Everyone messes up their diet at some point, but not every mistake is inevitable.
I’ve made more than my fair share of ridiculous diet decisions, but I’ve learned a lot from them.
Now I want to share some of the ways I lost and gained weight over the years so you can avoid those same mistakes.
1. Everyone’s First Mistake
Like most people, as a kid I was taught to finish the food on my plate.
After years of this, our hunger cues are shut off and eating whatever is put in front of us becomes habit, whether we need it or not.
Guaranteed, I’ve told my own kids to do this. The difference is, I rarely feed my kids processed foods, snacks are kept to a minimum, and I give them appropriate portions. (Message me if you need guidance on portions for kids.)
As for you, you’re better off eating slowly and checking in with yourself before you clear your plate.
You won’t always feel full before you finish, but if you pay attention, you can learn how to eat until you’re satisfied, rather than stuffed.
2. Junk in Your Trunk (and by trunk, I mean kitchen)
Another mistake I learned as a child was keeping all kinds of junk in the house (sorry mom and dad, I know you did your best).
The staples included Cheez-Its, frozen burritos, honey buns, tortilla chips, candy, frozen pizza — just to name a few.
My mom also taught me how to cook, and I use that skill every day now to make delicious, healthy meals for my family (like this one Healthy Food Turkey Stuffed Peppers). But I first had to recognize this mistake:
If I keep a bunch of junk in the house, that’s what gets eaten.
You don’t have to get rid of everything, but limit yourself to one or two non-negotiable items (at most), and plan how often you’ll have it.
3. The Old College Try
How would I describe my nutrition in college?
Dollar menu and freedom
I ate out so much for being cash poor. I knew how to stretch a dollar at fast food joints, and the fast food joints knew how to stretch my waistline.
Eating out isn’t bad, but home cooked meals are a better option. If you have to eat out more than a couple times a week, try to find the healthier fare — more veggies, less fries, and lean protein (not fried).
4. Ask Jeeves
It was time to get serious about losing weight.
I asked Yahoo, or maybe Jeeves, and the answer was simple:
I needed to be in a calorie deficit.
I set up my parameters and added every calorie. It worked, but I developed strange habits.
If I knew we were eating out that night, I’d have as little as possible during the day, saving up for my 1500 calorie enchiladas and margaritas.
If it was a regular day where I “did good” and still had a few hundred calories leftover, I’d concoct whatever dessert I could to fit my calorie constraint.
Eventually I reached my weight goal and stopped tracking calories — only to find myself back where I started a few months later.
Calorie counting isn’t inherently bad (read the pros and cons here). But instead of just trying to stay within calories, focus on the quality of your food, and have a plan for what you’ll do afterward. Will you recalculate, or stop counting calories?
5. Boxes upon Boxes
Early in our marriage, my cooking consisted of boxed meals and convenience foods (Hamburger Helper anyone?).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but all those carb-heavy, processed foods made me tired and sluggish.
Since we were young and poor, I learned quickly it was cheaper (and healthier) to make a homemade version.
You can slowly make that transition one recipe at a time.
When you’re ready, take it the next step by making them less carb heavy and doubling the protein.
6. Peas and Beans for Breakfast
This one is weird and a bit on the personal side.
At this point in my life, having a bowel movement wasn’t exactly the “peaceful, easy feeling” that I’m pretty sure The Eagles were singing about. So I decided to add more fiber to my diet.
A daily breakfast consisted of canned peas and black beans.
The extra fiber helped, but one can only eat peas and beans for breakfast for so long. This was just a band-aid on the real problem.
You probably have your own crazy “peas and beans” type of diet you’ve tried.
None of them work.
Whether it’s bathroom issues or excess fat, there’s not “one thing” that will solve your problems. What you need is an overall balanced diet.
Take a step back from the microscopic details.
The problem is rarely something like “carbs,” or “fiber,” or that you need a “cleanse.” It’s more likely you’re just eating too much processed junk, and/or not enough veggies.
Ditch the diets that concentrate on adding or removing one specific thing, and start to look at the big picture.
7. Treat Yourself
This one is so ingrained in our society that most people accept it without batting an eye.
I noticed it after having our first kid. Lollipops at the grocery store, cookies and sodas with kids’ meals — everywhere you turn there’s a treat.
Even as an adult it’s hard to avoid. Donuts at work, cake at birthday parties, or drinks on the weekend. It was difficult for me to avoid a daily indulgence (or four).
My mistake was not being mindful about it.
There’s nothing wrong with a small treat every day if the rest of your diet is reasonable. Just don’t say yes to everything.
Or save up for the big treat later. Not a 2,000 calorie cookie-donut shake, but something you’ll enjoy more than the dry, nut-filled brownie in front of your face at the moment.
This one I highly don’t recommend.
I had pneumonia for 2 months before doctors were able to diagnose it. I was miserable and in pain, but I lost 7 pounds before they figured out what was going on.
So I guess if you have 7 pounds to lose, I mean, how bad do you want it, right?
I’m obviously joking about this being a nutrition decision, but I feel like it’s not far off from what some extreme diets put you through.
Losing weight doesn’t have to be a painful experience. It will take change, and change can be difficult, so start small.
How do you decide where to start?
Look at the obvious things in your life that you can do just a little bit better, and then do what you’re ready to do, not what you think will get you the fastest results.
Make it as painless as possible and build on every victory.
9. Crash Course
This 2 week diet might be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done nutrition wise.
It started super low calorie and slowly built up from there. I had to eat very specific amounts of protein and fat. The first two days I only ate extra lean ground turkey with salt and pepper.
The science behind it was actually really solid. It worked. But just because something works doesn’t mean it’s the right move.
Halfway through the diet we had an unexpected trip, which meant packing a cooler full of ground turkey and raw spinach. I stuck to it because it was a short diet and I wanted to see it through, but some diets are this intense and last a lot longer.
If your diet doesn’t allow you to eat out occasionally, or is too hard when setbacks come along, even if it’s scientifically valid, it just isn’t a good plan.
The other problem was that this was an advanced diet, and I didn’t have the right mindset. After the two weeks, I was done.
I went back to eating “normal” again and the weight came back almost as quickly as it was lost.
You’re better off starting slow and having a longterm mindset. That’s the concept behind my ebook “Forever Fat Loss: 12 Habits for Lasting Change.”
10. The Deception
There have always been times in my life when the world feels out of control and I all I want to do is reach for some food.
As a mom of two now, I still struggle with this, but I’m working on it.
I’ve finally realized the mistake of thinking that eating will make me feel better when I’m overwhelmed — thinking I need it, or deserve it, or that I’m loving myself when I stress eat.
It’s a lie.
I’ve made changes, but now I recognize change is a process, and eating well and living a healthy life is about more than just going on a diet.
Making mistakes not only helped me learn better decisions, but also helped me see I needed a plan on how to implement them.
Don’t believe the lies that tell you food is the answer, OR the enemy. Learn from my mistakes, embrace the process, and start truly loving your body with all its glorious abilities.
If you need someone to walk you through it, you can apply for our online coaching here.
Which mistake of mine resonates the most with you and what can you do about it?