Slower is Better
The first mistake dieters make is having unrealistic weight loss expectations. The SparkPeople program is set up to help you safely lose between half a pound and two pounds per week. Studies show that individuals who rapidly lose weight are more likely to gain it back. So if you've lost a few pounds this month—excellent! Don't discount that because you see someone on T.V. losing 15 pounds in two weeks.
Everyone is Different
While some people lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks, others might not lose any weight for a few weeks. Although this can be frustrating when you're doing everything right, it's not a reason to give up. Sometimes it just takes a little while longer to see the results of your hard work reflected on the scale. Remember, eating right and exercising regularly have positive impacts on your health in many other ways, such as more energy, less stress, better sleep, and reduced risk of many diseases. You'll receive those benefits—regardless of the number on the scale.
Weight Loss is Rarely Constant from Week to Week
Many people lose a lot in the first few weeks, and then their weight loss slows down considerably. It's totally normal to have weeks when you lose more than expected, and weeks when your weight remains the same despite your consistent efforts. Our bodies are very complicated and don't always cooperate with the estimates of how much we should expect to lose. People rarely lose a consistent amount of weight each week. Measuring your weight loss on a monthly basis can be a more accurate gauge of how well you are doing.
Weight Loss is Not Immediate
Cutting calories today (through diet and exercise) will not necessarily show up on the scale at the end of the day or even by tomorrow. Your weight can fluctuate from day-to-day for reasons that have nothing to do with your diet and exercise program. Much of this fluctuation is due to water and food intake. While your scale may show changes throughout the day, fluctuations that could be due to food & water alone are not permanent weight losses or gains.
Weighing yourself immediately after wearing a "sweat" suit, getting into a sauna, or finishing an intense workout might (or might not) show a loss on the scale. But that is temporary water loss that will come back after you rehydrate yourself by drinking. Remember—you're trying to lose fat, not simply "weight" or water weight.
This is a good reason to not weigh yourself more than once a week. The Fitness Resource Center has several articles that expand on this idea, including Body Composition Measures Results and Measure Progress Without the Scale.
Setbacks Are Normal
No one is perfect. You can expect to hit some bumps in the road, no matter how hard you're trying. The important thing is not to let those bumps get you totally off track, but to learn from them and move forward.
The article "1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward", located in the Motivation Resource Center, offers tips for dealing with setbacks, and Coach Dean's message board post about staying motivated includes even more helpful advice.
Eating Less Isn't Always Better
A lot of people assume that the less you eat, the faster you will lose. One of the biggest mistakes dieters make is not eating enough. Your calorie range is based on your current weight, goal weight, how aggressive your goal is (whether you want to lose weight quickly or slowly) and how much exercise you are doing. Your recommended calorie range might seem like a lot of food—especially if you are accustomed to fad, restrictive diets.
But if your body is not getting enough nutrients and calories (especially if you eat less than your recommended calorie range), your metabolism will slow down. This is called "starvation mode" because your body thinks it is experiencing a famine, so it starts holding onto every calorie you give it, making weight loss much slower or impossible, and weight gain more likely. That's why it's so important to eat within your calorie range. If you aren't, you could be doing more harm than good.
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid many of the common pitfalls dieters face, and deal with the ups and downs of weight loss more easily. Hang in there! It's not always easy, but you can do it!
Related Articles from SparkPeople.com:
Expert Solutions: Metabolism Mistakes
Common Fitness Blunders - Part 1
Eat Your Favorite Foods and Still Lose Weight