1. Crash dieting
It's tempting to try a restrictive diet when you want to quickly drop a few pounds. And although you may lose a bit of weight in the short term, you're doing more damage to your body in the long run.
2. Losing track of what you've eaten
A bite of your child's leftover dinner, a slice of the cake your colleague made for her birthday – it's easy to forget about everything we eat during the day. Try and be realistic about what you're eating, and even keep a food diary if you're really serious about weight loss for your health. This doesn't mean you always have to deny yourself, but try to limit treat foods to smaller portions, less often.
3. Skipping breakfast
The cliché is true: it's so important to start the day with a healthy meal, because research shows a good brekkie both boosts your metabolism and keeps you more satisfied throughout the day. And that means less reaching into the snack stash.
4. Not exercising at all
The more exercise you do, the more calories you burn and the quicker your metabolism gets (which means you burn more even when you're just lying on the couch). The key is to find workouts you enjoy – from dance classes and swimming to cycling to work. It all adds up.
5. Overestimating the amount of exercise you do
Exercise is great for burning calories, but remember it's SO much easier to eat calories than burn them off. A burger and chips can easily rack up 800+ calories, which would take you nearly 90 minutes of running to do away with. We're not saying obsess over calories, but don't don't be fooled into thinking 30 minutes in the gym means you can say yes to chips AND a brownie afterward without undoing all of your hard work. Research shows that once we start exercising more, we also start rewarding ourselves more – which ends up having the opposite effect on our bodies.
6. Skipping meals
Skipping a meal might reduce your calorie intake for that hour, but you'll just be hungrier later and more likely to overeat at the next meal to compensate. Irregular eating habits also disrupt your blood sugar and metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight anyway.
7. Underestimating portions
It's so easy to eat more than you need, but the good news is you have an accurate healthy portion measure with you already: your hand! Proteins, such as meat or fish, should be the size of your palm, a single serving of carbohydrates is one handful, and vegetables and salads should fit into two closely cupped hands. If these portions look small, try chewing your food slower – you might be surprised at what amount actually fills you up when you give your brain and stomach enough time to sync up and register that you're full.
8. Drinking lots of calories
You might be conscious of fizzy drinks, but do you think about coffees, smoothies or even nut milks? They can all add quite a few extra calories to your day without you even realising it: a large latte can contain as many as 300 calories, and if you make it a mocha, it could be as many as 600 (plus heaps of sugar) – or a third of your daily calorie allowance.
9. Overdoing it on healthy foods
Quinoa, almond butter and avocado are all great for your health, but they're also fairly high in calories and easy to overeat, especially as recommended portion sizes are quite small (a tablespoon for nut butters, half a cup or 6 tablespoons for quinoa, and a quarter of an avocado equal one serving). Don't avoid these foods altogether as they're loaded with nutrients, just be sure you're not equating "healthy" with "no limit".
10. Weighing yourself every day
Although it's exciting to track how much you've lost, weighing yourself too often can be frustrating and even make weight loss harder in the long run. Successful weight loss is actually slow and gradual. A woman's weight can fluctuate during her menstrual cycle thanks to water retention, and if you're regularly weight training, you'll be building up lean muscle tissue, which takes up less space (smaller jeans) but weighs more (higher numbers on the scales). A better way to track progress is with a tape measure around your waist, bust and even arms and legs once a week or so. If you really love the scales, limit yourself to weekly or even bi-weekly weigh-ins. And remember that a healthy and sustainable weight loss goal is around 2lbs a week.
11. Avoiding fat
'Low-fat' or 'fat-free' usually just means extra sugar or thickeners (which are adding to boost the flavour and texture that's lost when the fat is removed), and these ingredients only wreck havoc with your body. Fat from sources like olive oil, nuts and avocado is incredibly satisfying, plus the body needs it for energy, tissue repair and the transportation of vitamins A, D, E and K in the blood. For the vast majority of us, there really is no need to follow a fat-free diet, for weight loss or otherwise.
12. Cutting out whole food groups
Whether it's dairy, carbohydrates or gluten, many people think cutting things out is the key to weight loss. But this is counterproductive because it makes your body low on certain nutrients, which can actually have the opposite effect and cause you to gain weight. For instance, recent studies suggest that the body needs calcium to prevent menopausal weight gain.
13. Not snacking at all
It's a mistake to think you'll lose weight by cutting out all of your snacks – healthy snacks between mealtimes keep hunger pangs at bay so you actually end up eating fewer calories at mealtimes. Plus, research from the New England Journal of Medicine found snacking on healthy foods has a positive and boosting effect on your metabolism and blood sugar, and could lead to more weight loss.