The 5 Most Common Diet Mistakes

By Martin Brown

Just about all of us know that if we eat fewer calories per day than we burn off we’ll lose weight. But this simple fact leads many of us to make bad choices as to how we actually can lose weight. Here are five common diet mistakes you should avoid:

Mistake #1: The Crash Diet: This works like a cheap patch on an old tire. In other words for a week or two all appears to be fine and then you’re back where you started. Why? Because crash diets tell your metabolism that you’re in a starvation mode and your body quickly slows down and starts burning far fewer calories. That grapefruit, salad, and soup regimen you’ve been on that’s driving you crazy is only losing five pounds instead of 15 because your system has slammed on its brakes. Long before most of us get to our desired weight loss goal we’ve ditched the diet and put back on the few pounds we so painfully lost. So don’t go there!

Mistake #2: Ditching breakfast. This is another one of those diet shortcuts that appears to make sense but really doesn’t work if you stop for just a moment to consider the big picture. The calories you’re losing by not eating breakfast you’l make up for in a mid-morning snack or a high calorie lunch. Here’s the simple truth: Study after study reveals that a hallmark of successful diets is a satisfying and nutritious breakfast. So get your day started right and eat a healthful breakfast.

Mistake #3: Forgetting that calories come in deceptive packages. How could a simple coffee drink be a big deal? Starbucks has fatten up millions of Americans based on that simplistic assumption. Those soothing hot frappuccinos on a cold day, or a yummy iced coffee drink on a hot day can be a calorie super bomb with an obscene amount of sugar and fat. That may not be your calorie blind spot, perhaps it’s a cocktail or two after work. But those extra five hundred calorie oops that you enjoy make the difference between diets that work and diets that fail.

Mistake #4: Not recognizing the value of healthy snacks. There has been a debate raging on for decades about eating between meals. Some say it leads to excess weight gain others say it keeps extra weight off. I favor the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. First, it reduces the chances that you’re going to gorge at lunch or dinner. Second, snack breaks keep your metabolism running at a higher rate. And the busier your metabolism the more calories you’ll burn. That said, however, be smart about snacking. Healthful small portions of almonds and dried cranberries, are great. That chocolate glazed donut is not!

Mistake #5: Forgetting to stay well hydrated. Water is the easiest aid to weight loss, unfortunately it’s also the easiest thing to forget. Adequate hydration keeps our metabolism humming along. Poor hydration slows down the system and slows our calorie burn rate as well. But it is so easy to forget to drink water. So here’s a couple of simple ways to up your water intake. One, keep water at your desk and always with you when you walk, run, or do other forms of exercise. Two, be sure to have a glass of water with every meal and every snack. Your goal eight, eight-ounce glasses per day and some of those extra pounds will just float away.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.

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