Three Common Weight Loss Mistakes

So many of us think we failed on our diet—but in reality, it may have failed you.

New Years is a great time to start fresh and refocus on health. But many people have given up setting New Years Resolutions or dieting out of frustration because they have gone on a diet in the past only to gain all the weight back (and then some). So many of us think we failed on our diet—but in reality, it may have failed you.

Here are three of the most common weight loss mistakes:

1. Calorie Counting: Most diets are based on counting calories. It makes sense from a math perspective because if you expend more calories than you bring in, you will create a deficit and lose weight, right? Not so fast. The only issue with that logic is that the human body is unfortunately not that simple, and not all calories are created equal.

Think about it this way: If you eat a 100-calorie pack of low fat cookies, your bloodsugar and insulin will spike, which will be followed by a crash. So you will be hungry again in about 30 minutes, and you will also crave sugar more, and so you will likely eat more. Do that enough times, and you can create a condition called insulin resistance, a condition in which your body no longer can process sugar effectively. 

However, eating half of an avocado (about 100 calories) will help to stabilize your bloodsugar, satisfy you longer and also quelch your sugar cravings, so you will likely eat less. So besides being exhausting, calorie-counting just does not work and is an ineffective way to try to manage our weight. Instead of just counting calories, we need to understand which foods boost our metabolism and which ones work against it. I suggest reading Don't Diet in 2013 to learn more.

2. Falling into the Low Fat Trap: It has been pounded into our heads that fat makes us fat, and we need to avoid fats if we want to be healthy. An entire industry has been created around the low fat and no fat craze. You can now easily find reduced fat peanut butter, cookies, muffins, and more. But the theory is just completely wrong. Fat does not make us fat.

Yes, there are certain fats that we want to avoid like the plague, such as trans fats (found in many packaged foods, some frozen foods, fried foods, pastries, and most margarines), which do raise our risk of heart disease, and cause weight gain. We also want to avoid fats such as vegetable oils and soy oils because these cause inflammation and are easily oxidized, which damages the fats and leads to free radicals in the body.

But certain fats are good for us, especially omega 3 fatty acids and even many types of saturated fats, like coconut oil. Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, which is more easily converted into energy and therefore less likely to be stored as fat deposits. It is also is a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial, so it is very cleansing to the body, and is wonderful topically. Fats are very important for creating a feeling of satiety, and also helping to regulate our hunger hormones.  Not eating  enough healthy fats causes hunger to spike. You can learn more about healthy fats by joining the Perfect Metabolism cleanse starting Friday, Jan 11.

3. Using Diet Foods and Drinks: Diet sodas have no calories, so how can they contribute to weight gain? They are up to 7,000 times sweeter than sugar, so it is no wonder that artificial sweeteners increase our craving for sweets. Studies show that they confuse the regulatory systems that control our hunger, stimulating our appetite. Several studies on both rats and humans found that those who ate artificial sweeteners weighed more than those who did not. Artificial sweeteners were also shown to lead to insulin resistance, the common cause of stubborn weight gain, and a precursor to diabetes. 

Chemicals like asparatame are a class of chemicals called obesogens because they tell our bodies to store fat. Plus, what's even worse, is that they have been linked to an increased cancer risk according to this study. For more information on this topic, you can read How Toxins Make Us Overweight,  Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat?, and Artificial Sweeteners, Worse than Sugar.

So what really works when it comes to dropping weight? The answer is re-booting your metabolism.

A common misconception is that our metabolism needs to slow down as we age. But it does not have to. How well our metabolism is working is a function of a number of different factors, most of which are in our control.

In addition to the kinds of foods and drinks we choose, there are other surprising factors that can lead to slow metabolisms, including: digestion issues, food sensitivities, stress and environmental toxins, and even over-exercising. When we balance all of these factors, our metabolism and so many other systems in the body come back into balance. We see improved digestion, hormones, and sleep patterns—plus we learn how to manage our weight without calorie-counting, which is like getting a 'get out of jail free' card!

Sara Vance is a Clinical Nutritionist in the Encinitas, CA area. She offers nutritional counseling, speaks at school assemblies, leads group classes, and teaches kids healthy cooking. For more information, you can visit ReBalanceLife.com or find Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dawn Fletcher January 11, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Thank you, Sara. I talk myself blue in the face at times trying to help folks understand that all calories are not created equal, that healthy fats are friends not foes, that sugar creates an inflammatory response, that high blood insulin levels harden blood vessels & that artificial sweeteners contribute to the obesity epidemic & are neurotoxic to boot. Sometimes I get tired.....LOL. Thanks for publishing some (surprisingly still) little known truths!
Sherry January 11, 2013 at 02:55 PM
I agree with dawn , thanks Sara keep fighting the good fight.
ROBERT E. FISHBACK January 13, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Don't plan a trip to celebrate you weight loss..I mean flying on the new DREAMLINER that has a strange way of welcoming travelers by just suddenly bursting into flames for no known reason. "Oh Harold, our plane is on fire...we never should have lost all that weight."
jill smith January 20, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Good article Sara, very informative. Obesity is a contributing factor that can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes type II. The pancreas can't tell the difference between aspartame and sugar, but it reacts to the fact aspartame is 7000 times sweeter than sugar, so it adds to the problem. This causes increased insulin production just as increased high fat and sugar foods do. Increased insulin production can wear out the pancreas which can lead to insulin resistance, eventually less insulin production and diabetes type II. I use stevia as my sweetener it is natural comes from a leaf, and helps to regulate blood sugar. Aspartame accumulates and is not quickly excreted from the body another reason why aspartame is not good for the body, and why 3-4 diet cokes a day are not such a good idea.
Roberto January 20, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Moderation is the key. I struggle with pre diabetes type 2 and exercise regularly. The biggest problem is diet and this year will work harder to moderate what I eat. I use splenda as a sweetener but not sure that it's any better than sugar.


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