Weight Loss Mistakes

More than one billion adults worldwide are overweight! No wonder that fat loss is an often-pursued goal 1.

Unfortunately, most people fail in their quest to drop fat. This is almost always due to one or more of the four fat loss blunders below. Are you sabotaging your results?

Mistake #1: You Don’t Track Calories

Changes in the number on your scale are eventually determined by one thing: energy balance 2-4.

You gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn. You lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn. It’s that simple.

That’s why you must keep track of your calories. Start calculating how many calories you consume and how many you burn daily.

If that sounds like too much of a hassle, consider the results of a meta-analysis from the University of Oxford. The researchers found that weight loss programs that use calorie counting lead on average to 3.3 kilos (7 pounds) more weight loss 5.

Mistake #2: You Don’t Lift Weights

As we’ve seen, weight loss is simple, at least in theory: just consume fewer calories than you burn. However, the problem with slashing calories is that it can cause muscle loss.

Losing muscle not only diminishes your sex appeal but also makes it harder to keep the weight off. Why? Because muscle mass is one of the main determinants of your metabolic rate 6. The more muscle you carry, the more calories you burn, even when you sleep.

Fortunately, lifting weights helps prevent muscle loss when you’re on a diet. You might even gain muscle.

Besides, strength training boosts your metabolic rate, making you burn extra calories for hours after your workout 7.

Mistake #3: You Don’t Consume Enough Protein

If you don’t get enough protein, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to optimize your weight loss efforts.

Why? Because protein is highly satiating 8. By upping your intake, you automatically consume fewer calories.

One study raised the protein intake of their participants from 15% to 30% of their daily calorie consumption. As a result, they ate on average 441 fewer calories a day 9. This led to an average weight loss of 11 pounds in just 12 weeks.

Mistake #4: You Lack Sleep

When we need to cut corners, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice on. And while getting enough of it can be hard at times, sleep deprivation has enormous consequences, not only for your mental state but also your physical well-being.

One meta-analysis found that adults with poor sleep are 55% more likely to become obese. And in children, poor sleep raises the risk of obesity by a staggering 89% 10.

Why is that? Because sleep deprivation increases hunger, making you eat more 11-12. It does so by changing your brain chemistry: it lowers satiating hormones such as leptin while raising the hunger hormone ghrelin 13.

While the optimal amount of sleep varies among individuals, between 7 and 9 hours a night is a good general guideline.


1. Popkin, B. M., Paeratakul, S., Zhai, F., & Ge, K. (1995). A review of dietary and environmental correlates of obesity with emphasis on developing countries. Obesity Research, 2, 145-153.

2. Golay, A., Allaz, A. F., Morel, Y., De Tonnac, N., Tankova, S., & Reaven, G. (1996). Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63(2), 174-8.

3. Leibel, R. L., Hirsch, J., Appel, B. E., & Checani, G. C. (1992). Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 55(2), 350-5.

4. Strasser, B., Spreitzer, A., & Haber, P. (2007). Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 51(5), 428-32.

5. Hartmann-Boyce, J., Johns, D. J., Jebb, S. A., & Aveyard, P. (2014). Effect of behavioural techniques and delivery mode on effectiveness of weight management: systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression. Obesity Reviews, 15(7), 598-609.

6. Zurlo, F., Larson, K., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1990). Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 86(5), 1423-7.

7. Paoli, A., Moro, T., Marcolin, G., Neri, M., Bianco, A., Palma, A., & Grimaldi, K. (2012). High Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine, 24(10), 237.

8. 4. Hall, W. L., Millward, D. J., Long, S. J., & Morgan, L. M. (2003). Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. British Journal of Nutrition, 89(2), 239-48.

9. Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41-8.

10. Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N. B., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619-626.

11. Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, K. P., Jr. (2013). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2;110(14), 5695-700.

12. Chaput, J. P., & Tremblay, A. (2012). Sleeping habits predict the magnitude of fat loss in adults exposed to moderate caloric restriction. Obesity Facts, 5(4), 561-6.

13. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), 62.