It’s a common lament for women, especially those going through menopause, to become exasperated when they get on the scale. They feel they are do everything “right” but can’t seem to lose weight. If you find yourself nodding in agreement, you might be making one of these ten weight loss mistakes without even realizing it. Learn what they are and how to fix them to get back on track to being your best self.
Alexis Conason, clinical psychologist, eating disorder specialist, and author of the book, The Diet-Free Revolution, says, “When clients tell me they want to lose weight, my first question is What are your goals?'” Usually, it’s a ‘promise’ that somehow life will be better if they lose weight. That they will be happier, thinner, more desirable, or have better opportunities. But this is a scam promoted by diet culture. Diet culture wants people to think that there is a problem (with their current weight) and that they aren’t good enough. Then they want to sell you magic solutions to solve the problem they created. Of course, those solutions don’t work.”
Most of the time, when women want to lose weight, they go on a diet. The idea of going on a diet implies that at some point, you plan to go off the diet, which is why diets don’t work. Conason says, “Diet culture tells us that we can lose weight by restricting what we eat and when we eat and that certain foods are ‘bad.’ But it’s not true.” Conason says that our bodies know what they need, and people need to listen to what their bodies are saying, a practice known as “mindful eating.”
Mindful (or intuitive ) eating is not about just eating anything you want without regard to its nutritional value. It’s about really listening to what your body is saying to you. Arlene Englander, a psychotherapist and author of the book Let Go of Emotional Overeating and Love Your Food, says, “Mindful eating is about noticing if you are hungry or if you are satiated. You want to stop eating when you are satisfied.” Adds Conason, “Our bodies will naturally crave a diversity of different foods and nutritional components to regulate to the weight that is right for us naturally.”
Unless you have an allergy or intolerance, there is no reason to eliminate any food group in its entirety. Conason says, “We get overly preoccupied with good and bad foods, especially because the guidance is constantly changing. Remember when fat was bad? Then carbs? We need to stop demonizing foods,” says Conason.
Denying ourselves certain foods is a breeding ground for unhealthy eating. Englander explains, “If you tell yourself, “I can never eat pizza” and you love pizza, you are creating a breeding ground for binge eating when pizza it’s offered. If you don’t deny yourself, you are more likely to have a reasonable portion and feel satisfied.”
“If you eat ten packs of 100 calorie diet snacks, you have consumed 1000 calories,” says Englander. And those 1000 calories are probably not nearly as satisfying as a piece of homemade cake would have been. Better to not have any forbidden foods and to eat what you enjoy. Englander suggests that if you crave something sweet, eat a small quantity of good quality chocolate or baked good and savor it.
“Using the scale to berate yourself is not healthy,” says Englander. “Self-blame contributes to stress which can lead to emotional eating.” The scale can be a helpful tool when used positively to learn more about your eating habits. Englander explains, “You need to remember that the number on the scale fluctuates, so don’t fixate on a certain weight. If you are up a few pounds, you can ask yourself if you were stressed the past few days or didn’t get enough sleep.”
“Many times people think they are hungry, but they are actually thirsty,” says Englander.
Movement is important. But you don’t need to go for a run if you hate running, and if you force yourself, movement becomes something you avoid rather than something you look forward to doing. Choose physical activities that you enjoy rather than what you think will be the best calorie burn.
Englander says, “Many of us sit down to a meal, and we don’t relax. We bring the stress away from the table to the table. Instead of eating for nourishment or enjoyment and savoring our food, we eat our feelings and use food as a way of distracting ourselves from our problems.”
“Our bodies do put on weight as we age, and that is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Conason. If your goal is to weigh what you did in your 20s, that probably isn’t realistic or healthy. Instead of focusing on a particular number on the scale, focus on self-acceptance and developing a healthy relationship with food.
If you find you’ve been making these weight loss mistakes, it’s never too late to get back on track. Work to stay healthy and happy in your daily life as well as your eating habits.