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Why You’re Failing at Losing Weight

Kate Freeman

I’ve been helping people lose weight for a long time.

In fact, my very first job, all fresh out of uni, was working for a weight loss and exercise program. Following on from that I was a corporate health consultant. You can hear about my first day at that job here – I had a little G-string malfunction… Since then, after a short stint in the public service (that destroyed my soul) I’ve been running my own nutrition business for just over five years.

Anyway, after years of chatting to people about their health, their food, their exercise, their daily habits and all the factors that go into successful weight loss, not to mention losing weight myself, I’ve concluded a few things:

  1. The majority of people are not successful at losing weight.
  2. If people happen to be successful at losing weight, they’re not successful at keeping it off.

Weight loss is super hard. Maintaining weight loss is even harder, for a whole bunch of different reasons. And if I were to get into the biochemistry of how our bodies function metabolically and why it’s so hard, I’d need thousands of words, at a minimum. Just know that it’s complicated.

Despite the complications, there are some common mistakes that many many people make (including myself). One or more of these reasons below might be why, year after year, you’re still “trying to lose weight” – often frustrated and over the constant mind games!

You diet too strictly

I tell a story about Motivational Mondays at my Experiential Dinners. I like to explain why we start our days and weeks with good intentions yet often end them overeating or breaking the diet, annoyed and disappointed with ourselves. Cutting back too much with your food will leave you starving, tired and grumpy. Your body is wired towards eating and if you don’t feed yourself enough you will experience high appetite levels urging you to go find food. In an environment where food is all around you, it’s recipe for disaster.

The fix: In my opinion, cutting back too much on your diet only to find yourself starving and consequently binging or overeating is counter-intuitive. Try to eat a little more. More vegetables. More whole foods. More. Isn’t it better to eat more whole foods and not want to eat poor quality foods, than to skimp on those whole foods only to grab processed foods or sugar later because you’re so hungry?

You don’t have a long term mindset

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have goals like losing weight for a wedding, overseas trip or special event, but don’t you also want to be a healthy weight for the rest of your life? Short term mindsets don’t build long term habits. Period. You’ve got to think: “What sort of body, eating habits, lifestyle do I want to have when I’m 70 years old?”

When you take that perspective, suddenly you’re not stressed and anxious about that chocolate bar you just devoured after a few days of chicken and broccoli as prescribed by your PT. This kind of perspective allows you to take small consistent steps to build in heathy habits, not just “healthy things you do” until the 12 weeks (or set dieting time frame) is up!

The fix: Be in it for the long term. Life is a journey not a destination. Don’t wait to ‘start’ your life when you get to the weight you want. Start living now! And while you’re living, make small, practical, easy tweaks to your diet. Not cray cray strict rules or weird food you hate eating.

You don’t like vegetables

When I graduated from my first nutrition degree, I met a personal trainer who was stoked to hear that I was a nutritionist. “Great!” she said. “Can you write me a diet plan? I only eat meat and potatoes.” Ummmm… no. Sorry, I can’t write you a healthy weight loss plan that doesn’t include vegetables. In fact, it would be professionally neglectful of me to advise weight loss without them. That’s how important they are!

Vegetables are nutrient dense. High in nutrition, low in energy. They help meet your nutrient needs, fill you up, provide you with dietary fibre and they’re pretty difficult to overeat (if you don’t blend them). Have you ever heard anyone say: “I totally binged on cabbage”? No you probably haven’t. Neither have I.

The fix: I’ve had clients lose weight on this recommendation alone. Today you’re getting it for free! Fill half your plate with vegetables at as many meals as you possibly can. Thank me later. I do accept donations.

You’re not paying attention to your drinks

The trap of drinking your calories is a major reason why you might not be losing weight. If you’re struggling with a lack of results this could be it. Alcohol, coffees, fruit juice, smoothies, blends, protein shakes, soft-drink, energy drinks… they all add up! Alcohol consumption is associated with weight gain and there is lots of evidence that sugary drinks such as soft drink and fruit juice also increase the chances of long term weight gain. There is even evidence to suggest that diet drinks lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain.

The fix: Keep a food diary. Keep track of your drinks. Add them all up. For some of you, swapping the majority of your drinks to water (keep the rest of your diet the same) will lead to weight loss of up to ½ kilo a week! I know, right?! So good!

You’re sabotaging yourself with emotional eating

So you’ve got a good eating plan. You feel like you’re getting into the groove. However, whenever stress, anxiety or depression creeps in it’s all over. You’re faced with the relentless inner thoughts of “I suck at this!” “I can’t do it!” “I’ll never lose weight; I’ll always be fat!”.

Maybe your two-year-old is driving you crazy and the homemade brownies you made that morning are calling to you. Maybe your boss is putting unrealistic expectations on you. Maybe you’re putting them on yourself. Whatever the root cause, you’re feeling stress and pressure to perform. Food makes you feel better, if only for a moment and you find yourself again and again, reaching for something sweet, going back for seconds at dinner or drowning your sorrows in a large bowl of ice cream.

The fix:  Join me for a fab little session at The Healthy Eating Hub on how to manage emotional eating. It’s a heart-to-heart talk on this challenging topic where I share with you four tools to help you learn how to manage it. I’m also broadcasting it as a webinar for those of you who’d prefer to stay in your PJs. Once you’ve learnt the tools, dedicate yourself to practicing them and be prepared to take two steps forward, one step back. It’s just the way it goes.

You haven’t got your carbs right… for you

The key words here are: for you. Would you like to know the reason why carbohydrates are the most confusing aspect of modern day nutrition? Because everyone’s carbohydrate needs are different. Yet there are random people, all over the internet and in your life, telling you what you should eat and putting blanket recommendations over everyone. The amount of carbohydrate you should eat depends on your age, your gender, your muscle mass, your activity levels, your goals and your food preferences. You’ve got to find what’s right for you.

Have you cut carbs out and felt awful? Perhaps you need more. That’s ok. Do you eat too much carbohydrate and feel awful? Maybe you need to eat less. Other conditions such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and PCOS will also play a role in dictating your carbohydrate needs.

The fix: Seek professional advice. Use trial and error. Dedicate some time to understanding yourself and your needs. Individualised advice trumps black and white rules every time. In the meantime, focus on building your diet out of minimally processed foods. More vegetables, less processed meats. More nuts, less processed snacks. More legumes, less processed grains. More whole grains, less cakes and biscuits. More fish, less nuggets. You get the picture.

Now that I’ve come to the end of writing this post, I can think of more things! So stayed tuned, if you like this one I may just write another!


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author