When I gained more than 20 pounds after college, I had no idea how to lose the weight. I knew I wasn't taking the best care of myself (I was eating fattening foods and skipping my workouts), but I didn't know how to start.
Eventually, I figured out what worked for me, and the pounds steadily came off (and stayed off), but I wish I had known a few things before I embarked on my weight-loss journey—it would have made the process that much easier!
With that said, here are a few mistakes I made when I first tried to lose weight. Hopefully, you won't make them, too!
1. I didn't watch my portion sizes
I've been a healthy eater for as long as I can remember. Sure, I like to enjoy a plate of nachos covered in cheese or a couple of margaritas from time to time, but, in general, I enjoy eating foods that are good for me. So, when I was trying to lose weight, I didn't struggle with selecting healthy food options, but I quickly learned I was simply eating too much of them.
For instance, I'd often eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich for breakfast. It was a quick and easy meal that would keep me satisfied for hours, but what I didn't realize was just how calories were packed into it. When I started to measure my food and track my calories online, I was shocked to learn that two slices of whole wheat bread with a couple of servings of peanut butter and a banana added up to nearly 600 calories! After that, I kept a close eye on my portion sizes and soon the number on the scale started to move.
2. I only focused on calories
When I started tracking my calories online, I sometimes found myself focusing more on quantity (calories) than the quality (nutrients) of my food. For example, as an afternoon snack, I'd choose an artificially-flavored, packaged snack bar instead of a fresh, sliced apple with a couple of tablespoons of almond butter because it had fewer calories.
Health-wise, I knew this didn't make much sense, but because I was watching my calories, I picked foods with the lowest amount of calories and fat. Not surprisingly, these kinds of foods didn't satisfy me for long, so I'd end up eating more in the long run. I hated feeling hungry all the time, so I started to make smarter choices. Instead of counting calories, I focused on adding more whole foods, especially nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, to my diet, which helped me cut calories while boosting nutrients at the same time.
3. I didn't eat enough during the day
When I was losing weight, I'd wake up every morning and vow to eat right and exercise that day. Most of the time, things went as planned: I'd wake up early for a heart-pumping workout and make healthy choices with my meals all day long. However, when I arrived home after a long day of work, I'd often blow my efforts by ordering greasy take-out or snacking late into the evening because I was so hungry.
After a few weeks of falling into this same trap over and over again and not losing weight, I finally picked up on what was happening. If I didn't eat substantial meals and snacks throughout the day—ones that included fiber-packed carbs, low-fat protein, and healthy fats—I'd inevitably overeat at day's end. Once I realized what was going on, I made it a point to eat more during the day, which helped me reign in my eating habits at night.
Tina Haupert blogs about health, food, and fitness at carrotsncake.com. She is the author of Carrots 'N' Cake: Healthy Living One Carrot and Cupcake at a Time.