10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Following a Dietary Plan

For many, dieting is simply seen as “eating less and moving more.” But if your favorite jeans don't fit you, the scale seems stuck, or your weight decreases just to recover, there's a chance you're making one of these 10 weight-loss mistakes. Determined to lose 10 pounds quickly, you resort to an intensive diet. Maybe your plan doesn't require anything more than grapefruit or cabbage soup every day. You reduced your daily calories to less than 1,000 and, of course, the pounds are fading.

But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down. After the diet is over, your body burns calories more slowly and you usually regain weight. Skipping breakfast seems like an easy way to cut calories, but it can make you hungry for the rest of the day. This can lead to eating unplanned snacks at work and eating a huge portion at lunch, causing the calorie count to skyrocket. However, breakfasts that are high in protein and fiber can reduce hunger throughout the day.

In fact, studies show that people who eat breakfast every morning are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what's in our beverages. This is a big mistake when you consider that some luxurious coffees and alcoholic beverages have more than 500 calories. Even the calories in fruit juices and soft drinks can add up quickly. Self-service is handy after a busy day, and you can always order the salad or another healthier option. But once there, can you resist that milkshake or other treat? And if you ever allow yourself the ease of fast food, it could become a habit.

According to a long-term study, people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 pounds more than those who ate it less than once a week. Telling yourself that you'll lose 20 pounds in your first week is probably setting you up for failure. If you know that you won't be able to do it, you may never start your diet from the beginning. If you're dieting and losing 5 pounds in a week, instead of celebrating it, you might feel discouraged that you haven't reached your goal. A realistic goal is vital to a successful diet.

If you're not sure what your goal should be, talk to a dietitian. The most common mistake people make when changing their dietary habits is taking an approach that is too extreme. People often try to eliminate entire food groups, follow strict or inflexible dietary rules, and address many changes at once. Many popular fad diets require people to eliminate entire food groups, such as dairy, cereal, or meat. The problem with these plans is that they're too restrictive and can cause people to get bored or lose motivation, and even give in to unhealthy cravings. In addition, eliminating major food groups can lead to some nutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of fiber, protein, or calcium.

Unless you have a real food allergy, be wary of eating plans that require you to abandon important food groups. The World Health Organization's draft sugar guideline suggests that we need to dramatically reduce “free sugars” in our diets. And it's certainly not uncommon to see products with labels such as “100% natural sugar”, “sugar-free” or “no added cane sugar”. If you do the math, reducing fat intake seems like a good shorthand way to reduce kilojoules—after all, fat provides 37 kJ per gram, compared to just 17 kJ for a gram of protein or carbohydrates. But is always choosing the low-fat option the best way to be healthy? There have been several public examples of people following a liquid diet. In his film Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, Australian Joe Cross changed his life and attitude towards nutritious foods by living on raw fruit and vegetable juices for 60 days.

For him, it was the start of a new positive relationship with healthy food—not a long-term solution. A study published in JAMA found that people who followed a high-fat diet lost more weight than those who consumed the same calories but followed a low-fat diet—indicating that not all calories are the same. People who overdo it with protein powders and portions of meat can end up piling on kilos—not losing weight. You may feel like you're doing everything right and that you haven't made any of these dietary mistakes—but you're not making progress toward your goals. A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who followed a severe low-calorie diet did not lose weight in the long term—thanks to the excessive production of cortisol—the stress hormone. Observational studies conducted on large groups of people suggest an association between eating more whole grains with reduced rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Even with your best intentions of eating healthy—you might be making dietary mistakes without even knowing it. Jim White RD ACSM and owner of Jim White Fitness says that when people reduce their carbohydrates too much—they can really sabotage their weight-loss efforts. Forgetting that feeling satisfied is an important part of eating is the third common mistake people make with their diet.

Some people are allergic to wheat and people with celiac disease should avoid all gluten—a protein found in several cereals. The common mistakes mentioned above tell you what to avoid when making dietary changes and provide helpful tips for refueling.