your clothes fit, your energy, your strength in the gym, etc. This is the best way to stay motivated for the long haul.
5: Unrealistic expectations
If you’re expecting to drop a lot of weight fast— and to do so consistently— these unrealistic expectations could be setting you up for failure. There’s nothing worse than expecting to lose 10 pounds in your first week, but to only lose one.
Fix: Change your expectations and your mindset. If you expect to lose one pound and you did, you feel successful and inspired to keep working toward your goals. Losing one to two pounds per week— even half a pound— is major progress that should be commended. This is a healthy and realistic rate of weight loss that you can expect if you’re sticking to your nutrition and fitness goals.