I say dieting, because that is exactly what I did in the beginning. I bought into every fad diet there was and I thought that losing weight meant I had to punish myself and be unhappy along throughout the whole process. I have said it before, but the moment I stopped “dieting” was the moment I actually started losing weight. All of the things I have written here were all the things I did wrong before I actually started losing weight. When I did really commit to losing weight and changing my lifestyle forever, I did it in a much healthier way (which I have written a lot about) and it worked.
In the beginning, I saw it as there was an end date. Something I was aiming towards. Of course it is fine to have goals to work towards, but the moment you think there is a time you can then stop, and go back to how you were before, is the moment you will begin to fail. It isn’t a diet, it is a lifestyle. This is how you will be living your life from now – working out and eating better, but still allowing yourself some of the foods you like, in moderation. Do you really think you can never ever eat chocolate ever again? Or never have a slice of pizza? If you really think that, then that is what works for you, but it doesn’t work for the majority of us. Restricting yourself completely in the beginning will not help you in the long run.
When I first started losing weight, I made many, many mistakes along the way. I suppose mistakes is the wrong word, as I don’t really believe in mistakes. I learned from them, and that is what matter. I know that I got to my goal weight in the end, but I was more unhappy along the way than I needed to be and I damaged my body at the same time. If I hadn’t have made some of these mistakes, I think I would look better, or at least be happier with the way I look, than I do now. But, like I always say, I am healthy and that is the main thing. I am putting all of these things here, because if someone else doesn’t have to make the same mistakes that I did, then writing all of this will have been worth it.
Mistake #1: Seeing it as a diet – As I mentioned above, simply thinking of it as a diet is damaging enough. You are always working towards that end date. There is no end date. If you go back to eating the way you did before, then you will go straight back to looking and feeling as you did before. I use the word diet quite often, but it refers to the foods I eat, as in “my diet”. It doesn’t refer to a restrictive plan that I am on. As soon as you realise that this is it, this is your new lifestyle, the easier it will be for you to stick to it.
Mistake #2: Not eating enough – In the beginning, I was one of the many people that thought the less I ate, the more I would lose weight. Well, this works in the short term, but in the long term; it does a lot of damage to your body and your metabolism. This is exactly what happened to me. I restricted my calories each day, to well below what is healthy, in a bid to lose weight. Because it was so restrictive, I gave up fairly easily and ate a LOT of the things I felt like I had been missing out on. This led into a vicious cycle of eating. You will end up sabotaging it, bingeing and ultimately giving up. You don’t have to eat LESS, you just have to eat RIGHT. Trust me, I know how difficult it is to believe that you need to eat a good amount of food to lose weight, but it really is true. Restricting your calories too much will make your body think that it is being starved (which technically it is). When you do eat something, your body will not be sure when it is next getting fed, so it will store all of that food, which is more damaging to you. There is a lot more science behind it, but that is the easiest way to explain it. The amount of calories you need each day varies from person to person. It depends on your weight and your activity level. Use this calorie counter to work out your personal needs.
Unfortunately, I didn’t follow this at the beginning. I didn’t even know this calculation existed. I kept my calories too low as I was always seeing in magazines how celebrities were losing weight by eating under 1000 calories a day (to what damage though?) and it stalled my metabolism, and it even affects me now. Now when I put on weight, after I have been on holiday, or maybe too much indulging at Christmas, it is SO much harder for me to lose those extra lbs, because my body is used to losing weight by being very restricted. If I had done it in a healthier way all along, this would not be the case.
Mistake # 3: Skkipping meals - The worst offenders of this are those that skip breakfast. You think that by skipping that first meal of the day, you will save yourself some calories and therefore lose a little bit more of weight. WRONG! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a breakfast that includes both carbohydrates and protein can actually help you lose weight, or maintain your weight. Skipping breakfast does not make up for the day before of eating pizza and chocolate. Wake up and have a good breakfast and get on with your day of making good food choices. I would recommend starting your day with scrambled egg on wheat toast and a cup of green tea.
Mistake #4: Cutting out whole food groups – Yes, yes, I did this too. At one point, I severely restricted my carbs - to the point where I only ate carbs from fruit and vegetables. I didn’t eat any pasta, potatoes, rice, or any of those other carbohydrates that I loved. This meant I had no energy and could not work out, yet I was still trying to work out. Not only did it make me feel awful, but telling yourself that you can’t have a food just makes you want it more. Telling myself that I COULDN’T have potatoes, and that chocolate was FORBIDDEN, just meant that everyone I came into contact with just looked like a giant potato and every advert on TV seemed to be about chocolate. Seeing these “banned” foods just made me crave them more and in the end, I caved and binged on them. If I had done the sensible thing, and worked them into my plan in moderation, then I would have been able to have a little bit of them, and still kept on track. Restricting yourself this much by banning foods will not end well, unless this is something you need to do for a medical reason – but let a doctor decide that, don’t decide it yourself. If you include those foods that you think you should forbid (in moderation of course), not only will you feel satisfied, but you will still lose weight, as you will not end up binging. This has worked for me, when I finally learned the lesson. I wish I had of learned it much earlier on. Even if by eating these foods you think you should cut out, means that it will take a little bit longer to lose weight than you had expected, you will be much healthier for it, as you won’t end up bingeing. It is a cliché, but slow and steady really does win the race.
Mistake #5: Not measuring my food - I know it is a hassle to be constantly attached to your scale when you are in the kitchen, but in the beginning, this will really help you. Knowing how much a portion of each food is, and being able to see the visual of that will help you realise when you are over eating. It’s not even the portion sizes of just treat foods that are important, but even healthy foods such as chicken breast and brown rice should be portioned, as too much of anything is bad for you if you are trying to lose weight and you are not burning it off. When I started portioning my food, I realised that I was eating far too much brown rice in one sitting. Any extra calories, no matter where they are coming from, could cause weight gain. Of course you are going to go over your portion size and calories allowance every now and again, but as a general day to day rule, keep your portions in check and weigh and measure your food.
Mistake #6: Eating whatever I want after my workout – Just because you have worked really hard, whether over a whole week or a really tough workout, does not mean that you can just sabotage it by eating whatever you like because you feel you have earned it. Yes, you have worked hard. But you have worked hard for your health, not to justify a slab of chocolate. Weight loss is all about calories in vs calories out. If you burn off a load of calories in an attempt to lose weight, eating them all back as soon as you get out of the gym is not going to do you any good. So, don’t come out of the gym and have a high sugar sports drink or a heavy meal. Drink some water and have a few nuts and banana to re-fuel. Although saying that, if having a meal after your workout works for you, then do that, but getting a greasy takeaway after the gym – how would that make you feel?
Mistake #7 : Thinking I could eat whatever I wanted at the weekends – this is a classic case of food as a reward. I would wake up on Monday morning feeling amazing, like I had a fresh start. I would start off so well, eating clean and getting my exercises in. Come Wednesday, I would start to feel the pressure to give in, but there was only a couple more days to go until the weekend, so I would push through. Come Friday night, I would feel so pleased with myself. Proud that I had got through the whole week being so “good”. Surely that deserved some kind of a reward. I could take the weekend off and eat and drink whatever I wanted. Again, this is wrong. Just because you have time off work, does not mean you should have time off from looking after your body. The best thing you can do, is try to keep to the same schedule as much as possible. Enjoy a little bit of a lay-in, but if you normally do a workout before work during the week, then still do your workout when you wake up on a Saturday. Remember to take a rest day too though. Time off from work should not mean total time off from eating well though. Of course, as I always say, you should still allow yourself some of the meals you want, like a burger, or a bit of chocolate, but work them into your plan. If they are included in that plan, then it is not classed as “time off” and you are less likely to fall into a binge. Planning for these meals will help you keep on track.
Think of it this way, the weekends make up for more than a ¼ of the month. Taking that amount of time “off” in the month can really slow you down on reaching your goal. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of the things you want on the weekend. If the weekend is the time you choose to have a couple of glasses of wine, or a burger, then so be it. But don’t think that you can eat and drink whatever you like, just because you have worked so hard during the week. See it as you have worked so hard during the week, so you don’t want to sabotage all of that. Instead of seeing the weekend as extra time to eat the things you crave, see it as extra time you can fit in a workout and plan and prepare your food for the week ahead. It is all about changing the way you see things. I used to see the weekends as a time to binge, but I now see them as a time to plan and workout out. Finishing the week the way I started it leaves me feeling amazing and even more ready for the week ahead. Here are my tips for staying on track at the weekend.
Mistake #8: Not planning my meals and over snacking – If you don’t plan your meals, then it is easier to go off track and think you don’t have anything to make a healthy meal and you will end up ordering a takeaway. I know planning meals doesn’t work for everyone, and there are many people who have successfully lost weight by not planning any meals, but I am writing what has worked for me. Also, planning your meals throughout the week, and throughout the day will mean that you won’t end up mindlessly snacking and going over your calorie allowance because of it – if you are calorie counting that is. It is easy to just keep picking as things throughout the day and not really knowing how much you are eating.
You will hear me talk a lot about eating smaller meals throughout the day, but this does not mean just grazing. It means eating nutritionally balanced meals, but just smaller portions spread out throughout the day – that is what I have found works best for me. If you were to have a bite of a cookie, a small slice of cake, a small bit of burger and a few fries throughout the day and not really track them, that would soon add up and take you off track.
Mistake#9: Eating late at night – It is not the time of day you are eating that is the problem, it is the extra eating. If, like me, you know that you always get hungry late at night, then make allowances for that. Plan an extra small meal for that time, by eating less throughout the rest of the day. If you eat your usual meals throughout the day and then give in to those late night cravings, then you are going to be eating more than you should. Those late night snacks can add up to the same amount of calories as your dinner. If you plan for a small snack at night, then you won’t go off plan. If might also help you to try and make sure that you are eating enough during the day to stop this late night snacking. But, I have tried this, and I still always get hungry late at night, that is just something I have to deal with. So, I make good choices. I have a piece of fruit, or some nuts to tide me over until breakfast.
Mistake #10: Becoming complacent – the closer I got to my goal, the more complacent I got about it. In reality, this is when I should have become more dedicated, as the closer I got, the harder it became. The more complacent you become, the easier it becomes to let those extra calories slide. It is so easy to be enthusiastic in the beginning, and plan all of your meals and workouts and track everything, but as time goes on, that novelty wears off. You need to keep reminding yourself of why you are doing this and keep yourself on track! Have a non-food reward to aim towards when you reach a new goal. Maybe buy yourself a new pair of shoes when you lose another 10lbs or workout out for 4 weeks in a row. Just don’t lose the enthusiasm you had in the beginning, as that is what made you have a great start.
Mistake #11: Not getting enough sleep – This might seem like a strange concept, because surely if you sleep less then you have more time to work out. But sleep can actually help you lose weight/maintain your weight loss. You might not feel like you are getting much out of your night-time sleep, but your body is repairing itself. You should aim for between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night – I know that is easier said than done though with busy schedules.
Mistake #12: Doing exercise just for the sake of it – In the beginning, I worked out because that is what I thought I should be doing to lose weight. Whilst that is right in that fact that it is burning calories, if you are not enjoying your workout, then it won’t do you any good as your will most likely have bad form and you will give up soon out of boredom. I was doing exercises that I was not enjoying, which meant that I soon gave them up. It took some time for me to work out the exercises that I liked, but once I figured them out, I enjoyed exercising, which made burning off those extra calories that much easier. Look for some free online exercises, try a new gym, get a workout buddy and try a new exercise class. You WILL find something that suits you!
Mistake #13: Yo-yoing – I would lose weight, feel good about myself and then quickly slip back into my old habits of bad eating. Once I realised I had put on weight again, I would “detox” myself to lose weight again, this led to yo-yoing. The “secret” is, just stick to it. There is no on and off switch, the switch should always be on!
Mistake #14: Drinking my calories – this goes for alcohol, coke, Starbucks or “healthy smoothies”. You might be religiously tracking the food you eat, but if your forget those lattes, the glass of wine with dinner and that can of coke with lunch, it can quickly add up. When I first started losing weight, I stopped drinking alcohol. It really helped me, as for me, alcohol was not the main problem; it was the food I ate when I was drunk. The only problem was, as I normally drank whilst socialising, I swapped meeting at a bar with meeting in Starbucks. I was ordering hot chocolates or sugar filled lattes, and in reality, I would have been just as worse off having an alcoholic drink. It was only when I looked into it, did I realise how many liquid calories I was consuming.
I was trying to fill myself up on these drinks so I would eat less, but in reality, I was still hungry after them, so I was eating on top of these liquid calories, so I was having twice as much.
Also, in a bid to get my water intake up, I was drinking a lot of orange drinks that were full or artificial sweeteners - YUK.
You should try to drink more water and less high calories coffee drinks and soda. Water will keep you hydrated and won’t waste any calories in the process. I do still enjoy the occasional Starbucks though :)
It took me a while to realise all of these things and I certainly learned a lot in the process. But, as they say, mistakes are proof that you are trying. Never a mistake, but always a lesson learned.