Dieting necessarily implies some form of restriction – normally starting with some sort of calorie suppression. The truth is, most dieters take the restriction a little too far – a combination of too few calories and too many foods on the forbidden list.
Ironically, the U.S. is the most diet-obsessed country in the world, yet we are also the most obese. The National Weight Control Registry reports that we spend a grand total of $20 billion a year on the diet industry (books, drugs, products, and surgeries), with approximately 108 million people on a diet in the U.S. at any given moment.
While there are a multitude of socioeconomic, technological, and environmental factors that contribute to this alarming rate, the truth is that when it comes to fat loss, we humans are fighting an uphill battle from the get-go. Our bodies were not designed to subsist on a food-deprived state. By embarking on crash diets, then, we fire up the biological and psychological mechanisms that protect against starvation and incline us, ultimately, to more weight gain.
Here are 4 big mistakes people make when dieting:
1. You don’t consume enough protein.
Of the three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats – protein is the most important when it comes to muscle retention while on a diet. Dietary protein also has a high effect on the thermic system, meaning the body expends a lot of energy breaking it down; thus, more calories burned.
When you diet, your body is already in a stage of caloric deficit. So, what happens when you add in insufficient protein amounts? You get a loss of lean body mass. This is the last thing you want to happen. Now all you have done is taken your unhealthy body and have made it smaller in mass; yet, with no better body fat percentage–which is the ultimate goal!
A general rule of thumb is to aim for your bodyweight in grams of protein a day. So, a person 150lb in body weight should be aiming for 150 grams of protein a day.
2. You focus on the numbers too much.
Stay off the scale! At least, don’t be on it every single morning. Stepping on the scale every single day is only going to demotivate you when you don’t see a change. Demotivation leads to tapering off your original plan and forgetting about the goal…which is to get BETTER every day, not necessarily to drop pounds every day! The chemical changes taking place in your body aren’t going to reveal themselves on the scale each and every time you step on it. KNOW you are doing the right things, and KNOW the changes will take place in due time…IF you are following the plan: eating right (see reason number 1), exercising, and moving!
3. You’re impatient.
Everybody wants results NOW. I see this all the time. People automatically give up if they haven’t seen significant changes in two weeks time. Did you go from a desirable body fat percentage to overweight in just two weeks? No? I didn’t think so! So, why would you expect optimal results in that short amount of time. Life doesn’t work that way.
Most people will give a diet program maybe five days – two weeks if they’re lucky – before they jump ship onto the next cool fad. From Atkins to Zone to Paleo, they can’t seem to make up their minds.
Next time you feel like you haven’t made progress, THINK about it. Is there a reason you may have not made progress? Do you really feel that way, or is it just because you stepped on the scale again and didn’t see desirable numbers? Either way, KEEP GOING.
4. No plan of action for after the diet is done.
A “diet” is just that…a diet. If it weren’t just a diet, someone would say they are “making a lifestyle change,” not “going on a diet.” The biggest mistake people make is being satisfied with where they have gotten, so they now think they can go right back to the potato chips, soda, and pizza. That’s what got you there in the first place, remember? What makes you think you won’t go right back?! You will!
The “diet” ultimately has to lead to some version of a lifestyle change, or you will be unsuccessful in the long run. Even if its that the diet was more hardcore, and the lifestyle change is a more laid back type of thing. Either way, you can’t go back to where you were before. Think of the diet as being a kick-starter to your lifestyle change. It gets you motivated, gives you something to follow, and gets you use to the new foods and lack of junk food that you will have to primarily abide by for life.
No one is saying you can’t cheat sometimes. What’s the fun in eating the same crap every single day. I’ll be the first to admit that I purposely slip up on a Saturday night. But, guess what? I go right back to the good stuff. The key is to not let it get out of hand. Do you have that kind of self-control? If you don’t, I would recommend not cheating at all for the first month or two. This may get you going at a faster clip from the beginning, anyhow, and should get you better and faster results.
Control what you can control. Nothing more, nothing less.
Move to the beat of your own drum.