Common Weight Loss Mistakes And The Science Behind Them

Losing weight is strenuous in itself. But when you’re working to shed pounds and still seeing no results, that can become frustrating enough to quit. Your diet could stumble on some common mistakes that can be easily fixed. Eating a little more protein can make your diet feel a lot better, as can the right kind of exercises that scientists have determined as best for reducing fat. Learn some of the most common weight loss techniques and the science behind them. Take these tips to help make your weight loss journey a success.

Everyone knows to eat fewer calories, but few people understand how many they’re eating.

Don’t Always Trust The Scale


Our weight fluctuates throughout the day, even increasing or decreasing by five pounds depending on when you use the scale. “If you notice a dramatic increase on the scale, chances are it’s due to water,” says Dr. Anita Petruzzelli, M.D. of BodyLogicMD. Weight loss takes time, and stepping on the scale at the wrong time of day can give you a false impression of where you’re at.

Body weight naturally increases due to constipation, food intake, water, weather, hormone changes, and amount of salt you eat. One researcher explains that body weight especially increases in summer due to a hormone that conserves water.

Are You Eating More Calories Than You Thought?

First Day Of Ramadhan In Yogyakarta 2019.
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To lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we’re consuming. But a study in 1992 and later in 2013 determined that most people underestimate the number of calories they eat per day. The New England Journal of Medicine outlined that ten people claimed not to lose weight while eating 1,200 calories a day, when in fact they were eating closer to 2,000.

Double-check your portion sizes, as this is where most people mistake their calorie intake. High-calorie food such as nuts and cheese require smaller servings.

Yes, you can work too hard while dieting–and you’ll feel the backlash.

Don’t Eat Too Few Calories

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The amount of calories required to lose weight varies for every person, according to research published in the International Journal of Obesity. However, eating too few calories leads to muscle loss and slower metabolism, prompting the body to cling to fat resources. In short, low-calorie diets are counterproductive.

A 2006 study published in the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine magazine compared the results of a 1,462 calorie diet to a 1,114 calorie diet and found that the latter resulted in a slower metabolism. Doctors advise people to never eat fewer than 1,000 calories a day, though some can eat under 1,200.

Be Careful Not To Over-Exercise

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Exercising retains muscle, speeds up fat loss and quickens your metabolism. But studies demonstrate that working out too much will damage the weight loss journey. Two studies from 2013 to 2016 confirm that over-training increases your stress, and depletes adrenal hormones that regulate negative emotions.

“Overtraining can be a part of healthy training, if only done for a short period of time,” researchers clarify in the Journal of Novel Physiotherapies. “Chronic overtraining is what leads to serious health problems, including adrenal insufficiency.” Working out too often or too vigorously leads to long-term health problems and is not sustainable.

Which gym equipment should you hop on to lose pounds? Stay tuned to find out.

Lifting Weights Improves Weight Loss

A man is seen exercising at the Kachalka outdoor scrapyard gym in Kyiv, Ukraine
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At least four studies have illustrated that resistance training, which includes squatting and weight lifting, significantly affect weight loss. Researchers for the International Journal of Cardiology support that weight training leads to increased metabolism, lower belly fat, and strengthened muscle mass.

A review of 15 studies that examined over 700 people suggested that the best exercise formula for weight loss combines aerobic exercise with resistance training. Besides weight lifting, you can fulfill resistance training through planking, squats, wall sits, and arm raises.

Hit The Treadmill To Lose Belly Fat

A woman runs on a treadmill in Cologne, Germany
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Aerobic exercises, such as running and walking, reduce belly fat. A study published in Obesity Review found that aerobic exercise is “central” for reducing visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which is fat tissue located deep in the abdomen around internal organs.

Spot exercises (losing fat in one spot specifically) have no scientific backing, but aerobic exercises have displayed fat reduction in waistline and belly through multiple studies. These workouts include jumping rope, lunges, stationary bike, swimming, kickboxing, and elliptical.

Increasing certain kinds of food will help you feel fuller for longer…

Are You Overestimating How Many Calories You Burn?

Close up of MAN V FAT football player stepping on the scales
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Most people believe that they’re shedding more calories during a workout than they actually are. In one 2010 study, sixteen men and women burned 200-300 cal during exercise sessions, but most believed they had burned over 800 cal.

If you mistake the number of calories you burn after a session, you may eat more later. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the number of calories burned over 30 minutes average as follows: running 270-350 cal; yoga 120-180 cal; weight lifting 90-133 cal; and bicycling 210-311 cal. All listed calories come from moderate intensity workouts.

Eat Enough Protein

Raw organic uncooked whole yellow corn mini chicken
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Eating enough protein supports weight loss in several different ways. A 2005 study reports that increasing dietary protein from 15% to 30% left participants feeling fuller for longer, making them eat 575 fewer calories per day. Researchers who published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that high-protein diets improve body weight management and heart health.

A 2013 research report in the European Journal of Nutrition recommends eating more protein for breakfast to reduce calorie intake throughout the day. High-protein foods include eggs, oats, meat, nuts, cheese, yogurt, whey protein supplements, beans, seeds, and fish.

And Eat Enough (Viscous) Fiber

aw chickpeas or Cicer arietinum grains (which are a legume)
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Fibers are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the body. A 1997 study in The Journal of Nutrition from Oxford recommends doubling your daily fiber intake to lower your daily calories up to 130 fewer per day. This mainly pertains to viscous fiber, a soluble fiber that passes through most of your gut unchanged until it finally dissolves into usable energy.

Because these fibers digest slowly, they lower sugar levels, increase metabolism, and keep us fuller for longer, according to several studies. You can consume viscous fiber through beans, flax seeds, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and oats.

Which foods will make you hungrier, and which fuller? Learn here.

Avoid Low-Fat “Diet” Foods

peanut butter protein bars

Processed low-fat or “diet” foods may list having low calories, but still weigh down the body with sugar. For instance, a diet yogurt may contain just over 200 cal, but also 47 grams of sugar (equivalent to 12 teaspoons).

Dr. Belinda Lennerz, an endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School, reminds us that foods like sugar will “trigger the cephalic food response,” which prompts your body to crave more food. So you may still feel hungry after eating this snack, which makes you eat more. Stick to whole, unprocessed foods to avoid this common mistake.

Low-Carb Diets Will Not Make You Hungrier

low carb meal

If you’re afraid of switching to a low-carb or ketogenic diet for fear of hunger, you’re not alone. Many people believe that it will leave them hungry. But according to several studies on ketogenic diets, it actually leaves them feeling fuller. Studies in 2005, 2007 2008, and 2015 all confirmed that eating lower carbs and higher proteins leave people feeling fuller.

Ketogenic diets involve replacing carbs with fat, but these need to be healthy fats that reduce blood sugar. Too much fat can maintain your weight and prevent you from dropping pounds.

Should you eat breakfast every single morning? The common misconception receives an answer.

Accurately Measure Serving Sizes


Portion size is the number of a single food added to the meal. Many confuse this term with serving size, which is the amount of foods measured for dietary guidance, such as by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most people overestimate what an accurate serving size contains. For instance, one study reports that most people could not tell the difference between dishes with varying portion sizes.

Serving sizes are measured by cup and ounce, so it’s best to use measuring cups to determine the proper serving size. You can find recommended serving sizes on the product’s nutrition label.

Don’t Eat Breakfast If You’re Not Hungry

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Breakfast can be an essential daily meal if you’re hungry for it. The recommendation to eat breakfast if you’re not hungry may be misguided, according to a 2013 study in physiology and a 2014 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Changing one’s breakfast habits made little to no difference in participants’ dietary health, both studies state.

The 2014 research recorded that those who skipped breakfast ate more for lunch, but consumed 408 cal less in the day overall. On the flip-side, letting yourself grow too hungry can cause poor food decisions, so it’s best to eat only when hungry.

When you’re real with yourself, you won’t want to give up so easily.

Are Your Expectations Realistic?

Davyd Bichinashvili of Germany reacts after he lost against Georgy Ketoev
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Scientists for Obesity Research examined 3,000 people aiming for weight loss over 12 months. By the end of the trial, 51% of people dropped out because they did not attain what they expected to achieve. “Unrealistic weight goals should be tackled at the very beginning of treatment,” the report claims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximate that healthy weight loss averages around 1-2 pounds per week, but even this may rely on vigorous exercise for some people. The CDC also asserts that losing 5-10% of body weight can improve your health dramatically.

Be Accountable–Track Your Meals And Exercise

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It’s unwise to count every calorie to the digit, but tracking your calories through a simpler method does encourage weight loss, science finds. The Weight Loss Maintenance trail (WLM) of 2008 found that participants who were required to self-report their workout times and meals made a more significant improvement over six months than those who did not.

A later trial in 2013 found that adding a biweekly coach or digital assistant to hold one accountable for weight loss significantly increased the diet’s effectiveness. If you want to keep yourself accountable, consider adopting a calorie or meal tracker.

Check out which food companies might be lying to you…

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Fruit smoothies are seen in display at the Expo Sweet in Warsaw, Poland
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A report in 2000 claims that liquids “elicit a weak compensatory dietary response.” This means that the brain doesn’t process these calories well, so your hunger and physical energy remain unchanged after drinking. In short, drinking sugary beverages adds on calories with no reward.

Even fruit juices such as unsweetened apple juice can contain more sugar than cola. Dieters might indulge in sugary drinks during diets and plan to eat less later, but studies suggest that that usually doesn’t happen.

Read The Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels are seen on food packaging
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Most people don’t understand the ramifications of fruit juice and processed “diet” foods because they don’t read the label. Australian researchers examined 1,028 food products and found that most lie about their health benefits on the front label of the package. In other words, packages that say “sugar-free” on the front may actually contain sugar if you read the label.

The misleading advertising is slimy, but that’s a topic for another day. Point is: always read the nutrition label. Remember, the first ingredients listed are the most prevalent in the product.

There’s one aspect of life that has nothing to do with food or exercise, but everything to do with weight.

Avoid Highly Processed Foods

A production line for tinned reindeer meat at the Myasoprodukty meat processing plant in the city of Naryan-Mar, Nenets Autonomous Area, Russia
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In 2013, researchers examined the foods available within almost 56,000 Brazilian households and compared it to weight. They concluded that “Greater household availability of ultra-processed food products in Brazil is positively and independently associated with a higher prevalence of excess weight and obesity.” But this isn’t specific to Brazil; families everywhere gain more weight from highly processed foods.

A couple of researchers have suggested that processed foods cause inflammation in our gut that leads to weight gain. To lose weight, revert to whole, single-ingredient food options as much as possible.

Drink More Water

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Science backs the idea that drinking water benefits weight loss. One study found that drinking only 500 ml of water (17 oz) raises the number of calories burned by 24% in 1.5 hours. However, servings as low as 50 ml (2 oz) have no effect.

Another study focused on middle-aged and older adults reported that drinking 500 ml of water before a meal increased weight loss by 44%. To reduce your calorie intake, then, consider downing a glass of water before meals.

Sleep Well, Or Your Weight Suffers

Sleep man.
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In 2008, scientists reviewed 696 studies and over 634,000 participants (both children and adults) to settle whether better sleep affects body weight. They recount that adults with poor sleep had a 55% greater chance of becoming obese. Children face even worse odds, with an 89% greater risk.

One study recorded in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that dieters who have less sleep maintain more weight and feel hungrier during the day. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep through your dieting process to prevent this from happening.