12 Common Dieting Mistakes

Close-up of a beautiful young woman taking a big bite of a sandwich while looking at the camera

Too much white bread will halt weight loss

Losing weight and maintaining that weight loss, while also remaining fit and building muscle is often more of an art than a science. Everyone is different, and so we all respond to different combinations of foods and workouts to attain the ideal body. However, there are many common mistakes that people make when attempting to combine a weight loss diet with a muscle-building diet. Avoid these mistakes and you will be on the right path to getting a well toned body. Even if you are not looking to build extra muscle these rules still apply to weight management.

Zero Fat Diet

This is possibly the most common mistake people make, as people mistakenly think that eating fat makes you fat.

Fat is generally very high in calories, and so should be limited. However, healthy fats such as those found in fish and olive oil are very good for us, as they break down cholesterol, keeping the arteries clear for improved blood flow. Fats are also essential (thus the term essential fatty acids) for various bodily functions such as hormone management. Fitness enthusiasts who follow the primal diet even recommend more saturated fat. When Becca Wilcox tried a low fat diet she reported that concentration suffered as a result.

Filling Up With Juice


Fruits are good for us, so surely drinking fruit juice is the best way to consume liquid and vitamins? No! Fruit juice contains large amounts of sugar in the form of fructose, which like other sugars is high in energy and will lead to fat accumulation very quickly if consumed in excess. Cut back on fruit juice and eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Remember, everything except water has calories!

Filling Up With Bread

Bread, and especially white bread, is possibly one of the biggest causes of weight gain. Many people associated an unhealthy diet with excess sugar and fat, but white bread is almost as bad as eating pure sugar. White bread is very high on the glycemic index, which means that it is digested quickly and raises blood sugar levels. This results in a hormonal response – insulin is released – the sugar is transported to fat cells for storage. Bread is also extremely high in energy – it is packed with calories.

As there is so much energy in white bread you can very quickly go from a state of hunger to a state of fat accumulation. Wholemeal bread is better, but eating salads and avoiding bread is best. So, next time you are hungry, avoid the temptation to grab an easy sandwich and have a salad instead. Remember, if you are trying to lose weight, you do not need all that energy.

No Breakfast

This is such a common mistake. You decide to lose weight, and wake up in the morning fully motivated to lose 20 pounds before Summer, so the first thing you do is decide not to have breakfast. This is fatal. If you skip breakfast then your metabolism does not get its morning boost and remains slow until you have your lunch, which means that your metabolism is burning fat for less than half the day. Also skipping breakfast usually results in you grabbing a mid-morning snack that is high in sugar.

No Carbohydrates

Many diets emphasise a reduction in carbohydrate. This started largely with Atkins, but Dukan, Zone, Primal and Paleo diets all emphasise this too. However, the biggest common problem is that many people do not know what carbohydrate is. While for many people carb means only bread, pasta, rice, noodles, cookies and cakes – i.e. the foods that tend to result in weight gain, carbohydrates are vital to good health and fitness. The carbohydrates that are found in vegetables, pulses, fruits, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of energy and nutrition. Low carb diets should only ever mean low flour / wheat diets, and not a reduction of all carbohydrate sources.

Too Much Protein

So, you want to lose fat and build muscle? Then eat lots of protein! Wrong! Although protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, consuming large amounts of protein in one sitting does not benefit you.

You can only utilize about 30 grams of protein at a time and any additional protein will be stored as fat. This is why bodybuilders and athletes eat micro meals throughout the day every 2 or 3 hours. Eating a big steak for lunch will add more to your fat reserves than your protein reserves. If you are not lifting a lot of weight then all that protein is going to slow your weight loss attempts.

Too Little Protein

But not getting enough protein is almost as bad as getting too much. If you do not eat enough protein your muscles will not grow, and may even start to shrink. Protein also helps to maintain healthy blood-sugar levels which avoids sugar cravings.

Sugar cravings are the main reason for binge eating. The recommended protein consumption is 2 grams protein per kg of bodyweight (or about 0.9g per pound). Taking protein from a variety of sources is best, and relying too much on red meats and processed meats increases saturated fat intake too much. Which leads to….

Too Much Saturated Fat

Although some primal dieters love saturated fat, the general medical advice is still that saturated fat is our worse enemy. Eating too much saturated fat increases LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) which can cause heart disease. Also research has shown that too much saturated fat leads to an increase in colon cancer and prostate cancer. Keep this fat to a minimum.

Not Enough Water

Water is used by the body to help transport nutrients. Also water is essential for good muscle function. Generally if you feel thirsty you have already caused yourself to become slightly dehydrated. Also, many people mistake being thirsty for being hungry. So stay topped up – but don’t go overboard or you’ll drown.

Not Enough Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain a huge array of different nutrients and vitamins, plus they provide fiber and roughage. This cannot be replaced with supplements. Although too much fruit can lead to too much sugar (as mentioned above) fruits and vegetables should be eaten everyday.

Midnight Snacks

Or even just eating late in the evening. When we sleep our metabolism slows down, so if you eat too close to bedtime you will not burn it off and this will result in storing it as fat. Still have your micro-meal in the evening, just do not eat a large meal late at night.

Weekends Off

This is another of the classic mistakes people make. You diet and workout from Monday to Friday, then decide that you deserve a break at the weekend and eat what you like. In two days you can easily reverse all the good work done in the previous five. Once you have settled on a diet regime that you are happy with, do not spoil it with a “weekend off” and blow out on pizzas, hamburgers and beers. Although some bodybuilders and athletes have 1 cheat day a week, the average dieter cannot afford to do this as they are not burning enough energy through exercise to allow for one high calorie day.

If you avoid these weight loss mistakes then you will be in a much better position to achieve your resolutions to lose weight this year. Remember, exercise and diet together are the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight in the long-term. Losing weight should never be a short-term plan, but a permanent lifestyle change.

More like this in the Diet and Nutrition section

  6 comments for “12 Common Dieting Mistakes

  1. Kelly
    October 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Good post Jon, 10 stars and a Google +1

  2. MotleyHealth
    October 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks Kelly.

  3. Susan
    October 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Great post! but I am still confused about how to know if you are getting too much or too little protein?
    it’s easy to tell if you are hungry or not? but how does your body tell you you are getting the right amount of protein for your activity level?

  4. MotleyHealth
    October 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Susan, if you are moderately active and focussing more on cardio then you are probably getting enough protein if you are following a balanced diet, i.e. eating meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts etc. every week. If you are doing a lot of weight training then you can calculate how much protein to consume each day using one of the equations here.

    As a general rule less that 40 grams of protein a day is enough for most people. The body needs at least this much to maintain muscle tissue (and other tissue).

    One gram of protein is about 4 Calories, so you need at least 160 Calories worth of pure protein a day. Meat and fish contains 15 to 40 grams of protein per 100 grams (i.e. 15% – 40% protein) depending on how much fat they contain. If your food is 20% protein, to get your 160 Calories (40 g) you need to consume 800 Calories of the food (5 times 160 Calories). This is approximately 280 grams of steak, or just over half a pound.

    Of course, this assumes that you are not eating anything else all day. A lot of foods contain protein, not just meat, fish and eggs.

    So long as you are eating a balanced diet you will have enough. It is mostly athletes, bodybuilders and those who workout a lot that need to up the protein intake significantly.

  5. Ordue kashimana
    October 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    What diet is preferably used for people with group 0+

  6. MotleyHealth
    October 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Hi Ordue, I have not actually investigated or covered blood type diets yet. Something to research. I will let you know if I discover anything useful.

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