Eight Weight Loss Mistakes to Avoid

You’re primed and pumped. Look out smaller jeans! Hello swimsuit! Bring on the carrot sticks! You’re ready to start losing weight and nothing can stop you. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm and resolve is only half the battle.

We fallible humans sometimes have a short attention span. After a few weeks, the process of “dieting” loses its novelty. You think that extra helping of mashed potatoes won’t hurt this time because you’ve been so good. The next day you feel you really deserve that chocolate cake — because you’ve been so good. And then why not a little ice cream before bed? Before long, you’ve fallen off the weight loss wagon.

Don’t worry. All is not lost — or gained — yet. Most dieters have a few setbacks along the way. The key is to be prepared. Learn the dieting pitfalls and how to avoid them, or to at least not let them completely sink your weight loss plans.

Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Failure to set realistic goals. Write down small, incremental goals for weight loss. Just saying you’re going to lose 60 pounds can be overwhelming. But vowing to lose 5 pounds a month this year is more concrete and doable. Your small bites of success will keep you motivated on your way to your goal.

2. Following a too-strict regimen. If you’re in it for the long haul, choose an eating plan that fits your lifestyle. If Friday Pizza Night is a family tradition, how long will you really hold out? Allow some wiggle room in your diet for foods you enjoy or set aside and plan for an occasional “cheat” meal or treat. That way you’re more likely to stick with your weight loss plan in the long run.

3. Not eating enough calories. In your excitement to lose weight, you may try to dramatically cut calories, especially in the beginning. But your body’s survival mechanisms will override your zeal for drastic weight loss. You’ll likely end up binging after a few days of semi-starvation. And your metabolism will slow down to conserve energy, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it. So make sure you’re eating three healthy meals a day and consuming enough calories (a bare minimum of 1200).

4. Skipping breakfast. When you’re cutting calories, you may think skipping breakfast is an easy solution. Wrong. Research shows that people who eat breakfast eat fewer calories per day and lose weight more successfully than those who don’t. Plus eating breakfast gets your metabolism running and gives you energy. Try a bowl of oatmeal with sliced fruit for a filling, healthy breakfast.

5. On-the-go eating. It’s important to plan your meals for the week ahead to prevent temptation when you’re pressed for time. Precook healthy meals and have measured snacks ready to grab.

6. Forbidding snacks. Snacks are not a four-letter word in dieting. As long as they’re healthy and portion-controlled, they can help you avoid an all-out binge at dinner. Avoid sugary snacks, and remember, your snacks should not contain as many calories as a meal. Try fruits and vegetables, yogurt, whole-wheat toast or nuts. Just make sure your snacking isn’t mindless munching.

7. Dieting only. When you’re trying to lose weight, cutting calories is only part of the equation. Exercise is essential, too. Start walking or doing some other regular activity to build muscle, burn more calories and keep your metabolism running higher. Exercise also helps you keep weight off.

8. Missing the party. Maintain your motivation by celebrating small victories. Lost 5 pounds? Congratulate yourself! Regularly pat yourself on the back as you acknowledge milestones like finding your pants looser, feeling more energetic, and getting compliments.