‘Tis the season for being inundated with advertisements and social media posts for all things weight loss—expensive plans, shakes, cleanses, detoxes, supplements, workout challenges, and fitness equipment—all promising to help you reach your goals and keep the weight off for good. That’s not to say losing weight isn’t a worthy new year’s resolution or goal. There are plenty of people who set out to lose weight come January 1st, and the New Year can provide you with the renewed sense of motivation you need to reach your goals
However, the key to making weight loss resolutions stick is to set realistic goals and give yourself some grace, knowing that setbacks are a part of the journey. If you’re looking to lose weight in 2022, it’s likely you’ve tried to lose weight before. In fact, nearly one-half of people who are trying to lose weight have dieted in the past.
At Noom, we believe that weight loss starts with psychology, and that you’re more likely to be successful if you work towards developing healthier habits rather than quick fad diets or punishing workouts. To help you on your journey, we’ve put together the four most common weight loss mistakes we’ve seen people make when trying to lose weight, and what you can do to steer clear of these traps and reach your goals.
Weight loss mistake #1: All-or-nothing thinking
Does this sound familiar? You have a pastry for breakfast, convince yourself your day is “ruined,” and commit to starting your diet over tomorrow. Or you vow to give up all processed foods for good, only to beat yourself up when you eat a bag of pretzels while you’re out. This is what we call all-or-nothing (or black-and-white) thinking—a thought distortion that describes thinking in extremes. For example, “If I stray from my plan, I’ve blown the day.” or “Processed foods are off-limits.”
When it comes to food and weight loss, all-or-nothing thinking can make you believe that you’re either the epitome of perfection or a total failure with each decision you make (neither of which are helpful in achieving your goals). If you believe you can never stray from your plan and don’t make room for your favorite treats or rest days, you’re more likely to be so overwhelmed with being “perfect” that you abandon your goals altogether. This also leads to feelings of guilt and shame when you do go off-plan, which will also deter you from getting back on track to achieve your goals.
All-or-nothing thinking also often leads to a restrictive mindset and an unhealthy, unsustainable relationship with food. Remember that thinking in extremes isn’t sustainable—it’s not realistic to assume you will never have sugar again, or that eating nothing but salads for every meal makes you a “good” person.
Action step: Make a list of all the “rules” that you have around food, for example, you can never have dessert during the week or all processed foods are “bad” for you. Then, try to reframe these thought distortions to find more nuance—maybe finishing dinner with something sweet is something you can look forward to a few times a week if it fits in your calorie budget, or you should enjoy your favorite potato chips every once in a while.
Weight loss mistake #2: Eliminating foods or food groups
Eliminating specific foods or food groups can be a type of all-or-nothing thinking. If you come across a diet plan that cuts out entire food groups (think: a carb-free diet), asks you to completely give up ingredients you love (think: no sugar), or introduce new foods or supplements you don’t enjoy (think: cauliflower everything or a gritty protein powder), this is a major red flag.
Even if you are able to cut out certain foods for days or even weeks, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to keep this up long term. When you do eventually eat this food, it’s more likely that you’ll overeat it eat because your mind and body have learned that they might not have access to it again. The restrict-overeat cycle is a hard one to break and can induce an unhealthy relationship with food. This might manifest as depriving yourself of foods you love or not eating enough calories, being consumed with thoughts about food 24/7, or missing out on meals with friends and family.
A more productive way of thinking about your relationship with food is knowing that you can enjoy everything in moderation—salad with fresh veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats is a great lunch that will fill you up and leave you satisfied. It also might feel even more satisfying and sustainable to finish it off with a piece of chocolate every once in a while. There’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” food. Remember: a cookie is just a cookie.
Action step: In an effort to eat healthier and lose weight, don’t cut out entire foods or food groups you enjoy, unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Make room for your favorite foods, meals out with friends, and happy hour drinks in your week. If you’re doing the Noom program, these foods can all fit into your daily calorie goal if you plan accordingly (i.e. eat more green foods throughout the day). If you have a day where you go over your calorie goal or eat more red foods than you planned, don’t beat yourself up—start fresh the following day and get back on track with your plan.
Weight loss mistake #3: Inflexible goals
When starting out on a weight loss journey, it’s easy to set lofty goals for yourself that you hope to achieve: lose 30 pounds by going to the gym every morning at 6 a.m., getting 8 solid hours of sleep every night, and meal prepping every Sunday.
As important as it is to form healthy habits that will help you achieve your goals, it’s also necessary to know that life gets in the way, and sometimes you need to pivot and rethink your means. Planning to go to the gym every morning before work is great. But, if you start to realize that you crash every afternoon because you woke up so early, maybe 6 a.m. fitness classes aren’t for you, or maybe you should only commit to three days a week as opposed to six or seven. Or, if you commit to prepping all your meals for the week on Sundays but recognize that you get sick of eating the same foods on repeat by Wednesday and opt for takeout instead, you might come up with a different plan to enjoy healthy meals.
There are many ways you can achieve your weight loss goals, and it’s important to remain flexible to see them through. Being able to roll with the punches, reevaluate your goals, and pivot are key to creating lifelong habits.
Action step: At the end of each week, take an assessment of what you did that week to achieve your goals and how it made you feel. Were you able to get up at 5:30 every morning and have a good rest of your day? Did you enjoy all the healthy meals you prepared for yourself? Before starting a new week, it’s a good time to reflect on where you can adapt your plan to be more realistic, enjoyable, and sustainable, especially if you’re finding yourself losing motivation or experiencing a plateau.
Weight loss mistake #4: Not using your experience
Throughout your life, you’ve learned a lot about yourself: what motivates you (and what doesn’t), what gets you excited, what gets on your nerves, how you respond to stress, and why focusing on your health is something that’s important to you. Although it’s great to set new goals and intentions for yourself, you also need to remember that you know yourself best, which means that you’ll know how to best make your resolutions work for you.
If you want to be more active in the New Year, rather than committing to working toward running 5K, you might consider other ways to incorporate more movement into your day knowing that you’ve tried (and really disliked) running many times in the past. So, maybe you join a weekly beginner swim team or take up a dance cardio class instead of signing up for a 5K. If you know you know you could get into running, but have struggled without a clear goal or plan, enlist the help of a workout buddy to keep you accountable or lean on your Noom coach for support and guidance.
Action step: At the beginning of your weight-loss plan, write down a list of the key things you’ve learned about yourself and past attempts at losing weight or achieving health goals—your biggest obstacles, your greatest strengths, and anything else that comes to mind. Use your list to set realistic goals and action plans for yourself as you begin this new journey.
If you’re looking for support in sticking with your weight-loss resolutions, try Noom Weight today.
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