The Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
February 22, 2016
Young Woman With Healthy Food And Pills On Scales --- Image by © Blue Jean Images/Corbis

Dieting itself may be the biggest mistake of all.

At her heaviest, Andrea Liedtke, 63, weighed more than 250 pounds. Now down to about 140, she has tried countless diets and comes to some main conclusions. 

“The biggest (weight loss) mistake I ever made was going on plans that require you eliminate entire categories of food,” says the Wheaton, Ill., resident. “You know, the carbs diet, where you could have mass quantities of meat and cheese but you couldn’t have carrots. Carrots are not what made me fat.” 

“Diets that are nothing but mass quantities of vegetables make it impossible to get enough protein,” she adds. 


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“I never went on one that had prepared foods, but common sense tells you that unless you’re willing to eat out of a box the rest of your life, you going to have to join the real world. And you haven’t learned anything.”

Dieting itself also is a mistake, she believes, because the concept (in one’s mind) involves a beginning and an end, “and then you can go back to your old eating habits.”

What’s worked for her is everything in moderation – a well-balanced diet that deemphasizes saturated fats and sugars, and concentrates on proteins, good carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables.

Sherry Pagoto, PhD, has her own list of common weight-loss mistakes you can make. Those include underestimating the effort it takes, not prioritizing it, bashing yourself for any failure to lose weight, eating out of stress, vastly underestimating intake, and skipping meals. 

“I would love to play piano and speak Italian, however I admit that I have not put in what I know is the hard work necessary because I have prioritized other things above these wants,” says Pagoto in Psychology Today. “The end result is that I cannot do either. It takes more than wanting something to making it happen, it takes prioritizing.”


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Successful weight loss also requires a “keen awareness” of what it takes to lose weight, or how much effort it takes to impact energy balance, adds Pagoto, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School with expertise in weight management.

She agrees with Liedtke that a common mistake is being lured into fad diets that emphasize losing weight quickly. All this does is tell your body to conserve energy and increase appetite. It’s likely that whatever you lose you’ll gain back, and then some. 

Florida-based dietitian Jamie Mass tells U.S. News & World Report that weight loss has to come with a full awareness of what your body is telling you. You can't, in other words, just drop calories and expect a new body. 

“We are always trying to dictate and tell our bodies what they need to eat more or less of, or that we couldn’t possibly be hungry – we just ate two hours ago,” he says. “Maybe your body really is hungry, or maybe you are just bored or stressed. Ignoring your body leads to disaster. It took me years to learn this for myself and it is truly invaluable to my health.”

Another expert tells U.S. News there’s an important behavioral component to weight loss as well. You can’t just decide on the spot to lose weight without understanding why you want to and what it’s important. 

“I believe successful weight loss starts with getting your mind right,” says exercise physiologist Greg Justice of Kansas City, Kan. “You’ve got to establish the ‘why’ before moving to the ‘what’ and ‘how.’ If your ‘why’ or motivation behind the weight loss is strong enough, you'll find the ‘what’ (weight loss) and ‘how’ (the method you choose) will be successful. 

“That being said, I believe the most common mistake people make is their lack of commitment to the process. Their ‘why’ isn't strong enough.” 


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April 09, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA