Dieting can feel like an uphill struggle at the best of times, but according to one expert there are a few common mistakes we're all making.
While opting for 'low-fat food' and cutting back on portion sizes might sound like a surefire way to shed pounds, your diet and exercises regime could actually be hindering your efforts.
Nutritionist and registered dietitian Nichola Whitehead has summed up the ten most common weight loss misconceptions - and how to avoid them.
1. Eating 'low fat' and 'diet labelled' food
Don't let marketing ploys fool you; a healthy biscuit is still a biscuit and may actually contain as many calories and as much sugar as the standard version (especially if you eat a few of them)!
Always check out the ingredients list before you buy and remember that a salad may be healthy but if it's loaded with creamy and sugary dressings then it could contain more calories than your friend's burger.
Focus on eating wholefoods, and if you do buy packaged food make sure to read the nutrition label first.
2. Choosing cardio and avoiding weights
Studies show that lifting weights is one of the most effective exercise strategies for gaining muscle and increasing metabolic rate. It also improves overall body composition and boosts fat loss.
Weightlifting or resistance training can help boost metabolic rate, increase muscle mass and promote fat loss, including belly fat.
3. An hour on the treadmill over a 15-minute hiit routine
Many people believe that if they slog away on the treadmill for an hour they will lose the optimum amount of weight. This is not always the case.
An alternative option is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Exercise is carried out at a low or moderate intensity with the caveat that several short bouts of high intensity, often 'all-out', exercise are included.
It is considered to be more time efficient and research shows this type of exercise can bring about rapid beneficial changes in metabolic function and even reductions in body fat.
4. Not sleeping enough
If you're not sleeping enough, either in terms of quality or quantity, you're going to struggle to stay on track with fitness or nutrition.
Studies have shown that participants who sleep for less than 6 hours a night consume more calories the next day than those who sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night.
5. Setting unrealistic goals
This can often lead to disappointment. Instead of shooting for a dress size that has not been seen in your closet for 10 years, set more achievable goals.
To help keep you motivated toward meeting your ultimate goal, set mini-goals you can reach within a month or so. Remember that you're on a journey to improve your life and health and gain control over your weight. It's not about perfection.
6. Focusing on weight loss rather than fat loss
When people say they want to lose weight, more often than not they mean they want to lose fat.
Muscle is much denser than fat; gram for gram it takes up less space, meaning that if you are resistance training your weight may stay still on the scales. Make sure to take photographs of your weight loss progress, as well as tracking inches lost as you may be getting smaller despite a consistent number on the scales.
7. Not drinking enough water
Staying hydrated is essential when it comes to facilitating fat loss as water helps you to
stay in tune with your true hunger signals.
Water also helps to prevent headaches and keeps you regular; helping you to feel more comfortable to exercise too! Aim for a pale straw colour when you go to the toilet to ensure optimal hydration.
8. Weighing yourself too often
It can be all too easy to become obsessed with the weighing yourself too frequently but the fact is that you can hold a significant amount of weight in your stomach and gut, meaning that you will be heavier at the end of the day in comparison to the start of the day.
You will also be heavier if you haven't been to the toilet for a while. Try not to let daily fluctuations in your body weight put you off your weight loss efforts; focus on weekly trends and weigh yourself in a morning only, before you eat or drink anything and after you go to the toilet!
9. Eating too little
Our body doesn't like to go hungry and if you don't eat enough calories then it can start to slow down to conserve energy. Eat too little and you may also not feel like working out which will be detrimental to your fat loss efforts.
Aim to eat as many calories as possible whilst achieving your fat loss goal as you can always take it lower as your weight loss slows down; I recommend by 50-100 calories a day every few weeks as needed.
10. Not eating enough protein
Our bodies require protein on a daily basis and if we don't eat enough of it then our lean muscle mass may suffer, especially if you're trying to lose weight. In order to maximise fat loss and minimise muscle loss make sure to be eating an adequate amount of protein; at least 0.8g per Kg body weight a day or more if you're exercising or wanting to lose weight with an aim to changing body composition.