9 Invisible Reasons Your Diet Is Not Working

June 25th, 2018 8 min read

Last Updated: August 12th, 2018

9 Invisible Reasons Your Diet Is Not Working

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You think you're making great progress when you're following your weight loss goal. But overtime you realize that you aren't losing weight like you expected. Then you realize what you are doing wrong. You see tons of stories from friends and people on the internet sharing their successful weight loss stories and you're going crazy.

Read on, because you might be making these crucial mistakes. If you are, fix them now after reading so you can get back on track.

Here are the 9 Invisible Reasons Your Diet Is Not Working:

You aren’t getting enough calories

This sounds quite contradictive to what we normally hear about consuming calories. But listen closely: According to registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, calories are not the entire solution to weight loss. “A calorie is not just a calorie,” she says. “Depending on what you consume, calories from nutrients such as protein and unsaturated fat keep you full for an extended period, whereas calories from simple sugars digest rapidly.” Your plans for weight loss will not work if you're not getting the proper vitamins, fiber and protein that you need, even if you're cutting calories. Calorie restriction leads to slower metabolism---without enough calories your body will transition into survival mode, slowing down your metabolism to start conserving energy and preventing you from losing weight (1). Palinski-Wade recommends to focus on improving the nutritional quality of your diet rather than your calorie intake for improved body weight and health. Read what happens when you consume less than 1000 calories a day.

You’re not practicing mindful eating


A common problem within ourselves is that our hunger signals start to kick in, which is something we all thrive to satisfy when it happens. The trick is to change how you eat and what you eat. Laura Moore, director of the dietetic internship program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health recomends to practice mindful eating, which means being aware of everything you put in your mouth, being aware of why you crave certain foods, etc. “Take small bites of food and chew it slowly, stopping two or three times during a meal to determine if you are hungry or if you feel satisfied,” she says. Reexamine your potions based on how big your plates are—according to research from Cornell, serving food on bigger plates has a direct effect on how much is consumed. Be mindful of other triggers that promote overeating like noshing directly from a package, buffet meals, and food advertisements. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll be less likely to finish off those extra bites of mac and cheese from your kid’s plate. Also, Moore says to eliminate distractions while eating. “Are you watching television, working through lunch, eating at your desk, or while driving in your car?” she says. “It is important to disengage and focus on the meal, which will allow a person to experience hunger and satiety.”

Related: Weight loss tips to keep in mind

You’re not planning ahead

It's easy to tell yourself that you're going to eat healthier from now on, but obstacles in life gets in your way and you end up putting a raincheck on that health goal of yours. “Families have busy schedules and it may be easier to pick up fast food or snack on the run, but these habits add excess calories due to the portion size that may lead to weight gain,” Moore says. The trick is if you can expect and plan for these situations, you can help avoiding yourself from failing your weight loss dieting process. It helps to cook large batches of meals when you do have the time and freeze them for later so you don’t have to start from scratch every night. Fruits and vegetables can also be frozen and pulled out for a quick side dish or snack.

Keep quick healthy snacks like nuts, apple slices with peanut butter, popcorn or healthy granola bars on hand. And don’t toss those leftovers—use them for your next meals. “Make chicken salad with Greek yogurt, nuts, and fruit from leftover roasted chicken,” Moore suggests. Mix in last night’s veggies with scrambled eggs, which can be cooked in seconds, for breakfast. Always have a supply of beans, avocado, or hard-boiled eggs for quick, satisfying lunches. “Beans or legumes make great plant protein additions to salads, and hard-boiled eggs mixed with avocado make great egg salad sandwiches,” Moore says.

You’re not drinking enough water


There are multiple benefits of drinking water. The cells throughout your body need water to function, so it is important to know how much water you need to drink for your diet. “Water is a basic need for cellular health,” says Ronald Navarro, MD, orthopedic and sport medicine surgeon at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, California. “The body is composed of 50 to 60 percent water, so it’s a necessary nutrient to maintain body fluids,” Moore says. What some people normally do to suppress their hunger signals is to drink water to fill them up so they actually eat less. In addition, water instead of soda or other unhealthy choices can benefit a healthy diet a lot more.

Related: Studies Suggest Freezing Hunger Signals Might Be Useful For Weight Loss

“Water isn’t the key to weight loss, but it can substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, which decreases calories,” Moore says. A recent study from the University of Illinois found that people who increased their water consumption by one to three cups reduced their caloric intake by 68 to 205 calories daily. They also lowered their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol.

You’re not shopping smart enough


If you're not getting prepped to go to the grocery store then you're not shopping smart enough. Getting prepped to go to the grocery store is important to sticking to healthy eating. “When grocery shopping, always have a list,” Moore says. This will help avoid impulse buying. Plus, “a list will help you stay on a budget too.” Next, don’t hit up the store before you’ve eaten. “Shopping hungry is not a good idea because people tend to purchase more food and make unhealthy choices,” Moore says. A study from Cornell University found that people tended to buy more food, and specifically more unhealthy food, when they were hungry. While at the store, make sure you check out labels, because sometimes foods packaged as “healthy” are anything but healthy.

You’re not having regular exercise


Eating right is only one aspect to achieving a healthy weight—you can’t skip out on exercise either. “If you have been adjusting your food intake without seeing the scale move, it may be because diet is just one part of the weight loss puzzle,” Palinski-Wade says. “If you are taking in fewer calories but also moving less, you will be burning fewer calories as well. That cancels out your overall calorie deficit, which leads to limited weight loss.” This is another reason to not cut calories too drastically: You need to have enough energy to exercise. Although studies have shown that increased exercise is not enough to achieve weight loss on its own, it’s still important for overall health, as well as for speeding up your metabolism.

Related: 14 Subtle but Powerful Health Benefits of Exercising Other Than Losing Weight

You’re paying too much attention to the scale

If you are exercising more, you may not see a change in actual weight—but that doesn’t mean you’re not getting leaner. “If you have recently taken up an exercise routine, especially one that involves weight training, you may be losing inches without seeing a change on the scale,” Palinski-Wade says. “This is due to muscle taking up less space than fat mass. If you lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, your weight will stay the same on the scale, yet you will have lost inches.” Plus, muscles burn more calories than fat, so an increase in muscle mass will help you lose even more.

Related: 9 Ways To Look Slightly Slimmer By Tonight

You’re skipping meals

As with cutting calories, cutting meals isn’t effective for healthy weight loss. Being overly hungry throws off the balance in your body, as Laura Moore, RD, director of the dietetic internship program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, explains. “Energy intake, or what’s consumed, and expenditure, or what’s burned, is coordinated by signals from several systems, including the endocrine, adipose tissue, neurologic, and gastrointestinal systems,” she says.


Chemical signals that increase and decrease appetite are sent to the brain. “This weight regulation system helps maintain a healthy weight for most people by modifying hunger, activity, and metabolism to keep the body weight within a target,” Moore says. “Moving below this target, or set point, by skipping meals can be challenging because the brain’s energy-balance system goes into action, pushing the weight back to its set point or even above.” That means you’re basically fighting with your body over where your weight should be. Instead, Moore recommends listening to your body’s signals, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.

You’re too restrictive

As with fad dieting that cuts out entire food groups, you don’t want to be too restrictive with what you allow yourself to eat. This will just set you up for failure because you won’t be able to stick to it. “Being too restrictive with your meal plan leads to burn out and often times binge eating,” Palinski-Wade says. “There’s a reason we say that diets don’t work, and it’s because you typically have the mentality that a diet is something you will ‘go on’ only to ‘go off’ again in the future. Instead of ‘dieting,’ focus on making one or two small changes and build upon this over time to not just lose weight, but to keep it off for life.” If you ease into it, and still allow yourself a treat every now and again, you’ll get used to the change gradually and will adapt better to healthy eating. “Bottom line: Long-term lifestyle changes are necessary to maintain a healthy weight,” Moore says. “This includes mindful eating, daily exercise, and portion control.” It would help to read how to lose weight other than eating less

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