What are some of the most common reasons people struggle to achieve weight loss success?
And how can you be successful?
That’s the topic of this blog post.
Let’s dive straight in: starting with the weight loss mistakes and pitfalls, then turning them into practical tips that you CAN do.
Weight Loss Pitfall #1 – Not having a plan
Lacking a food plan makes it hard to stay on track.
You have to make decisions all day about what to eat, which gets tiring and often leads to poor choices.
Many people don’t plan because they think it will take too long, or they find they don’t stick to it (or both). This is usually because they think they need to write a perfect weight loss plan, rather than simply write down what they will actually eat that day.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, or anywhere near perfect. Just write down what feels realistic and doable for you.
Ideally aiming for protein in each meal and decent serving of veg at dinner, but most importantly, choosing foods you actually like.
That way you get to make promises to yourself that you can keep. Thus building self trust, and bringing awareness to small changes you could make over time.
By writing a quick and achievable plan, you’ll start to build momentum and create progress.
Weight Loss Pitfall #2 – Not understanding calories
You don’t need to count calories to lose weight, but it is incredibly beneficial to have an understanding of them.
Knowledge creates power. Once you know what a serving size looks like, and how many calories are in some of your favourite foods, you can make informed decisions.
You learn how to fit in foods you love, and how to balance things out.
Without that knowledge, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re eating more than you think.
Calories will always be the deciding factor in weight loss, so it makes sense to look at packets, check portion sizes, and build awareness around them.
You’ll often find you can make a few tweaks that lead you towards sustainable weight loss, while still enjoying foods you love.
Weight Loss Pitfall #3 – Mindless eating
Grabbing a snack because it’s there, or you’re bored, or needing a break. Nibbling as you prepare meals. Finishing off the kid’s food. Eating without even realising you’re eating, until it’s gone. Eating while working, scrolling social media, or watching TV.
We all do at least some of these things. Awareness (without beating yourself up for it) is step one.
When you know your patterns, you can start to change them.
Planning your meals and snacks helps a lot with this – then anything else that pops up is a ‘no’ or ‘oh great! I’ll save that for tomorrow’.
Many women find they benefit from adding protein and some extra veg or fruit to their main meals, which keeps them full and energised for longer.
Changes to your environment can make a big difference too – keeping snacks high up in a cupboard, with healthier choices more visible.
Weight Loss Pitfall #4 – F*** it mode
Thinking that you need to do everything, and perfectly, or else you’re failing.
And believing that if you eat one meal or snack off plan, you’ve ruined it, so you may as well eat all the things and start again on Monday.
This is known as ‘f*** it mode’, and it can turn an insignificant non-optimal choice (that would have had no impact on your week as a whole) into a blow out that halts your progress and crushes your self esteem.
There is more on the solution to this later, but an antidote is to repeat: ‘I do not have to be perfect. At any point, I can make my next choice a great one and I’m right back on track’.
Weight Loss Pitfall #5 – Negative self talk
‘I’m so lazy’
‘I have no willpower’
‘Why can’t I do this!?’
These some self-talk statements that are very common, but of no help whatsoever.
Speaking (or thinking) negatively to yourself just makes you feel bad.
Often we think that if we speak harshly to ourselves, it will spur us into action.
But it rarely works long term. It just leads to becoming more and more frustrated every time we make the slightest slip up, and not enjoying the process.
To be successful with weight loss (i.e. to lose the weight and keep it off long term), you HAVE to enjoy the process.
To enjoy the process, you HAVE to be on your own side.
Speaking kindly to yourself, choosing self compassion and encouragement when you struggle, being patient with yourself, celebrating the wins.
That way, you feel good, and you keep going.
And when you feel good and keep going… you achieve amazing results.
Weight Loss Pitfall #6 – The restriction approach
Doing a diet, a cleanse, or cutting out foods you like.
‘Just for a little while, to lose the weight quickly. Then I can get back to normal’
It’s so tempting to do this to get fast results. But it’s just not sustainable.
And it doesn’t equip you with the habits and lifestyle changes that you need to achieve results that last.
Those changes take time and patience, but what’s better?
Continuing to restrict, feel miserable, then regain the weight (worsening your relationship with food in the process)…
Or taking small steps, enjoying the foods you love, and gradually losing weight in a way that empowers you to keep it off for life?
Weight Loss Pitfall #7 – The comparison trap
Thinking that everyone else is doing better than you are, therefore you must be a failure.
We humans have something called a ‘reticular activating system’.
This means that your brain filters information from the world around you, and it filters it based on what you look for and believe.
If you think others are doing great, and you suck…
Or that other people lose weight quickly and easily, and you don’t…
That’s what you’ll see.
Your brain will ignore all the many things you do well, and forget that you don’t know what’s really going on for anyone except you.
It will notice amazing weight loss transformations in the media, without considering how unsustainable the method of achieving that was, and how unlikely it is that those people will have maintained their weight in a year’s time.
Your brain easily forgets that the only person you can possibly compare yourself to is you.
No one else has your body, lifestyle, experiences, genetics and circumstances.
We instinctively see the highlights in other people’s lives, and compare them with the worst parts of our own. But when you know that you naturally do that, you can follow it with more logical thinking.
Thinking that actually helps you.
If you’re making efforts to improve, you’re doing great.
Look for all the wins you’re creating. Celebrate them.
And keep going.
Weight Loss Pitfall #8 – Missing out on protein and strength training
You can lose weight without eating an optimal amount of protein, and without doing strength training.
But if you do, you’ll be left with significantly less muscle, and this is not good.
Less muscle means a lower metabolism, so you have to eat less calories in order to maintain your weight.
It also means less strength (therefore a reduced ability to move well, be free from pain, and live your best life) and less protection for your bones.
Protein is the building block of muscle, as well as being essential for our immune system and general health. It also helps you stay fuller for longer, which can reduce hunger and cravings and make it easier to lose weight.
When you combine enough protein with regular strength training, you encourage your body to keep hold of muscle while losing fat.
That muscle, when lifting weights, will pull on your bones and encourage them to retain their density (which falls significantly as we get older if we don’t do appropriate exercise, and don’t consume enough calcium or vitamin D).
Muscle also helps you live a full and active life – feeling strong, toned, confident, and able to do whatever you want to do.
And when you have more muscle, you have a higher metabolism, meaning you can eat more food while maintaining your goal weight.
That is always a win.
So how do I achieve lasting weight loss success?
Focus on these key points:
Plan your food
Don’t plan a perfect weight loss day. Just plan what works for you – some good nutrition, but also what you like and will actually eat.
Planning is about making life easier and keeping promises to yourself, which builds self trust and belief that you can do this.
Make small changes (you don’t need to completely overhaul your diet) and then tweak as you go.
Build awareness of calories
You don’t need to meticulously track them (although it can help to track for a short time). Start with checking packets and portion sizes.
If you want to look more in depth at what you eat, spend a week or two logging your food intake on an app such as my fitness pal.
A simple way of working out your calories to aim for is:
Goal weight in lbs x 12.
Example if your goal weight is 150lbs (68kg):
150 x 12 = 1800 calories
This would be a starting point – it may be a bit too high, or it may not be high enough. You’ll only know if you test it.
It’s always best to start where you’re at and gradually work down, so if you find you’re eating a lot more than this amount (which is extremely common, especially if you track weekend calories and work out your average) that’s fine.
Awareness and small changes will make a big difference over time.
Practise mindful eating
Checking in with yourself to ask ‘Am I actually hungry?’.
Sitting down with minimal distractions.
Making sure what you’re eating is tasty and worth it to you.
Noticing each bite. Stopping when you feel satisfied.
The Joy of Half a Cookie (see image above) is a brilliant book to help with this.
Notice your thoughts and choose useful ones
Are you speaking kindly to yourself, noticing wins, and offering encouragement, like you would for your best friend? If not, start doing that!
Choose thoughts that make you feel empowered, positive, valued, and determined to keep going.
‘Words to eat by’ (see image above) is a brilliant book to help with this.
Aim for consistency not perfection
It never has to be perfect, and you can’t ruin it.
All you need to do is keep going.
Focus on making it a lifestyle
The version of you who’s at her goal weight and maintaining it like a boss:
What habits does she have?
How does she speak to herself?
What choices does she make?
Start acting like your future self now, in a way that gets you eating, thinking and living in ways that you actually enjoy eating, thinking and living.
The goal is to create a lifestyle on the way to reaching your weight loss goal.
That way, when you get there, you have everything in place to keep the results.
Don’t compare to anyone but you
Unless you have an identical twin who has the exact same life and brain as you, there is no one you can fairly compare to except you.
If you’re learning or improving in any way, even if you don’t see visible progress yet, you’re doing great.
Keep aiming for 1% better, and keep going.
Eat protein and do strength training
Aim for a palm-size serving of protein in each meal – ideas are shown above.
If you want to be more specific, a useful equation is to multiply your target bodyweight in lbs by 0.8, to work out a ballpark amount of protein to aim for each day.
Example if your target weight is 150lbs (68kg):
150 x 0.8 = 120g protein daily.
NOTE: You don’t need to hit this number perfectly, or even get close to it every single day.
Aim for a range 10g each side (so in this case 110-130g) and just keep doing your best – consistency beats perfection.
It’s not about hitting a magic number – it’s just about being aware of your intake, and reaching an amount of protein that supports your goals.
For strength training, you can find a starting point for a simple home workout with minimal equipment HERE.
And for videos and infographics with ideas on home workouts or gym exercises, check out my instagram page: @hayleyplummerpt
You can listen to an audio version of this blog post on my podcast here:
And if you’d like support to overcome these pitfalls and create lasting weight loss success, find out more about online coaching here: