10 Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes

Science by Temple Stewart, RD

You’re a couple of weeks into your New Year’s weight loss resolution, but you’re just not seeing the results you’d like. You feel like you’re making all the best choices, yet nothing is changing. Losing weight oftentimes feels like a frustrating process, especially if the effort is there but the results are lacking. Let’s take a look at the most common weight loss mistakes, and how to fix them.

#1 Not Eating Enough Protein: Protein is essential for weight loss. It helps in several ways, including reducing appetite, protecting muscle mass, improving satiety, and maintaining/increasing metabolic rate [1,2,3]. Protein should be the foundation of the meal, and then the rest of your meal should be built around it.

#2 Only Focusing on the Scale: The scale is only one measurement of weight change, and varies based on fluid fluctuations, workouts, undigested foods, and bowel movements [4]. You could be losing belly fat even if the scale isn’t budging much. Instead of only using a scale, measure your waist with a tape measure and take before pictures. Both of these methods can help you see fat loss, even if the scale is slow moving. Also, remember that your blood markers may be improving.

#3 Overestimating Amount of Calories Burned with Exercise: Weight loss happens in the kitchen. Yes, exercise is absolutely a healthy habit, but it is not the main weight loss method. Research shows that many people overestimate the amount of calories they burn with exercise which can lead to overeating [5]. One way to use exercise to help weight loss is going for a walk after your largest meal. Remember, the best exercise is the one you’ll stick to.

#4 Too Much Fat and Dairy: A common mistake when starting the ketogenic diet or low-carb is the tendency to add copious amounts of fat and dairy. Neither of these foods are inherently bad, they just add up quickly. You should not fear fat from a nutritional standpoint, in fact it’s essential and can be helpful to weight loss as it’s very satiating. You just need to be mindful of the amount of fats (oils, butter, ghee, etc) you’re adding to coffee and other food products. It may also be helpful to cut back on dairy if you tend to be heavy handed in this area as well.

#5 Eating Low-Fat or “Diet Foods”: These processed food items are often filled with sugar to help improve their taste as flavor is lost with elimination of fat. They’re marketed as low-fat and low-calorie, but contain high amounts of sugar that promote insulin resistance.

#6 Constant Snacking: Contrary to popular belief, you really should not need to spend your whole day snacking. If you’re constantly feeling the urge to snack, it would be beneficial to take a look at your meals and make sure they’re built with enough protein, fat and fiber. It may also be helpful to understand if the need to snack is coming from emotions or boredom. Research shows that sticking to just two or three meals a day has better long term outcomes when reducing inflammation and weight gain [6, 7].

#7 Not Tracking Foods Consumed: It’s not necessary to track what you eat for the rest of your life, but in the beginning of a weight loss phase it can be very beneficial to help you understand which macronutrients the foods you eat contain, and in what proportion. This is not done in an effort to eat less calories, it’s done to help you understand the makeup of your food in terms of carbs, protein, and fat. Several studies show that tracking foods can help give you a better understanding of the food’s composition and even provide some accountability. Tracker apps like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and Chronometer are all good options [8].

#8 Not Having Support: When it comes to weight loss, there is strength in numbers. One study found that participants lost triple the amount of weight with support than those going on their weight loss journey alone. You’re also more likely to maintain weight loss when you participate with friends and family [9].

#9 Eating Out Too Often: It’s very difficult to control the ingredients put into your food when you’re not eating at home. Restaurants tend to create recipes that are made with sugar, cooked in inflammatory seed oils, served in larger than normal portions, and paired with carb-heavy starters and sides (hello free bread!). Don’t be afraid to make special requests at restaurants that help you reach your goals (leave off the bread, have your protein cooked in butter in lieu of oil, or swap the fries for a side salad or veggie).

#10 Not Prioritizing Sleep and Stressing Out: These two factors, stress and sleep, are often overlooked when it comes to weight loss but both can have a profound impact. Lack of sleep creates a hormonal imbalance that can cause overeating and weight gain. Stress increases cortisol, impacts hunger and fullness signals, and is often associated with overeating [10, 11, 12].

We’re wishing you the best of health in the New Year.



  1. Heather J Leidy, Peter M Clifton, Arne Astrup, Thomas P Wycherley, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Stephen C Woods, Richard D Mattes, The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 1320S–1329S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.084038
  2. Aller, E., Larsen, T., Claus, H. et al. Weight loss maintenance in overweight subjects on ad libitum diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index: the DIOGENES trial 12-month results. Int J Obes 38, 1511–1517 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2014.52
  3. Schiavo, L., Scalera, G., Pilone, V. et al. A Comparative Study Examining the Impact of a Protein-Enriched Vs Normal Protein Postoperative Diet on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Patients after Sleeve Gastrectomy. OBES SURG 27, 881–888 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11695-016-2382-y
  4. Stachenfeld N. S. (2014). Hormonal changes during menopause and the impact on fluid regulation. Reproductive sciences (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), 21(5), 555–561. https://doi.org/10.1177/1933719113518992
  5. Brown RE, Canning KL, Fung M, et al. Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):521-526. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
  6. Ribeiro AG, Costa MJ, Faintuch J, Dias MC. A higher meal frequency may be associated with diminished weight loss after bariatric surgery. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2009;64(11):1053-1058. doi:10.1590/S1807-59322009001100004
  7. Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019; 11(4):719. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040719
  8. Pourzanjani, A., Quisel, T., & Foschini, L. (2016). Adherent use of digital health trackers is associated with weight loss. PLOS ONE, 11(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152504
  9. Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, et al. Weight Loss With Self-help Compared With a Structured Commercial Program: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1792–1798. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1792
  10. Douyon L, Schteingart DE. Effect of obesity and starvation on thyroid hormone, hgh, and cortisol secretion. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America. 2002 Mar;31(1):173-189. DOI: 10.1016/s0889-8529(01)00023-8. PMID: 12055988
  11. Epel E, Lapidus R, McEwen B, Brownell K. Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Jan;26(1):37-49. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00035-4. PMID: 11070333.
  12. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Dec 7;141(11):846-50. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-141-11-200412070-00008. PMID: 15583226.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.