Two Common Weight-Loss Mistakes

March 8, 2014 Updated: March 8, 2014

Susan felt desperate to lose weight. Her sister’s wedding was coming up, and she didn’t want to look like a pink ball of cotton candy in the photos. So Susan decided to go on a diet. She bought a food journal and calorie book, signed up for a gym membership, and made a goal of dropping 10 pounds in the next two months. 

Late one night, Susan announced her weight-loss goal on Facebook, adding that despite hating oatmeal and low-fat milk, she was going to eat it every morning. She was determined to lose this weight for her sister’s wedding no matter what it took.

For those of you familiar with yo-yo dieting, you can probably guess that although Susan may lose the weight, she is sure to regain it. Why? In just one post, she made two mistakes that impede successful, long-term weight loss

Late Nights

The first mistake is staying up late despite the fact that she had to be at work at 8 a.m. the next morning. Studies show that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are more susceptible to weight gain and more susceptible to craving carbohydrate-heavy foods like bread, chips, and dessert. 

In order to get enough sleep, you need to plan how to make it possible. This plan should include ways to minimize your exposure to artificial light because exposing yourself to lots of artificial light well into the night will throw off your body’s innate clock, which tells you it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. 

Light inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps your body settle down in the evening. Any artificial light, be it from the lamp on your nightstand, your laptop, iPad, or television screen, can mess with your melatonin production. 

Although living in darkness after sundown is not realistic, you can do yourself a big favor by cutting your nighttime screen usage because it is the blue light emitted from electronic units that affect melatonin levels the most. Consider lighting your home with softer, warmer lights as the evening rolls in.

If you can’t put down your computer at night, there is an app you can install called F.lux, which helps regulate the light emitted from your computer, iPad, or iPhone so that it is more in sync with the natural changes in light throughout the day. 

Another key in your plan to get enough rest is to be sure to wind down before your “second wind” kicks in. Cortisol, another hormone that affects sleep, naturally drops as the night rolls in; however, if you stay up past a certain point, your cortisol levels will start to rise again, making you miss the time when you could have been snoozing. 

Eating Healthy Foods 

The second red flag in Susan’s post was her determination to stick to oatmeal and low-fat milk despite hating both foods. 

In order to lose weight and keep it off, it is essential that we create a program that includes a commitment to lifelong change. We cannot motivate ourselves to make lifelong changes that involve force-feeding ourselves with foods we dislike. 

If you’ve been using this approach to weight loss, it’s time to start rethinking your program.

If you don’t like oats, what do you like? In order to lose weight, you must approach your diet with the thought of bringing yourself into health. Being healthy means not obsessing about what foods you eat, but listening to what your body needs and allowing your good diet to naturally slim you down. 

So what foods satisfy your palate and give you sustained energy, easy digestion, and good skin? 

Maybe it is a high-protein breakfast, such as scrambled eggs, goat cheese, and spinach. Or maybe it is a whole-grain breakfast that has more flavor and texture, such as quinoa with pumpkin seeds, chopped pear, and a touch of honey and cinnamon. 

Make it tasty, make it convenient, make it energizing, and make it something that you feel good about, both during and after eating.

The foods you choose should be the foods that you can enjoy living with permanently and that make you feel healthy and slender as you eat them.

The danger with losing weight is regaining it. Yo-yo dieting is detrimental to your health and psychology, so next time you decide to embark on a weight-loss journey, choose to make permanent healthy changes so that you no longer go in and out of a healthy lifestyle. 

A simple place to start is getting enough good-quality sleep each night, cutting down on sugar (which inevitably makes us crave more), and incorporating fat, fiber, and protein into each of your meals. 

Tysan Lerner is a certified health coach and personal trainer. She helps women attain their body and beauty goals without starving themselves or spending hours at the gym. Her website is 

*Image of a woman looking in the mirror via Shutterstock